Why is it that we love Zelda? The puzzles, the wacky characters, the BOSSES!? I'll tell you what I love about it- the story. While at first glance it might seem like most of the Zelda games have fairly simple plots, the overall web of how all the games connect keeps dedicated fans constantly coming up with new theories on the chronology of the Zelda franchise. Jumping right in can get overwhelming- but I'm here to help.
Basic Knowledge Before you can even think about thinking about the Zelda Timeline, there are a few things that you should know:
-All Zelda games take place in the same universe. -Every game released has some sort of reference to another game in the series. -The CD-i and BS Zelda games are not canon. -There are multiple Links and Zeldas. -There are at least two incarnations of Ganon. -The Triforce's location/owner/status varies from game to game. -Skyward Sword is the first game in the timeline.
The Official Zelda Timeline Originally, this editorial laid out a theoretical timeline. Nintendo has since revealed the official Zelda timeline in the 25th Anniversary Hyrule Historia Zelda art book. Here is the full timeline, translated:
Nintendo's timeline doesn't perfectly match the one I had come up with- in fact, no one had guessed that the timeline would split into three branches. The only major difference between the Hyrule Historia timeline and the one I had put together is the placement of the Four Swords games. I said that Four Swords Adventures is a prequel to A Link to the Past showing the origin of Ganon, with Four Swords as a direct prequel to Four Swords Adventures. Four Swords Adventures' new placement makes sense; however, placing Four Swords directly after Minish Cap contradicts Four Swords Adventures' prologue, where it is implied that Four Swords took place only a few years prior to Four Swords Adventures. Despite this, I'll be using Nintendo's timeline for the rest of this editorial.
The Split One of the most significant events in the entire Zelda universe is the ending of Ocarina of Time. After saving Hyrule and sealing Ganondorf away, Link is sent back in time by Zelda using the Ocarina of Time. Link appears standing in front of the Master Sword as a child. He then goes to Hyrule Castle to meet with young Zelda, just like at the beginning of the game. Since Zelda is still in Hyrule Castle, Link had to have been sent back in time to before he first opened the Door of Time- yet the Door of Time is open anyway.
What all this complicated time travel mumbo-jumbo boils down to is the Timeline Split. Back in the Hyrule that Link saved as an adult, Zelda, the Sages and the citizens of Hyrule go on living in peace until The Great Flood. This is known as the "Adult Timeline." The Hyrule that Link goes back in time to is known as the "Child Timeline." Upon meeting Zelda, Link warns her that her plan to stop Ganondorf will not work, and that they should wait until he makes a wrong move and reveals himself. Eventually, Ganondorf is caught, put on trial, and sealed in the Twilight Realm, as seen in Twilight Princess. Meanwhile, Link journeys to Termina and saves the land from Majora's Mask.
Now that the official timeline has been revealed, we've found out that the timeline splits off into a third branch at the end of Ocarina of Time. While the other two branches exist together as alternate universes, the third branch is a "What if?" scenario, taking the place of the Adult Timeline and preventing the Child Timeline from ever coming into existence. The third timeline allows for Ocarina of Time to act as the backstory for A Link to the Past- the Hero of Time is killed in the final confrontation with Ganon, leading to the Imprisoning War, where Ganon is sealed away by the seven sages.
Before Nintendo revealed the official timeline, one of the hottest points of timeline debate was whether there was a split or not. For some of the arguments for and against the split, check out this post.
The Official Timeline Explained After looking at Nintendo's official timeline, you might have a few questions. In this section, I've put together a more in-depth version of the timeline to shed some light on the gray areas.
*Hyrule and the Triforce are created by the three goddesses, Din, Farore, and Nayru.*
*Skyward Sword's Backstory: Civilization advances to a point where intelligent robots exist. Demise attacks Hyrule and wipes out nearly all humans- the survivors are sent to the sky on a chunk of land that would later be known as Skyloft. The godess Hylia defeats and seals away Demise.*
Skyward Sword- The Master Sword is created and humans return to the surface. Before being sealed into the Master Sword, Demise prophecizes that his evil will return again and again in a never-ending cycle.
*Hyrule is founded once again. Hundreds of years pass.*
*Minish Cap's Backstory: The Picori create the Picori Sword and give it to a hero to seal away Hyrule's monsters.*
Minish Cap- Monsters are re-released into Hyrule. The Picori Sword is broken and reforged as the Four Sword. The Wind Sorcerer Vaati is defeated.
*Some time passes.*
Four Swords- Vaati breaks free of the Four Sword and kidnaps Princess Zelda (It is unclear whether Vaati was sealed in the Four Sword at the end of Minish Cap or sometime later). Zelda’s childhood friend, Link, saves her and seals Vaati back in the Four Sword.
*Hundreds of years pass.*
Ocarina of Time- The Split.
