Okay this video is terrible. I am going to tell you the objectively correct Zelda timeline. Haha obviously it’s not objective, it’s just my very correct opinion. Okay whatever so the way you parse the timeline depends primarily on what you consider to be canon. Here’s what I consider to be canon, in order:
- Stuff said by the actual people who worked on the games
- Stuff said by characters within the most recent games
- Stuff said by characters in the older games
Stuff said by Nintendo
These are not all the same thing. For example, the creators can say stuff that will contradict with minor dialog things or plot points or discrepancies - and you have to take this at face value. As for #2 and #3 - a lot of the Zelda games will retcon things that were implied in previous games. So you have to always give priority to the newer games when it comes to retcons.
#4 is very important. Just because something about Zelda was officially released by Nintendo does not mean it’s in any way on the same page with the people who write the storyline. Nintendo released Zelda breakfast cereal and Zelda CDi games and Zelda cartoons and not all of it takes place within the Zelda canon. This is most important when it comes to disregarding things that contradict things said by the games or the creators themselves.
The biggest two problems that come from listening to the word of Nintendo’s PR and marketing department over the actual writers of the actual storyline is: A) LttP was only a “prequel” in American packaging and marketing information and was never intended to be a prequel by Miyamoto and was explicitly stated not to be a prequel after it was released, B) Hyrule Historia which is an art book that is full of non-canon information about unused characters and discarded plot threads. The timeline in Hyrule Historia is rubbish and contradicts almost everything stated by the actual writers of the story and the games themselves. The book even says that “this is just one of many possible interpretations” and none of it is taken as a direct quote from Eiji Aonuma or Shigeru Miyamoto. If you think Hyrule HIstoria is canon then this post is not for you.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way. I’m just going to list out the games in order (pre-OoT timeline first, child timeline second, adult timeline third) followed by a short paragraph with supporting information and neat things that you might not have noticed.
Pre-Ocarina of Time:
Skyward Sword: It’s pretty much undisputed that Skyward Sword is the first game in the timeline. It’s full of all kinds of fun storyline goodies, but the most obscure and important are probably the references to Spirit Tracks and Minish Cap. The most important references to the Minish Cap comes at the end when Zelda and Link decide to stay on the land and Groose and company seemingly decide to stay in the sky. The connection to Spirit tracks is in the Ancient Robots (which are never given a name) but it is heavily implied that they are related to the Locomo. The biggest implication is that they use actual Spirit Tracks in their machinery and the boss battle in the Lanayru Mining facility takes place in the Spirit Tower.
Minish Cap: Minish Cap is full of connections to Skyward Sword, meaning a lot of the ideas in Skyward Sword must’ve been somewhat planned out at the time Minish Cap was released. A lot! There is a tribe of people who live in the sky but are migrating down to earth who are very clearly meant to be the Skyloft descendants. They used to ride birds and you can get the Ocarina of Wind from them which can be used to summon a bird. They also used to live on the earth before moving to the sky, exactly like the Skyloft folk. They all have red hair and dark skin and somewhat middle eastern elements. The implication seems to be that Groose’s descendants became the Wind Tribe, which migrated back to earth and became the Gerudo. Also Vaati happens. Also it’s important to note that the goddesses are seen taking mortal form in this game, similar to what Hylia does in Skyward Sword. Also, this game introduces the idea that Zelda has a fourth power inside her, almost as strong as a Triforce, called the Light Force - probably the earliest hint that Zelda is the goddess Hylia reborn. Also the backstory about the Hero of Men sealing the monsters might be referring to Hylia’s Chosen Hero who apparently “cleaned up” a monster-ridden Hyrule sometime after Skyloft was sent into the air but before the events of Skyward Sword.
Four Sword: There isn’t much in way of story here, except for the fact that Vaati has taken over the Tower of Wind, which seems to be related to the tower that the Wind Tribe was living in (and in the process of abandoning) in Minish Cap. Also, there seems to be a connection between rupees/forcegems/happiness when you view the role that ruppees, force gems, and gratitude crystals play throughout the entire series. Rupees and force gems affect the Four Sword interchangably in different games. In Minish Cap, they Minish say they give out (and create?) rupees to make humans happy. In Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword, happy people create crystals, and in Minish Cap, kinstones cause happiness which trigger events. These are a lot of unrelated elements but it’s neat to see that “happiness crystals” is a recurring motif, and it makes me wonder if the Triforce is simply the crystalized happiness of the goddesses, seeing as it seems to enter and leave people’s bodies in the same way that Force Gems and Gratitude Crystals are seen entering and leaving people’s bodies in other games.
Ocarina of Time: Haha, oh man. Do I even need to recap anything? We’re all solid with this one, right? The neatest thing to point out here: Navi describes Twinrova as Ganondorf’s surrogate mother, and the implication is that Gerudo are unable to have male children but Twinrova impregnates herself with black magic to birth a king. It’s possible that this unnatural birthing ceremony is what allowed Demise easy access to a human body.
