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The Timeline of the Zelda series is so complicated and convoluted that many people claim that none of the games even take place in the same universe despite the fact that Shigeru Miyamoto gives hints at each game's place in the timeline when they are released. On top of the fact that Hyrule has no obvious system of measuring years, the timeline has been split by time travel, introduced parallel realities, and consists of two dimensions. Though there is no definite or official timeline, it is possible to tell each game's relation to the other games in the series by the various hints and allusions dropped in the games. So, in order to competently document the timeline of the Zelda series, this article will contain a list of each game, how that game relates to the other games in the series, and the in-game proof of this connection. If anything on this page happens to conflict with your own personal fabrications, please ignore it, as it was probably just a translation error anyway. Though, if you notice something I forgot, missed, or simply conflicts with solid in-game facts, please feel free to fix it.
|This section contains spoilers! Content within this section may reveal significant parts of a game(s) story.|
Abbreviations used in this article
As it would become very unreadable to refer each game by its full title, please keep in mind that the following abbreviations will be used:
- The Legend of Zelda = LoZ
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link = AoL
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past = LttP
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening = LA
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon = WoG
- Link: The Faces of Evil = FoE
- Zelda's Adventure = ZA
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time = OoT
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask = MM
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons = OoS
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages = OoA
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker = WW
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords = FS
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap = MC
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures = FSA
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess = TP
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass = PH
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks= ST
Incidentally, anyone reading this should probably already know what those abbreviations are.
The following is a list of official quotes (from Nintendo themselves or from characters within the games referring to actual dates) regarding the Zelda storyline:
- From Nintendo Power issue 165, February 2003:
Eiji Aonuma: There's also a more complicated explanation. If you think back to the end of Ocarina of Time, there were two endings in that game in different time periods. First Link defeated Ganon as an adult, and then he actually went back to being a child. You could say that The Wind Waker takes place 100 years after the ending in which Link was an adult.
Note: When Wind Waker was later released, it was said to be hundreds of years after OoT, not 100 years. It seems that this was a translation error, as the Japanese use the same word for "hundred" and "hundreds".
Have neither of you have heard the tales? The tales of the kingdom spoken of in the legend of the great hero... The place where the power of the god lies hidden... This place, where the two of you now stand, is that kingdom. This is Hyrule... And I am its king: Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule. Link, do you not recognize my voice? Indeed, I am the one who guided you here. I am the King of Red Lions. There was no need for me to reveal my true identity to you so long as that blade, the Master Sword, could defeat Ganon... But now... both of you must listen to me. Once, long ago, this land of Hyrule was turned into a world of shadows by Ganon, who sought to obtain the power of the gods for his own evil ends. My power alone could not stop the fiend, and our only choice was to leave the fate of the kingdom in the hands of the gods... When the gods heard our pleas, they chose to seal away not only Ganon, but Hyrule itself... and so, with a torrential downpour of rains from the heavens... Our fair kingdom was soon buried beneath the waves, forgotten at the bottom of the ocean. Yet all was not lost. For the gods knew that to seal away the people with the kingdom would be to grant Ganon's wish for the destruction of the land. So, before the sealing of the kingdom, the gods chose those who would build a new country and commanded them to take refuge on the mountaintops. Those people were your ancestors. Hundreds of years have passed since then... So long as Ganondorf was not revived, Hyrule would remained below never waking from its slumber. Tetra, come to me.
- The prologue to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past:
Long ago in the beautiful Kingdom of Hyrule surrounded by mountains and forests... Legends told of an omnipotent and omniscient Golden Power that resided in a hidden land. Many people aggressively sought to enter the hidden Golden Land... But no one ever returned. One day evil power began to flow from the Golden Land... So the king commanded seven wise men to seal the gate to the land of the Golden power. That seal should have remained for all time... ... ... But, when these events were obscured by the mists of time and became legend... A mysterious wizard known as Agahnim came to Hyrule to release the seal. He eliminated the good King of Hyrule... Through evil magic, he began to make descendents of the seven wise men vanish, one after another. And the time of destiny for Princess Zelda is drawing near.
- thehyrule.com interview with Eiji Aonuma (E3 2005):
...Twilight Princess takes place between Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker... As for Phantom Hourglass, as you may have guessed, it is a sequel to The Wind Waker... A Link to the Past and the NES games take place long after The Wind Waker.... Obviously Four Swords Adventures takes place before A Link to the Past; we designed that game to be a prequel to that game. Four Swords has to come before that, and The Minish Cap before them all.
- Interview with Eiji Aonuma (March 2006):
–When does Twilight Princess take place?
Aonuma: In the world of Ocarina of Time, a hundred and something years later.
–And the Wind Waker?
Aonuma: 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...
