The Legend of Zelda has been captivating and providing gamers with the best adventures and stories ever since the first game was released back in 1986, yes, well over three decades! With 20 original titles, putting together and understanding the whole timeline can easily get confusing for anyone whether you are a new player or a veteran who played every Zelda game.
Let’s get started and get into the nitty gritty and help you understand everything from the official timeline from Nintendo! Of course, with this one, I’ll leave out the unnecessary details that may confuse new players. Oh, and we’ll leave out Breath of The Wild and Tears of The Kingdom in this timeline since they don’t have an official spot in the timeline and we’ll discuss the theories of that in another article!
Needless to say, consider this as the ultimate spoiler warning! I’m not going to spoil one game for you. I’m going to spoil every game in the Zelda franchise, except for BOTW and TOTK since those are not in this article. So if you haven’t played any Zelda games and you plan to, come back later!
Let’s start from the beginning!
In the beginning, there were three goddesses who created the world: Din, the goddess of power, Nayru the goddess of wisdom, and Farore the goddess of courage, they created the land, order, and life respectively.
Once they finished creating the world, they left the world and left the Triforce, a sacred magical artifact made out of three golden triangles which represent the three virtues the goddess represents: Power, Wisdom, and Courage. When brought together and held by someone, the Triforce can grant the wishes of the bearer.
With the power to grant your wildest wishes, the Demon King Demise and his army of monsters went and attempted to take it from Hylia. One thing led to another, and while Hylia barely won, she successfully sealed Demise away.
Knowing that the seal won’t hold the great evil for so long, Hylia has to plan her next moves. With that, Hylia put some land in the sky and put the humans there to ensure their survival, she then passed on and demoted her divine status and reincarnated into a human which turned out to be Zelda. Why? Because despite being the goddess guarding the Triforce, she can’t use it for her wishes.
Hundreds of years have passed and the humans are peacefully living in Skyloft, we meet Link, Zelda, and everyone else together with their cute Loftwings, which are birds believed to be tasked by Hylia herself to accompany and protect humans while in the sky.
We start the game by going to a Wing Ceremony. Link wins and receives an award from Zelda, but when they were spending some time together, all of a sudden, a tornado appeared bringing Zelda down to the surface.
We meet Fi the spirit of the goddess sword as it calls us to get the sword and take it with us on our journey. We go down to the surface hopping from dungeon to dungeon and we meet Ghirahim, a demon lord who was responsible for the tornado that got Zelda down to the surface.
We then upgrade the goddess sword into the legendary Master Sword by infusing it with three sacred flames. We meet up with Zelda in the past where we get her blessing to awaken the Master Sword to its full potential, she then goes into a deep slumber to keep Demise’s seal from breaking, thus the reason why Demise still lies dormant all this time even though Hylia is gone.
After that, we seek the Triforce and wished for Demise’s demise (love that phrase), causing Zelda to wake up and attain peace in the present. Although plot twist! Ghirahim steals Zelda once again and takes her to the past where Demise is still alive yet sealed. Ghirahim succeeded in resurrecting Demise, and we discover that Ghirahim is actually Demise’s sword and is actually a spirit of the sword, much like Fi is the spirit of the Master Sword.
Now we have no choice but to beat Demise in combat. Fortunately, Link wins and everything went back to normal again.
But right after defeating Demise, we soon discover his curse: His anger and hatred is so great that it never perishes, but instead get cyclically reborn, and so does the one who has the blood of the goddess (Zelda), and the one that has the spirit of the hero (Link), and this cycle will never end, thus the vast amount of Zelda games and Link and Zelda reincarnations!
The Era of Chaos and Era of Prosperity
While the next game in the timeline is the Minish Cap and Four Swords, the Era of Chaos and Era of Prosperity is the next thing that happened in the Zelda timeline, and these two eras are introduced and discussed in Zelda: Twilight Princess but nevertheless, these are the next eras after SS (Skyward Sword).
After the events of SS, humans went back to the surface and started the kingdom of Hyrule, and after many years of peace. The rumors about the power of the Triforce spread once again and drove the interlopers (sorcerers and the ancestors to the Twili) to seek dominion over the sacred realm which is where the triforce is located.
