The Legend of Zelda Games in Order According to the Timeline

The Legend of Zelda original vs latest game

The Legend of Zelda Games in Order According to the Timeline

Over the course of the last 37 years, the official timeline of The Legend of Zelda has continued to evolve. What began as an internally circulated document among the higher-ups in the Zelda development teams is now part of the public’s knowledge of the franchise thanks to the 25th Anniversary celebration of the franchise and the release of the Hyrule Historia book. Although the series was originally a simple tale of a hero attempting to save a princess, the official narrative is now a centuries-spanning saga featuring branching timelines and multiple canon events.

At the center of it all are our intrepid heroes, Link and Princess Zelda, and their eternal adversary Ganon. From the events of the earliest game in the timeline, Skyward Sword, players learn how these heroes and timeless villain are destined to resurrect periodically throughout history to battle over the Triforce — the last lingering remnants of the Goddesses’ power after creating the land of Hyrule. That said, the first game in the timeline takes place long before the name Hyrule is even a thought in the heads of the world’s inhabitants.

This is not a timeline of the games in The Legend of Zelda series according to release but instead a chronology of the game’s branching timeline and pinpointing where each release fits into its complex tapestry. As you’ll notice, the earliest games in the series are actually part of a separate timeline that branches off of the events of a game released more than 10 years after the series began. The latest two games in the Zelda series are separate entities that are not yet part of the official chronology, though many suspect they take place after the split in the timeline following Ocarina of Time.

The Legend of The Goddesses and The Hero

The timeline of The Legend of Zelda begins with the Goddesses’ creation of what would become Hyrule. During a time of chaos, three Goddesses – Nayru, Farore, and Din – come together to create the world and its inhabitants. Din, the Goddess of Power, creates the land. Farore, the Goddess of Courage, creates the diverse inhabitants. Lastly, Nayru, Goddess of Wisdom, establishes order among the land and its inhabitants. Satisfied with their creation, the Goddesses depart and entrust the care of the land to another Goddess, Hylia, leaving behind the last vestiges of their power as the Triforce.

Sky Era – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword key art

Despite Hylia’s best efforts, an army of demons led by the Demon King Demise launched an all-out assault in an attempt to claim the Triforce and its ultimate power. Hylia is successful in sealing away the Triforce as well as forcing Demise into a deep slumber and stashing humanity away to live safely above the land in the clouds. It is here that players begin Skyward Sword, the earliest game in the series’ chronology. Link discovers that Zelda is the reincarnation of Hylia and the sworn protector of the Triforce, as well as that he is Zelda’s and the Triforce’s sworn protector. After successfully defeating Demise, the demon king curses himself, Link, and Zelda, dooming each of them to a cycle of eternal struggle and rebirth.

Force Era – The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap key art

Shortly after the events of Skyward Sword, men establish the Kingdom of Hyrule and thus begins the Era of Prosperity. Unfortunately, the world begins to become engulfed by evil beings, causing the Picori to descend from the sky and aid the fledgling kingdom. The Picori successfully help seal away evil with the help of the Picori Blade, which carries the Light Force, and returns to the Minish Realm. Hyrule holds a festival every year to honor the Picori, and it is during this festival that the evil Vaati attempts to steal the Light Force. After Vaati turns Zelda to stone, the young hero Link is called upon to wield the Picori Blade and save Hyrule.

Force Era – The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords key art

Although Link is successful in stopping Vaati and restoring Princess Zelda to health, the era of peace is fleeting. Vaati is resurrected, immediately kidnapping every young girl in Hyrule in hopes of imprisoning Princess Zelda. It is during this crisis that a new hero arrives, wielding the legendary Four Sword. With this important blade, the hero splits into four versions of himself and embarks on a quest to stop Vaati and restore peace to Hyrule. The Hero is successful, sealing Vaati in the depths of the Palace of Winds and subsequently sealing away the Four Sword which causes the four heroes to again become one. Peace returns to Hyrule and Princess Zelda keeps a vigilant watch over the seal.

Era of The Hero of Time – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time key art

In terms of games that have the greatest bearing on the series timeline, no other title is more important than The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Thanks to the twin eras of adult and child Link, as well as the potential for Link to ultimately be defeated by Ganon, every branching timeline that comes after originates within the events of Ocarina of Time.

Following an era of peace, Hyrule erupts into a terrible conflict. This war claimed the lives of many, including the mother of an orphan child brought to the Forbidden Forest. Her child is none other than the Hero of Legend Link. Shortly after The Great Deku Tree takes Link in as one of his own, the war comes to a close. Ganondorf, Chief of the Gerudo, agrees to peace and pledges fealty to the King of Hyrule. However, unbeknownst to the King, Ganondorf is secretly attempting to acquire the Sacred Stones necessary to open the gateway to the Sacred Realm. Although the King trusts Ganon, Princess Zelda does not and a chance meeting between her and Link sets off the events of the rest of the Zelda timeline.

