Everything we know about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, as of February 2023
This post tries to summarize everything we know about Tears of the Kingdom. It’s arranged by time. It may contain spoilers.
Since my January 2023 roundup:
- Australia has rated the game
- The game received an internal product ID
I try to limit rumors and speculation. (But I love rumors and speculation!)
2017: high level info
Development has begun
In an October Creating a Champion interview, producer Eiji Aonuma said that “development of the next Zelda has already begun. I think it’s safe to say that there is another Zelda because of the kind of world we were able to create for Breath of the Wild.” (Note: this interview was in October 2017, but the book was published later.)
December interviews reveal broad details
In a December 2017 interview, Aonuma spoke broadly about the direction for future titles:
“…for me, especially just in terms of the Zelda series, the incredible freedom that this game offers you and how well that’s been received…to me, it means that freedom, that level of freedom is something that needs to be maintained in Zelda games going forward. My eyes have been opened to how important that is.
“So one of the things that we definitely consider is that we always wanted to make sure the player could understand what their challenges or what their hurdle is. We always wanted to make sure the challenge could be challenged. So we always wanted to make a linear way of [overcoming] a hurdle.
“So for example, if there was like, ‘you can’t do this because you don’t have the right tools’ or ‘you don’t meet the certain requirements,’ players are going to not want to do that anymore. So we wanted to very much incorporate that.
“Going forward, I think we would definitely consider that way of thinking when we create something in the future.”
In another interview, director Hidemaro Fujibayashi acknowledged that people wanted to pet the dogs in BotW.
Another December 2017 interview had some details about the kinds of things the leaders admired about Mario Odyssey, which may indicate the kind of thing that won’t be in the game:
“I think for me, [my favorites are] the parts where you’re able to go from 3D into 2D and go into the wall and it becomes the old school style,” Fujibayashi told IGN about Mario. “I especially liked where it looks like there’s nowhere to go, but then the walls curve around. It was super unique. It actually reminded me a bit of Zelda.”
“That’s the kind of thing that we wouldn’t be able to do in a game like Breath of the Wild,” he continued. “It’s something that only fits in the wackier Mario world. So I thought that was really cool.”
“Mario can put so many ideas in. I’m kind of jealous of it,” Aonuma added jokingly.
GamesRadar asked Fujibayashi what he thinks his lasting mark on the series will be in another 2017 interview. He wasn’t sure, but Aonuma had an idea: losing all of your stuff and starting from scratch.
“We were talking about this recently,” Aonuma began. “So in Breath of the Wild there’s an island where you get stripped of all of your items and you start out naked. And we were kind of thinking, ‘Wait, there was something similar to that in Skyward Sword and Oracle of Ages.’ So we were thinking maybe that’s his kind of trademark.”
2018: another high-level interview
In a promotional interview, director Fujibayashi and producer Eiji Aonuma were asked various questions about Breath of the Wild’s second DLC.
The final question, “what’s next for the Zelda franchise?”, was answered by Aonuma:
“I think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was all about breaking conventions and re-thinking what was natural and normal for Zelda titles. Now that we’ve had this great new reaction to this, we start to think, ‘Well, uh-oh, is this going to be the new convention?’
“I think we want to keep creating new things in the game, by creating fresh, new, unique ideas. But at the same time, we don’t want to erase what was successful with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild too. That’s why I think keeping that balance is something we want to stay focused on.”
2019: the reveal year
In March, Monolift Soft, a subsidiary of Nintendo, started “large-scale recruitment” for work on the Zelda series. Monolith is best known for their work on the Xenoblade series and also helped with some other Nintendo games like Breath of the Wild.
Most of the listings reveal little, such as “In-game Animator”. However, “Designer for Main Character” appeared, allowing for some speculation.
The reveal teaser
E3 2019 brought the first big news about the sequel. The first trailer was shown on June 11.
