Why Majora’s Mask Is Better Than Ocarina of Time

The debate between these two titles has been raging for years, so here’s more fuel for the fire.

By James Stank. Posted 07/27/2010 13:30 36 Comments     ShareThis

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Artwork

How do you make a sequel better than its predecessor? That question can generate tons of arguments and debates from all kinds of gamers. Do you add new game mechanics, or do you give players just more of the same, but refined and improved? Both options can lead to great sequels, but developers must ask themselves these questions every time they set out to make a sequel. Just recently Nintendo had to make that choice when they made Super Mario Galaxy 2. They cut a few power-ups, and tossed in some new, but the game felt more like Galaxy 1.5 than 2. The game was great, but everything seemed like it came right out of the first title. It’s a tough choice, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Look at Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. It was largely more of the same, and Naughty Dog only had 10 and a half months to complete it, and yet it is the best Crash Bandicoot game by far. But this article isn’t about Crash Bandicoot, so that will have to wait for a later time. Nintendo went a different direction, with a certain 2000 sequel. Instead of making this new Zelda game exactly like Ocarina of Time, they decided to change the way Zelda would be played.

Majora’s Mask broke away from the formula that every other Zelda game had followed. For the first time, a Zelda game would have nothing to do with Ganon. For the first time, a Zelda game on a home console would not be taking place in Hyrule. But Majora’s Mask had many more firsts, and many more changes. In deciding to change their formula, Nintendo created one of the best sequels of all time, and the best Zelda game to date. The argument about whether MM is better than Ocarina of Time rages on, but I will do my best to convince you that MM is superior to OoT in every way possible.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Screenshot

Before I get into the details, here’s the story at the beginning of the game. MM begins with Link searching for an old friend in the lost woods, when he is jumped by the Skull Kid wearing a strange mask. Link chases the Skull Kid through the woods to the new land of Termina with a new threat: the moon is falling out of the sky, and it will impact with the world in 3 days. If only you could control time…

Funny thing about OoT is that the “Ocarina of Time” actually had very little to (nothing) do with time. It is the Master Sword that sends Link forwards or backwards through time. Playing the Song of Time also has no influence on time, as it only changes the location of special blue blocks. Being completely honest, there are more reasons why MM should be called “Ocarina of Time” than there are for Oot being called what it is, with the reason being time.

I. TIME

Unlike in OoT, Link doesn’t have an endless supply of time that he can waste by fishing and riding Epona. He only has 3 days before the moon comes crashing down on Clock Town, destroying everything. As it would turn out, the Ocarina of Time finally and actually can control time. It can speed time up with the Song of Double Time, or slow it down with the Inverted Song of Time. Not only that, but it can send Link back to his first day in Termina at any point in his adventure through the original Song of Time. MM arguably has more of a focus on time than any other game prior or since. Some events in the game could only be completed at a certain time of day, on a certain day. As time flows, the moon looms closer and closer, while the townspeople can’t decide whether to stay or go. However, unlike in every other Zelda game to date, there is actually character development, which means you actually care what happens to them. Through 20 sidequests, you grow to sympathize with the characters, and want to know what they are thinking.

II. SIDEQUESTS AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

All of the information for your sidequests is kept in a special notebook called the Bomber’s Notebook, which is an item that you receive early in the game. Every sidequest revolves around certain characters, and can have multiple parts. The most notable sidequest is the one involving the lovers Anju and Kafei. Under the control of Majora’s Mask, the Skull Kid turns Kafei into a kid again. The two lovers are engaged, but Kafei is afraid to show his face to Anju, so he dons a mask and runs away. If you don’t do anything, Anju will wait til the very end for Kafei to show up, in defiance of the certain death that the moon will bring her. Throughout the days, you can talk to Anju, and she will confess to you how worried she really is about him. Anju’s grandmother reveals that she believes Kafei loved another girl, Cremia, so it is up to you to set things straight. Through a series of adventures that take up multiple days, Kafei and Anju are reunited in the doomed city, ready to be together til the bitter end. Another emotional quest is late in the game, when you need to help a girl’s father that’s been turned into a gibdo. She doesn’t know what to do, and gibdos are circling her house. She’s terrified, and Link is the only one that can give the girl father back. After Link returns him to normal, the girl cries, and runs up to embrace her father. While this is going on, the emotional Song of Healing plays in the background, tugging on your soul.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Screenshot

