The original Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (2004) was a spin-off of the Triangle Heart 3 video game, and until 2010, all following animated works in the Nanoha franchise have followed the same continuity, usually referred as "primary". In 2010, however, several separate continuities branched off the main one.
The "original continuity" contains the works from which the first Nanoha series spun off. Despite its name, it is not considered part of the Nanoha canon.
The primary continuity started with the first Nanoha series and is still on-going to this day.
- Nanoha Sound Stage 02 (0063)
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (0065)
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's THE COMICS (0065)
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's (0065)
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS THE COMICS (0075)
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS (0075)
- StrikerS Sound Stage X (0078)
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid (0079)
- ViVid Strike! (0080)
- Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force (0081)
The continuity was originally introduced as a parallel universe of A's, in order to give more screen time to Reinforce, who self-destructs soon after the Christmas Eve of 0065 in the primary continuity. It began with the release of the PlayStation Portable video game The Battle of Aces and was continued with The Gears of Destiny.
In The Battle of Aces, Hayate's health condition improves after the final battle in A's, therefore Reinforce postpones her self-destruction for a few months into 0066. Besides featuring the Materials as antagonists in the Dark Fragment Incident, the scenarios of The Battle of Aces emphasize the bonding experiences between Reinforce and other Yagami family members, as well as between Fate and the Harlaown family.
In The Gears of Destiny, several characters from the primary continuity time-warp from 0079 or 0082 to 0066 (as a promotion of the ViVid and Force manga series, respectively) and three more original characters are introduced in the Unbreakable Dark Incident. A better ending is also given to Rynith and the Testarossa family. However, by the end of the scenario, all the six original portable characters travel away from Midchilda to Eltria, while the primary characters have their memories partly erased and are sent back to their respective "times". Having no influence on the future, the portable continuity can also be considered a rework for the history of 0065-0066 in the primary continuity.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha GOD Sound Stage M released in June 2012 features the six original portable characters in Eltria (i.e. after the end of GoD). However, Nanoha and Fate from the middle of The MOVIE 2nd A's also dimensionally-traveled to Eltria by accident.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha GOD Sound Stage A released in July 2012 features the Materials time-travelled to 0078, two years after StrikerS.
Interestingly, within the primary continuity context, the first two movies function as re-filmed documentary. A number of drama CDs similar to the Sound Stages have been released, detailing the video production of the movies in the primary Nanoha universe:
It is said that THE MOVIE 1st functions as an educational video for mages in the autumn of 0078 (few months after StrikerS Sound Stage X). Therefore in the BD-R release, an extra audio stream features the former Forwards from StrikerS commenting on the "video" scenes throughout the whole movie.
On another hand, THE MOVIE 2nd A's is a documentary produced by a non-management world (probably Earth) in 0079. The production is in completion stage after the timing of the Intermiddle match between Vivio Takamachi and Miura Rinaldi.
For Reflection, however, its drama CDs are just like ordinary Sound Stages, and hence included in the list of media above.
In addition to the above, for promotion purpose, characters from the primary and portable continuities at different timeline also narrate in numerous TV commercials of the movies.
"Standalone" is a catch-all term for all installments of the Nanoha franchise written by Masaki Tsuzuki, which, nevertheless, don't fall into any of the above continuities and don't have direct connections among each other.