Game Theory: How Zelda Breath of the Wild SOLVES The Zelda Timeline!

*”Careless Whisper” plays*
MatPat: Oh, you’re all just jealous!
*Game Theory Theme plays*
Hello, Internet! Welcome to Game Theory–
The only show that’s consistent
across all the Zelda timelines.
So today’s theory has been a long time coming–
and by “long time” I mean since March,
which is–let’s face it–a literal eternity when you’re on the internet.
I mean, in that same span of time we’ve had no less than
three “Youtube Is Over” parties.
But thankfully, Youtube is still here, the
(Crash Bandicoot:) WHOA!
(MatPat:) meme didn’t overstay its welcome,
and I’m finally ready to cover Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s timeline placement.
Now, for those of you who haven’t played Breath of the Wild,
well, it means you probably don’t have $300 to burn on a Switch–
since literally everyone who has a Switch has played this game.
But it’s a game you gotta play,
So pause this video, find someone who has a Switch,
befriend that person by giving them food and compliments,
invite them to a sleep over to play games,
wait for them to fall asleep,
grab their Switch,
move to a different state,
and change your name.
It’s as easy as that!
Don’t worry, this video will be here when you get done.
Great! You’ve unpaused the video,
meaning that you’re now a wanted criminal,
and that you’re finally ready to talk Breath of the Wild’s timeline placement!
So, in the game, you play as Link–no big surprises there–as he wakes up from a 100 year nap
to find Hyrule devastated by Calamity Ganon.
Basically, it’s Ganon on evil energy steroids.
*artificially deep, echoing voice* Swole and ‘roided up!
*natural voice* And it’s up to you to reawaken four ancient Power Rangers Zords
*Power Ranger theme in background* *sings:* Go Go Hyrule Champions!
*music ends, MatPat speaks* And defeat Ganon once and for all!
But before we can properly identify where this is in the timelines,
we need to understand the basics of those timelines.
Now, I’m not going to go too in depth here.
For that, there’s this really old, really cringe-y
Game Theory that you can laugh at me for,
up in that “i” icon in the upper right-hand corner.
Watch that and tell me:
Yeah? Those–those are the good ol’ days of Game Theory?
Okay! Sorry, my friends; your memory has betrayed you.
Either that, or man, I am trying way too hard these days.
*sound quality drops drastically* Time to dial it back.
*back to normal quality* Anyway, here’s a brief summary.
The timeline starts with Skyward Sword and remains linear up until Ocarina of Time,
at which point it splits in three.
During Ocarina, you travel through time with the Master Sword,
being a child in the past
and an adult in the future.
At the end of the game, three time lines are created–
because time-hopping always causes a problem!
One follows the adult timeline that you just saved from Ganon,
the second follows Link as he transforms back into a child at the end of the game,
and finally, the third one’s where you fail to defeat Ganon,
you die, and the giant pig-man takes over the Triforce.
That’s right! Every time you blow yourself up with your own bombs,
Ganon goes on to rule Hyrule.
Way to go, Hero of Time.
Way to go.
Sarcastic slow clap.
Alright, so now that you’re all caught up with the timeline,
what do we know for sure about Breath of the Wild’s placement?
In an interview with Game Informer in Febuary
before the release of the game,
Legend of Zelda director Eiji Aonuma
was asked if Breath of the Wild takes place
before or after Ocarina of Time.
His response:
Greaaaaat. Suuuuper helpful there, buddy.
Which means it’s time for us
to put on our Tunics of the Theorists
and get to digging.
Now, before we get too deep into this,
there is some quote-unquote “evidence”
that we need to take off the table:
Any weapon, piece of armor, or wolf version
that comes from amiibo is taken off the table,
since amiibo items are more like Easter eggs than canon.
I mean, you can’t really trust treasure chests that pop out of thin air.
To make sure that we are staying as canon as possible with this one,
we are only using items and clues
that can be physically found in the game.
*Wolf Link whines*
Awh, sorry there, buddy.
*baby-talk* But who’s a good boy?
*Link barks* Who’s a good boy?
Who wants to chew on Tingle’s leg? Yeah, you do!
*natural voice* Before the game’s release,
THE BIGGEST piece of evidence was salt.
And no, we’re not talking about Revali’s saltiness for having to assist you in your journey.
We’re talking about Rock Salt found by smashing mineral deposits.
According to the flavor text,
Rock Salt is, quote:
“Ancient sea,” you say?
Online Zelda theorists immediately concluded
that this could be referring to the Great Sea–
the flooded Overworld that’s your main setting in Wind Waker–
which would put the game pretty solidly in the Adult Era timeline.
The Adult Era was then further supported by two races
that Link interacts with only in Wind Waker:
the Rito–a bird race–
and the Korok, leafy-faced forest spirits.
And it was easy to tie the Koroks from Breath of the Wild
to the Koroks of Wind Waker,
because they look almost identical to each other.
