The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Most games are about heroism; the protagonist rides into town, takes some damage, gets some goods and saves the day. Nothing wrong with this formula, but it’s always a treat to find a game that diverts, even slightly, from this linear approach.

“Majora’s Mask” really isn’t that different from the above scenario; the goal is to stop the moon from crashing into Clock Town and to save the town’s residents from certain doom (and to rescue a misguided imp from his own worst impulses), but the difference is in the little details.

“The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” is a game all about healing.

Here, Link is tasked with the normal hero’s stuff, but if he wants to make it through the final boss battle alive, he’s got to collect Happy Masks, and the only way to do that is to help specific people in Clock Town and ease their troubles.

Some are easy; listen to a man confess a secret, and the Bremen Mask is yours. Stop a robber from stealing goods from an old woman, and the Bomb Mask is yours. Spend a lot of time (a LOT of time) reuniting two star-crossed lovers and three masks will come your way.

It’s not just the people in town who need your help either; the lands around Clock Town (the swamp, the forest, the ocean, the mountains) all have their sorrows and they all need Link’s help to get back to normal. And he’s only got three days to do it all.

“Majora’s Mask” has always felt like that oddball entry in the series; there’s no Zelda, no Ganon, the fairy companion is a bratty prankster named Tatl (a vast improvement over Navi), players are forced to replay the 72 hours of gametime over and over in order to finally restore this world.

“Ocarina of Time” was my first Zelda game, and while I can recognize the goodness in it, it was not fun experience for me (it was my first console game, and it took me four years of on-and-off playing to beat it), but “Majora’s Mask” is the one that convinced me to keep playing this series, even if I will never see another game quite like this one.

It’s a unique adventure in a series with an established formula, and while the formula works (and it does keep working), this entry, about a boy who heals the world, not just saves it, will always have a place in my heart and on my game shelf.