Timeline Split I – The Hero is Defeated: The Decline of Hyrule and The Last Hero

There are two potential outcomes to the events of Ocarina of Time. Once Ganon obtains the Triforce of Power, he transforms into Demon King Ganon. It is at this moment that Link, the Hero of Time, challenges Ganon to a battle that determines the fate of Hyrule. In the timeline where Link suffers defeat at the hands of Ganon, Princess Zelda and the Seven Sages seal Ganon away in the Sacred Realm as a last-ditch effort.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past key art

With Ganon sealed away in the Sacred Realm, the once golden land turns into the Dark World. At the same time, decades pass in Hyrule and Princess Zelda and Link are both reborn. Aghanim, a mysterious wizard, launches a coup d’etat against the King of Hyrule and imprisons the descendants of the Seven Sages, including Princess Zelda. Link must obtain the three pendants carrying the essence of the three Goddesses and unseal the Master Sword from its slumber. With the Master Sword in hand, Link braves the Dark World to rescue Princess Zelda and the other Sage Maidens.

Era of Light and Dark – The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons

Oracle of Ages/Seasons key art

After successfully defeating Ganon and restoring the Sacred Realm to its former glory, Link returns the Master Sword to its resting place, and peace returns to Hyrule. Unfortunately, this peace is short-lived as the Twinrova witches are working in secret to resurrect the Demon King. Summoning the general Onox and the sorceress Veran to help bring about Ganon’s resurrection, Link must stop both foes and save the lands of Holodrum and Labrynna. After Link’s successful thwarting of each foe, the witches Twinrova commit themselves as the sacrifice necessary to resurrect Ganon, requiring Link to fight his eternal enemy once again.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening key art

Link is successful in stopping Ganon and thwarting the plans of Twinrova, continuing to train and hone his skills in the distant lands of Holodrum and Labrynna. Eventually, he decides to travel by ship back to Hyrule. The ship is waylaid by a terrible storm, capsizing the ship and stranding Link on the island of Koholint. Here, Link must find a way to escape from the island, including awakening the slumbering Wind Fish. After successfully completing his quest, it is revealed that the entire saga is occurring within one of Link’s dreams.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds key art

Although A Link Between Worlds isn’t part of the official timeline breakdown from Hyrule Historia, there are some facts we can use to figure out where it sits in the series chronology. For one, the game is a direct sequel to A Link to the Past. It even features the same Hyrule and Dark World maps, albeit with new locations to explore. We also know it takes place several years after A Link to the Past, indicating that it follows the events of Link’s Awakening. Whatever the case, Link must set off on another quest to stop an evil sorcerer attempting to resurrect Ganon.

Era of Decline – The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda title screen

Following the conclusion of A Link Between Worlds, Hyrule returns to a time of peace but also a time of decline. Generations pass without a suitable heir to guard the Triforce, and Hyrule enters a time of complacency. With the kingdom’s guard down, the Demon King Ganon is reborn and returns to Hyrule, successfully stealing the Triforce of Power. Fearing for the safety of the kingdom, a new Princess Zelda splits the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces and calls on her nursemaid Impa to find the hero capable of stopping Ganon. This hero is, of course, a new Link. After coming across Impa and being granted a sword, Link sets off on the series’ introductory adventure to players the world over.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link title screen

Six years after the events of The Legend of Zelda, the image of the Triforce mysteriously appears on the back of Link’s hand. Now sixteen years old, he sets off to find Impa and explain the strange occurrence. Taking the appearance of the Triforce as a sign, Impa explains to Link the tragedy of Princess Zelda I, who lies in an eternal slumber. The distant ancestor of the same Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda, an evil wizard in service of Ganon placed a curse on her when she refused to reveal the location of the Triforce of Courage. With his determination set, Link sets off on a final adventure to remove the curse and awaken Princess Zelda I. In the process, he restores a lasting peace to this timeline and prevents the resurrection of Ganon.

In this version of the Zelda timeline, Princess Zelda uses her power to rewind time to the moment that she and Link met after he successfully stopped the Demon King Ganon. Link, now seven years old again, warns Zelda of the events to come, allowing her to safely send Link away with the Ocarina of Time to prevent Ganon from ever entering the Sacred Realm. However, on his journey away from Hyrule, Link gets lost in a mysterious forest and enters the alternate realm of Termina.

Child Era – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask key art

Arriving in Termina, Link discovers that the world has only three days before facing destruction. The moon is rapidly plummeting down to the earth with no hope in sight. The Skull Kid, having acquired Majora’s Mask from a traveling salesman, accidentally calls the moon down to the earth’s surface, dooming humanity in the process. Link sets off to stop the Skull Kid, needing the help of several magical masks along the way to help grant him abilities. After successfully restoring the Four Giants and preventing the moon’s descent, Link departs Termina.

Twilight Era – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess key art

Meanwhile in Hyrule, Link’s warning to Zelda leads to a successful thwarting of the Gerudo Chief’s plans. Ganon is sentenced for execution, with the Ancient Sages set to carry out the deed at the Arbiter’s Grounds. Because Ganon carries the essence of the Triforce of Power, the execution is unsuccessful and the Sages banish Ganon to the Twilight Realm in a panic. Years later, a young boy mistakenly enters the Twilight Realm, and Midna (the princess of the Twilight Realm) discovers that he carries the blood of the Hero of Time. This boy is none other than Link. After defeating Zant and restoring the Twilight Realm, Link takes on Ganon and prevents his takeover of the Light Realm.

Shadow Era – The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

Four Swords Adventures key art

Several hundred years after the events of Twilight Princess, the kingdom of Hyrule and Gerudo Village are at peace with one another. However, a new Ganondorf is born into the world and quickly becomes a threat to this lasting peace. After stealing the Dark Mirror to turn Hyrule into a place of eternal darkness, Ganon resurrects the evil sorcerer Vaati. Realizing that the seal on Vaati is weakening, Zelda calls on Link to acquire the Four Sword and use its power to seal away Vaati and defeat Ganon. After successfully vanquishing Vaati and Ganon, the kingdom of Hyrule enters what appears to be an eternal peace.

In the third and final split in the timeline, Link remains an adult after defeating Demon King Ganon in Ocarina of Time. Peace returns to Hyrule, and Link (under the guidance of Princess Zelda) returns the Master Sword to its resting place. As a result, the Door of Time is sealed and the Triforce protected. Several hundred years of peace pass, but gradually the deeds of the Hero of Time become legend. With the Hero of Time and Master Sword all but forgotten by the people, Ganon’s evil begins to creep back into the land. Desperate to quell the darkness quickly choking his kingdom, the King of Hyrule makes a last-ditch attempt to plea to the gods for help. Their answer? To flood Hyrule, sealing both the kingdom and Ganon at the bottom of a vast ocean.

Era of the Great Sea – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker key art

Hundreds of years after the land of Hyrule is submerged, Ganondorf successfully resurrects and immediately sets about trying to find Princess Zelda. Setting up a base at the Forsaken Fortress, he sends giant birds all across the land to kidnap any young girls who may be the lost princess. One of these girls is Aryll, the young sister of a boy named Link. Recognizing that Link is the reincarnation of the Hero of Time, the King of Red Lions (the spirit of the King of Hyrule resting in a ship) unites with Link and helps him on an adventure to rescue his sister and stop Ganon.

Era of the Great Sea – The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass key art

Following the events of The Wind Waker, peace returns to Hyrule. Link and Zelda (now living back under her alias of Tetra the Pirate) set off to discover new land. Tetra and her crew eventually run afoul of the legendary Ghost Ship, causing Link to set off in hopes of rescuing them. After boarding the Ghost Ship and seeing Tetra and her crew turned to stone, Link realizes he must obtain the Phantom Sword and use it to destroy the evil entity Bellum.

Era of Hyrule’s Rebirth – The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks key art

Bellum is destroyed and Tetra is back in human form, Link and his allies continue their journey in search of a new world. Eventually, the crew lands on a new continent where a large structure sits at the very center. This structure is the Tower of Spirits, with the Spirit Tracks spiraling out from it. Here, a new Hyrule is founded and a new history begins. A hundred years later, the new reigning Princess Zelda calls upon a young engineer by the name of Link to investigate mysterious occurrences at the Tower of Spirits. Discovering that Malladus, another Demon King attempting to break into Hyrule, is behind the occurrences, Link and Zelda set off on an adventure to stop him and restore peace. With Malladus successfully thwarted, Hyrule enters an age of lasting peace and prosperity.

The Age of Calamity

At the end of the official Zelda timeline, regardless of which timeline split players follow from Ocarina of Time, the newest two series titles. Following an age of prosperity and peace, the Sheikah helped bring Hyrule to a state of technological advancement with help from the mysterious Zonai. An ancient evil known as Calamity Ganon arrives, and the four appointed Champions pilot the Sheikah-constructed Divine Beasts to weaken him so that Princess Zelda and her appointed Hero can seal him away. Hundreds of years later, Calamity Ganon reappears but turns the Divine Beasts against Hyrule, resulting in the Age of Calamity. Princess Zelda goes into hiding, places Link into a restorative slumber and stores the Master Sword in the care of the Great Deku Tree.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild key art

100 years after the Age of Calamity begins, Link awakens to discover that Princess Zelda is missing and that Ganon still maintains control of Hyrule Castle. He sets off on a journey to cleanse the Divine Beasts of Ganon’s corruption and also reacquire the Master Sword. After freeing the Divine Beasts and obtaining the help of the spirits of their Champions, Link successfully defeates Calamity Ganon and cleanses Hyrule of corruption.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Tears of the Kingdom key art

An immediate follow-up to Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom takes place mere months after that game’s conclusion. Link and Zelda are assisting the people of Hyrule with their efforts to both rebuild and understand the calamity, beginning their search in the ruins nestled underneath Hyrule Castle. There, Link and Zelda make a discovery that changes everything they know about the history of Hyrule and Calamity Ganon. Accidentally reawakening the spirit of Ganon, Zelda and Link shoot through time in opposite directions. It’s up to Link to both discover Princess Zelda’s whereabouts as well as stop Calamity Ganon once and for all.

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