And for a series that changes the looks of the races
with almost every game,
this is saying a lot.
Then you have the Rito, who came into existence in Wind Waker!
According to Eiji Aonuma in the Japanese-only publication
“Zelda Box: The Wind Waker Fanbook,”
End quote.
Cool…That’s totally cool…
I could never come up with a video game that is as influential as you guys,
and I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job or anything,
but have you never heard of Charles Darwin?
The Zora evolve from aquatic animals to birds,
when Hyrule is now
*shouts:* almost completely water!
Anyway, between the rock salt and the races,
it seemed like there was a good case
for Breath of the Wild taking place some time after Wind Waker,
or at least there would’ve been
if Wind Waker was the only appearance of all of these things.
You see, while the Korok only seem to show up
during the events of Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker,
the Rito can actually be found in the other two timelines.
In the Child Era timeline,
you can find a stone relief in Twilight Princess’s Castle Town
that shows Child Link meeting with the
*disgusted noise*
and lastly, the Rito.
Not only that, but in the Failed Hero timeline,
we have the Fokka–
–YouTube, okay?
Don’t demonetize this video. Thanks.
The Fokka are giant, humanoid, bird-like enemies
found in the Great Palace of Zelda 2!
These enemies could very well be the ancestors of the bird-like Rito warriors,
placing Breath of the Wild sometime after The Adventure of Link.
Finally, the rock salt’s reference to an “ancient sea”
could refer to Wind Waker’s ocean, sure,
but it could also be referring to the ocean that used to exist
in the Lanayru Ruins from Skyward Sword.
And you don’t have to listen to me–take it from Fi!
Since heaven knows you didn’t listen to her the first time you were playing the game!
And since the major dungeon of this area is a derelict pirate ship,
it shows that this area was once covered in water,
which means at this point, Breath of the Wild
could still be in any of the three timelines.
So let’s return back to Breath of the Wild.
Another big clue we get from the game comes in the form of Link’s memories.
While adventuring across the lands of Hyrule,
Link will find certain locations that trigger long-forgotten memories
from before he took that hundred-year nap.
In front of Hyrule Castle, a small ceremonial circle is home to Memory #1.
In this memory, Zelda is dubbing Link the new Hero of Hyrule
and says this:
Now, “skyward bound” and “adrift in time”
are obviously referring to Link’s battles
in Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time,
both of which are constant across all timelines.
But it’s that “glowing embers of twilight”
that’s kind of specific to the events of Twilight Princess.
In all the games that occur across all the timelines,
Twilight Princess is the only game where Link deals with the Twilight Realm.
So the fact that Zelda mentions this particular event
is a pretty big hint towards Breath of the Wild landing in the Child Era timeline.
This is also further supported by Hyrule Castle itself.
Look at the castle from Twilight Princess.
And now to Breath of the Wild.
Now to Twilight.
Now to Wild.
The castle is now a giant stick of Old Spice.
Link is on a horse.
In a shower.
Anyway, as you can see,
the architecture of both castles is very similar,
especially compared to that of A Link to the Past and Wind Waker.
But that’s…about it.
This is kind of where all the proof for the Child Era ends.
And I’ve gotta be honest, it doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot to stand on there.
So going back to Breath of the Wild,
we still haven’t accounted for a lot of the physical clues that are present in this game:
clues starting with Hyrule’s geography.
If you take a look at every map of Hyrule,
geography is one of the least consistent things across games.
Apparently, Hyrule’s tectonic plates are “lit AF,”
as they say.
But comparing maps across all the games,
Breath of the Wild does have major geographic landmarks
that line up with the game’s falling into the Failed Hero timeline.
If you take a look at Breath of the Wild’s map
compared to that of Link to the Past,
you’ll notice some significant similarities.
In both maps, we can see that the desert is to the southwest,
Death Mountain is to the north,
the Lost Woods, also north,
and Lake Hylia is to the south.
I mean, granted, they’re not perfectly aligned,
but there’s no denying that they’re a closer match
than anything found in any of the other games.
And not only that, but Spectacle Rock–
a rock formation looking like glasses–
can be found in Breath of the Wild.
This particular mountainous formation
is only found in the games falling in the Failed Hero timeline.
And evidence for the Failed Hero timeline doesn’t stop there.
Breath of the Wild’s most deadly enemy–
the half-horse, half-lion pain train of death,
the Lynel,
has only appeared in five other games throughout the Zelda series.
Their first and most-known appearance
was the original Legend of Zelda,
but they also show up in Link to the Past,
the Oracle games,
and the recent Link Between Worlds.
Whether or not they appear in a given Zelda game is inconsistent at best,
