Video Games

In Which Zelda Timeline Is Breath of the Wild Set?

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

One of the most entertaining/interesting/puzzling/frustrating things about The Legend of Zelda‘s universe is keeping the timeline straight. See, the Zelda games aren’t released chronologically (2011’s Skyward Sword, for instance, is the first game chronologically), and there are typically just little hints about where any game falls on a timeline. To make things more confusing, the timeline splits into three after Ocarina of Time.

A lot of this timeline was nothing more than fan speculation and guesswork until 2011, when a book called the Hyrule Historia was released. This book contained a collection of concept art, detailed lore, and facts about every game in the series that had been released up to that point, and it cemented the canon version of this event sequence. (Here’s a post that explains the Zelda timeline, using a page from the Hyrule Historia.)

With the release of Breath of the Wild, fans are once again speculating about this timeline. Where does the newest and biggest entry in the Zelda franchise fit?

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

In an interview, Eurogamer actually asked longtime Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma about this, and Aonuma’s response was sort of a non-answer:

with Breath of the Wild, one thing I’m really keen to emphasise is that a big part of the appeal of the game is surprise, unexpected encounters, so I want fans to experience surprise and to experience an element of the unexpected – I feel if I spoke too much about that kind of thing, it might spoil things for people, so I’d rather not touch on that too deeply.

That doesn’t really help does it? Essentially, what this means is that figuring out the timeline is in the hands of the players. And there’s been no shortage of fan theories about this.

Now, to make sense of any of this, keep in mind that Ocarina of Time is the point at which the timeline diverges. If Link defeats Ganondorf as a child, Hyrule enters “The Twilight Realm.” If Link defeats Ganondorf as an adult, he triggers the events that lead to “The Hero of Winds and a New World.” If Ganondorf Defeats Link, he kicks off “The Decline of Hyrule.”

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Since we see a dilapidated Temple of Time within the first hour of Breath of the Wild, we can assume that it takes place after Ocarina of Time. (Aonuma has confirmed this to be the case.) Of course, that puts it on one of the three timelines from the above paragraph.

So which of these timelines houses the events of Breath of the Wild?

The Decline of Hyrule

In this post from Geek.com, Will Greenwald speculates that the game takes place after the Decline of Hyrule, and he places it after The Adventure of Link. His most compelling evidence, I think, is the prominence of Sheikah symbols and the presence of the character Impa. Keep in mind that this theory, while quite well articulated, was created before the game was released, and it was based entirely off a pre-launch demo that only showed the very beginning of Breath of the Wild. That doesn’t discredit it completely, but I think plenty of new evidence has come to light since then.

The Hero of Winds

In a theory posted at IGN, Breath of the Wild is set in the “Hero of the Winds” timeline at some point after Wind Waker. It seems plausible, since the two games have an astonishing amount in common. The presence of Koroks and the race of bird people called Rito seems to all but confirm this, right?

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Twilight Realm

But don’t be so sure. Several fans who have made it to the later portion of Breath of the Wild claim there are mentions of the events from Twilight Princess, putting the game in the Twilight Realm.

A Fourth Option?

In a piece on Kotaku, Gita Jackson argues that Breath of the Wild can’t possibly fit into any of these three timelines. Fans are already speculating that maybe there’s a convergence of some sort that brings all three timelines back together, and Breath of the Wild takes place somewhere in that convergence.

Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a fourth timeline that we didn’t know about before this. If Ocarina of Time could break the timeline into three, why can’t a new Zelda game break it further? (Besides the fact that it would drive people insane, I mean.)

Personally, I’m not sure what to think, though I find it interesting that there’s been evidence to support all three timelines. I love the Wind Waker theory myself, but I’m not deep enough into the game yet to commit to an answer.

Even without this lingering mystery, I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the scope of Breath of the Wild, and figuring out the timeline is just one of the many things that keep me wanting to explore and discover everything this game has to offer.

Josh Wirtanen owns this place and has opinions about pretty much everything. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuajwirtanen.