Oh the Zelda timeline, how fans love you so. Just a few years ago it was all speculation and theory, then Nintendo dropped the entire thing in our laps, confirming a whole lot of it, but still surprising in many areas. Now, with a new title in The Legend of Zelda series, we have more speculation to dole out. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has to fit somewhere on this massive forking path, but where? Well, we’re not sure, but we can try to find out. So, where does The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild fit in the timeline?
Short answer: we don’t know…obviously. Until the game is out and we can piece together the entire story, we won’t know for sure. However, what has been shown so far does give us hints at where it will be placed.
Just in case you haven’t been following along with recent Zelda news, we do have the official timeline all laid out. It looks like this, with the series splitting into three different paths after Ocarina of Time. These are: the hero fails, the hero is triumphant (child), and the hero is triumphant (adult). After this split we already have a few games on each path. So, in total there are four areas where Breath of the Wild could fit in, pre-Ocarina, or any of the three post-Ocarina timelines.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild starts with Link awakening from a one hundred year slumber. As he explores Hyrule he finds it to be a near-desolate wasteland, with broken down buildings and ancient. Furthermore, Ganon is mentioned multiple times, by name. This means that Breath of the Wild almost certainly falls in one of the three post-Ocarina timelines.
Perhaps Breath of the Wild is on the same timeline as the original The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past.
But which one? Well, there are a few different theories so far. To me, the most compelling places it in the Adult Timeline, which also houses The Wind Waker and its DS sequels. This works in a number of ways, with the first being the art style. Breath of the Wild is almost completely cel-shaded, just like Wind Waker was. Sure, we’ve seen art style used creatively in Zelda before, but it has also been key in figuring out which games fit where.
One sticking point to this is that The Wind Waker saw Hyrule covered by a massive ocean, with the water coming down right near the end of the game. Considering that we’ve seen some very familiar landmarks, such as Hyrule Castle, the Temple of Time, and the Sacred Grove in trailers, this looks to be the traditional Hyrule, and not the re-founded on from Spirit Tracks.
However, it is possible that this game takes place so far into the future that the sea has receded, and Hyrule reestablished on its original land, with the dilapidated appearance having something to do with being buried underwater for so long. This is further bolstered by some demo players who found salt items that seemed to indicate there was once a sea covering the land. Finally, the Koroks from Wind Waker make an appearance if you know where to look in the demo.
Still, this theory is not totally sound. There’s a lot of stuff that indicates it isn’t accurate at the moment, including the death of Ganon at the end of The Wind Waker. Of course, Ganon is sort of known for dying and coming back, but his death in that game, and Twilight Princess for that matter, seemed more final, as it was in the original NES title. But with recent revelations from Skyward Sword, it seems like Ganon, or Demise might be an eternal force of the world.
Further complicating things, the Adult Timeline usually has Link as a younger character, so his appearance as an adult in Breath of the Wild is troublesome. Also, there are many references to games outside of this specific timeline, with a lot of heavy homages to the original NES game, such as the prominence of the Sheikah symbol. Perhaps Breath of the Wild is on the same timeline as the original The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past.
There is also another option. Maybe The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild modifies the timeline, rather than fitting neatly into it. Some have suggested that this will be the game that merges the disparate timelines into one, and there is a lot of good evidence for this. I like this theory, and would love for it to be true, however I currently don’t believe it myself.
Currently I’m still hooked on Breath of the Wild fitting in after The Wind Waker. The art style, combined with the Koroks appearance, and references to a great sea just are too compelling without more to go on. I’m far from 100% on it, but we’ll have to wait for more information out of Nintendo in the future before we can really settle down on one spot.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hits Wii U and Nintendo NX next year.