Similar to the original Legend of Zelda (1986), players are given little instruction and can explore the open world freely. Tasks include collecting multipurpose items to aid in objectives or solving puzzles and side quests for rewards. The world is unstructured and designed to reward experimentation, and the story can be completed in a nonlinear fashion.
Development of Breath of the Wild lasted five years. Wanting to reinvent the series, Nintendo introduced elements such as a detailed physics engine, high-definition visuals, and voice acting. Monolith Soft, known for their work in the open-world Xenoblade Chronicles series, assisted in designing landscapes and topography. The game was planned for release in 2015 as a Wii U exclusive, but was delayed twice. Released on March 3, 2017, Breath of the Wild was a launch game for the Switch and the final Nintendo-published game for the Wii U. Two downloadable content expansions were released later in 2017.
Breath of the Wild received acclaim for its open-ended gameplay and attention to detail, and has been cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. Critics called it a landmark in open-world design, despite minor criticism for its technical performance at launch. It won numerous awards, including several game of the year honors. The game had sold over 19 million copies by 2020, making it the bestselling Zelda game and one of the best-selling games of all time. A sequel was announced at E3 2019 and is in development.