Ocarina of Time- The Triforce is broken into three parts. Power goes to Ganondorf, Wisdom to Zelda, Courage to Link. Ganon is defeated by Link and sealed away in the Sacred Realm. Link is sent back in time to his childhood. The Triforce of Courage is shattered and scattered across Hyrule.
*Wind Waker's Backstory: Ganondorf breaks free. Hyrule is flooded by the gods. Hundreds of years pass.*
Wind Waker- Ganondorf is killed. The Triforce is reassembled. Hyrule is washed away for good. Link and Tetra (Zelda) set out to find new land to settle on.
Phantom Hourglass- Craziness ensues on a high seas adventure with Link and Tetra.
*Link and Tetra find new land. They call the new land Hyrule and found a new kingdom. A hundred years pass.*
Spirit Tracks- A new Link saves Hyrule from an ancient demon.
Ocarina of Time- After being sent back to the past, Link warns Zelda that Ganondorf plans to take over Hyrule, and that the best course of action would be to do nothing.
*Twilight Princess' Backstory: Ganondorf is eventually caught, trialed, and sealed away in the Twilight Realm.*
Majora's Mask- Link goes off to the Lost Woods on Epona to search for an old friend (presumably Navi). The Skull Kid steals Epona and the Ocarina of Time. Link follows the Skull Kid to Termina and finds out that in three days, the moon will crash into the earth and kill everyone.
*About a hundred years pass.*
Twilight Princess- Ganondorf, still stuck in the Twilight Realm, takes advantage of a power-hungry young Twili named Zant. Zant and Ganondorf invade Hyrule, only to be killed by a new Link.
*Some time passes.*
Four Swords Adventures- A mysterious Shadow Link causes some ruckus at the Four Sword shrine. A new Link and Zelda go to investigate. Link draws the Four Sword, releasing Vaati from his seal, and goes off to save the maidens of the shrine. Eventually Link finds out that Shadow Link and Vaati were just distractions. The real threat is a young Gerudo named Ganondorf, who stole an ancient trident and underwent a transformation into Ganon. Link kills Vaati and seals Ganon in the Four Sword.
Ocarina of Time- Link dies in the final battle against Ganon.
*A Link to the Past's Backstory: After the Hero of Time's death, the Imprisoning War began. No one was able to weild the Master Sword and kill Ganon, so he was sealed in the Sacred Realm (now the Dark World) by the sages. Some time passes.*
A Link to the Past- A priest named Agahnim tricks the people of Hyrule into putting him into a position of power. He captures the seven maidens (including Zelda) descended from the Sages who imprisoned Ganon. A new Link recovers the Master Sword and finds out that Agahnim was just Ganon's pawn. Link ventures to the Dark World, rescues the maidens and kills Ganon. Upon killing Ganon, Link finds the Triforce and wishes for all of Ganon's influences to leave Hyrule, sending the world into a period of peace and prosperity.
*Some time passes.*
Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons- A new Link journies to Hyrule castle and sees the Triforce. It transports him to a foreign land that is being threatened by a new villian, either Veran or Onox, depending on which game is played first. It is eventually revealed that this new villian is just a pawn of Koume and Kotake, two of Ganon's most loyal followers. Their master plan is to revive Ganon- but of course, Link stops them and kills their bastardized half-revived Ganon. His work done, Link sets off on a boat.
Link's Awakening- Link's boat crashes and he lands on a strange island.
*Some time passes.*
*Zelda II's Backstory: Long story short, the Triforce of Courage is hidden away in the Great Palace and Princess Zelda is put under a sleeping spell. More time passes.*
The Legend of Zelda- A new Zelda is captured by Ganon (this is the same Ganon from A Link to the Past, but it isn't explained how he was resurrected). Ganon steals the Triforce of Power; Zelda manages to shatter the Triforce of Wisdom and scatter it across the land of Hyrule. A new Link sets out to recover the pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, rescue Zelda, kill Ganon and get the Triforce of Power back. He does.
*A few years pass.*
Zelda II: Adventures of Link- Link finds out about the sleeping Zelda. The only way to break the spell is to use the Triforce of Courage in conjunction with the other two pieces of the Triforce. Link sets out to recover the Triforce of Courage from the Great Palace. Meanwhile, followers of Ganon try to kill Link and use his blood to revive Ganon. They fail, Link succeeds. The Triforce is whole again.
The Future of the Legend of Zelda Series So where does Zelda go from here? All of the loose ends left by Ocarina of Time have been tied up, and the Old Hyrule, along with nearly every single important plot item, is lost in the Adult Timeline. A sequel to Spirit Tracks would need a new villian and new plot that has nothing to do with the Triforce. That is, unless the Triforce and Master Sword somehow come back.
A sequel to Four Swords Adventures would make the most sense at this point; Ganon is still sealed in the Four Sword in that timeline. Besides, who wouldn't want a Wii U or 3DS online Four Swords game?
