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The entire Breath of the Wild story explained

Believe it or not, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a huge map, nearly a thousand Korok seeds to find, dozens of tasty recipes, climbable mountains and trees, beautiful music, and a compelling story. BotW gives players an unprecedented amount of freedom. Not only are there a hefty amount of side quests, players can effectively get lost in the expansive world that Nintendo crafted with a painterly hand. Just riding around, gathering ingredients and occasionally bashing a Bokoblin is entertaining when set in such a beautiful world.

But make no mistake: the game has a story just as beautiful as the fields of a wild Hyrule. Considering all the freedom the game gives you, it's easy to forget that Link actually has a job to do. As much as one might procrastinate from completing the main story, it's there waiting. Princess Zelda is indeed there, waiting.

Breath of the Wild begins whether skyward bound or adrift in time ...

Many, including us, have tried to untangle the convoluted timeline that tenuously ties together The Legend of Zelda games. The games span decades and feature varying art styles, but the story is always familiar: a warrior named Link comes to the aid of Princess Zelda of Hyrule, and opposing them on the side of darkness, Ganon or Ganondorf greedily plots to gain power. The same remains true for Breath of the Wild, which acknowledges this long history that continually repeats itself. 

According to prophecy (and Nintendo executive order), there will always be Links, Zeldas, and Hyrule in one form or another. Long before the start of the game, Link is honored as the Chosen One as Zelda makes references to previous games: "Whether skyward bound, adrift in time, or steeped in the glowing embers of twilight... the sacred blade is forever bound to the soul of the Hero." Zelda is also bound to her role as the princess touched by the goddess; sometimes she is the mortal incarnation of the goddess Hylia, and other times she is favored with wisdom and mystical power of the goddess Naryu. This Zelda, however, doesn't feel so favored.

Technology vs primal evil

The 10,000-year-old legend that Link learns of in Breath of the Wild further nods to the cyclical nature of, well, The Legend of Zelda. Time and time again, a force of evil known as Ganon appears but is defeated by a warrior with the soul of a hero (that's Link) and a princess with the blood of the goddess (that's Zelda). Hyrule 10,000 years ago was a beacon of technological advancement, and its people thought to use these achievements to protect against the inevitable return of Ganon, here called Calamity Ganon. 

Therefore, the people of ancient Hyrule built the four Divine Beasts and a legion of those ugly, hard-to-kill things called Guardians in order to give the hero and the princess backup when Ganon reared his ugly head. Their plan worked, the four Champions who piloted the Divine Beasts were able to attack Ganon, allowing for the hero to strike the final blow. The princess then used her divine power to seal away the evil, and all was well. Until the next time, because as we've learned, there will always be a next time.

The story repeats itself in Breath of the Wild

Through Link's memories, we learn that history was bound to repeat itself. Hyrule knew that Ganon would return, and so they looked to their old strategies to prepare. Champions were chosen in order to pilot the Divine Beasts, one from the Rito people, one from the Zora, one from the Goron, and another of the Gerudo. With some tinkering, they were able to figure out how to work the Divine Beasts. 

Next came the appointment of the chosen knight. The sword that sealed the darkness chose Link as its wielder, tying his fate to Princess Zelda's forevermore. Princess Zelda wasn't exactly thrilled about her destiny, mostly because no matter how hard she prayed, she was unable to hear the voice of the goddess or feel a whisper of power. She studied the ancient tech, an academic of sorts, and prayed in the shrines until she passed out in the sacred waters, but she still felt no sign that she had the power to seal away Ganon. Burdened by the destiny she seemed unable to rise to meet, this Zelda was sad and not too fond of Link, who seemed perfectly suited for his role.

Calamity has come: Ganon returns

On Zelda's 17th birthday, she ascends Mount Lanayru in order to pray in the Spring of Wisdom to the goddess Naryu. This is her last hope to hear something — anything — that would indicate that she is ready and able to take on Calamity Ganon. Failing to hear anything at all, she returns disappointed to the four Champions. This is the moment that Calamity Ganon decides to appear, shaking the land. There is no more time to prepare. 

Unfortunately for Hyrule, Ganon learned from the last time he was defeated. Calamity Ganon turned the army of Guardians and the Divine Beasts against Hyrule, possessing them like a malevolent spirit. Zelda blamed herself, and the relentless Guardians proved to be too much for even Link. Just before one could strike the killing blow, Zelda leapt in front of Link, her power finally, finally awakening. But this may have been too little, too late. Link is dying in Zelda's arms when she hears the mysterious voice of the Master Sword ...

Setting the stage for another day

Zelda sends Link to the Shrine of Resurrection in order to save his life, and that of the whole kingdom of Hyrule. With her power awakened, the princess is able to set the stage for another attempt on Calamity Ganon's life another day. Unbeknownst to her, this day turns out to be years and years away. One hundred years, to be exact. 

