As if the three timelines of the Zelda universe weren't confusing enough, fans are now forced to ask the overcomplicated question: "Where does Breath of the Wild fall in the timeline?" As you can imagine, players have a lot of opinions on how BotW fits into the overall lore of the franchise.
Of course, there are (some) theories about Breath of the Wild that have nothing to do with the game's place in the canon. Some people are wondering what's going on with the Master Sword, whereas others have questions about the Shrine of Resurrection's true purpose.
These Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild fan theories aim to answer all those questions and more. As is the case with most Nintendo fan theories, some of these "what if?" scenarios get pretty in depth, and a few are off the rails even by Zelda's standards.
'BotW' Exists At The End Of The Failed Hero Timeline
The "Failed Hero" timeline is precisely what it sounds like: it's the third possible timeline after Ocarina of Time that sees Link fall at the hands of Ganon. The Game Theorists break down this theory in an amazingly in-depth video, but their thesis can be summarized with two major points:
- In this timeline, Ganon is eventually defeated and reincarnated four times, resulting in the monstrous Calamity Ganon of BotW who has shed all humanity to become pure evil.
- The discoverable piece of armor in the game known as the Cap of the Wild has a yellow band that exclusively matches Link's costume design from the games in the Failed Hero timeline. Case closed.
'BotW' Doesn't Fit In The Timeline
- In Wind Waker, Hyrule is left with no hero when Link travels back in time.
- In Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess, Link returns to Hyrule as a child.
- In The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link, Link is defeated by Ganon.
Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and producer Eiji Aonuma claim that BotW falls after Ocarina of Time in the overall timeline, but don't specify which of the three plots it fits into. It can't be the Wind Waker timeline because in that game, a new Hyrule is founded, yet BotW features the Temple of Time from the old kingdom of Hyrule.
YouTuber Zeltic theorizes that the game must fit into the third timeline, due to the Master Sword's location in the Lost Woods, but there's contradictory evidence to that as well. At one point in BotW, Zelda says, "Whether skyward bound, adrift in time, or steeped in the glowing embers of twilight…" This is an obvious reference to the second timeline, but the Master Sword would have to be in the Temple of Time if that all fit together. In short, every possible timeline has a disproving element.
As Redditor /u/yay855 suggests, "Breath of the Wild is the first Zelda game not directly connected to any others aside from references. Nintendo has officially thrown out the timeline in an effort to stop restricting themselves."
Ganon And Vaati Fuse At Some Point
Gamefaqs user Thunder176 labors under the assumption that BotW rests at the end of the Child Timeline (the one where Link stops Ganon from acquiring the Tri-Force in Ocarina of Time) directly after Four Swords. That game features both Ganon and Vaati, an evil being that's more ancient than Zelda's main antagonist. Thunder176 believes that Ganon and Vaati actually fuse into one being after the events of Four Swords, as is evidenced by Dark Beast Ganon's design (specifically the black, purple, and yellow coloring around his giant eyeball), which is reminiscent of Vaati's color scheme. This fusion would also explain the great leap in power Ganon achieves when he becomes Calamity Ganon.
All Three Timelines Merge Into One For 'BotW'
Since the Zelda timeline is such a mess, theories exist that place Breath of the Wild in each of the franchise's three timelines. Cutting through the miasma, Redditor /u/accrsd has a neat solution: what if all three timelines merged into one for BotW? Part of the claim is based on the fact that the game apparently references all of the timelines, but the argument is considerably more nuanced than that:
"You see since the 3 timelines would be merging (probably because of a wish made on the triforce) we'd have a very interesting problem on our hands. That of there being 3 copies of the hero's spirit, Ganon, and Zelda. Of course Ganon would try to find a way to become more powerful through this and it would be up to a new link and the 3 hero's spirits to defeat him but not before Ganon completely sheds his mortality and becomes Calamity Ganon. This in my opinion would also somewhat explain why Zelda in BoTW had such a hard time being able to use her abilities in the past. She'd most likely have burnt out her power sometime in the past, possibly to help stop Calamity Ganon the first time."