We sure seem to have been waiting for Tears of the Kingdom information for a long time, but thankfully, we have a good idea of the project as a whole at this point. Even though there’s still so much we don’t know about the game, there’s enough to build some semblance of what Nintendo’s brand-new entry entails. There’s not a lot of footage yet, but what is there has got fans suitably hyped.
Having said that, we’re not in 2017 anymore. With the release of critically acclaimed open-world titles like Assasin’s Creed: Valhalla, Read Dead Redemption 2, and most recently, Elden Ring, a carve-and-copy Breath of the Wild sequel wouldn’t get the same glowing review scores.
The stakes are high, but as history has told us, this is typically when Nintendo — and most creative bodies — produce their best work. The Wii U was a commercial failure — Nintendo’s derealization fashioned into an expensive tablet that no one knew what to make of.
Not only did they know what was riding on the Switch as a console, they knew they needed to shake up the formula with their IPs, too. Breath of the Wild was a true return to form, marking somewhat of a renaissance for the company, so hopes are high for what they have up their sleeve for the titular Hylian swordsman next.
Having pieced together all of the relevant information over the last few months, I’ve written this definitive, comprehensive guide to getting you up to scratch on everything we know so far about Tears of the Kingdom: the upcoming mainline entry in The Legend of Zelda series.
Bottom Line Up Front
This article is intended to be an exhaustive list of all the key information leading up to release, but if you’re in a rush, here are some bullet point takeaways:
- Tears of the Kingdom is currently set to release in Spring 2023 for Nintendo Switch.
- The game will take place within the same timeline as Breath of the Wild and will be a direct sequel, but features an emphasis on a new sky area with floating islands.
- While unconfirmed, the story seems to link in previous Zelda titles as well as the extensive lore for what looks to be a grand finale.
- Sheikah technology is largely replaced with a new green glowing magic, which forms the basis of the majority of the new mechanics expected to be in the game.
- Ganondorf is back as the franchise’s main villain, depicted as being revived from a skeletal state.
Note: To avoid confusion, I will not be referring to each individual trailer as I describe findings. With each trailer only being small in length and each often reusing parts of other trailers, I think it’s best to refer to them collectively as one body of evidence. When I refer to what we see, I’ll explain them as being part of the trailers.
If you want to watch the trailers individually, here they are:
- E3 2019 reveal trailer
- E3 2021 trailer
- Launch timing update trailer 2022
- Official trailer 2022
- Official trailer 2023
The Development Timeline
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I thought it best to briefly go over the timeline in this section. Thanks to interviews with the developers, we know that development started at the end of 2017 — very soon after Breath of the Wild’s release. The new game will be launching 12th of May, 2023, six years after its predecessor. Naturally, a lot has happened in that time.
The official reveal came at E3 2019, and after a long period of silence, a full trailer came in 2021. It wouldn’t be until a year later at the back end of 2022 that Nintendo unveiled the title, Tears of the Kingdom.
Of course, the game’s development wasn’t without its setbacks. The project was originally announced for a 2022 release but was pushed back to the current window shortly after that announcement. Nintendo has been surprisingly silent during development, but the current release date seems to be set now.
Just very recently, the latest Nintendo Direct on the 2nd of February, 2023, gave us more titbits as to the new features we can expect. In the next section, we’ll have a look at everything the trailers have collectively taught us.
Given what we’ve seen in the trailers and gameplay footage, Tears of the Kingdom will look a lot like Breath of the Wild in a graphical sense. The game utilizes the same anime-style cel-shaded art style, and with the BotW already pushing the system to its near limits, we won’t expect much in the way of increased graphical fidelity.
We also know that the game takes place in the same version of Hyrule as Breath of the Wild, but as we’ll see, the developers have cleverly made a familiar setting fresh. What we can expect is a shake-up and improvement in the gameplay elements and mechanics that were on offer from Breath of the Wild, so let’s have a look at those individually.
The Sheikah Slate’s Replacement
If you look carefully at Link’s appearance in the most recent box art, you’ll notice our hero is missing his Sheikah slate. It has been replaced by a new hip-mounted flask of sorts containing the mysterious green magic we’ve seen permeate the trailers. The item seems to have multiple vials containing the magic, so it is presumed that you’ll be required to collect or fill these vessels to utilize the new magic’s powers.
Skydiving and Tears
In a turn of events that seems very similar to the world of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Tears of the Kingdom reinvigorates BOTW’s version of Hyrule with a new plane in the sky.
It looks as though the player will be able to move between the sky and ground portions of Hyrule seamlessly thanks to a new Skydiving mechanic; In multiple shots from the trailers, we see link diving off of a sky platform before leveling out into a controllable horizontal position.
