The Legend of Zelda. A game series that has gotten a reputation for a timeline that is maybe more confusing than the X-Men movies or the Kingdom Hearts game (maybe not Kingdom Hearts, that’s really confusing). Anyway, on The Nerdd we don’t go into storytelling very much, unless it’s for Dungeons & Dragons, but inspired by one of my favorite YouTube personalities of late (Brian David Gilbert of Polygon), I thought I could try to tell the story of TLoZ in chronological order. If you don’t know how bizarre the storyline is, allow BDG to begin the story below.
Throughout the article, images and quotes used are from the Official Zelda website.
According to ancient tales, the world was created by three goddesses: The goddess of power created the land, the goddess of wisdom created order, and the goddess of courage created life.
Before they left the world they created, the three goddesses created the Triforce–a magical object made up of three golden triangles–and entrusted it with the goddess Hylia.
The Triforce grants a wish to those who possess the three virtues of the goddesses: power, wisdom, and courage. If one doesn’t have the proper balance of virtues, the Triforce will split into three pieces. Only be reuiniting all three pieces can the true power of the Triforce be obtained.
Throughout time, the Triforce has chosen a select few to wield its individual powers: Ganondorf, the dark lord who seeks to overthrow Hyrule, possesses the Triforce of Power; Zelda, the noble princess of Hyrule, who carries the Triforce of Wisdom; and Link the brave young hero who bears the mark of the Triforce of Courage.
The Triforce, created by the goddess Hylia, was sought after by the Demon King Demise, and so she sent the people of Hyrule to a city above the clouds, and sealed Demise away. Hylia split her spirit in two, one to be reincarnated in someone who would come of age when Demise’s seal would expire, and another in the sword of her trusted hero, to be discovered again.
There are five parts of the timeline, with four games in the first part of the story. This is what happens before the split timelines from Ocarina of Time, which ends this section.
Armed with the Goddess Sword, Link leaves his home on the floating island of Skyloft to rescue his childhood friend, Zelda, who has been kidnapped.
Ghirahim, another Demon Lord, realizes that a young girl named Zelda has the spirit of Hylia, which means that he can use her to revive his master, Demise. Link finds the sword of Hylia’s Hero, and uses it to bring the city above the clouds down on Demise, killing him once and for all. Though he vows that his hatred will return, and find “those who share the blood of the goddess and the spirit of the hero” forever.
It should be mentioned that any girl that is born into Zelda’s family for the rest of time is called Zelda, as an honor to her power with the spirit of Hylia within her. Also, Link became a very popular boy’s name, and only sometimes do the Link’s in the following games have any relation to the original.
The Minish Cap
Link must shrink to the size of a bug to restore the Picori Sword and save Hyrule from the evil Vaati.
Vaati, a corrupt, power-seeking creature kidnaps Princess Zelda, because she is a descendant of the original Zelda, and she has the Light Force within her. Her friend Link, a blacksmith, is ordered by the King to reforge a sword that Vaati destroyed and break the curse of Zelda that turned her to stone. In the end, Vaati is trapped in the blade, called the Four Sword, which is capable of splitting its wielder into four copies.
The evil sorcerer Vaati has risen again. Now Link must use the Four Sword to split into four heroes to defeat him and save Princess Zelda.
Generations later Vaati escapes the Four Sword, and kidnaps Princess Zelda once again. Link draws the Four Sword which splits him into four Links, and is able to overpower Vaati and seal him again in the Four Sword.
Ocarina of Time
Ganondorf has claimed the Triforce and taken over Hyrule. Link must now summon the seven sages to imprison the villain and save the kingdom.
Demise’s hatred has finally arrived, taking the form of Ganondorf, who is once again after the Triforce, but breaks it as he doesn’t have the courage or wisdom to properly acquire it. However, Link is trapped for seven years after grabbing the Master Sword, and doesn’t return until Ganondorf has taken control of Hyrule Castle. Link, then goes to defeat Ganondorf with the help of the Seven Sages.
