Everything That’s Happened In The Legend of Zelda So Far

by | Mar 7, 2023

AI-generated artwork of Link from the Legend of Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda timeline includes nearly 20 games spread over thousands of years but with three constant characters. Here’s everything you need to know. | Image: DALL•E

Tears of the Kingdom will be the 20th main-series game in The Legend of Zelda franchise. As with most franchises, things are bound to get complicated over 45 years. There’s been spinoffs and remakes, but the Legend of Zelda timeline remains muddled due to parallel timelines and time contradictions.

While these inconsistencies in the lore have been questioned in multiple instances, things have always been left up to interpretation to a certain extent. It wasn’t until Nintendo’s 2011 master timeline “The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia” made things somewhat clearer.

However, Breath of the Wild only made things more complicated, taking place at a point of convergence between three branching timelines. With Tears of the Kingdom serving as a direct sequel, things might need to be brushed up.

So here’s our attempt at breaking down The Legend of Zelda timeline – and perhaps providing you a guide to come back to.

WHEN THINGS WERE NORMAL (SORT OF)

\

BEFORE TIME BEGAN

ORIGINS: HYLIA, DEMISE, AND THE HERO OF TIME

Artwork for the Creation of Hyrule

via Nintendo

The story beings with three goddesses existing before time – who creating the world now inhabited by Hylians.

Before ascending to the heavens, the three goddesses leave behind the Triforce as a symbol of their strength created and entrust it to Hylia, a fourth goddess.

Sometime later, the Demon King Demise emerges to take over the world by harnessing the power of Triforce.

Hylia gathers the humans who survived Demise’s onslaught, sending them to the skies along with the Triforce.

Although Hylia manages to seal away the Demon King, she ends up being mortally wounded, and decides to transfer her soul to a mortal’s body to prepare for the return of Demise.

\

2011

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD

Thousands of years later, Hylia is reborn as Zelda (who is able to regain her memories as a goddess down the line). With her childhood friend Link and a spirit named Fi, the trio retrieves the Goddess Sword – and discover that Link is the destined hero of Hylia.

Some time traveling transpires, and Link hands Demise his defeat – “permanently” sealing the Demon King in the Master Sword. In his final moments, however, Demise curses Hylia and Link to reincarnate through time – with he himself returning as Ganon (and Ganondorf) to get his revenge.

\

2004

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE MINISH CAP

After some thousand years, we get the events of The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. The sorcerer Vaati kidnaps the princess to harness the light force within her – with wicked intentions, obviously.

After creating and harnessing the Four Sword, it’s this era’s version of Link that comes victorious after sealing Vaati away.

\

2002

FOUR SWORDS

After being sealed away for generations, Vaati returns but with no recollection of his previous life. Still up to no good, the sorcerer kidnaps (a new version of) Zelda, forcing her to marry him this time.

Link finds the Four Sword, ends up splitting into four Links, and ultimately seals Vaati once again (you may be noticing the pattern here).

Four Swords does not accomplish much more that introducing the Four Sword itself to the timeline.

\

1998

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME

Official artwork for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

via Nintendo

According to Hyrule Historia, Hyrule enters a long civil war some time after the events of Four Swords. It is the King of Hyrule that ends this war and leads to the Demon King conspiring once again.

Demise, now Ganon(dorf), swears fealty to the king but is secretly plotting to get his hands on the Triforce. This sets off a chain of events where a new versions of Link and Princess Zelda meet, obtain the Master Sword, and reawaken Link as the Hero of Time.

The Triforce ends up being broken into 3 pieces – with Ganon(dorf), Link, and Zelda obtaining the Triforce of Power, Courage, and Wisdom respectively.

Ganon manages to use this newfound power to transform the Sacred Realm into the Evil Realm, but ends up being sealed away by Link and Zelda anyway.

THE SPLITTING OF TIMELINES

\

AFTER OCARINA OF TIME

THE THREE BRANCHES

Meddling with time is bound to create some disarray – which you might be familiar with if you’ve seen Spider-Man: No Way Home.

At the end of Ocarina of Time, the timeline splits into three distinct branches:

  • the Fallen Hero Timeline, where Link is defeated by Ganon
  • the Child Timeline, which follows the Link that is sent back to his “original timeline”
  • and the Adult Timeline, where the Hero of Time has vanished from history (being sent back to his original timeline)

THE FALLEN HERO TIMELINE

\

THE DARKEST TIMELINE

This is the timeline where Ganondorf defeats Link, acquires all three fragments of the Triforce, and manages to become the ruler of the Dark World.

According to the Hyrule Historia, an “Imprisoning War” takes place sometime later, ending up with Ganon and the Triforce both sealed in the Sacred Realm by the Seven Sages – at the cost of the lives of several Knights of Hyrule.

This war between Ganon’s army and the Seven Sages takes place several years after the events of Ocarina of Time.

\

1991

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST

A screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

via Nintendo

Following the Imprisoning War, the seal on Ganon was broken by his alter ego, who was later defeated by another reincarnation of Link, who eventually brought peace back to Hyrule by returning the Triforce.

\

1993

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK’S AWAKENING

Link’s Awakening is where things get a bit spin-off-ish. After defeating Ganon, (probably) the same Link goes off on a training course but ends up shipwrecked on Kohilint Island.

He eventually defeats the main villain, but later finds himself drifting in the seas – this is the last ever heard of this version of Link.

