It’s no surprise that Legend of Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom has gone on to become one of Nintendo’s fastest-selling games. The reveal of Link’s newest ability, which involves fusing items to make new weapons and vehicles, has breathed new life into the creativity of the franchise. This ambitious design decision has had everyone running wild with inventive new creations that showcase a vast variety of ways to tackle this new mechanical approach to problem-solving.
Like a lot of Legend of Zelda titles, many of the game’s ideas have appeared in other titles, but have been brought to a mainstream audience through the mythical world of Hyrule. So for those that are itching for more open-ended puzzles with a wealth of possibilities, here are some titles that follow similar design philosophies.
While vehicle-based puzzle solving has seemingly been brought to the mainstream with the introduction of Tears of the Kingdom, indie projects have been experimenting with mechanical approaches to design for much longer. Trailmakers exemplifies this by placing objectives in hard-to-reach areas across an open world that is designed, from the ground up, to make use of player-created machines.
Each of these objectives has unidentified items waiting at their destinations. Once scavenged at a stationary workbench, these items increase the utility and customization options for vehicles, which allow for greater excursions. Trailmakers ends up playing like a Metroidvania with the freedom to approach goals from any route.
8 Lego Bricktales
Lego seems like an obvious comparison to Tears of The Kingdom's imaginative player-led structural approach to puzzle design, but very few Lego video games take advantage of the toy’s biggest appeal, building. Bricktales, once again, makes this the focus of a solid little adventure game where experimental designs are used to manipulate environments and help characters solve various problems.
Just like with a real Lego set, you are given the pieces to create a simple creation but there is so much flexibility in how these blocks can be used. There’s also a big emphasis on structural integrity when it comes to building. Bricks act as brittle as their real-world counterparts which adds a nice level of challenge to each scenario.
One of the most underrated aspects of Tears' expansive and creative design is the ability to share any number of unique stories about overcoming challenges, which, instead of providing spoilers, encourages experimental minds. It'd be pretty neat if there was a multilayer vehicle construction game that could further enhance these elements.
TerraTech not only provides this experience, but it expands upon Nintendo's building system with circuits and systems that allow for a greater level of customization over a vehicle's functions and customizability. The utilization of these creations has also been amplified, as challenges range from exploration to full-on combat against other machines.
If you're looking for a hardcore, in-depth approach to vehicle creation, Stormworks has you covered. This puzzle-simulation hybrid revolves around emergency vehicles that are used to solve complex rescue missions in harsh environmental conditions.
One of the biggest additions Stormworks adds to the building formula is its automation system, as many elements of a vehicle can essentially be programmed to increase their functionality. On top of this, there are a lot of realistic management mechanics to sink your teeth into, like engine construction, which utilizes throttle, temperature, and charge gauges.
5 Fantastic Contraption
This VR vehicle construction game has a simple premise: use the materials provided to get an item to its destination in a safe and secure manner. The immersive perspective and user-friendly approach to construction make gameplay feel like one of those team-building exercises where students create structures out of straws and noodles.
The medium of games allows this concept to be expanded upon with different materials that can be used to create a wide variety of different machines. With the addition of virtual reality, building, and experimentation can happen within the confines of a real space, which helps measure up the utility of creations in an accessible manner.
Hailed as one of the most inventive puzzle games ever created, Scribblenauts provides a sandbox that allows you to conjure up any item that exists in the dictionary. From the second title onwards, descriptors can be used to combine the almost infinitely large item roster with an equal amount of secondary abilities.
Puzzles themselves often have simple solutions, but more rewards are given for thinking outside the box. Sometimes scenarios are as simple as providing a great birthday party and other times it's about stopping dragons from causing death and destruction. But, no matter what, it's always fun to see the effects of imaginative creations in action.
3 Doodle God
Tears of The Kingdom’s Fuse ability instantly reminded me of the classic 2010 mobile game Doodle God, a game about combining elements to create the structure of the universe. While the concept is grand, it's an incredibly accessible game that allows you to experiment with hundreds of combinations.
Doodle God is a great accompaniment for players that may feel overwhelmed by Zelda’s fuze ability, as it breaks down this experimental mechanic to its simplest form with the use of casual point-and-click gameplay.
2 Ctrl Alt Ego
When it comes to experimentation within the video game format, Ctrl Alt Ego pushes the boundaries of possibility with a staggering amount of underlying systems that allow for almost every object in the game to be manipulated through a first-person perspective. This creates a variety of reactions and possibilities when it comes to overcoming challenges. Add in a plethora of distinct robots with the ability to change properties, and you get a satisfying logic-based environmental puzzle game.
Mechanically speaking, Ctrl Alt Ego has more in common with games like Deus Ex and Prey than Tears of The Kingdom, but the level of creativity that can be utilized in each of these titles are comparable, and it's what makes Link's latest adventure feel so fresh in a modern gaming landscape.
1 Grow Home
Instead of focusing on experimental puzzle design, the last game on this list is focused on considering the logistics of climbing and gliding, two of the biggest modern Zelda staples. Lin- I mean Bud the Robot, traverses across multiple sky islands by climbing up a series of interconnected vines that are controlled seamlessly by swinging in any given direction.
Its emphasis on environmental manipulation adds a level of creative forethought to each climbing challenge. The movement and environmental puzzle design feels surprisingly similar to Breath of The Wild, which is pretty impressive considering it was released a year prior.