The Legend of Zelda timeline has been debated ad nauseam. Breath of the Wild developers sat down to give their two cents on the issue. The short answer: use your imagination.
Breath of the Wild kicks off as Link wakes up from his 100 year long nap to find Hyrule in ruins. What did you expect, hero? We're not here to talk about Link's power nap. Not today, at least. Today, we'll talk about the "official" Zelda timeline, and what Breath of the Wild's developers think about the whole thing.
Let's see here. The Legend of Zelda timeline starts off with Skyward Sword and marches on in a linear fashion all the way up to Ocarina of Time. After Ocarina of Time, the timeline splits into three branches: the Adult Timeline where Link defeats Ganon, the Child Timeline where Link prevents Ganondorf's acquisition of the Triforce and the Downfall Timeline where Link fails to defeat Ganondorf during Ocarina of Time.
All these events in the different timelines lead to various games in the franchise. That's all well and good, but the main question remains: where does Breath of the Wild fit into all of this?
According to Eiji Aonuma, Breath of the Wild takes place after the events of Ocarina of Time, which is super helpful. Thanks, Mr Aonuma. The game itself offers little help as it features many references to all three timelines.
In an interview about this very issue with Gamesradar, Hideomaro Fujibayashi shared his opinion on the timeline, saying:
"I wouldn’t say that we’re not concerned with the timeline. It’s obviously something that we know is very important to people, and they do a lot of research on. But I think at this point, we’re not really at the stage where we want to talk about where Breath of the Wild is in the timeline. I think, as with the pixelated food, it’s something that at this point we want to leave up to people’s imaginations."
Eiji Aonuma added:
"We published a book with the timeline, but we definitely got comments from users saying, ‘Is this really accurate? I think this should be this way. It’s different.’ And history is always kind of imaginative. It’s left to the person who writes the book. So that’s how we approach it as well. It’s not necessarily that we come up with a game and think, ‘Oh, this is where it fits in the timeline.’ Honestly, lately, we’re kind of scared to say exactly where things are in the timeline for that reason. But we like to leave things to the imagination most of the time."
So, they don't know either but they're using their imagination, and so should you.