Executive Functioning in Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom


The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the latest installment of the famed adventure game franchise, is set to be released on Friday, May 12, 2023. At LearningWorks for Kids, The Legend of Zelda games are typically favorites. Our staff is really excited to play this game!


Taking place after the events of Breath of the Wild, what little has been revealed about the highly anticipated game seems to allude to the return of Ganondorf. Based on the teasers, there are a number of new abilities and actions that have never been seen in these puzzle games before. In advance of the release, there has been lots of speculation about how these new abilities will change gameplay. 


Puzzle games such as The Legend of Zelda are great for building up executive function skills and thinking skills. In particular, players need to call on their working memory skills: being able to hold and manipulate information in their minds. To keep track of all of the controls, the present challenge, short-term missions, and the overall trajectory of the game, players call on a lot of brain power. Additionally, players must engage in self-control skills, where they are controlling their behaviors and feelings in order to keep cool and make level-headed decisions. 


As Link, players have access to an Ability Wheel that can be used to manipulate objects and engage in novel actions. Not every new action has been revealed yet, but of what we know, here are our predictions for how each supports executive functions and thinking skills:


Fuse is a new ability that allows players to combine weapons with other objects to specialize them. The fused weapons will each have their own unique abilities. This feature supports the development of flexibility in players. Adaptability and improvisation, key aspects of flexibility, will be essential in adequately using the fuse feature, with quick thinking to form new creations that will best help Link stay ahead of his foes. 


Ascend, marked on the Ability Wheel by an icon resembling a U.F.O., allows Link to float up vertically through objects and barriers. Exactly how ascend works is still up in the air (ha!), but it seems as if players will be able to control where they’re headed. This ability engages focus and planning. The focus required for players to be intentional about where Link is headed will engage this skill. Additionally, players will call upon their planning skills as they strategize where and when to use this feature to accomplish their goals.


Another exciting new ability on the Ability Wheel is Recall. This feature will allow players to rewind time, in classic Legend of Zelda fashion. However, it seems to be an action that can happen in quick moments, such as rewinding a rock falling to shoot it back up. We anticipate this feature to support self-awareness skills in players. In using recall, players will need to judge their own performance in real time to make a decision about a rewind. The practice of responses to their own actions will boost this skill.


The last ability on the Ability Wheel that has been identified so far is Ultrahand. This feature allows players to manipulate objects and creatively construct them for different purposes, such as taking loose logs and assembling them into a raft. We expect ultrahand to support the development of skills such as flexibility and organization. Players will need to take a systematic approach in using this feature to build their creations. Additionally, they will need to be flexible and adapt to the materials around them in order to build properly. 

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom seems to elevate the already impressive world established in Breath of the Wild. The new features on the Ability Wheel will further serve to engage players in complex brain skills as they work to once again save Hyrule. We are excited to get our hands on the game on May 12th. Be sure to check back to see more content around this new game! Available soon will be online LW4K classes using The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom to teach executive functioning skills. While The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom promises to be a great and engaging game, our team at LW4K still advises parents to limit gameplay to 60-90 minutes per day. Perhaps even more importantly, alongside digital play, parents should continue to expect and insist that kids spend most of their time outdoors, active, and with other people.

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