Using amiibos in Breath of the Wild is cheating. Sorry to be so blunt, but I want to make our premise absolutely clear from the outset. At least for this particular game, amiibos equal cheating. Period.
In BOTW, you can scan an amiibo figurine to drop a semi-random collection of loot for you to use. This could be fairly pedestrian items like food, gems, arrows, etc., or it could really useful gear like swords, shields, armor, and even a horse! Different amiibo will provide different in-game rewards, so there’s an incentive to collect as many of them as possible.
Here’s a handy chart someone put together explaining which rewards correspond to each amiibo. Hit the link to see the complete list.
The best example of amiibos being straight up cheating is the Guardian amiibo. The Guardian is a apparently a large figurine (about twice as big as the others), as as such, it has a higher retail price. So even if you could find it for the regular price—which you can’t—it’s already a bit expensive. But this particular amiibo drops only incredibly useful items for tackling BOTW, both in terms of immediately arming Link and rapidly acquiring/upgrading the Ancient Armor set.
Normally it would take the player an awfully long time to collect all the “ancient materials” necessary to even get the Ancient Armor in the first place, let alone upgrade it. The process usually involves fighting many, many Guardians along the way, enemies that are legitimately terrifying to the player early on. But this daunting grind can be greatly reduced if the player has access to the Guardian amiibo. Just scan it and reap the sweet, sweet rewards. It’s an easy shortcut that bypasses the legwork for you.
Scanning an amiibo for rewards in this way feels very reminiscent of another game’s shortcut: entering a code in GTA and having a tank fall from the sky.
Both of these things are cheating. One method of cheating involving having the right code, while the other involves having right toy. In this way, amiibos kind of feel like the newest generation of the Game Genie: an external device used to circumvent the game’s internal reward system. The only difference here is Nintendo wants you to use (read: buy) amiibo. Guess that would make amiibos Nintendo-sponsored cheating, but they're cheating nonetheless.
And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not necessarily anti-cheating. The practice definitely has it’s place in video games, and in some cases it's a time-honored tradition. Hell, I don’t know how anyone could ever get past the first level of Contra without use of the legendary Konami Code. I don’t think every player is obligated to truly earn all rewards in-game, and I’m certainly not pro-grinding. Use cheats if you want to, that’s fine. But let’s just acknowledge that it is cheating.
If we’re being honest, I would prefer that games like BOTW made all their content (outfits, weapons, gear, etc) available and accessible somewhere within the game world, even if cooler stuff requires a herculean effort to unlock. Then the developers could make amiibos the “easy way” to access it—the shortcut to the tedium of grinding—instead of the single exclusive source of the content.
Because BOTW amiibos get even more annoying when you consider that there are cool assets in the game—outfits and weapons—that you will never access without the right paperweight...or, um, "detailed figurine". Want to dress Link as he appears in Ocarina of Time, or the Fierce Deity version from Majora’s Mask, or maybe use the outfit the original Legend of Zelda? Too bad. All of those exist, yes, but you can’t earn them in-game because they’re amiibo-exclusive content.
At least with regards to alternative outfits you can only access with amiibo, I will concede that it's not really cheating at all—it's actually poorly designed DLC! Count it up, folks:
Zelda: Breath of the Wild game - $60
Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC pack - $20 (Does not contain amiibo-exclusive content.)
Individual Amiibo - $12-$20 retail price (Realistically though, you’re going to pay upwards of $60-$80 for each amiibo, due to Nintendo’s tactic of artificial scarcity.)
Completing the game without using Amiibo bonuses - Pricele—No! Give me my f#$%ing Windwaker outfit!
If Nintendo wants to sell us bonus content at an additional price, then fine, but I’d appreciate if they’d just come right out and say so. Those retro Link outfits look very cool, but I don’t need the clutter of toys laying around my apartment. (I also don’t want my wife to leave me.)
So yeah, using amiibos in BOTW is cheating. Do with this what you will.