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In the various Zelda video games, there seems to be a common mythology, and at least some potential to be in the same place. Do the various Zelda games take place in the same world, or is there no intent to do so?

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This chart, translated from one found in the Japan released only Hyrule Historia, shows the full timeline of the Legend of Zelda series.

Timeline of Zelda series

All of the games are intended to be in the same universe with several divergent timelines. It has never been fully explained, but much of the in-game mythology as explained in Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker strongly suggests that in fact, all of the "Links" are one person. He is often referred to as the Hero of Time, and said to be called from obscurity when he is needed by Princess Zelda, who is also frequently present throughout Hyrule's history. Ganon is the name given to the dark force that opposes Link and Zelda, often under different aliases and magical transformations. It is said in Wind Waker that Link, Zelda, and Ganon are literally incarnations of the three aspects of the Triforce: courage, wisdom, and power, explaining their cycle of reincarnation/resurrection and conflict.

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    Most of the Links are reincarnations, same as the Zeldas. Some games have continuity with the same Links/Zeldas from other games (both Oracle games and Link's Awakening are one set, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask is another common example). It's the Ganons/Ganondorfs that are all the same guy, because he keeps getting resurrected, not reincarnated. – Izkata May 3 '12 at 0:52
  • He is mentioned as an incarnation of the Power side of the Triforce in Wind Waker, though. He's also completely changed his bodily form/identity several times. Whether he is still around by reincarnation or resurrection, he's still far more than just human. But, good point still. :) – Gabe Willard May 3 '12 at 1:15
  • Yep, he's Gerudo, not human ;) ('Tho, I admit I haven't played most of the Zelda games out there, so there's probably stuff going on with him that I don't know about. But I have read about most of the ones I've missed out on) – Izkata May 3 '12 at 2:05
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    @Izkata Ganon/Ganondorf is usually resurrected, but he does have a few incarnations. I believe the WW Ganon has a different backstory (as in, he apparently starts out good, then is corrupted or something to that effect), so he's a reincarnation. – Gorchestopher H Aug 27 '12 at 16:29
  • It's not on the timeline (because it was answered in 2012) but my best guess for where Breath of the Wild fits on here would be "child era" branch of "hero of time is successful," albeit 10,000 years after the shadow era. There's no mention in BoT of any flood, nor of the Heroes of Time ever failing to Ganon (no tragedy of zelda). – Caleb Jay Dec 13 '18 at 21:19
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I can't say that they all do, but most do.

Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask (the two games originally released for the N64) are both geographically and chronologically close to each other - you play as the same Link in both games, though in two entirely distinct areas of the same world.

It's been a while since I played it, but I always got the distinct impression when playing through Wind Waker that the "legendary Hero" mentioned was the Link from one of the earlier games (most likely Ocarina of Time).

The time periods between games can be quite large, though, so while there are generally key locations that occur in many of the games, the layouts are never the same. That also makes sense from a design point of view - people would get bored of running around Hyrule Castle, for example, if it was the same in every game.

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While this is in no way canon, this YouTube video does an excellent job of theorizing on the idea of a "split" timeline and how all of the Zelda games fall in line (or don't) with each other.

The Legend of Zelda, Split Timeline Theory

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