The "open-world game" genre is the bastard child of Super Mario 64 and World of Warcraft — create a giant, continuous landscape, fill it with travel time and fall damage, and send the player on endless scavenger hunts. When executed well, it can be quite an enjoyable experience; Nintendo’s own Xenoblade Chronicles is probably the preëminent example, filled as it is with breathtaking vistas, secret places to explore, mysteries to discover, and fun characters to meet. On the other hand, open-world games often become exercises in bookkeeping and tedium, ground down by systems that stubbornly insist on inserting themselves in between the player and the fun.
Into this morass rides The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a Zelda game recast in the open-world style. Producer Eiji Aonuma has stated that one of the team’s major inspirations for this game was the original NES Legend of Zelda, a game that set the player loose in the world and left him to discover for himself what’s out there and how to complete his quest. This is a theme that was touched on previously in 2013’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which boldly disassociated the usual Zelda items from the dungeons themselves, allowing the player to acquire any item at any time, and proceed through the world any way he sees fit. This idea turned out to be fantastic, since it liberated the game from the linear path previous entries were forced into, and allowed the player a sense of freedom that more structured games, such as 2011’s Skyward Sword, were lacking.