Skyward Sword has opened up a whole new onslaught of possibilities for the next Zelda game. We could have a series of prequels taking place in the technologically advanced Hyrule that the Timeshift Stones gave us a glimpse at, or we could have a direct sequel that ties up a few of the loose ends from Skyward Sword.
What Else is There? Now you know all there is to know about Zelda, right? WRONG! The Zelda universe is rich with unsolved mysteries. Take a look at any Zelda fansite. There are constant discussions and analyses about even the most obscure facts. Why did the Zoras evolve into birds, but the Gorons just stayed the same? How many groups of sages are there, and how are they connected? Why are there giant phallic pillars in Majora's Mask? The list goes on and on. So get out there and start analyzing!
Special thanks to the Zelda Wiki for remembering what I didn't and Triforcebun for making the banner art. And thank YOU for reading! Be sure to read the comment thread for a lot of great discussion!
I think they need to make a game where we play as Ganondorf now! Or maybe a game where we play as Shiek/Zelda in Link's absence. In that game they can just say that the Hero of Time is special and that he himself is actually linked to the space/time continuum. Any choice he makes results in a new timeline. It would just do happen that the three results of OoT were the only three major events strong enough To make a difference in the timeline.
But yeah. A game where we play as Shiek. Please. Or Ganon. Please.
@GameDadGrant - Well, they definitely didn't explain any of the ones that existed with the parallel timelines, and they created a new one with the downfall timeline being a "what-if" (unless you don't count "what-ifs" as being contradictions), but if Oracles Twinrova are the same witches as OoT Twinrova, then the downfall timeline did give us at least one more contradiction since they're alive in OoX but they had already died in OoT by the time the downfall timeline was created.
Has it been comfirmed that Link's defeat took place at the final battle of OoT? Any reason why it couldn't have happened earlier? Like maybe he got killed by Phantom Ganon.
I always viewed Twinrova in the Oracles as being a contradiction until the split timeline was originally revealed. At which point I shoved them into the Child timeline as they would still be alive there. Now they're in the Failure timeline though....
As long as Link's defeat occured prior to the Spirit Temple battle, we don't have a contradiction.
So. I have a theory of two worlds. It is one timeline, linear, no branches. But it requires you to accept a few things. The first and probably the hardest point for me to prove is that the twilight realm the shadow realm and dark world are all the same place. But most importantly, the point that totally trashes most timelines, I need you to believe that termina from MM is also the twilight realm. In order for this to be valid, you have to watch the video by videogame theories on YouTube showing link as being dead throughout majoras mask. However, I don't think he is necessarily dead, but I do believe that everyone else is. In twilight princess they refer to the people of hyrule who were pulled into the twilight as being spirits unaware of their passing. If you have not watched the video I referenced stop reading and watch it. In twilight princesses, they say the only way in is throught the mirror or for a shadow creature to pull you in. This is where the happy mask sales man comes in. A mysterious character that controls time, when you wear a mask and talk to him, he already knows everything about it. A character who went "great lengths" to get a mask created by shadow peoples. My timeline also requires you to accept that the dark interlopers the dark tribe and other similar titles are also all the same. All theory but I think I'm on to something deep.
The first and probably the hardest point for me to prove is that the twilight realm the shadow realm and dark world are all the same place.
I'm not entirely sure what the shadow realm is, unless that's FSA's Dark World or OoT's Evil Realm that you're referring to. However, we can be pretty sure that the Twilight Realm and ALttP Dark World/OoT Evil Realm can't be the same place. We know this because in TP's back story the interlopers were trying to get into the Sacred Realm aka ALttP Dark World aka OoT Evil Realm to get the Triforce, and as punishment, the goddesses chased the interlopers into the Twilight Realm. It wouldn't be much of a punishment to seal the interlopers in the realm that they were being punished for trying to get into in the first place (especially when that place is typically a paradise, as it would have been during TP's back story).
So maybe FSA's Dark World can be the same place as the Twilight Realm, but even that seems unlikely given how incredibly different their effects are.
I need you to believe that termina from MM is also the twilight realm.
That also seems impossible. After all, it's fairly easy to get into and out of Termina. Link, Tatl, Tael, Skull Kid, the Happy Mask Salesman, the Termina Gorons, Tingle, and the Postman all travel into and/or out of Termina fairly easily and/or regularly. But the only way into the Twilight Realm is through the Mirror of Twilight (or from someone inside the Twilight Realm escaping to the Light World and then forcing the Twilight Realm onto an area of the Light World), which is something that couldn't have happened before the events of TP (and MM/Link's trip to Termina takes place before TP).
In twilight princess they refer to the people of hyrule who were pulled into the twilight as being spirits unaware of their passing.
