The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the latest original entry in the Zelda series of videogames, which started with The Legend of Zelda (1986) and has grown into an iconic franchise since. While most Zelda games feature environmental themes, such as eternal trees, sacred forests and easily disturbed wildlife, Breath of the Wild takes it it to a next level, evoking a convincingly environmental endeavor in yet another reboot of the classic Zelda tale of ‘fallen knight and player-character Link reawakens to save the Kingdom of Hyrule and its captured princess, the titular Zelda’.

In Breath of the Wild, Link awakens after a slumber of 100 years, in which he recovers from an extreme battle in which Hyrule is taken over by forces of evil. Hyrule, originally a country of advanced and refined technology, sees its machinery corrupted by evil, its ecosystem indefinitely ruined, and its peoples threatened by savage monsters. The source of this evil is not so much the face of an antagonist as a mysterious entity, ‘Calamity Ganon’, spread across Hyrule. Due to this mysterious, all-permeating force of evil, Link’s quest becomes what Gerald Farca calls “the hero’s ecological journey to restore balance in Hyrule” (Farca 2020, 209).

Yet, Breath of the Wild‘s environmentalism exceeds its central conflict. The experience in general evokes the player with ecological questions. As Farca writes: “As a nature parable, then, [the game] involves players in a mythical, dreamlike gameworld where their unconscious desires for an ecological sustainable Utopia and a romantic imagery of nature are evoked, exposed to distress, and saturated. By sending players on the journey of a hero to restore order in a polluted but majestic world, the game evokes a variety of affects in them. (…) It resensitizes players to the beauty of the natural world, while granting them a different viewpoint on ecosystems and ecological issues that plague their contemporary surroundings” (Farca 2020, 206).

Breath of the Wild‘s ecological qualities are emphasized by a minimalistic soundtrack, a heavy aesthetic focus on wide, open spaces in which nature is undisturbed by the burdens of civilization, and a variety of options for Link to behave toward nature. One particular adaptation of these opportunities is the possibility to ‘self-fashion’ Link to a vegan diet (cf. Westerlaken 2017).

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