The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom accessibility review

Jeremy Peeples7 minute read

When the Switch launched in 2017, it couldn’t have had a better killer app than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW). This fully open-world adventure harkened back to the original NES game with a wide-open area to explore and a more open variety of weaponry available. Changing the formula up dramatically, but keeping things familiar enough. Its sequel takes everything that worked about BotW and expands it. It makes Tears of the Kingdom a more user-friendly experience overall, but it still lacks accessibility.

Improving on its sequel

There are more anti-frustration features in Tears of the Kingdom thanks to the new powers enabling Link to build things. This essentially brings a new skill set to the mix thanks to the physics system. Allowing players to build items to both traverse the world and take out enemies with great efficiency. Creating things like rolling carts to send onto foes, or create makeshift flamethrowers feels very rewarding.

Link using the autobuild power. It shows a ghostly purple model of a hot air balloon, which needs 6 zoanite to create the missing components.

Cooking and eating food in BotW allowed Link to get buffs, but it was clunky because recipes were not saved. Tears of the Kingdom solves that problem by giving the player recipes to work with after they make a dish. This allows them to be made faster, just by selecting them when you have the materials needed. Having as many streamlined options as possible makes the game flow so much better than BotW. Improvements to weaponry take some of the frustration out of that game’s weapon durability.


Tears of the Kingdom is far more giving when it comes to weapons. They are more generously scattered around the environment than the predecessor. That helps cut down on frustrating moments where you’re in combat and just get killed because your only weapon breaks. The game has more thrilling moments pitting Link against large hordes since there are many more ways to take out enemies. Whether it’s with regular weapons or homegrown stuff, like rolling carts of death or makeshift flamethrowers. Being able to explore the skies, the depths, and the regular land area from BotW brings a new sense of scale to the adventure and increases the enjoyment of the experience. As a whole, TotK is a far more fun experience overall thanks to overhauling the weapons and including new powers.

The power selection wheel, showing Fuse is selected. The rest of the screen is blurred and the game paused while this radial menu is open.

Being able to merge things together to forge new weapons is fun. Using it to add status effects to a shield or sword increasing its damage. The increase in flame-reliant weaponry is nice because it allows the player to do things like set up fire traps. This allows them to take out larger foes or hordes and with more ease than before.


When it comes to getting worn down by constant battles, the sequel improves things with a greater emphasis on environmental exploration. Using the tools and clothing items you find makes combat far easier than before. Having more powerful gear makes you feel overpowered to some degree, but it’s still rewarding. You not only feel an increase in your combat efficiency, but also that the exploration is worth the time. Thankfully, the game’s map has been improved with more kinds of markers, making traversing the world easier. A straight line way point system would be nice, but what’s here still works well enough for going from A to B.

A portion of the map, with a marker being played. There's a selecting of 10 stamps, where 300 can be placed in total.
There are 6 different colored markers which can also be seen in the game world but only placed one at a time.

Puzzles and strategy

There is room for improvement as a whole. Something like an auto-puzzle solver would be nice to have in a game like this, with puzzles being a barrier. Solutions are vague when it comes to relying on in-game context clues.

Thankfully, the many puzzles in the shrines and strategies for taking out bosses are a lot easier to get a hold of now. But there should be more information given to the player. A lot of the game’s smaller mechanics, like weather-resistant clothing and health buffs aren’t explained all that well. This can lead to the player wasting valuable in-game resources with mediocre recipes. A better optimized system would help all players.

A shrine with several tiers surrounded by moats, enemies on rafts float around. Link is levitating a greenly lit crate, a blue-green beam arcing from him to the crate. Other interactable items are lit up in yellowy orange.

Overwhelming controls

The game’s use of all buttons and the gyroscope can make things hard for anyone with a fine-motor issue. You can’t automate much in the game and avoiding rapid-fire button presses are a must in order to prevent joint fatigue. But this is impossible without a third-party controller, and a risky tactic due to weapon breakage. Having an option to turn off weapon durability or keep it on, but have invincibility would be a huge help. As it stands, the game’s combat with a gyroscope enabled is pretty easy in some ways thanks to better aiming. But is still something that requires a fair amount of dexterity.

Tears of the Kingdom still lacks accessibility in combat system for anyone with fine-motor issues. And combat is key to making any major progress in the game. The game holds true for puzzle-solving, which is what you’ll be doing a lot of in shrines and dungeons alongside combat. Nintendo has done remarkable work making titles more accessible, but both mainline Zelda titles on the Switch have faltered. Options for difficulty adjustments, turning off weapon durability, or lowering boss HP and damage taken would help immensely. Lack of any of these options results in a largely inaccessible experience.

Visuals and audio

Visually, everything looks similar enough to Breath of the Wild to be familiar to returning players. Textures have been given an upgrade and that’s no small feat given the much larger scale of this adventure. This entry keeps traditions alive like bold text and different colored text being used for important words.

Tears of the Kingdom makes traversal easier thanks to the improved map system. Having more kinds of icons to use and a better way point system to guide players is a big help. Especially with the scope of the game being so much larger than the prior one. Tears of the Kingdom does leave room for improvement when it comes to accessibility though. Colorblind options still aren’t available, and things like a color guide showing an enemy’s weak point would be nice too. Text size also can’t be adjusted and that feels like an oversight for a game with so much of it.

Sidon is talking to Link while sludge is falling down behind them. Subtitles in white text on a darkened background read: What has happened, my friend? Did you figure something out?

Audio-wise, Tears of the Kingdom is spectacular across the board. It’s got a solid amount of voice acting throughout. All of the dialogue has subtitles so that deaf and hard-of-hearing players can enjoy the it. The soundtrack is epic but would truly benefit from visual indicators of at least some of the sound effects used. The sound effects are a key giveaway that a boss battle is coming up. Just having that little bit of extra time to prepare items for fusing or health can make a big difference. The lack of warning means you can be thrown into battle without chance of survival and have to backtrack needlessly. Visual indicators could also help getting a sense for louder weapons being slower, instead of only having visual feedback.


Overall it is a marked improvement over BotW when it comes to the core game. But Tears of the Kingdom doesn’t improve when it comes to improving the accessibility of the gameplay. There is room for improvement across the board as things like weapon durability and limited resources are still a problem. Those frustrations have been eased a bit compared to the prior entry thanks to an improved UI.

On the visual side of things, graphical improvements to the world and UI make it easier to make progress. But there is a need for a colorblind features. The inclusion of voice acting alongside full subtitles is fantastic for deaf and hard of hearing players. More care is needed to include visual indicators of sound effects.

Rigidity in its design is the key enemy of Tears of the Kingdom. The foundation is there for a game that can be action and puzzle-heavy and still provide an accessible experience. The final product is inaccessible outside of the game’s earliest guided moments and a small portion of its open area. Unfortunately, given that BotW never got improvements to remedy these issues, it’s unlikely that its sequel will. Thus it’s impossible to recommend one of Nintendo’s best games ever due to its lack of accessibility features. Some games can get by without having accessibility options because the game design is accessible, but Tears of the Kingdom isn’t one of them.

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