but one thing is true of all the games they’ve appeared in:
they’re all part of the Failed Hero timeline.
You never–NEVER–see them in any of the other games
outside of this one branch,
which strongly suggests
that the Lynels were only recruited into Ganon’s army
once he managed to defeat Link during the events of Ocarina of Time.
And speaking of enemies,
let’s talk the Demon King himself:
In Breath of the Wild, we witness a reincarnation of Ganon
that we have never seen before
called Calamity Ganon,
a Ganon that has gone full-on rage mode.
But the clue here isn’t what IS present,
it’s about what ISN’T.
In both the Child Era and Adult Era,
Ganon is often seen in his Gerudo form,
Even after transforming into the Beast in Twilight Princess,
we see that he can’t maintain the form after getting beaten down by Link.
Instead, we see him preferring his Gerudo form for the final fight.
And he’s sealed as Ganondorf.
Wind Waker is the same way!
Sure, there’s a puppet of Ganon,
but who you’re really fighting in this game is Ganondorf.
But Calamity Ganon is a demon through and through.
He has no humanoid form.
And in what timeline do you never see his Gerudo form?
And that’s official!
According to the Hyrule Historia, when he takes over an Ocarina,
he decides to shed his Gerudo form once and for all.
End quote.
Demon King Ganon!
And that’s the kind of Ganon we’re fighting in Breath of the Wild:
A Ganon that has shed all forms of humanity to become the manifestation of evil,
that after being sealed time and time again
would be enraged enough to give up on reincarnating entirely,
as we hear Zelda say before we fight his Dark Beast form.
And it’s 100% true!
By the time the events of Breath of the Wild occur,
Ganon’s revival had become a century-old tradition.
It’s like Christmas! Except every present is the potential of death!
We see that Ganondorf is revived twice in the Adult Era,
reincarnated once in the Child Era,
and that the Demon King Ganon is revived four times–
four times–
in the Failed timeline.
I mean, hey, I’d just skip to rage mode at that point, too.
But to me, the most convincing piece of evidence comes
when you complete one of the hardest challenges in the game:
by finding and conquering all 120 shrines–
which is exhausting, by the way–
I mean, WHY am I standing on this platform, naked, waiting for the blood moon??
Just to get another Orb?
Whoop-a-dee-doo! A man only needs so much stamina, guys.
Or does he?
*dramatic sound effect*
By conquering every shrine, you unlock three special chests,
which contain the Tunic, Cap, and Trousers of the Wild.
They’re some of, if not the, best equipment items.
And you know they’re gonna be an important reward,
because they’re the prize for pretty much completing the game!
I mean, I know my buddy Jirard the Completionist would argue
that you can also collect all the Korok seeds and iPad pictures, and level up all the armor,
but seriously, beating every dungeon is usually where most people are gonna draw the line there.
Anyway, I’m sure you’re all asking,
“What’s so important about these items?
It’s just Link’s green outfit, right?”
Let’s see if you can spot what I’m talking about.
Look at this art from the first-ever Zelda game.
Here’s Zelda II.
Oracle of Ages and Seasons.
Link to the Past,
Link Between Worlds.
Now look at Link from Twilight Princess.
Wind Waker.
Phantom Hourglass.
Majora’s Mask.
Did you see it?
The yellow stripe in the hat.
In every single game from the Failed Hero timeline,
Link’s hat has that signature yellow band in it.
But in every other timeline, he only has a straight green hat.
Not Twilight,
not Majora’s Mask,
not Wind Waker or Phantom Hourglass.
And look once more at the Hat of the Wild.
This blew my mind–I was so floored, finding this!
Because for years, all us Zelda fans were assuming
that Nintendo just threw together this three-split timeline
because they needed a solution for something that they had never actually planned out
but that the fans were begging them for.
We thought it was a cop-out, but no!
This detail proves not only that Breath of the Wild belongs to the Failed Hero timeline,
but that Nintendo has been keeping track of their continuity
from the very first game in the series!
And there you have it:
Taking in all the evidence,
the scales greatly tip in favor of
Breath of the Wild being at the end of the Failed Hero timeline.
Yes, there’s still that reference to the “twilight,”
but in foreign translations of the game, Zelda also mentions “sailing the high seas,”
so maybe the Triforce of Wisdom gives her vision across all the different timelines?
I don’t know, but I can totally see it being a thing.
Regardless, I’d say that the physical evidence is rock solid–
Spectacle Rock solid.
The only pieces of evidence that can’t be explained away via appearances in other timelines
all point to the Failed Hero branch.
So there you have it!
Feel free to confirm it, Nintendo!
And heck, if you’re upset with the results,
just be glad we didn’t find a way to tie it into the CDI timeline.
Oh no!
Oh no he’s got a yellow strap!!
But hey, that’s just a theory–
A Game Theory!
Thanks for watching!
*instrumental playout*