It remains presently unclear why this brand new area of Hyrule has presented itself, though it is thought it may have some Godly relevance. One of the other pervasive mysteries is Link’s new ability to use magical tear droplets to traverse the world’s moving, floating platforms.
Having climbed onto a surface, Link can travel through solid stone to get to the surface. It is currently unclear whether this ability is related to the new magic or something else entirely, but it only seems to apply to the new sky islands. Both of these aspects have not only been seen in the trailers but in new patents filed by Nintendo which depict both of these mechanics. Take a look:
One of the main aspects the trailers have enlightened fans to is the inclusion of vehicles in this new entry. We see Link has new modalities of transport such as flying drone-type vehicles, a hot air balloon, and a large car. Even more interesting is that these vehicles seem to have been put together by the player by finding mechanical parts. Link is seen pulling out a large wheel from a body of water, which is then utilized as a wheel for a makeshift car.
So far as powering these new vehicles, the new green magic is likely at the crux. We see its green eminence on all visible shots of these vehicles, indicating that it is indeed some sort of binding force holding them together as well as a fuel source.
Link’s New Arm
In the trailer, we saw Link’s right arm and hand being engulfed, and presumably corrupted by Mallace. Along with his arm being visibly blackened, it’s also covered in strange gold bands. Further to this gold adornment is a new symbol on the back of his right hand.
The trailers show a golden light also emanating from his hand, presumably relating to the symbol: this seems to give Link similar powers that the Sheikah slate did; he’s seen in the trailer using the light to cause stasis on a tumbling spiked bolder.
His arm is also frequently depicted with the green glow of the new magic, so the arm itself this time may harness the manipulation abilities previously seen when link used the Sheikah Slate.
Theories Surrounding the Plot and Lore
There are some main elements we can see off the bat when summarizing the game’s trailers. Namely, Ganondorf has returned, and a lot is going on above ground this time around.
Once again, the world has also been engulfed by the Dark Lord’s Malice. But, that’s not really a lot to go off of, is it? Thus far, we know barely anything about the game’s story, but here are some of the most pervasive ideas we in the Zelda community have been discussing.
Note: these are far from factual assessments of the content of the game. This section will provide you with the hottest takes on the footage we have now with a foundation in the official lore from past games, the Hyrule Historia, and The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopaedia.
A Quest to Restore the Master Sword
The Master Sword features frequently in the trailers, and it’s in a pretty bad way. Its power appears to be severely diminished, with its iconic blue neon hue presenting in only a third of the weapon, and its sharp shape deformed to a melted, mottled appearance.
Of course, the blue light is historically a representation of Fi, the spirit that resides in the sword in Skyward Sword. Fi guided Link to his destiny in that game, and got his attention by emitting an oscillating blue light; Tears of the Kingdom also depicted this flashing in the sword, potentially hinting at Fi’s return.
Restoring the Master Sword to its former glory will likely be an important part of Link’s quest, and given the references to the past so far, I consider it likely we’ll see Fi make an appearance.
Importantly, we see a stark contrast between how the Master Sword is depicted in the game’s logo between Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. In BotW, the sword is depicted as worn and broken, symbolizing both the fall of Hyrule and the defeat of Link himself.
In the Tears of the Kingdom logo, we see a partly damaged Master Sword that has been repaired by new technology, further emphasizing its repair as a key aspect of the plot.
If you’ve read our Goddess Hylia Guide and have played Skyward Sword, you’ll know this deity as the character who went up against Ganon for the first time.
We haven’t seen much in the way of new characters yet, but we have seen one in particular: a glowing figure whose face we have not yet seen, draped in rectangular jewelry and a cream tunic.
This character appears to take a female form, grabbing links hand in one of the cutscenes. My natural inclination is to assume this is Goddess Hylia, especially with Skyward Sword seemingly being a big inspiration.
The character may also be a past incarnation of Princess Zelda; as has been the case with many Zelda stories, time travel may well be involved.
One of the most recent elements that got fans talking was the strange stone carvings depicted in the most recent trailer.
Nintendo shows us a large piece of stone artwork depicting several characters, the most central of which is a towering, almost owl-like creature atop a floating platform. Joining this figure is what looks to be a human woman.
The most obvious explanation is that this human figure is Zelda, especially considering she has long flowing hair and pointed ears: hallmarks of a Hylian woman. Mysteriously, she is seen linking hands with the figure beside her, leading to speculation that the larger figure is Goddess Hylia.
There’s also a smaller interesting detail here. This central figure is encircled by seven small stone-like items, and there’s speculation these may represent the seven sages from Ocarina of Time.
Within the Zelda fanbase, there’s been a lot of discussion about the game’s logo: two dragons eating each other’s tale, and colored in the green magic that is seen throughout the game.