Obvious things it revealed:
- The game is a sequel to BotW
- It will be released on Switch
- The return of BotW Link and Zelda, exploring what appears to be an underground cave
- A mummified figure which most assume to be Ganondorf
- A mysterious green energy hand
- Hyrule Castle lifting up out of the ground, seen from BotW’s Great Plateau
There’s lots more in the trailer, but those are some high-level beats. If you’d like more, there are plenty of trailer breakdowns.
The trailer was uploaded by Nintendo of America, UK, Australia, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands, Russia, Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong. Future trailers had a similar international spread.
Other information was revealed through interviews in the following days.
A June 11 Game Informer interview revealed:
- The game revisits the same Hyrule. Aonuma said that “one of the reasons we wanted to create a continuation was because I wanted to revisit that Hyrule again and use that world again, while incorporating new gameplay and new story”.
- BotW’s director, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, will also be directing its sequel. Fujibayashi also directed some earlier Zelda games, such as Minish Cap.
- “Aonuma also confirmed that players will not need an expansion pack to play the game, as they did for Majora’s Mask on the Nintendo 64 saying, ‘It will be a continuation, and it will come in full form as it is. [laughs]’”.
Aonuma discussed the Majora’s Mask comparison in a June 11 IGN interview: “The new Breath of the Wild or the sequel to it, it’s not necessarily going to be related to Majora’s Mask or inspired by it… What we showed you currently is a little darker”.
In a June 12 Kotaku interview, Aonuma was asked whether Zelda would be playable. “I can’t tell you,” he replied. He gave a similar non-answer to IGN about co-op play.
A June 18 Kotaku interview revealed that the game was originally planned to be BotW DLC, but it grew in scope and became its own game. The interview also had a few other small tidbits about button customization, accessibility, puzzle design, and staffing.
A June 21 IGN interview discussed the sequel’s inspirations. Red Dead Redemption 2 was mentioned, and Skyrim was mentioned as an influence for the original BotW.
In July, Nintendo listed contract job openings for terrain designers to work on the sequel.
In September, Nintendo published an interview with members of BotW’s environment team as part of their recruitment process. They mentioned that they were recruiting landscape designers but were tight-lipped about specifics.
In October, Nintendo listed Scenario Planner and Level Designer contractor positions for the upcoming sequel.
In December, Nintendo updated their job recruitment site with pictures showing motion capture for the game, as well as partially-rendered screenshots and concept art. Monolith Soft continued to recruit as well.
2020: a quiet year
In Nintendo’s May 7 financial statement, the game’s release date was listed as “TBA”.
In a July shareholder document, Nintendo gave a general update about the production of their games in the face of the pandemic:
While product development is a little behind schedule in some areas due to the impact of COVID-19, game releases planned for this fiscal year are currently not affected. However, if the impact of COVID-19 is prolonged or becomes more severe, we may not be able to release future titles in line with existing plans.
I wasn’t able to find anything about the coronavirus’s impact on TotK specifically.
2021: the second trailer
Skyward Sword HD
In the February 2021 Nintendo Direct, Aonuma told fans that development was going smoothly, but had nothing to share:
“Unfortunately, we don’t have anything to share [about the sequel] right now. We apologize. Development is proceeding smoothly, and we should be able to bring you some new information this year. For now, we’ll have to ask you to wait just a bit longer.”
Skyward Sword HD was announced immediately afterward, and was released the following July.
The second trailer
A few months later, in June, the second trailer was shown at Nintendo’s June 21 E3 presentation. It showed:
- Zelda falling into a pit
- New sky island environments and other shots of Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule
- New powers: the ability to reverse time for an object; the ability to pass through floors; shooting fire
Again, check out the numerous trailer breakdowns for more details.
They said that they were “aiming for a 2022 release”. This release was later delayed to May 2023 (see below).
A small amount of additional information was revealed in a later interview with Bill Trinen:
- Trinen revealed a bit about the sequel’s lack of public title. “As for why we’re holding back on the name, you’ll just have to stay tuned because, obviously, Zelda names are kind of important … Those subtitles… they start to give little bits of hints about maybe what’s going to happen.”