Majora’s Mask: Nothing particularly impactful happens in this game. It’s only interesting to the overall timeline in that it definitely comes right after the child ending. It’s great, but not much in it affects the rest of the games.
Twilight Princess: So, Link warns Zelda about Ganondorf’s trick to get them to open the Temple of Time. Apparently this new information leads her father, Daphnes, to finally believe her. Ganondorf is tried for his crimes and executed by the sages (who are apparently still spirits now, and no longer ‘awakened’ as the various races, since the plot of OoT mostly didn’t happen in this timeline) and he gets sent to the Twilight Realm where he takes over, then he’s killed and swears a curse on Hyrule. The most interesting (but kind of obvious) thing here, is that the Silent Realm, Twilight Realm, Golden Land and Dark World are all the same realm - a shadow of Hyrule, created by the gods to hide the Triforce. Another interesting thing to note about this whole dramatic climax thing in the game’s ending was caused by Midna permanently disconnecting Hyrule from Dark World, meaning it would be impossible for Link to the Past to be set after this game. There are other reasons why LttP shouldn’t be in the child timeline (which is where a lot of people place it) but that is a pretty big one.
Oracle Games: Ganondorf’s curse at the end of Twilight Princess is apparently fulfilled by his mothers in this game. The most important thing tying the Oracle games to the Child timeline is the fact that Twinrova is still alive. Link kills Twinrova as an adult, but this means in the child timeline she’s still kicking. It’s a bit tenuous, sure, but the Oracle games are pretty hard to place because they star a brand new Link and are set in brand new nations. The most clear connection with timeline is the fact that they set themselves up as a prequel to Link’s Awakening. The ending to the Oracle games shows Link sailing home on a ship exactly like the one he was in at the beginning of Link’s Awakening. Also specific events happen (like Zelda kissing him, and meeting familiar characters from LA) that seem to set up the context necessary for Link to have the dream about Marion that he has in LA.
Link’s Awakening: Okay, so one of the neatest things that happens in Link’s Awakening actually happens in Phantom Hourglass: Both games have the exact same story. In Link’s Awakening, Link is trapped inside a dream world and must save the Wind Fish (a flying whale) from a shadowy many-armed eyeball monster named Nightmare. In Phantom Hourglass, Link is trapped inside a dream and must save the Ocean King (a flying whale) from a shadowy many-armed eyeball monster named Bellum. This hints that the two games are actually depicting the same events in two different timelines (a phenomenon that happens a few other times in the series), in this timeline Link encounters the Windfish when sailing from Labrynna/Holodrum to Hyrule, in Phantom Hourglass, Link saves the Ocean King from Bellum while sailing from the Great Ocean to New Hyrule.
And that’s it for the Child timeline! Most of the games apparently take place in the adult timeline. If you’re a little skeptical, bare with me:
Wind Waker: Oh man, this game is so good! This is really the first Zelda game to really make direct connections to other Zelda games in the dialog and actually flesh out the fictional world and history of Hyrule as a real measurable thing. This game was also the first game explicitly stated to be set in a tangent timeline. But one of the biggest guidelines for telling which timeline is which was also given to us in this game, and a lot of people seem to ignore it: The entire world is flooded in this timeline. Okay. Just. Think about that? Pretty much any Zelda game that depicts Hyrule as a series of islands would necessarily have to be set in the Adult Timeline. Just. Think about that.
Phantom Hourglass: I already said most of the neat things about Phantom Hourglass in the Link’s Awakening part. So I’m going to talk about something that was set up in Wind Waker and was happening in the background during the relatively unimportant events of Phantom Hourglass: The islands were moving. One of the most important lines in Wind Waker was the Deku Tree telling Link that his goal (really, Daphnes’ goal) to revive the Hyrule of old was directly contrary to the Deku Tree’s goal, to use forests to bind the islands together and create a new Hyrule. The Deku Tree asks Link to plant seeds on islands all over the Great Ocean, so that he may merge the islands into one land and create a new Hyrule. So that’s important. Remember that!
Spirit Tracks: Spirit Tracks, man! So Link and Zelda finally find an island suitably big enough to start a new Hyrule. This island might be a byproduct of the Deku Tree’s forests (it does look like a hodgepodge of 4 different islands) but it might not be. One of the coolest things about Spirit Tracks is all it’s connections with Skyward Sword: The implication seems to be that the land in Spirit Tracks was somehow connected with the Hyrule of the ancient past. That the Locomo’s dynasty somehow existed in more than one place (another implication of this was the ocean trade port in Lanayru Desert - the Locomo clearly had set up shop in far off lands.) Malladus also seems to be somewhat related to Demise, and possibly even the spirit of Demise. Aside from sharing almost identical character design, Malladus and Demise also share the “demonic” alignment which is not a common thing to see in Zelda games. Malladus is very specifically “a demon” with a very traditionally demonic-looking henchmen, and Demise is a similarly oddly traditionally “demonic” character. The Locomo also say something at the end that imply that they are, somehow, connected to the sages? They turn into colored balls of light and say that they have always gone where they are needed and taken the forms necessary to protect Hyrule. So that’s neat! Think about that.
