The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Ending Explained - IGN (2023)

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s story goes to some wild places, especially in its epic finale. There are some legitimate surprises and tricky callbacks, and we’re here to break down exactly what happened and what it means.

Right off the bat, a huge spoiler warning! This is going to go into full detail about what happens at both the end of the story and what is revealed in cutscenes and flashbacks on the way to getting there. Turn back now if you don’t want to know!

If you haven't played Tears of the Kingdom yet, check out our spoiler-free review and go from there.

(Video) Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Ending Explained

Even if you have finished Tears of the Kingdom, you might be pretty confused about what the heck is going on depending on how much of its main quests you completed. The “Dragon Tear” questline in particular shines a lot of light onto the whereabouts of Zelda, the Master Sword, and Ganondorf himself, so if you’re confused by the ending but didn’t collect all of those you may want to just go back and do that.

What Happens at the End of Tears of the Kingdom?

That all out of the way, the end of Tears of the Kingdom sees Link descend into the chasm underneath Hyrule Castle to confront Ganondorf, The Demon King – an evil Gerudo king from the time of Hyrule’s founding who was sealed away by King Rauru (the Zonai who gave Link his fancy new arm) and six sages until he was able to escape at the start of this game.

If you played through the main quest that sends you to address anomalies in each major town, you will likely have gathered five sages of your own to help in the fight, each with their own Zonai Secret Stone that amplifies their power. If you didn’t gather the sages, you’ll have to face off against the boss fights from each of their respective quests (just like Breath of the Wild if you skipped the Divine Beasts), otherwise they’ll show up just in time to let Link focus on Ganondorf while they hold off those bigger enemies.

(Video) The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review

When Link finally comes face to face with Ganondorf, he is in a weakened mummified state from being sealed away for so long, but has been able to recover enough power since his return to quickly regain his regular, musclebound form. After a first encounter, he’ll then use the power of his own Secret Stone to level-up even further into his glowing Demon King form. It’s when you defeat this form too that things start to get weird.

The Dragon Tear Questline

Explained in some of the memory cutscenes in Tears of the Kingdom is the forbidden act of eating a Secret Stone, which causes the one who does it to permanently transform into an immortal dragon, losing much of their own mind in the process. Ganondorf, realizing he isn’t going to beat Link, does exactly that as a last ditch effort to destroy Hyrule, turning into a dragon and pulling Link high into the sky.

(Video) How Long is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?

Fortunately, Link isn’t alone, and the Light Dragon swoops in to help him out. This part can get confusing or play out slightly differently depending on what you’ve done before facing Ganondorf. Visiting all of the Geoglyphs to view the memories will also unlock one final memory, making clear exactly what happened to Zelda: the Secret Stone she found at the start of the story sent her back in time to the founding of Hyrule, stranding her there with no way back.

There she helped Rauru face Ganondorf the first time and eventually received the broken Master Sword from Link, which transported itself back in time to her to recover its energy. The Master Sword needed centuries to recover its energy and Zelda didn’t know how to get home, so she also ate her Secret Stone, becoming the immortal Light Dragon and embedding the Master Sword in her forehead so that it could absorb her light energy and grow stronger than before over the course of thousands of years.

That means that, theoretically, Zelda has been flying around as the Light Dragon with the Master Sword through all of Breath of the Wild (and maybe the rest of the Zelda games, depending on timeline shenanigans), but was always too high in the sky to ever be seen. This is also confirmed by the room you and zelda enter near the start of the story, which is covered in wall carvings telling the story of the Demon King. Its final panels are covered by destructible rocks, but when you return to fight Ganondorf you can blow them up and see that the history of Zelda taking the sword and becoming a dragon was already literally written in stone from the beginning.

(Video) The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - Performance Review

You can recover the Master Sword before the final fight with Ganondorf and learn all of this, but if you don’t have it yet then dragon Zelda will swoop in to help Link and let him take it right at the end (without the stamina requirement you’d normally have to surpass). From there the two of you work together to defeat the dragon Ganondorf, eventually destroying the Secret Stone in his forehead and causing him to explode in glorious fashion. But supposedly Zelda would still have to stay a dragon forever – if it weren’t for the help of Sonia and Rauru’s spirits. Sonia has power over time and Rauru has the power of light, and Zelda has a bit of both as their descendant, which they explain makes her special in a way that allows her to be transformed back into a Hylian. (Sorry to the other three dragons.)

And that’s it, Hyrule is saved and Zelda is rescued! However, if you did do all of the main story quests before this final confrontation, you’ll be treated to one final cutscene after the credits that shows the Link, Zelda, Purah, and the sages up in the sky at the Temple of Time together. Mineru, the spirt sage, had been keeping her spirit alive since ancient times to help defeat Ganondorf, but she explains that it’s finally time for her to move on as well, making for one last goodbye at the end of the story.

There’s a whole lot of other easter eggs and intricacies to this story, and the implications for larger Zelda lore are pretty substantial, but that’s this chapter closed for now. Ganondorf is finally, fully defeated, Zelda is back in her time after living for thousands of years as a dragon, the Master Sword is recovered, and a new team of sages has taken up their mantles to protect Hyrule.

But that’s not quite all, as reloading the save file with a star on it that’s created right before the final boss will let you keep playing with a couple of new perks, including a number telling you how many more of each quest type there are and a completion percentage tracker on the map. So you might have saved Hyrule once, but now it’s time to find all the shrines, lightroots, and koroks you left behind!

(Video) The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom - 20 Details From the Final Trailer

And for help with everything Tears of the Kingdom, take a look at our Tears of the Kingdom Walkthrough and Guide. Our experts recommend you start here:

  • 16 Things to Do First in Tears of the Kingdom
  • 14 Things Tears of the Kingdom Doesn't Tell You
  • How to Uncover the Full TOTK Map
  • How to Expand Your Inventory in TOTK
  • PSA: Your Old BOTW Save Unlocks Something Cool in TOTK

Tom Marks is IGN's Deputy Reviews Editor. He loves card games, puzzles, platformers, puzzle-platformers, and lots more. You can follow him here.


What happens to Zelda in Totk? ›

After the final boss fight against Ganondorf, where the Light Dragon crucially assists Link in the final phase, Zelda is restored to her original form, courtesy of the lingering spirits of Rauru and Sonia, allowing the game to end on a somewhat lighter note than it otherwise might have.

Why did Zelda turn into a dragon? ›

At the epic climax of Tears of the Kingdom, Link faces off against the Demon King. In a last-ditch attempt to defeat the player, the Demon King takes his own stone to become a powerful dragon. Zelda, in dragon form, comes in to help Link end the threat of the Demon King.

Who is the corpse in Tears of the Kingdom? ›

The villain is unleashed at the start of Tears of the Kingdom when Link and Zelda discover Ganondorf's corpse and the Demon King begins his rampage all over again. Nintendo Ganondorf is infused with the spirit of the Demon King.

Does Link lose his arm? ›

The first thing that many Zelda fans agree with is that Link doesn't lose his arm, according to what we saw in all the trailers.


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