Forums
Guides
Features
Media
Zelda Wiki
Patreon
    The Timeline: Important or No?
    • This is a question that's been on my mind for a while now. So much time and effort goes into understanding the timeline. Where games fit in the series, how many alternate timelines there are, is Breath of the Wild after Twilight Princess or Wind Waker, etc. That's all well and good, and I'm not saying we shouldn't theorize on all these topics, but I constantly find myself at odds with how some people take it all way too far.

      From Youtubers like Matpat making videos to explain how wrong the official timeline is, to fans on Facebook and Twitter getting into debates about how the games should be organized, it seems as if an unwarranted amount of time and effort is being put into making the timeline become more important than it actually is.

      What makes this troublesome to me is that these same people who put so much importance into the timeline seem to grow bitter when they can't make everything fit. It seems like they will even criticize Nintendo about the timeline, the effort they put into making it, and how some games will contradict their placements and not seeem to belong where they are on it. These fans aren't a big percentage of the fanbase, but their complaints aren't easily ignored.

      The real shame is that they clearly love the series, but are not doing it any favors by nitpicking it like they do. Say someone who does not play Zelda games hears this chatter about the timeline. They pick up on the disapproval and how it frustrates people. What are they suppose to think? They don't even play the games, and one of their first impressions will be that the series has very noticable flaw, a flaw that doesn't really exist, thanks to the complaints.

      Nintendo pretty clearly did not intend for the timeline to mean much. Fans asked for it, so they made it, and then too many fans were upset when it wasn't what they expected. It has become a point of criticism aimed at Nintendo, which isn't really fair to them.

      I've never truly cared about the timeline. I personally believe all it does is put a limit on the series, and force the developers to be concerned with juggling a thirty-year narrative. Once you insist a series have a timeline, you are also putting a timer on it. The franchise will(hopefully) never end, but trying to piece every game together makes them all act as one narrative. All stories have to come to an end at some point. So if the timeline did become more and more pivotal to the series, Nintendo would be faced with the added work of making sure each new game constantly left things open-ended, to ensure the next game could follow after. They would never actually bring about the end of the series, but being written into a corner, and then needed to inject some massive, intentional plot into a game to get out of it, could easily happen.

      When the games fit together that's great, and it's always fun to discover in-game clues that connect them to each other. But in general, Zelda games always work best then they are not required to be created around the goal of tying it's story to a previous game(Minus the obvious exceptions).

      The timeline is fine and fun, but I don't see why it has to be taken seriously, especially to the point of convincing some people that it's a real area of criticism for the series.
    • The official timeline is certainly flawed, maybe even a bit of a mess, but I appreciate the attempt at organizing the games into a kind of structure.

      For the sake of the games, I'm glad that this is really just an after-the-fact thing that Nintendo deals with. The only time an average gamer would need to know that a timeline exists is when it comes to Wind Waker, and that spells out the situation just fine in the opening.

      But for the weird obsessive fans (like me, I guess?) all the timeline theories gives the fanbase an extra thing to talk about, keeping us interested in the discussion long after games get released. Worldbuilding and story isn't Nintendo's priority, but all the little details across all these years build up on each other. It's fun to ponder all these details, drawing connections between all the different pieces of the puzzle.

      Timeline shenanigans will linger on whether Nintendo makes official stances or not, so I wouldn't take things too seriously. Have fun talking about zelda in whatever way you want, theory debates can be fun so long as everyone involved doesn't take certain words as gospel
    • Since you're posting in the writing thread and not in Zelda: General, can I assume you'd like to know whether or not the official timeline matters when it comes to fan fiction?

      Anyway, my personal answer is yes. It does matter, as fan fic writers in general are more likely to be taken seriously if they follow canon as closely as possible, and give good, story-based reasons for it when their fiction deviates from it.

      For example, as far as canon goes, my own opinion is (and you can take it or leave it) that BotW most likely does take place in the Downfall Timeline if we're going with one of the three, already-established canon timelines. Most of the smaller story details (like Ruto being mentioned as a Sage, multiple Ganon attacks in the past, etc.) seem to point towards this, as does the Armour set of the Wild sharing that same yellow stripe on the hat that is present in DT depictions of Link, but not in the other timelines (as MatPat discusses in his video). The whole theme of BotW getting "back to the roots of the Zelda series" also seems to point in this direction, IMO.

