I have read the other questions and answers related to the Zelda timeline on here. But my question wasn't answered there. A few years ago Nintendo finally released the History of Hyrule book. It, after years of speculation, finally connected all the Zelda timelines.

I'm very confused though. In the Ocarina of Time, two timelines emerge. The first is when the hero is defeated. This timeline makes zero sense to me. Of all the times a player can fail in these timelines, why is it that OoT had the timeline split? Did I miss something here that explains that in OoT another major event happens resulting in Link failing his quest?

I mean I know that with the second timeline two more timelines emerge, one follows the events when Link was returned as a child. The other follows the timeline when Ganon was sealed. But in all the games, it's possible to die. I can't remember an event in OoT where I failed and had to repeat the events over that was any different than another Zelda game.

But the event's of Link failing, is this in the event that all timelines the player fails merge into this timeline? Or have they just not covered all the other timelines the player may fail (i.e. if a player fails in the timeline where the player is defeated)?

In the Zelda wiki, this is explained:

Fallen Hero Timeline

The Fallen Hero Timeline[51] is the timeline in which Link, the Hero of Time, despite his best efforts, was defeated by Ganondorf in the final battle.[52] Ganondorf obtained the remaining Triforce pieces from Link and Zelda,[53] and was subsequently sealed within the corrupted Sacred Realm by the seven Sages.[54] This timeline branch contains the events of A Link to the Past, the Oracle series, Link's Awakening, A Link Between Worlds, Tri Force Heroes, The Legend of Zelda, and The Adventure of Link in that order.

Ganondorf obtains the complete Triforce

After the Hero of Time is defeated at the hands of Ganondorf, the King of Evil extracted the Triforce of Courage from Link and the Triforce of Wisdom from Zelda. Obtaining the true power of the complete Triforce, he is transformed into the Demon King Ganon. In a desperate last resort, the Seven Sages seal Ganon along with the complete Triforce away in the Sacred Realm, which was already transformed into the Dark World as a reflection of Ganondorf's evil heart

But why would this be any different in any other timeline? Ganon or minion of Ganon defeat Link, Ganon gets eternal power, and the rest of the events somehow unfold. I haven't found a single resource explaining why OoT is this breaking off point.

  • 3
    There might be split timelines for all of the games' potential defeats. We only have games continuing from OOT's defeat.
    – user40790
    Sep 13, 2016 at 19:23
  • Yeah, I covered that. What I'm more interested in is if the big names at Nintendo have covered this in an interview, as in "Yes, we do have ideas for more timelines where the player lost in another game" for example. Or maybe that you drank too much Lon-Lon Ranch milk and passed out for eternity... Sep 13, 2016 at 19:27
  • 4
    Ehhhh... probably because that was the only way they could explain the "sealed Ganon" bit in Link to the Past? OoT already has the branching plot, so it gets it by default. There's only so much arc welding you can do without showing some seams.
    – Radhil
    Sep 13, 2016 at 19:30
  • would this not be better suited to gaming.stackexchange.com?
    – NKCampbell
    Sep 13, 2016 at 19:40
  • 3
    @NKCampbell - maybe, but as the question is about the plot, and not about playing the game, it's on-topic here since its a fantasy setting. And actually, I think Arqade closes questions about developer intentions, so they might not even take it.
    – Radhil
    Sep 13, 2016 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


The Split Timeline concept is one that has existed since 2002. Eiji Aonuma first mentioned in an interview that Ocarina of Time had two endings, one where Link returned to his childhood (the one we actually see in-game), and one where he instead disappears forever, leading to the events of Wind Waker. After Wind Waker came out fans hotly debated the idea, as it seemed to make sense to some. The idea gathered steam once again after Twilight Princess was released, as each Ganondorf in all the aforementioned games was contradictory with the established events leading up to the other two. This has given rise to the belief that there are no Dwarf women that there are in fact three different timelines to account for all the inconsistencies across the canon games.

With the release of the Hyrule Historia (see below), the split timeline concept became official canon, branching off of Ocarina of Time in the way Eiji Aonuma mentioned, as well as including the third timeline where the hero is defeated by Ganon.

Essentially, it's Ocarina of Time because Eiji Aonuma said so. As for all the other times when the hero could potentially fail, we are supposed to assume that outside of Ocarina of Time, the hero does not fail.

EDIT: It's probably also worth mentioning that Ocarina of Time was the first game in the series to dabble with Time Travel, so it does kinda make sense that this particular point is the stem from which other timelines branched.

