Adult Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The end of Ocarina of Time caused a split in the Zelda chronology; in this one, Zelda returns Link to his childhood past, and as time passes, the Hero of Time's world-saving feats become the stuff of legends. After an unidentified amount of time, Ganondorf returns once again, but no hero rises to fight him; to save the land, the Goddesses flood the earth, seal Hyrule castle away underwater, and choose a small population to live above the sea.
The events of The Wind Waker begin with the kidnapping of Link's sister, in an attempt by the current Ganondorf to find the maiden who possesses the Triforce of Wisdom. Link dons the traditional green hero garb, and sets out rescue his sister and stop the evil machinations of Ganondorf. On his journey, Link is assisted by the King of Red Lions--a sailboat controlled remotely by the King of Hyrule--who leads him to the underwater resting place of the Master Sword. After powering up this legendary weapon and recovering the many pieces of the Triforce of Courage, Link defeats Ganon with the help of Princess Zelda, who Link knew as the pirate leader Tetra for a good portion of his adventure. With the threat of Ganondorf now gone from the world, Link and Zelda sail off in search of a new land.
Adult Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Immediately following the events of The Wind Waker, Link and Tetra's search for a new land leads them to discover the Ghost Ship of the evil Bellum, which captures Zelda and causes Link to wash up on a distant shore. Link befriends the Old Man Oshus, and sets off with the fairy Celia and the corrupt Captain Linebeck to rescue the Spirits of Power, Wisdom, and Courage, and find the three Pure Metals necessary to forge the Phantom Sword--the only weapon that can defeat Bellum.
After traveling to the Temple of the Ocean King for the final time, Link slays Bellum, rescues Tetra, and Oshus--secretly the Ocean King--returns Link and Tetra to their world. Conveniently enough its only minutes after their original discovery of the Ghost Ship. With this adventure behind them, the two sail away once again in search of a new place to call home.
Adult Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
The search for a new land leads Link, Tetra, and the pirates to discover a continent with a Tower of Spirits at its center and an interconnected series of Spirit Tracks surrounding it. 100 years pass, and these Spirit Tracks begin to disappear from the land, causing the current Princess Zelda (one of Tetra's descendants) to travel with one of her Royal Engineers--Link, who ditches his work uniform for the soldiers' standard green garb--and investigate this mystery at the Tower of Spirits. Upon learning that Chancellor Cole of Hyrule plans on resurrecting the evil Demon King Malladus by destroying the Spirit Tracks that bind him, Zelda finds herself transformed into a Phantom, with her body carried away as the earthly vessel for the resurrection of evil.
Following this, Zelda teams up with Link to break the barriers of the Temples throughout the land in order to create a path to Malladus, who waits atop of the Tower of Spirits. Link and Zelda don't make it in time to prevent the resurrection of Malladus, so Link heads into the Dark Realm to defeat this great evil. With Malladus destroyed and Zelda back in her corporeal form, this timeline ends with peace returning to the land founded by The Wind Waker's Link and Tetra a century earlier.
Downfall Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Another alternate finale brings about a third possible split in the Zelda Chronology, where Link is unable to defeat Ganon at the end of Ocarina of Time. With the Hero of Time defeated, Zelda and the other Sages team up to imprison Ganon in the Sacred Realm as part of a last-ditch effort to save Hyrule. Their plan works, but the rumors of the Triforce's power cause conflict in the land, with those who travel to that forbidden realm finding themselves transformed into demon's for Ganon's army. The Seven Sages seal the entrance to the Sacred Realm while Hyrule soldiers fight back Ganon's forces, and peace returns to the kingdom.
Generations pass, and a new threat arises in the form of Agahnim, a dark wizard who manipulates his way into a position in the kingdom. Agahnim sets out to kidnap the descendants of the Seven Sages and transport them to the Dark World in order to free Ganon from his imprisonment. Link goes on a quest to acquire the legendary Master Sword so he can best Agahnim. Before Link can fully defeat him, the wizard kidnaps Zelda, and traps Link in the Dark World, breaking the Sages' seal in the process. Now in the Dark World, Link rescues the maidens from their crystal prisons, breaking the protective barrier surrounding Ganon's Tower, where Agahnim awaits. Upon the wizard's defeat, the spirit of Ganon rises from his body and travels to the Palace of Power, where Link vanquishes him once more. With the Triforce in front of him, Link wishes for peace to return to the land of Hyrule.
