There are more Legend of Zelda games than you can shake a Master Sword at and the timeline can get a little messy. With a remaster of 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time to look back at all the Legend of Zelda games, put every game in order, and point out where they fit together in the larger Legend of Zelda timeline.
The Legend of Zelda – Timeline Beginnings
The universe of The Legend of Zelda began when three goddesses created the world. They also created the Triforce – you’ll recognise that name if you’ve even a passing familiarity with the series. Hylia, another goddess, serves as keeper of the Triforce until a demon named Demise tries to steal it away. Demise becomes sealed away whilst all the mortals are sent to live on the islands of Skyloft. In addition, Hylia transforms her soul into the body of a girl, Zelda, giving her the power to use the Triforce should Demise awaken.
Skyward Sword – 2011 – Wii
The first game in the chronology is Skyward Sword, where Demise returns and is defeated by Zelda and Link. Demise curses them, however, beginning the cycle of battles that will continue forever. Zelda and Link will be reincarnated through time as themselves, whilst Demise will return as both Ganon and Ganondorf.
The other main things to occur after Skyward Sword are the sealing away of the Triforce in the Sacred Realm and the return of the mortals to the surface of the planet, where they formed the nation of Hyrule. The Temple of Time is also constructed, forming a gateway between Hyrule and the Sacred Realm where the Triforce is kept.
Minish Cap – 2004 – Game Boy Advance
In Minish Cap we meet Vaati for the first time, a demon who appears a few times throughout the series, and the Four Sword is created.
Four Swords – 2002 – Game Boy Advance
It’s Vaati part two as this demonic devil returns once again only to be defeated by Link.
Ocarina of Time – 1998 – Nintendo 64
Probably the most impactful game in the entire Legend of Zelda series is Ocarina of Time. Link becomes sealed away for seven years during this game leaving Ganondorf to take over Hyrule and transform the Sacred Realm into the Evil Realm. This, in addition to the titular Ocarina, causes this game to be the nexus for the splitting of the timeline into three different versions. By the end of this game Ganondorf is sealed away in the Sacred Realm and Link is returned to his childhood to experience the years he missed.
Legend of Zelda Timeline 1 – Defeat
The Defeat timeline is a darker Legend of Zelda series of games which focus on what happens if Ganondorf defeats Link in Ocarina of Time.
A Link to the Past – 1992 – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
After Ocarina of Time, Seven Sages seal Ganondorf away in the Evil Realm, now known as the Dark World. This game sees Link defeat him once again, using the Triforce to restore Hyrule and the world back to how they should be.
Link’s Awakening – 1993 – Game Boy
This direct sequel to A Link to the Past sees Link head to Koholint Island for an adventure, which turns out to never have happened, it was just a dream.
Oracle of Seasons + Oracle of Ages – 2001 – Game Boy Color
The same Link is sent to the lands of Holodrum and Labrynna to defeat Ganon once again, revived by two evil witches. After this game the Triforce becomes separated into three different parts, the Triforces of Wisdom, Power, and Courage.
A Link Between Worlds – 2013 – Nintendo 3DS
Set long after A Link to the Past, Hyrule is invaded by Lorule, a darker version of the nation. The princess of Lorule, Hilda, tries to steal the Triforce but is thwarted by Link who takes the Triforce back to Hyrule and restores both lands to their former glory.
Tri Force Heroes – 2015 – Nintendo 3DS
It’s about couture, baby! Well, dressing up and fashion are what mainly happens in Tri Force Heroes. Little else impacts the timeline.
The Legend of Zelda – 1987 – Nintendo Entertainment System
The first Zelda game to be released in chronological order, The Legend of Zelda sees Link assemble the eight scattered pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to defeat a returned Ganon.
The Adventure of Link – 1988 – Nintendo Entertainment System
This black sheep of the Zelda series sees Link from The Legend of Zelda try to rescue the sleeping Princess Zelda, a descendant of the first princess’ brother. He recovers the Triforce of Courage and saves her, bringing peace and prosperity to Hyrule.
Legend of Zelda Timeline 2 – Victory – Child Era
In this timeline Ganondorf is defeated in The Ocarina of Time and Zelda grants Link his childhood once again to live out the years he missed as a result of that game. However, Ganondorf is still alive throughout these games, surviving Ocarina of Time.
Majora’s Mask – 2000 – Nintendo 64
Link leaves Hyrule to search for his friend, Navi, who also left at the end of Ocarina of time. He finds himself in a land named Termina which he saves from a falling moon. It’s assumed that at some point following this game this version of Link dies, as his ghost is present in Twilight Princess.
Twilight Princess – 2006 – GameCube + Wii
Ganondorf returns with the Triforce of Power which grants him the ability to avoid his execution by the Seven Sages. Banished to the Twilight Realm, he grants his powers to Zant, a descendant of sorcerers Zelda banished after Skyward Sword. Zant takes the throne of Twili from Princess Midna who teams up with Link to defeat him, ending up severing the link between Hyrule and the Twilight Realm.
Four Swords Adventures – 2004 – GameCube
Ganondorf returns once again in Four Swords Adventures, using the Dark Mirror to summon an army of demons. Link, drawing the Four Sword once more, accidentally releases Vaati. But in the end Link is triumphant once again, destroying Vaati and sealing Ganondorf in the Four Sword.
Legend of Zelda Timeline 3 – Victory – Adult
The Adult Link branch follows on directly from the end of Ocarina of Time, in a world where Ganondorf is sealed away but the bloodline of Link descendants has disappeared. Link is always sent back to his childhood at the end of that game, but the world he left behind to do so carries on, leaving it without a hereditary protector.
The Wind Waker – 2002 – GameCube
Ganon, with no Link to stop him, emerges from the Sacred Realm and corrupts Hyrule. The gods are angered by this and flood the world, forming a massive sea which covers the surface of the planet. Link in this game is unrelated to any Link in the other timelines, but is still capable of wielding the Master Sword. He defeats Ganondorf, the corrupted Hyrule is washed away, and Link is left to find a new land to live in with Zelda (disguised as Tetra).
Phantom Hourglass – 2007 – Nintendo DS
Link and Zelda are still seeking a new home when they arrive in the World of the Ocean King. There they defeat Bellum, get the Ocean King his original form back, and then continue with their search.
Spirit Tracks – 2009 – Nintendo DS
By this point New Hyrule is found, a hundred years later a new Zelda and Link defeat Malladus who was possessing Zelda’s body. Finally, peace is returned to the train-trick-riven land of New Hyrule.
Breath of the Wild
Finally, we come to Breath of the Wild. Not only the latest entry in the Zelda games order it’s also the most recent game in the Zelda timeline. Breath of the Wild is set at the end of all three timelines, converging the series after the split following Ocarina of Time.
Does it make sense? Does it raise more questions than it answers? Does it mean many of the previous games are simply fables or experienced by unreliable narrators? We’ll have to see more in future Legend of Zelda games. Or you can head over to our Community Forum and give us your theory – we’d love to read it.