As a response, the goddesses ordered the spirits of light to seal the interlopers in the Twilight realm.
After that, peace ensued, and the royal family had some time to build the kingdom and establish the Royal Family, thus starting the era of prosperity.
Minish Cap & Four Swords
When you start playing Minish Cap, there was a short story about the Hero of Men (probably another incarnation of Link) who lived within the Era of Prosperity and fought evil that threatened Hyrule using the Picori Blade and the Light Force both of which are bestowed by the PIcori (or Minish), a race of tiny people who descended from the sky.
We start Minish Cap by attending the Picori Festival. Now, there is a competition every year in which the winner gets to touch the Picori Blade, the winner that year is a mysterious person named Vaati, who turns out to be an evil sorcerer. Once he got up close to the Picori blade, he shattered it and broke the seal to the chest that the sword is on. He hoped to find the Light Force, but instead accidentally released the monsters that were apparently sealed in that chest (a happy accident for him).
In his disappointment in not finding the Light Force, he turned Zelda into stone.
MInish and Hylian children only meet when the Minish door is open, which only occurs every 100 years. With this, Link has been chosen to be the one to carry the task of fixing the Picori Blade and looking for ways to help Zelda.
On the way, he meets Ezlo a renowned Minish craftsman and sage who has been cursed by Vaati to turn into a hat.
You see, Ezlo was working on the Mage’s Cap and it was intended to be a gift for the humans. The cap can grant the wishes of the wearer, much like the Triforce, and as such it’s a great evil magnet as well. So one day, Vaati (who turns out to be Ezlo’s apprentice) stole it from Ezlo and used its power to be a sorcerer, and Ezlo got the curse while trying to stop Vaati.
Fast forward a bit, we complete the restoration of the Picori Blade and it turned into the Four Sword which can split Link in four. But right after getting the Four Sword, we soon discover that the Light Force that Vaati seeks is inside Zelda all along, and of course, keeping an eye on things, Vaati also discovers this.
We then race against time to stop Vaati from successfully extracting the Light Force which would give him godlike powers.
After defeating Vaati, Ezlo turned back to his original form and gave Zelda the Mage’s Cap so she could restore Hyrule with the help of the Light Force, and with that, the Minish door closes yet again for another hundred years.
While Vaati was presumed dead, he soon reappeared but this time having no memory of his Minish past. He claimed the Palace of Winds and declared himself the Wind Mage. He then went and terrorized Hyrule by kidnapping young maidens, then a hero carrying the Four Sword sealed Vaati inside the sword and left it in the Four Sword Sanctuary.
After some time, Vaati, breaks free once again and kidnaps Princess Zelda (a new incarnation). A reincarnated Link draws the Four Sword and is immediately split into Four Links. The Four Links gathers three keys to enter Vaati’s Palace, where the Links defeat and seals Vaati into the Four Sword once again. Link turns back into one once the sword returned to the pedestal.
Ocarina of Time
After a long period of peace from evil, Hyrule went to a long civil war also known as the Great Unification War for some unknown reason. Now, from that war, there was a Hylian mother with her baby trying to escape the war. Unfortunately, that woman was about to die, and she left her baby in the care of the Great Deku Tree in Kokiro Forest.
Fast forward to the start of Ocarina of Time, we now meet LInkbut is now raised as a Kokiri despite being Hylian. He was awakened one day by Navi who tells him to go to the Great Deku Tree. Once he got there, Link discovers that the Great Deku Tree was cursed by a “wicked man of the desert” which we soon discover to be Ganondorf, and on the Deku Tree’s dying wish, he gave the Spiritual Stone of the Forest to link and sends him to Hyrule Castle to speak with Princess Zelda.
Upon meeting Princess Zelda, they devise a plan to gather the three spiritual stones and the Ocarina of Time allowing them to open the Door of Time to get the Master Sword.
Upon collecting the stones and the Ocarina of Time, Link immediately went to the Temple of Time and opened the Door of Time to pull the Master Sword from its pedestal, but as terrible fate would have it, Link isn’t old and strong enough to wield the Master Sword and is stuck in a 7-year sleep within the sacred realm.
