While the unique hybrid nature of the new console certainly gained it plenty of attention, there was little doubt that, after the commercial bomb that was the Wii U, Nintendo needed a killer app to make its new system a must-have purchase – and this ambitious open-world adventure ticked all the boxes.
The only problem with making one of the most critically-lauded video games the industry has ever seen is that you're then faced with the unenviable challenge of having to top it with your next outing – and, in a pretty unique turn of events, that's precisely what Nintendo intends to do.
Direct sequels aren't all that common in the Zelda universe, but Breath of the Wild 2 will nonetheless seek to provide an even more compelling experience than its predecessor while rooting the action in the same 'version' of Hyrule – a bold move, given that fans will directly compare the two games.
Here are six things we think Nintendo can do to ensure that this follow-up is every bit as essential as the original.
Bring back the dungeons, but better
Now, before you get the wrong idea, there was part of us that was very pleased that Breath of the Wild did away with the traditional dungeons seen in previous Zelda titles. It's not that we didn't enjoy them; it's just that the franchise had fallen into a bit of design rut, with the basic pattern of 'explore overworld, enter dungeon, beat boss, rinse and repeat' being practically set in stone.
However, while the thrill of exploring the sprawling, untamed landscape of Hyrule in all directions was very welcome indeed, it also felt like a part of what makes Zelda such a great series was missing somehow. Sure, the Divine Beasts offered small, puzzle-based challenges in enclosed spaces, but it wasn't quite the same.
The trailer for Breath of the Wild 2 hints that subterranean exploration could form a part of the game, so let's hope it finds a way to skillfully combine the vast open world of the original with some deep and complex dungeon environments which expand the challenge in new and interesting ways.
Make the story stronger without losing player agency
Breath of the Wild's storyline was engaging, but it arguably played second fiddle to the vast, open-ended nature of the environment. Detached from the linear nature of previous outings, the game's narrative inevitably had to fade into the background to give the player complete freedom, and was only called upon at certain moments to push the plot forward.
The challenge of striking a balance between player agency and a riveting storyline is one that developers all over the world struggle with, but if there's one company that can truly nail it, then it's Nintendo. Hopefully, this will be possible without sacrificing the refreshing sense of freedom that Breath of the Wild delivered in spades.
Ditch the breakable weapons
The fact that the weapons in Breath of the Wild deteriorate over time made the game challenging and also ensured that you didn't simply pick one offensive option and use it for the entire duration of the adventure (at least, not until you obtained the indestructible Master Sword, anyway).
It was a brave and – in the context of the series – somewhat revolutionary move which kept us all on our toes during the game's lengthy campaign. However, it also felt needlessly frustrating at times; there was nothing more demoralising than getting close to the end of a tense battle with a tough enemy only to find that your sword shatters before you can land the killer blow.
Some kind of weapon degradation system could still be factored into the sequel, but perhaps Nintendo could make it less punitive this time around – or use mechanics that force players to experiment with their armoury of weapons so they don't simply favour a single type all of the time.
Bring back the classic items, but with a fresh twist
As well as ditching dungeons, Breath of the Wild also jettisoned familiar items, such as the Boomerang, Hookshot and Iron Boots, pivoting the adventure from a traditional, gear-gated experience to a more free-form explorative romp.
Again, we're not expecting or asking Nintendo to revert back to the traditional Zelda template – that would rob Breath of the Wild 2 of the same ingredients that made the original so amazing – but there's surely some way of introducing these classic items into this 'new' setup, and expanding the gameplay possibilities at the same time. Perhaps we could see all-new items make an appearance?
Restore life to Hyrule
Outside of Kakariko Village, Hyrule was pretty underpopulated in Breath of the Wild. Instead, Nintendo chose to illustrate how Ganon's evil forces had torn the land apart, laying waste to its major population centres – and it worked. The horror at exploring the decimated Hyrule Castle Town – traditionally a bustling hub in previous games – was devastatingly effective.
Perhaps the next game can show the nation's capital restored to its former glory, teeming with people who are all too willing to send you off on side-quests and the like? Filling a game world as vast as Hyrule with life won't be easy, but it will ultimately make for a more interesting game.
Give Zelda the stage
Over the course of the Zelda series, the titular princess has gone from being a hapless victim to a (spoiler alert if you've not played Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker yet) dynamic and often enigmatic hero, but the only games where she's been the true protagonist are found on the ill-fated Philips CD-i in the exclusive (and non-canon) releases Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventure – both of which have a pretty torrid reputation amongst Zelda aficionados.
As derided as those games are, perhaps they will give Nintendo inspiration for the next outing; Link is clearly shown in dire straits in the trailer for Breath of the Wild 2, so perhaps he will be out of commission for the duration of the quest, allowing Zelda to become the hero? It sounds dramatic, but as we've already established, she has prior form and could easily become the leading lady, if given the chance.
- Best Nintendo Switch games: the most essential Switch games