Every year I lament that the staff get to write lists in ascending order and we cannot.
Here's a story about my time with Breath of the Wild. I was messing around near the bridge over Lake Hylia (near where you start the game). Suddenly, the sky started to glow a greenish gold and I looked up to see this enormous dragon snaking in and out of the clouds. I was just awe struck. I had no idea that it was even in the game and it was the moment that I realised just how big and mysterious Hyrule was - in that moment the game seemed infinite. I remember staring at it, still awestruck, trying to keep pace. I was just trying to hold on to this moment for as long as possible, knowing how special it was and knowing it would be over soon.
On the subject of glowing things in the distance. Night after night in Zelda I'd see this strange blue glow in the distance, on the top of the mountain. One night I decided to take the long trek over. I was entirely unprepared to find to Lord of Mountain. I just stared at it for a little while until finally I decided to move into the clearing. The whole surreal scene disappeared. I never went back to the mountain after that - I'd solved the mystery, it seemed best to just leave the mountain and it's Lord alone.
And how could I forget the time I got hopelessly lost in the mountains above Kakariko Village for hours looking for a shrine I had marked on the map? I don't think I ever did find the shrine, but I'll always remember fondly sprinting down a mountain away from a Stone Talus, into a pack of Moblins and just panicking the whole time.
Early on in the game I decided to make a run at Hyrule Castle -just to see what would happen. I spent an hour sneaking and sprinting between and away from enemies that could kill me with a glance. I got right up to Ganon and came out the whole thing with enough loot to keep me set for the next dozen hours of play time.
One evening I just decided that I would go find the Master Sword. I knew it was in the Lost Woods and I knew the Lost Woods was somewhere north. So I set off, not really knowing what to expect. The whole trip was the kind of grand adventure Breath of the Wild is so good at creating, but what sticks out to me is the Master Sword, this grand relic of the series, reconfigured as something to be found, stumbled upon in the world, a mystery and a challenge borne from your own curiosity. I've pulled that sword out of that pedestal a lot of times now, but this time was the best.
There's so much to like here. The soundtrack is super good (the Lost Woods theme is one of the best tracks in the entire series). It isn't perfect - I think the dungeons are honestly kind of bad and the shrines don't substitute for traditional Zelda dungeons, but when I think back on my time with the game none of that matters. A pleasant surprise for me was the writing; yes, the main story is super bad, but the set up is fascinating and there's a really charming sense of humour and all the NPCs are charming in a way that feels pulled straight from Wind Waker.
I hit 50 hours and half the shrines done in BOTW and then went and beat Ganon. I did this because I couldn't bear the thought of actually finishing the game, of having nothing left to see. I wanted to save some for another time.
It probably isn't my favourite Zelda game - but expecting it to compete against the weight of fond memory I have for Wind Waker and Ocarina is ridiculous and unfair. But this is a remarkable game and to somebody somewhere this is their Ocarina of Time and that is a rare, special thing.