- He also acknowledged the sequel’s comparisons to Majora’s Mask, but wanted to highlight that it was its own game. “‘I would say it’s an easy comparison or conclusion to jump to at this point in time, just given what’s been shown so far and given the nature of it being a direct sequel,’ Trinen explained. ‘So I understand people making that conclusion, but at the same time—and I don’t want to delve too much into it—but this is its own game.’”
Also, the game became available for preorder the same day.
In December 2021, Gamereactor found three Nintendo patent filings that seem to closely match mechanics shown in the second trailer:
- A design for players to pass through “terrain objects”, such as floors. This idea seems to have been shown at the end of the second trailer.
- A design for players to rewind time for objects. This idea was also seen midway through the second trailer.
- A design for players to perform “a special action including a shooting action” while falling through the air, and changing “the posture of the player character that is falling”.
If you want to learn more, YouTuber Monster Maze has in-depth analyses of each patent: phasing through ceilings, rewinding time, and skydiving mechanics.
IGN said this well: “while the mechanics seem to match up alongside actions performed by Link in the trailer pretty closely, it’s important to note that Nintendo hasn’t publicly commented on their purpose.”
Maintaining the release date at the Game Awards
Nintendo also showcased many of their 2022 releases at the 2021 Game Awards, including the sequel. No additional information was shown, but they maintained that the game would be released in 2022. Commenting on Nintendo’s relatively quiet Game Awards appearance, IGN boss Peer Schneider spoke confidently about a 2022 release.
Both Nintendo’s showcase and IGN’s boss were wrong, and the game was delayed until 2023.
2022: the title reveal year
Still planning to release in 2022…
Nintendo’s February 2022 financial report reaffirmed a 2022 release year but did not offer more information.
…just kidding! Spring 2023
On March 29, Nintendo announced that the game would be delayed until Spring 2023. Aonuma said the following:
“We previously announced that we were aiming for a 2022 release for this game. However, we have decided to extend our development time a bit and change the release to Spring 2023.”
Reuters reported that this announcement caused Nintendo’s stock price to drop by 6%.
Aonuma also alluded to some new features:
“As previously announced, the adventure in this sequel will take place not just on the ground as in the previous game, but also in the skies above. However, the expanded world goes beyond that, and there will be an even wider variety of features you can enjoy, including new encounters and new gameplay elements.”
The announcement also included about 6 seconds of new footage, showing Link with a glowing hand and a damaged Master Sword.
In April, news circulated about another Nintendo patent that could be related to TotK, relating to preventing “the clothes object from merging into the character object when the character object performs an action.”
The patent was originally filed on August 9, 2019 (in both the US and Japan) and it was published in February 2021, more than a year before the news surfaced.
Daruk’s Italian voice actor, Pietro Ubaldi, was interviewed by YouTuber Lega Hyrule. From the video’s English translation:
Lega Hyrule: “You said you voiced the ancestor of Daruk…”
Ubaldi: “Yes, whose name I don’t remember, unfortunately…but it was a bit more serious Daruk, more…”
Lega Hyrule: “Darunia, perhaps?”
Ubaldi: “No…Lately the names…I don’t remember them very well.”
Lega Hyrule: “So the dubbing is [finished]?”
Ubaldi: “It’s recent, it’s a game that has yet to come out. I think…or a version to be released…”
The video has some other details, such as claims that the actor voiced Daruk as well. GameXplain has a short followup video with some additional details and some speculation.
This is a rumor, but the filmed interview convinced me enough to include it here. (Maybe I’ve been hoodwinked!)
Financial reports reconfirming dates
Nintendo’s yearly financial report was released on May 10. The report reaffirmed a Spring 2023 release window. This was again restated in August 2022 in another financial report.
A third patent
A new patent, similar to the first one mentioned, was found. It details new falling positions, and shows various states a player can be in. This was later seen in trailers.
The September 13 Nintendo Direct finished with a trailer that showed:
- A released date of May 12, 2023
- The title, “Tears of the Kingdom”
- A mural depicting various events
- Link again in the sky islands above BotW’s Hyrule
- A mysterious item on Link’s hip
As with previous trailers, check out the numerous breakdowns for more.
