Daily Debate: In Hindsight, Were the Horror Elements of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask Too Intense?
Posted on October 28 2017 by Rod Lloyd
In terms of darker themes and the presentation of horror, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask definitely stand out among other games in the series. For all the colorful fantasy elements found in each title, there exists a number of sinister moments that have yet to be matched in any future installment. Given the direction that the series has moved toward in the last decade, one could even say that these scary aspects of the N64 classics seem entirely out of place now.
Ocarina of Time presented two particularly horrific locations: the Shadow Temple and the Bottom of the Well. For players like me who were just children at the time of the game’s release, these dungeons were so freaking scary that they fueled nightmares for years to follow. The bloodstained Dead Hands, the wailing ReDeads lurking in the shadows, the voices of “Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred,” and the presence of dangerous torture devices make these places more than scary; they were downright grizzly.
Majora’s Mask did little to reduce the severity of its horror elements. Beyond the inherent sorrow and hopelessness produced by the game’s basic premise, the Ikana Canyon portion of the game intensified the horror elements as to rival those of OoT. The dreadful music, the hostile characters, and the ever-present watchfulness of Garo Robes assaulted my most primal fears as a child. And there was absolutely no way I was going to traverse Beneath the Well without a friend or two by my side.
Looking at these games with adult eyes, it is easy to say that these horror elements were a bold and unique choice by the developers. And we could even say that they helped develop us as children, teaching us to overcome fears. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think forcing that kind of atmosphere and imagery on a child was entirely necessary. A fear of the dark was already fully formed when I first played Ocarina of Time, but the one-two punch of that game and its sequel may have prolonged that fear for years. I just remember running to the street petrified when my parents asked me to take out the garbage after the sun had gone down, fearing that a Dead Hand would emerge from the shadowy bushes.
Obviously the Zelda team made the decision to distance the series from these more horrific moments as the years went on. Even the scariest parts of Twilight Princess, The Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword didn’t at all match the intensity of their Nintendo 64 brethren. Perhaps the developers recognized that they had gone too far in those older games, and I’m starting agree with such a train of thought. Sure, I think the most sinister moments of Ocarina and Majora are endlessly interesting now; but I really have to question whether or not my experiences as a child, fueled by utter fear, were worth it.
What do you all think? I’m sure not all players reacted to these horror elements in the same way I did, but I can also see just as many people identifying with my experiences. Do you believe the horror of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask was too intense? Or do you think such intensity should be revisited by the series? Let us know in the comments below!