Once woken up by Rauru, one of the seven sages, Link was told that while he was sleeping, Ganondorf succeeded in getting the Triforce but only retained the Triforce of Power, and while it’s not the whole deal, he still took over Hyrule and turned it into a dark land full of evil, and for the past 7 years, Ganondorf is trying to seek the one who has the Triforce of Courage and Wisdom, which turns out to be Link and Zelda.
Rauru tasked Link to travel the land and gather the five remaining sages.
Once completing the task, Link goes back to the Temple of Time where he was greeted by Sheik who also revealed that she is actually Princess Zelda and is not only the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom but also the Sage of Time, and as usual, right as soon as everything makes sense, Ganondorf kidnaps Zelda.
Link went to Ganondorf’s castle, defeated him, and freed Zelda.
Ganondorf used his last powers to bring the castle down in hopes of eliminating Zelda and Link in the process, but Link and Zelda escaped successfully. But just as they thought it was over, Ganondorf suddenly appeared again and used the Triforce of Power to transform into Ganon.
Link fought Ganondorf for the last time, and Zelda and the other Sages sealed Ganondorf away.
As Ganondorf is being sealed, he cursed us with a threat of his return, which surely won’t happen right? WRONG! Here we go with the triple timeline split! Spoiler alert, Ganondorf comes back in every single one of them!
Let’s start with arguably the, longest, worst, and most convoluted timeline!
In the Fallen Timeline, Link fails to defeat Ganondorf and we assume that he perished right then and there. While Ganondorf completed the Triforce and turned into the Demon King, he still got sealed away by the Seven Sages in the Sacred Realm. If we learn anything about seals yet in the Zelda timeline, it’s the fact that they don’t last!
A Link to the Past
This game starts with Link being telepathically summoned by Princess Zelda who is imprisoned in Hyrule Castle by a dark wizard named Agahnim, who seeks to break the seal that the Sages cast to imprison Ganon using the Seven Maidens, the descendants of the Seven Sages.
Link rescues Zelda and gets the Master Sword to fight Agahnim but instead gets sent to the Dark Realm himself. While in there, he gets to rescue the maidens that were already sent by Agahnim. Link fights Agahnim in Ganon’s Tower, where he discovers that Agahnim is just Ganon’s puppet.
Link pursues Ganon to the Pyramid of Power, where he fights Ganon and defeats him once again. Link claims the Triforce to wish for Hyrule’s restoration, bringing peace and everyone back.
The same Link from A Link to The Past embarks on a journey to further train himself for any threats that might come next. But while out on sea on his journey back to Hyrule, he ran into a terrible storm and his boat sunk.
Link wakes up in the Island of Koholint and soon discovers that the only way to get out of the island is to wake up the Wind Fish inside the egg on top of a mountain.
Link was tasked to get several instruments to wake up the Wind Fish, and before waking the Wind Fish, he needs to fight the Nightmares which are monsters that want to rule the island and prevent the Wind Fish from waking up. Upon defeating the Nightmares, we soon discover that if the Wind Fish awakens, the whole island would disappear.
Once Link woke the Wind Fish he also awoke clinging to what remains of his boat, and it turns out that everything was a dream. What happened next and whether this Link lived is unknown.
After Link’s Awakening, the next games followed in the Fallen Hero Timeline:
- Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages
- A Link Between Worlds
- Tri Force Heroes
- The Legend of Zelda
- The Adventure of Link
While I’d love to discuss these games, it would be lengthy and would defeat the purpose of simplifying the Timeline for readers to understand, plus, these are arguably the worst games to play (yup, even the very first Zelda game). But essentially, Ganon is revived and defeated in every game listed above other than Tri Force Heroes and The Adventure of Link.
The Adventure of Link is actually the second Zelda game ever released and it is more of a cleanup of Hyrule after Ganon’s defeat in The Legend of Zelda. As we know it today, that’s the last we hear about the fallen timeline.
One thing I would say about it is that it’s flawed to the core and it doesn’t make a ton of sense if you think about it, the whole timeline is more of an afterthought for Nintendo to put together a timeline for these remaining games. But we’ll set aside the theories that made more sense for some other time!
