After years of wondering how each game in The Legend of Zelda series connect to one another, players finally got confirmation in 2011. Between the 25th anniversary of the series and the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which takes place at the beginning of the official Zelda timeline, longtime series fans finally got definitive answers regarding the existence of multiple Links and Zeldas across each entry. Despite Link’s success in defeating the Demon King Demise, he curses himself, Link, and Zelda to an eternal cycle of rebirth and conflict with one another.
Accompanying this revelation regarding why Link, Zelda, and Ganon (the reincarnation of Demise) appear different in each entry was the Hyrule Historia book. This special 25th anniversary tome goes in depth into the story of Skyward Sword as well as lays bare the official Zelda timeline for all to see. Using this timeline as a guide, players can now chart the various appearances of Link, from his first adventure departing Skyloft all the way to his most recent appearances in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom. He might not always wear his iconic green tunic, but the Hero of Legend appears time and agin in each Legend of Zelda title to save Hyrule and protect the Triforce.
The earliest Link in the Zelda timeline is the version from Skyward Sword. This Link is a teenager living in the realm of Skyloft and is an aspiring knight, also seemingly connected to the chief’s daughter Zelda. After Zelda goes missing, Link descends from Skyloft into the surface below – the land that will become Hyrule. Along the way he receives guidance from a sword spirit going by the name of Fi, who helps him in his quest to rescue Zelda and stop her kidnapper Girahim. Eventually, Link learns that Girahim is working in the service of Demise, who wishes to acquire the Triforce and claim the surface for his own. Link and Zelda are successful in stopping Demise, only to receive a curse that dooms them to an unbreakable cycle of reincarnation and conflict.
The Minish Cap
Following the founding of the Kingdom of Hyrule, the forces of evil descend on the fledgling kingdom in an attempt to return the world to darkness. The Picori, a diminutive race of helpful beings, assist the young kingdom in defending against the demons and entrust them with the Picori Blade, a sword capable of thwarting evil. Centuries pass without incident until one night, on the eve of the Picori festival, a mysterious sorcerer turns the young Princess Zelda to stone. A young hero appears who is able to take up the Picori Blade, using it to stop the evil sorcerer Vaati and save Princess Zelda. This Link is slightly younger than the version from Skwyard Sword as well as being more cartoonish in appearance.
The next Link in the Zelda chronology is also a child, although this version has a unique distinction of being 4 Links in 1. The evil sorcerer Vaati reappears, causing panic throughout Hyrule as he begins kidnapping young girls left and right in hopes of capturing Princess Zelda. A valiant young hero by the name of Link appears once again, this time wielding the legendary Four Sword. With this weapon in tow, Link splits into four identical versions of himself, each wearing a different color tunic. Following his successful battle against Vaati and restoring peace to Hyrule, Link returns the Four Sword to its resting place and the 4 Links return to 1.
Ocarina of Time
Players first meet Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a child. An orphan growing up in the Kokiri Forest, Link discovers as a child through a fateful meeting with the Deku Tree that he is the Hero of Legend. Following this revelation, Link sets off to Hyrule Castle to meet Princess Zelda and stop the evil forces gathering to claim the Triforce. After acquiring the Spirit Stones necessary to open the Temple of Time and claim the Master Sword, Link jumps forward in time to become a young adult. As the adult version of himself, Link can more skillfully wield the Master Sword, which he does to defeat Ganon and save Hyrule. At least, that’s one possibility. There are three timelines branching off from the fateful battle with Ganon, each with their own series of Links that appear.
The Hero is Defeated – A Link to the Past, Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Link’s Awakening
In the first branch from the Ocarina of Time, Link suffers defeat at the hands of Ganon and is unsuccessful in stopping his claiming of the Triforce. Generations later, with Ganon transforming the Sacred Realm into the Dark World, a young boy named Link begins to receive telepathic communications from Princess Zelda stating that she needs his help. Learning that the evil wizard Agahnim is planning to kidnap the descendants of the Seven Sages to use them in opening a portal to the Dark World, this Link once again sets off on an adventure to claim the Master Sword and restore the Triforce.
Following this adventure, he sets off to distant lands in search of adventure and training, eventually landing in the areas of Holodrum and Labyrnna. After successfully thwarting the resurrection of Ganon, he sails back to Hyrule only for a storm to wreck his ship and wash him up on the island of Koholint. This Link appears in the games and media surrounding the titles as a pre-teen, capable of skillfully wielding the Master Sword but not quite yet an adult.
A Link Between Worlds
Even though A Link Between Worlds takes place in the same version of Hyrule from A Link to the Past, series producer Eiji Aonuma has revealed that the Link and Zelda present in this newer adventure are actually different incarnations of the two protagonists than those that appear in the SNES Legend of Zelda title. That said, this version of Link is also a younger version similar to that of A Link to the Past. For the first (and only) time in the series, Link can turn himself into a 2D painting and enter walls to solve puzzles and traverse labyrinthine dungeons. Although he is once again successful in stopping Ganon, Hyrule eventually enters the Era of Decline in the years following this Link’s exploits.
