Zelda Through The Ages: Every Zelda Game In Order with Timeline, and More

The Legend of Zelda

Zelda Through The Ages: Every Zelda Game In Order with Timeline, and More

Very few games have reached the same level of fame as The Legend of Zelda. It’s so popular that even those without any real knowledge of video games have at least heard of it. With releases as far back as the 1980s, this game is a massive cornerstone of the gaming industry. So, let’s look into the past and explore everything you ever needed to know about The Legend of Zelda.

6 Facts about The Legend of Zelda

  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the highest-rated game of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • Eight The Legend of Zelda games were featured in Nintendo Power’s Top 200 list in 2004, with Ocarina of Time taking the top spot.
  • Many modern game developers have expressed that The Legend of Zelda impacted their decision to go into gaming. These include Dan Houser, founder of Rockstar Games and a figurehead in the development of Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto.
  • A 13-episode series of Zelda animated shorts premiered and aired on American television.
  • Over its lifetime, The Legend of Zelda has sold over 126 million copies worldwide.
  • Creator Eiji Aonuma has stated that Link’s design is intentionally gender-ambiguous to allow players of all genders to relate to him.

What Is The Legend of Zelda: Explained

The Legend of Zelda is an action-adventure RPG published by Nintendo. The story revolves around Link, a blond Elf-like hero. He can be seen expertly fighting with many weapons, including a bow, a pike, and a sword and shield combo.

Quick Facts

Creator (person)
Shigeru Miyamoto, Takahashi Tezuka
Release Date
Original Price
Units sold
Operating System
Famicom Disk System
Developed By (company)
Nintendo EAD (1986–2013), Capcom (2002–2004), Grezzo (2011–2019), Nintendo EPD (2015–present)

While US versions have always taken the firm stance of Link being male, Eiji Aonuma, the creator of Link, has stated that he desired for Link to be treated as a gender-neutral slate upon which any player could impart their personal identity.

Most of the games’ missions follow the typical pattern of saving the world from the clutches of the evil Ganondorf. During these escapades, the player may be assisted by, or tasked with rescuing, the titular Princess Zelda.

What Is the Setting of The Legend of Zelda?

The games take place in the fictional kingdom of Hyrule. Hyrule is a typical Western-European medieval setting where people fight with swords and shields. However, Hyrule is also a land of immense magical purpose. Fairies roam freely, and mechanical engineering is done with magic instead of mechanical methods.

Many peoples inhabit the kingdom of Hyrule, but the principal inhabitants followed in the story are the Hylians, a race of humanoid Elf-like people. Link and Zelda are Hylians and possess their most prominent feature, pointed ears.

The Complete History of Hyrule

According to in-game lore, the land of Hyrule was created by the three Golden Goddesses, Din, Farore, and Nayru. Before departing from the land they’d built, the Golden Goddesses left behind a treasure known as the Triforce. This golden artifact could impart special powers to its wielder. The powers endowed by the goddess manifested into the three golden triangles that made up the Triforce. Each triangle represents a virtue left by the Goddesses: Power, Courage, and Wisdom. Wielding the Triforce would allow the user to make a wish and have it granted by the artifact.

However, the Triforce has no will or consciousness; it cannot discriminate between good and evil. It simply grants the user’s wish, regardless of the ultimate ramifications on the world. Thus, the Triforce was hidden away to prevent it from being used for evil.

In some games, the Triforce was hidden away in the Sacred Realm, also known as the Golden Realm. Here, the Triforce sleeps until the perfect hero – whose identity encompasses the ideal balance of Power, Courage, and Wisdom – can retrieve and wield it for the forces of good. If a person with unbalanced traits attempts to wield the Triforce, it will break apart, and the piece that most strongly resonates with their personality will stay with them.

In addition, the person who enters the Sacred Realm transforms it based on the purity of their heart. The Sacred Realm will appear as a paradise if they are virtuous. In contrast, those with dark souls will transform the Sacred Realm into a dark, scary place.

