That Ominous Feeling

Majora’s Mask is a unique experience within the Zelda series. While it may be considered dark because it strays from the traditional Zelda atmosphere, Twilight Princess and A Link to the Past are also dark titles when compared to other Zelda games, yet they don’t feel different the way Majora’s Mask does.

The game begins with Link being attacked by the Skull Kid and having his precious Ocarina stolen from him. With no other choice, Link teams up with Tatl and chases after the Skull Kid. Finally, he makes it to Clock Town and begins his search for the thief. But something is off. That something is the ominous feeling of Majora’s Mask: The sensation that some unknown danger is approaching. This strange, eerie aura is everywhere. Even in the seemingly happy areas, the game presents an ominous atmosphere. The player is constantly given clues that something bigger is going on and that eventually, Link will have to deal with it.

The Moon

The most obvious sign that something is wrong is the moon. It presents an atmospheric menace, but the player can deduce that it will become real trouble based on comments from characters in the game or simply by noticing the moon drawing closer. In order to obtain the moon’s tear and move past the opening stages of the game, at one point the player is required to view the Skull Kid through a telescope. On the first two days, the Skull Kid merely mocks you and then the tear falls from the moon. On the third day, he looks possessed and stares up at the moon, giving the player more indication that the moon is a problem. At that point, there should no longer be any doubt whatsoever in the player’s mind. Regardless, Tael makes the stakes completely clear; the moon is indeed Link’s problem.

Even after time rewinds, the moon is a constant reminder that everything is always in trouble. When Link completes a task, the moon is still staring at the ground, reminding him that his job isn’t done. It is the main source of the game’s tense atmosphere and can be seen from practically everywhere in Termina. Therefore, no one can go through the game without remembering that eventually they’re going to have to deal with the upcoming danger.

Time Travel

The time traveling mechanism in Majora’s Mask is a crucial component to the atmosphere.

Thanks to the time traveling component, the player is given unlimited time to beat the game. Yes, in pretty much every game in existence there is an unlimited amount of time to finish, but how many take the time to tell you that? Sometimes games create a sense of urgency, but rarely does a game tell you to take your time. What separates Majora’s Mask from the rest is that time travel is a key part of the game; it puts the concept of “unlimited time to beat the game” on the forefront of the player’s mind. Even though practically everything is reset when you play the Song of Time, you can always collect items and complete dungeons and sidequests again. But, as with any lengthy adventure game, eventually you’re going to have to deal with the central conflict in order to complete the game. Dealing with the threat presented by the Skull Kid and the moon is necessary, but the time travel mechanic prolongs this conflict.

You’re given the resources to deal with the central problem, but are constantly reminded of it even as you spend time avoiding it, solidifying the ominous feeling that is central to the game’s atmosphere.

The People

The people of Termina are unique in the Zelda series in that their lives go on with or without you. Non-player characters usually wait for you to do your part when you interact with them in other Zelda games. In Majora’s Mask, they won’t wait. Either you do what you’re supposed to, or they will go down the path that they would have had you never existed. This makes every major side character in Majora’s Mask more important to the player, and it is the importance of these characters that adds to the game’s atmosphere.

When Link first arrives in Termina, practically everyone has a problem, but because Link is a Deku Scrub, the people in Clock Town treat him as a child and don’t feel as though they need to burden him with their problems. This allows the player to see Termina’s problems before they’re able to do anything about it. The player may have no idea how to solve a problem or even if it’s their problem to deal with until they encounter it later.

Once the player knows something will happen at a set time from previous experience, they are more equipped to deal with it but also more aware of the consequences of not dealing with it. The Bomber’s Notebook helps to emphasize this. How many times have you caught yourself glancing in the notebook saying, “Is it time yet?” Because of the way the NPCs are implemented, you are constantly wondering about their situations — which you will eventually have to deal with — forcing you to fall deeper and deeper into the ominous pit.