      However, for the sake of my fiction, especially my current BotW story, I'm placing BotW into an alternate timeline from canon, one where Adult Link is *not* sent back to the past by Zelda at the end of OoT. Majora's Mask is canon to this fan timeline, but the other post-OoT games are referenced more as Easter Eggs/Shout outs, and didn't necessarily happen. I'm doing this because in my fanon, OoT Link marries a grown up Saria, and if I have to be honest, I doubt that pairing happened anywhere in canon. However, since a major character I have planned for "Zelda's Redemption" is (spoiler)
      Display Spoiler
      Link and Saria's Kokiri daughter, Mapla
      , I need to deviate from canon for story purposes.

      So, to answer your question, yes, stay as close to the canon timelines as you can, unless you have a good story reason to deviate.


      BotW Zelda in her purple Hylian Tunic, by my husband, DarkSilver.

      "Breath of the Wild: "Zelda's Redemption" Chapter 3 now up!

      After Calamity Ganon's defeat, a devastated Zelda must come to terms with her ruined kingdom, dead friends, and the resentment of the Hero who had saved her, but lost his fiancee. When all hope seems lost, she comes across a legend of a holy relic that can set things right, if she can find the ancient keys to access it. With the help of new friends, and without Link, can Zelda finally become a legend, on her own terms?
    • I know I'm just a normal member but my answer to the question of if the official timeline matters in fan fiction is the following:

      Official HH/HE Timeline(s) - I'd say no (as in not necessary to follow) here, because they really weren't meant to be taken seriously as neither of them were initially intended to be canon but treated as such by even Nintendo anyways due to pressure from fans who take them seriously. First off, HH features a disclaimer that many people, for some reason keep overlooking. And lastly, HE isn't even written by Nintendo themselves, so it shouldn't be canon. That said, I personally don't find it necessary to follow by such timelines for fan-fiction that are flawed anyways. I mean, after all, this is fan-fiction we're talking about. Fan-Fiction writers shouldn't have to be so limited to not only an already existent public released "official" timeline, but especially not one that is flawed (like HH or HE) either. It is the writer's own fan fiction after all. So she/he should be able to follow by their own timeline if they want to as long they have at least one reason, their fan stories are well told/written, and make sense out of it. Not to mention HH and HE are both wrong according to the games anyways. Which to my next answer in regards to the next timeline.

      In-Game Based Canon - My answer here is only if you're telling your own fan-fic stories that exist in the same world as an official game or more and you want to stay true to a lot of the stories of as much of the official titles as possible. An example would be say you wanted to focus on the world of OoT and you want to stay true to that but you want tell your own stories set in that world. So you would have to follow by OoT's canon. But only if you want to stay true to the original story. And you should only deviate based on you're own interpretations of things found in the OoT game. Or if you want to tell stories set in your own take on the timeline, including most or all official titles. You can do that too but you should be able to follow by your own order of games as long as it follows by the in-game stories and stays true to that, unless you want to deviate. But like I said, you should only deviate based on your own interpretations and it be as well explained as possible.

      Anyways, long story short. The timeline only really matters if you're including official games but it can be in your own order since it's your fan-fiction, your creative take on the series. Just as long as you try to stay to true to the in-game canon stuff as possible, only deviating if necessary, stories are well told, well explained, and makes sense in some way, you should be fine. But that's just my opinion anyways.

      I myself am still working on a Zelda fan-fiction that follows by my own timeline order of all the official games included. Including spinoffs like HW. Well, anyways, that's all for now. Please understand that this just my opinion. So I hope you'll at least respect that.
    • For theorizing, yes, the timeline matters. The timeline provides a basis for a lot of smaller theories, so it's often important to keep in mind.

      For fanfiction, the timeline matters less. You can write a sequel to BotW without worrying about the timeline. You can even write a sequel to OoT without worrying about the timeline, you're just more likely to contradict canon. The drawback of ignoring the timeline, I think, is that you risk alienating part of your readerbase by abandoning what could have been common ground. I know I can become invested in fanfiction more when it serves as an addition to the universe that I already accept.

      I'm a theorist at heart, though, so for me, part of the joy comes from exploring what-if scenarios and connecting the familiar dots in a new way. There will still be plenty of people who simply don't care whether you adhere to the timeline or not.
      Goddess of the Sands

      Map of Thyphlo Ruins

      Forest Architects

      If you have Amiibo Tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits on Wii U, you can reset which games your amiibo unlock by deleting the game and then redownloading it.