[Edit] Zelda 1 and 2: Haha whoops I forgot these. Because they make no sense and don’t really fit anywhere, but they make the most sense here. They clearly take place after OoT because it features a Hyrule with cities named after OoT characters, and it clearly takes place in this timeline because Hyrule is an island nation. There isn’t much else to say.
Four Swords Adventures: Okay so the funny thing about Four Swords Adventures is that almost nobody played it and that it also happens to contains most of the connective tissue for the entire Zelda franchise. So one of the most important things is the map, which is very blatantly a compromise between the LttP map and the WW map and (retroactively) the Spirit Tracks map. The implication seems to be that the Deku Tree’s island pushing initiative finally built a new land around the new Hyrule, and that it’s only a few centuries away from becoming the exact map depicted in LittP.
Another weird thing that happens here is a convenient retconning of Ganondorf’s origin story. So in this game, they establish that there is a second Ganodnorf, who is not evil, and simply the good king ruling over the Gerudo tribe. But then he touches the Trident of Power belonging to the original Ganondorf, and becomes possessed by the ancient spirit of Ganon/Demise, which hid a piece of it’s power in the trident. Then this new Ganondorf gets sealed at the end, and it’s a lot like how Ganondorf was sealed at the end of Ocarina of Time.
Ocarina of Time was very clearly intending to be the “Imprisoning War” described in Link to the Past, but then when Ganondorf was unsealed and killed in Wind Waker, it kind of ruined that. So Four Swords Adventure sets itself up as being even more like the Imprisoning War in Link to the Past: They actually seal Ganondorf in a small triangle that looks a lot like the way he was sealed in the LttP instruction booklet. So basically, Wind Waker’s killing of Ganondorf made Link to the Past make no sense, and then the very next game released, FSA, quickly retconned everything to suddenly make LttP make sense again.
It’s also important to note that FSA was being developed in tandem with Twilight Princess, and similar to PH and LA, FSA and TP share parallel plot elements. In the other timeline the Mirror of Twilight was broken into pieces and had to be restored by Link to enter the the Twilight Realm, but then it was permanently destroyed by Midna. In FSA, the same broken mirror is restored, but this time it’s called the Dark Mirror and it looks exactly like the Magic Mirror from Link to the Past. They even say that it was used to seal a dark tribe in another realm. So, just like Ganondorf’s retcon, this plot element seems to have been included as glue to just make Link to the Past make more sense with everything else.
Four Swords Adventures is really great and if you care about the story in Zelda at all I highly recommend playing it, even on single player mode. The multiplayer mode is also fantastic, if you can gather the GBAs and friends required - it’s actually probably the spiritual successor to New Super Mario Bros Wii, so if you like that style of multiplayer you should check it out, it’s really good!
Link to the Past: Ah! Finally! So, Link to the Past is very clearly The End of the entire series. Despite what you thought as a child, it is not a prequel. Miyamoto even said it was the definitive ending of the story at the time of it’s release. The ending is also so dang conclusive. “The Master Sword was never used again” - it’s also the only game where Link actually wishes upon the Triforce (well, aside from SS where he goofs his wish) and then it shows a montage of him making everything happily ever after. Another INSANE thing to note about this game, particularly in the GBA remake, is how many “connections” it had with other games. Most of them are probably just things taken into consideration in retrospect: For example, the statue that explodes to reveal the flying chicken looks a lot like Link’s bird in Skyward Sword. The most ridiculous thing is the first and last lines: “Hyrule was a nation surrounded by mountains.” But it wasn’t. In the last two games, Hyrule was an island nation. Why would they put that line in and make it so prominent if it’s so awkwardly contradictory to the previous game? Sometimes I wonder if they had planned the flood storyline out that far in advance, which sounds ridiculous. But the distinction between island nation and non-island-nation is probably more important in Japan than it would be in America. I dunno. That game was crazy. Don’t think about it too much, it’s like looking directly into the sun.
Oh my god that was so much text. Are you still with me? Okay there are some other really cool minore side things I want to talk about. Neat little connections that span multiple games.