An official website and store page, showcasing art and a short description of the game, were revealed the same day.
The word “tears” is a homograph, and some people have been unsure whether it’s “tears” as in teardrop (rhymes with “fears”) or “tears” as in ripping (rhymes with “bears”). Eurogamer reported that it’s the former, as in teardrop.
A promotional statue
Nintendo Live, a promotional event in Toyko, showed off a life-size statue of Link as seen in ToTK. Players saw a detailed look at Link’s hand, the Master Sword, and more.
A voice actor implies…something?
Podcast KIWI TALKZ interviewed Sean Chiplock on November 5. Chiplock voiced Revali, Teba, and the Deku Tree in the English versions of BotW. A snippet from the interview:
Chiplock: “I am very excited for Tears of the Kingdom. I’m happy for people that have been waiting so long. I will definitely, you know, keep an eye out for videos so that I can be…knowledgeable about what happens in case any of my characters happen to come back. I still have no idea if that’s going to happen.”
KIWI TALKZ host: “DLC, maybe.”
Chiplock: “Yeah, that’s mainly what I’m looking at. But outside of that, I don’t know. Time will tell.”
This implies that Revali, Teba, and the Deku Tree will not be returning, but there are other possibilities: Chiplock may have been unable to speak about it, be genuinely unsure, was replaced as a voice actor, or something else.
Just over a month later, Chiplock tweeted that he’s managed “to book/record one new bird character a year as part of my portfolio”, including 2023. He didn’t say anything else about this character (other than “:)”), so this may have nothing to do with Zelda.
May 12 is still the plan
Nintendo’s November 8 financial report reaffirmed a release date of May 12, 2023.
A month later, Nintendo of America tweeted another confirmation of the release date after winning Most Anticipated Game at the 2022 Game Awards.
Latin American Spanish
In an end-of-year promotional video on December 14, Nintendo of Latin America announced that the game would be fully localized in Latin American Spanish, including text and voices. This was the first official confirmation that the game would have voice acting.
They also reiterated the May 12 release date.
The game began to receive ratings in late 2022.
- ESRB (serving North America) rated the game “E10+” according to Nintendo of America’s website. The game contains “Fantasy Violence” and “Mild Suggestive Themes”. This all matches BotW, except that “Use of Alcohol” was also in the first game and not this one. I first saw this reported on on December 21.
- Australia lists the game with a “Mature (M)” rating, with the subtitle “fantasy themes and violence”. For comparison, BotW also has this rating for “fantasy violence”.
- GRAC (serving South Korea) rated the game “12+” on November 18. According to the agency, the game contains mild violence. It does not contain sexuality, fear/horror, strong language, alcohol/tobacco/drug use, crime, anti-governmental messages, or gambling. All of this matches their rating for the original BotW. An automatic translation describes the game as “a role-playing game for Nintendo Switch in which the stage of the adventure to find Zelda expands into the sky.”
- PEGI (serving Europe, Turkey, and Israel) provisionally rates the game “12”. This is like Breath of the Wild, but is still provisional and could change.
- SMECCV (serving Mexico) rates the game “12+” on Nintendo’s Mexican store page. Its rating otherwise matches the ESRB. Nintendo lists BotW with the same rating, though this was probably retroactive because this rating system is new to Mexico.
The following regions have no rating that I could find:
- Brazil: lists the game with “verifique a classificação indicativa”, which I believe means that the game is unrated
- Japan: I couldn’t find anything
- Germany, Russia: the age category is “not announced”
2023: it’s this year!
An internal product ID
Nintendo uses an internal ID called an “NSUID” for their various products. In late January, fans noticed that the website added a NSUID for the game, as well as for the long-delayed Advance Wars remake.
Some speculated that additional info was imminent, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that.
I think that’s everything we know about TotK so far! Just a few more months.
- SunnyLaurels for help translating the GRAC posting
- carlitox13 for a correction about Latin American Spanish