At this point, it’s hard to remember a time when The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not in the works. This game has been churning in the background since before the Wii U came out, meaning its development spanned an entire Nintendo console generation.
Not only will Breath of the Wild be Nintendo’s final game for Wii U, but it’s also positioned as the standout launch title for the Nintendo Switch. With both versions set to launch on March 3, let’s look at the winding road Breath of the Wild traveled to get here.
Believe it or not, Nintendo first dropped hints about about an HD Zelda game way back at E3 2011 — before Skyward Sword even came out. The hint was a CGI demo that showed Link squaring off against the giant spider Gohma. The demo bears little resemblance to the Breath of the Wild we know today, but it proved Nintendo had plans to bring the franchise into the modern HD world.
Throughout 2011, it became clear that much was still up in the air about the HD Zelda. During separate interviews, series veterans Eiji Aonuma and Shigeru Miyamoto made comments about the upcoming game that often contradicted one another.
The first time we got reliable — if vague — news about the game was in 2013, when Zelda director Eiji Aonuma offered hints during a Nintendo Direct presentation. He said Nintendo was rethinking “the conventions of Zelda,” including whether dungeons should have to be completed in order and whether it might have a multiplayer option.
Taking the series in a new direction inspired Aonuma. In a later interview, he said, “The more we change it, the more I get fired up.” He also confirmed that art style of the 2011 HD demo was completely different from how the new Zelda game would look.
Those hints got us thinking about what we’d want from an HD Zelda game.
It wasn’t until E3 2014 that Nintendo showed the first official trailer for the still-untitled game. For the first time, fans got a look at the new art style and the vast open world they’d be able to explore when the game launched. At the time, it was scheduled to release in 2015, a goal Nintendo would somewhat overshoot.
Actor and comedian Robin Williams was such a fan of the series that he named his daughter Zelda. So when he died in August 2014, thousands of fans petitioned to have him memorialized in the upcoming game in the form of an NPC named Robin. In response, Nintendo extended condolences to the Williams family, but didn’t make any promises.
At The Game Awards 2014, Nintendo unveiled new gameplay footage for the next Zelda game. But instead of just releasing a gameplay video like another developer might, Nintendo filmed Miyamoto and Aonuma playing and discussing it.
In March 2015, Nintendo announced the game was being delayed out of its original 2015 launch window and into 2016.
But by April 2016, Nintendo had determined it wouldn’t hit that launch window, either. The company also announced it would be coming to the Switch in addition to Wii U, and that Nintendo’s E3 2016 booth would be dedicated to the new Zelda game.
In an interview with Famitsu in March 2016, Aonuma suggested that Western game design played a big role in the making of the new Zelda. His goal, he said, was to “make something new like Ocarina of Time was” when it launched on Nintendo 64.
Although the game had been publicly discussed for five years by the time E3 2016 rolled around, Nintendo hadn’t given it an official title yet. That changed at E3 2016, when Nintendo revealed that it would be called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
We finally got to play the game at E3 2016. We were impressed by the sprawling open world and found ourselves looking forward to exploring the entire thing, which they promised was 12 times the size of Skyward Sword. Check out our writeup about playing around in The Great Plateau for all kinds of details.
Additionally, check out these six cool things we learned about the game at E3 2016.
It should come as no surprise that a line of Breath of the Wild amiibos will accompany the game: Link (Archer), Link (Rider), Guardian, Zelda, and Bokoblin. You can also scan the Wolf Link amiibo from Twilight Princess HD into Breath of the Wild to summon Wolf Link into the game.
Additionally, Nintendo launched a line of 30th anniversary Zelda amiibos that will produce some pretty weird results if you scan them into the upcoming game.
Nintendo unleashed a fire-hose spray of Zelda news during E3 2016. Here are some of the highlights.
In the fall of 2016, Nintendo started doling out new Zelda videos like candy. Here are a few of them.
Nintendo posted an article in October that details the connections between Breath of the Wild and the original Legend of Zelda on NES. It points out things like the same locations and similar characters appearing in both games, and hints that more connections will be hidden for players to find.
Prior to an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, all footage we’d seen of Breath of the Wild had come from the Wii U version. But in December 2016, we finally got a glimpse of the game in action on Nintendo Switch.
After years of delays, in January 2017 we finally learned the game’s final release date: March 3, 2017.
Once the release date was chiseled into stone, Nintendo wasted no time detailing two additional versions of the game. One is the Wild Master Edition, which contains the game itself, a Master Sword of Resurrection figure, as well as a Nintendo Switch Sheikah Slate Carrying Case, a Sheikah Eye Collectible Coin, a Relic of Hyrule: Calamity Ganon Tapestry and Weather-Worn Map, and a Breath of the Wild Sound Selection CD. That costs $129.99.
To save some cash, you can choose the Special Edition, which comes with all the same stuff except for the Master Sword statue. It costs $99.99.
Turns out the downloadable version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will consume 13.4GB of your Switch’s memory. That’s a hefty amount, considering the Switch only comes with 32GB, some of which is dedicated to the operating system.
If you’re wondering whether to buy Breath of the Wild on Wii U or Switch, Zelda director Eiji Aonuma had some news for you in January. He said the game runs better on Switch, with increased resolution and faster loading times.
In a move that won’t surprise any Wii U owners who were starving for games in 2016, Nintendo confirmed that Breath of the Wild will be Nintendo’s last Wii U game.
The map that comes in the Special Edition of the game contains text in a made-up language. After putting the text through some decoding and translation jujitsu, a YouTuber has discovered the text seems to explain the backstory behind Breath of the Wild. (If you’re spoiler averse, don’t click that link.)
In the weeks leading up to the game’s launch, a flurry of news hit the internet.
Nintendo first considered bringing DLC to Breath of the Wild way back in 2013. But it wasn’t until February 2017 that Nintendo announced an official season pass. It’s the first time DLC has appeared in the Zelda series, but far from the first time Nintendo has charged for post-launch content. We expect to see more Nintendo DLC in the future.
That was a mountain of information, but if you want more quality content on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, be sure to check out our review when it lands, and swing by the our wiki for walkthroughs and information on shrines, weapons, enemies, cooking, and more.
Our Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review will be live next week, but for now, take a look at some of the awesome footage we’ve published so far.
Chris Reed is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @_chrislreed.