Why Zelda Speedrunners Plan to Take It Slow

Dressed in nothing but the shorts he slept in for a century, Link picks up a pot. At first, it’s not surprising — pots are a Zelda mainstay — but our shirtless hero then maneuvers awkwardly against a wall until suddenly he’s flying across the sky of Hyrule, twisting side-to-side to stay afloat while still clutching the fragile piece of pottery.

What may seem like nonsensical button presses are actually precise inputs from Player 5, a Breath of the Wild speedrunner. This is three minutes into a run. Twenty minutes later, Link (still shirtless) will defeat Calamity Ganon. Roll credits.

Six years after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released to worldwide acclaim, it continues to be a feast for speedrunners. The game’s open-ended progression and physics-based gameplay make it possible for these intrepid players to complete a game that takes most players 50-100 hours in mere minutes.

With the sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, finally within reach, those speedrunners are eagerly anticipating their next adventure. But they also say they’re not in any particular hurry to break the game.

“I’m so excited to see what this game does with all the timeline shenanigans,” speedrunner joedun, who declined to share his real name, tells Inverse. He specializes in 100% runs of Breath of the Wild with challenging qualifiers like no-damage runs.

Joedun is approaching the experience as a fan first.

“Before I was a speedrunner, I was super into the lore of Zelda,” he says. “So I’ll really be taking my time with a casual playthrough first before anything. It will be a SLOW run at first.”

Among the speedrunning community, there is a dual excitement for Tears of the Kingdom. Yes, they’re simultaneously itching for a new challenge, but speedrunners are also ordinary fans ready to sink their teeth into a new chapter in a beloved series. All three people who talked to Inverse pointed to the story of Tears of the Kingdom as the aspect they are most excited about. Surprisingly, it’s not a race when it comes to speedrunning the new game.

Player 5, who also preferred not to share their real name, who currently holds the number one time in the world for the “Any%” category of Breath of the Wild speedruns, will also be taking a more leisurely approach when Tears of the Kingdom releases on May 12.

“Before I was a speedrunner I was super into the lore of Zelda.”

“I’ll be enjoying my first playthrough at whatever pace makes sense, which I’ll probably figure out once the game actually releases, and then start speedrunning it shortly after,” says Player 5. In addition to “Any%” runs he has also completed ludicrous challenges like beating Breath of the Wild 50 times in 24 hours.

Despite the desire to savor that initial playthrough, the community is actively getting ready for the inevitable challenge that Tears of the Kingdom will provide. Speedrunner Limcube, who asked to be referred to by his online handle, sees speedrunning Breath of the Wild as a way to train for Tears of the Kingdom.

“Despite the difference in the mechanics in Tears of the Kingdom, the main movement will still be the same,” he says. “So being warmed up for the release is a good idea.”

Speedrunners are excited to experience the story of Tears of the Kingdom before they start breaking the game.

Nintendo

For Player 5, these last days with Breath of the Wild are a chance to give it all he’s got in the Any% category. “I want to start playing Tears of the Kingdom knowing I’ve gotten a time I’m happy with,” he says.

Playing Breath of the Wild keeps speedrunners in a goal-oriented mindset and helps maintain their precision with the mechanics, controls, and movement that will likely transfer over to Tears of the Kingdom.

The introduction of new mechanics, like Fuse and Ultrahand, has the potential to drastically change how the sequel is speedrun. The latter gives Link the ability to create vehicles, which seems like it would lend itself well to traversing vast distances quickly or skipping challenging encounters. But Limcube points out that it might make sense to ignore those mechanics entirely.

“If the community finds movement tech that allows us to go fast without spending time building a vehicle, that ability will be rendered useless in speedruns,” he says.

“The first few weeks will be very chaotic.”

Even though speedrunning is ostensibly about racing the other fastest players, at the end of the day the challenge of improving times is built on community efforts to break games and uncover new strategies. Faster times challenge everybody to find new possibilities. The speedrunners we spoke with shared the view that the “enemy” is the game itself, not other racers.

Player 5 predicts that Fuse, which allows Link to attach items like bombs and mushrooms to weapons and shields, will be useful for efficiently dealing damage to bosses.

“In Breath of the Wild, you would just pick up weapons that have high stats,” Player 5 explains. “But I think Tears of the Kingdom will rely more on creativity, and seeing what combinations work best.”

New abilities like Fuse will likely lead to more creative problem-solving for speedrunners.

Nintendo

However, speedrunning Tears of the Kingdom won’t be all about Link’s new abilities. A major focus will be creating new solutions to replace strategies that don’t carry over from the first game. For instance, Wind Bombing – one of the most commonly used strategies in Breath of the Wild speedrunning, which uses remote bombs to launch players through the air at high speeds – is no longer an option with the removal of remote bombs. It’s a whole new frontier.

While substantial Tears of the Kingdom leaks are already in the wild, speedrunners say that advanced information about the game isn’t as helpful as one might think. Everyone we spoke to said they were doing their best to avoid spoilers beyond what has been shown by Nintendo itself. Player 5 expects those first few weeks to be “very chaotic,” as speedrunners test out the possibilities offered by new abilities.

The role of Ganondorf, the iconic villain who hasn’t appeared in a Zelda game since 2006’s Twilight Princess, is something the speedrunners we spoke to are particularly eager to experience for themselves.

“There are people who were born between then and now whose first encounter with Ganondorf will be in Tears of the Kingdom, which is just insane to think about,” joedun says.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases May 12 on Nintendo Switch.

Dressed in nothing but the shorts he slept in for a century, Link picks up a pot. At first, it’s not surprising — pots are a Zelda mainstay — but our shirtless hero then maneuvers awkwardly against a wall until suddenly he’s flying across the sky of Hyrule, twisting side-to-side to stay afloat while still…

Dressed in nothing but the shorts he slept in for a century, Link picks up a pot. At first, it’s not surprising — pots are a Zelda mainstay — but our shirtless hero then maneuvers awkwardly against a wall until suddenly he’s flying across the sky of Hyrule, twisting side-to-side to stay afloat while still…