This timeline follows what happened after Link defeated Ganondorf and is sent back to the past before he even pulled the Master Sword to warn Zelda and the Royal Family about Ganondorf and prevent anything bad from happening. With this, Link lived his heroic moments but the world doesn’t know of his deeds and everything goes back to normal.
Ah, the Zelda series’ very own existential horror game!
We start Majora’s Mask by trying to find Navi, Link’s companion fairy in OoT, but Link got lost in the woods and stumbled upon the Skull Kid who was wearing Majora’s Mask, a powerful ancient artifact. The Ocarina of Time got stolen and Link got turned into a Deku Scrub.
After that, Link finds himself in the land of Termina, a parallel world to Hyrule, which is facing an impending apocalypse where the moon will crash in three days.
With the aid of Tatl, his new fairy companion, Link recovers the Ocarina of Time allowing him to reset the three days over and over again until he gets everything he needs to prevent the moon from crashing down which are several masks and freeing the four giants which can save Termina from the moon.
Link fights skull kid and Majora’s Mask and ends up victorious, preventing Termina’s destruction. He then departs Termina to try and find Navi. But the hero of time was never heard from again. There are theories that he died before even setting foot in Termina and that Termina is more of a purgatory than a parallel world. But nevertheless, he died, and become known as the Hero’s Spirit in the next game…
The Twilight Princess
We have the most liked classic Zelda game next! The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess!
The game starts with Link being tasked to deliver the Ordon Sword to Hyrule Castle but then was dragged into the Twilight. Waking up in the depths of Hyrule Castle, Link discovers that he turned into a wolf and is accompanied by a Twili creature named Midna who seeks to use him for her own goal of retrieving the Fused Shadows.
In the process, Link has to restore the light in parts of Hyrule in order to gain his human form back, and during their lengthy quest, Link also receives training from the Hero’s Spirit or the ghost of the Hero of Time!
Furthermore, Zant (usurper of the Twili and a minion of Ganondorf) curses link to be turned into a wolf again, and Zant also stole the complete Fused Shadows from Midna who was weakened after fighting Zant. Link brings Midna to Princess Zelda who then temporarily gave her spirit to Midna to save her.
Link and Midna then got the Master Sword from the ruins of the Temple of Time (the same one from OoT). With the Master Sword, Link can turn to wolf form at will.
Screenshot from Twilight Princess HD
They beat Zant after collecting the Twilight mirror shards and going to the Twilight Realm, and discover that Ganondorf is behind all this. We also discover that this Ganondorf is the same one from OoT and was set to be executed before he can do any more harm. But as he was about to be executed, Ganondorf was blessed by the Triforce of Power, escaped, and killed one of the sages in the process. He was banished to the Twilight Realm as a last desperate attempt, and there he controlled Zant and planned his return to Hyrule.
Going forward, we defeat Ganondorf and Hyrule got peace once again. We also discover that Midna is actually the Twilight Princess, but right after that she destroyed the mirror of Twilight so that the light and shadow world can never hurt each other again (still one of the most sad moment in Zelda history for me).
Four Swords Adventures
Hundreds of Years after Ganondorf’s defeat, a new Ganondorf has been born and as usual, caused some chaos! I’m not going too deep with the details for this one, but essentially, this Ganondorf made a Shadow Link to release Vaati and thwart the plans of Princess Zelda and the maidens to renew the seal of Vaati.
At that moment, a new Link drew the Four Sword and is split into Four. They rescued the six maidens and Link learned about Ganondorf, then they fought in the Tower of Winds where Link destroyed Vaati for good and Sealed Ganon inside the Four Sword!
Just a quick note, this game doesn’t make sense in the official timeline, although it’s been theorized that this is also a timeline split that happens if you don’t beat Vaati in Minish Cap!
After Ganondorf’s defeat and Link’s return to the past, Hyrule became unguarded without a hero to protect them. Ganondorf remained sealed with the Triforce of Power, Zelda stayed with the Triforce of Wisdom, while the Triforce of Courage split into eight pieces after Link’s departure back to the past.
The Wind Waker
We start Wind Waker seeing that it’s a whole new world! The world is mostly oceans and islands!
