Majora’s Mask: The Greatest of the Oddball Zeldas

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Image from Wikimedia Commons


I’ve always had an odd relationship with the Zelda series. I think they’re all great games, they all play well, are memorable, and hold my attention. However, I’ve never liked what I call the traditional Zelda games as much as the odder entries in the franchise. I like the Oracle games over Link’s Awakening, Twilight Princess is just as good to me as Windwaker, and my pick for greatest Zelda game ever made (excluding the ones I haven’t played of course) is Majora’s Mask, not Ocarina of Time.

Ocarina of Time is fun, but it’s essentially the basis of the traditional Zelda at this point, there’s nothing I can consider odd or curveball-y in it. It’s everything we expect a Zelda game to be and perhaps that’s why its still a blast to play. Majora’s Mask is an entirely different story. It doesn’t just present you with a few curveballs like some of the series’ other quirky entries do, it bombards you with them. It’s dark, but full of humor. There are familiar faces, but they’re all different people. The stakes are high, but is any of it really happening? The game throws a lot at you and so keeps you thinking throughout, all while providing the puzzle-solving dungeon-crawling goodness that makes Zelda what it is. For now though, let’s just focus on the single biggest factor that sets Majora’s Mask apart: It’s sense of Atmosphere.

This is a dark game people. We have poisoned swamps, never-ending winters, an entire region cursed and haunted by ghosts, and an ancient demon bent on the total annihilation of the world and all its inhabitants. What’s more, there is an ever-present reminder of this impending doom in the form of an angry moon drawing closer with each passing moment. Each transformation mask you receive is born of unfinished business, passed on to you by other heroes who failed in their tasks and died as a result, or as a curse inflicted on Link in the very beginning of the story. (There is the exceptions of the Fierce Deity and Giant’s Masks, but both mask are implied to be imbued with evil magic.)

That’s a lot to contend with, perhaps too much if we were forced to constantly contend with it. But we aren’t. Like the inhabitants of Clock Town we can choose to ignore it and go about our business. We can enjoy the funny moments and wrap ourselves up in mini-games and side-quests, and generally ignore what’s going on. But the night of the Final Day always comes and we, along with the rest of the characters, must face the inevitable. No matter how much we do, or how many we save, that moon is still going to fall and no amount of distraction can change that fact.

Despite their cheerful facades, everyone in this game is aware of the impending doom, and it finally shows in the last hours of the Final Day.

(start at about 1:00)

Denial in the face of the inevitable. It’s this theme’s permeation throughout the game that makes the atmosphere it creates succeed so well. We along with everyone else in the game know that moon is going to fall, but we go about our business anyway, because what else can we do? We as the player are put in the very same situation as the townsfolk and everything that happens in the games feels all the more real because of it.

Finally, there are the numerous hints that all of this is a dream. This is the foundation for the game’s theme of “denial”. It’s what would allow us and the residents of Termina to continue to function in the face of certain destruction. Indeed, maybe the entire game is nothing more than something Link dreamed up.

It sounds odd, I know, but there is evidence to support it. At the opening of the game, Link get’s knocked off his horse, get knocked out, and chases the skull kid down a mysterious hole featuring little icons of each of the transformation masks among other things. Additionally, many of the characters Link meets are alternate versions of those from OoT, many of the side quests are remixed or extended versions of activities found in in OoT, and every cut-scene except for the very end makes extensive use of motion-blur, adding to the game’s other-worldly feeling;  Even your basic movements in the game have a little too-much blur. Whether or not the events of Majora’s Mask are a actually a dream (a la Link’s Awakening), the theming makes the case that Link (and by extension the player) is caught in a literal nightmare, which oddly enough would provide just the sense of hope needed to deal with the nightmarish situation of the world being destroyed.

The atmosphere of a game contributes a lot to how genuine and real the world feels, and it’s because Majora’s Mask does this more successfully than any other game in the series, that I’ve crowned it as my personal favorite.

What’s your take on Majora’s Mask? What made your favorite Zelda game your favorite?

20 Comments Add yours

  1. I love Majora’s Mask, it was my first Zelda game and will always have a special place in my heart! That being said, I really love all of the Zelda games and the Zelda franchise is my favourite game series of all time hands down, they’re amazing!

    Majora’s Mask is definitely interesting. I love reading different theories about it that people have posted online. The atmosphere truly is crafted so simply and perfectly that the game’s world manages to be haunting without actually being too scary or disturbing for players of all ages to enjoy. Characters forced to face their own mortality in subtle yet poignant ways… ahhh. A masterpiece.

