Don’t worry, “Link’s death” doesn’t spoil the ending of the most recent Zelda title, or give away some great secret about one of the past Zelda games.  Instead, it refers to an article recently published over at IGN called “When Link is Dead.”  The article examines the newly released official timeline to the Zelda series, as seen in Hyrule Historia.  While the timeline itself doesn’t contain major spoilers, the article at IGN does–it gives away the ending to Skyward Sword.  However, if you have already completed Skyward Sword, or if you don’t mind the final boss scenario being revealed, head on over to IGN and read this interesting article which analyzes the effects of having a third split in the timeline in which the Hero of Time fails.  If you want the basic rundown of the article, but don’t want Skyward Sword to be spoiled, hit the jump below and read on for a spoiler-free summary.

For years, fans have been sure that the ending to Ocarina of Time created a “split timeline.”  There was the adult timeline, in which the Hero of Time defeated Ganon as an adult and then was sent back in time by Zelda.  Hyrule, protected from evil, continued on with Zelda but without Link.  Then there was the child timeline, in which the Link who was sent back in time somehow warned Zelda and the Hylian royal family about Ganondorf’s intentions, thus preventing the events of Ocarina of Time from happening.

Then came the third split, presented in Hyrule Historia.  The games which followed in that timeline occurred in the realty in which the Hero of Time was defeated.  Whether he was killed by Ganon in the final battle, or, as the article at IGN playfully suggests, he was lost in the Water Temple, we just don’t know.  All we know is that games such as A Link to the Past and and the original The Legend of Zelda occur within this universe.

Lucas M. Thomas, writer of “When Link is Dead,” examines the possible ramifications of having this third split in the timeline.  Many theorists may suggest that if the Hero of Time failed, who’s to say that the Hero of Winds didn’t also fail in an alternate timeline, or Twilight Princess’s Link, or any of the other Links?  While some may have claimed that an official timeline would put an end to the great era of the timeline debate, perhaps this has only opened a new chapter of timeline theorizing.  What if, instead of “winning the game,” Link was killed in Skyward Sword?  Could this mean that there could be yet another split in which none of the other Zelda games take place?

Of course, the above is all just speculation.  Many others will claim that there are only three splits, and that these three possible timelines cover all possibilities.  The real point of the article is that the age of theorizing is not dead, and that, well, it’s a little strange that so many games take place in a reality that cannot be achieved by the player in-game.  One thing is definitely for sure–Zelda fans will still have a lot to argue about for many years to come.  What do you think about there being a split in the timeline in which the Hero of Time is defeated?

Source:  IGN.
  • Funny how Link getting lost of the Water Temple actually makes sense.

  • Karadom

    No, I don't see it that way. Remember when you get all the stones, and then you head over to the castle, and Zelda is being chased by Ganondorf? Yeah, that's where the third split comes in. At the end credits of OoT, you see Link and Zelda in the courtyard. That's the child timeline. Link goes back even further when he puts the Master Sword back into the pedestal.

    • Fullmar

      This guy has three thumbs down? Why? It makes much more sense than Link dying..

      • Tom

        WAAAAY more sense than Link dying. His failure would almost seem to ruin the series. Link is supposed to be some unconquerable hero who can always pull through with the win. Killing him seems just like a cheap and piss poor excuse to make a third timeline.

      • Karadom

        Weird. I had several thumbs down, then someone defended me and then my theory was considered good.

  • bob

    they just didn`t know where to put the other games, it`s called laziness

    • A person

      Well you try putting the games in some sort of logical sequence.

      • darth_ghirahim

        Putting the games in a logical sequence should've been easy if the creator's used a little continuity in the earlier games…

      • anju_luv

        they also could've gone with "certain events havnt happened in any current zelda games, so these games can't be put on the current timeline just yet."
        would've given them a lot more room to be creative

  • Gamma

    Heh, now they can have a game on a timeline where Link failed to stop Ganon from reconstituting Hyrule in The Wind Waker.

  • Yetaxa

    Of course every game has two possibilities: one where Link succeeds and one where he fails. The difference is that no games have yet been made under the circumstance where, for example, Link in SS fails. There could be in the future, but the fact is that is there is so many possibilities, so the timeline will never be complete.

