You Know, 'Horizon: Zero Dawn' Sorta Got Screwed By 'Breath of the Wild'


A few hours into The Frozen Wilds, last year’s winter-themed expansion for Horizon: Zero Dawn, everything clicked again. As time slowed, my aim proved true. Arrows whizzed through the air, plucking components off the mechanical beast screaming in front of me. A deftly-timed dodge provided a brief opening to lay a trap in the path of a sprinting beast, the ensuing explosion buying us just enough time to catch our breath. Horizon was—is—a very good game, The Frozen Wilds is a very good expansion, and all that hung in my mind when my fight with a few snapmaws concluded was this idea:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


I played Zelda first and it took everything open world games did before, and made its own mark. Everything in the world could be explored or interacted with. Getting out of a jam by lighting the grass on fire to create an updraft to fly away, or tossing a sword near an enemy to attract lightning during a storm - everything about that world felt like it was my toy to play with.

Horizon felt like it perfected everything about pre-Breath of the Wild open world games. For less than a week, it might have been a nearly perfect open world game. It’s problem is that we live in a post-Zelda world now, and to go back and not be able to climb everything or visit everything seems archaic. To not be able to creatively get out of jams seems stifling. To have the game tell you where you have to go makes the game feel bossy. Everything in that game felt like I had done it before.

There’s the saying that people don’t know what they want, they want what they know. Horizon was the open world game we knew. It hit all of the right notes for the genre we knew and it did it better than before. If it came out in November, it’s the 2016 Game of the Year.

Because of Zelda, it will be a footnote. There will be other Horizon games, and maybe they’ll be remembered fondly, but the original will always be in the shadow of Breath of the Wild.


The comparisons between these two were inevitable given that the community still often thinks of “open-world games” as a very specific sub-genre as opposed to an incredibly vague umbrella term, but they couldn’t be more different and service entirely different audiences, console exclusivity aside. BOTW is heavy on puzzles, light on story and characters, and more concerned with scope and scale of the world as opposed to environmental detail and graphical prowess. Horizon is the opposite in every department.

Both games did so well commercially and critically because they were satisfying very different niches (and, once again, people with different consoles) and it’s disheartening that we still have this urge to pit games against each other just because they both happen to allow the player the opportunity to explore an open area, even when the similarities stop there.


I can only speak for myself, obviously, but I think the Horizon and Zelda comparison goes beyond mere pitting two similar-ish games that released close to one another. For me, playing Zelda before Horizon actively reduced my enjoyment of the latter game. I kept asking myself why I couldn’t just climb the various barriers in Horizon’s world, or why the HUD seemed so excessive and intrusive, or simply why I just didn’t feel anything about the world. Zelda spoiled me, and suddenly I was not interested in the Far Cry-style open world paradigm that Horizon was built in. I can certainly acknowledge the craft of Horizon and the impressiveness of the final product, but it just didn’t have enough for me to find the experience all that memorable.

I dunno, it feels akin to when Call of Duty 4 dropped and, suddenly, I could not care about any other shooters. CoD4 just felt so new, so fresh, that everything else felt staid by comparison. I feel like we’re at a similar inflection point for open world games, and Zelda is leading the charge.


I hear the climbing point come up a lot in discussions about these games and like I think I see where people are coming from but it’s a weird point when you think about how the worlds are each built in a specific way and both are valid. I would’ve found it kind of funny if Aloy has the ability to scale ridiculous mountain ranges at will (also it’s just not really necessary for traversal most of the time), but it doesn’t seem strange in a game like BOTW where there are also magic magnet abilities and dragons flying around and all that. Also Horizon has some of the most HUD customization options I’ve ever seen, which I really appreciated.

But yeah the story didn’t connect with a lot of people the way it did for me (still thinks it’s probably last year’s best), and that’s fine. Just saw a lot of takes about these two games and like, just let them coexist


I’d feel bad about it if Horizon had any interest in being respectful to Aboriginal culture.


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For what Horizon: Zero Dawn does, though, it does really well! I love Zelda (it was my personal GOTY), but HZD is still a fantastic game that everyone should experience. Does it feel a little archaic thanks to Zelda? A little. But I still think it’s an incredible, well-polished experience that is worthy of some attention.