This quote clearly contradicts the previous one, however this one actually comes from after the game release, unlike the other. Besides, it just makes more sense to put TP after the child ending of OoT
The beginning, before the timeline split
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
The origin of Vaati and the Four Sword, predates public knowledge of the Triforce.
- This Link is never given a title, but is referred to as the Hero of the Minish.
- The Four Sword is created and the Shrine of the Four Sword is built and in mint condition.
- The story of Vaati's origin is told, and we see him transform from Minish to human to wind demon thing.
- Almost none of the "ancients" are present yet (Deku Tree, Great Fairies, Spirits).
- Hylians at large seem to be unaware of the Legend of the Triforce, and instead focus on the Light Force, a power latent inside Princess Zelda.
Summary: The first game in the time line, if only by virtue of the fact that it has almost nothing in common with anything else. It almost seems to be set in a gaiden universe, but it's actually just a very primitive Hyrule. Sets up the Four Swords and Vaati sub plot, but makes no mention of Ganondorf, or even the Gerudo. Because Zelda is named Zelda, this game takes place 'after' the titular legend of Zelda, (from the Zelda II manual) in which all princesses are named Zelda to mourn the "death" of a princess to feuding over the Triforce within the Hyrule family. In most other games, Link's hat is worn as per a tradition started by the Hero of Time, but in this game, Link's trademark green hat is a coincidence, as it's really his assistant Elzo.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords
Some maintenance is done on Vaati's seal.
- This Link is never given a title, but is referred to as the Hero of the Four Sword.
- Zelda explains the Four Sword to Link, meaning this Link could not be the same Link from the other four sword games.
- Vaati and only Vaati (not Vaati and Ganon) is sealed in the Four Sword, meaning it takes place before FSA, but after MC.
- Vaati is currently trying to gather up all the noble maidens, a plan that he was trying to do when FSA started. Again, this game takes place before FSA.
Summary: The sitcom episode of the Zelda series, everything ends exactly how it began. Takes place between MC and FSA. For the most part, ignore it. It's been stated that this game was the first in the series, however that was before TMC release.
The timeline split/The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This game has two endings, making it really confusing.
- This Link becomes known as the Hero of Time.
- The Triforce is found in the Sacred Realm, where it was left by the Three Golden Goddesses prior to their creation of the world, and was brought into Hyrule for the first time in this game. In every other game, the Triforce is broken into three pieces and is not in the Sacred Realm (with the exception of LttP, but LttP, among other things, takes place after the destruction of Hyrule, so it could not be before OoT). This used to make OoT the first game in the series, but now it comes after MC, where there is no reference to the Triforce at all.
- This game is responsible for most of the confusion about the Zelda timeline, as it was the first game in the Zelda series to not take place immediately after the last one.
- The reason Link wears his funky clothing is actually explained in this game, where as most other Links are doing it for unexplained or traditional reasons.
- This game has two endings, in one ending Link saves Hyrule and leaves forever by traveling back in time and altering events so that he'd never have to save Hyrule in the first place, leaving adult Link Hyrule Linkless. The second ending is where he comes home to his own time and is a child. This is where the Timeline splits, but it's also conveniently the first game in the series, so one can just assume that there are two separate timelines.
Summary: Previously the first game in the timeline, before the Minish Cap was released. The timeline splits into two timelines. One of them, the adult ending, is the timeline of the majority of the Zelda franchise. The other timeline only concerns MM, OoA/OoS. It is unknown which of the two timelines LoZ and AoL take place in.
The child ending timeline
All games in this timeline take place after the ending in OoT in which Link returns to his original time as a child and never opens the portal to the Sacred Realm.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
A clear sequel to OoT:
- This is the same Link from OoT, the Hero of Time.
- Link has all the items he had in OoT.
- Link has Epona, from OoT.
- Like the LttP sequels, this game was made with the intention of being a sequel to a major Zelda game, and not a major Zelda game itself.
- The bulk of this game conveniently takes place in a parallel universe in the world Termina, so, for the most part, you can just ignore every single character and event in this game. Except for Tingle, who transcends time and space to piss you off.
Summary: Just a minor OoT sequel. Nothing important really happens.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Concludes the 'Ganondorf trilogy':
- Only game where Ganondorf is 'actually' killed—he is technically immortal, but he technically committed suicide, as Zant (whose body Ganondorf was possessing throughout most of Twilight Princess) snapped his own neck. He was a spirit in Wind Waker, his ghost remained haunting Hyrule, as per the curse he gave before his death.
- The origins of Dark World (called the Twilight Realm in this game) are explained.
- Hyrule Castle (and the boundaries of Hyrule) move north after the destruction of Hyrule Castle in OoT, based on the relative location of the Temple of Time.
