The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ends with Link and Zelda vowing to restore Hyrule’s majesty — bringing it “even beyond” what it originally was, Zelda says, even though her power is diminished. Though The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has been described as a direct sequel to Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s been quite secretive about where and how the story picks up. Nintendo even kept Tears of the Kingdom’s name secret for years, revealing it only in 2022 because the company said its reveal might “give away too much.”
In the time since Nintendo’s Tears of the Kingdom announcement, the company has strategically released new information through a series of trailers. In analyzing those trailers, there is some information we can glean about the game ahead of its release date. Let’s start there.
When does Tears of the Kingdom come out?
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is coming to Nintendo Switch on May 12. It’ll cost $69.99, the first first-party Nintendo Switch game to carry that higher-than-normal price. A $129.99 collector’s edition will be available on that day, too. It includes a physical copy of Tears of the Kingdom, an art book, SteelBook case, an Iconart steel poster, and four pins.
Separately, Nintendo will release a new amiibo figure of Link as he appears in Tears of the Kingdom. The amiibo will cost $15.99 when it’s released on May 12. You can use the amiibo in-game to change the look of Link’s glider.
Both of the editions — standard and collector’s — as well as the amiibo are available to pre-order now.
When Breath of the Wild was released in 2017, it launched on Nintendo Switch as a launch title as well as Wii U. Tears of the Kingdom will only be released on Nintendo Switch.
What’s the story of Tears of the Kingdom?
When it comes to Zelda games, Nintendo is not very forthcoming about the plot. The same is true of Tears of the Kingdom, which Nintendo describes as an “epic adventure across the land and skies of Hyrule.” Players will “harness the power of Link’s new abilities to fight back against the malevolent forces that threaten the kingdom,” Nintendo says. Much of the story is intentionally vague, and trailers don’t reveal much. If anything, some of what Nintendo has shown feels like misdirection.
Visually (and tonally), Tears of the Kingdom is much darker than Breath of the Wild — at least in parts. Trailers for the game show Link and Zelda in dark dungeons, with malice forcing its way into the world, but also show bright lightness as Link glides between airborne islands. It seems to be a game of balance, and we’ll see how the joy of exploration, so essential in Breath of the Wild, mixes with the brooding storyline.
In a trailer released in February, we see what looks to be Ganon’s corpse, maybe in its Ganondorf form, awakening. Malice spreads, pushing Hyrule Castle into the sky, and even attacking Link — his arm appears to be rotting with malice, all burnt up. The Master Sword is impacted too, corrupted and melted.
Is the gameplay the same?
Nintendo hasn’t shown much extended gameplay of combat or puzzles, but we have seen new and expanded ways to travel through Hyrule. Link has a number of new weapons in a series of axes, swords, shields, and bows seen in the trailers so far, used to fight both familiar and new enemies. In Tears of the Kingdom trailers, Link has a powerful, glowing green arm — the one that looks burnt in the February trailer. Nintendo hasn’t shown exactly what the arm does or how it works, but it does appear to have powers that will let players solve puzzles, manipulate the environment (and time itself), and use other special abilities, just like Breath of the Wild’s Sheikah Slate and Runes did. As always, fans have theories.
Is Tears of the Kingdom set in the same Hyrule?
It’s set in Hyrule, but it’s not entirely clear what’s changed, or whether it’ll use the same map and terrain from Breath of the Wild. What we do know is that Tears of the Kingdom expands Hyrule upward into the skies above the land. The first trailer showed Hyrule Castle emerging from the ground, and the second showed towers crumbling as malice — like a poison — forces the castle into the sky.
But before the castle erupts, Nintendo showed Link gliding, both with his parasail and without, through pillows of clouds. Chunks of Hyrule are pulled from the ground as if they were carrots, suspended in air closer toward Hyrule’s earth. There are quite a few views of the changed world, showing the expanse of Hyrule now disjointed into several different levels.
How will Link get around?
Link will still journey through Hyrule by paraglider and horseback like in Breath of the Wild, but it looks like he has a few upgraded rides in Tears of the Kingdom. The third trailer shows Link on a land vehicle that looks like an open-air car, a hovercraft that looks like a huge drone, and a hot air balloon. Oh, and he’s also seen shredding some gnar on what looks to be his shield, using it like a skateboard.
These different methods of transportation suggest that Tears of the Kingdom’s map will be big — perhaps bigger than Breath of the Wild’s map — and the air vehicles are necessary to access the floating pieces of Hyrule.
Do weapons degrade and break in Tears of the Kingdom?
Nintendo hasn’t given us any hint here, with the exception of that messed-up Master Sword, which is probably unrelated to regular weapon durability. Weapon durability and degradation in Breath of the Wild is contentious. Weapons break a lot — all weapons. Some players like it, calling it a boon to Breath of the Wild’s storytelling that keeps players in touch with the cruel reality of Hyrule. Others think it forces players to try out a whole bunch of weapons, maybe some they’d never pick up on their own. But for others, constant weapon shifting — and breaking in the midst of a battle — is grating, especially when it’s a weapon you’ve worked hard to acquire, leading to pointless weapon hoarding.
Where Tears of the Kingdom will stand on that, we just don’t know.
Do I have to play Breath of the Wild before Tears of the Kingdom?
It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but you should get started now — Breath of the Wild is a huge game! Because we don’t know much about the story, it’s hard to say whether new players will be confused or come into a story in medias res. If you don’t want to play Breath of the Wild, there’s no shortage of YouTube videos outlining the game and its story. But if you want to speed up your journey, check out Polygon’s extensive guides for Breath of the Wild for some help.