This is where the timeline splits. In one version of the story, Link fails to defeat Ganondorf, who then takes the Triforce of Courage from Link and the Triforce of Wisdom from Zelda, and becomes incredibly powerful. In another, Link defeats Ganondorf, and Zelda sends Link back in time, so he can warn the Royal Family of Ganondorf before he attacks. In the last timeline, is the world that Link left behind when he went back to his childhood. So the timeline splits into whether or not Link succeeds, but then both alternate universes where Link is sent back in time.
The Hero is Defeated
At this poin, time splits into two paths–one where the hero of Hyrule is victorious, and another where he falls in battle.
If Link fails to defeat Ganondorf in the Ocarina of Time, then the Fallen Hero Timeline continues. Or as BDG above calls it, the “Basketball” Timeline. Even though Ganon (his demon name) is super powerful, the Seven Sages were still able to seal him away into another realm, called the Dark World.
A Link to the Past
Young Link is awakened by a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, who has been locked in the depths of Hyrule Castle by Agahnim, an evil wizard.
Agahnim, who is an alter ego of Ganon that was able to escape the Dark World, kidnaps Zelda and sends her, Link, and the descendants of the Seven Sages into the Dark World. Link was able to find the Triforce that Ganon took with him, and returned it to the Royal Family, as well as everyone else that had been kidnapped or killed.
Stranded on Koholint Island, Link searches for eight musical instruments that will help him escape.
The same Link as Link to the Past, after defeating Ganon, goes to travel to other countries to train and become a better warrior, but is caught in a storm and washes up on a faraway, but populated, island. It turns out the the island was a dream all along, and this game is largely inconsequential to the overall story.
Oracle of Seasons & Ages
Link is summoned to Hyrule Castle by the Triforce itself, beginning a parallel set of thrilling adventures.
In these two games, that can be played in either order, time itself has been thrown into chaos by Veran and General Onox, who are minions for the witches Twinrova, the surrogate mothers of Ganon. Regardless of what order you play the games in, Twinrova are able to resurrect Ganon, but not completely, causing him to be a mindless beast, which Link is able to defeat. However, somehow this causes the Triforce to be split once again, with the Triforce of Power returning to Ganon in the Dark World.
A Link Between Worlds
Link leaps into a 2D world to stop a mysterious villain named Yuga, who is turning people into paintings.
Yuga, a paint wizard, captures the Seven Sages and releases Ganon once again. Yuga was sent by Hilda, whom Link thought was an ally, because in Lorule, an alternate world, they lost their Triforce, and the kingdom fell and monsters ruled. Link is able to reunite the pieces of the Triforce and return to Hyrule, where he makes a wish to have Lorule’s Triforce restored, which saves both worlds.
Tri Force Heroes
Three heroes must unite to take on a witch known as The Lady, who has cast a curse on the princess of Hytopia.
Link, and other boys named Link, who are identified as heroes in Hytopia because of their pointy ears and sideburns, must stop a witch who has cursed the princess for being so fashionable.
The Legend of Zelda
A young boy named Link must travel to Death mountain and defeat the pig-like monster, Ganon, to restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.
Ganon has returned, seeking the Triforce to rule the world. However, the last person to know of the location of the Triforce of Courage, Princess Zelda, is in a magical coma. The latest Princess Zelda breaks the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces in order to hide them from Ganon. So Link finds the pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, and defeats Ganon who has the Triforce of Power, once again.
The Adventure of Link
A teenage Link embarks on a journey to awaken the sleeping maiden, Zelda, and learn the origin of the Triforce.
The same Link as above has to go across the land to dispell the barrier around the Great Palace, where the Triforce of Courage was hidden, so he can awaken Zelda and stop Ganon from being revived.
As of right now, this is the end of the Fallen Hero Timeline.
After the events of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the timeline splinters yet again, this time between the Child and Adult timelines.
So Zelda, after the Ocarina of Time, sends Link back in time so that he can warn the Royal Family that Ganondorf is coming.
Link must travel through time to stop the moon from wiping out the entire planet.