- TP Link is a direct descendant of OoT Link, as indicated by Link's father (the dead swordsman), which also implies the reason that OoT Link "left Hyrule" was to be with Malon, as Ordon's relative location on the map is where Lon Lon Ranch used to be, which is now outside of the new boundaries of Hyrule.
Summary: This game was released 'after' FSA, but the two were in development at the same time. When taken as a whole, the two games do a LOT to explain the backstory to LttP. As stated by series creator Eiji Aonuma, this takes place after the child ending.
The adult ending timeline
All games in this timeline take place after the ending in OoT in which Link saves Hyrule but travels back in time and is never seen again.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Takes place in the alternate timeline where Oot link is never seen again, as explained in the prologue.
- This Link becomes known as the Hero of Wind.
- It is stated in-game that it takes place hundreds of years after the events of OoT.
- In this game, the old Hyrule (from OoT) is destroyed.
Summary: Finally, a Zelda game that takes some pressure off the player and doesn't make you infer every little thing. This is really the first game to directly mention the other games in a way that isn't extremely vague and third hand. Takes place a few hundred years after the adult ending of OoT, and is the point where the original land of Hyrule is destroyed by a flood.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Takes place immediately after TWW.
- The games starts almost exactly where TWW ended.
Summary: A bunch of stuff happens, which is not very important in regard of the overall storyline. Basically, at the beginning, Link and Tetra are looking for a new land and at the end they're still looking.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Takes place a century after PH.
- There are references to the original settlers in this new Hyrule, who came here around one century before the game starts.
Summary: Pretty self-explanatory, the game just takes place in the new land, and Link has to save the day again (because TWW Link and Tetra had to settle on a land with its own villain already, they just, you know, couldn't find a place with no dark magic and the like)
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
You'd think a multiplayer Zelda game made by someone other than Nintendo would have no effect on the overall story. You'd be wrong.
- A new, unique Link. Four of them, actually. They are the Four Who Are One.
- A new Ganondorf is born, who continues the family tradition of trying to kill the world. This Ganondorf was born after the death of the original Ganondorf, so by the Zelda laws of reincarnation, it is the same spirit. He acquires the Gerudo artifact Ganon's trident (which suddenly has plot significance) and uses it to become Ganon once more.
- Vaati dies and Ganon is sealed.
- The game ends and puts the different characters in the exact position in which they can be found in the beginning of A Link to the Past, it is quite obvious that this is the Imprisoning War referred to in the LttP intro.
Summary: This game has a lot of significance in the overall story, mainly to how Wind Waker transits into LttP. The game takes place on Hyrule, which is now one big island nation, unlike it's been in any other Zelda game. Though FS took place on this island nation, it's place in the timeline was unknown at the time of its release, and we saw very little of the world. And while Minish Cap comes before FSA in the timeline, it was released after FSA. This game is the first to show any kind of connection between WW and LttP. In WW, The Great Deku Tree said that he was going to try to get all the trees around the world to pull the islands together. Looks like it worked. Either that, or Wind Waker Zelda and Link sailed off to a new land and started a civilization there. With each other, wink, wink. The island nation of Hyrule looks very much like the Hyrule in LttP, and has a lot of features from WW as well. We also find out how Ganondorf got his groove back after getting stabbed in the head and killed in WW (he was reborn, d'oh!). Ganon and Vaati work together to be jerks, but are eventually sealed within the Four Sword. We currently don't know how or when Ganon and Vaati get out of the Four Sword, just that they eventually do.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The first game with any kind of timeline weirdness.
- This Link becomes known as The Hero of Legend.
- With the exceptions of its relatively unimportant sequels, this game is generally accepted as the last game in the Zelda timeline, as Link obtains the Triforce and wishes Ganon out of existence. This makes LttP the last game in the timeline.
- The Seven Maidens are said to be the descendants of the Seven Sages.
Summary: LttP is widely accepted as the last game (ignoring its sequels) in the timeline, and just about every other recent game makes allusions to it. The plot told in its opening sequence is that of FSA, which is widely accepted as the first game in the timeline. This means these two games are the bookends of the series, and all other games take place between them.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
A clear sequel to LttP.
- This is the same Link from LttP, the Hero of Legend.
- The game takes place during a grasshopper dream between Link and the Wind Fish, where he sees many things from LttP, such as Princess Zelda, who he is never seen meeting in real life in this game.
- LA was released shortly after LttP, and made no attempt to be a major part of the overall story.
Summary: Just a minor LttP sequel.
For the rest of the games, their position in the timeline is impossible to figure out. There's not enough ties with the rest of the games to know for sure
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
Happen(s) at the same/different time(s) in different countries in a parallel timeline in the past/present that affects (willan on-affect) the ultimate storyline for about five minutes. Not a joke.