III. MUSIC

As the guys over at damnlag will tell you, MM has the best soundtrack out of all the Zelda titles. Earlier this year, they revealed their top 15 Zelda songs, with the top song arguably being the most touching song ever in a Zelda game. “The team that assembled this list agreed completely on only two things going into its formation: 1) Majora’s Mask had the best soundtrack in the Zelda franchise 2) the Song of Healing had to be number one on our list. In a game that emotionally drains the gamer, the Song of Healing is the perfect remedy.” The Oath to Order is another one of the game’s more touching songs. It’s slightly depressing, and gives you the idea of how small you really are in the world, with giants towering above you in the mystical world. MM also features one of the best boss themes since A Link to the Past, with the dungeon boss theme being quick, upbeat and giving you the sense of danger that you were in. The Deku Palace theme is also one of the more memorable tunes from the game. Once you hear it, it will repeat forever in your mind.

IV. EMOTION

To date, only one game has ever made me want to cry, and MM is it. The depressing moments and music come together to create an emotional punch the likes of which hadn’t been seen before. Whether it’s Darmani being welcomed by all of his friends, or Mikau playing with his band one last time, there is always something tugging at your heart in this game. In OoT, you never got to know the characters so you didn’t care what happened to them. You didn’t care that Castle Town had been destroyed and that Kakariko Village was the last city left. All that you wanted to do was defeat Ganon because you knew that he was bad, but didn’t care what he had done. In MM, you wanted to punish Majora for all of the pain that was inflicted upon the denizens of Termina. You were out for revenge. To aid in your revenge, the mask system from OoT had been upgraded and overhauled. Now, they actually could turn you into a Zora, Goron, or Deku kid.

V. MASK SYSTEM OVERHAUL

In OoT, it was possible to wear different masks, but it wasn’t necessary and really didn’t get you anywhere. In MM you put on masks and literally transformed. You could turn into a Goron and trample enemies, a Zora to swim amazingly fast, or a Deku kid to fly. Each transformation had its own moveset and magic abilities. Blowing bubbles, growing spikes, or creating a protective shield were all possible for Link this time around. He could also transform into a giant, make copies of himself, or turn into the Fierce Deity to crush Majora’s Mask with no effort at all. These new options allowed Link to travel faster over the larger Termina landscape with ease, and without the need for Epona. Certain masks were also needed to aid you in sidequests for the Bomber’s Notebook.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Screenshot

VI A NEW, MORE EVIL VILLAIN

I have nothing against Ganon. He is part of the Triforce, and one of the most badass villains Nintendo’s ever made. That being said, I believe Ganon is overused. MM is the only home console Zelda game that had nothing to do with Ganon. Not only that, but really, how evil is Ganon? I don’t think he’s too evil at all. In both ALttP and OoT he allowed people to continue to live in Kakariko Village after he had taken control of the land. Had Ganon truly been the King of Evil, he would have ruthlessly hunted down and killed every last citizen. But that’s not how Ganon is. He wants to rule, and he needs subjects to be the ruler of. Majora’s Mask (the entity) is different. Majora’s Mask is pure evil, and only cares about killing people and inflicting pain. Not only is Majora’s Mask more evil than Ganon, but it is also arguably more powerful. It had the power to pull the moon from orbit, and send it crashing into Termina, which would have killed every living thing.

All of the points mentioned above are valid reasons for the superiority of MM, though the story and improved graphics help too. If you are an OoT fanboy, at least listen to my argument and see what I have to say. I have nothing against Oot, it was a great Zelda game, but every home Zelda since has been better. Someday, hopefully we will see a sequel. One that will have the Fierce Deity as the main character, so it can have its own share of firsts, as MM did. So what game is better and why? And would you be up for a Zelda game where Link wasn’t the main character? Let me know in the comments.

36 Responses to “Why Majora’s Mask Is Better Than Ocarina of Time”

  • 621 points
    amishpyrate says...

    I’m pretty sure i’m the only person that liked links awakening best…………..

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4
    • 432 points
      dmgice says...

      My favorites are Link’s Awakening, Majora’s Mask, A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess, and Minish Cap in that order.

