Nintendo's beloved Legend of Zelda franchise has been churning out hit games non-stop for over 30 years, and that has led to a rather complicated, convoluted, and sometimes contradicting overarching storyline. A few years back, Nintendo released an official chronology that confirmed the existence of three separate timelines.
We know that Breath of the Wild takes place more than 10,000 years after most of the other games, but which timeline does it call home? Fans have been speculating and debating this question since before the game launched, and there are still many opposing schools of thought. Meanwhile, Nintendo has yet to offer clarification, and they likely never will.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion, an officially licensed book that goes behind the scenes of the game's creation, features quotes from Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma. Here's what he had to say on the subject of Breath of the Wild's place in the Zelda timeline.
"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. 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 realized 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." — Eiji Aonuma
So when does Link's latest Hyrulean adventure take place exactly? Nintendo isn't saying! Aonuma has enjoyed seeing people try to piece together the truth from the various clues left in the game, and he's decided to keep it that way. Rather than confirming its placement, Aonuma believes it's better for fans to decide for themselves.
Personally, I think this is a wonderful decision, and I personally called for Nintendo to do exactly this two years ago. I think it's a fitting choice, given the nature of the game, and it also gives Nintendo more creative freedom going forward. Whatever follows Breath of the Wild doesn't need to confine itself to a specific timeline. By setting the game's events over 10,000 years in the future, there's enough ambiguity that Nintendo can take the story wherever they want, and fans can just fill in the blanks.
Source: Nintendo Insider