Between Horizon, Nier, and BOTW, 2017 was a busy year for good games that we had to occasionally roast for including some questionable shit


HZD to me was “We made a really good open world game with simple monster hunter gameplay and UBIsoft style systems”.

Breath of the wild was “Yo, lets rethink how open world works”


Did someone say Battleborn? I could have sworn I heard “Battleborn”. Jokes aside, HZD sold 4 mil copies, it ain’t a flop, folks love it a lot. I think maybe, as Patrick noted, his personal circle has more adult nintendudes and dudettes and other folks.


I think back to Horizon more often than I do to BotW, and I have FAR more hours sunk into BotW. The imagery of HZD is just more stunning. Both are amazing games, both top of the class, but yeah, if you haven’t given Horizon a shot you definitely should. It’s amazing.


2017 was totally a year of “this game is great!” till about six months later once all the takes were in, then “This game is problematic and not actually that good. Let’s never speak positively of it again.”

Sigh. I’ll still remember you at you’re best, Persona 5.

That said I do have to roll my eyes at how John Gonzalez did all this in Horizon after doing nearly the same thing and getting the same criticism for the Fallout: New Vegas Honest Hearts DLC. And the worst part with that was you could really see where they were getting so close to actually making interesting critique of colonialism.


Eh. What @Devour said. But on that note, Zelda still has some kinda racist shit in there, plus Link in girls clothes is such a powder keg of a topic that I definitely don’t have the experience to cover that this topic becomes which is more aggressive with it’s shittiness.

Ultimate Horizon wins out there due to the writer for it having made a career of using natives as window dressing and that aspect of it being absolutely in your face the entire game instead of small spots of shittiness.


If the writers response to the criticism had been better I’d maybe feel a little better about the game as it makes efforts in other areas of representation that the other problematic games of 2017 flat out don’t but alas he couldn’t just own up to the fact he fucked up


That’s the main reason I don’t like cutting Horizon slack. Nobody learned anything from the criticism and he’s just gonna keep doing this shit next game he’s on.


For sure. Though I don’t doubt for a moment that Nintendo, Atlus, and Square Enix will do the exact same and have far more excuses made for them so personally (And I do just mean personally this a matter where people will have to draw their own lines) I’d put them all on about the same level


They’re all generally better at it, though, because none of them make their shity stuff the main premise of the ga-oh wait I just remembered Catherine nevermind for Atlus.


Hmm. This basically just a dabate on who precisely is the ruler of shit mountain but I would say Persona 5’s sexism is constant and awful and the same of Nier and BOTW has a pretty good dose of Transmisogyny, racism, plan old sexism, and homphobia on top of all that so saying any of them is actually any better seems like a stretch to me personally but I’m also not sure it matters


I got 2 days into Horizon (after hurrying through the last bit of Nioh) before Nier came out and took a month of my life, after which Persona came out and took another month of my life, and then I didn’t really want to play Horizon anymore. It was just the least memorable game in a mountain of good first quarter releases.

Although I’ve found myself saying the same thing about Breath of the Wild, but at some point that’s just my distaste for open world games in general coming through.


Funny thing: because I had a PS4 and didn’t feel like rolling the dice for a launch Switch (which ended up being a good thing given the desyncing controller issues), I went all in at HZD at launch and never regretted it. Now it’s a year later, I have a Switch, and I’ve been slowly working my way through BOTW.

I guess the reason people compare the two, besides the obvious parallels, is that they’re both huge timesinks – BOTW more than HZD, but I still put 80+ hours into HZD. It’s a lot easier to not compare games that look similar, when you actually have the time and resources to play both, and that is 100% not the case for many of the best games from last year.

That said: yes, they’re games that are trying to accomplish very different things. HZD is almost completely focused on hunting and combat, whereas BOTW seems to be focused on exploration. Frankly, I think I’d like BOTW better if it was just a walking and cooking simulator, because the combat feels terrible, and weapon breakage makes it often too risky.