      So, you’re not the only one who loves Link’s Awakening best of all. I prefer the Legend of Zelda games where Zelda and Ganon are not the driving factors. Also, Link’s Awakening has Marin in it and she’s a great example of an NPC you can actually care about. Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess also have reasonably interesting and deep side characters. Majora’s Mask has points that made me feel horrible if I didn’t beat them the first time. Remember the Lon Lon Ranch bit with the aliens? Or the girl and her dad? Yeah.

      Oh, I noticed there is some sort of discussion below about Majora as a villain.

      Majora is an evil force that consumes blindly. However, this all consuming force is now in the hands of an individual that doesn’t care for anything. Instead of ruling Hyrule and seeking power, we have a villain who just wants to watch the world burn. Comparing the two is an Apples & Oranges bit. Think of Ganon as being like The Penguin and Majora being like The Joker. Penguin wants power, money, fame, et cetra. Joker just doesn’t care and wants to spread nihilism. Or for another example: Ganon is The Kingpin. Majora is Carnage.

      Thumb up 1
  • 393 points
    James Stank says...

    Link’s Awakening was the first Zelda game that I ever owned. It really is an amazing game.

    Thumb up 0
  • 30 points
    CryojenX says...

    This article is right on the money. Ocarina was a masterpiece, but Majora’s Mask took everything to a whole new level in so many ways.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7
    • 393 points
      James Stank says...

      Thanks!! I’m glad you agree with me. The series needs to revisit Termina again. The game I want most is a game featuring the Fierce Deity as the main character in his first battle with Majora’s Mask. The whole backstory of those characters could be fleshed out. Technically it wouldn’t be a Zelda game, as Zelda and Link wouldn’t even be in it, but I’d be fine with that.

      Thumb up 2
  • 360 points
    M. Noah Ward says...

    I really liked this piece for the same reasons. Majora’s definitely in my top 3, while Ocarina is not.

    Thumb up 3
  • 603 points
    Matthew Tidman says...

    I disagree that Majora’s Mask is more evil than Ganon. I think that Ganon is in some ways more evil because of his partiality. Majora’s Mask is a force of nature, something that wishes to destroy no matter who the target is. Ganon wants to destroy selectively. Majora is a child throwing a tantrum. Ganon is a tyrant selectively destroying lives.

    Other than that, though, I have to agree that I think Majora’s Mask was better than Ocarina of Time, and I think it is a shame that history will remember the lesser of the two games.

    Thumb up 2
    • 393 points
      James Stank says...

      I thought about those things too, and even had a discussion about it with my roommates. But Majora’s Mask doesn’t want to simply destroy. It wants to humiliate and cause pain. It turned Kafei into a boy right before his wedding. It injures Koume, poisons the water of the Southern Swamp and Great Bay. Ruined the seasons on Snowhead, causing many Gorons to freeze. And it opened the doors to Stone Tower, unleashing the undead onto Ikana. I know Ganon is evil, but I can’t see him going that far. -And those aren’t all the acts of the mask too. If it can make people suffer, it will do it. And I don’t think the mask is as mindless as you think. It made sure to seal the giants so they wouldn’t be able to interfere with its plan. Its a tough argument, with good points on both sides. Although, could Ganon pull the moon from orbit, and use it to crush Hyrule? I doubt it, lol.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4
      • 603 points
        Matthew Tidman says...

        But you forget that those actions are not the Mask’s alone. In the beginning at least, the Skull Kid was pulling “pranks” that grew increasingly more harmful as time went by. I think that the Mask wanted to destroy but it was unable to because the Skull Kid held it back so its power influenced the Skull Kid to do horrible things until it was able to bring to fruition its mindless purpose to destroy the world.

        The systematic pain inflicted upon the residents of Termina was not by the Mask’s design. It was a Skull Kid who was angry at his supposed friends lashing out at anyone and everyone who he felt had wronged him. Tatl says something very similar to Link when explaining the the Skull Kid wasn’t always as bad as he seems to be now. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

        In this respect, Ganondorf and the Skull Kid are the same. Both use their anger and hatred to try and destroy the world. But who is more evil, Hitler of a rampaging rhino that has been shot? Both want to destroy because they are angry, but only one can carry out a systematic method.

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    • 0 points
      says...

