To figure out where Tears of the Kingdom fits on the Zelda timeline, we need to look at a few clues. There are some hints available in previous games and in recent trailers, so let’s start there and explore the lore.
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Tears of the Kingdom Takes Place After Breath of the Wild and Likely Before Skyward Sword
Please keep in mind that this has been written prior to the release of Tears of the Kingdom. As such, everything in this article is speculative. They’re theories drawn from gameplay footage, trailers, and the lore of previous Legend of Zelda games. With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff!
Look at the Logo
Besides the title text, you’ll notice two green serpents that are seemingly eating each other’s tails. This is a play on the symbol of the Ouroboros: a singular serpent eating its own tail. The Ouroboros is the symbol of endless cycles.
From this, we can determine that cyclicity is important in Tears of the Kingdom. The logos of all past Legend of Zelda games have always revealed important story elements. For example, in Majora’s Mask, the eponymous mask appears in the logo. Now, let’s look at possible reasons for this.
Remember Demise’s Curse in Skyward Sword
After Link defeats Demise in Skyward Sword, the villain curses himself, Link, and Zelda to be reborn “in a cycle with no end!” The “incarnation” that Demise mentions is Ganon and his many forms.
However, even with a cycle being clearly hinted at by Tears of the Kingdom‘s logo and directly referenced by Demise, there’s still nothing pointing to Tears of the Kingdom leading into Skyward Sword. For that, we need to look at some more evidence.
Evidence That Supports Tears of the Kingdom Leading Into Skyward Sword
The best evidence we have comes directly from lore and story elements found in Skyward Sword. Also, the recently released gameplay demonstration for Tears of the Kingdom supports our theories. Let’s explore these details in depth.
Flying Islands in Tears of the Kingdom and Skyward Sword
In Breath of the Wild, we did not see any flying islands, however, they appear in great numbers in Tears of the Kingdom. This looks a lot like Skyloft in Skyward Sword. Though, the islands are covered in ruins instead of a civilized society. Explorable flying islands aren’t seen in many other Legend of Zelda games.
From this, we can assume that Tears of the Kingdom and Skyward Sword appear very near to each other on the Zelda timeline. Logically speaking, one would most likely be directly before the other. Since the events of Breath of the Wild lead directly into those of Tears of the Kingdom, it’s impossible for the latter game to happen directly after Skyward Sword.
In turn, the order of the aforementioned games’ events must go from Breath of the Wild to Tears of the Kingdom and then, potentially, to Skyward Sword. This is the order that makes the most sense given the above-mentioned factors.
Skyloft Rising From the Ruins of These Flying Islands
In Skyloft, there were numerous statues and structures that look like they have been there for a long time. These could have been built by the people that began to live on these flying islands. However, they could also have—partially or fully—been there before people started living in Skyloft.
We see tons of ruins on the flying islands in the Tears of the Kingdom gameplay demonstration. These ruins would give the people of Skyloft foundations to work on to create new structures. On top of that, the future citizens of Skyloft could have refined, changed, and enhanced the ancient structures to form buildings that suit their needs.
How the Islands Rose Into the Sky
The flying islands that would become Skyloft were lifted into the sky by the goddess Hylia following some significant events. However, let’s first take a look at these events and how likely they are to occur in Tears of the Kingdom. Then we can get into how and why the goddess Hylia ascended these chunks of land.
In the opening cutscene of Skyward Sword, we’re told that “the earth cracked wide and malevolent forces rushed forth from the fissure.” This is something we’re shown in the most recent trailer for Tears of the Kingdom. Zelda seems to fall into a newly-created fissure. This is likely the catalyst for the main story events.
We’re also shown a mysterious figure with long, red hair that looks a lot like Demise. We only get a shot of this red-haired figure from behind. However, how many other characters in the franchise have lengthy, fiery hair like this?
So we got a big fissure and the appearance of an evil figure (that looks a lot like Demise). It’s likely that the two are linked, but it’s not guaranteed.
With that said, this is too similar to the legend we’re told at the beginning of Skyward Sword to ignore. That, combined with the fact that flying islands begin to appear in the world means that most of the main points of Skyward Sword‘s opening lore are happening in Tears of the Kingdom.
Following the mention of “malevolent forces” appearing from a huge fissure, Skyward Sword‘s opening cutscene mentions that the goddess Hylia sent a large chunk of land into the sky. She did this to protect a “power without equal” that was given to her by the gods.
The cutscene is vague about what this power is. Although, we eventually learn that it’s the Triforce. As such, the goddess Hylia sent the Triforce into the sky to protect it. This resulted in the creation of Skyloft.
Interestingly, there already seem to be islands in the sky in Tears of the Kingdom. So, during the events of this game, the goddess Hylia may already be at work protecting the Triforce. Again, this is something we can’t confirm yet. Though, things line up too well for us to rule out that the islands in the sky are the work of the goddess Hylia.
In the first Tears of the Kingdom trailer, we’re also shown a carving of a mysterious figure with long hair wearing an elegant dress. This figure seems to be benevolent as indicated by its unthreatening posture, being surrounded by seven floating objects, and riding some kind of flying platform. Our best guess is that this is the goddess Hylia. Although, once more, we can’t say for sure if this is the case.
Will Tears of the Kingdom Be the Last Legend of Zelda Game?
No, it’s very unlikely that Tears of the Kingdom will be the last Legend of Zelda game. This is one of Nintendo’s biggest and most successful franchises. They make far too much money from game sales to abandon it. What’s more, they also make a lot of money on merchandise and other products.
Money-making aside, consider other factors. The entire Zelda timeline spans thousands of years. There are huge gaps between many games. As such, it would be relatively easy to insert new games within these gaps.
What’s more, the franchise is no stranger to timeline splits. It’s been done before and it can be done again! There’s nothing stopping the developers from splitting the timeline infinitely more times. This would create room for more and more games.
When you consider the above, it seems unlikely that the Legend of Zelda franchise will end anytime soon. That way, you’ll always have future chances to struggle to get Heart Pieces, abuse crazy mechanics, and enjoy the plethora of memes born from the Zelda fandom.