[Spoiler Warning: This post contains potential spoilers. Not only is recent information about the Sheikah map and Famitsu magazine is covered in this article, but analysis of the trailer footage may make insightful predictions about the game.]
Whenever I think of crazy Zelda timeline speculation, I reflect over fond memories of me arguing with my younger cousin over the many years between Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Now that we live in an age with an official Zelda timeline available to the public, many Zelda fans, myself included, can’t help but wonder where Breath of the Wild fits in with everything.
Ocarina of Time resulted in Ganondorf’s first chronological appearance into the official Zelda timeline, yet it also resulted in three separate timeline branches that occur at the same time. So who can say for certain where Breath of the Wild belongs timeline-wise until the game is officially released to the public?
Well, lucky for you, I’m here to give you a look at some of the most popular Zelda timeline placement theories out there and share my thoughts on each.
There are just so many beautiful arguments exploding all around the Internet over which timeline branch Breath of the Wild belongs in. It’s a good time to gather these theories together and share them with the world.
A prequel to Ocarina of Time?
So far Nintendo has revealed that Ganon endured ages prior to Breath of the Wild. We have also been shown by Nintendo that the once pristine Temple of Time from Ocarina of Time returns to Breath of the Wild in ruins. Additionally, the Master Sword is in the worst shape we’ve ever seen it in. With this knowledge, and the knowledge that Ganondorf doesn’t make his first chronological appearance until Ocarina of Time, many speculate Breath of the Wild takes place after Ocarina of Time.
I think I personally agree with this speculation, but there is an interesting theory that caught my eye claiming Breath of the Wild to take place before Ocarina of Time.
In the backstory for Ocarina of Time, it is revealed that there was a Hyrulean Civil War. In that war, the Sheikah people were nearly wiped out while defending the royal family of Hyrule. So, carrying that thought out, could the remnants of Sheikah technology in Breath of the Wild be the result of the Hyrulean Civil War? According to one fan, the Sheikah “must have been one of the ones wiped out prior to Ocarina of Time!”
“The history of the royal family of Hyrule is also the history of the Calamity Ganon, a primal evil that has endured over the ages…”
We’ve met a few Sheikah monks at the end of featured Breath of the Wild shrine trials. Yet, they are mysteriously mummy-like and disappear immediately after you complete the trial. Does this suggest that the Skeikahs resorted to sacrificing themselves in order to create these trials for the next hero of Hyrule?
Although the answers to some of these questions seem to suggest Breath of the Wild is the story of the Hyrulean Civil War ended, there are some inconsistencies. We don’t really know how the Hyrulean Civil War started, but we are heavily hinted that it was caused by the people of Hyrule fighting over control of the Triforce and, as of yet, that has yet to be revealed in Breath of the Wild.
Plus, in Ocarina of Time, there is still no solid evidence supporting a Calamity Ganon being a cause of the Hyrulean Civil War. I mean, if Calamity Ganon was historically known prior to Ocarina of Time, you’d think the king of Hyrule from Ocarina of Time would think twice before trusting Ganondorf, someone that shares the same name as an ancient evil, right?
And yet, maybe Calamity Ganon was forgotten about entirely in the war leading up to Ocarina of Time. I really hope that isn’t the case though.
The Adult Timeline: Connections to The Wind Waker
The Adult Timeline only takes place if Link, as an adult, defeats Ganondorf in the final battle of Ocarina of Time. It is here in this branch that we see The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks take place. Although there isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting Breath of the Wild to take place after Spirit Tracks (there simply isn’t information to directly link it one way or the other), there is some interesting evidence that may suggest Breath of the Wild to take place after Ocarina of Time and before The Wind Waker.
Up until Breath of the Wild, the Koroks have only played an active role in The Wind Waker. However, it has been revealed that the Koroks will show up often in Breath of the Wild. Additionally, the Rito bird people, previously only seen in The Wind Waker, are making a return with an updated look.
I’m not entirely sure if this is compelling enough proof to place Breath of the Wild in the Adult Timeline though. For one thing, we don’t know if the Kokiri from Ocarina of Time naturally take on the form of Koroks whenever they want. This could mean that Koroks can quite possibly make an appearance in other timelines down the road. And although we now have confirmation that the bird people of Breath of the Wild are called the Rito, these Rito look very different from the ones from The Wind Waker. That could be a deal breaker.
If there’s any further supporting evidence for Breath of the Wild taking place before The Wind Waker though, I think it would have to be in The Wind Waker’s backstory.
The backstory to The Wind Waker begins by describing the events of Ocarina of Time. After that, some amount of time later it describes the return of Ganon. At first, the people of Hyrule expected the Hero of Time clothed in green to return and save them. When this hero doesn’t appear, the people of Hyrule resort to appealing to the gods. Hearing the people’s pleas for help, the gods choose to seal away both Ganon and the entire kingdom of Hyrule by burying both underneath an ocean of water. This allowed the remaining Hyruleans to start a new country on the mountaintops.
Initially, I came to the conclusion that Breath of the Wild can’t take place before The Wind Waker. This is because the Hero of Time was sent back into the Child Timeline by Zelda at the end of Ocarina of Time. However, the backstory to The Wind Waker supports a hero wearing a green tunic, while in Breath of the Wild, Link wears blue. One theory suggests that the people of The Wind Waker‘s backstory may not have been aware that a new hero did appear, as they were expecting someone wearing green and not blue.
Although this is an interesting theory, I think we have to treat it with a grain of salt. After all, Link’s green tunic could very well show up in Breath of the Wild later in the game.
