Zelda Tears of the Kingdom vs Breath of the Wild: All differences explained

Daniel Megarry
Zelda Tears of the Kingdom and Breath of the Wild screenshots

Now that The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom has finally arrived, how does it stack up against its predecessor, Breath of the Wild? Pretty darn well, actually.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest games ever made. So when Nintendo announced that a direct sequel was in the works – something that’s not all that common in the Zelda-verse – it begged the question: How will they improve on perfection?

In the months leading up to Tears of the Kingdom’s release, Nintendo kept their cards pretty close to their chest, with early footage and trailers drip-feeding new details about the game. For many people, it looked a little too similar to Breath of the Wild – both in gameplay and visual identity.

But after years of waiting, we finally have Tears of the Kingdom in our hands, and all of those fears have been put to rest. This game is absolutely massive, and it somehow manages to feel familiar yet fresh all at once. If you’re still unsure, here are all of the major differences between the two games.

Sky Islands in Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

The map is even bigger than we first realized

If you thought Hyrule was big enough in Breath of the Wild, wait until you see Tears of the Kingdom’s map. While the general structure might look the same at first glance, there are two brand new layers to discover in the game: The Sky Islands up above and The Depths down below.

Sky Islands aren’t massively different from the ground below, but the real fun lies in figuring out how to get up there in the first place; You could use a Skyview Tower to launch yourself upwards or try building a flying vehicle instead. After hours of playing, diving back down to Hyrule never loses its magic, either.

The Depths, on the other hand, are a different beast entirely. Fair warning: It’s full of terrifying monsters to encounter, and the fact that it’s almost entirely pitch black doesn’t help either. You’ll need to have your wits about you as you light a path, avoid the gloom, and search for rare treasures.

The Depths on the Zelda Tears of the Kingdom map

The biggest change to Tears of the Kingdom’s gameplay comes courtesy of Link’s new Zonai arm, which gives him a bunch of new abilities to play around with. The most important one is definitely Ultrahand, which can be used to move environmental items around and attach them together.

We could (and have, let’s be honest) spend hours messing around with Ultrahand alone, but that’s not the only ability Link has at his disposal; Fuse lets you power up weapons by attaching items to them, Ascend lets you rise through ceilings, while Recall can be used to undo any mistakes you’ve made.

The best thing about all of these abilities is that they’re incorporated so well into the game that they never feel like gimmicks – they’re essential when exploring the world of Hyrule and solving puzzles in Shrines. Need to make a bridge? Use Ultrahand. Can’t find a way out? Ascend through the ceiling!

The Ascend ability in Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

Alongside these new abilities are companions that will accompany you when tackle the game’s temples, like Tulin who can send a gust of wind to propel you forward through the sky. Once you’ve completed a temple, you’ll be able to take their abilities with you as you explore the rest of Hyrule.

Tears of the Kingdom lets you get even more creative

That might be hard to believe, given all of the wild contraptions people have made in Breath of the Wild over the years, but Tears of the Kingdom’s new abilities have really opened the floodgates to let your imagination run wild.

Whether it’s an ‘Orbital Strike Satellite Laser Cannon’ (yes, that’s a real thing that someone actually made) or a rocket-powered Korok torture device, there are some incredible creations out there. The ability to instantly spawn Zonai devices like Rockets and Hot Air Balloons definitely helps.

You could complete the game and not make a single one of these ridiculous constructions, but that’s the beauty of it all. Tears of the Kingdom lets you build whatever you can think of, and that ability will no doubt keep people playing and experimenting long beyond the main story.

Not everything has changed, though

While the changes we’ve mentioned are all brilliant additions to the game, there’s no denying that there are plenty of similarities between Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and its predecessor. The main one is the visual style, which is pretty much identical – although perhaps a little more polished this time around.

Outside of Link’s new abilities, the core gameplay is mostly the same. Yes, your weapons will still break, and yes, you’ll need to complete Shrines if you want to increase your hearts and stamina wheel. With plenty of familiar characters and locations, you’ll definitely feel at home if you played Breath of the Wild.

So which is better: Tears of the Kingdom or Breath of the Wild?

While it was never going to match the sheer wonder of stepping into the open-world Hyrule for the first time in Breath of the Wild, it’s safe to say that Tears of the Kingdom is an improvement upon the original game in almost every way possible.

A screenshot of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

Link’s new abilities are enough to make this sequel feel different enough from the original, so throw in a hugely-expanded Hyrule to explore and companions to travel with and you’ve got yourself a winner. Even Shrines – which were a divisive feature in Breath of the Wild – feel more exciting this time around.

That’s not to say that Breath of the Wild is a worse experience. Both titles are worth your time and will no doubt go down in history as two of the all-time greats, but when you’ve got a sequel that takes an almost-perfect game and makes it even better, it’s hard to deny that it deserves that top spot.

Now that you know how Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom stack up against each other, check out some guides to help you on your return to Hyrule below:

Sky Islands mapAll Great Fairy Fountain locations | All Skyview Tower locations | How to get Zelda’s Golden Horse | Best place to farm Zonaite | How to increase your inventory slots | Bubbal Gem locations | Bargainer Statue locations | How to get Phantom Armor set | Where to get the Steering Wheel | How to respec Heart Containers and Stamina Vessels | How to get Autobuild | How to get Hylian Shield

About The Author

Daniel graduated from university with a degree in Journalism and English Language, before spending five years at GAY TIMES covering LGBTQ+ news and entertainment. He then made the switch to video game journalism where he produces news, features, and guides for Pokemon, Fortnite, Nintendo, and PlayStation games. Daniel also has a passion for any games with queer representation.