From the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Image from Nintendo Switch version taken by C. Wassenaar and via Nintendo.
This may not seem like a true reference, but since this isn’t the first time a Zelda game has let you do basically whatever you like, it counts. In my review of this game, I mentioned that it “rewards exploration in ways exceeding past games by a wide, wide margin.”
When you start the original The Legend of Zelda, you can walk forward, get the Wooden Sword, and that’s basically it. You can go explore and try and find all the dungeons. In the original game, they do have numbers, suggesting the order in which they should be done, but you don’t need to do them that way. With Ocarina of Time in particular, things grew somewhat more linear.
Breath of the Wild calls back to the original game in that you can wake up, get the paraglider, and then that’s it. You can pick a point on the map and go there. Granted, you might die trying to get there, but you can still go there. Incidentally, the developers of this game actually built a 2D version of Breath, and I noted then that it seemed to have inspired the same openness in the 3D version that we all get to play.
If you’ve played Breath of the Wild and basically any other Zelda game, you’ll have picked up on references. Which are your favorites?