The Atmosphere

One theory often brought forth is that the name “Termina” may be a symbol of the world’s fate, as there seems to be a connection to the word “terminate.” Though not official, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the intent, as the foreshadowing of a doomed world greatly helps to set the intended atmosphere. But if the name theory is just speculation, the music sets a clearer tone. The four separate regions each have variations of a single dreary melody, emphasizing that Termina is sick and headed toward death. As with the non-player characters’ activities, the atmosphere provides clues to things that the player will not have to deal with until later, like puzzles that cannot currently be accessed.

Majora’s Mask is one of the few Zelda games where EVERYTHING is a mystery to Link. Zelda games tend to revolve around a world that Link is already familiar with. Though there are games where it is Link’s first time straying anywhere far from his initial home, he still starts out in a familiar place. In any type of entertainment, the creators often try to enhance the audience’s experience by allowing them to relate to a character. Majora’s Mask allowed the players to better understand Link’s sense of not knowing what’s going to happen and made them anticipate what is to come. By placing both Link and the player in an unfamiliar environment, the connection between the two is at it strongest, further allowing the player to feel what Link does, including the game’s ominous feeling.

The Story

Though players may not notice right away, Link is dropped into Termina in medias res. This means that he is placed into a story that is already underway. Because of that, Termina’s problems have already been established. In other Zelda games, the source of the problems is thoroughly explained so that the only mystery is how to solve it. With Majora’s Mask, Link must figure out what the problem is, the source of the problem, and how to solve it. He has no “all-knowing person” to answer his questions and his sidekick knows little more than he does. This encourages the players to constantly seek out answers, be they clues to problems, solutions to problems, or just the problems themselves. The player is always on the lookout for signs of trouble.

Some of these qualities are present in other Zelda games, but it is all of these combined traits that intensify the ominous feeling in Majora’s Mask. By further understanding the confusion Link is placed in, having danger so close and abundant that one only needs to look up to be reminded of it, and placing on the forefront of the player’s that the only thing that separates conflict from confrontation is time, a player will find themselves in the fog of approaching danger. This grave sensation that is omnipresent in the game may send a shiver down some fans’ spines, but it makes the game much more relatable and enjoyable. It is the feeling of constantly looking over one’s shoulder in Majora’s Mask that has caused it to leave its mark in the minds of Zelda players everywhere.

Author: Random Person

Because it’s apparently immoral to force people to agree with your opinions, writing articles is one of the many ways Random Person chooses to share his love of Zelda with the rest of the world. Being on Zelda Dungeon for a couple of years, RP continues to spread the love by running ZD’s deviantART, participating in the podcast and doing other junk. You can find more of RP’s… uh… “works”… on his novel’s website, his YouTube channel and his personal deviantART account. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter and a bunch of other places that haven’t banned him yet.

  • GOROHUG!!!!!!!!!!

    “they’re going to have to deal with the upcoming danger.”

    More like the downcoming danger…

    • Axle the Beast


      • Thareous

        ZOMG, Aksel made a one letter repsonse!

        *instant upvote*

        • Axle the Beast

          Excuse me, sir. My response had four letters and a punctuation symbol. D:<

          • Zelda is the Bomb!!!


            My comment has six letters and one punctuation symbol :)

          • Hero_of_Skyloft

            including “My comment has six letters and one punctuation symbol :)”
            your comment had 51 letters, a punctuation symbol, a colin, and a closing parenthesis

          • Dominic Borthwick

            Lol =)

          • Midna’s Sister

            Message for all of you: that “punctuation symbol” is an apostrophe. Just for the record…

          • john

            It is a comma with the ability levitate.

          • ZELDASTUFFS


            my comment has 5 letters and a puncuation (or how ever you spell it) symbol

    • Midnafan

      *face+palm* -_-

    • Spenfen

      Oh dear god. Someone’s hacked Axle.

      But still… ROFLMAO!!!!

      • Thareous

        *hacked and bypassed

    • Midnafan


    • Lord Carlisle

      Uh… What?!

    • Hero of Time

      Lol dude

    • SecondGear


    • Hoff123

      Hahaha awesome.

  • VikzeLink

    And that’s why I love Majora’s Mask.

  • The Hylian Monolith

    Yay! Random posted an article! And he’s right about it all. MM was my second(okay, third)Zelda game. It’s still my second(fine, tied for second) favorite.