As Link searches for Navi after she fulfilled her duty in Ocarina of Time, he discovers a plot to bring the moon crashing into the ground. In three days time, Link has to free giants who can catch the moon before it hits. However, this isn’t enough time, so Link must keep going back in time, Groundhog Day style in order to get the help of the giants.
A humble ranch hand named Link is thrust into battle to save the Kingdom from being engulfed in darkness.
Ganondorf survives his execution from the Sages because he has the Triforce of Power. As a backup plan, they send him to the Twilight realm, where he helps a disgruntled servant, Zant, usurp the Royal Throne, specifically Midna. Midna and Zant both go to the Light World, Midna to find help, and Zant to invade. Link, who’s Twilight form is a wolf because of his Triforce of Courage, and Midna work together to stop Zant. After they find that Ganondorf had recaptured Zelda, but Link finally kills him with the Master Sword.
Four Swords Adventures
Four versions of Link must work together to defeat the mysterious Shadow Link.
A new Ganondorf is born, the reincarnation of the original, and works to, once again, throw Hyrule into darkness. Part of his plan involves releasing Vaati from the Four Sword, and create an evil version of Link, called Shadow Link. Link uses the Four Sword to defeat Shadow Link by splitting into four, but this releases Vaati, just as Ganondorf planned. The four are able to stop Shadow Link, destroy Vaati, and seal Ganon inside the Four Sword.
As of this writing, this is the end of the Child Era, where Ganon is trapped in the Four Sword. However, history states that another villain will arise, Link will use the Four Sword, and inadvertently free Ganon once again.
So, after Ocarina of Time, the hero is sent back in time to warn of Ganon’s threat, which leaves this timeline without the great hero Link. Ganondorf is sealed with the Triforce of Power in the corrupted Sacred Realm. Of course, Ganon ends up escaping the Sacred Realm, and bring darkness to Hyrule once again. However, this time, there was no Link that appeared, so the gods flooded the world instead.
The Wind Waker
A young boy named Link must travel the seas to rescue his sister, Aryll, who’s been kidnapped by a giant bird.
Ganondorf, eager to kidnap Zelda, who has the Triforce of Wisdom, kidnaps all girls of that age, including Link’s little sister. After rescuing her with the help of pirates, he finds out about Ganondorf’s plan, and his kidnapping of Zelda. Link saves Zelda, reunites the pieces of the Triforce, defeats Ganondorf, and washes away Hyrule.
Link must find the necessary items to forge the Phantom Sword to defeat a life-eating monster named Bellum.
A giant squid monster kidnaps Zelda, who goes by the name of Tetra now, and turns her to stone by sucking out her life-force. Link forges the Phantom Sword, because Bellum is a phantom monster, and saves the day. Ultimately, this story is a sidequest in the overall narrative.
Link and Princess Zelda set out on a train-bound adventure to uncover the mysterious disappearance of the Spirit Tracks.
In a new land where trains are the primary mode of transportation, a demon, Malladus, is impisoned, where the train tracks act as chains on the locks of his imprisonment. Once freed, he removes Zelda’s spirit from her body, and her spirit remains with Link, a Royal Engineer, while her body is used as a vessel for the demon. Malladus seems to have no connection with Ganon.
Breath of the Wild
Lastly, we have Breath of the Wild, which of course is part of all the timelines. It’s currently unclear how the different timelines are connected here (besides Monopoly), but as you travel through BotW, you’ll notice different locations from various games.
Over time, the Sheikah, a race similar to Hylians, created better and better technology, in preparation for Ganon’s inevitable return. Of course, after he did as Calamity Ganon (a second time, technically), he was able to use that technology to his benefit. Zelda is able to trap him once again, but must be trapped alongside him in the process. Link, awoken after 100 years, must reclaim the technology to defeat Calamity Ganon, and save Princess Zelda.
There is so much story in these games, but two things are clear: 1) the split timelines still follow with more sense than the X-Men movies, and 2), there is lots of room for new games, between the ending of each timeline and Breath of the Wild, to explore.