      Children can be dangerous with tantrums…Think about Ema from F.E.A.R. O.O

      Thumb up 0
  • 441 points
    Terr says...

    Majora’s Mask is not better than Ocarina of Time

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7
  • 1314 points
    Andrew Hsieh says...

    Come on, James, the Mayor’s theme is clearly the more addictive song. Though I will give second place to Deku Palace for sure 8)

    I love Majora’s Mask, incidentally. I wish I could describe why, but it’s too early in the morning for that. Though I do enjoy this article: http://bit.ly/cSAGVp

    Thumb up 0
    • 393 points
      James Stank says...

      Hey, there’s a reason this game has the best soundtrack of all the Zelda games. So many songs are amazing. Personally, the Song of Healing would be my number 1. Its sadness soothes and gives the player hope. It has the biggest emotional effect out of any Zelda song. Though the boss battle music is awesome too.

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  • 393 points
    James Stank says...

    I’ve always liked that quote. But at the end of the game, the moon starts inhaling everything, which to me makes it seem as though it is feeding off of the despair and sadness. Which would support my point.

    I do think the mask is smart enough to plot like Ganondorf, but it doesn’t have to. Superman isn’t as smart as Batman, but he’s still pretty smart. But the difference between them is that he is practically invincible and has super-everything. He can walk into a room with people shooting at him and come out unscathed. Batman can’t because he’s human. But when Superman needs to think, he does.

    If Ganondorf had the power to pull the moon down and threatend to destroy Hyrule if he wasn’t given the Triforce, I believe he would. But he doesn’t have that power, which may make him seem more evil, because he can’t just do whatever he wants. So which do you think is more powerful? The mask or Ganondorf?

    Thumb up 2
    • 603 points
      Matthew Tidman says...

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not contesting power with you. Ganondorf is still a Gerudo deep down. He’s not a force of nature and because of that he is limited in ways Majora’s Mask never will be. While I think that Ganondorf has more raw power behind him than Majora’s Mask does, I cannot argue the point effectively and therefore choose not to argue it at all.

      But I am contesting who is the more evil of the two. Power does not equal evil. Power gives evil more scope to grow. Who is more evil, the person who walks into a store and guns down three people at random before taking his own life or the person who plans out a series of murders in a way that lets him kill tens or hundreds. Majora’s Mask is the first. Ganondorf is the second.

      Also, about the whole “inhaling everything.” You use that to prove Majora’s Mask’s has some sort of grand scheme, yet it goes against your earlier argument that Majora’s Mask had specific atrocities committed against the various areas and races of Termina. I think that that actually benefits my point if you think about it. You attacked my argument saying that Majora’s Mask was systematically trying to destroy people’s lives in each of the areas of Termina. I gave a counterpoint to that argument saying the Majora’s Mask wanted to destroy everything but was limited by its holder so it could only intensify what the wearer wanted. So now you claim that Majora’s Mask’s attempt to destroy everything proves that it is more evil. It doesn’t, it proves that it is mindless evil that uses what is at its disposal to create discord to feed off of.

      I still submit to you that Ganondorf’s planned evil is much more heinous than Majora’s Mask’s evil of opportunity. Unless you can find a way to disprove that you will never convince me you are right.

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      • 393 points
        James Stank says...

        No, I didn’t mean that destroying everything makes him more evil. When he says he will consume everything, I feel that the mask is talking about not just destruction, but also feeding on the negative emotions of the townspeople. Their fear and sadness are what the mask is after- in addition to their death. I think we both stopped trying to convince each other long ago, as we knew we couldn’t turn the other. Both of us are simply defending our views and thats cool.

        Thumb up 0
    • 360 points
      M. Noah Ward says...

      Nintendojo… fanning the flames of unresolvable fanboy wars. Since 1996!

      Thumb up 1
  • 933 points
    penduin says...

    All solid points, but in terms of sheer enjoyment, I was just never able to get out of Majora’s Mask what I did from Ocarina of Time.

    I liked wasting time exploring and fishing. I enjoyed experimenting with different combinations of items and techniques. I dove off Gerudo Canyon more times than I can count. In Majora’s Mask, there was no time for such frivolities; I had to earn the next big permanent item and save before the world ended. Yes, the story was more powerful, but at the expense of enjoying the time I spent in it.

