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Zelda: Breath of the Wild new games overwrite existing saves

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Link on horseback on beach Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild offers a Hyrulian playground with seemingly endless opportunities for exploration. But if you’ve run out of things to do — or, say, your significant other wants to begin their own adventure — you might want to start a new game. Most Zelda games have allowed you to maintain multiple concurrent save files, so it would be reasonable to believe you could do the same here.

Let this be a warning and a public service announcement: That is not the case with Breath of the Wild, whether on the Switch or the Wii U. If you’ve begun playing the game and you select “New Game” from the main menu, you’ll see this message pop up:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - new game overwrite
The “New Game” prompt in the Switch version of Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo EPD/Nintendo

It’s possible to misinterpret that note, so we’ll be explicit for you: Starting a new game in Breath of the Wild will delete all of your old game’s save files. (The game keeps multiple autosaves, but you can only maintain one manual save game.)

This isn’t uncommon behavior — there are games across all kinds of platforms that limit you to one playthrough at a time. It’s unclear if this is how the Switch handles all games at a system level, or if it’s specific to Breath of the Wild; we’ve reached out to Nintendo for more details, and we’ll update this article with any information we receive.

This doesn’t only cause problems for people who want to give, say, their child a Breath of the Wild playthrough of their own. Nintendo has already announced that it will add a “hard mode” to the game with its first post-launch expansion, which is scheduled to be released this summer. There’s no word on whether you’ll be able to turn on hard mode in a current playthrough, or if you’ll have to start fresh. But if the latter is the case, then there won’t be any way to do it while keeping your existing save file alongside the hard-mode playthrough — at least, not on the same Nintendo Account.

Thankfully, there is a solution to this issue, and it’s a simple one: Make a new user profile. Both the Wii U and the Switch allow owners to create multiple user profiles on one console (the limit is 12 on the Wii U, and eight on the Switch). The profiles exist only on the system, and you can link each one to its own Nintendo Account if you want to visit the eShop and buy games that will be tied to that user. Note that all user profiles on a console can access content owned by any of the accounts.

That means that you can just create an additional user profile on your Switch or Wii U if you want to start a new game of Breath of the Wild. And if you buy the game’s Expansion Pass, you’ll be able to play the downloadable content on all of the user profiles without any trouble. When you boot up Breath of the Wild on a Switch, the console will ask you to select a user profile. It will then load the appropriate save game, and you’ll be good to go.

For more on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, read our review.