    • Doctor You

      I think that that's the best way to look at it, personally. Nicely put! 🙂

    • zeldafan1982

      Yeah, basically the third split is just one possible way to combine the games, but it is also the most flexible from the developers' perspective. They just have so many possibilities to place future games now.

    • HyruleWeirdo

      But Link canonically succeeds, making the prospect of him failing irrelevant. That's why the triple split makes no sense – when Zelda sends Link back in time, it occurred on both timelines. His death obviously doesn't.

  • Texuz

    It is not just a part of laziness on Nintendo´s part, is it? Since (i´m not saying i´m right but just take this into consideration). There was never intended to be a real timeline to begin with ? There has been sequels of course before the 3D:e games, yet it is from OoT till WindWaker that there actually been confirmed in the games to be a sort of "Timeline" or order.
    Too be honest in my opinion "Timeline" was something created by the fanbase and Nintendo went with it because; "The fans are the thing". There for they played this card. don´t know why they actually releasede a timeline though. Since they said they wouldn´t yet they just did, just me that think that they have actually worked on the timeline just as the rest of you zelda fans?
    Anyhow now there´s a Timeline and stop nagging on it.

  • Toilet Hand

    Now we have another timeline split with Skyward Sword: The Past, where Demise was defeated and the Master Sword was placed on its pedestal, and the Present, where Demise was imprisoned by the power of the Triforce. This make sense right?!

    • Noob

      No because their in the same timeline, how else would impa have zeldas bracelet from the past?

      • FL767

        But if you went back and altered the past my killing Demise instead of leaving him sealed and letting Debbie go ahead and seek out Zelda, you've split the timeline. Two different realities can't be on the same timeline, regardless of paradoxes, i.e the windmill and the song of storms. You can go into the future and be in the same timeline, and you can go to the past and be in the same timeline, but you're in a completely new reality the second you alter anything in the past.

      • LunarMew

        I don't know. Why is the Goddess Statue shown in the seal grounds during then end credits section when it shows how Zelda fell into the surface? What the hell is it doing there if the statue was supposed to be in the freaking Sky? If that is the case, how does Link get his sword? That is begging for a paradox. =P

  • Remember in OoT when Ganondorf got the Triforce in the Sacred Realm? He used it to turn the Sacred Realm into the Dark World. At this instant, the entire ALttP timeline is created. At the end of OoT, Link and Zelda make the other two timelines, by sealing Ganondorf and sending Link back to his childhood. The ALttP timeline still exists beside the other two, because it was made with the Triforce.

    • falconfetus8

      How is it that Ganondorf's wish created a split timeline? Timeline splits generally only happen when there is some sort of time travel involved. Ganondorf never traveled through time.

      • because the Triforce itself split into 3, creating 3 separate timelines.
        (there's plenty of other time travel in the zelda universe that doesn't create time splits.)

    • Cameron

      It doesn't seem like a lot of people have considered this as an answer to the "Link Failing" split, but I do.

    • Devoid

      I can kinda see that but somehow it feels like it doesn't feel perfect canon: If ganon made the sacred realm the dark world(I do believe this is true) in the adult timeline then how does that differ to make the timeline of Alttp?

      I feel that there should be something between OOT and TP that splits the timeline a third time instead of Link dieing, thus leaving both dark worlds but something different about alttp timeline.

  • KingOfHeart

    In the past he was sealed away. In the present he was completely destroyed.
    If the split in OOT makes no sense, then in the future they could do the same thing with Skyward Sword.

  • Sage_of_Stars

    In alttp, it's stated that the sages sealed away Ganon into the dark world. In OoT, Link awakens the sages. Therefore, the timeline where Link fails would have to somehow have to involve Link being good enough to get through all of the temples, but fail against Ganon. However, in the adult end of OoT, the sages seal away Ganon anyway. So does it really matter if Link succeeds in defeating Ganon or not? Come to think of it, the seal in the adult timeline was weak enough for Ganon to break free as shown in the back story of WWr, but in alttp, Ganon very nearly breaks out of his prison in the dark world. This would make it seem like the seal in the adult line seem weaker, despite Link having won, though this is not necessarily true. Another thing to consider is that in WW, Ganondorf has just the ToP, while in alttp, Ganon has the whole triforce in his possession. Link's presence may somehow result in Ganon having less of the triforce in one timeline. Ganondorf nearly acquired the complete triforce in the adult ending of OoT. Conclusion of my ramblings: The main difference between the adult and failure timelines are the the battle between Link and Ganondorf/Ganon, though somehow the sages managed to seal him away in both.

