Poll: The Majora's Mask Debate

Quingfang

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Apr 16, 2009
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An opportunity to post something that pertains to my limited realm of video game knowledge? Thanks, DeathSwitch109!
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To begin: Is Majora's Mask the best game? I'd say that wholeheartedly depends on by what merits you judge it by. There are a few buzz words that folks often use to describe MM, namely "dark," "atmospheric," or "depth," and while all of that is true, I think Zeldanites often don't pay enough attention to the depth and atmosphere of other games because MM is a bit more heavy-handed in laying out those elements in front of the player. The first thing that players see when entering the cartridge is a zoom-in shot of Majora's Mask, an admittedly unsettling thing to see when expecting the usually cheerful opening title page of a Zelda game, which I think gives the player a fairly accurate expectation on what they'll be in for during the game. However, there's a lot of unpleasant and uncomfortable subject material in other Zelda titles, such as the Wind Waker or Twilight Princess, and yet I see both of those games receive merit for their gameplay and story accomplishments, but they're not typically regarded as having the same sort of atmosphere/darkness/depth that MM has. (Note: I mean this as a generalization, I by no means that there aren't more than a few several lovely Escapists who don't fall into this category)


While Majora's Mask presents scores of disquieting information for the player to sift through, Twilight Princess was also very blunt about showing the player some rather disturbing imagery and backstory to the Hylian canon, though I don't think that TP has received as much credit for doing so. The Wind Waker, almost cheerful to a fault, is much more subtle about cluing the player in that something is very, very wrong with the endless sea, which I believe makes these moments all the more powerful. Majora's Mask is an endless slew of bleak and depressing moments that show insight onto the suffering and plight of the land of Termnia, but after a while I became only so numb to these horrors. However, in the Wind Waker, seeing such a cheerful and optimistic set of characters be dragged down to seemingly hopeless enemies was much, much more resounding (Similar to the Jimquisition's episode about Crying through the Laughs)

I'd present a list of the terrors that MM draws the player through, but I'm sure that the Escapist doesn't need yet -another- person outling the dozens upon dozens of memorable character arcs or events that leave a niggling, unsettling feeling. But if the Escapist community would indulge me, I would like to mention a moment in the Wind Waker that present the player with knowledge that, depending on how invested the reader is in the Zeldaverse, is either unpleasant, uncomfortable, or both.

-When fighting Phantom Ganon in the Wind Waker, his spectral blade has a long string of Hylian characters on it. When translated, it reads, ""Zubora Gabora," which were the names of the two Snowhead swordsmiths in Majora's Mask. This raises two questions, that of why did the pair aid Ganondorf in his conquest, as well as -how- that would be possible. The official Nintendo timeline states that the events of Majora's Mask and the Wind Waker took place in two different timelines (after Ocarina of Time's three-way split) and it would seem impossible for Zubora and Gabora to interact with the WW-era Ganondorf. Does this prove that Termina was in fact a mirror world to Hyrule and that a Hylian Zubora and Gabora do exist somewhere in Hyrule and were just never met in Ocarina of Time? If so, why were their names not changed, as all other characters' were?


I truly do love Majora's Mask and it is most certainly one of my favorite titles and I definitely appreciated the improvements that it made on Ocarina of Time. Being able to replay boss fights, play as a Deku, Goron, and Zora, and embark on dozens of fulfilling side quests made MM a game that has an enormous amount of replay value. To close, I think that since MM was the first Zelda title to really hit the community with something different, something unique, it created the most long-lasting legacy in its wake, despite the relatively lackluster sales, if memory serves.

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TL;DR, I will talk about Zelda for hours if given an excuse.
 

