Since the Official Timeline has been revealed, this Theory that is a few years old has become obsolete. However, it proves how much value it had, because I was right most of the time 😉 This Topic has been locked!
There are a great many theories regarding the Zelda Timeline. Some say there exists a master document within a safe hidden in Aonuma’s office, others say there is no timeline, others say there are more timelines. No-one knows the truth and frankly, Nintendo does not tell.
So I analyzed all the games in detail to find out what is going on. If there are language differences in information, only the japanese version counts. If there are remakes, only the newest version counts. Let us begin with a short rundown…
Information coming directly from the good folks at Nintendo:
- After Ocarina of Time, the Timeline was split into two parts: Adult Timeline and Child Timeline.
- Four Swords precedes Ocarina of Time.
- Twilight Princess is in the Child Timeline
Now, that those things are clear, let us begin with a little connection that is obvious in the respective games:
- The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link are direct sequels.
- The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are direct sequels and are in the Adult Timeline.
- Majoras Mask is a direct Sequel and in the Child Timeline.
- Minish Cap is a prequel to Four Swords and thus the very first game in the Timeline.
Okay, so now we know all those things. This helps us list the Games. Our current list, the one OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED, looks like this:
- Minish Cap
- Four Swords
- Ocarina of Time
- Majoras Mask
- Twilight Princess
- Wind Waker
- Phantom Hourglass
- Spirit Tracks
However, there are still a lot of games missing, and we have no official information about them. Thus, there is alot of room for debate about the timeline. Let us begin right here.
First and foremost, the timelines. In Ocarina of Time, when Zelda sent Link back in time so that he could grow up again, that’s when the split occured. All the events from the game happened. This split the timeline into the Adult Timeline, when Link was gone after he defeated Ganondorf and he never returned, and the Child Timeline, after Link returned to his time, just in time to warn the King of Hyrule of Ganondorf’s plans. The Child Timeline would in that case be the real timeline. The events that really happened. Everything else would be an alternate reality.
This view is mostly debated by fans, but still, it is the official stance by Nintendo’s own Eiji Aonuma, the current mastermind behind the series. He is responsible for most of the story details, and he said those things directly in interviews and statements, therefore, they count as official information.
But what can we do about the other games? Well, there are ideas that take into account the geography of Hyrule itself, but I don’t think those theories are correct. Hyrule is an ever changing country, mainly because it gets redesigned in every game to provide a new feeling for the player. You wouldnt want to run through the same world in a dozen games.
There are noteable exceptions though, like the Temple of Time and its ruins in Twilight Princess, located in the Faron Woods, that also act as the lost woods in the game. It is the very same place, where we find the Master Sword in A Link to the Past.
Thus, one can speculate that A Link to the Past is a sequel to Twilight Princess. This would place it in the Child Timeline. That also lines up with the intro of the game. In it, we are told that seven wise men sealed the gate to the dark world, after Ganon took over and tried to invade Hyrule. These events happened in Ocarina of Time, when Link was an Adult. After he was sent back, he told the King about the things he had seen. Thus, the King ordererd Ganondorf’s execution. However, the seven wise men, different beings in this timeline since they were not yet slaughtered by Ganon, failed in doing so, resulting in the alternate plan of sealing him into the Twilight Realm. As stated in the intro to A Link to the Past: Those events became Legend…
It is true that some people argue that those events better suit the Adult Timeline. In fact, an old interview with Miyamoto states that Ocarina of Time precedes A Link to the Past directly. However, this interview is old, and that was during the development of the game, where there was no sign of a split timeline whatsoever. Thus, I consider it to be outdated information. The best fact against the Adult Timeline theory is, that the introduction to Wind Waker states that there was nothing between Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. And if A Link to the Past would follow Spirit Tracks, the people surely would not have a legend of a country that does not exist anymore anyway.
It is my firm belief that A Link to the Past follows Twilight Princess. In Twilight Princess, Ganondorf is banished into the Twilight Realm. There, he joins forces with Zanto to invade Hyrule. After he fails, he dies. Theorists ask what happened next? How did Ganon come into the Dark World then? For those answers we must examine the very last scene of the ending to Ocarina of Time.
The ending shows Link arriving where it all began – when he first met Zelda. This was before Ganondorf invaded the Golden Land. However, in Twilight Princess, Ganondorf already had the Triforce of Power. This is a crucial point in the game. It is the reason the seven wise men fail to kill him. Instead, he uses the very same sword they impaled him with and kills the Sage of Water.
That either means two things: 1.) There is another untold story in there, or 2.) The impression at the ending to Ocarina of Time is wrong, and Link and Zelda reunite as children AFTER the seal to the Golden Land has already been opened. The second theory would also fit with the Introduction to A Link to the Past again.
