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Breath of the Wild Sequel

(March 2022 Delay Announcement Footage)

My theories, hopes and thoughts based on footage in the delay announcement for the Breath of the Wild sequel released March 2022outgoing link.

Latest iteration: April 4, 2022

Archive date: September 20, 2022
Archive reason: Release of new trailer for the gameoutgoing link, now titled Tears of the Kingdom, during September 2022 Nintendo Direct provided lots of new information to analyze and changed some of my thoughts.

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Zonai Connections

It seems likely the Zonai will feature in the Breath of the Wild sequel. Their ruins are everywhere in BOTW, which almost seems meant to invite speculation -- as does their name, a play on nazo (謎), meaning "mystery." (Creating a Champion, pg. 341) Zonai ruins are also very visible in the E3 2019 trailer, and appear to be where Ganondorf is sealed. Additionally, in the E3 2021 trailer, Link appears to have a Zonai dragon head weapon that shoots flames, and Link's shield and the green stone creature retain swirl, splatter-like and "dots/circles within circles/squares" patterns associated with the Zonai. (See the Barbarian Armor, Lomei Labyrinths and Zonai statue pictures for a sense of Zonai style.)

I'd like to note here for fandom history posterity that the Zonai have been at the very center of fan analysis and speculation in the years since the game's first trailer. The hype around the Zonai ideas has certainly shaped my speculation efforts, and I'm curious to see if there are other things the community has collectively missed in this hype. (It'll be really funny if the Zonai don't play a role in the game at all.)

Zonai ruins in E3 2019 trailer:

Zonai ruins in a cave Zonai bridge in a cave Ruins of a Zonai temple Ganon's malice touching Zonai ruins

Zonai imagery in E3 2021 trailer:

Link using a Zonai dragon weapon Link using a glider Link running Large green stone creature

Zonai imagery in Breath of the Wild:

Lomei Labyrinth Island North Lomei Labyrinth South Lomei Labyrinth Barbarian Armor Zonai dragon statue decorated with swirls

Twili Connections

Creating a Champion says that "The Zonai themselves are spoken of in hushed whispers as strong magic wielders who vanished suddenly thousands of years ago." (pg. 413) This sounds remarkably similar to the Twili, who were banished for weilding powerful magic. The magic shown off in the E3 2019 trailer and Link's arm in the E3 2021 trailer and delay announcement footage (both the magic part, and the shoulder tattoo) are also visually similar to the Twili aesthetics seen in Twilight Princess. This could be a connection between the Zonai and the Twili, or just a connection between the Twili and the BOTW sequel on its own.

Some have also drawn a connection between the Fragmented Momumentoutgoing link quest in BOTW and the Mirror of Twilight. In this minor shrine quest, Link must find shards of a broken oval monument near Zonai ruins with text that glows blue-green at night. I find this connection a little far-fetched -- the Mirror of Twilight should theoretically be completely shattered, and the monument just has instructions to open a minor shrine. It might just be an Easter egg.

Interestingly, ruins in the background of the E3 2021 trailer also feature etchings that could be compared to Twili aesthetics, but I'm aware this is a reach.

Twili aesthetics:

Twili Twili tech Twili portal

Magic in the E3 2019 and 2021 trailers:

Link being affected by magic Link's arm being affected by magic

Etching in E3 2021 trailer:


Link's tattoo in delay announcement footage:

Link's tunic from the front

Sheikah Connections

The passage in Creating a Champion about the Zonai's powerful magic and sudden disappearance could also be tied to how the Sheikah were oppressed by the royal family some time after the events of 10,000 years ago because their technology could be a threat to Hyrule. (Creating a Champion pg. 101, 360, 362, 367-68; also described in BOTW) The Zonai, if an offshoot of the Sheikah, could've been destroyed as a part of this oppression, especially if they were particularly powerful and chose to break away from the royal family. There are multiple reasons to believe the Zonai were a Sheikah group that split off from the Sheikah and the royal family:

The Zonai, if an offshoot of the Sheikah, could've been destroyed as a part of this oppression, especially if they were particularly powerful and chose to break away from the royal family.

However, they could also be a precursor to the modern Sheikah tribe. As Zelda theorist YouTuber NintendoBlackCrisisoutgoing link points out in chapter one (the recap section) of their speculation video about the Zonaioutgoing link, Zonai ruins are often close to Sheikah shrines, and look a little older. The Lomei Labyrinths, they insinuate, are Sheikah recreations of Zonai architecture -- they are much larger, seemingly newer and slightly different in stonework.

