The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Review (N64)


This review was originally published in 2016, and we are updating and republishing it to celebrate the release of Majora’s Mask on Switch, available as part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack N64 library. 

The Zelda games have a lot of fans, and over the years, there have also been many opportunities to return to previous entries in the series, and indeed The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has seen several re-releases since it first appeared on the Nintendo 64 in 2000. It was included in the GameCube. The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition compilation, then the Virtual Console was released for the Wii and Wii U, and (especially notably) appeared on the 3DS as a wonderful glasses-free 3D remaster that smoothed out some of the rough edges and made it more accessible to modern gamers on a handheld system (re-)living the quest Link in the world of Terms.

If you haven’t played Majora’s Mask before, know that this is an absolute hack that offers tons of fun with its dark, offbeat story that grabs you from start to finish. You start the game by encountering the fearsome Skull Kid, who quickly transforms you into a Deku Scrub and runs off with your Ocarina. You will soon find yourself in Clock Town, where you will soon realize that you have more to worry about than just returning to your normal form.

As the city prepares to celebrate the Carnival of Time, a menacing moon slowly descends from the sky. You have three days to stop him (playtime: just over an hour), which is surprisingly not enough. Luckily, you can get your Ocarina back and perform the Song of Time to go back in time three days. Good news? You are safe. Bad news? The manic moon is still falling. Relive three days as you run like Hylian Bill Murray through a foreign land, trying to find a way to prevent the apocalypse and save the lives of the people of Termina.

For the 3DS, the extra power of the handheld was used to enhance the visuals while maintaining the look and feel of the original Nintendo 64. Perhaps the goal was to recreate the game as people remembered it, and if that was the intention, then the reality of the source (or the purely enlarged version available to Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscribers) is slightly more blocky and has lower resolution textures.

While you’ll encounter polygonal objects with sharp corners that threaten to gouge your eye out, Majora’s Mask is one of the later and more compelling N64 games. A good variety of locations and characters combined with decent effects like rain, flickering flames, and an effective day/night cycle make for a great game. If you’re playing on Switch, you also get the option to use the full-speed 60Hz version in PAL regions rather than the slower 50Hz version used for the Wii U Virtual Console release. The GameCube disc release supported 60Hz, but unfortunately, it had audio glitches and sometimes froze, so it’s good that the game is finally running on the TV at full speed.

The quality of the game is still great. As you’d expect from a Zelda game, there’s a lot of exploration and combat involved, and it’s as enjoyable as ever. Including a repeating three-day cycle works well, shaking up the formula and adding a sense of urgency to the process – through it’s this time “limit” that pushes people back into the day. Time-loop games cost ten cents right now, so if you’ve bounced off a game in the distant past, we highly recommend you go back to it. Majora’s Mask has a relatively slow start, and the dark Deku Link section arguably creates another barrier to entry for people expecting something more open and engaging – something more like Ocarina.

Be persistent, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a narrative that features some of the series’ most touching and deepest moments. You can keep going back in time as needed, and additional songs can be used to manipulate time to your advantage, but you must carefully consider how you approach the challenge if you hope to complete it before the moon collapses. If you run out of time, don’t forget to put your rupees in the bank before heading back; otherwise, your accumulated wealth will be destroyed. No, it doesn’t make sense, but hey, it’s a video game.

The characters you encounter – many of them are strange alternate versions of the people you met in Ocarina’s Hyrule – add to the atmosphere incredibly. Initially oblivious to the moon, their mood changes over the course of three days until those who haven’t escaped are stuck in fear as they watch the end draw near. The music also plays a big role in this change, starting with light, upbeat melodies and ending up much more menacing towards the end.

As you progress, more areas of the world are revealed to you, and in addition to learning new songs, a number of masks are collected that allows you to interact with different characters and grant some useful abilities. For example, the Deku Mask, which turns Link into a Deku Scrub, lets you shoot flowers to fly, while the Zora Mask is the preferred option for swimming fast (and swinging on an awesome fishbone ax), and the Goron Mask lets you ride with dizzying speed.

This diversity is a core part of Majora’s Mask, and if you add in an innovative three-day cycle, four main dungeons, and rich storytelling in a game that allows you to follow each character and really get to know each character in a manner unlike any other entry in the series, it’s no surprise. that there are many people who prefer Majora’s Mask to the mighty Ocarina of Time.


Majora’s Mask is a rich and complex game, despite its appearance, very different from its predecessor. As with Ocarina, the 3DS remaster only highlights the flaws in the original N64’s game design, but even if this updated version remains the “easiest” way to get into the game – especially for beginners – it doesn’t render. The original version is “unplayable” or unwanted. The thing is, Majora’s Mask is still great, offering Zelda’s usual mix of action and adventure through a twisted, surreal lens that still feels compelling to this day and remains unique in the series. With music, visuals, and characters that create an incredible mood, Majora’s Mask makes watching the end of the world approach a pleasurable experience.

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