- Original release year: 2000
- Consoles: N64 (later: GameCube, Wii, 3DS)
No Zelda game has captivated, engaged and absorbed me in the way Majora’s Mask did. After the extraordinary success of Ocarina of Time, no one would have blamed Nintendo if they had simply made an ‘Ocarina of Time 2’ (and I know Majora’s Mask is a sequel to OoT, but I’m talking in terms of gameplay), but instead, they made a Zelda game that was as radically different as possible, whilst still being an incredible Zelda game.
So what made Majora’s Mask so different? Well, let’s take a look at what usually makes a Zelda game, well, a Zelda game. Does it feature princess Zelda? Nope… Does it feature lots of dungeons? Nope, only four… Is it set in Hyrule? Nope, Termina… And then there’s the 3 day cycle and masks, but I’ll go into both in more detail later on…
The other thing that sets Majora’s Mask apart from the other games in the Zelda series, is just how dark and creepy the tone is. Everything feels far more… pessimistic and hopeless, completely at odds to the usual triumphant feeling seen in Zelda games. Although, the atmosphere is very different, it is worth pointing out that Majora’s Mask is still a sequel to OoT, built on the same engine, with the same controls, same mechanics, the same ocarina and with time traveling being the central theme once more, so in retrospect, it really is incredible just how innovative and creative Nintendo were with this title, when they could have just played it safe.
Majora’s Mask is a dark, twisted adventure that sees our hero reaching the strange land of Termina. Before Link reaches the area though, an eerie ‘creature’ referred to as ‘skull kid’ steals Link’s Ocarina and turns the hero of time into a poor deku scrub. On Link’s first adventure through Termina, he will find out about the menacing moon set to crush the land of Termina three days from the game’s opening. Once Link gets his ocarina back from the skull kid, he can travel back to the first day in order to try and stop the moon from destroying the area.
From here on our, Link is stuck within an endless three day cycle, replaying the same three days ad nauseum as he progresses further through the game. Part of your progress will be saved (the game’s four main dungeons remain completed), but other parts replay in an endless loop. This mechanic paves the way for a higher emphasis on side quests than ever seen in any other Zelda game.
The world on display in Majora’s Mask was truly incredible when this was released back in 2000. The characters and world just felt so alive. Each character has their own routines and their own sub-story within the game, with side quests aplenty. To complete Majora’s Mask, you’re going to need to talk to characters, learn about their routines and basically become a complete stalker (your notebook keeps a track of all your side quest progress and shows info on all the characters you engage with). Some side quests may require you to complete actions and be in certain places across all three days. Some might just need you to be in the right place and the exact right time. Side quests ultimately reward you with masks, all with their own unique powers…
The four main masks that are part of the main game, are: The deku scrub mask (turns you into a deku scrub – making you able to blow bubbles, spin and glide with the use of flower pod things), the goron mask (turns you into a goron – means you can bash shit, roll into a ball and carry big bomb kegs), the zoro mask (turns you into a zoro – means you can swim and fight underwater etc) and then finally, the Fierce Deity’s Mask (makes you more powerful for the final boss), which you only get if you obtain all 20 optional masks.
The optional masks, all part of side quests, are also interesting and fun to collect. For example, there’s the giant’s mask, which makes you giant, the bunny mask, which makes you run faster and there’s the blast mask, allowing you to blow up like a bomb, without wasting any bombs.
In terms of dungeons, as I said earlier, there’s only four, but that doesn’t mean the game is short. The dungeons themselves are okay, but the real fun, I found, was the journey to the dungeon. For each dungeon, it felt like trying to find the next dungeon, was almost a mini-dungeon in itself. This makes Majora’s Mask a far more dense and multilayered Zelda title, when compared with the rest of the series.
Most recently, I’ve played the Majora’s Mask remaster on the 3Ds, instead of the N64 original. The graphics have had a pretty nice overhaul, a few bosses have been tweaked, the save system has been altered for the better and there’s been a few other minor alterations and improvements. After playing this version, I have to advise that anyone plays Majora’s Mask on the 3DS and not the N64. It’s without a doubt, the superior version and a much needed upgrade.
Majora’s Mask is a haunting, bizarre entry in the Zelda franchise, that thanks to some unique design choices, stands out as one of the most interesting Zelda games ever.