It turns out that after hundreds of years after the events of OoT, the seal of the seven sages broke and Ganondorf escaped from the Sacred Realm and used the Triforce of Power to take over Hyrule once again.
Since the land of Hyrule was left without a hero. The King of Hyrule pleads to the gods for refuge and safety as Ganon fills the land with darkness. With this, the gods responded and flooded Hyrule, with this, the kingdom and Ganondorf are now sealed under a new ocean, while the surviving groups went to the mountain tops which turned into islands once the flooding is done.
Now we get to the events of Wind Waker! Near the beginning in the game, Ganondorf already escaped the ocean and has his base in the forsaken fortress where he sent his minions to kill some of the sages to weaken the Master Sword once Link gets to it later on. Ganondorf also ordered to kidnap young girls, in hopes of finding the lost Princess Zelda who holds the Triforce of Wisdom.
We start the game on Outset Island where pirates are chasing a giant bird since it stole their captain, Tetra, which turns out to be a descendant of the Royal Family and is the current incarnation of Zelda. Anyways, Tetra falls down in the forest and Link’s sister got taken instead, thus driving Link to venture out and save his sister.
With that, Link soon got the help of the King of Red Lions, a talking boat sent by the gods, then they visit numerous islands and complete dungeons, all while harnessing the power of the Wind Waker, a baton that lets Link conduct melodies that can control the wind, time of day, or warp to different locations.
We eventually end up going to Hyrule Castle, where we get the Master Sword, and we made our way to save Link’s sister in the Forsaken Fortress, where we attempted to fight Ganondorf but ultimately failed since the Master Sword lost its power.
Right after that, Tetra saved Link and they escaped back to Hyrule Castle, where it was revealed that the King of Red Lions (the talking boat) is actually Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule, the last king of Hyrule.
Link went to restore the Master Sword’s power and collect the 8 shards of the Triforce so that he can open a way back to Hyrule castle. Once Link went back to Hyrule, he discovers that Zelda has been kidnapped by Ganondorf. Once Link caught up to them the full Triforce is finally reunited, allowing Ganondorf the chance to make his wish. But fortunately, King Daphnes beat him to it and wished for Hyrule to be washed away forever.
Link then defeated Ganondorf (with what might be the most grotesque death in Zelda history), King Daphnes stays as Hyrule gets washed away, Link and Zelda escape from the water, and Zelda becomes Tetra once again. They then sail to search for a new continent to start a New Hyrule!
Phantom Hourglass & Spirit Tracks
These two games are pretty straightforward so I’ll punch through them and leave the details for those of you who want to play the games.
Image Credit: Nintendo
Phantom Hourglass continues the story of Link and Zelda (as Tetra) as they explore to find new land. They come across the Ghost Ship, which captures Tetra. Link wakes on an island and with the aid of a fairy named Ciela and a ship captain, Linebeck, they conquer the seas and go to temples, collecting the Spirits of Wisdom, Power, and Courage. Link discovers that the Ghost Ship is a creation of the evil Bellum, who’s causing the disappearance of sailors and the life force of the Ocean King, Oshus. Link defeats Bellum, rescuing Tetra and restoring peace.
Quick note, the world of Phantom Hourglass has also been theorized to be a dream like in Link’s Awakening.
Spirit Tracks occurs generations later in New Hyrule, established after the previous games. Train engineer Link and Princess Zelda (different from Hero of the Winds and Tetra) discover that the Spirit Tracks (mystical railways protecting the land) are disappearing. Chancellor Cole, a traitor, separates Zelda’s spirit from her body, planning to resurrect the Demon King, Malladus. Link and the spirit of Zelda (inhabiting Phantoms), travel across the land, restoring Spirit Tracks and unlocking the Tower of Spirits. They defeat Malladus, restoring Zelda’s body and securing New Hyrule’s safety. The game ends with peace, in a new land with no evil in sight, thus ending this part of the timeline!
That ends the canonical Zelda Timeline! Thank you for reading until the end, this was a doozy to get through, and I didn’t even go through everything! If you want to know where BOTW and TOTK is in the timeline, make sure to read this next!