History of the Zelda Timeline
Historically, the Zelda Timeline has been an afterthought with respect to game development. It was not pre-planned and has grown incrementally with each new release, often being re-arranged to accommodate new titles. An official overarching timeline was not laid out in full until Hyrule Historia was first released in 2011. Prior to the release of Hyrule Historia, the overall timeline was the subject of numerous fan theories.
This article details the evolution of the timeline—and its fan intepretations—throughout the series' history.
History of the official timeline
The first decade of the series saw four releases from 1986 to 1993. With so few games, the timeline remained relatively straightforward.
- The Legend of Zelda is the original game of the series, first released in Japan in 1986.
- The Adventure of Link is released as a direct sequel to the original The Legend of Zelda, set some years later.
- A Link to the Past is released as a prequel to the original The Legend of Zelda. Its main characters are described as the predecessors of the Link and Zelda from the first two titles.
- Link's Awakening is released as a direct sequel to A Link to the Past according to its official Japanese site.
The timeline complications begin with the next wave of releases five years later.
In 1998, Ocarina of Time is released as a prequel to A Link to the Past. Nintendo purports the game to be a retelling of the Imprisoning War in the backstory of A Link to the Past. However the actual events of Ocarina of Time do not fully align with the Imprisoning War.[how?]
In 2001, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are released. The Triforce plays a central role in the plot and Ganon is still the ultimate villain, but the games have no apparent connection to the overall timeline.[verification needed]
Also in 2001, Nintendo of America releases a timeline of the first eight games on Zelda Universe. This timeline has the games in the following order: Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages, Oracle of Seasons, The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, and Link's Awakening. All of the games are purported to involve the same Link. This timeline is not recognized to be canonical due to lack of involvement from the developers, as well as the impossibility of Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past featuring the same Link.
In 2002 and 2003, The Wind Waker is released as a distant-future sequel to Ocarina of Time. It takes place in a time after a Great Flood washes away Hyrule completely, an event that upheaves the timeline. The game does not recognize the events of A Link to the Past, which would have occurred between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker.
In 2006, Twilight Princess is released as yet another sequel to Ocarina of Time, ostensibly contradicting The Wind Waker. Shortly after, producer Eiji Aonuma officially declares the existence of two parallel timelines resulting from Link's time travel in Ocarina of Time. Twilight Princess is stated to occur in the "Child Link Timeline" while The Wind Waker occurs in the "Adult Link Timeline".
In the meantime, from 2002 to 2005, Four Swords, Four Swords Adventures, and The Minish Cap are released. The games form their own plot featuring Vaati as the primary villain and the Four Sword as the holy grail instead of the Triforce. The Minish Cap is a distant prequel to Four Swords. Four Swords Adventures, at the time, is presented as a direct sequel to Four Swords. Four Swords Adventures ties into the greater series by re-introducing Ganon as the ultimate villain behind Vaati's power. However, the game's placement in the timeline—in either of the two branches—is unclear at the time. The same is true for A Link to the Past and the other three titles preceding Ocarina of Time.
Skyward Sword is released in 2011 and is placed at the very beginning of the timeline.
Shortly after Skyward Sword, a full account of the timeline is released in Hyrule Historia. It attempts to resolve the contradictions by contriving a third timeline branch where Link is defeated by Ganon in Ocarina of Time.
The so-called Fallen Hero Timeline accounts for the events of A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages, Link's Awakening, The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link in that order. Later, in Encyclopedia, this timeline branch is re-arranged to account for A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes, which are placed directly after Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Link's Awakening is once again placed directly after A Link to the Past.
Hyrule Historia places The Minish Cap and Four Swords after Skyward Sword at the beginning of the timeline. Four Swords Adventures is shoehorned into the Child Timeline as its latest games.
In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion, the events that occurred in Hyrule's early history are described to have faded into myth. The timeline begins anew with Breath of the Wild.
Fan interpretations of timeline
- Main article: Archive:Timeline Theories
- "At the end of a fierce fight, Link overthrew Ganon, took back the Triforce and rescued Princess Zelda. However, is it all really finished? Many seasons have passed since then." (The Adventure of Link manual, pg. 3)
- "One day, a strange mark, exactly like the crest of the kingdom, appeared on the back of Link's hand as he approached his 16th birthday." (The Adventure of Link manual, pg. 3)
- "The predecessors of Link and Zelda face monsters on the march when a menacing magician takes over the kingdom." (A Link to the Past box)
- "The story in Ocarina of time isn’t actually original, it deals with the Sages’ Imprisoning War from the Super Famicom's ALttP." — Satoru Takizawa, Ganondorf, GlitterBerri's Game Translations, published June 22, 2007, retrieved December 22, 2013.
- "The Wind Waker is parallel. In Ocarina of Time, Link flew seven years in time, he beat Ganon and went back to being a kid, remember? Twilight Princess takes place in the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years after the peace returned to kid Link's time. In the last scene of Ocarina of Time, kids Link and Zelda have a little talk, and as a consequence of that talk, their relationship with Ganon takes a whole new direction. In the middle of this game [Twilight Princess], there's a scene showing Ganon's execution. It was decided that Ganon be executed because he'd do something outrageous if they left him be. That scene takes place several years after Ocarina of Time. Ganon was sent to another world and now he wants to obtain the power..." — Eiji Aonuma, Nintendo Dream: Eiji Aonuma Interview 1, The Hylia, published 03-10-2007, retrieved December 22, 2013.
- "The kingdom of Hyrule has a long, long history. So long, in fact, that the events that occurred leading up to its founding and in its early years have faded into myth. Hyrule's recurring periods of prosperity and decline have made it impossible to tell which legends are historical fact and which are mere fairy tale. However, it is an undisputable truth that Calamity Ganon attacked Hyrule and was sealed ten thousand years ago, and that it revived one hundred years ago in an event called the Great Calamity." (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion (Dark Horse Books) pg. 360)