SquidVicious

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Feb 9, 2021
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I actually started up a new game over the weekend to relive some of the nostalgia of my early teens. Even when the game came out in 2000, I enjoyed it more than OoT (which was my first Zelda game), but it really wasn't until this weekend that I could figure out why. So here's my reasons

Story

Majora's Mask is probably the most personal of the Zelda stories (at least from the ones I've played). This one has Link setting out on his own with his own personal goals, rather than using destiny as an excuse. With that in mind, it really exemplifies his noble self-sacrifice, that he's a hero by his own accord, and not just because that's what destiny dictates. I mean he could have just found a way to leave Termina after learning the Song of Healing and continue on his quest to find Navi, but he stays behind and gives every ounce of his strength to try and save this alien world... and he's 10 (my estimate).

I think that's what strikes the biggest chord with me is all the responsibility that rests upon him. He's 10 and he's been given mastery of time, bending it to his will and creating a Groundhog Day like effect. Yet this comes at a cost, because every time he has to go back, all the progress he's made is gone. He might have cleared the monkey's name or saved the Gorons from freezing/ starving, but in an effort to save the entire world he has to undo all that progress, all the while his only friend being an initially hostile and feisty fairy that has no qualms about calling him an idiot. It's like all the responsibility of adult Link's story in OoT, but played out from a child's point-of-view, and that really makes him stand out as a hero to me.

I also think Majora's Mask has some of the best fleshed out NPC's, all with their own routine that you learn more and more about as you continually travel back in time. There's also a lot of work put into changing up their attitude and demeanor on the different days, which really creates a reason to talk to each of them in each different form, on each different day, which really helps compact the story in a way.

Gameplay

It's pretty much lifted straight from OoT, except now kid Link can use weapons that were only available as adult Link. Overhauling the Mask mechanics from OoT was a really bold move and added a whole new approach to the game. It worked in some areas, but not in all, I thought the Woodfall Temple boss was pretty boring considering you mostly fight him in your human form rather than like the next two bosses which utilize your mask powers.

Of course the biggest feature was the timed mechanic which I thought was really intriguing, because it really does create a sense of impending doom that you don't ever really get in a lot of games. Sure NPC's in Skyrim will tell me that the Civil War is tearing the province apart, but wandering throughout the game map I never see this ever playing out, I don't see burned down villages or the aftermath of bloody battles, I just see the occasional prisoner caravan and maybe a group of three Stormcloaks fighting a few legionaries. Not exactly feeling the pressure to accomplish anything, whereas in Majora's Mask there's nothing but pressure. Even with playing the Inverted Song of Time, you have a very limited amount of time to accomplish anything before you have to watch it all be erased, and that can really add a damper to your spirit and sense of achievement. I generally avoid playing on the Final Day because it's at this point that people are so resigned to their fate and are just... depressed that it makes me sad to play it because I feel like I've let them down. That's some pretty amazing game design right there, especially at a time with limited budgets and tech power.

Side Quests

Majora's Mask also probably features some of the best incorporated reasons to actually do side quests. It helps flesh out the world around you and it's occupants, while also giving you an edge in combat for the latter stages of the game. I mean you can just rush through it, completing the four dungeons and then doing battle with Majora's Mask, but you'll only be going into it with 7 hearts and maybe two bottles for fairies. This kind of forces you to go out of your way and find the secrets of the land and explore it, which a lot of games only have because it's expected of them. Some of the quests to get the masks are incredibly rewarding, like the lengthy one for The Couple's Mask, which is easily one of the best parts of the game.

Music

While the game does recycle a few of the same songs from its predecessor, I think the original music of Majora's Mask is some of the best ever featured in a video game. The Song of Healing and Oath To Order are songs I never tire of hearing, and there's just parts of the game that are forever cemented in my head, like the Deku Palace music. The Woodfall Temple has some great ambient music that really fits the aesthetic design of both the temple and the temple boss. Snowhead Temple felt very minimalist and tense, which worked given the nature of the temple with that main room with the elevator like device. It's been too long since I've played the last two temples so my memories are pretty rusty, but regardless the point stands that the music from Majora's Mask had a more minimalist/ minor approach to it, which really made the dark nature of the story and the major time mechanic stand out.

