Zelda’s Ongoing Timeline Wars

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Pretty much as soon as the footage started rolling at E3 for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, did fan speculation about its place in the franchise’s overall timeline and lore begin. Personally, I’ve stopped caring about the timeline in itself, but the continual heated and lively discussion surrounding it is still a point of interest, and I find myself wondering about how Nintendo decided to handle it.

You see, I used to be pretty deep into Zelda timeline theories. Around the early 2000’s I would spend hours each week searching every possible interpretation I could find online about the lore of the Zelda games released up to that point. They’re probably mostly gone now but in the days before Wikia this information was amassed on a ridiculous amount of Zelda fan sites. I think Zelda Universe is the last major one left outside the Zelda Wiki itself, but imagine basically a dozen more sites almost identical to it with slight variations of the content. These places magnified every word of text both in the games and in every interview from either Shigeru Miyamoto or Eiji Aonuma.

I got out of that game when each new Zelda game piling onto the heap of lore just made interpretations and arguments increasingly complex. I got a sense that Nintendo didn’t really care about Zelda’s overall story and just wanted people to enjoy the games individually, which is what I’ve chosen to do. However, I think Nintendo made a mistake when it decided to finally capitulate to fans and publish an official timeline.

Not only did the official timeline not quell the arguments and various alternate interpretations, but in my opinion it took some of the mystery out of the series that helped make it appealing in the first place. To be honest, I think the search for the answers was more fulfilling the actually getting them. The thought that these games we were playing hid some secret subtext deep within their art, story, characters, and even their very code, made the Zelda games seem like a little more than just games. The whole series is about exploration and finding things, so trying to find the secrets of the whole franchise felt like a fun game in itself.

Another franchise where this has become somewhat big is that of Fumito Ueda’s games for Sony: IcoShadow of the Colossus, and soon The Last Guardian. But Ueda did something better with the lore of his games: he encouraged fans to come to their own conclusions about what was going on, only definitively stating that Colossus is a prequel to Ico. A lot of big game franchises that build up a bunch of lore over the years seem to be come obsessed with answering all questions, the most egregious example in recent video games probably being Metal Gear Solid 4. Instead of offering answers everyone probably won’t like though, maybe it’s just better to let everyone keep wondering. If nothing else it keeps people engaged with the intellectual property, maintaining interest in it.

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