- This is the same Link from Alttp, the Hero of Legend.
- The first Capcom developed Zelda game. It seems Capcom got a sense of how screwed up the Zelda timeline already was and wanted to continue the tradition by making the order of OoA and OoS completely up to the player. If you bought OoS first, then OoS game first. If you bought OoA first, then OoA came first. There was a password system that made one game the first adventure, and the other game the second adventure, deepening on which you played first. They take place in two countries that are entirely different from Hyrule, so it doesn't really matter to the overall storyline. For some unexplained reason, Link walks into an unexplained castle at an unexplained location, where he meets the Essence of the Triforce, who tells him evil is a-brewin' in two different countries, Holodrum (OoS) and Labrynna (OoA). After about a 100 hours of gameplay, all this means for the overall Zelda storyline as a whole was this: Because Link never did all the stuff he did as an adult in OoT in the child ending, he never killed Ganondorf's witch henchwoman Twinrova who was—some how—trying to resurrect and/or create/summon Ganon. Remember, Ganon only came into existing when Ganondorf got the Triforce of power. In the child ending timeline, Ganondorf did not get the Triforce of Power. But Link kills everything, so it's no big deal.
Summary: Can take place at any point in any timeline where the triforce is reunited and Ganon is dead. All you need to know is that Ganon almost got his groove back but didn't.
The Legend of Zelda I and II
NOTE: Some people do NOT consider these games to be canon, it's place in the timeline is just a place where it could possibly be. Feel free to ignore this one if it doesn't make sense.
The placement of Zelda I and II is the most ambiguous in the whole timeline, as the games were the first in the series and were on the NES, a system whose strong point was not storytelling. While everyone would agree that they take place one after the other, no one can seem to agree where they are in the timeline. However, because of the recent "world flood" storyline introduced in WW, it becomes more apparent. Zelda I and II are the only games in the series where Hyrule has an ocean, but is not an island. The Hyrule map in these two games is composed of small islands as well as a larger grouping of central continents, which may place it between FS and FSA. We know that Hyrule went from a bunch of scattered islands, to a single island nation, and then finally, to a drained flood-plain. The placement of Zelda I and II here on this timeline is based entirely on how the islands are clustered. It is possible that they take place between TP and WW, but as there was a water-to-mountains transition then too, but the game's story implies that this was the result of a sudden detrimental flood, rather than a gradual rise in water level. There's also a lot of time consuming back story in both games, and WW to LTTP is the biggest time empty gap (roughly a thousand years) so it's really the only place it fits comfortably. But feel free to ignore it, and just assume that Miyamoto wasn't thinking about the grand overall timeline when he made these games. That's what most people do. And they're probably right.
NOTE: Most people do NOT consider thess games to be canon, their place in the timeline is just a place where they could possibly be. They are complete crap anyway.
Link: The Faces of Evil
A clear sequel to LoZ/AoL.
- This is the same Link from LoZ/AoL.
- This crappy game has no deep thought put into it at all, and is pretty much riding the coattails of AoL as a halfassed sequel.
- No one cares anyway.
Summary: Just a minor LoZ sequel.
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
A clear sequel to Faces of Evil.
- This is the same Zelda from the previous game. (Yes you actually play as Zelda who is going to save Link)
- This crappy game has no deep thought put into it at all, and is pretty much riding the coattails of AoL as a halfassed sequel.
- No one cares anyway.
Summary: Just a minor AoL sequel.
A clear sequel to The Wand of Gamelon.
- This is the same Zelda from the previous game. (Yes you actually play as Zelda who is going to save Link).
- This crappy game has no deep thought put into it at all, and is pretty much riding the coattails of LoZ as a halfassed sequel.
- No one cares anyway.
Summary: Just a minor LoZ sequel.
Basically it goes like this:
- The Three Golden Goddesses create the world.
- Ganondorf is sealed in OoT.
- Ganondorf breaks the seal and wrecks havoc in TP; Hyrule is sealed.
- Daphnes changes the seal into a real ocean and destroys the old Hyrule in WW.
- Four Swords stuff happens.
- Hyrule reforms as an island nation in FSA
- Hyrule ages into the Hyrule it becomes in LttP, and Link finally defeats Ganon.
And between all that important stuff is a bunch of unimportant stuff happens. No one really knows where the first two games go in the story, other than that they are together.
Summary of the Summary: People are a problem.
Tingle seems to be the only person in all of Hyrule who recognizes Link in each game. In Wind Waker he says that their souls are connected through time and space or some bunk. To solve this problem, put cardboard over your TV any time you see Tingle, and try to keep him out of the shot.
The different incarnations of Link
Link has been reincarnated many times in the Zelda timeline. These reincarnations are given titles to distinguish them from each other: