Nintendo Leaned Into the Horror in Majora’s Mask
With the imminent release of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I wanted to look back at the series most twisted and dark entry Majora’s Mask. When we looked at what I can only assume is a decrepit mummified Ganondorf in the announcement trailer for Tears of the Kingdom, it gave off real Majora’s Mask vibes. Immediately we get the sense that this will be a lot darker in ton than Breath of the Wild, which was already a pretty depressing story.
Spoilers for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild follow…
Following the Champion Link, who was killed one hundred years ago. Zelda placed him in the resurrection shrine to regain his strength and take up the Master Sword against Ganon. Along the way, we find that his fellow champions and their ancient beats tied to them had been corrupted by Ganons evil Calamity. After freeing our four allies, we return to Hyrule Castle to end Ganon and free Zelda.
By the end of the story, Breath of the Wild was an ode to everything that came before, but the structure aligned with Majora’s Mask. Free the four giants to take down the big bad. But something was missing, and the glimpses we have gotten into Tears of the Kingdom have given vibes of being weird and strange. The last time Nintendo went weird with Zelda, we got Majora’s Mask, so here is hoping that we get something to the same extent. I wanted to highlight a few things in Majora’s Mask that are strange, depressing, and just absolutely terrifying in hopes that strange Nintendo rears its head again.
Since we at Dread have touched on the hand in the toilet before, I will not be bringing that up, but you should definitely check that article out!
First, we need to talk about the moon. The moon gave an entire generation of children horrific nightmares. The basic premise of Majora’s Mask is that Link has three days to save the world from a falling moon summoned by Majora to basically crush humanity. We had seen something similar to this three years ago in Final Fantasy 7 with Sephiroth calling Meteor, but why did Nintendo slap that face on the moon? With its sunken orange eyes, malicious open maw bearing its monstrous mouth. It was the thing nightmares were born from to this day. It remains one of the creepiest things Nintendo has created. To make things worse, after every twelve hours, we are reminded of just how much time we have left as the tempo of the music intensifies. It really instills this feeling of panic as we try to stop this satanic moon from destroying everything.
Throughout the journey, though, Link will come across people who need his unique brand of assistance. While most of these are entertaining, they are more on the mundane side of things, like fetch quests spanning multiple days and meeting people at specific times. But a few rocked me to my core as a child. Two specifically that I still think about from time to time.
“Them” is one of these side quests. During the Romani Ranch side quest, you will be tasked with defending the farm. Taken directly from the game, “They… They come at night… every year when the carnival approaches… They come riding in a bright, shining ball. A whole lot of them come down… And then… they come to the barn…” Romani herself sets this part up to be ripped straight out of an Alien invasion movie. What’s worse is that if you fail to stop the aliens from reaching the barn, they will take the cows and Romani herself into the sky. On the final day, if you return to the ranch, you can find Romani with her memory erased from being taken that night…
The other one really takes the cake. Remember, Nintendo is known for its family-friendly aesthetics.
During Link’s adventures, he comes to the area of Ikana Canyon. Within this area is what is best described as the music box house surrounded by Gibdo, the mummy-like enemies that we know so well from our time with Ocarina of Time and their horrific attack of wrapping themselves around you draining you of your essence.
Before you return the water to the canyon, if you try to enter the house, a voice from the other side will scream, “Keep away from our house! My father is not one of you!” Giving you a slight inkling of what is coming up. As you enter the house, in the basement, you find it locked away in a closet, a man’s mouth agape in pain, lurching towards you. Half wrapped in bandages, screaming towards you, as his daughter Pamela bursts into the room before Link can deal with the issue in the only way he knows how. We learn that the man had been driven insane by venturing down a well where Link has to go.
Lastly, the whole plot surrounding Majora’s Mask deals with Life and Death. Link can shapeshift into different races from the Zelda world, Goron, Deku, and Zora, through the power of masks. Where does Link get these masks? Besides the Deku mask, which we start with, He gets these masks off of dying members of said species. The Zora, we literally find dying. Having been fatally wounded in an attempt to save some Zora eggs from a nearby pirate fortress. We had to push his half-dead corpse from the sea to the beach, where he finally gave up the ghost. While the Goron mask comes to us when Link comes across a Goron spirit, which leads us to his secret grave. Having died trying to free his land from a curse, the leader of the Gorons fell in battle. Helping him move on, we are given his mask to embody his power.
Each of these transformations is absolutely terrifying, by the way. It baffles me today that this game is aimed at a younger audience. It’s rad as hell and a more mature story, especially for Nintendo. It was a side of Nintendo we weren’t used to seeing and one that rarely pokes its head out. But seeing that Tears of the Kingdom is being set up the same way as Majora’s Mask, I hope we get to see Nintendo’s freak flag fly and let them get weird with it.