The following is a list of games in The Legend of Zelda series in order of their first release, with their release years shown in parentheses, along with any additional information about their placement in the timeline.
- The Legend of Zelda (FDS: 1986, NES: 1987, FC: 1994, GCN: 2002 (AC), 2003 (CE), GBA: 2004, VC: 2006)
- This is the first game of the series. In this game, Ganon is in his pig-like beast form. According to the instruction manual and the official website, shortly before the beginning of the game, Ganon broke free from the Dark World, and his army attacked Hyrule, stole the Triforce of Power, and captured the ruling Princess Zelda, but not before she had time to break up and hide the Triforce of Wisdom.
- According to its instruction manual, it takes place "several seasons" after the first game, and features the same Link, but a different Zelda. Moreover, the story references Ganon's destruction by Link in the first game. The game's back-story also references an old legend of Hyrule. According to it, long ago, a prince of Hyrule should have inherited the Triforce after the king's death, but he only obtained part of it. Indeed, his sister, Princess Zelda, let him keep the Triforce of Power and the Triforce of Wisdom, but the late king hid the Triforce of Courage. The prince and a magician questioned Zelda, but she refused to reveal the location of the last piece of the Triforce. In anger, the magician cast an eternal sleeping spell on Zelda, before dying himself. In grief, the prince ordered that all future girls of the royal family be named Zelda. The previous historical Zelda who hid the Triforce of Courage is still asleep at the beginning of the game, and is awakened by Link after he retrieves the Triforce of Courage at the end of the story. This Princess Zelda is not the same one rescued by Link in the first The Legend of Zelda game. The events of this legend were never mentioned in any other games of the series.
1990 to 2000
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SFC: 1991, SNES: 1992, GBA: 2002 (with Four Swords), VC: 2006)
- This is the first of many Zelda games to have Hyrule's history told within the game, and the first in which Ganon's real name, Ganondorf, is revealed. During this game, Ganon is in his demonic form, and sealed in the "Golden Land", more commonly known as the Sacred Realm, with the Triforce. The game's instruction manual tells how all three pieces of the Triforce were originally hidden in the Golden Land. One day long ago, it was found by Ganondorf the Thief, and it granted his evil wish for a monstrous army to attack Hyrule. While the Knights of Hyrule defended the land, the Seven Sages created a magic seal to close off the Golden Realm. The game itself revolves around Ganon's ultimately-successful attempt to break the Sages' seal. Princess Zelda alerts Link to this, and Link goes on a quest to find the Master Sword, its first named appearance in the series, then defeats Ganon to reclaim the Triforce, using various means to travel between Hyrule and the Golden Land, now called the Dark World, during his efforts.
- In this installment, Link shipwrecks on Koholint Island while on his journey. He finds he has lost his equipment, and the only way he can leave the island is to find and wake a creature of great power called the Wind Fish.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Master Quest/3D (N64: 1998, GCN: 2002 (MQ), 2003 (CE), iQue: 2003, VC: 2007, 3DS: 2011 (3D))
- After its release, this game was confirmed by Shigeru Miyamoto as the first in the series' continuity at the time. At the beginning of the game, Ganondorf, the king of the Gerudo tribe, has not yet gained the Triforce, though he does possess magical powers. As the game progresses, Ganondorf follows Link into the Sacred Realm and, as Link pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal, he appears, telling Link he will rule Hyrule as a result of Link giving him access to the Sacred Realm. Link is then promptly put into suspended animation for seven years, until he is "of age" to wield the Master Sword. In the meantime, Ganondorf finds the Triforce, but because his heart is not balanced, it divides into its three pieces: Power, Wisdom, and Courage. Ganondorf retains the Triforce of Power, and uses it to take over and rule Hyrule for seven years. When Link wakes seven years later, he eventually awakens the The Seven Sages and defeats Ganondorf, the Sages then sealing him in the Sacred Realm.
- This game takes place after the events of Ocarina of Time, and stars the same Link, after returning to his youth. While traveling, he is attacked by a Skull Kid and accidentally enters a parallel world called Termina, which is going to be destroyed by a falling moon in three days. Link must relive the same three days repeatedly while trying to undo the events created by the Skull Kid through the power of Majora's Mask, and find a way to stop the impending apocalypse.
2001 to 2009
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC: 2001) and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC: 2001)
- These games are connected via a password system, and one takes place immediately after the other. They can be played and regarded in either order. The Twinrova sisters from Ocarina of Time appear in these games and plan to resurrect Ganon.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords/Anniversary Edition (GBA: 2002 (with A Link to the Past), DSiWare: 2011 (AE))
- The versions of Link and Princess Zelda featured in this game are childhood friends. This is the first game in which Vaati and the Four Sword appear. According to an interview, Eiji Aonuma, a major designer and the director of many games in the Zelda series, considered this game to be the oldest in the timeline, implying that both this and The Minish Cap occur earlier than Ocarina of Time.
- This game takes place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time. Hyrule has been lost for centuries, and now all that remains of its civilization are a few scattered islands on the Great Sea. Halfway through The Wind Waker, the Link and Zelda from this game discover they are the successors to their counterparts in the old kingdom of Hyrule, now drowned beneath the Great Sea. It is revealed in dialogue between survivors of Hyrule that the Link of The Wind Waker is not related to the Hero of Time, the Link of Ocarina of Time; later on in the game, he is referred to as the "Hero of Winds".
- This game tells the story of how Ganondorf obtains the power of an ancient trident and becomes the demon, Ganon.
- This game takes place at least a hundred years after Ocarina of Time. In an interview with Japan's Nintendo Dream Magazine, Aonuma stated that Twilight Princess occurs in a "parallel" world to The Wind Waker, following an alternate timeline in which Ganondorf does not take over Hyrule, and is instead sentenced to execution following the conclusion of Ocarina of Time.
- This game has been released in Japan and North America, and was released in Australia on October 11, 2007, and Europe on October 19, 2007. It is set after The Wind Waker and in the same setting, where Link must rescue Tetra after she is captured by a ghost ship.
- This game was released on December 7 in North America, December 11 in Europe and December 29 in Japan. It is set about a hundred years after Phantom Hourglass.
2010 to present
- This game takes place hundreds of years before Ocarina of Time, before Hyrule was founded.
- This game takes core gameplay elements from recent console installments of the series.
The creators maintain that the series has a set timeline, but due to the poor translation protocols in the 1990s, and debate over what counts as "canonical" material, the available information continues to be disputed. Eiji Aonuma has since promised he will do his best to patch it all up, and reveal the timeline someday, and Shigeru Miyamoto stated in a 2003 interview that there is a master document containing the timeline. Eiji Aonuma has also stated in a July 2007 video interview that there is such a document on his PC, and that this document is considered confidential. According to this interview, development of a Zelda title can commence without the team knowing in advance where exactly the title will fit into the timeline; but by the time the title is finished, its placement in the timeline will be determined. However, this document has not been seen publicly, and there is little other proof of its existence.