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The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom: What to Know Before Playing

Nintendo's biggest game in years is here. Your questions, answered.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
5 min read
Link looks out at floating islands in the sky in the Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom key art.

Tears of the Kingdom is as epic as you expected. And as single-player as you expected.


Nintendo hasn't released a brand-new mainline Zelda game since 2017, when Breath of the Wild debuted alongside the launch of the Nintendo Switch. The newest Zelda game, Tears of the Kingdom, is here, and we've already reviewed it. Yes, it's fantastic, and it's well worth getting a Switch for, although at this point in the Switch's life cycle it seems unclear when Nintendo might announce a true Switch 2.

Tears of the Kingdom is the sequel to what's considered one of the greatest games of all time, but it's one of the few times two brand-new Zelda games have arrived in the life span of a single Nintendo console. It'll be the Nintendo Switch's most important, must-have game since Animal Crossing.

You may want to avoid spoilers about the new game. Zelda games tend to have an aura of mystery. That being said, we've already played for hours, and you can read more here. Or check out our first very preview, which reveals even less, and read about it here.

Most Zelda games can be enjoyed without playing previous adventures, though Tears of the Kingdom is so much like a companion to Breath of the Wild that you might want to play that (again) to get warmed up.

How much does it cost?

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom costs $70 for the standard game in physical or digital formats, which is $10 more than any other standard first-party Nintendo Switch game. That's expensive, but considering the tremendous play value of Breath of the Wild, it's understandable. This could be a game you spend hundreds of hours in.

There's a step-up collector's edition too, which includes a steel case, art book, poster and pin set, if you can find one available. 

One discount suggestion: Switch Online members can get prepurchased game vouchers for the eShop that cost $100 for two games. These vouchers work with Tears of the Kingdom orders, which would equal a discount of $20 toward the digital version, as long as you were going to buy another full-price game as well.

Link on a log boat on a pond in Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

So much crafting!

Nintendo; screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

What's Tears of the Kingdom about?

Much like Breath of the Wild, the game spans a tremendous open world. But this time, the skies are filled with floating islands and destinations, too. It's a throwback to the flight-focused Zelda: Skyward Sword (an older Wii game also available on the Switch). 

There are also cavernous depths to explore: a whole underworld beneath Hyrule, and lots of mysterious dungeons and caverns.

In our first gameplay session, we saw how much crafting of machines there seems to be. Playing the game even longer, it's clear that this extra creative freedom still serves an open-ended story that's very much in the spirit of Breath of the Wild... but bigger.

Link and Zelda uncover a weird buried horror under Hyrule that triggers cataclysmic changes, and Zelda vanishes. Your quest to find her and also travel through a world infected with a toxic mist-like gloom, while enjoying crafting powers that emanate from an infected/blessed arm, involves visits to dozens of towns, hidden places and a cast of hundreds.

Crafting is an even bigger part of Tears of the Kingdom. Besides food and elixirs, new skills allow fusing weapons and objects together and also building vehicles and other machines. Rockets, wagons, cars, boats and more -- you can think outside the box frequently.

Zelda games, especially Tears of the Kingdom and Breath of the Wild, involve wandering and exploring alone, solving puzzles, having patience, and enjoying following whatever path you discover. The open-ended design can seem intimidating sometimes, but Nintendo often leaves breadcrumbs, and you can bet there will be plenty of online guides.

Do you want my advice? Go into Tears of the Kingdom fresh and open-minded. Try not to think too much about previous games. Enjoy the ride. That's how I play Zelda games.

Link in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, standing in the dark with plants around him

The Depths are full of darkness, strange life and who knows what else.

Nintendo; screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Should I play Breath of the Wild first?

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game, so in general, yes, you should play it. You don't need to play previous Zelda games, usually, to appreciate new Zelda games. In fact, the sort of dreamy history-repeating nature of Zelda games, where Link never seems to entirely know of his previous adventures, means coming in cold may work in your favor.

The mechanics and gameplay of Tears of the Kingdom are incredibly similar to those of Breath of the Wild, with new wrinkles and extras added. Familiarity with the previous game might be a good idea. It never hurts to play old Zelda titles and appreciate how new games intersect, but by all means, you could skip Breath and dive into this one first.

Is it OK for kids?

Zelda games aren't terribly violent, but Breath of the Wild was a very in-depth and sometimes very challenging open-world RPG. Lots of kids play Zelda games, but if you're looking for a great pick for younger kids, Link's Awakening is an easier start. That said, Tears of the Kingdom will be what nearly everyone with a Switch will be diving into this summer. This is a one player game, and the game save structure is designed to have one active player at a time per Switch account.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Edition Switch

Yes, there's a Tears of the Kingdom Switch.


Will the Switch run the game well, or is this a moment for a Switch 2?

The Switch is already six years into its life span, and Nintendo has often timed new consoles to debut with new Zelda games. That doesn't seem to be the case here, barring some sort of jaw-dropping last-minute surprise. Though Nintendo's graphics capabilities now feel like they lag significantly behind what the PS5 and Xbox Series X can do, Nintendo has still been clever about optimizing games to make the most of the aging hardware. Some Pokemon games haven't looked so good, but Tears of the Kingdom feels excellently optimized for the aging Switch hardware, and somehow makes epic landscapes seem fluid and beautiful.

The good news is that Tears of the Kingdom runs just fine on the current Switch models, and has about the same performance feel as Breath of the Wild. The bad news is it's really not much better, even six years later. I love it so far, but I do dream of how much better this could be with another graphics/performance upgrade in the future.

One interesting future possibility: Maybe Nintendo makes future Tears of the Kingdom DLC that could support a more graphics-boosted next-gen Switch in years to come? That's total speculation, but not impossible to imagine. 

You don't need to worry about which Switch to play Tears of the Kingdom on. Switches all run the same type of graphics, though the OLED-screened Switch has the biggest, most vivid-colored portable display. Nintendo has a limited edition Zelda-themed OLED Switch for sale, if you can actually find it.