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      A masterpiece indeed! Did you read anything about Ikana and why it was cursed? There’s quite a few theories out there and they’re all interesting. These are probably my favorites, being the most in-depth that I’ve seen so far.

      http://www.zeldauniverse.net/articles/the-stone-tower-why-termina-was-doomed/

      http://www.zeldauniverse.net/forums/zelda-theorizing/92910-the-ikana-the-garo-and-the-giants-mask.html

      Like

      1. I’ve read a few, yes! Very interesting stuff! Thanks for the links – I’ll be sure to check these ones out!

        Like

  2. renxkyoko says:

    My LIKE button isn’t working at the moment… anyway, LIKED .

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Thanks! What do you like most about Majora’s Mask?

      Like

      1. renxkyoko says:

        I have not played it, but for some reason , it reminds me of the Persona 3 FES, and the feeling of hopelessness that no matter what I did to make my character strong ( I played it for more than 600 hours), the inevitable would happen,anyway. ( it was about the moon, too ) I hoped for a glitch in the game.

        Like

      2. Hatm0nster says:

        I’ve never played Persona 3 (or any of those games), but anything similar to Majora’s Mask sounds interesting. What’s the gameplay like?

        Like

      3. renxkyoko says:

        I’m not familiar with the terms, but I think Persona 3 Fes’s is turn based? I thought I wouldn’t like it, but in the end I became obsessed with it. Did I say 600 hrs? My kind of game is the God of War type so yeah, I found Persona too cartoonish for me at first.. I highly recommend it . Also it was 2007’s Game of the year, believe it or not. 10/10. If you become interested, play Persona 3 FES . There’s a Persona 3 only. FES has additional 40 hours. Also, there’s a Game Plus… that is, you have to play it again from the beginning to unlock a secret ” boss”. I highly recommend this game. if you’re on vacation now, this is the time. You might also need a calculator, LOL.

        Like

      4. renxkyoko says:

        Ps
        The music is the best ! ! Check it out on YouTube. I bought the soundtrack, too.

        Like

  3. cary says:

    I should make a point to replay this game someday. It certainly is a great game, Zelda or otherwise, but I don’t remember connecting with it as strongly as other players. That scene above, I don’t think I ever saw it originally! (The video mentions that it was hidden, which is probably why.) But then again, I’ve always had a hard time really following the stories in the Zelda games I’ve played. The only exception to that is Wind Waker, which is why I think it’s my favorite.

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Windwaker definitely has a strong story, very well crafted. The revelation of the King of red Lions actually being the King of Hyrule was MAJOR (for me at least). But yeah, majora’s mask has all kinds of little accents to the story like the one shown in the post, all you have to do is pay attention to what the characters you encounter are actually saying. It’s definitely worth another look if you get a chance.

      Like

  4. duckofindeed says:

    My favorite is “Skyward Sword” because I thought it was a blast to play, despite the controls not always cooperating, and I liked the characters a lot. But, “Majora’s Mask” is a close second. It is different, and I love that about it. I love the whole three-day thing and seeing that moon getting closer and closer. Being able to transform into a Goron and Zora and all that are fun, too. It was all just great.

    And with the three day thing, it feels more real to me because they have different things happen each day. Other “Zelda” games (and most any other game), everyone does much the same thing every single day. Some things change when you make it to different points in the game, but the characters can go a long time repeating the same actions over and over, usually standing in the same spot day after day, spouting the same dialogue. This game feels more real because the characters have real lives that they play out over and over again during the course of the three days. Like Anju’s story, which I found to be the most interesting of the side stories in the game. I’ve heard lots of people say they dislike this game, probably because it’s different, but why is a game bad because it’s different? That’s actually why I love it.

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      I’ve always found it incredible how divisive the 3-Day mechanic can be among Zelda fans. I love it, but I know at least two people that never played the game through because they felt the timer was restrictive and made them rush when they didn’t want to. I can see where they’re coming from, but I’m still convinced that neither of them know about the inverted song of time :).

      Like

  5. I still have my OoT and MM N64 cartridges, despite my N64 never returned from a friend I lent it to, alongside Mario Tennis and WWF No Mercy.

    I loved the game, almost as much as OoT. The 3-day mechanic made you feel like you played the game many times over, so the desire to jump straight back in was not as strong as it was with OoT.

    Tear-up sections in MM: the little girl in Ikana when Link gets the Gibdo Mask off her father (the music gets you!), and the end of the Anju and Kafei side-quest.

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      I’d like to add Darmani’s and Mikau’s final flashbacks to that list of yours. Those really got me when I was younger. This game could really be depressing at times, and it really hit you. Even something like the cut-scene where you learn Elegy of Emptiness carries weight. The music may not be the best of the franchise, but it’s moments like these and the ones you’ve mentioned that convince me that of all the games this one uses its music to the greatest effect.

      Like

  6. This is one of the only Zelda games I have not delved into. It is definitely on my bucket list. Good read!

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      Hope you get to play it sometime. It is really quite good.

      Like

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