… Something I did notice while reviewing The Wind Waker’s backstory allowed me to make a fun Breath of the Wild theory of my own though. During the introduction, The Wind Waker mentions, “The memory of the kingdom [of Hyrule] vanished, but its legend survived on the wind’s breath.” Could that breath be connected to the Breath of the Wild?
Following Majora’s Mask in the Child Timeline
So, the Child Timeline only takes place if Link, as a child in Ocarina of Time, prevents Ganondorf from taking over Hyrule in the first place. The games that follow Ocarina of Time in this branch are Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, and Four Swords Adventures. Unfortunately, the only evidence I’ve seen for a possible placement of Breath of the Wild in the Child Timeline is twofold: the unique inclusion of Wolf Link via amiibo compatibility and the design of the Zora people being similar to that of the Zora in Twilight Princess.
It would be easy to say that Breath of the Wild takes place after Twilight Princess if the Wolf Link created from the amiibo could become human in Breath of the Wild. However, from what we’ve been shown so far, the most Wolf Link appears to do in Breath of the Wild is help hunt for food and act like an adorable doggie. This, to me, makes it seem more likely that Wolf Link amiibo compatibility was just a feature Nintendo was able to throw in for fun.
I have to admit, the Zoras of Breath of the Wild are surprisingly similar in design to the Zoras of Twilight Princess. What makes Breath of the Wild Zoras unique though, is that they are red in color, not blue. Interestingly, the only red Zora we really see in Twilight Princess is the ghost of Queen Rutela. Could this suggest Breath of the Wild has to take place in the Child timeline before Twilight Princess?
I don’t know. For me to confidently place Breath of the Wild before or after Twilight Princess in the Child timeline would require much more evidence. However, what I can say for certain is that Wolf Link’s existence in Breath of the Wild sure makes things confusing.
Pushing the Child timeline out of the way, what are the chances Breath of the Wild takes place in the Fallen Hero timeline?
In the age of the Fallen Hero
The last of the timelines, the Fallen Hero Timeline, only takes place if Ganondorf defeats Link in the final battle of Ocarina of Time. This one defeat of Link leads to a long timeline branch of Zelda games. We have A Link to the Past, Oracle of Seasons, Oracle of Ages, Link’s Awakening, A Link Between Worlds, Tri Force Heroes, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link. As the majority of these games tell the history of Ganon, many fans speculate Breath of the Wild can quite possibly take place after The Adventure of Link.
Although I agree it would be very easy for Nintendo to place Breath of the Wild after The Adventure of Link, my favorite crazy Fallen Hero Timeline theory places Breath of the Wild before A Link to the Past. We know that Link, being defeated by Ganondorf in the final battle of Ocarina of Time, is what causes the Fallen Hero timeline to take place.
…Well, what if the Link you play as in Breath of the Wild is the same as the one defeated in Ocarina of Time?
Think about it. Link awakens inside a resurrection chamber. This suggests that Link had previously died. Could it be that a hundred years later, Link is brought back to life to defeat Ganon once and for all?
This leads to many more theoretical questions.
We’re shown by Nintendo that the Great Deku Tree remembers Link. Is it possible that this Great Deku Tree is the Deku Tree Sprout from Ocarina of Time all grown up? What about Zelda? Is she the same Zelda from Ocarina of Time but with an updated look? What about the previously pristine Master Sword? How did it get so bad looking? It was once located in the Temple of Time. Now that the temple is ruined, do we finally have an explanation as to why the Master Sword is now in a forest location similar to that of A Link to the Past? And finally, if Breath of the Wild is the story of Link and Zelda from Ocarina of Time once again trying to seal Ganon away, could this story actually be the Sealing War from A Link to the Past’s backstory?
If yes is the answer to these theoretical questions, we may have very compelling evidence of at least some sort of Fallen Hero Timeline placement for Breath of the WIld.
Is there any more Breath of the Wild backstory we can possibly refer to for more insight?
The mysteries of the Sheikah map
On the Breath of the Wild collector’s edition map, there is some mysterious Sheikah text. When translated, this text reveals some interesting backstory for Breath of the Wild.
Hylians pass stories of a destined time long past where multiple races lived and worked together in harmony. The Sheikah Tribe’s blue aura breathed through the land and this mutual prosperity continued until a cataclysmic disaster struck. The Hero and the Princess attempted to seal the terror which became known as the Calamity Ganon. Divine beasts awoke from four directions and deployed a mechanical army which made the King and his people fearful. They fractured Ganon’s power and sealed him, but the Sheikah were banished from the land ever since. (Translation by Zeltik)
Could this backstory be proof that Breath of the Wild is the story of the Sealing War that takes place after Ocarina of Time and before A Link to the Past? Could it be proof of the Hyrulean Civil War that takes place before Ocarina of Time? Could it be another legend “of which the people speak,” the legend of what really happened after Ocarina of Time and before the Wind Waker? It’s hard to say for certain.
If anything, thanks to this map, we quite possibly have a solid Zelda theory on what the main story of the game requires the player to do. But on closer inspection, we can clearly see the four divine beasts located on each corner of the map. And if you actually turn the map around so that it isn’t upside down, you can see what appears to be a person standing on top of each beast.
Multiple races previously worked together. Could it be that four major Hyrulean races now live on each corner of the land, and that each race controls one of the divine technological beasts?
This theory I can stand behind. From this map and the trailers we’ve seen, my guess is that befriending each race from the four corners of Hyrule will ultimately allow Link to defeat Ganon. How, with such a damaged Master Sword? Well, of course Link has to find a way to power it back up like other Links do in Zelda games such as The Wind Waker and Skyward Sword. The four beasts could even end up as main dungeon bosses.
…Well, what do you think? Leave a comment or twenty below, and argue to your heart’s content.