Warning: This post will contain SPOILERS! If you don't want your Zelda experiance spoiled, then don't read on, look at the pretty animation in other posts.
I've been playing the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on my Wii since launch date and I've been wondering about the chronological order of the Zelda games. Is there an order? In the players guide for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (one of my favorite games of all time), states: "One odd thing about the legend is that it doesn't seem to have been written in chronological order, and scholars still disagree about which events came first."
So, let's break it down from what we know. First the games.
The Legend of Zelda  (NES - 1987)
Zelda II: The Adventures of Link (NES - 1988)
The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (SNES - 1992)
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GB - 1993)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64 - 1998)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64 - 2000)
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC - 2001)
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (GBC - 2001)
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords (GBA - 2003)
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN - 2003)
The Legend of Zelda: 4 Swords Adventure (GCN - 2004)
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA - 2005)
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN + Wii 2006)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hour Glass (DS 2007)
Why isn't called the Legend of Link. But that's off topic.
Now we'll break down what we do know, the logical sequels.
The Legend of Zelda 1 was followed by Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, a span of a few "seasons" inbetween.
Ocarina of Time was followed by Majora's Mask which feature the same Link for Ocarina looking for Navi.
Minish Cap, Four Swords, 4 Swords Adventure are their own little trilogy.
The Wind Waker will be followed by the Phantom Hour Glass.
Oracle of Seasons and Ages happens one right after eachother, doesn't matter which one.
To better illistrate this, here's a picture:
Ok, not bad ok? Not loss? Good.
Now we have some troubles.
The Wind Waker takes place 100 years or more (mostlikely more) after Ocarina of Time.
Link's Awakening has Link training outside of Hyrule and get ship wrecked on an island and turns out to be a dream. Which adventure Link was on before or after is a mystery, but Ganon does show up as one of Link's fears he must overcome. In other words, he may have already faced Ganon in a previous game or is hinted at in legend.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has Ganondoft in human form being sentanced to the Twilight Realm.
So, what order do I think it happens? I think it goes like this:
Ocarina of Time = Majora's Mask - Zelda and Link meet, Ganondoft is human. Triforce is broken up.
Twilight Princess - Happens decades after Ocarina of Time. Ganondoft is captured and sent to the Twilight Releam and his triforce is activated. Also, the Temple of Time is shown in Twilight Princess as ruins.
The Wind Waker > Phantom Hour Glass > Link's Awakening - Happens hundreds of years after Twilight Princess. Momunment built in honour of Link in Twilight Princess at the bottom of the ocean. Gannon returns, after Link has died after a few decades after Twilight Princess. Floods Hyrule. Triforce is placed together at the end of Wind Waker, Hyrule is no more and search for a new Hyrule happens. Link gets shipped wrecked while looking for a new Hyrule (or heading back to the islands of Hyrule) in Link's Awakening.
Minish Cap > 4 Swords > 4 Swords Adventure - Long after the events of the Wind Waker, most of Hyrule's history has been forgotten and lines begin to get blurred with the new land's legends (Our own culture is living proof of this concept).
Link to the Past - Ganon can no longer revert back to human form and gets his paws on the triforce, again, and breaks it up giving him the power of the triforce of power. Link wishes away the Dark World. Returns Master Sword (could be the 4 sword) to it's place in the Lost Woods.
Orale of Ages and Seasons. Once again, Gannon is trying to get back. These two happen at the same time, one after another.
Legend of Zelda 1 > Adventures of Link - Ganon is somehow resturected and a new Link must be found. The new Hyrule is ruined by wars by Gannon who somehow got back. Link stops Gannon and his resurrection, again. Blonde hair has come to an end.
Here's an image, Blue is time:
So, there you have my theory. Is it right? Wrong? Is there even a proper time line? Only time will tell...
I wonder where the next Zelda Wii, already 1 year in developement will fit....?
Another theory is the Spilt Timeline Theory, which can be explained Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXN1BF65WjI (Also very cool to see the other 5 parts!)