This isn't entirely true. TP does say that the people are transformed into spirits, but that doesn't mean they died. This is like in SS when Link's spirit goes into the Silent Realm to complete the trials. He leaves his physical body behind, but he doesn't die. In much the same way, the Twilight doesn't cause the people of Hyrule to die. It just causes them to lose their physical forms.
This is where the happy mask sales man comes in. A mysterious character that controls time, when you wear a mask and talk to him, he already knows everything about it. A character who went "great lengths" to get a mask created by shadow peoples.
Hmm. This is interesting. I think he's just knowledgeable about all masks because he's the Happy Mask Salesman. Masks are his whole life. So it stands to reason that he would already know all of them or be able to recognize what they are/what they do with little effort. I don't really see any evidence of him being able to control time though.
My timeline also requires you to accept that the dark interlopers the dark tribe and other similar titles are also all the same. All theory but I think I'm on to something deep.
This is hard for me to buy. After all, the interlopers turned into the Twili before the dark tribe ever invaded Hyrule. So unless they changed back into whatever they were before they became Twili (or they simply became more evil again over the centuries), it wouldn't make sense for them to be the same group, IMO. Also, at the end of TP, everyone in the Twilight Realm is trapped in there forever, so it's unlikely they would have been able to find a way out in order to invade Hyrule at a later date anyway.
I could see the dark tribe and the Evil Tribe (the tribe that Agahnim claims to belong to) being the same group, especially since FSA Ganon and ALttP Ganon have so much in common, and FSA Ganon utilized two dark tribe-related artifacts during FSA (including the artifact in which the dark tribe was imprisoned), which would explain Agahnim's appearance if he's not just a creation of Ganon's (of course if he is just a creation of Ganon's, as the dialogue suggests, then how can Agahnim belong to a tribe? Or did Ganon create a bunch of evil people, and only utilized Agahnim during the events of ALttP?).
It'll be interesting to see where in the timeline A Link Between Worlds lands, specifically. After A Link To The Past for sure (despite the fact that during the ending, it was stated that "The Master Sword sleeps....forever!" in the "credits" section) but...will this take place before or after Link's Awakening? Before or after Oracle of Ages/Seasons? I'm pretty sure this takes place before the original Legend of Zelda, so it has to be between the NES original and the SNES game.
I wonder if we'll get any hints to it's placement during the game?
@GameDadGrant - It's already been announced that this takes place after Link's Awakening (which also puts it after the Oracles games in the Hyrule Historia timeline) because it doesn't feature the same Link as from those games.
There's also a bit of concept art that shows the Triforce of Wisdom glowing on Zelda's hand, which leads me to believe that it makes most sense for this game to take place after the Oracles and after the back story of AoL (when the King of Hyrule splits up the Triforce, hides the Triforce of Courage away, and the decree to name all of the princesses "Zelda" happens).
As for the Master Sword, I could live with it if it's the Oracles Master Sword rather than the ALttP Master Sword that Link is using in ALBW. After all, if it is the ALttP Master Sword, then it should be the Golden Sword, not the Master Sword.
@V_s But you don't need the Golden Sword to complete the game, correct? The Master Sword has been upgraded and redesigned so many times...it's hard to buy that the Golden Sword is even a permanent upgrade. For all we know, it could just revert back to being the Master Sword that we all recognize. I'm pretty sure that in the end credits of LttP, the sword that goes back into the pedestal is not golden.
True, but you don't need the Red Mail to complete the game either, but it still shows Link with it in the end credits if you got it during the game.
The Master Sword really hasn't been upgraded that much in the past. Certainly not in any way that would make it seem like the Golden Sword should have de-powered itself. We have the Goddess Sword becoming the True Master Sword. We have the Master Sword reverting to a powerless state when the sages that prayed for it to be fully-powered were killed off, and then transforming back into its fully-powered state when Link finds two new sages. And we have the Master Sword getting the Light Sword upgrade, which is something that only appears in the Twilight Realm. Those are the only upgrades the Master Sword ever gets outside of ALttP, and in all of them, the Master Sword is never powered up to a point beyond just being the fully-powered Master Sword, which is what we apparently see in ALttP (before Link upgrades it even further to the Tempered Sword and then to the Golden Sword).
However, I will concede that the sword that is put back in the pedestal at the end of ALttP doesn't look golden. But what in-story explanation could there be for the sword to down-grade itself two levels, especially when the game has no qualms about showing you in other optional gear in the credits? The only way the sword was able to down-grade itself in other entries in the series was by the sages that were keeping it powered up dying. But there is no such conditional power-up in ALttP. It's not like the sword would have lost its upgrades by the Great Fairy becoming uncursed or the other dwarven smithy being found. Maybe Link's wish on the Triforce could have taken everything back in time to a certain point, which would explain how the sword lost its upgrades, but then that wouldn't explain how Ganon is still dead at the end or how Link still has his upgraded clothes as the end.