The Lost Woods is a recurring place in Zelda games and one that any fan will recognize as a staple of the series. Even in the games in which it doesn’t appear, there are close variations, such as Link’s Awakening’s Mysterious Woods or Majora’s Mask’s Woods of Mystery. There’s a reason that this magical woodland theme keeps returning, which is that it embodies the spirit of The Legend of Zelda: mystery and exploration.
I never imagined anything could top Ocarina of Time’s version — navigating its maze-like structure by following the music was such a novel idea for its time. Yet, as we’ve come to learn, Breath of the Wild is full of surprises.
Tingle’s Maps is a series in which we explore the endless lands of Hyrule in search of our favorite places in The Legend of Zelda. We’ll explore everywhere: the beautiful landscapes that make us put down the controller in awe; the deadly terrain that threatens Link with the harshest of elements; the bustling towns that bring the game to life; and the abandoned grounds that evoke peace and sadness. As well as the grand locales, we’ll also discover all the secret caves and hidden crevices that lie between. Let’s adventure!
Part of the appeal of the Lost Woods this time around is that its discovery comes so unexpectedly for most players. I recall treading through Minshi Woods, which is a pleasant though otherwise unremarkable spot on Breath of the Wild’s huge map. The bright greenery seemed welcoming, acorns littered the ground, foxes frolic through the trees, and everything seemed quite ordinary.
At some point down that path, however, the sky began to darken. Fairy particles filled the air. An ominous piano track kicked in. Confused, I wandered forward. Before I knew it, the adventure was taking a turn for the unforgettable.
The radiant sunlight I had seen shimmering through the trees only moments ago had faded quickly, and yet the tonal shift wasn’t in any way a sinister one. The woods still appear warmly illuminated, as though bathed in moonlight. The sense of tranquility from the forest remains, but suddenly it becomes highly mysterious. Stepping further, the fog that permeates thickly through the forest only serves to intensify the strange atmosphere.
A momentous contributing factor to this sense of serenity is the music, which I would claim is the best in all of Breath of the Wild. It’s perfect for this moment in the game, with its melancholic tone blending perfectly with the striking visuals. I even considered making this a Medli’s Melodies article at first, because I find myself so drawn into the track even when I’m listening to it outside of the game.
I really did become lost in Breath of the Wild’s Lost Woods — I lost myself to its gloomy aura, endless trails and haunting melody.
In previous games, while it was easy to lose yourself in the various renditions of the Lost Woods, the routes presented to you were at least limited and clear. There was always a pattern to discover, encouraging memory skills and a process of elimination. In Ocarina of Time, for example, each section of the woods had up to three new tunnels you could go through, which felt almost like going through a series of rooms via doorways. If you made a wrong turn, Link would mysteriously find himself back at the entrance.
The Lost Woods in Breath of the Wild are more complex because, much like the open-air nature of the entire game, there are no boundaries and no choices immediately presented to you. The woods are simply open for you to explore, but wander aimlessly in one direction and the game will place you right back at the start. As a long-term Zelda fan, this was exciting because while the concept was familiar, the means to navigate were not immediately apparent, and so I got to relive the experience of figuring out the nature of the woods in a new way.
Walking into the Lost Woods feels like walking into the unknown, but it doesn’t feel as though Link is alone — for better or worse. Wildlife still populates the woods, with crows scattering at the entrance and deer bounding through the trees. You can also hear Koroks giggling in the distance whenever you get lost in the fog. It’s more than just a place teeming with life, however; the woods themselves feel alive.
The way the fires are arranged, and with a torch placed ever so carefully nearby, makes it feel like the woods are subtly hinting to the player without fully guiding them. If you pay close attention to the direction in which the embers sway, even the wind blows in the right direction to indicate where to go. It’s difficult to discern whether the spirit of the Lost Woods is really on your side, though, with trees branches jutting out like claws, hollows resembling jaws. and the fog constantly threatening to engulf Link.
Should you make it through its mystifying maze, The Lost Woods also leads into the Korok Forest, home to one of the pivotal plot points of the game — though we’ll save that for a future Tingle’s Maps.
When excellent music, striking tone and inventive game design come together with enough impact, it can create moments of magic. I really did become lost in Breath of the Wild’s Lost Woods — I lost myself to its gloomy aura, endless trails and haunting melody. For once, I was lost, but was in no hurry to find my way back.