It’s no secret that Majora’s Mask is a beloved game here at Zelda Informer – regularly picked by our fans and our staff as one of the top games in the series, but if we set aside all of the fan assumptions, theories, and general praise – what is at the core of this title’s greatness?
While I am not here to tell you this is the best game in the series, there are reasons every game in this beloved franchise could be considered the best. My goal is to try and look beneath the surface to find the core values that put each game over the top. There are always more reasons for each one of us that a game deserves the top spot, but almost all of them are built off of the core reasons I present.
The Most Polished Traditional Gameplay in the Series
This game gets a major advantage other games don’t – it gets to look back on a prior game using the exact same controls, animations, and general gameplay and refine and improve upon it in every fashion. This also occurred in another game called Spirit Tracks, but that features a totally different style of controls. For traditional controllers you will find few games in the series more refined than Majora’s Mask.
It took already beloved combat and animations from the first game and made them smoother, more responsive and added more depth on top, including a move you can’t even perform in Ocarina of Time at the core of every game is the gameplay, and this took the act of playing the game to a new technical level.
An Unexplained Journey
Perhaps the greatest gain for this game, and often a source of criticism, is how much isn’t explained. Who is Majora? We still have no idea and we’ve had 10+ years to ponder it. What’s up with the Moon Children? Reality is this game is chalk full of unexplained plot devices and for some, this may be a sign of disdain. A poorly put together journey that leaves more questions than answers. Yet, it has also been the game’s greatest calling card.
People love the unexplained. The timeline was more popular when we didn’t know what it actually is, and likewise the story in Majora’s Mask is praised because of what we don’t know. All the fan theories and editorials surrounding the game often deal with fans trying to put together the pieces. Solving the many mysteries of Termina and its people. Yet, the reason fans love doing this is because the game doesn’t do it for you. At the core, the story is really simple. There are some undertone themes in some areas, but it’s pretty bare bones. While often referred to as a deep story, it’s really only as deep as the player wishes to think it is. It’s actually simplistic, but in a way that makes you think outside the box.
You may choose to believe Link is dead or what the message of the game really is, but the game itself doesn’t tell you any of that – it’s fans tossing their opinions on top of vague hints. The game pretty much tells you nothing, but we invent things to fill in the blanks. Fans love mysteries and trying to solve them, especially in the Zelda fan base. While this can be a negative, it’s a massive positive for many of the game’s followers.
Most Challenging 3D Zelda Game with Side Content Galore
Keep in mind that I said 3D – reality is some gamers do prefer 2D Zelda games, while others prefer 3D. For those that like 3D Zelda games and prefer some challenge, Majora’s Mask provides. Its dungeons are more difficult than most in the 3D kingdom, plus they present fresh puzzle ideas thanks to the use of many masks. The boss fights often take more skill than in other titles, too.
Toss on top the plethora of side quests and you can see why folks tend to prefer the challenges this game has to offer. This sort of thing isn’t for everyone, but for those that prefer this in their Zelda titles, this is a major draw.
Majora’s Mask is a one of a kind Zelda experience, and maybe that is why many love it more than most. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal tastes. The points above are far from the only reasons this game is great, but they are the core reasons I find that folks enjoy the experience more than the rest, with everything else built on top of these foundational concepts.