Sheikah imagery in E3 2021 trailer:

Link using a glider Link running Large green stone creature Link's arm being affected by magic

Vaati Connections

While perhaps more subtle because he hasn't been relevant to a recent game in quite a while, there are potential ties to Vaati in the E3 2021 trailer. While I've connected the eye symbols used in the trailer to the Sheikah, it's even easier to connect them to Vaati's eye symbol, as seen in his monstrous form and at the Four Sword Sanctuary where he's sealed away -- note the curled corners. As a wind mage, he may be able to lift land and buildings into the sky, as the Wind Tribe were able to do with the Cloud Tops. (Hyrule Historia, pg. 83; The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia, pg. 154; also described in Minish Cap)

While he was sealed away in Four Swords Adventures, The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia refers to him as "immortal," (pg. 210) and Hyrule Historia teases his potential return: "The evil sorcerer Vaati had become caught up in the cycle of Ganondorf the Thief [...] There may come a time when the land will have need of the Four Sword once again." (pg. 121)

This is particularly intriguing given fan speculation that Vaati has not returned in his Picori form despite his popularity because of some licensing problem with Capcom, who worked on Minish Cap. Additionally, it's not super clear to me where the developers could go with Vaati given his limited influence in Hyrule -- how would his symbol end up on shields and incorporated into stone creatures? Or could this be revealed to be a symbol of the Picori or the Wind Tribe that just happened to be attached to Vaati?

It's also worth noting, as I explain in a later section, that the Picori were considered at some point in BOTW's development.

Vaati eye imagery in E3 2021 trailer:

Link using a glider Link running Large green stone creature

Vaati eye imagery in other games:

Vaati's monstrous form Four Sword Sanctuary

The (Spiritual) Return of the Ancient Hero to Post-BOTW Hyrule

The Link in the E3 2021 trailer and delay announcement footage looks remarkable similar to the depiction of the Link from 10,000 years before the events of BOTW -- note the long hair, green tunic on one shoulder, and the sort of short blue sword. The shield and creature here also bear Sheikah eyes without tears, indicating that they may have come before a hypothetical split between Sheikah and Zonai, or simply before Sheikah affiliation with the royal family.

Many fans have theorized BOTW 2 will be set in the past, during the events of 10,000 years ago. While this is an exciting idea, the more I consider it, the less it makes sense. If we're reliving these events as they actually happen, why, narratively, would the developers step away from the very exciting, high-stakes events of present-day post-BOTW Hyrule they've set up with Ganondorf's reawakening and Link's new arm? (They could bounce around chapter to chapter, but that doesn't seem to be Zelda's style.) We also see the castle lift up out of the ground in that same present-day post-BOTW Hyrule, implying that the other islands we see in the trailer have risen in this same time period and that that's when they're being explored by the Link we see. Additionally, since the Link shown has BOTW Link's same face (as I previously noted, his face was never shown post-arm transformation in the E3 trailers, but it was finally shown in the March 2022 delay announcement footage), I don't believe we could be playing as that Link from 10,000 years ago, at least in the parts we've been shown so far, unless they explain away the two looking identical for some reason. (I will add, though, that it would be very cool to have the ancient Link come to the future or rematerialize in post-BOTW Hyrule to save BOTW Link from the malice that attacked his arm, or even to save Hyrule from him...)

It is possible that present-day, post-BOTW Link goes back in time to set something right, but I'm not so sure about this, given that the sealing away of Ganondorf 10,000 years ago was supposedly successful -- why would you need to "redo" it? It's possible that the seal wasn't perfect, though; maybe that's why Ganondorf was able to break free? But why not simply seal him again in the present? It's also possible that Link might be going back to prevent the oppression of the Sheikah, but there are no hints of that -- that's just me coming up with something vaguely feasible.