\

2001

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: ORACLE OF SEASONS AND ORACLE OF AGES

Back in Hyrule, Ganon’s adoptive mothers (who are witches, by the way) make plans to resurrect the Demon King. 

At the Hyrule Castle, Link is summoned by the Triforce and is transported to the lands of Holodrum and Labrynna (which can be visited in either order).

The witches’ plans involve the abduction of Zelda, which eventually leads to their death at the hands of Link.

However, they manage to partially revive Ganon – who has now lost his sense of self, and is defeated by Link (yet again).

\

2013

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS

It’s been a few centuries since Ganon’s defeat, and Hyrule is now threatened by Yuga – another wizard. Yuga abducts Zelda by turning her into a painting and retreats to Lorule – a mirror version of Hyrule.

Following some mirror-world fiascos, Link and Zelda manage to save both Lorule and Hyrule with the help of the Triforce, eventually returning to their own world.

After the events of A Link Between Worlds, Hyrule enters an era of prosperity called the Golden Era.

However, a descendant of the King worries about the power of the Triforce and decides to split it into three fragments: keeping the Triforce of Power for himself, he gives the Triforce of Wisdom to (a version of) Princess Zelda and sends the Triforce of Courage to choose someone worthy – which picks Link.

\

2015

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TRI FORCE HEROES

The same version of Link ventures to the kingdom of Hytopia, gets into some new garb, breaks curses, repeating the whole hero routine all over again.

\

1986

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA

A screenshot from the Legend of Zelda.

via Nintendo

It’s weird to see that the game that started it all fits so far down the lore of the game.

Many centuries after A Link Between Worlds, a revived Ganon invades Hyrule, steals the Triforce of Power, and is once again defeated by Link.

\

1987

ZELDA II: THE ADVENTURE OF LINK

Six years after Ganon’s defeat, Link is sent to look for the forgotten Triforce of Courage. The Hero of Time manages to reunite the three fragments of Triforce while beating up the bad guys.

THE CHILD TIMELINE

\

BACK TO THE PAST

In Ocarina of Time, a young Link decides to enter a sever-year slumber to reawaken as the Hero of Time.

At the end of the game, this timeline’s version of Link is sent back (seven years) to his childhood – all in an attempt to warn the King of Hyrule about Ganondorf’s eventual betrayal.

\

2000

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA’S MASK

This is the final (recorded) adventure of the version of Link who was sent back in time.

After warning the Hyrulean rulers of Ganondorf, Link ends up in the parallel world of Termina, defeats Majora – a demon inhabiting a mind-corrupting mask, and eventually dies to become the Hero’s Spirit.

\

2006

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TWILIGHT PRINCESS

The Failed Execution of Ganondorf: Several years after the events of Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf is sentenced to death but ends up surviving and is banished to the Twilight Realm instead.

Plotting his return to power, Ganon sends a minion of his back to Hyrule but ends up being defeated by Link.

\

2004

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: FOUR SWORDS ADVENTURES

Centuries later, a new version of Ganon(dorf) manages to release the ancient version of Vaati (from Minish Cup and Four Swords), who then create a dark version of Link.

This era’s Link retrieves the Four Sword, splits into four once again, and collectively defeat the evil duo – with Ganon ending up sealed inside the Four Sword. 

THE ADULT TIMELINE

\

A (SOMEWHAT) LINEAR TIMELINE

In Ocarina of Time, a young Link decides to enter a sever-year slumber to reawaken as the Hero of Time.

At the end of the game, this timeline’s version of Link is sent back (seven years) to his childhood – all in an attempt to warn the King of Hyrule about Ganondorf’s eventual betrayal.

\

2002

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER

A screenshot from the Legend of Zelda.

via Nintendo

As several centuries passed, the Hero of Time became only a relic of the past – with no new Link appearing for centuries.

Ganon breaks out of his seal yet again and is back at his conquest for Hyrule.

With no hero to protect the realm, the gods simply decided to drown Ganon along with Hyrule beneath the ocean – remaining suspended in time.

Hundreds of years passed before Ganon(dorf) made his return, but is met by a new version of Link and Zelda this time around. The duo defeats the Demon King, but at the cost of Hyrule being destroyed.

Both Link and Zelda then set sail seeking a new continent.

\

2007

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: PHANTOM HOURGLASS

During this Era of the Great Voyage, Link and Zelda get tangled with ghosts. The hero ends up saving the day once again – with the Phantom Sword this time around.

The pair eventually discover a new continent – which came to be known as New Hyrule.

\

2009

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SPIRIT TRACKS

After a prosperous few generations, the land of New Hyrule faces the threat of a new Demon King – Malladus.

After a battle in the Darm Realm, (this era’s) Link and Zelda manage to return peace to the land.

BREATH OF THE WILD AND BEYOND

\

2018

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD

Screenshot from the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

via Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild treats the entirety of the series as a prequel, and is a culmination (of sorts) of all three timelines.

The events of Breath of the Wild occur about 10,000 years after the previous events and leave some things to the player’s interpretations (regarding the events that led to this future).

Hyrule has flourished thanks to advancements in technology brought by the Sheikah tribe – also responsible for building the Guardians.

On what is known as the Day of the Great Calamity, Link is fatally injured in a battle against Ganon, and goes into a 100-year-long slumber to recover. To protect the kingdom, Zelda imprisons Ganon inside the Master Sword, ending up sealed together.

A century later, Link is ready to awaken, and the seal on Ganon has weakened. Link manages to defeat Ganon and free Zelda from her seal, and the duo then seeks to rebuild the kingdom.