Breath of the Wild was nine months old when I was finally able to play it. The Switch was a Christmas gift to myself for taking on a few extra jobs around the holidays. Before then I had watched a few playthroughs and read countless articles and news reports, unconcerned with spoilers as I was unsure of when I’d be able to play the game. When I started my first playthrough, I already knew most of the story, though I did not realize how much I had left to discover.
I’d heard it said numerous times: The world of Breath of the Wild is expansive and limitless. But hearing and seeing are two different things. Hyrule had gone from a singular field with separate regions to a sprawling countryside with no boundaries and seemingly no restrictions. For the first week I played, all I did was look for shrines, fascinated at how I could get lost in the ruins of architecture and endless fields without ever becoming bored. Eventually, I progressed to the main tasks, but that sense of wonder remained all throughout my first playthrough, with one of my favorite moments being my discovery of the secret at the northernmost end of Tanagar Canyon.
I had just activated Hebra Tower and spent some time on the tundra hunting moose and rhinos for cooking purposes. With my inventory full of meals, I set off, deciding to follow the trail leading away from Snowfield Stable simply because I was fond of the music that plays at nighttime while on horseback. I’d just crossed out of the tundra and into a drier climate when the sensor on my Shiekah Slate began to ping. Another shrine was nearby, one more to cross off my list. I continued to ride, turning left and right, forward and back, trying to locate where this ancient structure was hiding. It was nowhere in sight. I spent fifteen minutes riding in circles before abandoning my horse to the wild and setting off on foot.
The ping was strongest when I faced south, so I headed that way, leaping off the short cliff onto the roof of a strange, monolithic structure. Whatever this building was, it was massive, seemingly built into the canyon itself. I realized the shrine must be under or inside whatever the structure was and proceeded forward, jumping off the edge instead of climbing down, my paraglider slowing my descent enough that I was able to get a good look at what I had been on top of. A small flourish of piano echoed through my speakers as the words “Forgotten Temple” flashed on the lower left-hand side of the screen.
“What is this?” I asked to no one in particular, though it drew the attention of my spouse and oldest child, who had been immersed in other tasks. I climbed one of the columns to get a better look, a thousand rhetorical questions running through my mind. What was this place for? What happened to the door? How do I get to the shrine? I didn’t have Revali’s Gale at this point, so I was forced to climb the temple face, discovering in my climb the impression of a Loftwing on one side of the temple. This further piqued my curiosity as Skyward Sword is my favorite Zelda game, so I immediately raced inside to see what other treasures this location had to offer.
Aside from the location chime that rang when I approached the temple, the music in this area had been nothing but ambient piano notes. Then it changed dramatically. A single, discordant piano note, then a flourish of horns. My heart began to race, clutching the Joy-Con grip in anticipation as the Guardian music kicked in and no less than five laser sights landed on Link’s tunic. I shrieked, abandoning my mission mid-jump and fleeing back to the entrance to hide behind a fallen pillar. This brought gales of laughter from my child, who then abandoned a board game to watch me play.
Over the next fifteen minutes, I meticulously parried my way through 12 Decayed Guardians, having completely forgotten to buy arrows back at the stable. I could have gone back and returned to tackle this task when better prepared, but I was too stubborn at this point and the Loftwings on the entrance to the temple had me intrigued. I hoped I would find another reference to my favorite game after I’d battled my way through the chaos.
When I finally reached the back of the temple and the shrine I had been searching for, I passed right by it, choosing instead to scale the giant statue of Hylia to stand on her folded hands. To me, this was worth it; worth the frustration I’d felt when I couldn’t locate where that beeping was coming from, worth the terror I’d experienced upon first entering the temple, and worth the trek off the main path to find yet another Easter egg. I came back to this location two more times in that playthrough: once after I had acquired the Cap and Tunic of the Sky from amiibo drops and wanted to take a picture of Link and the statue (which I’m convinced is the same one from Skyloft), and again after I’d discovered all 120 shrines to claim my reward from the monks. But that first trip inside The Forgotten Temple is something I will never forget, and will always stand out as one of my favorite moments in Breath of the Wild.