The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D is Pixelkin’s Nintendo 3DS game of the year, and not just because it’s a satisfying dungeon adventure with cool puzzles. Majora’s Mask is a tapestry of dozens of small, poignant stories that inform each other in really beautiful ways. Every time I play this game, I come away feeling more enriched.
Majora’s Mask is the sequel to Ocarina of Time, a wonderfully designed classic adventure story of good versus evil. Here, however, things are a little different. The enemy is not always obvious, and the plot is somewhat less linear.
You play as Link, a young boy who has become trapped in the land of Termina. Link has exactly 72 hours to stop the moon from falling. If he fails, the world ends and he is transported back in time to the beginning of the three-day cycle. In order to beat the game, you’ll need to relive those 72 hours over and over, exploring Termina and getting to know its residents.
Most Zelda games have side quests. Usually they’re a fun way to break things up and explore the world around you. In Majora’s Mask, the side quests are the most interesting part of the game. Every person you meet is suffering in some way, and you have to decide if you’re going to help them. But even if you do help them, at the end of the three-day cycle, their problems will come right back, and they won’t remember you.
In this way, Majora’s Mask often feels like an exercise in futility. And for many players, that futility is exactly what stops them from finishing the game. However, watching the characters act out their lives identically over and over, learning about them and seeing what changes when I intercede, is incredibly compelling to me. It’s like watching clockwork, and the more I explore, the more pieces I find. Many of the characters are family members who have been estranged from one another, or ghosts of people who died before they could complete their purpose. Uniting friends, guiding the lost, and comforting the lonely is especially strange and meaningful when you know the world will end in just a few short hours.
In addition to all this, Majora’s Mask is also a solid adventure game. You’ll be familiar with this aspect of it if you’ve played any other 3D Zelda games. There’s swordplay and archery and environmental puzzles all over the place.
Majora’s Mask 3D is a remake of a Nintendo 64 game, but the original suffered from a clunky user interface and was at times too hard for what it was. The remake solves most of these issues and finally lets this amazing story situate itself as one of my favorite games of all time.