The Legend of Zelda & Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
With hundreds of years passing without a suitable heir to defend the Triforce, Hyrule falls into ruin and minions of the Demon King Ganon begin to creep back into the world. Desperate to prevent the Triforce from falling into the hands of Ganon, Princess Zelda separates the artifact into 8 pieces and instructs Impa to find the Hero of Legend who can save Hyrule. As fate would have it, she comes upon Link while wandering and nearing exhaustion, only to have the young hero help her to safety. Realizing that this young boy is indeed the Hero of Legend, she informs Link of the dire situation the kingdom is in, setting him off on his legendary journey.
This same version of Link appears in the sequel to the original Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Now 16, Link experiences a phenomenon where the image of the Triforce appears on the back of his hand. Seeking guidance form Impa once again, she informs Link of the Tragedy of Princess Zelda I — the current Princess Zelda’s distant ancestor who rests in eternal slumber. Vowing to break the curse and save Princess Zelda I, Link sets off on an adventure once again and defeats Ganon once and for all. Interestingly, this version of Ganon takes the form of teenage Link, existing as his shadow.
The Hero is Triumphant (Child Link) – Majora’s Mask
In the second branching timeline from Ocarina of Time, Link returns the Master Sword to its resting place and returns to being 7 years old again. Arriving back in Hyrule at the moment he meets Princess Zelda, Link shares all the knowledge he has of the threat that Ganondorf poses to Hyrule. In order to keep Link safe, Zelda sends him on a journey with Epona to leave Hyrule until the Sages can stop Ganondorf. Along the way, Link enters a mysterious forest and is transported to the realm of Termina. Here, the Skull Kid has mistakenly used Majora’s Mask to call the moon down to the surface of Termina, dooming all of its residents in the process. Using several magical masks over the course of 72 hours, Link saves Termina. This child version of Link never appears again in the timeline following Majora’s Mask.
Child Link’s revelation of Ganondorf’s intention to Zelda sets off a chain of events in which the Gerudo Chief is sentenced to execution. However, because he already posesses the Triforce of Power, the Seven Sages are unsuccessful and banish him to the Twilight Realm in a panic. Here, he twists the realm to his own design and turns all of the residents into hideous beasts with the help of Zant. Even the Twilight Princess herself, Midna, is turned into a cat-like creature. Generations later, a young man by the name of Link mistakenly wanders into the Twilight Realm only to discover that, while there, he assumes the form of a powerful wolf. This version of Link is the only one in the entire series timeline that can shape-shift into an animal, making him wholly unique among all other Links.
Four Swords Adventures
Following the adult version of Link that appears in Twilight Princess, the next version of the hero returns again to appearing in childhood. As the final entry in the Child Link timeline following Ocarina of Time, Four Swords Adventures again features a chid hero appearing by the name of Link who is capable of wieding the Four Sword. Again, he splits into four identical versions of himself as soon as the sword is in his posession. Despite each wearing a different color tunic, these four versions of Link are identical in apeparance and ability. After once again vanquishing the evil sorcerer Vaati, Link returns the Four Sword to its pedestal and becomes one once more.
The Hero is Triumphant (Adult Link) – The Wind Waker & Phantom Hourglass
The final branching timeline that follows Ocarina of Time sees the Link from that game remain an adult. After decades of peace in Hyrule, the land is flooded by the gods to prevent Ganon from resurrecting, sealing him and the kingdom beneath an ocean. Several hundred years later, a new boy named Link appears on a remote island. When his sister is kidnapped, this new child Link takes up arms in hopes of rescuring her. Along the way, he learns about the fate of Hyrule, becomes aquainted with the spirit of the former King in the form of a boat, and befriends a pirate who is actually Princess Zelda in disguise.
After defeating Ganon and rescuing his sister, Link joins Zelda on a journey to find the new land that will serve as the home of a new Hyrule. Along the way, Zlda and her pirate crew get trapped on a ghost ship, causing Link to venture off in search of a remedy. Discovering that it is another evil entity that is controlling the ship, Link rescues Princess Zelda and her crew and the two finally discover new land on which to establish a new era for Hyrule.
Despite appearing very similar to the child Link in Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks‘ version of the hero is a brand-new incarnation. Taking place 100 years after the founding of the new Hyrule, this new child hero is an unassuming engineer who works on the Spirit Tracks spiraling out from the Spirit Temple. When Zelda calls on him to investigate the strange occurrences at the temple, Link dons the green tunic worn by the Hero of Legend and restores a lasting peace and prosperity to the Kingdom of Hyrule.
The Age of Calamity – Breath of the Wild & Tears of the Kingdom
The most recent versions of Link that appear in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom are a new adult incarnation of the hero. This Link is sworn to protect Princess Zelda as a high-ranking knight in the Kingdom of Hyrule. When Calamity Ganon turns the kingdom’s weapons against them and assumes control of Hyrule, Zelda places Link in a protective slumber and hides away the Master Sword. After the passing of a century, Link awakens and begins to uncover his past while also searching for Princess Zelda and a way to stop Calamity Ganon.
Following the successful defeat of Calamity Ganon, this version of Link once again accompanies Zelda as her protector and the two set off on a peace-keeping mission across Hyrule. While investigating mysterious ruins buried underneath Hyrule Castle, the two mistakenly awaken Calamity Ganon and are shot in opposite directions though time. Once again, Link must uncover the mysteries of Hyrule’s past and rescure Princess Zelda while also stopping Calamity Ganon once and for all.