  • Skull Kid

    I always loved mm because it was so dark and so different compared to other titles. While tp was rather dark and realistic, and alttp was more sad. But none of them had that apocalyptic feel and such realistic characters and that made mm so relatable an that much more depressing when the moon falls. It is actually the only game to date that has actually made me cry and what tp and alttp do, mm does it do much better. Yes it is much, much more different than other games, it has that sort of realism and connection that no Zelda game has done. I also like how trouble has already started and that if link was there or not, that events would still of happened and really makes it so your in the worst scenario possible. The fact that you can help anyone really puts it t the top of my favorite video games of all time.

    • Midnafan

      I just realized I’ve never cried at a Zelda game. SS wrenched my heart multiple times, but I didn’t cry. I’ve cried for Professor Layton and hell for Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (only Rescue, the music in Explorers makes me cry though)

      • Lord Carlisle

        When did you cry in PL?

        • Midnafan

          End of Unwound Future had me in tears. End of Last Specter almost got me but i didn’t really like that game. and i almost cried earlier today playing Miracle Mask when Randall fell. that whole part after that was really messed up. :'(

          • Lord Carlisle

            I actually just got into the series this Christmas with the Miracle Mask. (loved the movie, too) Have you guessed who the Masked Gentleman is yet?

          • Master$Of$Teh$Trolls

            Duh! It’s Claus! *mother 3 spoiler alert*

          • Midnafan

            its who?

          • Midnafan

            I started guessing from the beginning that it’s Randall, that he’s somehow alive. I haven’t gotten there yet, so i really don’t know, but i think he’s trying to ruin Henry because he stole his girl and his treasure and is now so successful. makes sense right? :)

          • Lord Carlisle

            Makes no sense. The real villain turns out to be Stumble, sick of being a lowly circus clown.

            …Oh, wait. Your guess made more sense.

            Well, if you can actually remember, PM me in the forums when you’re done with the game. I recently finished the game, and I want to have a conversation with someone about it.

          • Midnafan

            hey i forgot to ask, what did you think of the rabbit minigame? i picked the lop-eared one and named him Link! :P

    • Midnafan

      Now i know something’s up here?

    • Lord Carlisle

      Is something wrong with you?

      • Jam9t3

        What did that comment say? Was it from Axle? Why would his comment get deleted? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!

        • bastian

          There was a situation with someone pretending to be Axle, but I’ve dealt with it. ;D

          • Hero of Time

            Faker got Bastian’d, huh? xD

          • DeaderHand

            Good show. Lol

  • Tehlul

    And I hold to the fact that the most sane people in the game were the ones getting hammered at the milk bar. Best place in the entire game.

    • Jam9t3

      Just love the fact that they replace alcohol with milk lol

      • Midnafan

        hard to imagine people getting hammered on milk. i can imagine some of the characters mentioned to be in them to be in bars, but not ones that serve milk. :/

        • MasterOfSwords1

          You obviously haven’t tried my milk

          • Midnafan

            I don’t think i want to. you know those numbers on the carton are an expiration date right? :/

          • MasterOfSwords1

            Expiration? Nah, that’s the date you’re supposed to start drinking it

          • Hero of Time

            xD I’ve been taught NOT to drink it on the date, unless it smells okay. :P

          • Midnafan

            y’know sour may taste good as candy, but your abiltiy to taste sour is your body’s way of saying “STOP DRINKING THAT NOW!” :/

          • Midnafan

            given how close to the date it is when they put it on the shelf at grocery stores, it does seem that way.

        • Time’s Champion

          Maybe lactose metabolizes as alcohol in hylians.

          • Midnafan

            i can actually picture that.

      • Mike

        I think there actually is a milk that you can get drunk off of.

      • Kyle Clark

        EGG NOG!

    • Midnafan

      why is it always a milk bar? that weirded me out in PH. TP had an actual bar, even though there was virtually no alcohol in it. :/

      • Hero of Time

        Yeah, Midnafan. I mean seriously.. Milk bar? Then TP has a real bar without alcohol? Hyrule people and their weird bars, I guess.

