That’s a rather loaded statement, isn’t it? For many years, there have been only a handful of games that I’d personally consider to be the best of the best:
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Super Mario World
Resident Evil 4
Mega Man 2
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The Last of Us
There may be a few more I could potentially add, but these are the games that immediately sprung to mind.
These titles showcase gameplay that is unrivalled by the vast majority of releases, all of which hold up after five, ten or even twenty years. They’re timeless. Yet, there’s not one of these games that I could confidently say is ‘better’ than the rest. If someone were to ask me which one of them I’d take on an island with me, I’m really not sure I could answer – I enjoy them all for different reasons, each providing a distinctly unique and memorable gameplay experience.
That is, until now.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was recently released on Nintendo Switch/Wii U, and it easily surpasses each of the aforementioned games by a sizeable margin. It is, in my opinion, the greatest game ever made. I don’t say this lightly, and I’d normally wait at least a few months to reflect on the experience before coming to that kind of conclusion – but Breath of the Wild showcases gameplay that is so damn close to perfection, it’s made the decision quite easy for me.
There comes a point in the game – quite early on for most people, I’d imagine – when you look out on the vast horizon and realise that you can go absolutely anywhere. The gloves are off. If you can see it, you can get to it.
Since the introduction of open world games, players have become accustomed to certain limitations with the environments. If a cliff face looked too steep to climb, it probably was. If you come across a sudden drop leading to nothing but dense fog, you don’t jump down it because, well, you just know you won’t survive it. I can’t even begin to recall the number of times I’ve tried to climb Mount Chiliad in GTA V, only to trip or fall backwards for no good reason, tumbling back down the mountain to almost certain death.
Breath of the Wild is different. If you see a mountain looming in the distance, you can get to the top of it. If you see one of the game’s numerous Shrines hundreds of feet below your current whereabouts, you just take a leap of faith and float to the bottom with your trusty paraglider. You can go literally anywhere, provided you’ve got the stamina. It’s a level of freedom I’ve never encountered in a game before.
One of my absolute favourite moments in the game came about fifteen hours in. I’d done a few of the story quests and acquired some decent gear, so I felt reasonably confident enough to seek out each of the game’s towers in order to reveal new sections of the map on Link’s Sheikah Slate.
Climbing to the top of a grassy hill near some ruins, I scoped out a tower in the distance, nestled at the top of a vast mountain sporting some severe cold weather. I had a few elixirs at hand to protect me from the icy temperature, so I leapt off the hill, glided to the nearest cliff face, and started my journey.
The tower was a fair trek away, and after crossing rickety bridges and fierce rivers, I came to the edge of a tremendous canyon. My destination was just on the other side – albeit at quite an intimidating distance. Below, I could scout numerous Bokoblins and Moblins, but they didn’t matter – if I ran out of stamina here, the fall would kill me long before the enemies could. I decided I’d come too far to turn back, so I leapt off the edge, whipped out the paraglider, and slowly floated towards the final cliff. As I got about half way, I panned the camera around to the left…
… and I saw a bridge.
The bridge led directly towards the tower. If I’d taken the time to explore just a little bit more, I’d be safely strolling across with ease instead of risking life and limb to fly to the damn mountain. Still, Breath of the Wild is all about risk and reward – I may have taken the most ridiculous, downright stupid route to my destination, but I made it nonetheless – and it was quite possibly the most thrilling journey I’d experienced in a video game.
You just don’t get this with other titles. I’ve found all too often that there are places in open world games that the developers just don’t want you to go – and unless you can cheat the system, you won’t be getting there. This simply isn’t the case with Breath of the Wild – every hill, every river, every beach has its own name and its own little story. Hell, even the rocks have their own names! You can visit them all, and my journey to the Shiekah Tower was one that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t governed by what the developers wanted me to do – it was entirely my own doing.
This is one of many reasons why Breath of the Wild is the greatest game of all time. I’d mention them all if I could, but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t talk about them here. There have been countless open world games in that past that have flirted with the idea of ‘creating your own story’ – but with Breath of the Wild, Nintendo have not only delivered on this concept but surpassed it with flying colours. A new bar has been set, and it’s a bloody high one. I’m so thrilled to have discovered such a meaningful game at the age of 27, but I don’t envy Nintendo one bit – how the hell are they going to top this one?