Platforms: Nintendo New 3DSXL, 3DSXL, 3DS, 2DS
We Played On: 

Like all Zelda games, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for the Nintendo 3DS is an action-adventure puzzle game with fantasy elements. But Majora’s Mask is something special. For one, it’s an intensely emotional game. Its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, tells a heroic saga of good versus evil; in Majora’s Mask, the enemies are less clear. Link, the protagonist, spends most of his time helping the people around him, who have detailed stories, personalities, and problems.

I am in love with this game. Majora’s Mask 3D is crammed full of excellent conversation starters about friendship, grief, failure, and love. For Zelda fans, I consider it required reading.

Majora's Mask 3D All-Night Mask illustration

“The imp was frightened and saddened. He had lost his old friends.”

The Story

Majora’s Mask 3D picks up immediately after Ocarina of Time. Link, our protagonist, has just saved the world as an adult before being sent back in time seven years. Suddenly, he has the body of a child, and nobody remembers any of his adventures except for his fairy friend Navi, who has disappeared.

Link goes looking for Navi, but while he’s riding through a mysterious forest he is attacked by the mischievous Skull Kid. While chasing Skull Kid, Link arrives in the parallel world of Termina, where every person he meets looks exactly like someone he met in Ocarina of Time. Stranger yet, the moon is falling. It’s expected to crash into Termina in 72 hours’ time.

Majora’s Mask is spent reliving those 72 hours over and over again. On each three-day cycle, Link meets more people who are suffering, usually as a result of the Skull Kid or of the impending apocalypse. When he helps someone, Link receives a mask that gives him some special ability. But every time he restarts the cycle, the people he helped go back to being in trouble, and nobody can remember who he is.

Majora's Mask 3D mailman

The postman wants to run away, but he doesn’t have permission.

Some of these stories are silly. Some are heartbreaking. Skull Kid is not really evil— he’s lashing out because his four best friends have abandoned him. The postman desperately wants to flee from the falling moon, but he’s afraid of abandoning his schedule. The innkeeper’s fiancé is missing, and in one optional scene the player overhears her talking to her mother, who is convinced that the fiancé is cheating on her daughter. (In reality, the fiancé has been transformed into a child—just like Link was.) The player has the ability to help them all or to let them suffer.

Anju's mother Cremia and Kafei

Anju’s mother tries to convince her daughter to flee with her family instead of wait for her missing fiancé to return.

Whether you’re reuniting siblings, healing the spirits of the dead, or singing a crying baby to sleep, Majora’s Mask insists that you care about people. Replaying the same three days over and over is an exercise in futility, but it’s still rewarding every time you are able to solve someone’s problems. It’s fascinating to watch characters play out their same precise story over and over, their paths changing only if you choose to intercede. And everywhere you go, the clock is ticking down, and the moon is hanging overhead, waiting.

Majora's Mask 3D Moon

Every day the moon gets larger in the sky.

The Gameplay

Majora’s Mask 3D is a remake of the 2000 Majora’s Mask for Nintendo 64, and if you’ve played that version, you will have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into. However, there are quite a few differences between the two versions. I generally approved of the changes. Almost all of them seem designed to make the game more accessible to newcomers. For example, the game now has an optional hints system that works for skilled players and beginners alike.

Sheikah Stone

The Sheikah Stone is reluctant to give you hints when it thinks you’re doing well.

I didn’t think I would like having to play this game on a handheld console, since I tend to strongly prefer television consoles. However, I found that it made the experience much more intimate. I occasionally had trouble with the 3D effects—mostly when I had to aim an arrow or look around by moving the 3DS in my hands—but on the whole the 3D was really cool. I imagine that if you’re playing on the New 3DS, which has updated 3D technology with face tracking, it will be even better. As awesome as the 3D was, the move to handheld consoles does make Majora’s Mask harder to share, which is a shame.

The Rating

Majora’s Mask 3D is rated E10 for animated blood, fantasy violence, and suggestive themes. There is a fair amount of violence in the game, though it’s not particularly graphic. Players use weapons like arrows, bombs, and swords to defeat monsters. Although much of the game’s story deals with death or the impending threat of death, it’s all presented in a way that’s pretty easy for kids to overlook. Still, some of the game’s scenes may make young players feel uncomfortable. This is a game that absolutely benefits from good conversation, since much of the story is character-driven.

Pamela and father Majora's Mask 3D

A father and daughter reunite.

The Takeaway

I love Majora’s Mask 3D. It combines the excellent storytelling of the original Majora’s Mask with the comfort and beauty of modern video games. It ties in excellently with the Zelda universe, but also stands well on its own. And it elegantly balances silly gags with heart-wrenching characters. Skull Kid’s story is one that we can all relate to—one of abandonment, of loneliness, and ultimately of redemption. I highly recommend this game to preteens, teens, and adults who enjoy puzzles and adventures.

This article was written by

Courtney is Pixelkin's Associate Managing Editor. While working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, she mentored young girls in teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, and safety. Today, she spends her time studying adolescent development and using literary analysis techniques to examine video games.