After two long years, we finally saw a tantalizing new glimpse of the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at E3 2021, but it’s left us with more questions than answers. Instead of going underground, Link took to the skies. What’s with his new arm? Why are islands floating in the sky? Mysteries abound, along with enough clues to speculate about the answers. What else are we going to do while we wait to see more, right? There are endless possibilities, and I’ve filtered them down into five exciting theories we have for the sequel to Breath of the Wild (or Breath of the Wild 2, BOTW2, or whatever you want to call it).
1. It’s about time
Time manipulation is hardly a new concept for Zelda, and there’s reason to believe it’s returned once more. Reversed vocals are audible in both trailers, and as no one has made any concrete sense of them yet, I suspect they might be a straightforward hint regarding the inclusion of time-based shenanigans. Link’s new arm appears to let him rewind the flow of time for a spiked boulder and also dive into the sky after a water droplet is seen moving in reverse. Gameplay mechanics are often directly tied to the core themes of Nintendo games, and since Nintendo believes that revealing the title of the sequel would be a spoiler, could that be our biggest hint towards this being a credible Breath of the Wild sequel theory?
Link’s longer hair, green outfit, and arm bear striking resemblances to both the mummified Ganondorf and the ancient hero referenced on tapestries in Breath of the Wild. Considering that we are never shown Link’s face in the sky, could it be a different character entirely? If Link turned out to be the hero of 10,000 years ago en route to the past to fulfill destiny, or a young humanoid Ganondorf as some have speculated, then that would also imply that the islands in the sky exist in a different time period. We never see those islands from the ground, so it feels a little plausible.
2. Skyward Sword links directly to Breath of the Wild 2
Zelda games seldom have direct connections to each other, but as this is a direct sequel it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to imagine it could, right? Link falling through the sky parallels the same pose he strikes in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Airborne islands haven’t been seen since that game either, and as Nintendo is currently pushing the HD remaster, could it have some potential relevance to the plot of the Breath of the Wild sequel?
The similarities don’t end there. We cannot see the sky islands from the ground. Could that imply that the Cloud Barrier established by goddess Hylia prior to the events of Skyward Sword is still in effect in Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule? Dragons in Breath of the Wild were spotted retreating into portals in the sky that bear resemblances to the portals seen in Skyward Sword too. If that wasn’t enough, the Japanese instruments that often accompanied the appearance of those dragons sounds similar to the instruments being used to play Zelda’s lullaby at the end of the new trailer.
Beyond this, I felt compelled to revisit a certain NPC that mentioned a desire to visit islands in the sky. While it may have just been a cute reference to Skyward Sword, is there a chance that those islands in the sky were always intended to be a part of Breath of the Wild’s world?
3. The Zonai tribe explains everything
The Zonai is an ancient tribe that is referenced but never seen in Breath of the Wild. Their ruins and spiral crest can be spotted all over Hyrule, including in the caves housing Ganondorf, and I believe their advanced magic capabilities provide a theory to explain the premise of the Breath of the Wild sequel and its floating islands. A repeated motif of the Zonai is their worship of dragons, as seen in the various dragon-shaped symbols on their stonework. Markings on the cave where Link fights match the markings seen on the sky islands, and Link’s dragon-shaped flamethrower appears to have teal-colored energy coursing through it.
This energy is visible in various places. Mummified Ganondorf was seemingly being imprisoned by a glowing arm with that same energy spiraling out of it. That arm can then be seen catching Link as he fails to grab Zelda’s hand. In the new trailer, we see Link’s arm being taken over by malice and then later resembling that very same teal-colored arm. If this arm were a Zonai device used to seal Ganondorf, then it would make sense that it could also halt the malice from taking over Link’s body. Given that we also see this energy powering a green mechanical creature in the sky, in addition to potentially the floating islands themselves, it lends even more credence to the Zonai’s involvement.
Speaking of the sky, the Zonai could explain these islands too. Structures and symbols visible on the sky islands match ruins seen on the ground. In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, the Wind Tribe moved to the clouds to become closer to their deities. If history repeats itself, could the Zonai have sought to follow their beloved dragons through the Cloud Barrier and relocate to the sky in order to be closer to them? Those islands have unnatural and angular shapes, including paths and structures that resemble Shinto Torii gates. If the Zonai believe the sky to be home to their dragon gods, then the holy influences on the visible architecture would add up.
4. Multiple playable characters, maybe
We hoped that the reveal trailer was hinting at a playable Zelda for the first time, but Nintendo may have dashed those dreams by plunging her into a dark abyss. However, if multiple time periods are involved, then perhaps there is still a chance. Zelda loves to research, and we’ve now seen multiple underground areas and ruins that would be her area of expertise. Link’s new abilities appear to be tied to his arm, so could a potential underground Zelda segment give her the Sheikah Slate that she’s been so familiar with too?
The only shots of Link in his Champion’s Tunic are on the surface of Hyrule. Is there some meaning to Nintendo showing that in contrast to his new outfit in the sky? Getting crazy for a second: What if the Link seen on solid ground is a placeholder asset to hide the fact that it’s a different character entirely? Admittedly, this Breath of the Wild sequel theory has the least to go on, but if the game is already playing with time, would playing with a different character really be too far a stretch?
5. We’ve already seen the new content coming
Nintendo was overflowing with ideas for the sequel, and it appears that some came from familiar places. Link using an arm as a weapon was already an idea seen in concept art for Breath of the Wild. The updated paraglider design that includes streamers to indicate wind direction was also from this concept art. If Nintendo is looking to the past to make Hyrule feel fresh all over again, then maybe we can dig deeper here too. Link’s new time rewinding and phasing abilities don’t appear to be runes tied to the Sheikah Slate. That opens the door to more abilities.
Link’s shield-mounted flamethrower doesn’t fit with the types of weapons we’re familiar with in Breath of the Wild. It’s also used in a shot of Link fighting a monster underground with a chest in the background. Perhaps this scene is alluding to the return of dungeons and gadgets. More concept art hinted at dungeon-like chambers, and I think the return of more elaborate puzzles and classic gadgets like the Hookshot in this iteration of Hyrule would dramatically spice up the proceedings. If the Master Sword is going to be out of commission for a while, we’ll need some new toys to replace it.
Hyrule itself has subtle visual changes. Death Mountain is no longer producing smoke, new debris can be spotted on Hyrule Field, some Zonai pillars are missing, and changes to familiar enemies suggest that Nintendo might have a lot more in store for combat in this sequel.
These were just some of the theories that got my mind racing about the sequel to Breath of the Wild. What are some of your theories?