The Complete 'Legend of Zelda' Timeline Explained
Let's finally put it all in one place for you.
All of 'The Legend of Zelda' games contain vast amounts of lore and convoluted details for players to truly enrich themselves in. There is even the existence of multiple timelines within some of the games. Recently, Nintendo released an official timelines for the 'Legend of Zelda' canon. We have broken it down below. It may be dense but it is so fascinating!
This is the very first game to happen in continuity with the overall story. It predates the establishment of the Kingdom of Hyrule by many generations. Link is tasked with leading his people to the surface from the rock in the sky. This entire game establishes a "beginning" for the lore.
The Minish Cap
Taking place after the establishment of Hyrule, this entry into the series has Vaati as its main antagonist rather than Ganon/Ganondorf. The king tasks Link with restoring the "Four Sword" and must also save the petrified Princess Zelda.
'Four Swords' takes place right before 'Ocarina of Time' with Hyrulean Civil War in the interim. Link finds the Four Sword and is split into four different versions of himself. The four Links fight the resurrect Vaati. This game was released with a re-release of 'A Link to the Past'.
The Timeline Splits Into Three With 'Ocarina Of Time'
Things begin to get a little confusing around this entry. Multiple timelines merge and change based on what Link does in the game. To clear things up there are now three timelines:
A - Real World (Link defeated in Ocarina)
B - Child Timeline (Link victorious, never opens sacred realm)
C - Adult Timeline (Link victorious, opens the sacred realm)
Ganondorf makes an appearance as the main antagonist, locking Link up from seven years. The game switches between these various timeline Links.
(Timeline A) A Link To The Past
This is the first entry in the real world timeline. Young Link is tasked with preventing Ganon from being freed from the Dark World. This entire game takes place after the imprisoning war.
(Timeline A) Link's Awakening
It is a little hard to place this game in continuity considering its a dream but there is enough evidence to suggest this game takes place before 'The Legend of Zelda'. In this entry, Link must wake up the Wind Fish in order to return home. A fake Ganon fights Link and ultimately it is revealed the entire thing was a dream.
(Timeline A) Oracle Of Ages and Oracle Of Shadows
Both of these games involve the Triforce summoning link to fulfill a quest to find the Essences of Time and Nature. This must be done in order to produce a seed from the Maku Tree. There is connected ending to both games where Ganon is resurrected.
(Timeline A) A Link Between Worlds
In the real world timeline, this game takes place during an era of peace. A new kingdom is shown and Link fights against a wizard named Yuga who likes to turn people in paintings. Of course, this wizard is trying to resurrect Ganon as well. Go figure.
(Timeline A) Tri Force Heroes
This is the last game to take place in the golden age of peace. The main antagonist is refreshingly not Ganon, but rather a villain known as "The Lady". This part of the timeline is the calm before the storm, as it takes place right before two major events would take the real world timeline toward darker territory.
(Timeline A) The Legend of Zelda
The first Zelda game to be released takes place near the end of the real world timeline. Ganon is resurrected once again and leads an army into Hyrule looking for the three Triforce pieces. Link must rescue Zelda and reassemble the Triforce then must defeat Ganon.
(Timeline A) Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
The sequel to the first Zelda game follows Link as a teenager. Link must stop a group of zealots from resurrecting Ganon once more. Link is successful in stopping them and even wins the heart of Princess Zelda. Definitely one of the happier endings.
(Timeline B) Majora's Mask
This is the first entry in the second timeline where Link defeats Ganon. Link and Zelda decide to leave the sacred realm closed. Ganon attempts to open it but creates the Twilight Realm. Link must save the town of Termina from a falling moon which will crush them in a few days. Link has to relive these days over and over again to figure out the mystery and stop the moon.
(Timeline B) Twilight Princess
Link gains the ability to turn into a wolf and must stop a Shadow invasion from consuming the Twilight Realm. With help from the twilight princess, Midna, they have to also defeat a resurrected Ganondorf. This entry takes place a few centuries after 'Ocarina of Time'.
(Timeline B) Four Swords Adventures
Taking place a century after the events of 'Twilight Princess' this was the final game in the Child Timeline. The game splits Link into four again, all of which tackle with the major Zelda villains within the franchise. They bring peace to Hyrule after sealing Ganon into the Four Sword.
(Timeline C) The Wind Waker
In the adult timeline, the new world is created after Link defeats Ganondorf and is sent back to his original timeline. After doing this he accidentally opens the sacred realm and Ganondorf is trapped. When a period of peace followed these events Link disappeared as he was no longer needed. Without Link around, Ganondorf returns and floods the world.
(Timeline C) Phantom Hourglass
In this sequel to 'Wind Waker' Hyrule is still submerged underwater with Ganon trapped in the depths. Link and Tetra work together to find Ghost Ships, Phantom Hourglasses, and the Phantom Sword. Link takes on a new antagonist, Bellum. However, the ending implies the entire game may have been a dream.
(Timeline C) Spirit Tracks
This game takes place a century after 'Phantom Hourglass' in a new area with a brand new kingdom of Hyrule. Tetra is the founder of this new kingdom. Link and Zelda travel via train through this new land taking all efforts to stop the return of a new Demon King, Malladus.
Breath Of The Wild
'Breath Of The Wild' is difficult to place in the timeline, with the only known fact being that it takes place after the events of 'Ocarina of Time'. A lot of the evidence in the game supports and contradicts all three timelines being present. Fans are still waiting for confirmation from Nintendo on when exactly this game takes place.
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