What if, instead of being set in the past, the Link from 10,000 years ago returns, and he helps save modern post-BOTW Hyrule? The reveal of Link's face mostly rules out the actual, physical Link from 10,000 years ago having come to the modern future, and so does BOTW Link having the arm magic (they can't both have it at once, right?) but that doesn't mean he can't spiritually return, and the visual similarities are striking. BOTW Link may very well have been joined in some way by this older Link when he received the powers of the magic arm, or even possessed or spiritually transformed. If the spirit of the hero of 10,000 years ago was keeping Ganondorf sealed down there, it would theoretically be free of its duty now and might have been reawakened alongside Ganondorf's corpse, leaving it free to assist BOTW Link. Maybe this ancient Link's power is all that's holding back the malice that attacked BOTW Link's arm?

Link's post-transformation appearances in E3 2021 trailer:

Link running Link falling from the sky

Link's appearance in March 2022 delay announcement footage:

Link facing the camera Link's tunic from the front Link's tunic from the front again, also showing his face

BOTW tapestry of events of 10,000 years ago:

Breath of the Wild tapestry showing the hero from 10,000 years ago

The Broken Master Sword and its Ties to the Sheikah

The Master Sword appears damaged in the delay announcement footage -- it is noticeably shorter, and appears to be rotting or rotted away. Additionally, its jagged edge resembles the Sheikah-built shrines with its clay swirls over metallic black stone.

I believe that the malice attacking Link's arm is probably what damaged the Master Sword. However, the Sheikah stylings along the damaged edge are less easily explained. You might argue that it looks like the Sheikah tech is rotting the sword away, but... why would it do that, and how would it get there? They don't appear to be corrupted with malice.

I have a simple explanation: the Master Sword is imbued with Sheikah tech, which was activated by the damage, and is attempting to repair the sword. Doesn't it make sense that the dedicated and advanced guardians of Hyrule would attempt to better the Master Sword if they could? We already know that they tried to clone the Master Sword, as noted in the description for the Royal Guard's Sword in BOTW: "A Sheikah-made replica of the sword that seals the darkness. It was made with ancient technology to oppose the Great Calamity, but its low durability made it inefficient." So why wouldn't they try to improve the real thing? (It's worth noting, though, that the Master Sword was created by Hylia as the Goddess Sword, per Skyward Sword, which explains why the Sheikah couldn't make copies.)

Sheikah stylings aside, I can't help but wonder if we'll have to retemper the Master Sword. Maybe the Sacred Flames will return, given the parallels to Skyward Sword and the presence of some kind of flame-like light in front of Link, who is holding the sword similarly to Skyward Sword Link when the Goddess Sword is being tempered into the Master Sword, in the delay announcement footage. (It's easier to see in motionoutgoing link than in the still I've included.)

Link being touched by the malice in E3 2021 trailer:

Malice crawling up Link's arm

The Master Sword in delay announcement footage:

Link's tunic from the front Link's tunic from the front again, also showing his face

Generic shrine exterior in Breath of the Wild:

Shrine with clay curls all over base

Link holding Goddess Sword for tempering in Skyward Sword:

Link holding the Goddess Sword, ready to temper it

Return of Fi -- Incomplete, Damaged or Modified

Fi was actually hinted to a few times in Breath of the Wild, though not by name. Zelda makes a passing reference to a the legend of a voice within the Master Sword in one of the memories. In another, after Link has fallen in battle, Zelda hears instructions from the Master Sword, which glows and plays Fi's signature sound effect, and at the end of the game, Zelda explicitly refers to Fi again, mentioning that she "can no longer hear the voice inside the sword." At the end of the Trial of the Sword DLC, when Link unlocks the Master Sword's new power, the sword glows and makes that same noise again.

Additionally, it appears that the Master Sword glows in the same way in the delay announcement footage. With this and the parallels and possible connections to Skyward Sword mentioned before, I find it very likely Fi will return in some way.

The apparent damage and strange markings on the Master Sword in the delay announcement footage also make me extremely curious about Fi's state. I think it would be really interesting to see damaged, corrupted or incomplete Fi. Perhaps we'll even see Sheikah-modified Fi.

It's particularly interesting to me that Fi seems to be specifically tied to Zelda in Breath of the Wild. As the Master Sword appears broken in the delay announcement footage, perhaps the other piece fell down with Zelda, and perhaps they'll interact again as Fi (or a fragmented part of her) helps Zelda escape.

Master Sword in delay announcement footage:

Link facing the camera Link's tunic from the front Link's tunic from the front again, also showing his face

Beyond Earth and Sky

In the delay announcement trailer, Eiji Aonuma fairly explicitly states that there will be some kind of other realm to explore than the earth and the sky in BOTW's sequel: "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."