        • Someone

          Or producing alcohol is just really expensive since the conversation between Cremia and Romani points out that alcohol exists is the game.
          Nintendo really tries to keep things like love and alcohol out of Zelda, while I think that it wouldn’t hurt at all. It only sounds weirder without, what Hero of Time’s comment already mentioned.

          • Midnafan

            well, we all know the reason is Nintendo is family friendly and obviously alcohol isn’t, we’re just kind of joking around. why would alcohol be expensive though? first of all, considering you can find random cows in OoT that give you milk if you play music, i wouldn’t want to go to a bar and pay for that instead. all you have to do is leave some grape juice in the cupboard for a couple months and when you go to through it away: “Hey! Maybe I can sell this to loners with no lives!” :P

        • Midnafan

          at least TP’s bar served a classic purpose as the home base for the freedom fighters. all the other bars were kind of just there for you to find people and wonder why the hell they only serve dairy product. :/

          • Hero of Time

            Yeah, TP’s was actually serving more of a purpose then other bars in Zelda games..

          • The Unicorn Hanger-Outer

            What to order what to order… I do believe I will start with meat!

      • BlackRaven6695

        Wind Waker’s bar maid tells you that a bunch of pirates stormed into her bar and spent the whole night drinking…coffee.

        • Midnafan

          what is this anarchy?!

        • Midna’s Sister

          Who drinks coffee where there’s mead, ale, and wines to be found?

      • Midna’s Sister

        None that YOU could order, anyway.

  • The Wanderer

    The definition of a “dark” game varies depending on how you mean it; nearly any game in the series can be considered dark based on certain criteria. Majora’s Mask had what little to no other Zelda titles had: a loose, almost philosophical feeling that was player-induced rather than game-induced. You made you frightened, not the game. You made you ponder about the fates of the commoners, not the game. You made you wonder about your real-life relationships. It wasn’t really “expected” of you. It just happened. And that’s what made Majora’s Mask so haunting as a game.

    • Axle the Beast

      Well said, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    • Midnafan

      any game can be “dark” depending on how you look at it. look at Pokemon. Lavender Town freaks the hell out of me, and in the Mystery Dungeon Explorers games *spoiler alert* your character essentially dies at the end. :/ not to mention midway through you’re tied to a stockade about to be sliced to death. in a freakin pokemon game. o_O

      • Zelda is the Bomb!!!

        Lavender isn’t as creepy in Heart Gold as in LeafGreen. for one thing, the music is nowhere near as depressing and eerie, and instead of that graveyard tower, there is a Radio Tower in it’s place. There is a grave building, but it’s TINY, and not depressing and creepy. Now LeafGreen, Lavender Town was probably the scariest time in the game. I couldn’t get through fast enough. And the Marowak ghost in the tower…….. too creepy.

        • Midnafan

          the music is probably what gets me the most. that an the freakin’ possessed chicks all over the place. :'(

  • Dracomajora

    Great article RP. The atmosphere of MM used to really creep me out. I actually had nightmares about the moon. My favorite part was the characters, how their stories were told, and how they reacted to the situation. Majora’s Mask had one of the greatest atmospheres in gaming, up there with games like Metroid Prime.

  • deku scrub

    this game is my favorite. I was always pushed to my limits…when I was a little kid that is… I could enjoy this for hours on end and the story became more meaningful as I got older. I could never wrap my mind on it being a dark game because of day one clock town the way it sounded. Even today I love the whole music album enjoying the meaning of the music. I always thought that this game was the best Zelda game and I hold that opinion to this day.

    • Midnafan

      I felt the same way with TP. It was a lot of fun when I first played it and it seemed like a fairly harmless game to me. Now that I’m older, looking back at some of the scenes and themes, a lot of them freak/gross me out. o_o

      • deku scrub

        For some reason it does creep me out I just see more meaning

        • deku scrub


  • Midnafan

    Great article, I really want to play MM, which is why I’ve got my fingers crossed for a remake. Atmosphere is always a big thing for me in games. And you know you’ve made me think of something: in nearly all of the Zelda games I’ve played (and many other series as well) the beginning is always fun and new and adventurous, despite whatever underlying threat there is. but after the plot twist in the middle and once most or all of the true conflict is revealed, the atmosphere isn’t fun anymore. it doesn’t mean the game isn’t still fun, but any happy-go-lucky feelings there were before disappear. i find this especially true in OoT, TP (i think a lot of it actually centers around Midna’s attitude there) PH and SS.