  1. Ladies and gentlemen, you may have to adjust the color of your monitors…it is definitely a yellow strap! Haha…I didn't realize it would be so controversial. Pull up the Wiki shot of it and it's pretty obvious.
    (You can also judge based on the brown underpieces that Link wears as a part of that outfit as well, plus the little laces in front at his neck…the hat to me was the most obvious, though)

    Also, just to clarify: A lot of people are saying "It's obvious it's Fallen Hero because Link wakes up in a Reincarnation Chamber." Technically, you can't use that as evidence here because the "Hero is Defeated" division is specifically related to Link losing at the end of Ocarina of Time against Ganon, NOT the battles described in BOTW.

    Lastly, a lot of people are mentioning the appearance of the "Mirror of Twilight" in the form of the "Fragmented Monument." And that's a really good point, however, if you look at the "Fragmented Monument" in BOTW, its design is pretty strongly different from the Mirror, in particular the writing in an ancient language around the rim of the circle.

    Could the timelines have united and this is at the end of them? That's actually what I was hoping for as I researched! Sadly, I just didn't feel like there was enough evidence to support that. When I stopped to look at all the evidence together as well as how Eiji Aonuma was talking about this game leading up to its launch, it felt like the team INTENDED this to be a return to that first timeline while making nods to the other games.

