Lost Futures: In the Presence of Long-lost Civilisations in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild


The long-lost, ancient civilisation that somehow had technology that far surpasses the current level is a common trope in videogames that feature large, open worlds. The Mass Effect trilogy (2007; 2010; 2012) features the Protheans, whose unparalleled feats of technology and engineering such as the mass relays laid the foundations for the galaxy Shepard steps into. Horizon Zero Dawn (2017) explores a primitive world littered with technological marvels left by the Old Ones. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) is centred around the Ancient Sheikah society, who 10,000 years prior to the game’s setting had developed teleportation between towers and shrines, powerful runes, and even a motorbike. Their technology was later used to build the giant mechanical Divine Beasts and Guardians. All this while the warriors of the day are still using steel swords. In this paper, I explore the reasons for and the effect of this trope in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, particularly how it changes the configuration of the gameworld, and how the player’s experience is shaped by it. My examination is framed around five intertwined terms and their theoretical context: Hauntology, presence, absence, lost futures, and nostalgia.