Zelda takes the Master Sword to the Great Deku tree for safe keeping, acknowledging that the apparent Slumber of Restoration will likely strip Link of all his memories. Still, she has faith that Link will return to find the sword, as is his destiny. From there, Zelda returns to the ravaged Hyrule Castle, where Calamity Ganon continues to spread his evil. Fighting him head on, she is able to seal him within the castle walls, preventing the destruction of the whole of Hyrule. For a hundred years, Zelda is locked in battle with this beast, awaiting the day that Link will wake up and finish off Calamity Ganon.

Link's awakens and starts Breath of the Wild's story

At the very start of the game, Link awakens in a glowing blue bath, a disembodied voice telling him to get up and go. He's their light, whatever that means. He runs out of the cave to find the wide world of Hyrule, a dark castle in the distance, and a mysterious old man watching him. This old guy makes a deal with Link, promising that if he can unlock some shrines, then he'll give Link his paraglider, which would allow him to get out into the wider world rather than just the Great Plateau

Link's awakening (ha) seems to rouse the great, swirling beast that surrounds Hyrule Castle. A voice calling out from this darkness tells him to hurry. Link only learns of the voice's true identity when he finally earns a paraglider from the old stranger, who turns out to be an old friend. The old man is actually the ghost of King Rhoam, the last ruler of Hyrule. He reminds Link of his daughter, Link's destiny, and the calamity of 100 years ago, warning Link that Zelda's power is fading. So, you know, don't waste 60 hours of gameplay finding Korok seeds. (Except that's exactly what we did.)

Divine Beast Vah Ruta: memories of Mipha

The ghostly old king directed Link to Kakariko Village, where he was able to chat with his old, unremembered friend Impa. She tells Link why it's so important to reclaim the power of the Divine Beasts before taking on Ganon. This is what leads Link to journey to Zora's Domain, the rainy, watery realm of the Zora. Here he meets Prince Sidon, who is in search of a Hylian. How convenient. It turns out that since Link's awakening, the elephantine Divine Beast Vah Ruta has been creating a dangerous, torrential downpour upon Zora's Domain. How inconvenient. 

In the Zora palace, Link regains his memory of Vah Ruta's Champion, the princess Mipha. She had been a lifelong friend to Link, and as it turned out, she had been in love with him. Sidon, her brother, helps Link to get to the Divine Beast in order to defeat Ganon's influence and free Mipha's spirit. In the bowels of the beast, Link has to fight Waterblight Ganon, the creature that killed Mipha. Avenging Mipha releases her spirit, happy to be reunited with Link. She gives Link her healing power, and readies Ruta to strike Hyrule Castle upon Link's word.

Divine Beast Vah Rudania: the century-old beat-down plan

There are certain areas of Hyrule that aren't exactly the best for Hylians to go climbing about in. The lands of Eldin are pretty arid and dry, and the closer one comes to Death Mountain, the more scorching the air becomes. This is the perfect climate for the rock-eating Gorons, but Link will have to find some Firebreaker Armor or other protection against spontaneously combusting if he wants to defeat the rampaging fire salamander: Divine Beast Vah Rudania. Among the Goron, Link is able to recall his memories of his back-slapping friendship with Daruk, the Goron's Champion. 

With the help of Daruk's own grandson, Link is able to get past the Divine Beast's drones (they were really ahead of their time 10,000 years ago) and board Vah Rudania. After getting through the beast of a dungeon and taking down Fireblight Ganon, Link is congratulated by the spirit of Daruk, who says that they can finally get on with their "century-old Ganon beat-down plan." Link is given the power of Daruk's Protection, allowing him to summon up a muscle-y force field when needed. And believe us, it's needed.

Divine Beast Vah Medoh: avenging Revali

To the northwest of the game's massive map is the Hebra region. It's easier to find than others because of the unbelievably big bird in the sky. This great creature circling Rito Village is Divine Beast Vah Medoh. The Rito of the village are afraid of flying too close to Medoh, seeing as the thing is equipped with cannons. In the lofty village, Link recovers his memories of the haughty Champion Revali, the only champion who didn't take much of a shine to the hero with the Master Sword. 

Revali, in fact, was a little insulted that he wasn't the Chosen One. He's the best archer in all of Hyrule, and he can fly. All Link has, in Revali's opinion, is that little sword that seals the darkness. Big whoop. In the present day, Link proves his worth to the Rito warrior Teba, who helps him calm Vah Medoh. Inside the beast, Link fights Windblight Ganon, avenging Revali. Revali's spirit appears to pilot Medoh once more, and give Link his signature move: Revali's Gale. He's still an arrogant braggart, but he's nevertheless thankful that Link prevailed and that soon the princess will be saved.