Imagine, a little boy coming to you telling you the same story your daughter told you yesterday, without any indication of it being true. What would you do? But if the gate was open, and Link arrived right after Ganondorf invaded the Golden Land and claimed the Triforce of Power his own, he could warn the King and the soldiers with a proof. They would fight a war against Ganondorf’s dark creatures while the seven wise men try to kill Ganondorf and fail. So they imprison him and seal the gate. Just as the introduction to A Link to the Past tells us.
Those things make it pretty obvious, that A Link to the Past follows Twilight Princess, and that the ending to Ocarina of Time did in fact happen after Link pulled the Master Sword.
So where does this leave us now?
- Ocarina of Time
- Majoras Mask
- Twilight Princess
- A Link to the Past
As I already wrote in an earlier article, there was a Japanese Zelda game for the Super Nintendo, that played in Hyrule during Link’s travels in Link’s Awakening. If you missed it, check here for Ancient Stone Tablets. Other official information tells us that Link’s Awakening is in fact a sequel to A Link to the Past.
So where are we now? We have categorized a few games, but still miss games? Where are The Legend of Zelda, Adventure of Link, Oracle of Seasons/Ages, Four Swords Adventures? Well, we will take care of those games now. Let us begin with The Legend of Zelda.
In this game, you can actually run around the coast of Hyrule. Even more, in its direct sequel, we find out that this Hyrule is just the southern part of a much bigger country which is made up of islands located on the Great Sea. Another example where the ever changing geography actually is relevant for the story. If one studies the world layout from Spirit Tracks, it becomes rather clear that it is the very same place as in The Legend of Zelda. We have Death Mountain on the north eastern map, the sea realm on the south eastern border, the grass and forest region southwest and the snow realm northwest.
It is very clear that Nintendo intended this game to be set at the same location as the original Legend of Zelda. Even more, neither Ganondorf nor the Master Sword are present in those games. Instead, we just have Ganon the beast and the Magic Blade. How is that?
Well, simply put, the Master Sword is at the bottom of the Great Sea, because Link rammed it into Ganondorf’s forehead in the end of Wind Waker. Ganondorf turned to stone and sank to the bottom of the sea. And while it is unknown how Ganon returned, he surely would not bring the one thing that actually can kill him with him.
All those things point to the conclusion that The Legend of Zelda, and its direct sequel Adventure of Link close the Adult Timeline generations after Spirit Tracks.
So where are we now?
The Child Timeline looks like this:
- Majoras Mask
- Twilight Princess
- A Link to the Past
- Link’s Awakening
The Adult Timeline looks like this:
- Wind Waker
- Phantom Hourglass
- Spirit Tracks
- The Legend of Zelda
- Adventure of Link
So what are we still missing? The Oracle games and Four Swords Adventures. Lets do the Oracle games first.
The Oracle games have a cool feature: You can link them together with a password once after you completed one of them. If you do it right, you not only get a few new features in the next game, but also an additional real ending. In this ending, Twinrova want to sacrifice Zelda to resurrect Ganon. They fail, and Zelda lives, with Ganon being only a mindless beast, unable to control himself. After Link kills Ganon and Twinrova, Zelda and Impa return to Hyrule while Link embarks on a sailing trip on the very same sailboat the intro to Link’s Awakening shows.
Not only that, but in the introduction, the COMPLETED Triforce sends Link on his quest in the first place. The Triforce was only completed TWICE: Once at the end to Adventure of Link and once at the end to A Link to the Past. (A thrid time at the end of Wind Waker, but that was just temporary, thus, it does not count.)
Theorists could argue that the Oracle games could be after Adventure of Link or maybe some other game. But the INGAME evidence clearly shows that the developers intended the games to be a sequel to A Link to the Past. Even the artwork matches with the original artworks from A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening, including their re-released versions. Many locations from those games mirror things seen in Link’s Awakening. And since the whole world of Koholint was but a sewn together world of Link’s memories, it is obvious he got those memories from the Oracle games. Even more, Twinrova are dead in the Adult Timeline, but not in the Child Timeline. No matter how you spin it, the Oracle games were intended to be after A Link to the Past and before Link’s Awakening.
That leaves us with only one game left, and it is also the most tricky one. Because not only does it include Ganon AND the first bad guy Vaati, it also includes the Twilight Mirror, the Dark World and the backstory of how Ganondorf became Ganon in the first place.
But let us look at some details first.
This is the origin of how Ganondorf the man ultimately became Ganon by stealing a magic trident. But the game also tells us about the Dark Links and the Dark World. It acknowledges Minish Cap and Four Swords as its predecessors. It also tells us that this Link and Zelda have never fought either Vaati nor Ganon, as Ganon is completely unknown to either Zelda or Link besides a few legends. It also seems to take place in a similar Hyrule to A Link to the Past, not only geographically, but also various landmarks aid that theory.