    • deku_scrub

      Agreed with sir

  • Garrison Roller

    I am playing Majora’s Mask right now. I can’t wait for Majora’s Mask 3D to come out.

    • deku_scrub

      There may be rumors about a remake but I think it will be a few more years before they remake and release it to us the fans

      • DeaderHand

        Definitely. But I’ll still be here holding my breath for it.

        • Zelda is the Bomb!!!

          Go play some FPS’s. That’ll clear it right up. jk
          It is IMPOSSIBLE to like Zelda too much. Not even Chuck Norris is capable of that

        • Midna’s Sister

          Take some of my ZULU liquid and inject yourself with a painful dose of It?

  • Majora Unmasked

    I’m sure someone’s already said this but alongside what you said about Termina coming from “terminate” Termina is also latin for End.

    • Zelda is the Bomb!!!

      Whoa. COOL.

  • HG

    Yawn, another Majora’s Mask article…

  • Pokemon Trainer Red

    • DeaderHand

      Thanks. Seriously. Your silence means more than words could ever hope to convey. I think….

  • JeredenDonnar

    I started playing as a little kid but could never muster the courage to get past snowhead, I only very recently beat the rest of the game. AS I get older I see just how much is really put into the game.; Has anyone stayed in Romani Ranch’s barn (after saving both Romani from THEM and Cremia’s milk) for the third night? If you stay in there until the final night (in the barn) you can see what I think is truly the most depressing dialouge in the entire game, I had no idea it even existed. If you don’t do Anju and Kafei, you can talk to them (minus Kafei) in the upstairs room of Romani’s house. Its like a whole other world over there cause everyone in town thinks the ranch will be safe, but, Cremia, she…knows. Its so moving. It makes me wonder if they really knew all these things they were putting in the game when they made it.

  • lulles

    And that’s why Majora’s Mask stays as my favorite in the series :]

    As for Termina’s name, I think it is official that it’s related to the word “terminate”. It may also come from the Portuguese word “terminar”, which literally means “to end”. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

    • Really. Of course.

      Really now.
      Because the english word clearly doesn’t literally mean “to end”, oh no!
      Rather there’s obviously a connection with a random Portuguese word after which the game never uses any Portuguese again!
      Clearly that wasn’t a coincidence whatsoever, in fact, I think it may ALSO have to do with the SPANISH word “Terminar” as well!

      Originally, I didn’t agree with the person who said that the Zelda fanbase is the absolute worst that reads into everything and pretends there’s meaning to the stupidest things but now I’ve changed my mind.

      Congratulations, you’ve been promoted!

      • Snowball in the face

        Calm down

      • Hero of Time

        Cool it, dude.

      • Thareous

        It’s palpable that he’s trolling, folks. Move along.

        • lulles

          Definitely, haha.

        • Midna’s Sister

          Can I get out my neon vest, hard hat, safety tape and loudspeaker and scream, “MOVE ALONG. NOTHING TO SEE HERE!!”

      • natysa

        Both Portuguese and Spanish derive from Latin, so mentioning “terminar” from portuguese is no different from mentioning “terminar” from spanish. Also, the english term “terminate” may also come from latin, it doesn’t seem saxon to me at least.

      • Zelda is the Bomb!!!

        We like to figure out backstories and come up with theories. And there is meaning in a lot of things, even if they’re small, or, as you would call it, “stupid”. Small details can be just as important as the big ones.
        For example, let’s say you went back in time, a few thousand years, and killed an ape. So what? you might think. It’s just ONE ape. What’s that going to do? Simple, really. You basically just murdered someone before they were even born, because that ape was a human ancestor that someone was going to descend from, but now they can’t, because the ape died before it had any offspring. Now you’re probably thinking, What if it reproduced already? It wouldn’t make any difference. You would be wrong again. That ape probably would’ve reproduced again, if you didn’t take its life.
        I could probably come up with A LOT more examples, but you’re not worth my time. If you don’t like Zelda, why are you even here? This is a fan site for Zelda. Go rip on us somewhere else, like a site for FPS lovers, or a Zelda hate site, where people will actually agree with you.

