Interestingly, in a 2004 interview with Game Informer, Aonuma said that Four Swords - which was a multiplayer expansion that piggybacked on the GBA re-release of A Link to the Past - was the "oldest tale" in the timeline. Unfortunately, this seems to be an occasion where information from Nintendo doesn't hold up to scrutiny, as Minish Cap seems to show Vaati's origin story, putting it earlier in the timeline. If this really is the case - and there's not a lot to suggest otherwise - it means that Four Swords can't be the oldest tale, unless there's some time travelling going on that Nintendo isn't telling anyone about.
While it isn't a universally accepted theory, there is reason to believe that A Link to the Past is set hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time. This theory is based in no small part on the appearance of what looks like a ruined Temple of Time in the forest in Twilight Princess when Link acquires the Master Sword. As Twilight Princess definitively comes after Ocarina of Time, it's reasonable to assume that the deterioration continued over the centuries, until eventually only the pedestal seen in A Link to the Past remains in the heart of the Lost Woods. There are some doubts about this interpretation of the timeline, as discrepancies exist between the intact temple and its ruined counterpart, but it's debatable just how seriously Nintendo takes continuity - if it takes it seriously at all, that is.
The original Legend of Zelda and its sequel, The Adventure of Link, likely come quite late in the timeline. The games lack the Master Sword, which could be because Link returned it to the Pedestal of Time at the end of A Link to the Past, where it was supposedly never used again, or it could simply be because Nintendo hadn't come up with the idea of the Master Sword at that point. Either way, the games are thought to come after A Link to the Past, and its sequel, Link's Awakening. Finally, the appearance of the twin witches Koume and Kotake - who Link kills in Ocarina of Time - in the two Oracles games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, suggests that paired games are also likely part of the Child timeline, where the events of Ocarina of Time never happened. The game's plot, where the witches try to resurrect the dead Ganon, could mean that the games come after Legend of Zelda, although Ganon has died enough times that they could fit in anywhere.
Perhaps Nintendo will one day pull back the curtain and reveal what the Legend of Zelda timeline officially looks like. It might be a incredibly detailed chronology that cuts through the debate and theories like a hot Master Sword through Ganon, or it could be a sketchy affair that doesn't really answer questions, so much as ask them in a slightly different way. But until that day comes, fans are still going to be cobbling together their own timelines, and they'll probably be doing it long afterwards as well.
When he isn't piecing together possible histories for fictional kingdoms, Logan Westbrook writes news for The Escapist.