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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. *Clap* *Clap* *Clap* 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: After. 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: amiibo. 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,” quote: 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 Gorons, Zoras, Hylians, Ooccas, *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. Twilight. Wild. Me. Twilight. Me. The castle is now a giant stick of Old Spice. Link is on a horse. Backwards. 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: Ganon. 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, Ganondorf. 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? The Failed Hero Timeline. 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. Quote: 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* *ding* 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?” Wrong. 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. Yellow stripe. 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*

Reader Comments

  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. 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!?

  3. 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!

  4. I could never stand the timeline concept. In my headcanon except for the games that are stated direct sequels, its a whole bunch of different but similar dimensions where the same story of good against evil plays out all held together by the multidimensional triforce.

    This timeline thing is a real recent concept for those of us who have been playing these games since the mid 80s. Fans kept asking about it, so they shoehorned something together. Its stupid and doesnt really work because until about 12 years ago, they werent supposed to be connected.

  5. Matpat forgot one important thing in every fallen hero timeline when you can color your suit they ALL have the yellow strap

  6. My theory is the OoT created a space time fissure and as we know from Donnie Darko when this happens it must be corrected or all of the timelines will implode on themselves destroying the universe. In order to correct the fissure Link returned to the OoT timeline and allowed himself to be killed in the battle with Ganon thus eliminating the other 2 timelines and restoring space time. What we also know from Donnie Darko is that when the time lines are resolved and space time is restored to its proper path the splinter time lines are felt as echos or like a faint memory. This is how BotW has references to all time lines, how Zelda can reference all of Links adventures, and also why there is an eighth Heroine, and why Link had to die fighting Ganon in OoT. Further support to my theory is when the developers said BotW happens no matter what time line you follow. The three time lines have been brought together into one and in doing so the Triforce has been restored causing Ganon to revert back to his Gerudo form.

  7. Don't you have to account for the dlc as well? If so when you then the new theory of it being a game that comes after hyrule warriors is proven even more since you get the phantom armor from what I think is phantom hour glass and you get majoras mask, zant's helmet, midna's helmet, tingles suit and more. And those aren't chest that pop out of nowhere. They were chests placed by the thief Misko who stole all these items and placed them around hyrule. To me that seems justified enough to count that and it would seem that the more recent theory where it comes after hyrule warriors bringing all the time lines to gather that makes sense to me.

  8. Wait, I seriously think Breathe Of The Wild has to be in the Child Timeline. In the very beginning of BOTW, there’s a voice calling to Link, telling him to take the slate, and told that he must "shine upon Hyrule once again." Literally in the end of FSA (Four Sword Adventures), the end of the child timeline, Link is named the HERO OF LIGHT.
    That has to be it, right? Plus, Zelda mentions “Twilight.” Put the two together, and I think we have a winner. Let me know what you think 🤔

  9. I actually believe Breath of the Wild is connected to the child time line aswell as the downfall timeline. It's what Zelda said: embers of Twilight. If you think differently, feel free to add comments. That is just my statement.

  10. I think that that is links son and he was trying to save his son so he pught him in a capsule and the only one he remembers is his fathers tales amd legends thats why in the title the sword lppks dameged and used like if someone used it before him.

  11. Hey @The Game Theorists, you said he has no human form, but for breath of the wild 2 the trailer shows what looks like the mummified ganondorf form. Thoughts???

  12. Mrs. Patrick probably makes him do bdsm stuff like links outfit… I have issues also I love you (no homo) and basically watch your channel at least once a day

  13. 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the recent comments are mAtPaT iS wRoNg BeCaUsE oF bReAtH oF tHe WiLd 2!!

  14. The darwin part: if everything is under water tham surely up in the air were no predator can catch younis the safest spot meaning flight= survival on waterplanet! Shame….

  15. Oot: ganon done goofs link almost dies resorecto shrine
    Century later
    Botw: link wake the f up and reks ganon
    Boom

  16. You absolute moron that yellow streak is not a yellow streak is from where he flips the bottom piece of the hat over and it’s just a lighter green

  17. And the most recent time line link that is from the future is the doom guy y’kmow the guy which kills demons that looks evolved forms of the monsters link fought plz try and prove this Mr.Mat

  18. They didnt plan continuity, the older games (fallen time line) were all made by the same team. Then all the other games while they do fit this timeline, they can be inconsistent at best

  19. And also in the legend of zelda BOTW he was defeated and zelda informed purah to take link fallen body to the shrine of reserection.

  20. Fun fact: The deku scrub is gone from hyrule in the the fail hero timeline, they are only found in the four sword adventure in the Dark world or in some other neighboring country in Oracle of seasons and ages.
    And the one in Triforce heros is in a completely different country then hyrule.

  21. At 1:15 or you could just wait 2 years untill you finaly have the money and time to buy it and then 1 week later buy breath of the wild and then beat it

  22. Then there's the ruins of Rauru.  Rauru is only mentioned in Ocarina, where the timelines split.  Rauru Village only shows up in Zelda II.  And since it's intact in that game but not in this one, we can deduce that given all the facts you mentioned here, Breath of the Wild takes place long after that game.

  23. 14:07 – Given what the Triforce actually is, it's likely that Zelda can just see events in every possible timeline in existence.  So anything she says about Twilight or sailing the sea can't really be taken as fact unless we see it in some physical context in-game (or if an NPC OTHER than Zelda mentions it).

  24. 4:40 the art styles similarities makes it seem like the universe is more similar suggesting its closest to its time

  25. The stripe on the hat is a very dead yellow almost green, i think referencing the fact that its a dead world and also thatthe timeline is most likley going to be thought of as the adult timeline, but theres only a hint of yellow to make it cooler like its sorta suggesting its from the failed hero timeline, but trying to not seem like its making itself concrete. Also the color being more faded fits better with the colors of the rest of the game

  26. Plus failed hero timeline are all from a birds eye view except for link 2 but that’s 2d but this game is full 3D and should be in adult timeline as in all failed games the hyrule castle looks different and there is no lowrule and many more I will continue when I find out more information

  27. If you look at the items in the dlc it literally shows that botw is the sequel to twilight princess as you can get tingles outfit (twilight princess)
    Midnas mask( twilight princess)
    And the crown of the unsurper king ( twighlight princes

  28. Hey @matpat
    I quote from the Zulda Encyclopedia, "The zora transformed into the rite due to the unknown properties of the great sea." Ps, pin this comment.

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