I haven’t beaten Tears of the Kingdom yet. I also don’t think I want to. I don’t have anywhere near as much time in it as I should, between work commitments and a short family trip, but I’m over 60 hours now and I feel like I should be nearing a place in my heart where I want to see things wrap up. But I don’t even have the slightest twinge. Finishing Tears of the Kingdom’s story feels completely against the way I’ve chosen to enjoy its beautiful and gigantic world. It’s the first game since Red Dead Redemption 2 to make me feel like I never want it to end, and only the third game I’ve deliberately avoided finishing in spite of absolutely loving it.
The other two are the aforementioned Red Dead 2, and before that, Metal Gear Solid V. They all have something in common: all three of them completely overtook all my free time at the expense of all other games. In the case of Tears of the Kingdom, in spite of my relatively limited play time, I’ve gotten less sleep, completed fewer of my weekly tasks, and basically fallen behind in life just a little bit. And I’m OK with that! Sinks were made to have dishes piled up in them. I believe it’s in the original patent. Maybe I should look that up.
Both Red Dead 2 and MGS5, and now Tears, presented me with a world where I was basically free to wander and do whatever I pleased without needing to progress the story. I never even opened up the full map on RDR2 in spite of having over 150 hours in it, because I was just enjoying the world, the setting, the way it made me feel like I was actually on the last vestiges of the American frontier and living a life as someone would have in the turn of the 20th century. Metal Gear was like a giant playset and I had all my GI Joes in there with the best vehicles and weapons, and I constantly revisited guard posts and story missions to try and get that elusive S-rank on all of them (all of them I’d already completed, at least). Tears of the Kingdom is a magical combination of both those things. It’s a toy box filled with the funnest LEGO sets I can stick together to create weird and often ridiculous creations. It’s a world with increasingly difficult enemies, who drop tantalizing rewards after defeat, sparking a curiosity in me that wants to see what results I can come up with after fusing them to my weapons.
But then there are three different complimentary layers: the sky world, with its golden hues straight out of Greek mythology, the newly changed Hyrule that manages to feel unfamiliar in spite of being essentially the same map from the first game, and the depths. The depths are where I feel the most rewarded for my exploration, with only slices of it being visible until the activation of a lightroot, and even then it’s merely a tiny sliver of the entire underworld map. Each section almost feels like it could stand on its own, and to be fair, Hyrule did, but then there are caves and shrines and dungeons and gigantic monsters and side-quests and armor pieces to find and collect and upgrade.
It’s just so tremendous, the wizardry involved in making it always feel fun is astonishing to me. I never suffer from a crisis of choice, nor do I ever feel like I’m making my way through big empty areas. I love Ghost of Tsushima quite a bit, but as gorgeous as that world is, it did sometimes feel empty to me. Not so in Tears. Everything is exactly placed to maximize satiating my curiosity without feeling barren nor overcrowded.
The immense opportunities to enjoy Tears of the Kingdom outside of its main story are keeping me extremely busy. And I’m loving it. I look forward to playing it at every opportunity I have. It’s a joy to play, and as much as I love the story it tells and the way it tells it, I don’t have any desire to see it wrapped up any time soon. I’m still having way too much fun.
Seth Macy is Executive Editor, IGN Commerce, and just wants to be your friend. You can find him hosting the Nintendo Voice Chat podcast.