The complete The Legend of Zelda timeline explained | summary

The complete The Legend of Zelda timeline explained |  summary

The Legend of Zelda games may seem simple in design, but there is a complex timeline behind this repetitive structure involving Link, Zelda, and Ganon (dorf). Kingdom Tears is about to come, so it’s time to get that convoluted timeline – or timelines – out of the game.

The story of The Legend of Zelda is just that: a legend. Even texts from the “Zelda bible” Hyrule Historia can sometimes be interpreted very differently. On the other hand, the story is somewhat vague and not always easy to follow chronologically. On the one hand, it’s very simple: a princess, a hero, a villain, and a magical tool that can solve everything. On top of that comes a curse and a whole host of reincarnations, such that the cycle repeats itself over and over again.

You might also (some variants) know Link as the hero of time, so it’s no surprise that the simple setup is thrown into confusion when time travel begins. Whether the overarching story is so confusing because of time travel, or because Nintendo didn’t come up with it until twenty-five years after the first Zelda game at fan insistence, the decision is up to you. Anyway, we can start simple: Once upon a time there were three gods who created the world.

After the creation of the world, the gods Dean, Nairu, and Faror left behind a powerful artifact: the Triforce. He serves to protect the goddess Helia. But, as with most magical artifacts, a lot of demons come to the Triforce right away. After Helia kills the demon king Demise, she decides that for safety’s sake she must animate humanity—or technically Pointed-eared Hylians, who look a lot like humans—and the Triforce into the sky. To be exact for Skyloft.

Between the land and the floating islands a thick layer of clouds prevents the demons from finding them. Helia reincarnates as a human, in the form of Princess Zelda. After the battle, she is gravely injured, and only with a human body can she fully utilize her Triforce powers. Unfortunately, the enemy Ghirahim manages to revive his master Demise and kidnap Zelda, forcing the seemingly residing Skyloft Link to embark on an adventure to stop him. This is the Skyward Sword adventure, the first game chronologically Zelda.

Naturally, Link succeeds in his mission, and Demise is destroyed again. But that doesn’t mean the end: Death curses Link and Zelda, causing them to be pursued by Demise—who later reincarnates as Ganondorf—or similar demons with each reincarnation.

With the danger passed, humanity can safely relocate to the mainland, where they establish the kingdom of Hyrule. The Triforce is stored safely in the Sacred World, which can only be accessed through the Temple of Time.

After the events of Skyward Sword, two games less important to the overall story followed: The Minish Cap and Four Swords. In it, Link experiences adventures among miniature people, meets a talking hat, clashes with the wizard Vaati and is split into four colored forms by the Four Swords. After these two hilarious adventures, the bleak – and confusing – story of Ocarina of Time begins.

In Ocarina of Time, we follow Link as a child of Hylian, as he grows up among the unified Kokiri tribe. After starring in a prophetic dream—surprise—Princess Zelda and Ganondorf, he soon ends up on an adventure in which he must stop Ganondorf, king of the Gerudo people, from getting his hands on the entire Triforce.

When Link attempts to obtain the Master Sword at the Temple of Time, he accidentally locks himself in the Holy Realm. Seven years later, he awakens to find the weapon he needs in his hands, but in the meantime Ganondorf is free to lay Hyrule to ruin.

Eventually Link deals with Ganondorf, at which point the timeline becomes confusing as it splits into three. Since Link is a child in an adult’s body, Zelda decides to send him back to his original timeline. This creates two timelines: the timeline that Link is sent back to and lives in as a child, and the adult timeline, which Link leaves behind when sent back to the past – so that timeline has no hero. Finally, there is a third timeline, in which Link dies trying to stop Ganondorf. Zelda games set chronologically after this split will be on one of these three timelines.

Let’s start with the timeline where Link is sent back to the past to live carefree as a child. After his return, Link warns Princess Zelda of Ganondorf, and to prevent his seizure of power, Zelda gives him a clear order to prevent a dark future: take the Ocarina of Time and ride on your horse as far away as possible.

As a result, Link’s youth does not remain very comfortable, because during his journey, Navi, the fairy who accompanied him during his Ocarina of Time adventure, is kidnapped. He ends up in another dimension, a land called Termina, where he has to travel back in time and has to deal with a terrible catastrophe. The land of Termina was destroyed by a crashing moon. This happens because of the Skull Kid, who has stolen Majora’s powerful mask. After collecting twenty-four magical masks, Link assumes a more powerful form – Fierce Deity Link – and manages to defeat the Skull Kid. Link leaves Termina, never to be seen again.

