The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom supercharge the series as Switch Zeldas account for 40% of all sales

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda has a legacy stretching back almost four decades, but the series is nowhere near ready for a mid-life crisis considering the Nintendo Switch entries account for 40% of all series sales.  

Nintendo released their fiscal year results just yesterday, where we received updated sales numbers for the Nintendo Switch itself (141.32 million units sold), alongside several Nintendo-published games. What's perhaps most notable from the data is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has now sold over 33.5 million copies (Wii U numbers included), while its sequel Tears of the Kingdom sits pretty with 20.60 million copies sold in less than a year

The two open-world romps are easily the best-selling games in the 38-year-old series, and once you include sales from the Link's Awakening remake and Skyward Sword HD remaster, over 40% of all Zelda sales came from Nintendo Switch outings. 

Nintendo properties normally have unbelievably long shelf lives - Pokemon and Mario are still at the peak of their popularity decades on - but what makes Zelda's recent performance so impressive is that, traditionally, the series hasn't performed like a blockbuster. 

Twitter user Pierre485 put together a handy graph breaking down the series' commercial history, embedded above, where we can see that past Zelda games usually sell half, or less than half, of what Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom managed. 

Maybe it's four decades of great game design paying off. Maybe Nintendo's open-world pivot and physics mayhem finally did the trick. Either way, I hope other publishers take note to invest in developers and unique ideas for the long-term - rather than axing studios at the first sign of trouble - because who knows? 40 years later, you might have a middle-aged-Zelda on your hands. 

Check out our upcoming Switch games guide for a look ahead at everything in the pipeline for Nintendo’s console.

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.