Tears of the Kingdom needs to do this Breath of the Wild feature justice today

Epona in Zelda
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Any Zelda fan worth their Rupees has poured their fair share of hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Whether that's by repeating the story time and time again, exploring the highs and lows of Hyrule in search of Koroks, or trying your hand at using Sheikah Slate abilities for pure chaos. 

I’ve spent hundreds of hours in Hyrule’s highs and lows, sure, but there’s one mechanic in particular that drags me into playing for hours, and it’s not as conventional as a campaign. Rather than repeating the story, I’ll jump into the game to saddle up for a couple of hours and ride around Hyrule with my hooved companion. 

Even though it’s not a central part of the core gameplay loop, horse riding in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is some of the most accurate representations and animations of horse physics and articulation within video gaming. 

It’s clear that the animation team behind our beloved horses did a lot of research into the movement and nature prior to implementing them into Breath of the Wild specifically, which is why I have no shame in admitting it's one of my favorite features of the entire game, and I hope it makes a return in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

I wanna be a cowboy, baby 

Zelda holding the Master sword

(Image credit: Nintendo)

I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination. I know next to nothing about horses, and I don’t think I’ve ever ridden one, even when I was younger and went through the inevitable horse-girl phase. But frankly, now I’ve spent more time than I'd like to admit on the back of Epona and various pretentiously named horses I’ve collected during my adventure, I feel like I could probably be a horse-lover in the next life with the amount of appreciation I’ve now got for a ride across the plains.

But Breath of the Wild isn’t the only game to feature accurate horse articulation, and horse riding is a mechanic in a surprising amount of games I’ve enjoyed so I’ve got a fair few examples of what works so well alongside the things that don’t. A prime example of this would be Red Dead Redemption 2, where travel via horse is a surprisingly significant part of gameplay so it needs to be accurate to assist the experience. 

Whereas there are a number of horse-based travel mechanics in video games where movement doesn’t flow in the same way. Movement feels stagnant, rigid, and thoughtless, which easily deducts points from the general gameplay experience in my eyes. When you’re traveling via horseback, it’s meant to feel smooth to add to the immersion of the game. 

Link sky diving in Tears of the Kingdom

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Implementing accurate horse riding physics goes far beyond having the hooves move in the correct pattern throughout a trot, canter, and gallop. It stretches to the fetlock and the way the joint bends upon impact, and the strain on the animal when faced with any sort of incline rather than maintaining a consistent pace. So no, it’s not technically a core part of gameplay, but it can be an incredibly beneficial one when done correctly. 

It’s not an excuse to get up and make yourself a cup of tea while your character navigates landscapes, it’s meant to be engaging without having to involve intensive combat or many threats. It’s clear when thought has been put into the entire process of animating and creating horseback riding, and when it’s done well in games like Breath of the Wild, it just helps to elevate the experience - and I am really hoping this carries across to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.  

So despite my anxieties about whether or not Tears of the Kingdom will match the expectations Breath of the Wild has set for my open-world Hylian adventures if horse riding is implemented in a similarly optional way to its predecessor, I take a lot of solace in knowing at least one part of gameplay will be just as mindlessly entertaining. Even if combat is a real challenge and exploring every inch of the map seems far too intimidating at first, I know I’ll be able to wrangle a four-legged companion and see where each path takes me. 

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.