The Legend of Zelda lore is an intricate web of alternate timelines, and the upcoming Breath of the Wild introduces new mysteries about where it fits into it all.
It’s possible to play an installment in The Legend of Zelda series and appreciate the game for its own standalone story. In each game, there is always a Hero and a Princess, traditionally Link and Zelda, respectively. But The Legend of Zelda games present a pattern of cyclical reincarnation. Beyond Link and Zelda, a history of the land of Hyrule and the enemy Ganon begin to form when looking at all the games in the franchise.
For years, fans tried to reconcile how all the games could fit together, trying to place them chronologically to each other. But in 2011, Nintendo published a book called Hyrule Historia in Japan (and an English version in 2013), which finally codified the official timeline from the creators of the series.
The timeline introduces a complicated mesh of alternate realities and timelines, which allow the entire series to fit together. Ahead of the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, fans have begun trying to piece together where on that timeline the game will fit. But before getting to where exactly Breath of the Wild may find its place, it is worth quickly going over the timeline as a whole.
The timeline, which can be seen in full here, starts off normal enough. The earliest game in the chronological timeline of The Legend of Zelda‘s universe is Skyward Sword. That game sees the people of the world living in the sky above the land of Hyrule. By the end of the game, beings come to the surface and the land of Hyrule becomes inhabited.
After Skyward Sword, The Minish Cap and Four Swords follow. While those games have their own story and place in the lore of the The Legend of Zelda, the next major landmark (and perhaps the most significant of all) is the story of the Hero of Time, which starts with the Nintendo 64 game, Ocarina of Time. This game is the source from which the timelines begin to split in three ways. The first two timeline splits are based on actions the players takes in the game, namely when young Link enters the Temple of Time, removes the Master Sword, and becomes Adult Link.
At that point, two alternate timelines are created in Hyrule’s history—one featuring the young Link and the other belonging to the adult Link. The third timeline offshoot is less obvious, because it is based on events in Ocarina of Time that are basically unseen. To be more specific, when players face Ganondorf in the final battle of Ocarina of Time, the outcome of the game which leads to its conclusion and the credits is to defeat Ganondorf and come out victorious.
But the third timeline is based on the question, “What if that victory never happened?” This alternate timeline is based on Link being defeated in that final battle. From that timeline come games A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, Link’s Awakening, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link.
In the young Link timeline where Ganondorf is defeated, the direct N64 sequel Majora’s Mask follows, as well as the Gamecube and Wii’s Twilight Princess and Four Swords Adventures. Finally, the adult Link timeline contains The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks.
There could be much more detail and lore explored here, but the important question currently is where exactly Breath of the Wild fits in? While arguments can be made for the newest Zelda game being placed in any of the timelines, it appears that a lot of evidence points towards the timeline where Link is defeated by Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time.
YouTuber Zeltik goes into an incredible amount of detail looking at the evidence of this placement, but perhaps the most convincing evidence is the placement of the Master Sword, which differs in each timeline. In the timeline where Link falls to Ganondorf, the Master Sword is always found in the Lost Woods in a meadow surrounded by white flowers. The image below of the Master Sword from Breath of the Wild has been spotted in multiple trailers, and is exactly the same placement as in A Link to the Past.
The Master Sword’s placement is consistent in each timeline, appearing in either the Lost Woods, the Temple of Time, or in Hyrule Castle in each timeline. This icon of The Legend of Zelda series appears to be a major clue to where exactly Breath of the Wild takes place in the overall timeline.
But fans won’t know for sure until the game launches in March. In fact, there are plenty of theories, which can be backed up by evidence, for placement in nearly every fork of the timeline.
Do you have an alternate theory about where Breath of the Wild fits into The Legend of Zelda’s timeline? Let us know in the comments below.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launches on Nintendo Switch and Wii U on March 3, 2017.