Game Theory

Tears of the Kingdom's Opening Sequence Is a Huge Missed Opportunity

What if we played as Zelda in that big moment?

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zelda tears of the kingdom master sword
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Pretty much ever since Princess Zelda was revealed as the ninja Sheik in Ocarina of Time, we’ve all wanted to play as the character outside the confines of Super Smash Bros. multiversal brawls. Link may forever be our strong and silent hero, but particularly since so many characters in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are voice-acted, the franchise is in dire need of a more modern overhaul to its storytelling.

Playing as Zelda in Tears had been on fan wishlists for years leading up to the game’s release, and there’s one moment in particular early on in the game that feels like a missed opportunity to do just that. And, it would’ve been a much more compelling storytelling route.

Warning: Minor early-game spoilers for Tears of the Kingdom ahead.

If Nintendo’s latest Zelda games have any flaws, it’s that you can spend countless hours wandering the wilds of Hyrule without really engaging with any bit of story in a meaningful way. If you ignore the photo memories in Breath of the Wild, you miss out on a lot of context and backstory for the core cast of characters. Railroading things a bit might be at odds with the open-world approach, but give the people what they want!

After Link collects blessings of light from a few shrines on Great Sky Island, he fully unlocks the Temple of Time. (This section functions as the “tutorial section” early on, and cannot be skipped.) Out back, Link interacts with a ball of light resting atop a stone sarcophagus which resonates to send the broken Master Sword to Zelda.

The imagery makes it abundantly clear that she’s in the past. This has huge implications for the story that we won’t spoil here, but at the moment, I found myself wishing that the game would have put us in Zelda’s shoes here — if only for a little while.

Tears of the Kingdom instead resurrects the memory mechanic from Breath of the Wild to tell much of its story. Link experiences disconnected scenes that are triggered when he discovers them in the overworld, and while there is a chronological sequence, it’s very easy to find them in a jumbled order.

Zelda remains a mystical focus for Link’s journey.


It may reinforce the player-driven approach to the game’s design, but I wish we’d gotten to play as her, even if she merely ran around the Temple of Time with the broken Master Sword talking to people. Granted, an entire parallel Zelda experience would make an already huge game far too big, but I can’t help but imagine how impactful it’d be.

Some of the biggest and most memorable twists in gaming history put us in the shoes of other characters. Loading into an early mission as the alien Arbiter in Halo 2 remains jaw-dropping all these years later, and far more recently, spending the back half of The Last of Us Part II as Abby compromises our moral identity in provocative ways. Playing as Zelda would get talked about for years as a dramatic first for one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, particularly if we were in control of Zelda for some of her biggest decisions in the past.

More interactive cutscenes that place the player in Zelda’s shoes could go a long way. Living these moments in a limited capacity, rather than watching it in short bursts, would be that much more immersive for it.

While I’m a bit disappointed that Tears of the Kingdom didn’t take the leap forward in making Zelda playable, there’s a silver lining to be found in the new party-based companion system that sees the Sages fight alongside Link. In Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, Zelda proves a capable warrior wielding the Sheikah Slate, so it stands to reason that she could pop up in future games as part of the player’s party.

If Tears of the Kingdom winds up being the middle game in a new-age Zelda trilogy, here’s to hoping that the third entry finally lets us wield the power of the princess ourselves.

“It's dangerous to go alone!” Check out more of Inverse’s Tears of the Kingdom coverage:

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