When you think about The Legend of Zelda series, you don't often associate it with horror. Sure, a few entries are kind of dark, and they all have some pretty serious situations such as death, poverty, and greed, but it's hard to call the series scary. That said, there's one game in Nintendo's long-running franchise that stands out as particularly creepy: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Not only is it one of the darkest games in the entire series, but its primary concept is built around the wearing of masks — kind of like Halloween.
Today, GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween dons its Deku mask and explores the crumbling land of Termina. If you missed our last entry, where we discussed Amnesia: The Dark Descent, check it out and see why that game is so scary. For now, though, we're going to join Link on his most bizarre quest to date.
Why it stands out
Majora's Mask was the first console Zelda following the wildly successful Ocarina of Time. The game landed on the Nintendo 64 in 2000, two years after the series' critically acclaimed jump to 3D, so it had a lot of high expectations to live up to. Ultimately, the consensus was that Majora's Mask wasn't exactly as amazing as Ocarina of Time, but it was quite remarkable nonetheless. Once again, Nintendo put together a wonderfully crafted adventure, but this time, some intriguing nuances were added to the formula to make it stand out.
Masks are an integral part of both the gameplay and plot in Majora's Mask. Link must seek out several mysterious masks that help him gain new abilities. It's a fresh take on the series that really evolves the gameplay — even if it's only a minor evolution — and adds a wonderful, novel twist.
Like in Ocarina of Time, Link once again uses his ocarina to play melodies that affect his surroundings and trigger different events. Majora's Mask utilizes the musical component that the series previously used, and it does so much like its predecessor. Speaking of music, though a lot of the themes in this game are taken right out of Ocarina of Time, there are also some new tunes and enhanced versions of older Zelda series songs. The game sounds great, and the opening theme is among the best this whole series has to offer and really sets the mood for the events that unfold.
Is is scary?
Majora's Mask isn't exactly scary in an obvious way. It's really dark, though, and if you take into account all of its little details, it can actually be kind of haunting. For starters, you're trying to save the land of Termina from impending doom. The Moon — which looks an awful lot like Freddy Krueger — is on a one-way course to Termina. If you don't utilize your time-traveling prowess to rewind the clock and go back a few days every once in a while, the somber land will be crushed under the weight of that creepy-faced Moon, mercilessly wiping out an entire population.
Everything about Majora's Mask is just really ominous and brooding. The different areas you travel to are shrouded in mystery and darkness. Bosses are hideous monstrosities that appear to be almost ungodly. To top it off, the lanky Skull Kid who dons the titular Majora's Mask is ridiculously weird and creepy, and like some warped horror movie villain, he taunts and teases you any chance he gets.
One thing that always stays with me for a while whenever I play Majora's Mask is Link's mask transformation. Upon slapping on a mask, the legendary hero seems to be consumed by it. It's almost as if the mask is trying to possess him, and he tries to fight it off, but he just can't. To this day, hearing Link screaming in agony as he endures the pain of wearing a mask that latches onto his face and transforms him is one of the most unsettling yet memorable sounds I've ever heard in a game. It's actually kind of horrific.
Why play it on Halloween?
The tone of Majora's Mask is what makes it such a great choice for Halloween. The game's probably not ideal if what you're looking for are scares, but its essence is ominous, lonely, devastating, and haunting. Death is a primary narrative element in the game, as is the apocalypse, making for a desolate theme that essentially leaves you with practically no hope. If you're after a moodier tale on Halloween, Majora's Mask offers up exactly that.
If its eerie style wasn't enough, the whole thing revolves around wearing masks, which is obviously fitting. This is easily the weirdest in the Zelda series of games, and its darker direction makes it a fine adventure to embark upon come Halloween.
By the way, if the Happy Mask Salesman isn't creepy, I don't know what is. Just look at that terrifying mug!
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