Villain

I think Majora is a better villain than Ganondorf/ Ganon. While Ganondorf did completely destroy the town in OoT, he at least spared Kakariko Village and the forest areas, insinuating that he only desired power, not complete destruction. Conversely, Majora wants nothing but destruction, destruction and humiliation, as evidenced by all the acts he does over the course of three days like cursing Kafei, or attacking Kotake in the Woods of Mystery. Ganondorf is a one note kind of villain who's only real motivation is power, which is definitely understandable and the desire to see him punished is great, but I've always enjoyed a villain who's only motivation is destruction. It's the reason why we loved Heath Ledger's Joker so much in The Dark Knight, trying to understand a villain's motivations and being completely perplexed. It not only makes them seem that much more dangerous, but it makes your resolve much higher now that you know you must defeat them. Add in The Skull Kid element, a mischievous and possibly misunderstood perpetrator of everything and it adds a whole new layer to the villain, is it all Majora's fault, or is The Skull Kid as much to blame, with the mask just acting out the darker feelings that reside within the Skull Kid?


So that's my little breakdown of the game that I came up with this weekend. I'm glad a got a chance to actually get it all out, and I do like how a lot of other people seem to share my thoughts at least to some regard.
 

PsychedelicDiamond

Wild at Heart and weird on top
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Apr 4, 2020
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Oh, it's one of my favourite games of all time. It's certainly the most "out there" of all Zeldas and, in it's own way, is actually rather artsy. There's quite a bit of pretty heavy stuff in there which it combines seamlessly with the sense of wonder that makes the Zelda games.
 

Moonlight Butterfly

Be the Leaf
Mar 16, 2011
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I haven't played it *big sad face* however I don't like 'timed' games particularly so I'm not sure I would enjoy it.

My favourite Zelda game is Link to the Past. That game is a masterpiece and I can happily say that with nostalgia goggles removed.
 

Olas

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Dec 24, 2011
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It's not my favorite, Windwaker just barely edges it out. Majora's Mask had a rich world to explore and many memorable characters with a lot of depth, but sacrificed the epic feel of Ocarina of Time in the process. Windwaker actually achieves both of these having a very important central story but also an incredible amount of side things you can do in the outside world as well.

Majora's Mask has the most unique direction though, and feels much more daring and original than any other Zelda up to that point or since. It's the most mature and dark Zelda to date and has a ramped up difficulty to accompany that. All of these things make it just far more interesting to look back on than the other Zeldas. It doesn't help that Ocarina of Time has been ripped of considerably by other Zeldas, especially TP, which has caused it to age very poorly while MM has been essentially left alone and has aged like fine wine.

The biggest complaint the game gets is the timed feature. While I'll admit it can be potentially problematic the ability to slow down time helps considerably and the 3 day mechanic introduced in the game is one of the most brilliant concepts ever. A far better use of time travel than Ocarina of Time.
 
Jan 27, 2011
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Not my favourite, but it's up there.

Link's Awakening is my favourite. Marjora's mask is up there sharing second place with the Oracle games.
 

Azeal

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Sep 19, 2012
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My top 3:

Majora's Mask, Windwaker, Link to the Past.

I prefer Majora's mask the most because of how fleshed out the world is. Pretty much every NPC is doing something independent of your actions (although your actions can control future events). The whole time system was very innovative and hella fun to use and explore.

Also, the masks. So cool.

Link to the past is THE best top-down Zelda game (and I have played em all except OoA). Huge amount of content, fun combat, somewhat interesting storyline.

Wind Waker has the best story of a Zelda game in my opinion, and has the most expansive and LARGE world. You feel like you are in a large country instead of a smallish city-state. Combat was pretty fun too.

Out of those 3, Majora's Mask is best (and sooo different), but WW and Link to the Past are about the same.
 

go-10

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Feb 3, 2010
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the thing I like about Majora's Mask is the interactivity you have with the people living in Termina and the surrounding areas, all of the mini stories each person has kept me intrigued to find out how each one of their stories concluded on the third day and in some cases seeing what I could do to change that outcome, that interactivity with the rest of the world really made the world feel alive and in peril at the same time. The 3 constant days I had to relive gave me that sense of urgency and leaving nothing incomplete.