  • I've got a little theory of my own.

    Basically, OOT starts with a single timeline, A. When link travels to the future for the first time in OOT, he creates a second timeline, B, where he arrives seven years in the future and defeats Ganon. After defeating Ganon, Zelda sends him back before the traveled to the future to ensure Ganon never comes to power, causing timeline C.

    Timeline A leads to LttP, B leads to Wind Waker (the "Adult" timeline), and C leads to Majora's Mask (the "Child" timeline).

    • Cameron

      Well put.

    • Cam

      I like this theory better than Link "failing", but the problem is Link didn't travel in the future to another timeline, he just slept for 7 years in the same timeline :/

  • Craig

    It's simple… Ocarina of Time is like the foundations of the main series story, the outcome of that impacts the rest heavily – whereas if the other heroes fail, the story can still continue because Ocarina already set off the main story in some way.

    • HyruleWeirdo

      Fair enough, I suppose. Link could have died at any point before getting the Master Sword. So why isn't there a timeline for an occurrence such as that?

  • Albinogoron

    Ok this what I think and my theory, we know the child timeline and the adult timeline, as for the 3rd one you guys gotta consider this, link must've failed as a kid due to the master sword was in the woods in lttp in the the destroyed temple of time meaning that the failed link never got the master sword. BUT you gotta remember the sealed door of temple of time was never opened since link failed(didnt opened the door to the master sword) and ganon had no way getting the triforce since the sacred realm was closed. But now the sages and ganon had the sealing war. From their i forget lttp since i played that game like 15 years ago lol.
    In conclusion to summarize the wall of text, that when link failed he must've been a kid before he reached the master sword, meaning the sacred realm was closed, ganondorf had little power and couldnt affect hyrule how it was in ocarina of time but knowing his evilness by chasing zelda and attacking hyrule, they ancient sages seal ganon in the seal wars, and returns in lttp in the dark world. By the way the sages got unaffected during the 3rd split and childhood split in twilight princess since ganondorf didnt go through the realm. To clarify, the ancient sages are the ones in lttp and twilight princess since they didnt get affected by ganondorf, but the new ones in the adult are different sages but perhaps a recarnation of the ancient ones

  • AuronAXE

    The Game-Over screen shouldn't be an ending. Doesn't the timeline suggest that Link pulling out the Master Sword and Ganondorf ruling over Hyrule in OOT is what creates the failed ending? That Link being sent into the future is a separate time dimension that creates the Adult Timeline? Just throwing that out there.

    • Shaelyn

      would it be a separate timeline? it should be the same one – that Link pulls out the Master Sword is a constant, and what happens in the future is where the split begins?
      -though I suppose, when he puts the Master Sword back and proceeds with some events as a child, he is creating a separate timeline then…
      but that would mean a LOT of separate timelines.

      so…who played the Song of Storms for Guru-Guru initially?

  • I was really hoping this would end the silly theorizing drama. Guess not.

    • Tayo

      Theorizing is half the fun of Zelda games. Especially with Timelines. If anything, this official timeline only brings up to date. There are still many Zelda games to come, and now it'll be fun to try and figure out how all of these games in the timeline are connected. Possibly, that would be answered more and more with new games.

  • Tayo

    You do realize that technically there are infinite numbers of splits in timelines all the time. The official timeline goes off of the only three that matter, the ones that have games in them. That means that even though we have this timeline, you can still place any new Zeldas after Skyward Sword in any part of the timeline, whether it be in one of the splits we know about, or even a whole new split. (A fourth, fifth, etc.) My point is these are only the splits that have Zelda stories we know of, so if Nintendo wanted to make another game and place it in say, a split that occurs from the Hero of Winds failing to defeat Ganondorf, they could make a fourth split.

  • zeldafan1982

    Guys! The third branch is not a result of a time-travel. It is an alternate reality, where Link fails, probably getting killed in the final battle. Look at the many-worlds interpretation:

    Time-travel is just a possible way for a split to occur, not the only one :/

    • HyruleWeirdo

      Link failing is a matter of whether or not the gamer actually finishes the game. Logically, it wouldn't have anything to do with the actual events.