  2. Another piece of evidence: when talking with lady impa after you go to the research lab she will say "you may not remember your last meeting with ganon but it did not end well for you

  3. Everyone talking about "Nintendo debunked this."

    But all I can think about is "where the hell did he get the 60fps footage."

  4. One random question… What ever happens to Calatia? You know, the place Link immigrated from in the original LoZ. It gets expanded upon in the LoZ comics, but not much else is said. Those comics also try to hook up the geography of LoZ and and LoZ 2 – which might be useful but probably not give how that geography changes. The comic I'm thinking of, Coming Home, actually allows you to see Link's Parents, Arn and Medilia and it's apparent that Calatia actually has it's own monarch. O_O

  5. hey i don't think its the same link from ocarina of time cause he was left handed and the one in breath of the wild is right handed, anyway im pretty sure its just different generations in links and ganons, a theory of mine is like… in OOT. link defeats ganon puts the sword back and goes back to the lost forest where hes killed and the whole point of majoras mask is link coping with his own death. and if you die in the lost wood you become a skullkid and if you are a warrior you become a skellital warrior or whatever. and thats the link teaching the new link in twilight princess new moves………

  6. But what if there are 2 fallen hero timelines, one were zelda seals ganon after link dies and one were she does not.

  7. 12:07
    Of all the Zelda's you could've chosen for a sex joke, you chose child Zelda…

    I can hear the FBI gearing up now.

  8. Stuff in the past says that it takes place in the child era but since the adult era is the future of the child era wouldn't the 100 year nap take out the possibility of it being in the child era? Or does the timeline work entirely different and I'm just clueless

  9. Mat after this video: what's this..?
    In the distance… I can see something..

    In the distance: ZELDA BREATHE OF THE WILD 2 (With Ganon's body lying somewhere underneath Hyrule…)

  10. Hey I know this is way after this video was out but in the botw 2 trailer he has a hand on his stab wound from you guessed it twilight princess meaning botw is in the child timeline also the cap I don’t see yellow

  11. …….thats not a yellow stripe, your reaching pretty high with that one, ive seen pictures i have the hat ingame, it is in no way a yellow stripe its green

  12. I mean isn't the whole point of BotW giving Link another shot as he failed at defeating Ganon the first time? Zelda and the researchers took Link, put him in a status state to help him heal and recover himself, them wake up 100 or so years later only have his memories wiped and start all over again.
    Point is, he failed. The Hero failed so why are people wondering where this is on the timeline?

  13. Hey mate if you read this I want you to know that Impa says "you may not your last time facing ganon but it didn't go as planned" or something like that

  14. I watched this with an open mind, but now that we know (by the latest trailer for botw2) there is a physical ganon gerudo body underneath hyrule castle. This now changes his theory a little.

  15. I still hate the idea of the fallen hero timeline. That's not how time travel works. If link dies, that's it, there is no successful timeline. It's over. The adult and child timeline split makes sense because of the end of the game where Zelda uses time travel to send link back and cause a split.

    The only justifiable excuse for the fallen hero timeline I can think of is when link has to go back in time before defeating Ganon. Leaving an adult timeline abandoned with Ganon still alive. But, of course, in this scenario Ganon doesn't get the triforce of courage.

  16. This theory is proven wrong as from the botw 2 trailer gannondorf (gerudo form) is under the castle witch its also his tower

  17. It would be in the defeated hero timeline no matter what because in one of the last few memories it even says and shows you that you lost and were put into a 100 year sleep to fight him after you’ve healed!
    Yeesh mat you only need to check the 10th to the 12th memories

  18. people saying this theory is debunked from the botw 2 trailer except its alredy debunked botw exists in all timeline all 3 timelined end with botw

  19. Late to the party on this one, but could the yellow stripe be the way that the creators signify Link’s death making it look like a halo on his hat since it does follow the Fallen Hero timeline? Just a thought. tossin’ it out there…

