The latest DLC for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has reinvigorated the conversation regarding the game's placement in the franchise's timeline. Items included in the DLC point to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild taking place not only within a single timeline, but also within both timelines that culminate in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's defeat of Ganon. The result is a controversy over what content can be considered canon or not, as well as the legitimacy of the Zelda timeline overall.
In 2011, Nintendo released the Hyrule Historia, a huge book containing art and lore from throughout the history of The Legend of Zelda. Included in the book was the first official timeline for the franchise, showing how all of the games within the series are interconnected. At the heart of the timeline is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which splits the franchise into three paths. There's Link being defeated by Ganon, Ganon being defeated while Link's a child, and Ganon being defeated while Link's an adult.
The question that fans are now asking is how items from each of the different timelines manage to appear in a single game that takes place later in the timeline in Breath of the Wild. The Phantom Armor, taken from The Phantom Hourglass, comes from the "Adult Timeline," whereas Midna's Helmet from Twilight Princess comes from the "Child Timeline." Both items include lore references in their descriptions, which makes both items' inclusion seem intended by Nintendo. For those invested in The Legend of Zelda canon this is all a headache and a half.
Perhaps the simplest conclusion would be to dismiss all DLC content, amiibo content, and expansion content as non-canon. Yet even then the timeline confusion remains an issue, because Breath of the Wild's core storyline has problems too. The Koroks and Rito both stem from Wind Waker in the Child Timeline, whereas there are also explicit references to Sage Ruto and her awakening, which occurs in the Adult Timeline. The DLC issues only compound the timeline crisis already prominent in Breath of the Wild.
If there's a solution to the problem, it isn't clear. Some fans support one timeline, while some stand behind another. Some fans believe the whole timeline is an absurd idea connecting eras of Zelda that have no actual link to another. There's even a minority of fans who believe Breath of the Wild comes after a rejoining of the timelines. There's certainly something unique about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but fans may have to wait for a second edition of the Hyrule Historia to find out the truth.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available now on the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Wii U.