I played the game 4 or 5 times but I never thought much else of it. Its a great game and in the top 5 of the best Zelda games but it's still not as good as say a Minish Cap, Link to the Past, and to a lesser extent Skyward Sword
 

BehattedWanderer

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Jun 24, 2009
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Well, it's hard to say. The best Zelda games all have something that makes them stronger than the others in one way. Majora's Mask has that wonderful sense of impending doom, that three days from now, very visibly and without debate, the end is coming. It comes closer day by day, and there is evidence of it affecting everyone you meet. Majora's Mask is about people, and everyone you meet feels real, that they're panicking or in denial or scared because of what is happening. Things are going wrong, but along comes Link, a person who can change things, who can manipulate things around him to stop the end of the world. But, just because he stops the end of the world doesn't mean he saves everyone. Some people die. Others die, their mission incomplete, their souls to be forever restless otherwise. Children are left parentless, little girls suffer PTSD, and ranchers are attacked by bandits. A curse separates two lovers right before their wedding day. People are forlorn, distraught, crazed.

These people can't always be saved. You can't save them all in three days. You might be able to go, beat the four bosses, and save many of them on a final run, boss masks in hand, but not always. In needing the time to get to and then get through the temples, some of the people are being attacked, or robbed, or are giving up hope.

It's a much darker tone than the other Zelda games. Skyward Sward might have some of the most exciting world development, while Twilight Princess has some of the most interesting main character interactions and one of the greatest character arcs, and Ocarina of Time deals with correcting a failing world by hopping back and forth through time, but Majora's Mask has you dealing with people. Wide and varied people, with all kinds of hopes and joys and problems. A neurotic, OCD mailman who is so bound to his duty that he risks the end of the world to do what he has to do? There's no boss battle to fix that. There's a reason it's commonly brought up as one of the best Zelda games, let alone one of the best games, period.

Is it my personal favorite, though? No, because I love Midna too much, and find the events and variety of Skyward Sword to be far too interesting. It is my third, though, for all the reasons listed above.
 

AngloDoom

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Aug 2, 2008
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I loved Majora's Mask and I especially loved the time limit...

*Flinch*

LET ME EXPLAIN!

The world of MM felt more real than Ocarina of Time simply because there was always the illusion that the world would get on fine without you, except for the whole crashing moon thing. People were going about their daily business, buildings were being built, courts were in session, people would travel and move about, all because there was precious time ticking away. Of course, the game couldn't have had this mechanic in the other games since time was infinite and my months of floundering around the Water Temple didn't affect anything; if I finished the temple in fifteen minutes I'd have had the same result.

Termina was alive for me.

I admit that the limited time thing sat wrong with me the first few hours of the game, but when I noticed the little things that made the world seem that much more alive than Ocarina of Time I couldn't help but fall in love with it.
 

Shynobee

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Apr 16, 2009
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Definitely my favorite Zelda game. The shape-shifting masks and the sense of impending doom just made it very fun for me.
 

Pyramid Head

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Jun 19, 2011
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I have a weird relationship with the Zelda games. I liked Majora's Mask as a kid but as an adult simply cannot re-acquire the ability to hold that goddamned N64 controller, and yet as an adult i look back on it's plot a little more fondly since, especially after Puella Magi Madoka Magicka and Bastion, i like the extra layers of plot that the presence of time travel creates. That said in hindsight my favorite was actually Twilight Princess on the Gamecube (fuck the Wii) since while i did like Windwaker the cartoonish graphics took me out of it. Twilight Princess had sort of a weak ending but there were several elements of it i liked and if my Gamecube weren't as dead as my PS2, i could see myself still playing that game.
 

SpectacularWebHead

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Jun 11, 2012
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It's my total favourite, then Twilight Princess, Then Wind waker. The open world, the characters, all that.

Question, was termina supposed to be the hyrule of an alternate dimension (Hence all the cut and pasted characters) or was that just me making stuff up?