The Legend of Zelda: Fictional Chronology

The Legend of Zelda series has a detailed fictional chronology that links the games. However, the stories do not connect in the chronological order of the games’ releases. Instead, they represent different periods within Hyrule’s history and show multiple outcomes within the same universe.

Before the release of the Hyrule Historia collector’s book, the exact timeline of the Zelda games was not known, and it was the subject of many debates among fans. However, since the release of Hyrule Historia in 2011, the chronology of the games has been cemented.

The Hero Era

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD - Nintendo Switch
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword game has been updated for the Nintendo Switch system
  • Descend to the land beneath the clouds, explore dungeons, and solve puzzles on your quest
  • Find and collect items that open up new paths and upgrades
  • Use motion controls that correspond to your movements for more realistic swordplay, or use button-only controls
  • Experience the earliest story in the Legend of Zelda series and learn how Link and Zelda first formed a legendary bond
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While it might look clunky, the actual timeline is much more straightforward than it seems. The story begins with Skyward Sword. In this game, the world has been laid to waste by the Demon King Demise, who was searching for the legendary Triforce to enforce his rule over the land of Hyrule. Goddess Hylia then collects the surviving Hylians and sends them to a kingdom in the sky, allowing her to launch a full-scale offensive against Demise.

Her battle ends with a triumphant victory, but the world of Hyrule is so war-torn that the survivors cannot return to it. The survivors sent to the sky are henceforth known as the people of Skyloft, and they believe that the world below is nothing more than a myth.

The game’s central tale starts with Link passing his knighthood exam. Then Princess Zelda is whisked away into the sky by a dark tornado, revealing the game’s fundamental plot.

Link’s Backstory

We see a bit of Link’s backstory starting in the Minish Cap. The Minish people, a race of diminutive creatures, gift Link his signature green tunic, a sword, and a shining golden light that can drive back the darkness. The game begins with Link being asked to help the Minish, referred to by the Hylians as Picori, after Vaati destroys the Picori Blade.

Four Swords picks up where the Minish Cap ends, with Zelda and Link approaching the Four Sword used to seal away Vaati after he destroyed the Picori Blade. Link is instructed to pull the sword from the stone by three fairies, which inadvertently creates three copies of Link that fight beside him during the game.

Nintendo Selects - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 3DS)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D takes the Nintendo 64 classic - one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made - and returns it to the Nintendo 3DS & Nintendo 2DS system with the added...
  • Solve puzzles, travel through time and explore the immersive world
  • The graphical upgrades and three-dimensional depth breathe new life into the expansive world of Hyrule New controls using the Nintendo 3DS & Nintendo 2DS system's technologies
  • Switching items has never been simpler or quicker, with a touch-based inventory system Compatible with all consoles in the 3DS family
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In Ocarina of Time, the fairy Navi awakens Link from a nightmare about a man in black armor pursuing a young girl. Navi takes Link to the Great Deku Tree, a sentient tree that has been cursed and is nearing its death. The Great Deku Tree tells Link he’s been cursed by a desert dweller and that Link must find and stop this “wicked man of the desert.” Before dying, the Great Deku Tree imparts the Spiritual Stone of the Forest to Link and tells him to go to Hyrule Castle to speak with Zelda, the Princess of Hyrule.

The Hero Is Defeated

After this, the timeline splits. Its trajectory depends on whether Link triumphs in his Ocarina of Time quest, or fails. If Link is “defeated” (in the timeline, not in your game), then the story goes to emA Link to the Past/em, where Ganon is trapped in the Sacred Realm, which he has transformed into a dark, evil place.

Then Link attempts to sail to other countries in order to train himself ahead of further threats. Link’s boat is destroyed at sea, and he washes up on the Island of Koholint where an owl tells him that he must awaken the Wind Fish.

The following two games in the series are Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. They require the player to play them sequentially (though in either order) to unlock the “linked ending.” This is achieved by entering the password found at the end of each game into the save of the next game.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Next in this timeline is The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which features stereoscopic 3D and two kingdoms, Hyrule and Lorule, for Link to explore. In this game, Link is an apprentice to the blacksmith and goes to deliver a sword to Hyrule Castle. Here, he encounters Yuga, who turns a descendent of one of the Seven Sages into a painting.