The most pervasive theory, and the one I resonate with the most, is that the logo represents infinity — the infinite nature of the Zelda timeline with Tears of the Kingdom culminating as both an origin story and an end.
If Hylia does indeed present in this game in a physical form, Zelda’s story may climax with her becoming Hylia in the events preceding Skyward Sword. The logo could present this infinite cycle — Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild, and Tears of the Kingdom representing the core anchoring story of the series, with each other mainline game presenting their own divergent timelines.
This stuff gets complicated pretty fast, so check out our article Legends of Zelda Universe Guide and History to gain a more foundational understanding.
A New Language
One of the aspects fans are most presently perplexed by is the new eerie glowing green symbols seen throughout the trailers.
They presumably translate to a currently unknown language. Their most obvious appearance is when we see a strange hand holding down Ganondorf’s body; as it does, these ghostly letters spiral up infinitely above it in a tornado-shaped pattern.
We also see these symbols dotted about the world as individual artifacts, so presumably, these will be seen glowing across Hyrule for Link to interact with in some way.
Regarding the origin of the lettering, similar symbols are found on walls and structures throughout the trailers, and fans over on r/TotKLang have been working hard to decipher them.
As was the case with the Shieka text from Breath of the Wild, these symbols do likely translate into proper meaning. Summarizing the sub’s findings here wouldn’t do it justice, so do yourself a favor and visit the forum to delve into this fascinating mystery.
More Secrets from the Trailers
Beyond the more theoretical elements of the plot and lore, the trailers have been filled with hints of what we can expect from new enemies, weapons, and magic — exciting new abilities and challenges for the player to overcome in what will be Nintendo’s biggest adventure yet. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve seen so far:
The trailers frequently showed very large variations of Bokoblins, which have later been confirmed to be boss variations of this common enemy.
We don’t quite know the specifics yet, but we can see it using some sort of magical horn to control a horde of normal Bokoblins. I suspect we’ll be seeing them frequently as a new addition to more difficult monster camps.
The Boss Bokoblin was confirmed via Nintendo’s Japanese Twitter account when they posted the official art below:
This one hasn’t been confirmed, but the trailers do show a tall, ragged, masked skeletal character walking amongst the armies of the underworld under a blood moon.
These bear a strong resemblance to the Re-deads from Ocarina of Time: one of the franchise’s more horrifying enemy types that can physically petrify the player with their terrifying stare.
The trailers have shown us several dragon-like creatures that we haven’t seen before. Their size and movements may depict dragons, but they also could be said to look like bats or birds. They are seen circling and guarding a specific area and will undoubtedly present as a new areal threat Link must face.
Given that we know areal combat will be possible, it will be interesting to see what combat opportunities these enemies present.
These enemies are most prominently depicted carrying Bokoblins into battle.
New Golum 1
The trailers show off a new stone Golum with its components connected together by what seems to be the new green magic.
It looks like some sort of guardian of one of the sky temples, presenting two egg-like structures atop its shoulders that are also seen in the scenery throughout. It has one orange eye in the center of its head, and a strange symbol with some sort of broomstick medallion in its chest.
I’ve included this creature in the enemies section, but it’s possible this could be a friendly Golumn given the setting and appearance.
New Golum 2
During the gameplay footage, we see Link fighting what appears to be a new Golum enemy made entirely out of cube crates. The creature glows dimly with green magic and is seemingly animated by it. Unfortunately, the shot of Link fighting this enemy was only very brief.
In one shot from the trailer, we see a huge three-headed dragon with each head on fire standing atop the Bridge of Hylia. As many astute fans have pointed out already, this enemy is very similar to a dragon with the same appearance in the original Legend of Zelda: the Gleeok.
To defeat it, Link needed to destroy each of the three heads to defeat the monster in that game, but it’s unclear at the moment whether this is indeed a rebirth of the classic enemy.
Ganondorf’s appearance in Tears of the Kingdom is set to be one of his more menacing forms. From the looks of it, he seems to have risen from the dead as a decaying corpse, skeletal in appearance but nonetheless filled with rage. Before he awakens, we see him being held down by a ghostly green hand.
This is very similar to the story of Demon King Demise: Ganondorf’s earlier form who was sealed underground by Goddess Hylia. Of course, he couldn’t be bound by the magical seal forever. From the trailers, it appears he is sealed directly below Hyrule Castle in the new game.
New Green Magic
Above all, the new magic featured in Tears of the Kingdom has come to define the game’s look. It’s present in the logo and is seen in virtually every shot of the trailers in some form or another. The magic is directly tied to the powers contained within Link’s new arm, and from what we’ve seen so far, has magnetic and telekinetic properties.