Zelda, who has been warned by Link of the danger Ganondorf poses, meanwhile in Hyrule attempts to have Ganondorf executed before he can commit his crimes. She does so along with the rest of the “Seven Sages”—seven Sacred Sages who are strongly associated with the Sacred Realm. This does not go according to plan, and he ends up in the Twilight universe. He manages to escape from there, which again endangers Hyrule. Fortunately, a descendant of Link from the Ocarina of Time lives in Hyrule, who is also called Link – you get used to it – and in this timeline he must also put an end to Ganondorf for the time being. He does this with Midna, a powerful princess of the Twilight Realm – she needs Link to overthrow Zant, who has staged a coup d’état in the Twilight Realm. Link and Midna defeat Zant and Ganondorf.

Four Swords Adventures is the last game in Kid’s timeline. This time, Ganondorf isn’t the only one to wake up, but the wizard Vaati also returns. With the Four Sword, Link splits into four again and manages to defeat them both, finally bringing peace to the Child’s timeline.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Despite its cute appearance, the story of the adult timeline is arguably sadder than the child’s timeline. After linking back to the past, there are no heroes left to protect the timeline. As a result, Hyrule is the main focus of Ganondorf’s inevitable return, and can lay the entire land to ruin without opposition.

The gods decide to intervene: Hyrule is flooded, causing the land – along with Ganondorf – to disappear to the ocean floor. Eventually, new reincarnations of Link and Ganondorf appear in this overtaken world, causing them to clash once again in The Wind Waker.

Link and Zelda, aka the pirate Tetra in this timeline, succeed in killing Ganondorf, once and for all – in this timeline. With Hyrule still overrun, Zelda and Link set out to find new land in The Phantom Hourglass. They found a new continent, and founded the kingdom of New Hyrule there.

Spirit Tracks, the last game in this timeline, is set about a hundred years after the founding of New Hyrule. When strange train tracks suddenly appear, the train conductor’s link – yes, really! – To investigate. With the help of a ghostly version of Zelda, he discovers that the demon king Maladus has been resurrected. After Link defeats these and Zelda regains her physical body, they live in peace in New Hyrule, ending this “cute” timeline.

We return to Ocarina of Time again to discuss the final timeline that emerges from it. In this timeline, Link fails to stop Ganondorf, but the villain takes full possession of the Triforce. In a last ditch effort, Princess Zelda and the rest of the Seven Elders decide to imprison Ganon – the boar form of Ganondorf – and the Triforce in the Holy Kingdom. As a result, this area is no longer sacred: Ganon’s presence has turned it into a “dark realm”.

This is where the events of A Link to the Past begin. Link’s new reincarnation must confront the priest Agahnim, who opened the dark world and kidnapped Zelda. After Link – as a rabbit, actually – ends up in the Dark World, he also has to compete against Ganon. Link defeats Ganon again, and the Triforce is returned to the hands of the Royal Family. With Ganon dead, the Dark World becomes progressively less dark.

After this adventure, Link gets on a boat and sinks the ship, which leads to a dreamlike adventure in Link’s Awakening. This is followed by Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. The Twinrova witches, who raised Ganondorf, are trying to bring him back to life. You guessed it: Gannon returns, but is promptly defeated once again.

Then, in A Link Between Worlds, Link teleports to another dimension, this time one called Lorule. He defeats the wizard Yuga and Zelda uses the Triforce to ensure that Lorule is thriving as well. The same Link plays the main role in Triforce Heroes, which happens right after – no reincarnation for a change, so.

This timeline completed with the first two Zelda games: The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. After several generations of peace, the King decided to split the Triforce and hide one of the three parts of the Triforce. Only Zelda knows the location of this part. The Prince, angry that he will not inherit the Triforce according to tradition, decides to interrogate Zelda with a wizard, but this does not go according to plan, and Zelda falls into an eternal sleep.

With the full Triforce not in place, the way is clear for the newly reincarnated Ganon to wreak havoc on Hyrule. On top of that, the new Princess Zelda was captured by Ganon – so it wasn’t the sleeping Zelda, who also still exists. A new Link sets out on an adventure to reassemble the Triforce, defeat Ganon, and save Zelda.

In The Adventure of Link, Link himself also tries to save the sleeping Princess Zelda, while stopping monsters trying to bring Ganon back to life. He succeeds, and peace is restored to Hyrule in this timeline as well.


But what timeline does Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom take place? Nintendo evaded that answer in a way that would make Schrödinger jealous: sort of into all of them.

Breath of the Wild takes place over ten thousand years after the events of all the other Zelda games, making it impossible to track down a proper timeline for this game. So the game can take place in any timeline, but it can also be linked to all of them – Nintendo is intentionally vague about that.

In Breath of the Wild, the kingdom of Hyrule has advanced technology, but it’s been turned against it by Calamity Ganon, a powerful, monstrous form of Ganon. After 100 years of slumber, Zelda summons Link to wrestle technological divine beasts from Ganon’s grasp and end his reign.

After Link makes short work of the book Catastrophe Ganon in Breath of the Wild, the events of Kingdom Tears are supposed to begin. Before we find out what’s going on there – and how many confusing timelines to add – we’ll have to wait until Friday when the game comes out on Nintendo Switch.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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