So what does this tell us then? Well, first and foremost, it tells us that this game takes place before either A Link to the Past or The Legend of Zelda, because of the final battle. Ganon uses his trident, a weapon he obtained in this game and battles with teleportation and darkness. There are not many games where Ganon has a trident or fights in a similar way. Thus, one can only assume this is how his transformation from man to beast was completed.
Furthermore, it features seven maidens that protect Hyrule. With items like the Moon Pearl, the Magic Mirror and of course the parts that are set in the Dark World, one can only agree that this game takes place before A Link to the Past.
And while some may argue that the game takes place further in the timeline, that there was no sign of the Four Sword in Twilight Princess or that it takes place before the original Legend of Zelda, it is once again placed where I placed it because the facts just line up that well. And seeing that Aonuma stated that he originally wanted to use the story of Twilight Princess in this game, it is rather clear that the new result is a sequel to said game.
So this is how the final timeline looks like:
With that known, we can finally talk about some speculation about the placement of Skyward Sword as well as connections between the different games according to the timeline.
In Skyward Sword, Link comes from Skyloft, a City in the sky, unaware that Hyrule even exists. In the end, this chronicles the creation of the Master Sword. Is this the same city in the sky featured in Minish Cap? Or maybe Twilight Princess? Maybe those two cities are one and the same, and the Wind Tribe just degenerated to the birdlike Kumulans. As they lost their hands, they were unable to maintain their city, thus everything looks so ruined. Their evolution ultimately destroys their way of life. Could Link come from those people?
Also, where does this set Skyward Sword? Since the game is not released yet, we can only speculate but one thing is clear: it takes place BEFORE Ocarina of Time. That does not leave much room for speculation. Best guess without having played the game: It takes place after Four Swords. Because in Minish Cap, the Picori gave the hero the Picori Blade to aid him in battling evil. Why would they do that if the Master Sword exists? The Humans just could have used that sword.
Four Swords does not feature a real story at all, But if there was the Master Sword in place already, wouldn’t Zelda have something else to show Link than just the Four Sword?
So my guess is Skyward Sword deals with the creation of the Master Sword centuries before Ocarina of Time. The people then built the Temple of Time and sealed it away, after Link defeated some evil that is around the countryside. But we will not know for sure until the game is released. It could very well precede Minish Cap and tell the story we saw in its introduction. Who knows?
Some people wish for a true sequel to Adventure of Link, and I can see why. With the Triforce restored, Ganon dead and two Zeldas ruling over the land, the mood is perfectly set for a great story. However, one can only imagine how this all came to be in the first place. In the backstory to this game, it is revealed that there is a Zelda hidden in the castle which has been asleep for centuries because of a curse a dark sorcerer put on her on behalf of her brother. That happened centuries ago.
And the Adult Timeline is missing a CRUCIAL thing: Vaati’s death. Remember, Vaati finally perished in Four Swords Adventures, a game that happened in the Child Timeline. But in the Adult Timeline, Vaati would still be alive, as he was sealed within the Four Sword.
Let us assume that those events depicted in Adventure of Link happened sometime before Wind Waker. It would connect Wind Waker perfectly to Adventure of Link. Let us say that, generations after Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf managed to break the seal that kept him in and escaped to Hyrule. His Human form at least. He was weakened. His powers are still in the Dark World. He has little power left, but is determined to invade Hyrule.
However, no hero is found to battle him. The current Zelda has a brother. He demands the Triforce of Courage to battle Ganondorf, but Zelda refuses. Enter Vaati. After Ganondorf broke his seal, it was obvious that he would attempt the same plan he had in Four Swords, namely free Vaati to aid him without his knowledge. But the circumstances are different, thus the outcome is different as well.
So Vaati seduces Zelda’s brother into making her talk. In desperation for his country, the brother agrees, and Vaati uses this time to place the curse on Zelda. Her brother, realizing that all is lost, gives up hope and leaves Hyrule in the hands of the Gods. And they flood the land, taking Vaati and Ganondorf with them. This probably meant the end for Vaati, but Ganondorf, as we know, survived.
The Prince used his last power to gather his loyal servants and some of his people and embarked on a journey. He eventually discovers a new land for his people, and calls it Hyrule. Unbeknownst to him, Impa was there as well, hiding the Triforce of Courage from him all the time. She managed to get the King on her side, and together, they built the six Temples that should guard the Triforce of Courage. It was also agreed that all firstborn princesses must be named Zelda, to honor his lost daughter, who has been sleeping for generations in the castle’s secret room, until awakened by Link…
The pieces to this story are all there. We just have to connect the dots. It would be nice to get a statement from Nintendo on this matter, as it would clear up a lot of debate.
That was my little journey through Hyrule – I hope you liked it. Please come back anytime for more interesting tidbits on all things gaming!