After some 30 to 50 hours in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I started to wonder what could possibly come next. Then realised the enormous challenge Nintendo must confront to produce a worthy follow-up to what is being considered one of the greatest games ever made.

Breath of the Wild is, as we say in our five star review, a masterpiece. In its development, Nintendo drew upon a wealth of open world ideas and perfected them, creating a Hyrule setting that is joy to explore, inhabit and save. It is the definitive Zelda adventure.

So how on whatever-planet-Hyrule-is-on do you follow that up?

Nintendo overhauled the basics of Zelda for Breath of the Wild so another reinvention of the series would seem unlikely. The new set of core mechanics will probably act as the sequel's basis, and another large open environment will be expected.

But what won't be expected? That's for Nintendo to dream up and us to be surprised by.

After The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time won universal acclaim in 1998, what followed was Majora's Mask - the most fiercely, memorably unique Zelda game yet.

That it was so different was born out of Nintendo's drive to get the game released quickly, just 18 months after Ocarina. Development of the next Zelda for Switch is unlikely to be set to a similarly daunting deadline, but Nintendo could certainly learn from that beloved classic's approach.

Three elements have recurred throughout the famed series: the Master Sword; Hyrule; and the fabled battle between Link, Princess Zelda and Ganon. Majora's Mask ditched all three, as have other games in the series before and since.

Any one of those three constants can be altered or dropped entirely, and that's exactly what Nintendo's next Zelda should do - particularly in the case of Hyrule. Each major console title in the series has, since Majora's Mask, depicted a different version of the setting, but does anyone really want to see a new version of Hyrule as soon as the next game?

Beyond Hyrule

Now Nintendo has proven it can create stunning open worlds, why not explore somewhere other than Hyrule? At a pivotal point of the new game's plot a central character refers to "beyond" Hyrule, potentially hinting at a sequel or the planned DLC. I want to see the world beyond the place Link and Zelda so often call home.

In how it fosters an urge to discover, Breath of the Wild is the perfect set-up for an exploration of the world beyond Hyrule's borders. If it's a world capable of giving us the kind of personal stories seen in Majora's Mask, or showing us settings beyond Hyrule like those of Oracle of Ages/Seasons and Link's Awakening, it'll be another adventure worth embarking on.

The Legend of Zelda Breath Wild screenshot
A wide shot of Hyrule in Breath of the Wild. Nintendo

A smaller world

Wherever the next game is set, it doesn't need to be bigger than Breath of the Wild for the simple sake of it. Creating another world as brilliantly rich with character and mystery would be staggering on the same scale, so perhaps whatever's next should offer more focus with a smaller world.

Majora's Mask was set in a smaller location and benefited from a closer-knit feel created by a greater density of things to do and the quality of its many side quests. Smaller doesn't mean small however, Breath of the Wild's Hyrule is enormous.

A true sequel

We could even follow the same Link to a new region, and consider the latest Zelda the first chapter of a story that encompasses multiple games. Breath of the Wild doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but clearly there's life for these characters after the credits roll.

The series is based on the prophecy that there will always be a Link, a Zelda and a Ganon doing battle to save Hyrule. So, perhaps the next game should see what happens to these characters when prophecies are fulfilled and the events their lives have been leading to transpire.

The new game's fresh (for the series) approach to storytelling would support this. It gives a greater focus to characters, even Link a little, but focuses on Princess Zelda the most, putting her at the centre of the events even as Ganon and Link do all the fighting.

To follow these characters beyond the story we expect them to be part of and into unknown locations to encounter unknown characters, that's exciting.

Breath of the Wild represents a perfect starting point for Nintendo take the Zelda series in a new direction. Future games may not feel quite as refreshing as this current one, but with a set of new core mechanics to build upon, there's a great opportunity to take the series to places it has never been.

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