Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the sequel to 2017’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Following the events of the first game, Link and Zelda are off exploring ruins when they inadvertently awaken an ancient evil that completely changes up the landscape. Massive chasms form underground, giant stone structures take to the sky, and the land of Hyrule is turned into three floors of chaos. Zelda herself disappears in a flash of light during the madness leaving Link to discover what happened, where (or when) Zelda disappeared, and why this is all happening.
It’s also one of Nintendo's fastest-selling games ever setting sales records left and right meaning that I guarantee you, if your child owns a Switch, they’ve heard of this game. (It’s also marketed REALLY heavily in the Switch’s built-in news channel.)
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom parents guide
So is the game appropriate for kids? We break down everything you need to know.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom violence
The vast majority of your interaction with baddies in the game is communicated with melee weapons, arrows, and a variety of strange energy weapons. Enemies exist all over the massive game world ready to throw down at a moments notice.
While the in-game violence is a little cartoony in the sense that enemies explode in a puff of smoke when defeated, the cut scenes paint a different story with an opening that features one character getting a massive burning cut across their cheek that bubbles and the main character (spoiler alert) losing an entire arm.
Also, this game does not feature health drops like a lot of other Legend of Zelda games of the past so most of the time you have to cook food for yourself so you have things on hand to restore health. It heavily promotes having to hunt some of the wildlife in the game.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom creepiness
The vast majority is big, bright, colorful, and cartoonish. Adorable creatures litter the landscapes. But this makes the moments where something unpleasant shows up all the more uncomfortable.
The opening scene has Link and Zelda awaken a mummified being who bends backward and suddenly looks into the camera with a scream and glowing red eyes. An object flies at it that cuts its cheek causing it to boil violently. My nine-year-old called him “Bandy-man, sizzle-cheeks." If you want to see the scene it’s about eight minutes into the intro here:
In the game itself, some of the larger bosses and enemies can be unsettling. Like-Likes, for example, are large blobs capable of stretching and creating an opening filled with teeth that can consume Link whole. The desert is home to hideous sand sharks. There are also enemies called the “Gloom Hands” which are literally a sentient pile of slime with several arms that reach out and grab you that move like the kind of gross slime monster Studio Ghibli loves.
And if your kid loves being on the edge of their seat, they’re sure to love the Blood Moon. Every so often, the moon in the sky will become red. You’ll know it's happening because the music will progressively get creepier until it’s actually playing in reverse. Red ambers will float through the sky. And when the blood moon finally shows up this cut scene plays:
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom diversity
Despite being a life long Nintendo fan, I have to admit that diversity is hard to come by in Nintendo games. There is a wide variety of races in the game but the Hylians, the ones that are the most human-esque in nature, raise some questions.
At first you might pull that thing Lord of the Rings fans do when they state “elves and hobbits aren’t human, they’re only the one way” (which is not great, to be honest) and apply that to the elf-like Hylians, but there are, in fact, Hylians of different skin tones. There are some that have features that align with various human ethnicity. Which makes it even more noticeable when they’re regulated to the diversity ratio of a gated community.
Nintendo also continues its trend of not being very LGTBQIA+ friendly in the sense that all the relationships shown in the game are hetero with nuclear families. No single parents, no same-sex couples. Just many one-man/one-woman and 0-3 kid setups. A bit disappointing.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom romance
Unlike the Legend of Zelda games of the NES era where the story was mostly “awake Zelda with a kiss” type stuff, the modern games try to keep the relationship between Link and Zelda fairly ambiguous. Link acts more along the lines of a royal retainer to Zelda. And with Link’s absolute insistence on never having any lines you’re not going to get any comments to prove you otherwise. Though, it is interesting that Link’s house is now filled with things like Zelda’s diary and Zelda’s hairband.
Most of the other relationships in the game are about as romantic as watching your neighbors. They’ll complain about work or focus more on their kids. Sometimes you’ll see a hug. Even the couple whose lore you're investigating, a relationship between a towering Zonai and a Zelda-esque Hylian, while raising certain probability questions, never seems to dwell past a hand-on-the-shoulder type contact.
The one moment in which this isn’t the case is in the Gerudo series where Link can volunteer to help a class of young women learn to talk to a male romantically. It’s nothing lewd or anything but my nine-year-old was like, “they don’t make you actually do this in school right?”
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom substance usage
Smoking and drinking do exist in this game’s universe but it’s very rare. One of the regular NPCs you encounter has something that looks like a pipe in her hand but if she’s ever seen using it, I missed it. And you’ll see scattered things that elude that there might be alcohol somewhere but there’s not really bars or anything of the like.
The closest thing is a scene in the Goron village in which they’ve uncovered this strange meat-like substance that makes their eyes go red and they get really hungry which...we were all 20 once. But beyond that, it’s not really heavy on that sort of thing.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom swearing
Nope, no swearing here. This is a main-line Nintendo game. The harshest word you’ll see in this game is “fools." You’re safe. There’s even an item that you can collect that is essentially golden poop. The game goes out of its way to let you know what it is while avoiding saying “poop” like they have a shock collar on.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom microtransactions
Luckily, Tears of the Kingdom is microtransaction free. This is one of those brilliant games where there’s a ton of cosmetics and things of that sort but you have to find it for yourself. The closest thing to microtransactions the game currently has is through the usage of Amiibos, Nintendo's little statues.
If you happen to have any (I have around 80, don’t judge) you can use each one once a day to make an assortment of items rain down from the sky. It’s nothing you can’t unlock in the game though so if your kid feels like they NEED an Amiibo for the stuff, let them know it’s all found in the game.
Though I will fully admit, Amiibos look really really cool so if they just want a small statue of the character, 15 bucks for a small statue is pretty great.
If it’s like Breath of the Wild before it, there will probably be an expansion pass down the road that adds new stories and features to the game but that’s way too far off to speculate on.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom positive messages
The game is filled with positive messages. Link runs around the massive open world doing good things for people, often with little to no reward. He’s doing it to make the world better. It’s somewhat Taoist in that regard.
The fact that so many puzzles in this game allow you to put things together to make machines of your own design push an engineering mind frame that really seems to capture the creativity of children and make them feel really good when their design works like they had hoped. If they have a hard time coming up with what they might need to build, the necessary parts are always right near by.
It also encourages listening and paying attention as the dialogue of the characters, if paid attention to, often clues the player in on where various things can be.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom negative messages
While the game is mostly positive there are two gripes I had.
One, there are these puzzles in which you have to get the Korok (little leaf guys) with giant backpacks from point A to point B and you can do this however you can think to get them there. If you can gently carry them, fine. But if you want to strap them to a missile and fire it so it explodes in their friend’s tent, that’s also fine. While the missions are you helping, you’ll often see that the solutions people come up with are the equivalent of helping an old lady across the street by throwing her in a shopping cart and shoving it so it rolls across the street. It works but...does it?
Two, there are no “de-escalation moments." All enemies in the game are defeated by destroying them. While this makes sense since a lot of them are essentially nothing more than summoned familiars, there are some enemies that are notably sentient and it would be really interesting if there were a few moments where Link talked his way out of a fight instead of just killing all who oppose him.
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom age barriers
The controls can be a little tricky for some kids. Most fights have you holding down a lock-on button while using one button to dodge and one to attack. Archery requires good usage of double stick mechanics. And if you want to shield surf, you have to hold down ZR and while holding it down, gain some forward movement, and then jump in the air with X and then A before you hit the ground. It’s a complex action that needs to be done in less than a second many of the times you attempt it.