      • Martial.Law

        “Terminar” ( verb in infinitive form) in SPANISH means “to finish” not “to end”. Synonims are similar words. Yet, that doesn’t mean they are equal.

    • Link_The_Ultimate_Chronomancer

      Except not from the English word terminate, seeing as how it was originally written in Japanese and not English. Latin doesn’t make sense either, as Japanese isn’t based off of Latin.

      • lulles

        And just because the game was made in Japanese, they can’t base things off other languages?

    • DeaderHand

      Lololol I just LOVE overanalyzing the insignificant choices of a few Japanese men hellbent on making money :D

      • lulles

        Yes, this is exactly overanalyzing, because it is in no way blatant that the name Termina, if it doesn’t directly come from the Latin word, took heavy inspiration from it.

        I’m totally overanalyzing its story, messages, characters and its social and religious innuendos that show us how much our society and we as human beings have to change in order to understand the true meaning of life. (this was sarcasm, in case you couldn’t, you know, notice)

        Really, go get something better to do than coming back to this thread and replying to my comment, when so many other people commented the same thing I did.

        • DeaderHand

          Ouch. Sorry man. Wasn’t trying to be offensive, was just trying to convey that theorizing about Zelda can be sometimes… Comical. Now before you start yelling “Burn the Witch! Gtfo of our forum!”, please understand that im not bashing theorists; im an obsessive Zelda theorist myself. True, hardcore fans of anything tend to overanalyze the respective topics that they obsess over. It’s just what we do. when I step back and look at some of the things that we say with some objectivity, I just start to wonder if we are looking too far into the decisions of nintendo’s game developers. But even if we are, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
          I hope this rant makes sense, and that it may clear up any bad sentiments.
          On a side note, since we are looking at the literal meanings of various words, how about analyzing the word Majora? Why would they have chosen that? What could it mean? Hrmmm Hrrmmm

          • lulles

            Haha, that’s alright. It was just a misunderstanding. I don’t do a lot of theorizing myself and I do think that people sometimes overanalyze things (that article The Message of Majora, or something like that, is the best example of overanalyzing and putting more fanfiction than fact into it). I’m not against it, since people seem to have fun analyzing things, but sometimes things just get too farfetched to be taken seriously xD
            About the name Majora, I saw its origins somewhere, but I forgot.

        • john

          thanks for clarifying the sarcastic part

  • Mseevers95

    You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?
    : )

    • guest-Navi’s sister

      Happy Mask Saleman?! How’d you get here?

      • Thareous

        Nearly all Majora’s Mask discussions will inevitably lead back to the HMS. I’m even more surprised by the lack of “Ben Drowned” statements.

        EX: “You shouldn’t have done that…”

        • Zelda is the Bomb!!!

          Me too.

    • Midna’s Sister

      Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!! -runs away screaming in terror-

  • Zelda is the Bomb!!!

    I MUST get this game. Even though I was terribly tramautized by BEN.

  • Hoff123

    Damn this game is awesome. There is NO other game I’ve played that is as creepy, depressing and weird as Majora’s Mask. And this game was rated E for everyone…

  • zeldamaster

    i was going on my legend of zelda log and it says ben i was really scared so i log in the (ben) account and links head was cracked and on fire!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Doctor What

    Ruto: Link? How are you a Zora?
    Zora Link: A mask. Why’d you follo-
    Ruto: Yes! We can date and not look weird!
    -The reason Link went to Termina-

  • Mendicuti

    You are completely right. You can’t run away from your problems, even
    the music tells you that, every day a little bit more desperate. But I
    think there is something else, it has something to do with the twisted,
    with some sort of tragedy. You will never be able to fix this world, the
    Song of Time will always take it back to the beginning and, even if you
    finish the game, some events can’t be fixed.