Are you bored with a lot of time on your hands? Why not play all Zelda games in order from start to finish? If you want to take on the challenge, here’s a comprehensive list of all the games in release order, chronological order, and an explainer on the Zelda timelines. Buckle up. It’s going to be a long ride. We all know how the story of Hyrule goes, but here’s a quick summation that applies to almost every entry in this list; an ancient legend prophesizes that evil Ganon tries to dominate Hyrule, using the triforce, but constantly falls to a legendary hero – usually with the help of seven sages. To prevent this from happening again, they split the triforce into three pieces. Then? Chaos ensues.
If you’re still deep into your Hyrulean journey, our guides can help you out. Here is everything you need to know about Tears of the Kingdom shrines, all the Tears of the Kingdom characters, and our picks of the best Zelda games.
Let’s get into the history of Hyrule and see all Zelda games in order.
Let’s get this out of the way first, as I’m going to mention it a few times. What’s all this different timeline business? Basically, three official timelines exist and they all branch from the events in Ocarina of Time. Nintendo published the Hyrule Historia book in 2011, laying out the timelines, with Eiji Aonuma himself also confirming them – though that was back in 2003 before the addition of the ‘Fallen Hero’ timeline.
These canon timelines are the Child, Adult, and Fallen Hero timelines – though a fourth is now apparent in the Switch titles. If we look at the BOTW Creating a Champion book, it states that everything before Breath of the Wild’s backstory ‘faded into myth,’ thus creating yet another timeline for the games centered around the Switch title.
The ‘Child’ timeline and the ‘Adult’ timeline both split from a situation where Link defeats Ganon, and Zelda sends Link back to his childhood. The ‘Child’ timeline branches off and follows Link in his own time, and the ‘Adult’ follows Link after disappearing. Finally, the ‘Fallen Hero’ timeline branches off from a situation where Ganon wins.
Basically, the three (or four) timelines allow you to explore situations in alternate worlds where different things happen to widen the world of Hyrule.
Here we go, Hyrule’s entire history in one helpful list:
The Legend of Zelda
- Initial release date: 1986 on NES
The Legend of Zelda is the first game, the beginning of it all, and our introduction to Link, Zelda, and Hyrule. In true Nintendo style, the hero sets out to save a princess from an evil monster. Link accepts the quest to save Princess Zelda from Impa, whom he finds by chance and rescues in the overworld. Along the way, Link must find the pieces of the triforce and use them to his advantage after Ganon’s invasion, hiding the pieces in different dungeons. This first game introduced many core features of the series, like heart containers, weapon upgrades, and some key enemies that crop up time and time again.
Originally on the NES, the Legend of Zelda did get a release on GameBoy Advance in 2004 and is now on the Nintendo Switch Online service for you to dive back in.
In terms of the timeline, this game isn’t actually the first in the history of Hyrule – it allegedly takes place in an alternate reality in the ‘Era of Decline’ where Hyrule is no longer a giant ruling area and is only a small kingdom.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
- Initial release date: 1987 on NES
Carrying on from The Legend of Zelda is the Adventure of Link, where the now teenage hero once again must save Princess Zelda and find the triforce. He finds a strange mark on the back of his hand and, under Impa’s guidance, opens a long-sealed door in the castle. Here, he finds a Zelda – though not the same as in the debut game – as all princesses in the royal family have the name Zelda.
Turns out, the mark on Link’s hand means he is the chosen one, the hero destined to awaken this Zelda. Meanwhile, Ganon’s forces get wind of this and try to kill Link, as his apparently magical blood can resurrect Ganon. He fights past this and claims the triforce of courage, reuniting it with its counterparts, and awakens Zelda. This is the first game that Dark Link appears in, too, as that’s who guards the triforce of courage.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Initial release date: 1991 on SNES
Is your mind boggled yet? No? Then let’s keep going. A Link to the Past sees Link awoken from sleep by a mysterious voice – Princess Zelda – who asks Link to save her from the evil Agahnim who has her held captive and is trying to free Ganon. Link hears of the Master Sword and heads to Kakariko Village to find it so that he may defeat the evil. However, Link must go to the Dark World to rescue Zelda again (along with descendants of the six other sages), defeat Agahnim and Ganon, and retrieve the triforce.
