- Tears of the Kingdom is praised for its graphics, open world, and controls, making it the best game in the Zelda franchise in terms of these aspects.
- However, some fans feel that TOTK lacks the scale and atmosphere of previous Zelda games, especially when it comes to dungeons and storytelling.
- Each Zelda game offers a unique experience, and fans have different preferences, so whether TOTK is the best game in the franchise depends on individual values and tastes.
Tears of the Kingdom was released to overwhelming hype and near-universal critical acclaim, leading many to conclude that it’s not only the best game in recent years, but it’s the best Legend of Zelda title ever released. On the other hand, many longtime fans of the Zelda franchise have criticized TOTK for lacking some of the key aspects that make Zelda a truly special franchise. Unfortunately, both can’t be right—or can they?
Tears of the Kingdom is immensely popular and could very well end up being the best-selling game in the franchise if its sales continue on the trend they’ve been on. Still, sales and popularity aren’t everything, and it’s heavily debated among fans whether TOTK can really be considered the best, or if it doesn’t quite hold up to the classics. In reality, when looked at from one perspective, TOTK is clearly the best game the Zelda Team has released to date. When looked at from the other side though, there are Zelda games that are decades old which still do certain things objectively better than TOTK does. It’s perfectly okay to say that one game is the best in one way and that another game is better in another, and it makes even more sense to do so in a series that grows, evolves, and innovates as much as The Legend of Zelda.
What Tears of the Kingdom Does Better Than Any Other Zelda
As much as fans of the more traditional style of Zelda games might disagree, there are some places where TOTK does genuinely improve on its predecessors. One of the most obvious ways is in its graphics, which makes sense considering the Switch is the most powerful hardware Nintendo has released thus far. Tying into that increased hardware power is the size of TOTK‘s version of Hyrule, which is easily the largest, most seamless open-world Zelda fans have ever had the chance to explore. In no other game out there can players dive seamlessly from high in the sky into a hole in the earth which leads to an underground cavern the entire size of the overworld map, and that is what sets TOTK apart from every other game in the market.
Another part of what makes exploration so enjoyable in TOTK are its controls, which TOTK pretty much masters and optimizes in every way from BOTW to allow players to easily traverse the environment by climbing, jumping, and diving across Hyrule. Not only are controls in general movement great, but combat feels better than ever. Even despite the oft-criticized weapon durability mechanic, the sheer amount of unique weapon types and armor sets that Link can equip is a sizable step up from any game in the series, BOTW included. There are definitely things that TOTK gets wrong, but there are so many little things it does right that no other Zelda would have been able to do in the past.
What Other Zelda Games Still Do Better Than TOTK
As fun and great an experience as Tears of the Kingdom is, it’s not exactly perfect—especially when considered as a part of the Zelda franchise as a whole. In fact, there are certain aspects of more traditional games that fans were understandably missing from TOTK.
Perhaps the biggest aspect of classic Zelda games which proved comparatively underwhelming in TOTK was its dungeons. Dungeons are for many Zelda fans the most important part of the game, as they’re the place where players spend most of their time. In traditional Zelda games, the dungeon acts as a test of the player’s skill and cleverness up to that point, forcing Link to put everything he’s learned and all the tools in his arsenal to use. Additionally, many of Zelda‘s best dungeons are truly mesmerizing in terms of their architectural design and atmosphere which makes them all the more interesting to explore. While TOTK‘s themed temples were a step up from BOTW‘s Divine Beasts, they still lacked the immense scale that the most beloved dungeons in the Zelda series have.
Another aspect of the dungeons that was lacking from TOTK and which extends into the rest of the game is the dungeon items. The reason dungeon items are so important to the Zelda gameplay formula is that they provide a sense of linear progression that makes players feel like they’re truly getting more powerful the further they get in the game. Getting through a dungeon and discovering an interesting new item that unlocks a whole new part of the overworld to explore was a great feeling that many Zelda fans were missing from both TOTK and BOTW.
One final piece of the Zelda puzzle worth mentioning that many fans felt TOTK got wrong was its storytelling. Because of the linear progression of past games, Zelda‘s stories also followed a linear story arc which at its best played out as a classical fairytale epic with genuinely emotional moments. In games like Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess, linear progression through the story was important, making the build-up to each dungeon and eventually to the final battle with Ganon feel more impactful. TOTK had a good story beneath its surface, but it was held back by the manner in which its story was told, which prevented the emotions of many scenes from coming through in the way they could have. Even despite having great voice actors and a unique concept behind them, characters like Ganondorf and King Rauru just didn’t feel as organic and memorable as the version of Ganondorf and the King of the Red Lions in a game like The Wind Waker. There will always be trade-offs the developers have to make to improve one aspect of gameplay over another, but fans are never wrong for wanting the best of both worlds.
Tears of the Kingdom’s Lasting Influence Is Yet To Be Seen
One thing that other Zelda games have over TOTK is simply their influence and impact on the gaming industry as a whole. A few games throughout the Zelda franchise have been so impactful that they literally changed the course of videogame history forever, setting up gameplay standards and concepts that would be utilized, emulated, and copied in numerous other games since.
A Link to the Past is one such game. ALTTP‘s gameplay loop of a large open world that bars progress behind dungeon items has been not only extremely influential for the Zelda franchise but action-adventure games as a whole. Additionally, its emphasis on balancing complex puzzles with upbeat combat is still being felt today. Another influential Zelda title, Ocarina of Time, had a similar impact with its Z-Targeting system which helped define combat in 3D action games ever since. More recently, Breath of the Wild‘s open-air concept set the precedent for open-world exploration that numerous games would come to follow—TOTK being one of them.
Games like A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and even Breath of the Wild have literally altered the course of gaming history due to the ideas they presented and how they innovated video games as a medium. As a direct sequel to one of those influential games, TOTK has many of the things that made BOTW great, though whether it contributes enough new ideas to make its legacy as long-lasting on its own merit is still yet to be seen.
Every New Zelda Game Should Be The Best In The Series
In a series like The Legend of Zelda, fans should come to expect each subsequent game to innovate and improve on the ones before it. In that sense, in a perfect world, every new Zelda game should be better than all of its predecessors. Therefore, as the newest game in the series, TOTK is supposed to be the best by definition. In some ways, TOTK does in fact live up to that standard as its graphics, giant open-world, sense of freedom and customization are definitely the best of any game in the series. At the same time, there are still parts of more classic Zelda titles like ALTTP and OOT that just have yet to be surpassed to this day.
For many fans, TOTK didn’t quite hit that mark, but for others, it is easily one of the greatest games of all time. Objectively speaking, some aspects of TOTK are definitely the best in the franchise, but whether it’s actually the absolute best in a franchise with so many incredible games will have to end up being a subjective decision for each player. The great thing about the Zelda franchise is that despite how similar each game’s setting and concepts are, every game is fundamentally unique. Because TOTK is so different, it almost can’t be compared to more traditional 3D Zelda games any more than it can be compared to 2D top-down Zelda games which all give players a unique feeling and experience while playing them. Every person will like a different style and genre of game more than others, so whether fans like TOTK or the more traditional classic Zelda games will largely depend on what they value more from a game.
Ultimately, Zelda fans will argue for any and every game being the best at any given point. In terms of influence, ALTTP, OOT, and BOTW are definitely the best from an objective standpoint because of how they innovated the entirety of the video game industry, but TOTK does improve on previous games in many ways. It’s still yet to be seen if TOTK‘s lasting influence holds up in the same way as OOT or BOTW‘s has, but at the very least it is an impressive achievement that could only have come about thanks to all the games that came before it.
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