Throughout Breath of the Wild’s four-year life, players have come up with all kinds of quirky ways to play. There are no damage runs, shield only runs, and what I like to call the “Naked and Afraid” challenge where has Link beat the final boss of the Champion’s Ballad DLC with no clothes and only three hearts of health. A couple of weeks ago, game dev and Twitch streamer Everest Pipkin added a new and absolutely bonkers challenge to the list: They used Breath of the Wild to play a game of Snake.
Y’all remember that old game Snake—the one where you had to chase blocks around a tiny screen without touching your ever-growing tail? Imagine that, but played in Breath of the Wild’s expansive map instead of on a Nokia 3310’s postage stamp-sized screen. Pipkin called the run the “Travelling Swordsman Problem” and its premise is simple. Using the Hero’s Path mode that tracks Link’s every step and renders it as a line across the map, complete the game without ever recrossing that path.
Sure it sounds simple, but in practice it’s a logistical nightmare. The Hero’s Path mode catalogues every single step whether Link’s flying, walking, teleporting, or climbing. Even the most mundane of video game occurrences, like getting knocked back by damage or falling off a cliff, could make Link re-cross his path and thus end a run. Pipkin had to meticulously plot their route, walking ever forward across Hyrule, and even then, they ran into trouble.
“My very first restart was because I walked in the front door of the Temple of Time,” Pipkin said in a tweet thread recapping their run. “Two hours later, I would need to access the cutscene on the roof. Directly above me.”
Even though Pipkin didn’t technically recross their path, they had to restart that attempt because Hero’s Path mode doesn’t account for 3D spaces—a crossed line is a crossed line whether Link’s above or below it. In addition to making sure to never errantly backtrack, Pipkin also had to factor in elevation in their routing.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Well if they just saved every other step, they could load in whenever something went badly.” Wrong. Apparently Hero’s Path is an exacting master that still catalogues your steps even after a save/load.
“It turns out that when you load from an old save it remembers the path you took before, and silently pushes it to the map the next time the memory resets,” Pipkin said.
Even Link’s movements in cutscenes were logged to the map, so Pipkin had to be extra careful when controlling Prince Sidon or the sand seals while trying to gain entry to the Divine Beasts.
One saving grace was that Link’s movements inside shrines were not recorded (which, if they were, would likely have made the run impossible anyway.) Pipkin was free to Cryonis, Magnesis, and Stasis to their heart’s content without worry of making an ugly, crisscrossing line on their map when they were finished. But why even do shrines, or much of the game in the first place, if constrained by such stringent parameters? You can technically beat Breath of the Wild by heading straight for Calamity Ganon within moments of waking up. Pipkin understood this but decided to add one more rule to their run.
“It felt like cheating to just launch myself off the plateau and into the castle in a straight line, although technically it was Snake,” Pipkin said. “So I said my win state included all towers—a fully filled map.”
It took eight months and six restarts but on June 30, Pipkin finished the challenge. According to them, a lot of that time was spent waiting—either on NPCs or enemies. Since reaching shrines to obtain Spirit Orbs can potentially cause pathing troubles, Pipkin could only complete so many. As a result they were severely underleveled, making regular enemies very dangerous. An attack could either kill Link outright or knock them back, so they often waited, perched on towers or cliffs, biding time until enemy paths to reset so they could make their way forward safely. There were also more minor but equally time consuming moments when Pipkin would accidentally walk the wrong way trying to reach a quest NPC, requiring them to wait whole in-game days for their paths to reset to a more favorable position so they could complete the quest.
Rain was also a major enemy since rain makes cliffs unclimbable. If it ever started raining, (and it rains a whole helluva lot in Hyrule) Pipkin had to stop and wait for the weather to clear before resuming the journey.
The entire adventure is available on YouTube, but if you don’t have a ton of hours to kill, I recommend watching the final hour in Hyrule Castle as it’s probably the most exciting moment of the run.
Like the Divine Beasts, Hyrule Castle’s map is rendered in 3D. However unlike the Divine Beasts which, like shrines, don’t track your movement once inside, Hyrule Castle does. Double however, Hero’s Path mode does not show up while you’re in the castle. So it works like this: Hero’s Path will log your steps in Hyrule Castle, but you can’t see them until you leave. Pipkin had to complete the castle with all the same restrictions as before but without being able to see their path.
One wrong step, one unlucky blast from a guardian and the run, which was 60+ hours of work at this point, would be over, and there was no way to tell. Oh, and as one final fuck you, the UI while in Hyrule’s Castle worked a bit differently. The X button, which had heretofore been used to check Pipkin’s Hero’s Path progress and therefore a button they press all the time, teleports Link outside the castle. I won’t spoil it, but how Pipkin navigated those obscene parameters while severely underleveled in a dungeon swarming with some of the most powerful enemies in the game, was some of the most riveting gameplay I’ve ever watched.
Ironically, Pipkin didn’t technically complete the game. Since Hero’s Patch logs movement within cutscenes, the endgame fight firing arrows from the back of a moving horse is all but impossible to do without overstepping your path. Even then, it was still emotional watching Pipkin “complete” the game, climbing to the highest point in the castle, surveying all of Hyrule knowing they never step foot in the same place twice.