A Link to the Past is a prequel set way before the events of the first two games and starts the Fallen Hero branch of the timeline.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
- Initial release date: 1993 on GameBoy
Both the initial release of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on GameBoy and the 2019 remake for Switch take place on Koholit Island, far away from Hyrule’s shores. The timeline places Link’s Awakening after A Link to the Past and before the two Oracle games. After A Link to the Past, the hero continues training by visiting new areas but gets shipwrecked on Koholit.
This entry doesn’t really have any bearing on the overarching Zelda story, considering the princess herself or Ganon aren’t in it, and some Mario enemies make an appearance across the island. Oh, and the entire island is just a dream, so there’s that.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Initial release date: 1998 on N64
Ocarina of Time graced N64 consoles in 1998 and then had a 3D rerelease on 3DS in 2011. It’s a pivotal game for anyone wanting to understand the Zelda series, along with being one of the best games ever released.
To try and briefly summarize the events in Ocarina of Time, Link gets sent to speak with Princess Zelda after visiting the dying Great Deku Tree. Zelda tells him of her worries about Ganondorf, the Gerudo King, who she believes is after the triforce. Zelda then asks Link to perform a tiny errand – collect three spiritual stones, go into the sacred realm, and get the triforce first. No big deal, right? Link makes it to the realm eventually, though Ganondorf sneaks through with him, and he nabs the triforce.
This is where it all gets a bit nasty. Link becomes sealed in the realm for seven years until he comes of age and can wield the Master Sword against Ganondorf – who took over Hyrule with the triforce in hand. From there, Link visits the seven sages to gain their trust and defeat Ganondorf again. And then again, after he turns into a beast – Ganon – and turns Hyrule Castle into a pile of rubble. In the end, Zelda sends Link back in time to his childhood using the ocarina, where he remembers what happened…
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- Initial release date: 2000 on N64
Majora’s Mask is the first entry into the ‘Child’ timeline and picks up a few months after the events of Ocarina of Time, though it’s set in Termina – an alternate version of Hyrule. Here, Link tries to reunite with Navi but falls prey to the Skull Kid, who steals the ocarina.
As you make your way through Majora’s Mask, you retrieve the ocarina and can reset time to the beginning of the three-day cycle you’re stuck in before the very friendly-looking moon falls onto Termina’s Clock Town area, thus ending the world. Link sets about fixing the plight of those in this world and awakens the four guardians in order to stop the moon from falling.
Majora’s Mask also got a 3D remake on 3DS in 2015, bringing it in line with Ocarina of Time.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons
- Initial release date: 2001 on GameBoy Color
These two games are essentially part and parcel of the same story. In order to reveal the entire story, you need to finish both. Ages takes place in Labrynna, where Link must rescue Nayru, whereas Seasons sends Link to Holodrum, where he saves Din.
Both games begin with the triforce calling to Link and sending him to a new destination to assist with a quest. In the Oracle of Seasons, Link immediately meets Din, who becomes kidnapped by the General of Darkness, leaving her attendant Impa behind. Link then sets off to find eight essences, with which he can create a Maku seed, and enter the General’s castle and rescue Din.
In Oracle of Ages, Link finds Impa first this time, who asks him to help her locate Nayru, a singer, in the forest. Turns out it wasn’t actually Impa and was the evil Veran who possesses Nayru. Chaos ensues, and Link once again must find the eight essences to get a Maku seed and head into Veran’s tower.
The link between these two worlds is Twinrova, who captures Princess Zelda and, in turn, lights the Flame of Despair and tries to revive Ganon. It’s a tale as old as time at this point. Anyway, Link beats Twinrova, but Ganon revives – so Link kills that too.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Initial release date: 2003 on GameCube
And now, we start on the ‘Adult’ timeline in The Wind Waker. Originally released on GameCube, it got an HD remake on Wii U in 2013, allowing a lot more people to play it. Anyway, this game follows a new Link that lives on Outset Island in the middle of the Great Sea, a long time after Ganon returned once more without a Link to stop him.
