The Legend of Zelda Will Stick to the Open World Format with Future Instalments

Series producer Eiji Aonuma says Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom’s open world structure will remain the Zelda template for the foreseeable future.

2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a massive reinvention for Nintendo’s beloved action-adventure franchise, eschewing the item-based progression and dungeon-centric linear structure of its predecessors for a completely free-form open world approach that emphasized physics, emergent gameplay, and player agency above all else. Its sequel, the recently-released Tears of the Kingdom, has taken that to even greater heights, and unsurprisingly, this is a road that Nintendo intends to keep walking down for the foreseeable future.

Speaking in a recent interview with Game Informer, series producer Eiji Aonuma said that similar to Ocarina of Time – which “created a format” for pretty much all Zelda titles that came after it (until 2017, at least) – Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom have established a new open world formula focused on player freedom that the series will be sticking to with future instalments.

“With Ocarina of Time, I think it’s correct to say that it did kind of create a format for a number of titles in the franchise that came after it,” Aonuma said. “But in some ways, that was a little bit restricting for us. While we always aim to give the player freedoms of certain kinds, there were certain things that format didn’t really afford in giving people freedom. Of course, the series continued to evolve after Ocarina of Time, but I think it’s also fair to say now that we’ve arrived at Breath of the Wild and the new type of more open play and freedom that it affords. Yeah, I think it’s correct to say that it has created a new kind of format for the series to proceed from.”

Of course, games take a lot longer to make now, so if, say, in 20 years’ time Nintendo does want to reinvent the Zelda series’ formula again, that would mean we’ll get far fewer open world titles in the instalment than we did in the Ocarina of Time format. Either way, for the foreseeable future, it’s clear that open world Zelda is here to say. Whether that means there’s no room for any new classic Zelda titles, whether those are remakes or spinoffs, remains to be seen. Interestingly enough, however, Tears of the Kingdom’s director is already planning the series’ next mainline instalment.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, meanwhile, has got off to a stellar start. In addition to enjoying universal critical acclaim on the same level as its seminal predecessor, it also seems to be selling very well right off the bat. It has enjoyed the UK’s biggest physical game launch for 2023, while it’s reportedly also sold roughly half a million units in France already.

In our review of the game, we awarded it a score of 10/10, saying, “Tears of the Kingdom ups the ante on its predecessor, and follows up on one of the greatest games ever made by exceeding it in every possible regard to a thorough, comprehensive degree. If you are a fan of the medium, you owe it to yourself to play this game.” Read the full review through here.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is available on the Nintendo Switch.