This could mean anything. Here are a few ideas for what areas Link could be exploring other than the earth and the sky:

Image from GDC 2017 talk:

Development image featuring a Minish-like village

Return of the Dominion Rod

This one is a stretch, but I noticed that the energy flowing through the green stone creature in the E3 2021 trailer resembles the magic in Link's arm, and couldn't help but think we might control statues a la the dominion rod using Link's arm. I don't have much to support this -- it's just a thought.

Magic in the E3 2019 and 2021 trailers:

Link being affected by magic Link's arm being affected by magic

The stone creature in the E3 2021 trailer:

The green stone creature with its 'neck' outstretched, green energy flowing through it

Parallels / Connections to Skyward Sword

The parallels to Skyward Sword are fairly obvious. The shot of Link diving into the sky in the trailer looks very close to shots of Link diving past the cloud barrier in Skyward Sword, and, of course, there are the islands in the sky. More subtly, they also share the concept of Link diving into the clouds into a new world after Zelda has fallen and must be saved. This is a stretch I'm about to make here, but the timing of the BOTW sequel reveal, on Zelda's 35th anniversary and around the 10 year anniversary rerelease of Skyward Sword (that sort of seeks to rehabilitate that game's flaws), may be very subtly intended to make us think about both of these games at the same time and encourage speculation about a connection between the two.

Link (and Zelda) falling in E3 2021 trailer:

Link falling from the sky Link falling from the sky Zelda falling into the abyss

Link falling in Skyward Sword:

Link skydiving

The Glowing Mark on Link's Hand

The only thing I can really say about the mark on Link's hand is that it's not like anything I've seen in Zelda before. I have no idea what this could be, and I think that itself is worth pointing out.

The glowing mark on Link's hand in the delay announcement trailer:

Link looking over his shoulder A strange golden symbol glowing on Link's hand

Scrapped Concept Callbacks

BOTW 2 Link's messed-up arm and broken sword is lifted directly from scrapped concept art shown in "Change and Constant: Breaking Conventions with 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.'"outgoing link I can't help but wonder about what else might make it back into BOTW 2. (Including the Picori-related concept shown at that same talk!)

I'm particularly curious about the page of concept sketches apparently omitted from the English version of Creating a Champion (page on the Zelda wikioutgoing link, Gaming Reinvented articleoutgoing link). Was there something on that page that's going to show up in BOTW 2, something they wanted to keep off the radar? One of the omissions that circulated among anglophone fans is a sketch of what appears to be Link's little sister and father/grandfather. Link's family likely perished years before BOTW, so I don't see how they could come back, but other sketches on that page may yield clues. Unfortunately, I don't have access to a copy/scan of the Japanese version, so I can't speculate much further.

Beyond that page, though, there are a couple of concepts from Creating a Champion I feel might fit into the world of BOTW 2 for their more "ancient" and mysterious look: the early Korok concepts with more mysterious designs (pg. 145) and the mossy, more angelic guardian stalker rough design (pg. 204). The Koroks in particular stand out to me for their masks' resemblance to San's mask in Princess Mononoke, a film that seemed to have inspired so much in BOTW (and maybe its sequel) that it deserves its own deep dive.

Photo of sketches (reportedly -- can't confirm myself) in Japanese version of Creating a Champion, Masterworks: Concept sketches that appear to show Link with his little sister and father or grandfather

Screens from GDC 2017 talk:

Guardian-infested Link with a corrupted arm and broken sword Development image featuring a Minish-like village

Return of Skyloft

Since we're back in the sky, it would be cool to see Skyloft. Did all the islands that were originally up there come down? Was it just the goddess statue? If there are still islands up there, is anyone still there? Who -- or what?

Playable Zelda

As much as I love the series, Legend of Zelda has never been great about Zelda herself. Though she often plays an important part in the story, I've always found how little screentime and development and how much rescuing she needs despite being a powerful, vital character a little disappointing. That's why, truthfully, I can't bring myself to believe she'll ever actually be playable in a mainline Zelda game. But god do I want it, especially after she got so much love and development and agency in Age of Calamity.

For the BOTW sequel I would love a chance to play through Zelda's adventures in the underground. That said, I'm not sure if I'd prefer to do a back-and-forth chapter-by-chapter thing or a second route, and I can't really imagine a game like Zelda doing either of those things.