  • FL767

    Hyrule Historia seems to be the pandora's box of theorizing. Now that it's open, a lot of wild ideas can start becoming valid. Whether or not you agree with what's in Hyrule Historia timeline-wise, it directly challenges the split timeline not with a linear timeline but by splitting it again.

  • lol you guys think way too much about zelda

    • pokeninja

      well excuse me princess

  • RedBearLuX

    I was all for this timeline then it hit me… The Links death timeline has all the games made prior to OoT… So why would Nintendo intentionally make a prequel where you succeed … but really you didn't….how did they know they were going to make Windwaker? And Twilight Princess? And Majoras Mask?… Why would anyone make a prequel that plays out for something you haven't yet created?… It doesn't make sense, I really can't see Miyamoto sat there saying 'hey guys, guess what? The real ending to this game is that Link dies and that leads to ALttP" … so under this thinking Timeline A where Link dies HAS to be the true timeline…so because of that we haven't actually played the REAL OoT… just an alternate. Unless of course Miyamoto is the hero of time and traveled back in time to tell his past self to make it this way. I'm a big Zelda fan and yes the timeline does make sense, but not when you think about the order the games created I'm sorry but this is just a way to make it fit and make sense, because as I've said all along there is no timeline…Zelda is a LEGEND, a story. We are playing a story told in another world.

  • somecrazyguy

    i think its a what if scenario. and whatever the case, even if this IS the official timeline, i still like the timeline is still open to interpretation, much like how scholars view ancient text. for example, lets say some ancient text comes into a group of scholar's hands, and they analyze it. the majority of them agree in interpreting it one way, but say one guy doesnt see it that way. its the same here. nintendo has given us their take on the timeline. its official becuase nintendo created it. i still disagree on when then imprisoning war happened though. i thought it occured during FSA, simply becuase the game has ALOT of connections to ALTTPs back story, and among other things, i have some speculations of the story itself, thanks to minish cap. i wont get into all that now, becuase it takes too long. what i am saying however is that even though this is "official" don't get yourselves all worked up about it. im sticking with my timeline for now until a new game comes out, becuase its the new games that challenge our theories. most likely, it will be in cahoots with nintendo's vision of the timeline. this does not bother me like it did before when the official timeline was released. it just means ill have to dig into a new zelda game to see the new connections. and honestly, i cant wait to do that.

  • aeolus

    The problem is Link dying doesn't create a split. If Link were to die, then none of the other games would exist. There isn't a split if Link dies, just…. Link dying and then ALttP happening eventually. The "Adult" and "Child" timelines, as they have been called are both happening at the same time, because there is a split. This third one makes no sense at all. Either Link succeeds, or fails. And its bullshit to me that they have Link fail. How can he fail?! He's the hero chosen by the gods! How does he even fail? If OoT shows that he has the capability to succeed, doesn't that mean him failing is him being lazy? And I feel that reflects the decision to make a "failed timeline", pure laziness.

    • zeldafan1982

      It's similar to how the cells multiply. One is divided into two, each one of them then is divided further etc. From a single instance where (most likely) Link is fighting with Ganon two parallel universes were created depending on Link's actions: one in which he dies and another where he prevails.

      No time-travelling involved for this to occur and no "what-ifs". Both timelines exist (three of them actually).

    • HyruleWeirdo

      Exactly. The two timelines that make sense happen. They always happen. The third happens when the the first two don't, therefore it never happens.

      • zeldafan1982

        But you are assuming that the AT and the HDT are mutually exclusive. This doesn't have to be the case. The existence of alternate universes is quite common in science-fiction and even has a scientific foundation (the many-worlds interpretation).

        Regarding the Seal War, the "Link fails scenario" is unavoidable. Pre-ALttP Ganondorf touches the Triforce, it splits, and the ToC goes to a Link. Then obviously Ganon has to beat Link in order to get the remaining pieces. Otherwise he would be sealed only with the ToP instead of the whole Triforce. Nintendo decided for this Link, to be (adult) OoT Link in two alternate universes. The CT including we now have three branches.

