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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is, like the Nintendo Switch console that it was a launch title for, celebrating its third anniversary today. To mark the occasion, some of the GAMINGbible team have picked one thing - and just one thing - about the game that they loved then and love now, and quite possibly keeps on pulling them back, three years on.
We don't need to tell you how special BOTW is - or, at least, hopefully we don't. Its approach to open-world game design was fantastic, spiritually connected to the original go-anywhere freedom of the very first Zelda game of 1986 but also offering the kind of depth and detail, the exquisite environmental storytelling, that only the very best of the 21st century's let's-go-adventuring titles can manage. It was our number one game of the last decade, deservingly so.
So, let's toast a true classic, by highlighting just a handful of its many joys...
I've put over 300 hours into Breath of the Wild, which I guess amounts to 100 hours a year at this point. The main reason I keep coming back? Those goddamn Korok seeds. I have, at the time of writing, 297 of the little blighters in my possession. There are 900 scattered across the Hyrule, hidden under rocks, in caves, and behind various clever environmental puzzles.
I often dip back into Breath of the Wild's gorgeous open world when I've got nothing else to play, because I'm determined to track down every last Korok Seed eventually - without the use of a guide. I've scoured Hyrule on and off for the last three years, and I'm genuinely struggling to understand how there are still over 600 seeds that I've yet to find.
It seems genuinely unbelievable to me that a game I've put so much time and effort into combing through has so many secrets still to yield - yet it does. I initially found that infuriating, but as I enter my third year with my favourite Zelda game, I find it utterly thrilling that there's still so much left for me to discover. I'll never be done with Breath of the Wild, and that's brilliant. Ewan Moore
For me, the addition of the Hero's Path mode to BOTW was a total game-changer. By the time it'd been introduced, as part of The Master Trials DLC in the summer of 2017, I'd already finished the game - in as much as I'd beaten Ganon in his Calamity and Dark Beast guises. But I had no idea of how little of this game's incredible world I'd seen until I switched the Hero's Path on, and witnessed my steps around Hyrule being retraced.
Thanks to the mode, I was able to immediately identify areas of interest that main-questing had never taken me to - places like the darkness-shrouded Typhlo Ruins, the Guardians-swarmed Forgotten Temple, and the golf course (!) that's situated at the western end of the canyon that separates Hyrule Ridge from Tabantha Frontier. (I still speak to people today who've never found this - so go and find it!)
Up to my first encounter with the end-game Ganons I'd maybe played BOTW for 60 hours or so, finding as many shrines as possible and ticking off all the side-quests I could. I thought I was getting everything I could from it; but then the Hero's Path opened my eyes to so much more. My playtime on the game now stands at 210 hours, my Korok Seed count edging towards 400, and all the shrines have long ago been discovered and conquered.
And yet, I continue to go back - and it's all because I can instantly pinpoint new spots to head to, thanks to the Hero's Path mode. Frankly, why this mode wasn't a feature of more open-world games is beyond me, but I guess in the wake of BOTW's success it will be. It should be. It's a stroke of genius that opens up one of the most wonderful gaming worlds of all time. Mike Diver
Breath of the Wild's vast map is full to bursting point with places to go, characters to meet, enemies to fight, and a seemingly endless amount of treasure to find. And yet there's more, as veterans of the franchise will find plenty of subtle references to past titles.
There's the ruins of Lon Lon Ranch, where Link met Malon and liberated his noble steed Epona back in Ocarina of Time. There's Ralis Pond, named after the young prince of the Zora people from Twilight Princess who ascended the throne after the tragic murder of his mother. Then there's the leviathan fossils which bear a heavy resemblance to the Wind Fish from Link's Awakening, and Levias from Skyward Sword, suggesting these immaculate creatures perished long ago.
All these references pay tribute to the long journey the Zelda series has been on to make Breath of the Wild, as well as the great adventures we've all had playing through each and every game along the way. Nintendo didn't need to add these little touches but they did because they understand the importance of remembering where you came from. Is it any wonder why I keep diving back into Hyrule to find more? James Daly
The Lomei Labyrinth Island is a sublime sight: a harshly simple cube jutting out of the smooth Akkala Sea. In a world of rolling hills and organic life, it appears alien and unwelcoming. But, the Zelda series is one of discovery - you can't see an oddity on the open ocean and not try to reach it, explore it, master it.
When you find a cliff tall enough to paraglide out to the island, the world of Hyrule drops away. You're so far from the shore, all you can see of the land you left is the misty outline of the cliff and beach. The maze floor is completely level and its walls tower a good five stories over you. The music changes, too, to the Lost Wood's theme: a simple repeating piano refrain interrupted by the occasional echo of clacking wooden blocks and a single synthesized flute note. So, as you take your first steps in, you lose all sight of the world you arrived from and the comforts of its sounds.
The first time I visited the labyrinth it was late at night and everyone else in the house was asleep. I ended up spending hours exploring it, drawn in by its simple construction and music. In reality and in the game, the world outside seemed to fall away. It was a strange sensation, both peaceful and mildly frightening.
There's a memorial in Berlin that's made up of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid. You can see from the outside of it that the grid is huge, but as you walk into it you quickly get lost among the blocks. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is built on a slope so as you get further in the blocks, which start off around ankle height, soon tower above you, until some are more than 15 feet high. The slabs block out sound and light, so as you get further into the memorial it becomes quiet, and the air grows colder. The reverse is true, too: as you leave the memorial, the air warms and the sounds of the city get louder, and it feels like waking up to the world.
Nintendo is clearly not trying to create a parallel between Zelda and the holocaust with the Lomei Labyrinth, but because they use the same tools as Memorial architect Peter Eisenman, they tap into something of that surreal sensation, one that I've not managed to shake in the time since I first played it. Julian Benson
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