Downfall Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons
Following Ganon's defeat at the hands of Link, the dual witches Twinrova plot to revive their dark lord by lighting three specific Flames: The Flame of Destruction, The Flame of Sorrow, and The Flame of Despair, which would be used as part of a sacrifice ritual. Sensing this coming danger, the Triforce transports Link to the Land of Holodrum, where he obtains the eight Essences of Nature, defeats Twinrova's minion Onox, and rescues the Oracle of Seasons. Link is then transported to the Land of Labyrnna, where he saves the Oracle of Ages from the evil Veran, who works under the orders of Twinrova.
Despite Link's actions, the first two Flames end up being lit, and Twinrova capture Princess Zelda--who happened to be visiting Labyrnna at a very inopportune time--in an attempt to light the Flame of Despair. Link rescues Zelda from the two witches, who in turn sacrifice their own bodies as part of Ganon's resurrection ritual, but the evil within them brings Ganon back as a great, mindless beast. Link once again defeats him, and, with his mission accomplished, sails away from the Land of Labrynna.
Downfall Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
On Link's trip from Labrynna to Hyrule, a storm destroys his boat, and he wakes up on the tiny island of Koholint where he's greeted by the very Zelda-like Marin. While trying to learn more about this new land, a mysterious owl tells Link he can only return home once the eight Instruments of the Sirens are gathered to wake the Wind Fish.
With this task accomplished, the god of Koholint Island stirs back to life, and Link wakes up clinging to a piece of wood from his destroyed ship. Link's whereabouts after these events are unknown.
Downfall Timeline - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Six generations after the Link from Link to the Past's time, Hyrule has returned to peace and another young boy named Link occupied the same house in the same world. An ancestor of the previous hero, Link explores the same world to save a new Princess Zelda (as well as her Dark World counterpart Hilda) from the very Ganon-esque villain, Yuga. Since Hyrule lives to see another day in the next canonical game, the NES Legend of Zelda, we have to believe Link succeeds in some fashion, but it would be too spoiler-y to discuss how for a game so new.
Meanwhile, the game fleshes out Link to the Past's Dark World too. Now known as Lorule, it has become a strange, dreamlike recreation of Hyrule. It echoes the Termina Field that another Link explored in Majora's Mask. Not coincidentally, that mask is one of the first things you see in A Link Between World's starting area. Could there be some deeper connection?
Downfall Timeline - The Legend of Zelda
Following the defeat of Ganon in A Link to the Past, it became Hyrule tradition to use the Triforce to preserve peace over the land. Worried that this powerful artifact could once again fall into the wrong hands, one ruler of Hyrule hid the Triforce of Courage, placing a spell on it that would identify its rightful owner by making a crest appear on his or her body. The King passes, leaving his successor with an incomplete Triforce, which angers Hyrule's new ruler. With the assistance of an evil wizard, he interrogates his sister, Zelda, about the location of the Triforce of Courage, but when she refuses to tell him, the King uses the wizard's magic to send Princess Zelda into a state of eternal slumber. Later, overcome with grief and guilt, the King seals Princess Zelda in the North Castle, in the hopes that someone will one day be able to break her curse.
Generations pass, and with no rightful heir to the Triforce of Courage, Hyrule becomes a shadow of its former self. Ganon once again returns to the land and seizes the Triforce of Power, causing the current Princess Zelda to hide the eight fragments of her Triforce throughout the land, and away from his grasp. Zelda turns to her nursemaid, Impa, to find a person with the power to defeat Ganon, and the Princess' caretaker soon stumbles across Link, who takes up the quest to reassemble the Triforce of Wisdom and defeat Ganon. Using this newfound power, Link defeats Ganon and the Triforces of Wisdom and Power are once again reunited--though the Triforce of Courage remains missing.
Downfall Timeline - Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Six years after Ganon's defeat in The Legend of Zelda, Link (now sixteen years old) notices a familiar crest now branding his left hand. Upon showing this to Impa, the old woman accompanies Link to the North Castle where the first Princess Zelda sleeps, and gives him six crystals which can break the barrier to the resting place of the Triforce of Courage.
This sends Link to near areas of Hyrule in search of a way to save the lost princess. After visiting six temples and placing the crystals in their respective altars, Link travels to the Great Palace, faces a shadowy clone of himself, and recaptures the Triforce of Courage. The original Princess Zelda awakes, and with the complete Triforce assembled once again, peace finally returns to the land of Hyrule.
And that brings us to today...
And that brings us up to date with the very fractured timeline of the Zelda universe. But who knows how Nintendo will expand or change the franchise in the future? But when that happens, you can be sure well update this list so you dont lose your place.
And if you're looking for more Zelda love, check out the list of best Zelda games and our pick for 20 things we've always wondered about the Zelda universe.