Link’s coming-of-age celebrations get cut short when a giant bird kidnaps his sister. With the help of pirate Tetra, Link heads to the Forsaken Fortress to rescue his sister. Here, he becomes captured instead. He escapes and meets the classic talking boat, the King of Red Lions. He tells Link that Ganondorf is behind all of this and that Link must defeat him with the power of the Hero of Time. So, he sets out to do just that.
I’m skipping over a lot here, but Link gets the Master Sword and then heads to end Ganondorf once again. It’s no use, though, as the sword is out of power, and Ganondorf realizes that – gasp – Tetra is a reincarnation of Zelda! Link sets out to restore the sword’s power, awaken new sages, battle through temple trials, and hunt down the shards of that pesky triforce once again. You’ll never guess what happens next – Ganondorf kidnaps Tetra, meaning an epic battle ensues between Link, Tetra, and all manner of powerful allies before Link stabs Ganondorf with the Master Sword and turns him to stone. By the way, the land of Hyrule? Totally submerged in Wind Waker.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
- Initial release date: 2004 on GameBoy Advance
Are you still with me? Good, because we’re not done yet. When does the Minish Cap take place? After Skyward Sword, it acts as a prequel to Four Swords. Who’s in it? Link, Zelda, and Vaati, a big enemy in Four Swords.
Long ago, the Picori saved Hyrule – they’re a teeny-tiny race of humanoid critters who fought back against evil. All is fine and dandy, until one day, when Link and Zelda head to the celebration of the thwarting of said evil, where some silly sausage decides to unleash it all again. It’s Vaati, and as he does so, he turns Zelda to stone and flees. Link sets off to find the Picori and get a sword forged to rescue Zelda. There’s more to it, but Link gets a shiny new sword and the Minish Cap and returns to defeat Vaati and free Zelda.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
- Initial release date: 2004 on GameCube
Amazing news – Four Swords got a sequel – Four Swords Adventures! This takes place after Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess (yes, even though that isn’t released just yet), and is chronologically the last game before Breath of the Wild. Neat, huh? The big bad in Four Swords is yet another, separate version of Dark Lord Ganondorf from the one you met in Ocarina of Time.
Zelda makes a plea to Link to protect her in the castle while they try to open the Four Sword Sanctuary – hence the name of the game. However, Shadow Link pops out and kidnaps Zelda’s maidens. The proper Link unsheaths the Four Sword, splitting himself into three clones (confused yet? I am) to take on Shadow Link. Meanwhile, Hyrule is in disrepair, and people keep disappearing.
Turns out Ganon is behind it all, but the four versions of Link work together to defeat all of Ganon’s minions, and then the man himself. Ganon becomes sealed inside the Four Sword which is then placed under magical barriers.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- Initial release date: 2006 on GameCube/Wii, 2016 on Wii U
Twilight Princess nestles in the middle of the Child timeline after defeating Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time. A dark presence falls over Hyrule as children start to disappear, which Link tries to investigate – but falls prey to a curse, turning him into a wolf. An odd spirit, Midna, offers to help him, and they go to find Princess Zelda. In order to rid Hyrule of the Twilight’s power, he must revive the Light Spirits. This is not enough, and Link must continue on and find the Master Sword. Fun tidbit: as they work to save Hyrule, Midna and Link encounter the Hero’s Shade – the ghost of the same Link in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.
Link and Midna learn of a mirror that can let them into the Twilight Realm, where they may fix the issues emanating from it. It’s broken, though, so they must find the pieces to fix it. Once they fix the mirror, it turns out Midna can wield it and that she, too, is under a curse. The first villain is Zant – who cursed Midna – whom Link defeats after learning he made a pact with our old friend Ganondorf.