  20. 1:14 I already did that. I did everything. I got to my friends' house, did a sleepover as usual (We always do this In Summer), See my friend sleep, sneaked to his room to get the Nintendo Switch, Went From England to Northern Island, Smuggled the Stolen Nintendo Switch, Changed my Name, And Stayed there for a year. My New Name is Kevin, Not Lattos. (Also Did Seach Up John Titor)

    Edit: Proof ;

  21. Lol, this is probably the closest the fandomhas gotten to a laid out timeline, so without TRUE confirmation from the creator himself, we truly have no way of knowing where all the games actually tske place within said timeline.

    But, i'll say this: with the drop of the latest BotW 2 trailer, BotW takes place after Twillight Princess. Ganondorf proves that. But, i'm not too into that. I'm just hoping that when this story FINALLY comes to a conclusion, we'll have the timeline laid out to us. I just hope i'll live to see one of my childhood questions answered.

  22. You know what. The triforce has three peices. The timeline has three peices. The triforce might have split the creation timeline into three. The failed timeline is courage. The child timeline is wisdom, and the adult is power.

  23. So how do you explain the presence of the twilight mirror in BotW and the RECENTLY seen corpse of an ancient evil gerudo bound in the depths of Hyrule for BotW sequel?

  24. Urbosa said “There are rumors that Ganon once took the form of a Gerudo…. that will make his defeat much more personal.”

  25. Just a random thought, what if breath of the wild connected all three timelines into one? Not saying it's true, or anything.

  26. Can't recall if this was covered or not, been a while since I've watched the video. Just started playing A link to the past (little late to the party, I know) and I noticed that the old woman near the beginning of the game, when you're supposed to find the elder, says the Hylians are a race of legend that died off a long time ago. Aren't Link and Zelda Hylians in BotW?

  27. I been thinking this for a long time, but what if that yellow stripe symbolizes a halo, in memory of the hero who fell fighting against the Demon King Ganon… 🤔

  28. That stripe looks rather green… Although, even if it's green or yellow, if you reverse the soundtrack in the trailer for BOTW 2 you hear the game over song soo…

  29. 3 Things
    1. BOTW2’s trailer puts a damper on things
    2. The Elden Bridge is in BOTW
    3. Go to the Left Corner of the map and tell me what dilated structure is there
    BOOM theory destroyed

  30. In loz twilight princess there is those guardians of the master sword that have those energy line things. Same as the robot things in botw

  31. Also In one of the memories it showed link getting beat down and failing where he got taken to the shrine of resurection also giving evidence that it's in the failed hero timeline

  32. This theory depended on a lot of straws, and the whole yellow stripe on the cap really isn’t all that big a deal considering the game is 90% Easter eggs to the past games

  33. I humbly disagree. I think Breath of the Wild takes place so far in the future that it unifies the timeline. I'm pretty sure the 10,000 years line that's repeated so often is meant to reinforce this. It's so far in the future that all prior rules apply

  34. What if BOTW is a convergence in the sense that it occurs after ANY fallen hero timeline? At some point in all three, the hero fails to defeat Ganon.

  35. You only solved where it fit in the timeline. You didn't "SOLVE THE ZELDA TIMELINE". Your title is misleading. How is the timeline splitting a problem to be solved?

  36. MatPat: Ganon Doesn't Have A Gerudo Form Meaning It's In The Fallen Hero Timeline Cause hyrule Historia Says So
    Botw2: Heh Sorry For Being Late 😀
    MatPat: D: WHAT THE FUDGE!?

  37. Actually Eiji Aonuma said later that "Breath od the Wild" is no part of the timeline! It is a game that is mixed with all different Zelda stuff. Just look at the spots you can
    visit? Lon-Lon Ranch is still in the BOTW map? So why is it there? Aonuma said people should create theyr own stories. Wich is what people do. Thanks Nintendo!

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