Should You Play Horizon Zero Dawn Before Horizon Forbidden West?

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Horizon Forbidden West Aloy stood on top of a rusted ruin platform, looking out at the Jungle

Horizon Forbidden West is an open-world action role-playing game from Guerilla Games. It's the highly-anticipated sequel to 2017's Horizon Zero Dawn, and though five years have passed in real life between the games, we re-join Aloy's adventures only six months after the final events of Zero Dawn.

In the sequel, Aloy ventures into the Forbidden West to find a way to save her world from a red blight that is choking the land. The wildlife around her is starting to die and the vegetation won't grow, threatening to starve humanity. On her adventure, she uncovers more dangerous threats, both new and old. She'll take old friends with her and make new allies as she will stop at nothing to save everyone again. As the sequel is an almost direct continuation of the first one, an important question has been floating around that we're about to answer.

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In this guide, we let you know if you should play Horizon Zero Dawn before Horizon Forbidden West.

Horizon Forbidden West Aloy wearing Utaru Protector Face Paint while drawing her bow.

Should You Play Horizon Zero Dawn Before Horizon Forbidden West?

The answer is tricky, we strongly recommend that you do but you can enjoy the game without playing Horizon Zero Dawn first. This may sound contradictory, so we're going to break it down.

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Why You Should Play Horizon Zero Dawn First

We strongly recommend that you do play Horizon Zero Dawn before starting Forbidden West as the sequel is essentially a continuation of the story that unfolded in the first game. It enhances the twists of the game and gives context to some areas that need it.

The context behind the friendship between Aloy and some of the characters can easily be missed if you've not experienced the first game. Her relationships with them can seem less important, and the overall relationship developments can be undermined if you've not seen how they began. As her old friends play a vital role in this game alongside her new ones, it's worth knowing exactly what those people mean to Aloy and just how crucial they are to her current situation in Forbidden West.

Also, the story itself does lean quite heavily on the game assuming that you know who Aloy is, where she came from, what happened in Meridian, and why she's so desperate to save her world. It does take you through the key points, but there are a lot of areas of the sequel that gain depth if you know the first one. Along with this, countless references are made to the previous game in the story that could be missed if you're not aware of what they're referencing.

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Why You Don’t Have to Play Zero Dawn First

With all that being said, Forbidden West does its best to ensure that you understand the most important aspects of the previous game. It uses a recap movie (that you can access at any time in the extras area of the main menu) to cover the main points of Zero Dawn and bring you up to speed with how the world is when you enter the game. There are character profiles that you can read in your notebook that detail who they are and their role in the previous game. Also, the game doesn't automatically assume that you know all of the controls or the combat mechanics, so it spends a good amount of time walking you through all of that.

If you don't want to play Zero Dawn first, then you don't need to but we still recommend that you do. Zero Dawn is where Aloy's journey began and knowing, in detail, everything that unfolded throughout the game gives more of a meaning to the sequel.

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Horizon Zero Dawn is available now for PC and PS4. Horizon Forbidden West is available now for PS4 and PS5.

When you do venture into Horizon Forbidden West, there is plenty for you to discover. Machines are a threat in both games, so you might want to improve your skills to ensure your survival against them. Check out our Hunting Grounds Guide to learn what they are and how they'll help you get better at taking a Machine down. Also, collecting and upgrading Armour will increase your chances of living through a dangerous fight. Take a look at our Armour Guide to learn more about how it works and where you can find them.

Contributions from Nico Parungo.