The magic is also used to display the script seen in the spiraling tornado-like power we’ve seen in the pockets of Hyrule. It’s also part of the spectral hand seen both suppressing Ganandor’s power and catching both Link and Zelda when they form a crumbling platform.
As well as a mysterious green magic force, Link is also seen interacting with a golden light — specifically in scenes showing his interactions with the power of the Master Sword, as well as when harnessing special time-bending abilities (pictured earlier in the article).
Traditionally, golden light is used to represent the power of the Triforce, with both Zelda and Link harnessing this energy at varying points across the series; it seems natural that the golden light represents the forces of good.
It appears that Link will be able to utilize different abilities based on either the green magic or this new golden light, though their distinction is currently unclear.
From high up in the clouds and during the shots where we see Link skydiving, large glowing glyphic patterns are seen imprinted into the grass below like crop circles.
The relevance of this mysterious symbolism remains one of the more puzzling mysteries so far, but most notable is that they seem to emit a golden glow rather than a green one.
Again, the distinction between these two forms of magic is yet to be elucidated, but given the eminence of these glyphs, it seems they may be related to the powers of the Gods.
Given that we’ve seen several of these imprinted across Hyrule, it’s likely their power is something we’ll learn to accumulate and activate throughout Link’s new journey.
While the bow and arrow feature more prominently in BOTW than in any other entry, we never got to use an arrow like this. Link is seen firing a spherical arrow from his bow that can home in on a target and bend the air to reach its destination.
We’ve only seen the weapon appear once so far when being used against one of the new flying dragon-type enemies, so it’s likely these arrows will be most useful for areal encounters where your aim may be compromised.
Dragon Head Canon
During the traversal of a cave, we see Link utilize a long, staff-like weapon with the shape of a dragon’s head. Most notably, Like is flinging a glowing spherical weapon — clearly some sort of magical bomb — toward his enemy.
Rather than being fired ballistically, the weapon is pushed forward with momentum; perhaps Link will be able to use these bombs for both enemy encounters and environmental puzzles as he did with Sheikah bombs in BOTW.
Dragon Flame Thrower
This is one of the more interesting weapon revelations, and it came from way back in the original E3 trailer.
During the footage, we see Link wield what looks to be a carved dragon’s head that can fire flames; this is the only weapon of its type to be used in a Zelda game, deviating from the classic fantasy arsenal we’re used to.
Question: Will Tears of the Kingdom better fit it and Breath of the Wild into The Legend of Zelda timeline?
Answer: With proper story details still yet to be revealed, it’s unclear to what extent Tears of the Kingdom will expand on the foundation of that laid out in The Hyrule Historia. However, with this being such a huge release, we should certainly know a lot more about how both games – and this timeline overall – slot into the bigger picture.
The game seems to be drawing from Skyward Sword, and if we do see Goddess Hylia appear, the implications for expanded lore are large.
Question: Why is Tears of the Kingdom set to be priced so highly at $69.99?
Answer: Shortly before the publishing of this article, Nintendo announced on the e-shop a price of $69.99, which naturally has fans asking why the price hike from BotW’s $59.99 tag.Nintendo responded by stating that they price games on a case-by-case basis. So, judging by the immense success of BotW, it seems the company is hiking the price in anticipation of a sales record.
If you’re struggling to swallow the new price tag, look out for deals in the coming months. The game is set to be paired with Pikmin 4 as a bundle, and if you want both games, you’ll be able to pick up the two for $100 (with Pikmin 4 being priced at the usual $60 if you buy it standalone). This can be accomplished via game vouchers and a Nintendo Switch Online membership.
Question: What is the meaning of the game’s title: Tears of the Kingdom?
Answer: Realistically, the name could have multiple connotations, both physical and metaphorical. It may reference some cataclysmic event that serves to enslave the people of Hyrule or harm our main characters: naturally, the name has undertones of sadness and hopelessness.
It could also reference literal tears. In the original trailer and subsequent teasers, gravity-defying droplets of water (in the shape of teardrops) have been shown.They are laced with a multicolored magical hue, and it seems Link can use them for traversal through solid objects. It’ll likely be much closer to release before we properly learn what it means for certain.
BOTW 2 Tears of the Kingdom: Conclusion
So there you have it: everything we know about the series is up to date. There’s still a lot we don’t know, but to keep up with the hottest news, I recommend following the official Nintendo social media accounts on YouTube and Twitter. Those sites are the best ways to find out when the latest Nintendo Direct goes live.
I’d also suggest checking out the Tears of the Kingdom sub on Reddit: it’s a great place to discuss news and theories with other fans, and of course, to get hyped close to release.
Also, check out this cool edit of all three trailers I found on YouTube: it does an excellent job at presenting the new game in a style akin to the epic E3 trailers of old, and this way, you see all the new inclusions at once!