[Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in Zelda titles. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!]

For many of us, a game always has that one particular moment that just clicks.

It’s the moment you realize that this game you’ve been playing for the past four-or-so hours may in fact actually be good. Or in some cases, it might even be on your “Top 10” list, and you just realized you binged on the game for the past eight hours. In my case with Breath of the Wild, it was definitely an instance of the latter, and happened far later than I expected it would.

As I started the game, I had many doubts. I worried the new direction the Zelda series was taking was just a carbon copy of a popular trend for the time. I was concerned that the world would be barren and empty, and there wouldn’t really be enough to do. I enjoyed the first few hours of the game, but that doubt continued to linger in the back of my mind.

Would the game really be able to keep up this pace the whole way through? Will I just get bored with it and move on to the next game as I had done with so many other games in my backlog? After all, I was very much behind with so many other games to play, I could just put in one of those instead.

Breath of the Wild had managed to remind me of everything I loved about video games as a whole in just a single instant.

But something kept pulling me back into Breath of the Wild. I couldn’t quite figure it out or put my finger on what it was. These days I have become very critical of games, especially with games as hyped up as Breath of the Wild. Despite how much I kept playing the game, I continued to feel conflicted towards the experience. At this point in my life, I had almost become numb to video games, as I’d been playing so many of them that nothing really surprised me anymore. I’d become so critical that it was difficult for me to enjoy things in the same way I did as a child, and I found myself struggling with the constant mental battle of wishing that I didn’t have to grow up and have this mindset. I was unable to truly enjoy this hobby I loved so much.

And then I found Lake Hylia.

I approached the lake from the south side, as I’d been wandering around the Faron region for a while. As I checked the map for the newly discovered area, I was once again impressed at how I had missed something so surprisingly close to the starting Great Plateau. I began my walk across the bridge, continuing to marvel at the beautiful area around me as had been the case with the entire game. But as I got part way, the music suddenly changed and I stopped. I glanced at the corner of my screen, only to see a majestic yellow dragon emerge from the lake! I centered my camera on it, watching it fly around the area. I was awestruck.

What is this dragon doing here? What purpose does it serve? Is it part of something much greater? A later side-quest perhaps? My brain immediately began to come up with all sorts of ideas and thoughts, and after a second, I had realized that, if for but a short while, I had felt a sense of immersion I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

This was the moment for me where everything came together. The world felt cohesive, the music fit every single mood, and more importantly, I was met with that same feeling I felt as a child when playing a game I truly loved. Breath of the Wild had managed to remind me of everything I loved about video games as a whole in just a single instant. Immersion is something that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and yet I became so engrossed with what I was doing that I’d almost forgotten that I wasn’t actually in Hyrule. For just a very precious short amount of time, I was a child again.

That I can write something like this despite the game having only been out for six months at this time of writing is phenomenal. This single moment cemented Breath of the Wild for me as my favorite Zelda game.

Any doubts that I had about the game melted away, and I played another solid 80 hours after that moment with just as much glee and anticipation of what was around each corner. At the time, I had been going through a rough patch in my life, and to have the game there for me to be a world I could always revisit felt comforting. It’s now a game that I can always look back on and have fond memories about, despite the short amount of time since its release.

And to me, that’s the sign of a game that I’ll always be able to come back to and love it just the same as I did then.

  • WarioForever

    Interesting. The game never clicked for me, it’s just… meh compared to other Zelda games. Don’t get me wrong, the game is great, but it lacks many things

    • Dreamwalker

      Yeah. I’m not complaining about the changes, but they should have kept a little more of Zelda like the dungeons.

  • Andrew Defty

    I agree fully with the writer here…

    For me (since OoT) the world has been a draw which has always surpassed each instalment (Maybe we could leave SS out of it, no offence to those who like/love it), and as such, since OoT I often found myself looking at the world and its day cycle. Soaking in the vistas and the lighting effects which have made it a place of wonder…

    However, BotW has brought such dynamic weather and day cycles which create that feeling I had when I first left Kokori Forest in OoT. To enter the bigger world, to see things and wonder where they will lead me…

    I remember the first time I sussed out what the Magic Beans and where they took you, what they would reveal. Those holes which would lead you to another underground room with different treasures. And the little touches which changed the whole mood of the moment. One such example would be at The Graveyard… Playing Zelda’s lullaby at night brought about a much darker cut-scene.

    BotW did this at many turns and at many moments within my wanderings. I believe with the Zelda franchise it is a game and an art… An art which is shown in its building. I often find myself to the east, by the coast, watching the sun rise above the edge of the world. How the water reflects the sunlight is amazing and yet it reminds me of how those mornings drew forth in OoT also…

    This captures why I love these games… They make you feel so involved, so connected to the world of Hyrule in a way very few games ever do.

    BotW is a wonderful world which I too will often find myself wandering through time after time and revisiting its beauty alone… Just like I did with OoT, I look for great vistas and wonderful moments that I will only get with this franchise.

    Thank you, Nintendo and Monolith for giving me such a fantastic world which gives me the feelings I had as a younger gamer.

  • DimensionalRanger

    Breath of the Wild is a beautiful game, fan (and official) art is no longer needed to convey exactly what the developers wanted to. The level of detail in this game is outstanding. Yet, for me Hyrule seemed like a quaint (albeit massive) garden to walk around in, and not something I could get heavily invested with or feel connected to.

    Yes, I know that the “garden” concept is what Miyamoto had in mind when he made the first LoZ and that BoTW was meant to go back to those roots, but I can’t care about Hyrule as much as I have in the past.

    I fell in love with the series because of the stories that gave life to the world, an underlying layer to it that made it feel that much more alive. BoTW has one of the better stories of the series, Zelda has never been so likable. Yet the story failed to capture me like the other games have.

    I am in no way hating Breath of the Wild, I am amazed at all the new things it brought to the series, and am confident to see it as the Game of the Year.

    My take on THE thing to improve in future installments would be pacing and sculpting the openness of the world to perfection. I believe the sheer size of the game diluted the story to the point that I could not connect to it.

    But all things considered, it’s truly an amazing game, congratulations Nintendo, you have made a true masterpiece.

  • Ganondora

    I completely agree with you. For me, it is so immersive to the point I feel a void, a sense of loss, when I quit playing. It’s an emotional experience.

  • TurboChickenMan
  • Cassandra Reese

    I had a different experience with the yellow dragon. I was trying to find one of the memory locations when out of nowhere that enormous dragon showed up. I was still pretty squishy at that point so I immediately stsrted running away as fast as Link’s legs would go. I haven’t felt that same level of fear when playing a non-horror game since I was a child.

    Overall, I loved the game. The Zelda franchise can rarely do wrong for me. I could have done without the pretentious accent that Zelda had in cut scenes, that made me grimace more in game than anything else. I do feel that the main storyline does get a bit watered down with all of the side quests and the non-linear aspect of it. Traditionally, that linear focus really drove the story forward and created that total immersion I have come to associate with the Zelda series.