Breath of the Wild has set itself up to be the biggest change to the Zelda franchise since Ocarina of Time released over fifteen years ago. While the newest game does take much of its open world influence from the very first NES title, it’s on a much grander scale than anyone had imagined before its initial reveal a few years back. Fans had gotten used to the fairly linear style of Zelda gameplay and now leaves players wondering: will this gameplay continue in the next title or will they return to the more linear style of game?
Since the third game in the series, A Link to the Past, the Zelda franchise gradually began to give players a more guided adventure than the first two titles where hours of aimless exploration was the key to discovering everything. The games continue in this path and would typically tell players where to go, and progressively got easier with each installment to appeal to all age ranges. Now we are presented with Breath of the Wild, where players are given free reign to the entire world right from the get-go. There is a guide they are more than welcome to follow if they want, and will likely have to a little bit in the beginning, but are also allowed to ignore it and can instead move forward at their preferred pace instead of just linearly progressing.
It wouldn’t be completely unrealistic for Nintendo to keep releasing 3D Zelda titles in the style of Breath of the Wild. With each 3D Zelda title the time between releases has steadily increased as more time was needed to work on each game. There were five years between Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, with a six year gap now sitting between Breath of the Wild and Skyward Sword. They take a much longer time on the 3D games for a good reason, they tend to make each installment more innovative than the last. This leads many to believe the next 3D title might just be on par with Breath of the Wild, but that still won’t likely be the next Zelda game released due to the long amount of time needed. Instead, we’re much more likely to get another overhead 2D styled game similar to A Link Between Worlds.
The 2D Zelda titles, while being great buffers between the larger 3D games, stand tall as some of the strongest in the series. There’s a good possibility that following Breath of the Wild we’ll see another 2D game released in just a couple of years. This is where the 3D and 2D games will start to split more than ever, as it’s likely the 2D games will continue the more traditional style of their predecessors while the 3D games continue the open world approach. This would not only be a great break between larger titles, but also be a bit more laid back for those who want a shorter and more straight-forward Zelda game. Nintendo would be silly to entirely abandon this classic style of gameplay in the Zelda series when it still appeals to so many of their players of all ages.
Thirty years has given the Zelda series a ton of time to evolve and change with every new game both 2D and 3D alike. With Breath of the Wild, the series is making further bounds to appeal to an even broader audience, while still keeping the spirit of adventure that each and every game has given so many players. Hopefully the series is able to push forward into even more grand adventures like Breath of the Wild hopes to deliver, but even if they do take a step back for a game or two, they have at least set the ground work for more great things to continue for this long-beloved series.