Here we go, gang. It’s back to Hyrule to fight Ganondorf in the castle. A vicious battle ensues between dark beast Ganon and Link in his wolf form before Ganondorf gains the upper hand and destroys the castle. The two lads take off on horseback and end up having a battle in their humanoid forms, where Link does him in with the Master Sword… again. At the end of Twilight Princess, Midna takes her leave and severs the Twilight Realm from Hyrule. Link then goes off on his own adventure, but no one quite knows where he goes.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
- Initial release date: 2007 on DS
Phantom Hourglass is a direct sequel to The Wind Waker, featuring Link and Tetra once again. While traversing the flooded Hyrule, Link gets separated from Tetra and wakes up on a mysterious island.
After meeting some new accomplices, Link sets out across the sea to locate Tetra and must find spirits of courage, wisdom, and power to help him. Not the triforce, just spirits. Link finds Tetra, now turned to stone, and sets about defeating Bellum to return Tetra from her rocky prison – who doesn’t go down without a fight.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
- Initial release date: 2009 on DS
Spirit Tracks is the last game in the ‘Adult’ timeline, an entire century after the Phantom Hourglass and Wind Waker. In this game, Link is a train driver, which is honestly a nice change of pace. Though, of course, there’s an issue – the Spirit Tracks are disappearing, so Princess Zelda enlists Link to help investigate.
You’re not going to believe this – Zelda’s body gets kidnapped. Her spirit follows Link as he works to retrieve it, revive the Spirit Tracks, and fix the mess plaguing New Hyrule. This is a nice and contained story, without the influence of Ganon or Ganondorf for once, with little integral history or lore to affect the timeline.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- Initial release date: 2011 on Wii
Though it’s a late entry into the series (and got a fancy 2021 remaster on Switch), Skyward Sword holds a lot of sway in terms of the Zelda timeline. Chronologically, it’s the first game. Skyward Sword is set in Skyloft, where Hyrule’s people get sent by the goddess Hylia to safety – after the Demon King Demise terrorizes the land in search of that pesky triforce.
To summarize, Zelda gets snatched away by an evil force, and Link must set out to save her, as he follows a voice hidden inside a sacred Goddess Sword. This is Fi, his companion throughout the game. By drawing the sword, he takes his place as the prophesied hero and must travel across the surface in search of Zelda. Here’s where it gets interesting – Link finds Zelda and Impa just as Ghirahim, a villain set on freeing Demise, descends and fights him. Zelda and Impa escape back in time through a gate.
After a lot of trials and combat, Link finds another gate and heads back to find Zelda, who it turns out is a mortal reincarnation of the goddess Hylia, unfortunately too weak to seal Demise. She forged the Goddess Sword and prophesied a hero to do away with Demise once and for all using the triforce. Zelda then gives her power to the Goddess Sword, which becomes the… Master Sword. Bet you didn’t see that coming!
The really interesting part is that after some more back and forth between Zelda’s second kidnapping by Ghirahim, Link defeats him, but not being able to stop Demise from resurrecting, and then Link defeats him too – Demise places a curse on both Link and Zelda’s bloodlines, setting into motion all these generations of Links and Zeldas that are fated to deal with Ganons and Demises across time for all eternity. Despite this, Link and Zelda establish the kingdom of Hyrule on the surface of the land, and it’s all smooth sailing for a few years.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- Initial release date: 2013 on 3DS
A Link Between Worlds falls as part of the ‘Fallen Hero’ timeline, somewhere between the events of A Link to the Past and the two Oracle games. In it, we’re introduced to Lorule as well as Hyrule, two lands living simultaneously. Lorule does not have a triforce, however, and falls into ruin because of it.
Link, a plucky young blacksmith’s apprentice on his way to deliver a sword, gets caught up in an altercation with villain Yuga. He reports this to Princess Zelda, who tells Link to find three pendants in order to wield the Master Sword and defeat evil. Link takes on Yuga but becomes cursed with the ability to turn into a painting at will, allowing him to sneak along walls and such. Yuga, of course, kidnaps Zelda and whisks her away to Lorule, where Link follows.
