The Nintendo Switch was a make-or-break moment for the console manufacturer; previous console the Wii U leaving them dangerously close to spiralling out of the race for console supremacy.

The Wii U launched with ports of third-party titles and some decent exclusive titles such as ‘ZombiU’ but there wasn’t a killer, must-have game for the console.

Nintendo learned their lesson and made ‘Breath Of The Wild’ a launch title for the Switch.

Talk about overcompensating.

Brave New World

‘Zelda’ titles have always been reliably great titles for Nintendo, with 1998’s ‘Ocarina Of Time’ another candidate for this series, but ‘Breath Of The Wild’ had a more profound effect on the gaming industry than any other title in the series.

Any sandbox game released since 2017 is either indebted to or cribbing from ‘Breath Of The Wild’ in some way.

Previous games in the series were open-world, but ‘Breath Of The Wild’ flipped the script on what players have come to expect from open-world games.

In 2022, players have come to expect their sandbox titles to be fully organic and ripe with chances for emergent gameplay, similar to how 2015’s ‘Metal Gear Solid 5’ offered players a million different ways to play the game.

By 2017, the sandbox game had been infested by the Ubisoft design philosophy of taking over parts of the map or liberating a district one at a time.

In the context of the 2017 gaming landscape, the hot sandbox titles of the time included ‘Watch Dogs 2’ and ‘Fallout 4’, and ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ was released mere weeks before ‘Breath Of The Wild'.

Even the 'Just Cause' series, once the bastion of the sandbox genre and this writer's personal favourite sandbox series, had fallen victim to the triple-AAA bloat.

Those 3 games, as good as they were, were sandbox games designed by committee and prided themselves on being games that everyone could play, and all railroaded the player to a significant degree.

With ‘Breath Of The Wild’, players could face the final boss within 10 minutes of starting the game if they were so inclined.

‘Breath Of The Wild’ was a revolution in game design; the shackles of “play it your way” that plagued game design in the 7th generation had been broken off.

Similar to how Christopher Nolan rewrote the rulebook on telling a linear story, 'Breath Of The Wild' changed how players can approach a game.

Granting players agency, control and a dash of chaos gave us the recipe for one of the greatest video games of all time.

Combat Rock

'Zelda' games are just as much about combat as much as it is about exploration, and 'Breath Of The Wild' has a combat system that is to this day a joy to mess around with.

The combat style is the closest Link has ever gotten to starring in his own 'Dark Souls' game.

'Zelda' borrowing the FromSoftware philosophy of knowing when to dodge and manage your stamina during combat was a masterstroke.

In our previous entry in the series, we mentioned how 'Dark Souls' influenced the following decade of games, and 'Breath Of The Wild' is proof of that.

'Breath Of The Wild' took all the elements of what makes other 'Zelda' games so great - the sweeping landscape, a rich story, beautiful game design, hundreds of hours of content - and made the ultimate 'Zelda' game in the process.

2011's 'Skyward Sword' was a decent entry into the series, but it was clear by that stage of the Wii's life that the console was not designed to support such a technically demanding game.

It's often forgotten that 'Breath Of The Wild' also released for the Wii U, but this is a Switch game through and through.

The boldness and freshness of the game could have saved the Wii U if it came out earlier, but as a launch title for the Switch, it became emblematic of what the Switch was: it was Nintendo's adaptation of the bold and progressive mixed with their more traditional sensibilities.

Link has been wandering around Hyrule since the 1980s, and yet in the late 2010s, Nintendo gave the explorer a game fitting of his stature.

Since launch, developers of blockbusters such as 'Halo Infinite', 'Elden Ring', 'Ghost Of Tsushima' and 'Horizon: Forbidden West' have cited 'Breath Of The Wild' as an influence on their games.

'Elden Ring' is perhaps the game that matches 'Breath Of The Wild' in terms of pulling off an epic story, lush game world and incredible combat.

Switch It Up

'Breath Of The Wild' ended up being the biggest hit in the franchise's history, selling around 27 million copies by 2021.

There is an argument to be made for 'Breath Of The Wild' being the most influential console launch title of all time, with 'Halo' the only other launch title even remotely in the conversation.

As stated, the bold and kitchen-sink approach Nintendo took with 'Breath Of The Wild' put the Japanese company back on top after an uncharacteristic string of misfires.

5 years on, a sequel to 'Breath Of The Wild' has developed a mythic quality, with every Nintendo Direct or E3 without any substantial news on the game adding to a 'Half-Life 3' air of mystique around the game.

Fans are still discovering nooks and crannies to the game however, with a strong speedrunning community developing around the game.

The sign of a truly great game is one the average person on the street can pick up with no pre-conceptions or can encourage beautiful maniacs on YouTube to finish the game in 22 minutes.

There are 25 games in this retrospective series, and we'll be covering some of the biggest games in gaming history over the course of the series.

There isn't a game on this list that's as influential, joyful, or sublime as 'Breath Of The Wild'.

The game represents what Nintendo do better than anyone else; they make games.

The 2010s became the decade where live service became the norm rather than the exception, it became common practice for developers to release games in an unfinished state, and single-player games weren't considered a priority for developers.

'Breath Of The Wild' disavowed all of those notions, and was a revolution in modern gaming.

In his review for 'Spirited Away' in 2002, Nigel Andrews from the Financial Times gave the film an unprecedented 6 stars, noting that "exceptions must be made for the exceptional."

If there is one game in the lifetime of our website that deserved a 6-star rating, it's 'Breath Of The Wild'.

The Switch needed a hit straight out of the gate to prove that Nintendo were still the top dogs of the gaming industry, and they ended up giving us one of the greatest video games of all time in the process.