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!!Series Chronology
The games in the series have been released in non-chronological order quite frequently. ShigeruMiyamoto and Eiji Aonuma have told the press that they have a "Master Timeline" document in their possession detailing how every game is connected. The document for the series has not been released, mainly due to Nintendo not wanting to {{RetCon}} things left and right when [[http://www.gametrailers.com/video/sdcc-11-zelda-skyward/718134 they change their mind about something or get new ideas]].

However, it has been determined that several games are connected. Some of the games have direct sequels, such as ''Zelda II'' being the direct sequel of the original game and ''Majora's Mask'' being the direct sequel to ''Ocarina of Time''. Most of the games which were released after ''Ocarina of Time'' usually reference it having taken place sometime in the past; and as it shows the origin of Ganon, the BigBad, it marks the start of the main chronology. However, it is not ''the'' first game; ''Skyward Sword'' features the origin of the Master Sword and therefore predates ''Ocarina'', and ''Minish Cap'' (which doesn't involve Ganon ''or'' the Master Sword) may take place prior to ''Ocarina of Time'' but after ''Skyward Sword''.

WordOfGod has confirmed that the series has a split timeline caused by Link's time travel during ''Ocarina of Time''; these are referred to as the "adult" timeline (where Adult Link defeats Ganon and Hyrule is restored) and "child" timeline (where Link is sent back to his childhood by Zelda, where he gets the chance to nip Ganondorf's plot in the bud). The split leads into ''The Wind Waker'', ''Phantom Hourglass'' and ''Spirit Tracks'' on the adult timeline and ''Majora's Mask'' and ''Twilight Princess'' on the child timeline. However, there is a ''lot'' of fan speculation about the timeline, resulting in frequent massive flame wars and an entire community dedicated to the Zelda timeline.

At the end of 2011, Nintendo released Hyrule Historia where an "official" timelne is released - and it includes ''three'' different paths. It's [[http://www.zeldawiki.org/Zelda_Timeline here]]. Of course, both Miyamoto and Aonuma admitted things did not line up exactly right. These "gaps" are often left there on purpose so they don't write themselves into a corner when designing a new game.

!!Incarnations of the Characters
In spite of the various games taking place in many far-removed periods of time, every game features a character named Link, with characters named Zelda and Ganon(dorf) popping up almost as frequently. This LegacyCharacter system has been justified in-universe by having Link and Zelda being reincarnations of chronologically earlier versions of their characters. Ganon, however, has been confirmed to be the exact same incarnation in all his appearances; he has repeatedly been a SealedEvilInACan, so he's never had the opportunity to die and then reincarnate. There ''is'' a "multi-Ganon" camp which holds that Ganon ''is'' a different incarnation in each game, but it is very much a minority view.

It isn't just these three main characters that show up in multiple games. If a certain character is popular enough, he or she may reappear in a future game, serving a similar role. Sometimes this is essentially the same character, but at other times, he or she goes by a different name or appearence, but is [[{{Expy}} clearly inspired by that first character]].

One character is Marin from ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaLinksAwakening''. She was originally designed as an {{expy}} of Zelda (or at least bore a resemblance to her), accompanying her is her father, Tarin, who is an expy of [[Franchise/SuperMarioBros Mario]], a character hailing from a different series entirely. Marin and Tarin were influential enough that they themselves received expies in the form of [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime Malon and Talon]], who in turn appeared in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOracleGames'' and inspired characters like [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask Romani and Cremia]] (both based on Malon), [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker Aryll]] (based more on Marin), [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess Illa and her father, Mayor Bo]] and [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword Pumm and Kina]].
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