When I reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch back in March of this year, I described it as “a new experience for a new generation of Nintendo gamers.” And nowhere was this clearer than when I sat down with my own kids to start them on their first true Zelda console adventure.
At 9 and 12, my daughter and son are both around the same age I was when I first journeyed into Hyrule on the NES in the original Legend of Zelda and its side-scrolling follow-up, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The past three decades have seen no shortage of evolution and innovation within the beloved franchise—though elements like magic, music, and the passage of time have always seemingly been at the heart of Link’s famed exploits—but Breath of the Wild truly is the series’ single grandest step forward.
So much of the experience seemed new and unfamiliar, even to a vet like me, that I almost felt as though I was somehow shirking my responsibilities as the consummate gamer parent just trying to figure out how to ease my children into this expansive game world. How much hand-holding and pre-game prep were warranted? What should I say (or not say) to help maximize their fun and, just as importantly, their wonderment within this bigger and, I dare say, better Hyrule?
In the end, I elected to walk a fine line. I followed the advice of musical prophets and titular wild-eyed Southern boys, 38 Special:
Just hold on loosely / But don’t let go.
With that in mind, here are five hard-fought tips to help you as you help your own geeklings navigate The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Because, if I may be so bold as to continue my previous musical allusion:
If you cling too tightly / You’re gonna lose it / You’re gonna lose control.
The Right Profile
While Breath of the Wild‘s game structure only offers a single save file, keep in mind that the Switch itself easily supports multiple user profiles, each of which has its own independent save. By assuring that your kids have their own profiles (and that everyone plays as their appropriate user), you can easily keep each experience unique, pristine, and safe from sibling mischief.
To that end, I’ll also point out that Nintendo’s Switch Parental Control app allows you to easily monitor playtime and restrict it (or even games by content rating) right from your smartphone. It ain’t exactly Pokémon GO, but it’s free, helpful, and readily available.
As I and, I’ll wager, any other longtime Nintendo fan can surely attest, Breath of the Wild is a bold step forward for The Legend of Zelda—with as much regard to its mechanics as its ever-evolving lore. In my own first few hours with it, I noted (often competing) shades of everything from Skyrim to Assassin’s Creed, and that’s okay.
Breath of the Wild is a Zelda game for the Minecraft generation. It’s a big open world where practically anything goes. It rewards exploration and creativity, and, with the obvious exception of something like the recurring motif of the Lost Woods, very few situations have a singular “correct” solution.
Just go with it.
If your son wants to spend all his time tracking down classic LoZ costumes? (Pro-tip: use amiibo.) So be it! If your daughter wants to wile away the hours farming those sweet, sweet Rupees? (Pro-tip: use amiibo.) More power to her!
Basically, if your kids want to ignore Calamity Ganon or, hell, even the Divine Beasts themselves in favor of leisurely gliding across hillsides or cooking obviously disgusting meals on every campfire they see, just let ’em! It’s already been 10,000 years; what’s the hurry?
B(u)y the Book
Whether you’re looking to aid them in the core quest(s) or just trying to provide your young’uns with a little context for the characters in and creative forces behind the legendary land of Hyrule, the answer is only an Amazon purchase away. (I mean, isn’t it always?)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Complete Official Guide is a sizable tome with more than 350 pages of engaging, informative BotW content. The book is wonderfully laid out, opening with a quick-start section and gameplay primer, then continuing on to a thorough walkthrough as well as separate guides to shrines and side quests.
We’ve found its inventory list and beastiary to be particularly helpful, especially when trying to discern what does what to whom. All this information, of course, is interspersed with maps, screenshots, and other helpful visual aids, and the index in the back makes it really easy to find what you need when you need it.
While less helpful during actual gameplay, Dark Horse’s The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts—the follow-up to 2013’s well-received Hyrule Historia—is a veritable treasure trove of illustrations from throughout the 30-year history of the franchise. Clocking in at more than 400 pages (and weighing what at least seems like a solid metric ton), it’s a treat for us old hands but also a real crowd-pleaser for the younger set.
While I’ve watched the evolution of Link first-hand, my kids only really saw the vaguest outlines from their own experience with the series and the odd YouTube retrospective fan vid. This book, however, lays it all out in gorgeous, living color, and, when my son’s not poring over retro sprites and meticulous illustrations, it resides comfortably on our living room coffee table.
In the Hot Seat
Because of the intentionally open nature of the game, some elements like puzzle solutions and enemy weak points might not be easily identifiable to fledgling gamers. Sure, a guidebook—physical or digital—can help smooth out those edges, but this can also provide an amazing opportunity for some quality family gaming.
Whether you’re passing around the Pro Controller after each character death or just cheering/advising from the sidelines, Breath of the Wild can provide many wonderful occasions for truly enjoyable shared gaming moments. Taking down a Lynel or Guardian on your own already comes with its own genuine sense of accomplishment, but doing so as a family borders on a transcendent experience.
It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination
Not to belabor the point, but the game world in Breath of the Wild is massive—the missions are plentiful, the shrines are downright overabundant, and the opportunities for general mayhem even more so. For kids raised on building and survival games, these may prove all too enticing and easily distract them from the task at hand, namely destroying Ganon and restoring peace and order to Hyrule.
If you’re a completionist, a strictly-by-the-book gamer, or have a single OCD bone in your body, this is likely to drive you positively batty. But instead of saying, “don’t go that way” or “why aren’t you using [this item],” simply take a deep breath and let your brood make it the gaming experience they want it to be.
A good rule of thumb: if they’re not getting frustrated or asking for your help, mind your own business. Even if you are called in for some expert advice, try sticking to things like “have you tried…” or “I did it like…”
That is, until they turn over the controller. Once that’s in your hands, all bets are off!
Review and promotional materials provided by: Nintendo of America