        • HyruleWeirdo

          Does that have to happen in Ocarina of Time?

          • zeldafan1982

            I agree that this Link doesn't have to be OoT Link. It is still a possibility though.

  • HyruleWeirdo

    Of course, we came to a Legend of Zelda fan site.

  • Marc

    The beginning of Alttp somewhat hints at link failing. Read the SNES version of the prologue.

    "So the king commanded the seven wise men (referring to the sages from oot) to seal the gate to the Land of Golden Power. That seal should have remained for all time…
    … …But , when these events were obscured by the mists of time and became legend…"

    That pretty much opened up a loop hole for Link to fail in OoT.

    • zeldafan1982

      According to the SNES manual (better check Zethar's translation) there was no hero, the location of the MS was unknown, there was a King commanding the Sages and also the Knights protected them. All these are retconned now: we have a Link failing, the Knights were already wiped out when Ganon sieged the castle (not the first time though), and the King presumably died during the siege. Lots of retcons!

  • Waker of Time

    I give up it's so freakin' frustrating this timeline. I agree I am done with it for now. I just wanted to imagine the story the way I wanted to and they ruined it in my eyes. Yes I can choose to believe it or not (even if it's technically official), but it is a flawed timeline how can they explain the Minish Cap after Skyward Sword and before OoT? How can they explain why FSA is after TP when the backstory of FSA is cleary that of A Link to the Past? How can they explain where the hell Ganon got the trident in FSA if ALttP never happened on that timeline? How can they properly explain why there is a 3rd Split (which is BS) that never actually happened in OoT? How can they explain the order of of games on the 3rd Split (Oracle games coming after ALttP and then LA) When Link never had a boat after ALttP? I wish they would explain those to me instead of giving me some BS timeline that doesn't make any sense.

  • Marc

    We all know that were probably wasn't a real timeline to begin with. Ganon only kept coming back for the same reason why Bowser or any main villian gets revived, for business.

    Marvel/DC are the best examples.

  • Twister92

    I think there shouldn't be a third split in the timeline. I was hard enough accepting a dual-timeline, or event that there was more than one Link.

  • Eximius

    Link fails, and Jesus replaced him. Well, it seem plausible. Remember than the cross is present in LoZ, TAoL,and ALttP, Not to forget he uses the bible to help him shoot fire balls. The book is called book of magic in the USA version, for those who don't know.
    Lets not forget the official art work of Link praying to the crucifix.

    I guess Jesus saves, and it it maybe the only reason, that time line is important.
    Let's just call it, the Jesus time line. o_O

  • Hyrule Castle Resident

    So because I HAD to hit a Cucco I created another timeline? Fuck…


    I completely endorse this timeline possibility.

  • ace

    I would never call that laziness. They always said there is a document that lists the Games Timeline fitting, so this Timeline was created way before 25th Anniversary. Why should it be so impossible that Miyamoto or Aonuma think of the timeline that way when Ocarina of Time was developed? You have to remember that Gameplay is concepted first and then they try to fit in a Story with it. Only they new wich Link was a new one in wich Game and wich was the same one. They didn´t want to release it because of the same reason they don´t want to give Link a full voice over, they thought the fans wouldn´t be pleased by it and i guess they were right.

    • ace

      Minish Cap plays in an early version of Hyrule so it makes sense and the Master Sword wasn´t used again until Ocarina of Time. A Link to the Past explains everything that happend after Link died just well enough, of course it doesn´t states the death within this universe cuz Ocarina wasn´t out yet. Oracles after that makes sense, because they kept the full Triforce for many years and it´s ending fits within the beginning of Awakening. We don´t know yet what occurs between that and Legend 1 but it could be a theme of another game but Ganon always being Ganon fits within this Line. Four Swords Adv. after Twilight also makes sense, cuz Ganondorf becomes Ganon King of Darkness the first time in this line, that would make no sense if the game would take place after A Link to the Past. I guess there is no problem with the third line.

  • Dhevix

    Sure, there could be plenty of alternate timelines in which the Hero dies, it's just that the third split we're now presented with is the one they chose to explore.

  • X-factor

    Any one who has finished Skyward Sword knows that if Link fails in Skyward Sword there will no longer be any world at all!

