Somewhere, hidden deep within Breath of the Wild, there’s a master sword. And not just a master sword, but the Master Sword (it’s capitalized to let you know it means business), the same powerful blade every Link has used to kill every Ganon since the first legend about Zelda was told over thirty years ago.
The Master Sword usually takes some amount of effort and deduction to acquire, but generally you’d wind up getting the thing during a relatively specific time window within a game. In keeping with its open-ended and mysterious nature, though, Breath of the Wild gives you some flexibility. You can tackle it like a more linear game of old, focusing on the Divine Beasts and gradually growing stronger before finally searching for the sword, or you can head straight for its secret hiding place and hope you can make it out alive with sword in hand.
Of course (and major spoilers here), there’s one big catch: you can try to get the sword at almost any point in the game, but unless you’ve acquired enough heart containers, which you get by finishing up the Divine Beasts and cashing in the spirit orbs you get from the game’s many shrine puzzles, you’re guaranteed to die while trying to act like Arthur and pull that sword from its stony sleeping spot. The sword tests you, the hero of legend, by steadily sapping your health as you try to pull it out of its home; if you can’t handle the pain, you can’t take the sword.
The problem of the Master Sword is two-fold, then. You need to know how to find it, which involves a confusing trip through yet another variation on the Lost Woods, and you need to have enough health to survive the process of retrieving it.
If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to hoist that mighty blade aloft, let Paste help walk you through the entire ordeal, starting with this step:
The Lost Woods are West of Death Mountain and North of Hyrule Castle, inside the Great Hyrule Forest. Woodland Tower overlooks it, but you can’t just paraglide down inside the forest; there’s a barrier on the tower that tries to prevent you from trying, and even if you jump around that you’ll mysteriously be returned to the tower as you get close to the forest. To get to the woods you have to take the road to the east of the Woodland Tower. Follow that road north and it’ll eventually lead you directly into the forest. You’ll know you made it once everything around becomes enshrouded in fog and turns all spooky. (Oh, and also the words “Lost Woods” appear on the screen.)
You’ll quickly notice two things: first, if you stray in this fog, the screen will fade out and you’ll wind up back where you started from. Second, there’s a flaming brazier nearby, and you can run to it with no problems. Once you’re there, if you look around, you’ll notice a second fire off in the distance, and once you’ve reached that brazier you’ll see a third. Eventually you’ll reach a point where there are two braziers side by side, with no more visible anywhere. This is where the true secret of the Lost Woods kicks in: you’ll have to follow the direction of the embers blowing off those flames. If you grab one of the torches next to those two braziers and light it, and then walk in the direction its embers drift in, you’ll be on the right path the whole way. The wind will shift as you’re walking, so make sure you’re only walking in the direction those embers blow in. They should almost form a line straight in front of you the entire time.
That’s all you have to do to crack the mystery of this blasted copse: keep your eye on the flame and follow it true.
After that short, twisty walk through the Lost Woods, the ember trail will eventually lead you to the entrance of the Korok Forest. There are no tricks here: once you walk through the hollowed-out tree that acts as an introductory hallway, you’ve found the Koroks’ home, and will meet the Great Deku Tree and see the Master Sword just sticking right out of the earth like the trees that surround it. The Great Deku Tree will yap about some business for a bit and then you’re free to grab that sword’s handle and get to pulling.
But here’s another catch, as mentioned above: this sword hurts you even as you try to rescue it. (You’ve gotta be strong to wield this blade, in more ways than one.) As Link puts his back into it, tugging with all his might, his hearts rapidly deplete, one quarter at a time. There’s a perversely satisfying animation of Link, clearly in extreme pain, getting this sword higher and higher out of the ground’s vice-like grip, only for him to pass out if he doesn’t have enough hearts. And don’t try eating one of the meals that give you temporary surplus hearts—when Link starts the pulling process those bonus hearts will disappear. This is a true test of the man’s actual, unenhanced endurance, and there’s only one way to pass:
You gotta have 13 hearts.
That’s it. Get 13 hearts, follow the flames through the Lost Woods, and you’ll become a true Master Swordsman. Why do you want the Master Sword in this game? Well, beyond being the iconic sword that Link pretty much always uses to beat Ganon (as somebody wrote just a few hundred words ago…), the Sword That Seals the Darkness doesn’t break. That’s right: the absurdly fragile weapons of Hyrule won’t be as much of a pox upon your adventures once you have this blade. It does wear out if you use it too much, and become unusable at that point, but it recharges itself after ten minutes. Also, when Link’s hearts are fully stocked up, the Master Sword can shoot out a lethal blast, just like in the very first Zelda game so many years ago. It won’t be the only weapon you use once you get it, but once it’s there you’ll probably be picking it out of your inventory more than anything else.
For more help with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, check out our Divine Beast walkthroughs, our recipes guide and our tips on surviving the elements. And to get a handsome Hylian Shield to match your new Master Sword, check out our gallery guide.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games, comedy and wrestling sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.