Lorule’s ruler is Hilda, who assists Link but requires him to rescue the seven sages in the land so they can create the triforce of courage. But! Hilda steals it, and it turns out she’s behind all of this mess, but she too gets hoodwinked by Yuga. Link beats him – of course – and Hilda apologizes, so they all work happily together to restore Lorule. That’s the gist of it, anyway.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
- Initial release date: 2015 on 3DS
In Tri Force Heroes, Link leaves Hyrule behind and heads out on an adventure in Hytopia, a land ruled by King Tuft and Princess Styla. Here, they enlist Link to help defeat an evil foe. Conveniently, there are two other heroes that look just like him, wearing red and blue, forming the ‘tri’ part of the title. Fun fact, the Hytopians have rounded ears, not the pointy Hyrulean type.
Now, how does this fit into the timeline, you ask? Well, the Link featured here is the very same one you play as in A Link Between Worlds. He’s a busy lad.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Initial release date: 2017 on Wii U and Switch
As you start Breath of the Wild, you awaken as Link, who has been asleep for 100 years in a restorative state. Upon entering Hyrule, you must recover memories and set out to finish the quest from 100 years ago – defeat Ganon and save Zelda. The story takes you to the lands of the Rito, Zora, Gorons, and Gerudo, where you learn about the Calamity that nearly destroyed Hyrule.
This particular game takes place at the end of the Zelda timelines, branching into a new one – but more on that later. There are nods to previous games, and it follows the general history of the series but raises a lot more questions than it answers in terms of who certain groups of people were and how Hyrule came to be.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
- Initial release date: 2020 on Switch
If you haven’t played this, then what are you waiting for? Go, now, and witness the funny and heartwarming cutscenes featuring all of our favorites from Breath of the Wild, then go and beat up swathes of bokoblins on the battlefield. Age of Calamity shows us a glimpse into the past of the four champions, along with Zelda, and even adds content with some enemies like Master Kohga.
It’s up for debate as to how ‘canon’ the story is in Age of Calamity, as it is set 100 years before Breath of the Wild during the Calamity, but seemingly none of the story carries over to Tears of the Kingdom. However, the disappearance of all Shiekah tech in Tears of the Kingdom could explain where little Terrako, our companion robot, goes.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- Initial release date: 2023 on Switch
And here we are, all caught up to 2023. The latest (and perhaps greatest) Zelda game is Tears of the Kingdom, following Link as he adventures across land and sky to once again bring peace to Hyrule. The Demon King Ganondorf rears his ugly head after breaking free from his prison beneath Hyrule Castle and blights the land with horrid monsters hell-bent on hunting poor Link.
Without spoiling the entire plot, we’re not sure where the series will, or could, go after the events of Tears of the Kingdom – will it continue? Will we get an entirely new flavor of Zelda games in the next title? All remains to be seen.
If you haven’t picked up Tears of the Kingdom yet – firstly, why not? And secondly, read our Tears of the Kingdom review here to sway you into getting it, or some Tears of the Kingdom amiibo for your shelf.
Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. Most players out there may have heard of the differing timelines, which are officially recognized by Nintendo, that make it a little confusing for those wanting to play all the games in chronological order. Thankfully, we’ve got a concise list to follow if you want to begin at the birth of Hyrule and follow it all the way to today’s kingdom.
- Skyward Sword
- The Minish Cap
- Ocarina of Time
- Majora’s Mask
- Twilight Princess
- Four Swords Adventures
- Wind Waker
- Phantom Hourglass
- Spirit Tracks
Fallen Hero timeline
- A Link To The Past
- Link’s Awakening
- Oracle of Seasons
- Oracle of Ages
- A Link Between Worlds
- Tri Force Heroes
- The Legend of Zelda
- Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
- Breath of the Wild
- Tears of the Kingdom
Do you feel learned? Now you know the entire chronological history of the Legend of Zelda. If you would like an even deeper dive into Zelda lore, drop me an email, and I’ll consider it… maybe. For more fanciful Nintendo information, check out all the Splatoon characters, and when the next Splatfest is, or for something a little different, here are all the latest Genshin Impact codes.