Divine Beast Vah Naboris: jewel of the desert

Off in the Gerudo Desert is a growling, glowing giant camel kicking up a fearsome sandstorm. Divine Beast Vah Naboris generates thunder as it walks on the sands outside of Gerudo Town, making the townspeople nervous. Link must enter the town to talk with the Gerudo Chief, but like most things in a Zelda game, this is easier said than done. There are no men allowed in the town, so Link must don a disguise to hide the fact that he's a voe

Chief Riju may be young, but she instantly sees through Link's disguise. She agrees to help Link to stop Naboris, but she first needs him to retrieve the heirloom of the Gerudo Champion Urbosa, the Thunder Helm. The Yiga Clan, who serve Ganon, stole it, and so Link must strategically toss some bananas in their hideout to retrieve the Thunder Helm. Link and Riju then stop the Divine Beast from zapping everything, and Link climbs inside. There he defeats Thunderblight Ganon and frees the sassy spirit of Urbosa, who gifts him with her thunderous power, Urbosa's Fury, which can be summoned with a snap.

Remastering the Master Sword

Just as Hyrule always has a Link and a Zelda, the kingdom always hosts the Lost Woods. This is a misty, maze-like forest where it is easy to get lost ... forever. Walking in, if the player strays from the invisible path, the fog will descend upon them, laughing. Players will find themselves at the entrance of the forest, unharmed but ultimately shaken. Successfully following the path will allow Link access into the Korok Forest, where the Great Deku Tree slumbers among the mischievous little spirits of the land. 

On a triangle pedestal awaits a sword in a stone: the Master Sword. Zelda had left it there for when Link at last awakened from his long rest. The Great Deku Tree warns Link that not just anyone can pull the sword from the stone: a weak person will slowly be killed as they try to draw it. If the player has collected thirteen hearts, however, then Link can grasp the Master Sword with no worry. The sword and its glowing light will awaken in the presence of evil, so it's suggested to use the sword on Malice and Guardians rather than boars and deer.

Breath of the Wild's story ends on a fight 100 years in the making

It's the fight we've all been waiting for: with all four of the Divine Beasts ready and raring to smite Ganon, Link is able to wield the Master Sword against the scourge of Hyrule. The town built up around the castle is in ruins and infested with Guardians, making the pathway to Calamity Ganon a treacherous one. Even once inside the castle, Link must contend with tons of enemies before facing the ultimate adversary in the Sanctum

The Sanctum is the throne room where Zelda has kept Ganon sealed away for all these years. Once Link shows up, Ganon unleashes his fury by making Link once again face the blight beasts. This thing is huge, ugly, and powerful, but Link has Zelda cheering him on during the deadly fight. And a secret weapon in the form of the Divine Beasts. Their timed strike halves the health of Calamity Ganon, giving Link more of a fair fight.

Hatred and Malice Incarnate: Dark Beast Ganon

Upon defeating Calamity Ganon, players will find that although the battle is won, the war isn't quite over. Out in the fields of Hyrule, Link's horse awaits as all the dark, swirling evil that made up Ganon forms itself into a whole new beast. According to Zelda, still just a disembodied voice, Ganon has given up on resurrection. He wants to end things here and now. Rather than waiting to fight another day, Ganon assumes his true, enraged form: Hatred and Malice Incarnate, Dark Beast Ganon

Using the Bow of Light, Link must ride around the big boar and shoot glowing areas that Zelda indicates, hitting Ganon in his weakest spots all while avoiding his hateful pink fire. When Ganon is weakened, Zelda is at last able to manifest, angelic and glowing. She seals away his evil once and for all, returning light to the land. Zelda, in the flesh, turns to Link to thank him and asks, "Do you really remember me?"

Breath of the Wild's story may not be over yet

Link and Zelda stand silently outside of Hyrule Castle, ruined but nevertheless majestic against the bright, blue sky. What they don't know is that they are being watched by the spirits of their past: the four Champions and Zelda's own father, King Rhoam. Finally, with the knowledge that Ganon is gone, they can be at peace. They disappear, King Rhoam lingering just for a moment as his daughter walks away. Zelda turns around as if sensing something. There are blue petals playing on the wind as she looks up at Hyrule Castle, a little less sad than before. 

Later, up on a hilltop with Hyrule spread out before them, Zelda and Link (well, just Zelda) talk about what to do now. Apparently Divine Beast Vah Ruta has stopped working, so Zelda thinks they should investigate. She wants to restore Hyrule to its former glory, maybe even make it better than before. She says that she cannot hear the voice inside the Master Sword, but rather than worry about her powers, she says that she's fine if she doesn't have them anymore. She has served her purpose as the promised princess.