Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Film and TV references we spotted

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom features lovingly detailed worldbuilding that pays homage to some well-known films and TV shows.

Have you been playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, when suddenly something makes you go ‘Hmm, I think I’ve seen that before?’ Maybe those sky islands look particularly Ghibli-esque, or maybe the shattered Master Sword reminds you of a certain shattered sword in Lord of the Rings.

Well, we noticed those too. Here are all the film and TV references we spotted (so far) in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Note: it’s not confirmed if any of these are intentional, but they sure look like homages to us.

More on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom:
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The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review roundup
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Princess Mononoke and Laputa: Castle in the Sky

The Studio Ghibli stalwarts of Princess Mononoke and Laputa feature a protagonist with a cursed arm helping a princess, and floating islands inhabited by ancient technology, respectively. In Tears of the Kingdom, you play as Link, hero of the Zelda franchise, who has recently lost an arm to the mummified corpse of Ganon. Link is once again tasked with rescuing Princess Zelda, and he begins this quest by leaping off a giant sky island filled with ancient technology.

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The Lord of the Rings

In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Aragorn finds the legendary shards of Narsil in Rivendell. While still sharp, the blade is totally unusable … unless it gets repaired somehow. In Tears of the Kingdom, Link’s legendary Master Sword shatters almost immediately – at the same moment he loses his hand – and he’s left to craft his own weapons in increasingly ridiculous ways. Which brings us to…


MacGyver

MacGyver is one of those shows that everyone knows about (usually thanks to The Simpsons) but not many people under the age of 40 have seen. So a quick refresher: In this 1980s series, MacGyver often applies his scientific knowledge to ordinary items to create a means of escape for himself and others from impending doom. To ‘MacGyver’ something is literally to ‘craft a solution to a problem using only the materials you have on hand’. Here are just some of the inventions the titular character made in the iconic 80s series. You can see how this might have influenced the Ultrahand and Fuse abilities in Tears of the Kingdom.


Spider-Man 2

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 features one of the most iconic villains of all time: Doctor Otto Octavius, or Doc Ock for short. ‘Now what’s that got to do with Tears of the Kingdom?’, I hear you ask. Well, if you’ve made it to the stage where you can start unlocking regions of the world map, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Scientist Purah has devised a new way of getting up high enough to take scope of the land, and it involves very unorthodox mechanical arms for some reason.


Atlantis: The Lost Empire

We mentioned islands littered with ancient technology up above (see Laputa: Castle in the Sky), but Atlantis: The Lost Empire also deserves a shout-out for being one of the cooler Disney animations (no singing animals to be found in this one, no sir!) and for featuring ancient tech – including gliders and beam-emitting weapons – that powers up with crystals and glow blue (Zonai charges, anyone?).

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The Empire Strikes Back

Out of all the references listed here, The Empire Strikes Back is the one most closely resembled by Tears of the Kingdom. There are a whole bunch of themes and touchpoints in the game that could be considered references to Empire, including:

  • The hero losing his hand
  • Using the Force/Ultrahand
  • Cloud City/Sky Islands
  • And the overall darker quality of the story, that comes in stark contrast to the previous entry of the franchise.

Read: May the 4th be with you: a ‘definitive’ ranking of Star Wars films from worst to best


One Piece

As you progress in Tears of the Kingdom, you will come across stone slabs with ancient Hyrulean carved into them. Though you cannot decipher them yourself, you can enlist the help of some NPCs who specialise in that kind of research. Once deciphered, they reveal important narrative clues. This instantly reminded me of the poneglyphs of the popular manga/anime series One Piece.

The poneglyphs are stone cubes engraved with a language that the hero, Luffy, is unable to read, but once translated will supposedly guide him and his crew to a legendary pirate treasure.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is known for its souped-up battle cars. With the ability of Ultrahand, making similar vehicles is now possible in Tears of the Kingdom. Look, without giving too much away, I’ll just say that everything you see in that still from Fury Road should be possible to build in Tears of the Kingdom. The only limit is your imagination.


Avatar

In Avatar, the Na’avi are a human-like species with glowing blue bodies and big pointy ears. Peace between their race and the humans is shown to be possible, but not guaranteed. Similarly, in Tears of the Kingdom we have the Zonai, a human-like species (also resembling upright goats) with pointy ears that sometimes glow blue. But where are they from, and what happened to them? That’s a spoiler, I’m afraid!


Stranger Things (minor spoiler ahead!)

Nintendo has only just publicly advertised this brand new area on social media – but if you’ve been playing Tears of the Kingdom since its release date then you’ll likely be familiar with ‘The Depths’ already.

Soaked in darkness, covered in red-glowing stuff, and full of nasty beasts that want your blood, The Depths – if you can stomach it for more than five seconds – may remind you of a certain pop culture phenomenon called Stranger Things. I fell into the depths by accident, and was promptly traumatised by how dang spooky it is down there. Where’s Kate Bush when you need her?

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This article originally appeared on ScreenHub.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports