The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fantastic, generation defining game, but it achieves a lot of its greatness by specifically throwing off the shackles and baggage of previous games in the series, and doing its own thing. One of the ways this manifests is in its approach to the series’ lore and timeline: while it very clearly acknowledges the timeline, it never actually makes an attempt to fit within the series’ already messed up continuity.
Fans are used to this state of affairs when a new Zelda game launches, because typically, we don’t know right away where on the timeline it fits. That said, we are also used to getting clarifications somewhere down the line on the bigger picture. So there was a general expectation that we’d be told, eventually, just how Breath of the Wild slots into the series’ continuity at some point in time.
We won’t, apparently. In the new Zelda companion book, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion, series producer Eiji Aonuma explains that the developers will not reveal its exact placement because they like to leave things open to interpretation.
“In books like the recently released The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia, we revealed where each Zelda game fell on a timeline and how their stories related, but we didn’t do that for Breath of the Wild,” Aonuma said. “There is a reason for that. With this game, we saw just how many players were playing in their own way and had those reactions I just mentioned.
“We realised that people were enjoying imagining the story that emerged from the fragmental imagery we were providing. If we defined a restricted timeline, then there would be a definitive story, and it would eliminate the room for imagination, which wouldn’t be as fun.
“We want players to be able to continue having fun imagining this world even after they are finished with the game, so, this time, we decided that we would avoid making clarifications. I hope that everyone can find their own answer, in their own way.”
I think this might just be a very diplomatic way of saying “we don’t even know or care about the Zelda timeline, and we’re just making things up, so stop asking us already.” That, or they’re probably telling the truth, but to me, the former seems far likelier.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is out now exclusively on the Nintendo Switch and Wii U.