Not in the same timeline as Into the Wild.
The Legend of Zelda series has been subject to copious amounts of speculation and theories for years. Specifically, the anthology format of the franchise raises the questions of how many of them intersect at varying points of the series’ history. Ever since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past first debuted in 1991, the question of the series’ continuity came into question as it was the first game to reveal to us that there are separate incarnations of a hero named Link every time a Legend of Zelda story is told.
Since then, after Ocarina of Time, the Legend of Zelda timeline has split into three different parallel universes being the results of different outcomes. It’s strange, but it sated the cacophony of the fan theories that flooded the gaming world for so long. The Hyrule Historia, an official sort of text book/encyclopedia chronicling nearly every aspect of the franchise, seemingly put debates to rest, mapping out the canon timeline. The upcoming Breath of the Wild, however, seeks to rattle the Zelda world once again. From its atmosphere to its core gameplay, we can probably already deduce when the game will actually unfold to reach the point when Hyrule must be completely destroyed in order to stop Ganon.
Breath of the Wild is set to tell its story in a way that no Legend of Zelda has before it, by allowing players to uncover the story themselves through the context and clues dispersed throughout the world. In fact, players can even just head straight to the final battle from the very beginning if they wanted to, although winning that battle might be next to impossible from the start.
This all implies that Link is set to have a much more immersive connection to the world around him. Legend of Zelda games have always basked in its glorious settings, but Breath of the Wild takes its setting beyond something to spectate and allows players to really inhabit the world. What I’m getting at is that there is a more deliberate orchestration of the setting in Breath of the Wild. One narrative advantage to the setting taking precedence is that you have another plot device to exploit.
The subtitles for Legend of Zelda games typically refer to an important character, object, or concept tied to the game’s plot. Breath of the Wild, however, is a much more abstract title. Referring to the Wild in the title already gives the intonation of where you’ll be spending much of your time in the game, but the Breath accentuates how the creators want it to be living, breathing. What, then, would be more terrifying than to watch the land that has been your life support be smothered by the seas? Breath of the Wild seems to be building up to make the disaster that leads to The Wind Waker as narratively compelling as possible.
When looking at the timeline, there is a fairly consistent flow of reincarnations taking place, allowing the trifecta of Link, Zelda, and Ganon to come to a crossroads time and time again, but the era before The Wind Waker occurs is, mysteriously, without a hero. This follows a timeline when Adult Link defeats and seals Ganon at the conclusion of Ocarina of Time, and then there’s seemingly no new Link for an entire era, suitably titled “Era Without A Hero” by the Hyrule Historia. Whatever Ganon got away with at this point was catastrophic, because the goddesses then resorted to drowning the entire land in order to stop him. Maybe there was a hero, though. Maybe Link from Breath of the Wild really was there but failed, and no one even knew.
The Era Without A Hero, could simply be the era without a known hero, as Breath of the Wild does amp up the isolation by depriving Link of his usual sidekick. Link is far from alone, though, as players must interact with the land and the animals of the land in ways never thought possible in a Zelda game prior. Many Legend of Zelda games have seen Link separate with his respective companions at the end, but Breath of the Wild could see the demise of the grandest companion yet.
Storytelling in video games has evolved magnificently over the last decade, so it’s only natural that the Legend of Zelda games up their ante. They’ve always had interesting and entertaining tales, but Breath of the Wild seems to be taking it to another level by giving players the brush to paint their world. The freedom of interaction in Breath of the Wild means players are now constructing their own stories, though, telling their own tales of perseverance, hardship, and triumph. As such, this is the perfect opportunity to hit us where it hurts. We could witness that living, breathing land being snuffed out in a helpless and bittersweet conclusion.
It sounds harsh, but it would fill the gap from Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker nicely, all the while augmenting the series’ new take on storytelling. Breath of the Wild seeks to be a new Legend of Zelda that we’ve never seen before, and the pieces are likely already in place. If this is all true, it would be tragic and poetic, and, with such a vivid world for us to weave our own stories in, we would never forget it.