  • Greg

    Link failed as a child; he didn't have the support of the goddesses until he drew the Master Sword, which he never took because he failed before his time-travel, either as a result of failure in the early dungeons, or dying to Ganondorf outside Hyrule Castle. I personally do not think the goddesses would allow someone to die once they became the hero i.e. Majora's Mask: being sent back in time by the Goddess of Time after the moon crashes.

  • You think it'd be because he had to go back to his childhood to get the Lens of Truth leaving that timeline without a Link and Ganon to rule, while the Adult timeline would be the one where he did have the Lens of Truth.

  • TheMaverickk

    Hypothetically there is a split timeline for every game where there is a "Link wins" or "link was defeated".

    The difference is that Nintendo says there are no games in those timelines yet so there's no point in acknowledging them. They could easily create a Zelda title in a universe where Link did die in Skyward Sword and theoretically Demise just ruled endlessly until another Hero arose.

    To be honest the great thing about this 3rd split timeline is that it gives Zelda so much freedom for creating these "Legends" that they can create and build whole new worlds rather effortlessly, and not being bound by the restraints of following a linear story path. This is an exciting prospect and great to see that they haven't built themselves into dead ends.

  • zelda4ever

    If every game has a failed time split, nintendo just insured Zelda forever.

  • i used to be an adventurer like you… til’ i took an arrow to the knee

    there should be a fourth split in the timeline. one where he fails as a kid in OoT (leading to alttp) and one where he fails as an adult, which leads to games that have not yet been made. makes complete sense to me. so im happy with the timeline they have… i just think they need to add that fourth timeline in the future.

  • Agentbarto

    Technically there are splits in SS alone; as Link's time traveling created such splits there are timelines in which The Imprisoned broke free without a Link to imprison him.

  • Sanguiluna

    When you think about it, doesn't this officially make the Hero of Time the worst Link in the series, since he's the ONLY one whose success isn't 100% assured?

  • armflailer

    Ugh!!! NINTENDO! Thanks, instead of just leaving the damn thing alone, you've just went ahead and *****ed us royally by getting in the fray and even SPLITTING THE TIMELINE EVEN MORE SO OFFICALLY ****SPOILER AHEAD**** WITH SKYWARD SWORD!

    This is such a stupid idea. This timeline BS was constructed ad-hoc by some half-wit fanboy in Japan I bet. They should have just left it alone and let us speculate until something more coherent and linear could come about.

  • armflailer

    There never should have been a split timeline to begin with. Nintendo just F-ed up by making not one, but TWO games that create stupid alt timelines that Zelda fans with too much time on their hands debated wayyy too deeply on. Then the N had to get in on it. Man this is retarded. Now with Aonuma heading the series, I guess I can expect alternate universes where Link is a pikachu training tutu wearing pink fairy with a fetish for red jelly beans.

    …sorry guys, I'm just an old-school Zelda fan that remembers when ALttP came out and it was established that the predecessors to Link and Zelda were the stars of the game, that a timeline was established where in each time, each iteration of the game, some reincarnation of Zelda and Link existed, and all was well. Then the nerds had to go all Back to the Future and Doc Brown it up with too much speculation after OoT.

  • Your Mother

    Link DIED!?
    Oh noes~ ^D:^

  • Jay Upadhya

    the link who died well nobody killed him after skyward sowerd and after the minish cap and after 4 sowerds then downfall era came then the evil wizard sealed away link in the dark world but then the seven maidens including Zelda was about to be scacrificed to bring back ganondorf to hyrule but in the dark world link kills ganondorf but before ganondorf died he said I shall rise again and the triforce of power left him and he died then link decided to become a spirit so he sealed himself away forever so then Zelda spreded the orginal legend of the hero of time who became a spirit then when war came to hyrule one woman who is a waroior came to the dark world saw the hero of time he said I am a spirit oh woman you are chosen to give birth to my human form so then the trifroce of curage went inside her and she gave birth to the human form of the hero of time then after that ganondorf resurrected the triforce of power returned to him then he injured the woman but she and the baby fled to the kokori forest and gave her child to the deku tree this means that the official Zelda timeline is wrong I have made a list of the orginal Zelda timeline in my brain there are 3 Era”s called the spirit era the downfall era and the rebirth era in the rebirth era Ocrina of time and the other more Zelda games came