Breath of the Wild, and Zelda games in general, are games in which there is a skill disparity between the canonical character and the player controlling them.
Legend of Zelda games are narrative-structured games; the story is the organizing device and the driving force behind all the elements the player encounters in the game. And unless you’re reading a choose-your-own-adventure book, there aren’t many narratives outside of video games in which the protagonist encounters a bunch of anticlimactic demises (and spontaneous resurrections unmentioned by the narrative) before striding confidently into the final showdown. If any Zelda game were a book, Link would go from his bed to the steps of Ganon’s fortress without a single “game over”.
So how do we rationalize the two narrative realities, the “perfect run” that represents the canonical course of events, and the multitude of hours we spend watching our character ragdoll from an explosion we can’t pretend we didn’t see coming?
I don’t have a good answer, but this train of thought came to me with the image of Zelda sitting tight in Hyrule Castle for a century, waiting for Link to get out of his regen tank, and fully assuming he’s going to surpass every single difficulty and trial along the way to get to her… i.e. not expecting the news that her most trusted and capable knight has perished after accidentally dropping a five-ton iron ball on their head once they were done utilizing it in a physics puzzle.
The conclusion I’ve reached is that the “canon-narrative” version of Link is the one who makes it from cryochamber to castle without a single game over; but who then are all the versions of Link that die tragic/stupid deaths from our own lack of skill? Aren’t they, in a way, more representative of us as players, as we spend way more time embodying them than the one time we get it all right?
There are many other video games that unite the narrative with the player experience by utilizing the “growth of a hero” narrative; you start shitty and git gud over the course of the game, just as you the player learn the controls, strategy, and in-game systems. I wonder what games out there effectively incorporate the meta-reality of game-overs? (Besides Undertale of course, y’all calm down).
(Edited by Chocomarsh)