Dust off your climbing boots and paraglider, gamers: Nintendo has finally confirmed that a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel is in development, with a breathtaking trailer pointing to a darker turn for the next mainline Zelda game.
But what will Breath of the Wild 2 do differently from the 2017 game, and when will we finally get our hands on it?
Nintendo dropped the bombshell at the end of its E3 2019 presentation – via an online-only keynote, given Nintendo doesn't host its own presentation in person anymore – confirming our suspicions after the Japanese publisher appeared to be hiring for a 3D level designer last year.
2017's Breath of the Wild was a masterclass in open-world game design, breathing a huge gust of fresh air into the Zelda franchise while somehow retaining everything that made the series special. Widely considered one of the best games of that year – if not all time – it's no surprise Nintendo is working on a direct sequel.
While we got a look at a lot of exciting Switch games at E3 this year – Luigi's Mansion 3, Link's Awakening, and Pokemon Sword and Shield – a Breath of the Wild sequel might have been the most exciting.
It's still early days, but here's everything we know – and want to know – about Breath of the Wild 2 for Nintendo Switch.
- Nintendo E3 2019: every Nintendo game shown, teased and played at the show
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The upcoming sequel to 2017's open-world Zelda game
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
- When can I play it? 2020 at the earliest, but likely later than that
Breath of the Wild 2 release date
Nintendo hasn't shared much information other than the trailer and a few sparse comments – run through below – but the trailer did close off with a line stating the Breath of the Wild sequel was "in development". We certainly won't see the game being released in the coming months, but it's hard to tell beyond that.
There was six years between 2011's Skyward Sword (Wii U) and 2017's Breath of the Wild (Wii U / Switch), though the latter's development was delayed by issues with the game's physics engine.
Given the team appear to be re-using the same engine and open-world Hyrule setting, Nintendo probably won't need the same lead time to get this game to release – as with Majora's Mask on the Nintendo 64, which launched just two years after 1998's iconic Ocarina of Time, and re-used many of the same in-game assets.
With Link's Awakening landing in late 2019, we can't imagine BOTW 2 launching too soon after, either. December 2020 seems the earliest it could possibly release, with a 2021 window seeming more probable.
Breath of the Wild 2 trailers
We got our first glimpse of BOTW 2 at E3, with this spooky trailer that shows Zelda and Link exploring an underground chamber – with some mysterious runes, glowing hands, and a brand-new haircut that has set the internet on fire. Suffice to say: we're excited.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 trailer is just 82 seconds long and there's no dialogue whatsoever – but there are some clues to be gathered from it.
It features a torch-carrying Link and Zelda traversing a dark dungeon beneath Hyrule (no big surprise there). Spirit-like tendrils creep around the musty tomb they're exploring, with the pair riding a large elephant-like beast. Something shocks the pair, and then we cut to what appears to be the resurrection of some long-dead (and creepy looking) warrior. Could this be the return of Ganondorf?
The video then cuts to a long shot of Hyrule Field, with Hyrule Castle in the distance. There's a tremor, the castle is smothered with dust... and that's the end.
The clip finishes with a message that reads: "The sequel to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in development."
We wouldn't usually expect so much animation to be done so early in development, but it probably helps that Nintendo already has the in-game engine from Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild 2 news and rumors
All the DLC that never was
In an interview with Kotaku, Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma said there were originally plans for more DLC content for BOTW, after The Champion's Ballad and Master Trials add-ons that came in 2017.
"Initially we were thinking of just DLC ideas," says Anouma. "But then we had a lot of ideas and we said, 'This is too many ideas, let’s just make one new game and start from scratch.'"
A darker turn for the series
All we really know at this point is how little we know. But boy are there rumors. The unexpected trailer has already sparked a huge amount of speculation, hopes and hot takes on what the next mainline Zelda title might include.
We've heard from Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma that the game is going to have a darker tone than Breath of the Wild, and will even be "a little bit darker" than Majora's Mask (via IGN).
The trailer certainly supports this, with what looks like Ganondorf's corpse being resurrected by a disembodied hand, and seemingly imagery from 2006's Twilight Princess, which saw Hyrule turned into a bleak shadow realm – largely in response to the far cheerier and cartoonish The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.
The Twilight realm
The glowing blue hand in the trailer is the biggest clue that we'll be seeing more of the Twili – shadow people descended from Hylians who tried to take the power of the Triforce for themselves. The hand is wrapped in twisting shapes reminiscent of Twilight architecture, while the swirling magic could remind some of the portals that let Twili invade Hyrule in the 2006 game.
We know that BOTW's dev team originally toyed with the idea of an alien invasion, and seeing shadow creatures teleport out of the sky could well have been what they have planned this time around.
A clue in the audio
Showing just how far some Zelda fans will go, reddit user u/ReroFunk (via Inverse) has pieced together a pretty convincing theory regarding Twilight Princess villain Zant, a Twili who served Ganondorf in the game. If you listen to the trailer's audio in reverse, there are certain notes that seem to echo the music played during your final encounter with Zant – who, while defeated, is adamant he'll return through the power of his "god".
u/ReroFunk also suggests we could see the demon king Demise return for the next Zelda game. Demise was the final boss in Skyward Sword, and revealed to be the original form of Ganondorf. The below still from the Zelda trailer also looks a lot like Demise when you think about it.
Zelda's turn in the spotlight?
One of the favorite fan theories doing the rounds regards the Hyrule princess herself. She's shown with a practical short haircut, and is dressed in a manner pretty similar to Link's own adventurer's gear – leading some to think she may be a playable character.
Zelda's devs have seemed pretty dismissive of the idea of a female Link in the past – sadly – but we may in this game see sections playing as Zelda, or at least with her playing a more active role in the story.
Breath of the Wild 2: what we want to see
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is widely considered one of the best games in the series, and there'll be a lot of pressure to deliver a game not only as good – but also good in its own way. Here's what we're hoping Nintendo will be able to bring to the sequel when it lands.
Some new environments
Don't get us wrong: Breath of the Wild 2's setting was beautiful, with huge scale vistas and a brilliant dynamic weather system, but we're still hoping we don't have to retread too much of the same ground. Some divergences in the scenery would help to keep things fresh: maybe a great earthquake splitting the landscape, or an eternal twilight turning Hyrule's green fields into something else altogether?
Save data carrying over
For those of us who have invested a large portion of time in BOTW, it seems a waste to have to start from zero when powering up the next game – especially if it takes place right after we left off.
Allowing for certain DLC items to carry over, and making reference to your individual decisions in the previous game – such as certain quests you did or didn't complete, or how many Divine Beasts you recruited before facing Ganon – would really help to make the sequel feel like a meaningful extension of the previous game.
Some larger-scale dungeons
Sure, you could technically say that BOTW's above-ground landscape was a dungeon in its own right: packed with enough enemies, treasure and surprises without having to hunker underground. However, the snack-sized shrine puzzles and Divine Beasts never quite recreated the scale and wonder of the Zelda Series' most iconic temples, and it'd be great to see one or two dungeons that really pull out the stops.
No more Korok seeds
For the completionists out there, BOTW's hide-and-seek Koroks were a sweet addition to the game's action. But the reward of a golden turd for collecting all 900 Korok seeds was a bit of an anti-climax – and we really don't want to have to collect all of them all over again. Maybe go with something else next time, Nintendo?
Everything BOTW did so well
Regardless of the above, we're hoping Nintendo sticks close enough to BOTW's formula – open world exploration, destructible weapons, and environmental puzzles – as not to ditch what made the entry so successful.