Today in Japan, The 25th Anniversary Legend of Zelda artbook is released by Nintendo that contains art, story, and concepts ranging over the entire 25 years of the franchise. Included in the book are 2 pages detailing the timeline of when all 15 games in the series occur in relation to each other.
While some of the Legend of Zelda titles are definitely direct sequels, it was Wind Waker that first outright said that you are not the first Link. There have been several Links in the past and will be more in the future. These games do not happen a couple years later, but in some cases happen several HUNDRED years later with a new person.
With that, it was pretty obvious which games would follow which other games, but there were several ones that felt like they had no place in the timeline at all. Like Zelda Four Swords? Or Zelda Oracle of Ages? Minish Cap?
For me, I don't really care about the canon of those spinoffs. The only games that I ever really considered canon were Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess. Skyward Sword, too, I guess, but I haven't played it yet. (damn Skyrim)
But apparently ALL the Zelda games are canon, and Nintendo has released the official timeline that binds them all together.
Kotaku made an image macro illustrating the timeline.
The idea is that the ending of Ocarina of Time is somewhat ambiguous.
Wind Waker - The Hero succeeds in Ocarina of Time and continues in the future, only to have the world flooded
Majora's Mask - The Hero succeeds and continues life as a child.
A Link to the Past - The Hero fails and redeems himself.
Eh, I guess it makes enough sense. Even though, I had the canon backwards, it really doesn't matter what order they're in if the are separated by hundreds of years. I had this same discussion with one of my friends several weeks ago, and agreed with my timeline canon as, with time, the world would continue to grow larger and larger, not smaller.
Whatever... I don't think the Legend of Zelda really needs to make a canon to house all of its games, or else it'll turn into Metal Gear.