This article contains spoilers for Tears of the Kingdom story and memories
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of gaming collectors and the collectibles they passionately chase after, as I gotta admit, I never could muster up the energy to gather a whopping 700 cookies or balloons or whatever and stick with that search throughout the whole ordeal. (I couldn’t give a monkey’s bottom if Donkey Kong 64 has a mind-boggling 3500 bananas, though hats off to whoever braves chasing that number).
Some collectibles do a little extra to pique your interest and have you thinking beyond just locating them and pressing the X button, like those riddles in Batman Arkham Knight. And Super Mario Odyssey’s moons can feel satisfying enough for all the platforming skills you hone during the trip. Some collectibles come with extra perks, like Fallout’s bobbleheads and their S.P.E.C.I.A.L buffs, and others indulge you in extra side drama that enriches the main characters’ dynamics, just like every Tales game’s random banter.
The thing is, once you’ve snagged them, they lose that initial glamor and any further relevance for the rest of the game (or I lose my passion, whichever fades first), which is fine. After all, they call them collectibles for a reason. That’s just how the cookie crumbles.
But none of that ever satisfied me.
I reckon that when you tear something apart, you’ve gotta find a way to piece it all back together. Even the brightest colors can lack that elusive sparkle when seen individually, and they only have meaning when they dance on the canvas of a portrait. And that’s what most collectibles seem to lack these days — a sense of harmony and togetherness that Tears of the Kingdom’s geoglyphs do have, and perfectly encapsulate.
As their name suggests, geoglyphs in Tears of the Kingdom are line formations etched into the earth in various areas, similar to the famous Nazca Lines. They depict all sorts of things, including animals, planets, and geometric shapes, and they cover vast plots of land. They also serve as an important storytelling tool — much like the memories in Breath of the Wild — and are probably second in importance only to the main story itself.
To unlock these memories, you need to find a particular spot on each of the 11 geoglyphs — notice the more reasonable number, Donkey Kong developers? — that lights up as you get close, revealing the memory buried underneath. But actually finding them isn’t as easy as it sounds, even if you’re the princess’ puzzle-honed loyal knight.
These lines stretch across entire regions (the original Nazca lines covered a whopping 450 kilometers), and they’re not limited to the ground here. You can find them on beaches and mountains, shaped in weird Zelda-ish ways like the Master Sword and the Nintendo Sw.. I mean the Purah Pad (but, c’mon, we all know what that really is).
Compared to other Zelda collectibles (or any collectibles really), every geoglyph I came across was simply massive. They weren’t little trinkets you can hold in your hand and find hidden between cracks or under rocks like Korok Seeds or Rupees, and there was at least one of them in every region. It wasn’t just a matter of piquing my curiosity or stimulating my collector’s instinct; it awakened in me this intense, mystifying desire to understand what in the world was I witnessing and how I could even go about collecting it.
Every fiber of my being was consumed by this desire. I usually don’t go paying much attention to where I’m stepping in my search for collectibles, but here I found myself constantly having — and wanting — to chart a course from start to finish through Tears of the Kingdom’s new bird’s eye view, driven by the urge to uncover each memory like an archaeologist on a mission. And once you view them from high up, you realize why the Nazca lines are so intriguing in real life, because no one knows exactly how these grand designs were made this precisely without any advanced technology or overhead perspective (or even why), and as an Egyptian, I think even our pyramids only rank second in intrigue.
The constant element of surprise also struck a chord with me, as the memories I collected span a coherent and mysterious story in a non-linear fashion. Each geoglyph is actually like a symbolic representation of something that affected Zelda’s life in some way—a dagger of betrayal, a sword of sacrifice, a stone of ancient power. And whichever one you unlock first influences your perspective of Zelda, which in a way ties into her main story.
Throughout the story, there are hints that Zelda may be absurdly responsible for the environmental catastrophes I touched upon in my previous feature, and each memory seems to have its own answer to these claims and capture a different aspect of Zelda — sometimes she’s portrayed as a vulnerable, lost princess, sometimes as a powerful sage, and sometimes even as downright evil. As you progress, these collectibles become more intricate and tangled, while also carrying a heavier emotional weight with each new geoglyph.
The real gem of these collectibles is how your interpretation of Zelda’s identity evolves as you collect the memories. And even after you’ve collected them all, you’ll uncover the stunning revelation that Zelda actually turned into an immortal dragon to protect the Master Sword inside her and wait for Link to wake up and find her. And guess what? All those memories are actually her tears, born from the pain of her sacrifice and endless waiting in solitude.
Only after that revelation did I grasp the scale and grandeur of the geoglyphs. How insanely challenging it must have been to design the entire landscape to accommodate these intricate formations, and how the topography itself was shaped to tell a story and be imbued with memories.
The story of these geoglyphs, which could easily be overlooked as a side activity, took me on the strongest emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever experienced while collecting anything — analyzing each geoglyph landscape, forming theories, being shocked over and over again, and constantly reshaping my perception of Zelda like I’m in a Nolan movie. Not to mention how awe-inspiring it is to know that Hyrule has been redesigned around Zelda’s tears and suffering (hence the name, Tears of the Kingdom), which pretty much debunks the idea that it’s just the same old map. It all forms a sublime and cohesive whole in a way that other collectibles simply cannot match.
Reaching the Flying Dragon itself, which soars over all the geoglyphs in Hyrule in a circular pattern, was a chore in itself, but it was one of the most bittersweet chores I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. Even though I’ve been doing everything I can to find Zelda in each game over the past 30 years, this quest has stirred up the most intense emotions in my search for her and in uncovering what her ‘legend’ really means.
NEXT: Tears Of The Kingdom’s Vertical Open World Is A New Frontier For Gaming