The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes

The Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes - 3DS
  • Three players take on the role of individual Link characters and team up to work cooperatively to solve puzzles and battle bosses in dungeons. The game features the same top-down view and visual style...
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Triforce Heroes follows A Link Between Worlds and takes place in a land known as Hytopia, the populace of which is obsessed with fashion. Princess Styla holds tremendous power here. A witch called “The Lady” curses Princess Styla, forcing her to wear a highly unfashionable brown jumpsuit. Devastated by the curse, her father, King Tuft, seeks the aid of any hero who can lift the curse.

Thus begins the story of The Legend of Zelda, the first game released in the series. In this story, Ganon throws the world of Hyrule into chaos by stealing the Triforce of Power. To prevent the Triforce of Wisdom from falling into his hands, Zelda splits it into eight pieces and hides them in dungeons, which Link later explores. As Link gathers the pieces of the Triforce, the storyline ends.

The Hero Is Victorious: The Child Era

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If Link “succeeds” in Ocarina of Time, the timeline splits further. Its course depends on whether or not Zelda sends Link back in time to warn her past self of the dangers presented by Ganon. If Link returns in time, the story picks up with Majora’s Mask.

Majora’s Mask starts a few months after the end of Ocarina of Time. It begins with Link searching for Navi, who has left the scene (much to many gamers’ relief). While riding through the forest in search of Navi, he is ambushed by a Skull Kid, wearing a strange mask and accompanied by two fairies, Tatl, and Tael.

The Skull Kid makes off with Link’s horse and the Ocarina of Time. When Link pursues and confronts him, the Skull Kid takes Tael and flees. Separated from her brother, Tatl asks Link to find her brother, who’s flown to the Clock Tower in the land of Termina.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Combines the amazing new interface features of the Wii with the Zelda franchise
  • Amazing new horseback combat system
  • Attacks, moves, and even fishing, are controlled with the Wii Remote
  • Link transforms into different creatures as part of his quest
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Thus begins the story of Twilight Princess, where Link, now a teenager, resides in the Ordon Village. When Bulblins take away the village’s children, Link pursues them and comes upon the Wall of Twilight. A Twilight monster pulls Link past the Wall, transforming him into a wolf and trapping him in this twilight space. A creature named Midna comes by and offers to help Link escape the Twilight-shrouded forest under the condition that he obeys her unconditionally.

This arc ends with Four Swords Adventures, which leaves Zelda with the Shrine Maidens, who fear that the strange happenings in their world are related to the weakening of Vaati’s seal. So, they summon Link to the Castle to protect them as they open a portal to the Four Sword Sanctuary. Vaati then breaks free of his seal, escaping into the world of Hyrule once again.

The Hero Is Victorious: The Adult Era

Nintendo Selects: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - Wii U
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD features 1080p visuals that will immerse players in the game like never before.
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  • Players will enjoy cruising the open sea with a new Swift Sail, bringing them to their next destination and action-packed adventure that much faster.
  • Once players receive the Tingle Bottle item, they can connect with others by posting comments to Miiverse.
  • “E10+” w/Animated Blood and Fantasy Violence
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This is also optional for a story where Link doesn’t travel back in time. In that case, the story moves to the Adult Era, where Link continues on after defeating Ganon in Ocarina of Time. The Adult Era begins with The Wind Waker, specifically with Link’s coming-of-age celebration.

During Link’s celebration, a giant bird drops Captain Tetra into the forest of Outset Island. Link rescues Tetra from the monsters, but the giant bird carries off his sister Aryll in her place. Tetra agrees to help Link find his sister, and they set off for adventures on the high seas.

They find Aryll in the domain of the Helmaroc King, who has been kidnapping girls with long ears. There, the Helmaroc King takes Link to a tall man in black armor, who then orders Link to be thrown into the sea.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

emPhantom Hourglass/em follows The Wind Waker’s quest, which sees Tetra and Link sail the newly-flooded Hyrule, now known as the Great Sea. Link and Tetra find a Ghost Ship which Tetra boards, but then immediately screams for help. Link attempts to follow Tetra onto the Ghost Ship but slips and falls into the sea.

