Our favorite girl is back, and with a bobcut, no less! Princess Zelda in Tears of the Kingdom.

When Does ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ Take Place?

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was released on May 12, 2023, marking the 20th canon title in Nintendo’s main Legend of Zelda video game series. Nintendo has been adding to the story of Zelda and Link’s quest to save the fictional realm of Hyrule since 1987. Over the decades, the world of Hyrule has expanded, with each game adding more history and fantasy lore. However, things do tend a get a bit messy when working through all 20 games. Especially since the games often feature different incarnations of Link and Zelda, who vary in age, personality, and backstory. For many years the game felt more like an anthology series, and Nintendo didn’t seem to have a set timeline in mind.

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Stil, small references here and there would confirm some interconnectedness, leading to plenty of theories and debates from fans. By 2011, it was confirmed that all of the Links are connected through reincarnation. Soon, the timeline was split into three separate eras due to Link traveling back in time. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, which was published in 2011, also created a definitive timeline for the events of the games. Despite these developments, the sprawling timeline still remains infamously complicated.

In Tears of the Kingdom, players see Link and Zelda exploring the world of Hyrule and diving into some of its ancient history. They learn about the lost prehistoric civilization of the Zonia, and how they defeated Ganondorf during the Imprisoning War. However, after discovering Ganondorf’s corpse among the ruins, Link and Zelda are separated, with Link awakening sometime later to find himself in a wholly changed Hyrule. The game includes some delightful worldbuilding as it delves into Hyrule’s history, and allows users to explore the full expansive world. However, many players are bound to be wondering when it takes place and how it fits into The Legend of Zelda‘s complicated timeline.

Tears of the Kingdom timeline explained

Link from Tears of the Kingdom

Tears of the Kingdom is a direct sequel to the 2017 game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Naturally, Tears of the Kingdom takes place a while after Breath of the Wild. The game doesn’t explicitly state how much time has passed. However, it seems that at least two or three years have gone by. This is because there are subtle changes in the landscape and characters. Returning Breath of the Wild characters Tulin and Riju look taller, stronger, and older, while characters like Sidon have made significant strides in establishing their rule over their domains. Additionally, the characters make comments about how it has been some time since they’ve seen Link. With things changing enough to be noticeable but not drastic, it seems reasonable to assume a few years have passed since Breath of the Wild.

Where Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom sit on the wider Legend of Zelda timeline is a little more complicated. As mentioned above, The Legend of Zelda is divided into three major timelines. So, you may be wondering which of these three timelines Tears of the Kingdom falls into. Well, that’s the problem. Both Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom don’t seem to fall into any of the timelines that the previous games do. Instead, they are set beyond the timelines of all of the previous games.

It’s unclear how much time has passed between the previous games and Breath of the Wild. However, the book The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion reveals that the game takes place so far in the future that the events of the previous games have “faded into myth.” It is estimated that potentially tens of thousands of years have passed, putting Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom at a point where none of the major timelines are even relevant anymore. As a result, Tears of the Kingdom takes place long after all of the previous games, meaning it largely functions as a standalone game, as does its prequel.

(featured image: Nintendo)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.