Mother and Child Island: In Wind Waker there is an island called Mother and Child Island. In Twilight Princess there is a rock called Mother and Child Rock inside Zora’s Domain, which has the same bowl-like shape of Mother and Child Island and is on a mountain top. Inside Mother and Child Island is a weird child-like fairy girl holding a doll of a Great Fairy. She appears again in Four Sword Adventure after two Zora ghosts merge into each other. Also, in Twilight Princess there was a storyline about a depressed Zora Prince named Ralis morning for his dead ghostly mother. The implication seems to be that, had Link not intervened in the events of Twilight Princess (which didn’t happen in the adult timeline) that Prince Ralis would’ve killed himself to be reunited with his mother. The “mother and child” spirits would haunt the rock and eventually merge into the fairy child that lives there in Wind Waker.
Fado: Another neat thing is that in Wind Waker, one of the sages has an ancestor named Fado. In Ordon Village in Twilight Princess, one of the locked houses belongs to an unseen NPC named Fado. It’s likely that this is the same Fado, and that Ordon Village is a fusion of Lon Lon Ranch and Kokori Village. If you look at the map in Twilight Princess, it seems like the southern half of the map encompasses the entire OoT map. The Temple of Time (which used to be right next to Hyrule Castle) is now in an overgrown forest. Which means the Deku Tree’s forest must’ve spread north, and the castle must’ve been rebuilt to the north. The old castle seems to have become the Forest Temple. It’s also implied that Link’s ancestor in TP was the Link from OoT, mostly by the golden wolf storyline and the fact that his family crest is a triangle. It’s likely that this means the Hero of Time eventually settled down in Lon Lon Ranch and raised a family with Malon.
The Wind Tribe: So in Skyward Sword, the Hylian race splits up a few times. First, some of the Hylians go to the sky, and others stay on the ground. The Hylians who stay on the ground became the Shieka, who are almost superhumanly powerful due to centuries of fighting an endless war against the demons. Then the Hylians and the Skyloft(ians?) split up at the end of Skyward Sword. Link and Zelda and some others become Hylians, and Groose and some others become the Wind Tribe. The Wind Tribe eventually migrates down and becomes the Gerudo. Apparently some of the Wind Tribe stayed in the sky even longer and became the horrifying Ooccoo. So that’s gross. Just think about that.
The Shiekah and Twili: Also, a subset of the Shiekah apparently defect and try to steal the Triforce and are cursed and become the Twili. If you look at the Fused Shadow, it clearly has some Shiekah imagery on it. And interesting thing about the Twili is that we actually saw one much earlier than Twilight Princess: Veran from the Oracle of Ages is definitely a Twili, I mean look at her. Midna’s character design was clearly reverse engineered from Veran to make them appear related. It’s possible that Veran is actually a different Twilight Princess, an ancestor of Midna. Which is strange, because her method of escaping the Twilight Realm is never divulged, but the villains in the Oracle games were not really given proper backstories at all.
The Ocarina of Time is carved out of Timeshift Stone: Yoooooo.
WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS. Okay, I have more things to type. Here are some predictions, or more accurately, some things I think would be neat:
Subroians and Demise: The Subrosians are a race that live deep beneath the earth in a land that looks like hell, but they aren’t depicted as being overtly evil, they just look vaguely sinister. It’d be cool if a future game somehow connected Demise, who apparently crawled out of a crack in the earth’s crust, to the Subrosians.
A game set before Skyward Sword: It’s very possible for a game to be set before Skyward Sword without just making a bunch of new stuff up. There are vague references to a Link-like character existing in the time before Skyloft, a man called “Hylia’s Chosen Hero” in Skyward Sword, and possibly also referenced as “The Hero of Men” in Minish Cap. It would be really cool if they made a game that focused on that iteration of Link, and focused on Hylia herself, before she became Zelda, and their initial conflict with Demise. Because of the futuristic ancient society motif established in Skyward Sword, it’d also be really cool if this game was a proper futuristic scifi game, set pre-apocalypse. That’d be super neat.
A game set after Spirit Tracks would be nice: Spirit Tracks’s transition to Four Swords Adventures is pretty fuzzy, I wouldn’t mind another game that smoothed that over. Also anything that even remotely tried to make sens of the NES games would be nice. It’d also be really cool to get some more games in the child timeline.
Okay. I’m done. This is a ridiculous amount of text. I’d be happy to discuss this with anyone else but I’m definitely not going to participate in any point by point arguments about the Zelda timeline, because it’s very much dependent on your personal views on storytelling and authorial intent and most major grievances with my timeline would probably arise from us having different views on that. I’ll admit that the most tenuous links in my timeline is the attachment of the Oracle games to the Child timeline (they feature oceans, but not an island-based Hyrule, so there’s an argument for the Adult timeline as well) and the placement of LoZ 1 and 2, which don’t fit in well pretty much anywhere. But I think that they fit in where I’ve placed them better than they fit in anywhere else I’ve seen them placed. But yeah I don’t… really enjoy arguing about it so lets not do that.
Also, fun bonus: I wrote this commercial.