Finally, the Adult Era wraps up with Spirit Tracks. This game takes place around a century after The Wind Waker. It starts with Link finishing his graduation to become an Engineer who drives trains across the land and serves the Royal Family. However, Zelda’s chancellor, Cole, disparages the ceremony, stating that trains are futile since the Spirit Tracks have begun to disappear from the land without a known cause.

Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Discover Hyrule as never before: by making your own path, choices, and consequences
  • Ingenuity is the key to survival: find multiple solutions to tons of dynamic puzzles
  • Surprises hide around every corner: scavenge weapons, armor, plants, animals, and more
  • Live off the land: find weapons and armor, cook food, and brew elixirs
  • Utilize special technology: the in-game Sheikah Slate controls objects and enemies in fun ways
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All three timelines reconnect in Breath of the Wild. In this story, Link awakens from a deep slumber, having been placed in the Shrine of Resurrection with an injury sustained while protecting Zelda.

Link meets an older man, revealed to be the wandering spirit of King Rhoam, who pleads with him to return to Hyrule Castle, where Ganon is locked away. He then asks Link to defeat Ganon before he regains his full power and destroys the world.

How to Use The Legend of Zelda

Nintendo was founded in 1889 and originally produced handmade hanafuda playing cards.

Usage of Legend of Zelda games varies based on the game. The original Japanese version of the first game used Famicom’s disk drive. Still, the American version – the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – used cartridges. Subsequent games primarily used cartridges, but Skyward Sword was a disk, as was the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild.

How to Learn The Legend of Zelda

Controls for games in The Legend of Zelda series differ between games as well. While the first game used just a directional pad with two buttons, the newer games have incorporated everything from new controllers to motion controls, as in Skyward Sword.

The Difference Between The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers

While The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers are both prominent Nintendo franchises, they are nothing alike. To the uninitiated, a video game may be just that, a video game. But to fans of the franchises, there is no comparison. Super Mario Brothers is a platforming game; platformers are a type of game where the objective is to complete an obstacle challenge created by putting enemies and obstacles on a series of linear platforms, across which the player must then run and jump.

Conversely, The Legend of Zelda is an action-adventure game. Early games used a top-down view, allowing the player to move around the map and see all the visible components on any particular screen. Newer games use a third-person back perspective that allows players to see what’s in front of them, but not behind.

The Legend of Zelda: Release History

The games were released in the following order:

  1. The Legend of Zelda (1986)
  2. The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link (1987)
  3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993)
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
  6. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (1998)
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)
  8. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons & Oracle of Ages (2001)
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (2002)
  10. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)
  11. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (2004)
  12. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2004)
  13. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
  14. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)
  15. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)
  16. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (2011)
  17. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
  18. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (2013)
  19. The Legend of Zelda: a Link Between Worlds (2013)
  20. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (2015)
  21. The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (2015)
  22. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (2016)
  23. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
  24. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019)
  25. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (2021)

Final Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda has a long and decorated history in gaming. It’s one of the first game franchises, and it makes sense that it’s still popular and being released today. At the time of writing this article, a sequel to Breath of the Wild was announced, but no concrete details or game footage have been released yet. Still, we’re excited to see what Nintendo has in store for us next!

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Last update on 2024-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns The Legend of Zelda?

Nintendo owns The Legend of Zelda.

Who created The Legend of Zelda?

Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma created The Legend of Zelda.

What games are suitable for people who like The Legend of Zelda?

Hob, Death’s Door, and Hyper Light Drifter are all recommended to people who liked the original The Legend of Zelda feel. Genshin Impact is an excellent choice for players who enjoyed Breath of the Wild, as the mechanics are very similar.

What is the most recent The Legend of Zelda game?

The most recent release in The Legend of Zelda franchise was Skyward Sword HD in 2021. However, the most recent standalone release (not a rerelease of a previous game) was Breath of the Wild in 2017.

When was The Legend of Zelda first released?

The Legend of Zelda was first released in 1986.

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