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  • He may have said so-but i'll stick to what was when games were released :D. I don't care for the timeline in general. Sep 14, 2016 at 13:46
  • Being that this answer is the only one that actually cites interviews, I'm tempted to mark it as the answer if you can actually provide some actual quotes from Aonuma or other Big N personnel. Sep 15, 2016 at 17:01
  • 1
    I've added a link to the 2002 interview. There's also an interview in the December 2006 issue of Nintendo Dream Magazine in which Aonuma confirms that Wind Waker and Twilight Princess are in parallel timelines, but I can't seem to find it. Sep 16, 2016 at 8:45

I have the Hyrule Historia, and have played Legend of Zelda since i was 6-all the way thru Twilight Princess. The fans argued over Zelda timelines, and even the "Angry Video Game Nerd" did a whole, "confused over zelda timelines video". Up until that book, there really wasn't a timeline at all. Links and Zeldas and Ganons were different characters that had the same look. Ocarina of Time was special when it was released, it really had a larger following that any of the Zelda titles.

The out-of-universe explanation is, this game was the biggest and most loved by the fans, so they made it the most important part of the new "zelda timeline". The in-universe answer is, because of the "time-travel" being used in Ocarina, allowed the storytellers to make alternate time/dimension paths from the game.

Link wins-good wins, evil loses-you get Majora's Mask, or whatever the other game followed the adult timeline(twilight princess i think). Link loses, land floods-evil wins-new Legend of Zelda era. However, you can argue that because of time travel, the universe changed, and now you have all these continuities.

The series was never meant to be sequels and prequels, just new adventures.

  • 2
    Ummm, I'm not sure I really agree with this assessment. Nintendo has gone on record as stating that the timeline existed far before Hyrule Historia. So not knowing OoT would be as big as it was, they still felt before the development of that game the timelines would split with that game. I do agree that the time travel mechanic in OoT would split timelines at the end of that game. So making the failure of the hero split from OoT only makes sense if the big N has came out and stated they altered the timeline because it ended up being so important. Otherwise this seems to be just an opinion. Sep 13, 2016 at 19:59
  • They may have claimed a timeline existed, but the truth is none of the games seemed to follow each other, except for a few samples. Legend of Zelda(original) > Zelda 2 Adventures of Link. > Link's Awakening, then going to Ocarina of Time > Majora's Mask, and finally Oracle of Ages/Seasons following each other. Miyamoto himself said more than once that each game that came out was a prequel to the previous, and only several years later, did they actually make a timeline. Sep 13, 2016 at 20:01
  • 1
    Actually, I am pretty convinced that they had a different idea in mind even before the Historia, but then they silently changed their mind and attempted to have the fan believe the new version was planned from the start (I would even go to the point to say that I am not even sure it was Aonuma that first mentioned the split timeline theory. I, for once, saw that spread between the sages on the Nintendo of America forum before ever hearing of the "interview").
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 14, 2016 at 17:57
  • Adventures of Link is surely intended as a follow-up to the original game, but then Link to the Past almost seemed to be intended a prequel to those. Even later, Ocarina came to match the "ancient war" described in the LttP intro... Yep, as you say Miyamoto version seems the most realistic one. They changed their plan from a vague "each game is a prequel to the one before" to an actual timeline after the games where already made.
    – SPArcheon
    Sep 14, 2016 at 18:01

The basic founding principle of time travel (at least for purposes here is): When you travel forward in time, you stay in the same timeline (essentially sleeping and waking up). But when you travel backwards in time, you create a new timeline, leaving the timeline you were originally in.

This mostly makes sense from a science-fiction point of view, insofar as the original timeline never had a time-traveler, so the only resolution to the paradox is that that a new timeline is created, and the original timeline goes on without the person who traveled back in time.

Throughout Ocarina of Time, there is exactly one time that it is absolutely necessary to travel back in time -- during the Spirit Temple, in order to get the silver gauntlets. It is here that the "adult" timeline is created, and the original "hero is defeated" timeline is abandoned without a Link to save Hyrule.

In other words, Link is never killed, but he is defeated by being outsmarted by Ganondorf, because the only way to win is to abandon that timeline.

Then of course, when you finish the game, Zelda sends you back to your childhood, aka the "child timeline," leaving the "adult timeline" without a Link.

Another way of looking at it: you start Ocarina of Time in the "hero is defeated" timeline. To get the silver gauntlets, you travel back to your childhood, creating the "adult" timeline. You kill Ganon, and Zelda sends you back to your childhood, creating the "child" timeline.

source video:

  • 2
    The game actually expects you to go back in time twice: once for the Lens of Truth and then again for the Silver Gauntlets. Apr 27, 2020 at 12:29

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