    Thumb up 2
  • 30 points
    ghost49 says...

    It appears as if James forgot to mention a important part of the Zelda gameplay, dungeons. This is one area that can be debated between the two games.

    OoT had many more dungeons, and they were very different from each other, while MM only had 4 dungeons. Admittedly, those 4 dungeons were quite good, but the designers would’ve had much more time and energy to devote to each dungeon in MM as opposed to the 8+ dungeons in OoT. Only having 4 dungeons made the game quite short, as opposed to OoT since it could take a while to go through each dungeon.

    MM however has many more sidequests to make up for the lack of dungeons. If MM didn’t have as many sidequests to complete and masks to get and pieces of heart to collect, the game would’ve been much worse. Luckily though, they reused the vast majority of character models in MM, and with fewer dungeons, they were able to focus more energy on sidequests. Also remember that OoT was Nintendo’s first attempt at a 3D Zelda game, and that MM used basically the same engine as OoT. So instead of having to create a new engine from scratch, they were able to just adapt the old engine from OoT, which is why many new features were added. And Nintendo was able to see what things people liked and didn’t like in OoT, and improve the sequel accordingly.

    So I think that deciding whether OoT or MM is better depends on whether you prefer to go through lots of dungeons, or do lots of sidequests. As such, the debate will never be over.

    Thumb up 0
  • 393 points
    James Stank says...

    I didn’t forget about the dungeons at all. And they don’t make a Zelda game, the exploring and adventuring does. And there was much more to explore in Majora’s Mask. Termina Field, Snowfall etc are way, way, bigger than the area of Ocarina of Time so those combined with the sidequests + dungeons give it the edge (in my opinion). I’m not saying you’re wrong, I do love dungeons, I’m just defending my view.

    Thumb up 2
  • 54 points
    Andy Hoover says...

    Overall, I profoundly enjoyed both and generally agree that the extra focus on character development and story more than made up for the shortage of dungeons. Honestly, completing the Couples Mask side quest was a brilliant and satisfying experience.

    However, when picking a favorite I simply have to take into equation Ocarina’s impact on the industry. Majora’s Mask was a great game and work of art, but the sheer innovation in Ocarina was amazing. I still believe Ocarina to be the single most influential game since the transition into 3D gaming and that is worth major points in my book.

    Thumb up 0
    • 393 points
      James Stank says...

      Think it was more influential than Super Mario 64? But yeah, Ocarina of Time was obviously way more influential tahn Majora’s Mask. That was the only reason MM got a 99 by IGN and not a 100. It didn’t come first and didn’t have the impact, so it wouldn’t get a perfect score. And while no home Zelda since has had the impact of Oot, they have still improved on everything Oot did, which makes them better.

      Thumb up 1
  • 0 points
    says...

    I recently played through both Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask again and I have to say that Majora’s Mask was just an all around more satisfying experience. I love Ocarina, it’s a fantastic game, but no matter how great it is, Majora’s Mask is that much better. Ocarina of Time should have been called Master Sword of Time, or Ocarina of Teleportation.

    Thumb up 3
  • 0 points
    says...

    I would like to point out that where MM lacks sheer numbers, dungeon wise, the quests you must complete merely to enter the dungeons are large themselves, where as they are not so large in OoT. For instance, to get into Snowhead Temple, you must locate the lens of truth, the Goron mask, and gain the Goron’s Lullaby, however to gain access to the Fire Temple in Oot you have to stop the rolling Goron and talk to him to gain the red tunic. So although there are a lot less dungeons in MM, you have to a lot more just to get in them.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10
  • 3 points
    Rancid Planet says...

    What a fun read. This old debate just keeps on growing even after all these years.

    Thumb up 3
  • 87 points
    XxThe_SunxX says...

    My personal favorite was WW for a lot of reasons and the cell shade was awesome the first time i saw it and the ocean is soo vast and wide

    Thumb up 1
  • 3 points
    rakki says...

    I know this has taken a long time, but I am going to be honest, I have played both games, and to be truthful, I prefer OoT, not to sound like a fanboy (since my favorite Zelda game is Link’s Awakening, and Oracle ones). The whole going back in time thing was just annoying, sure it was a challenge, which of course, I admire, I enjoy a challenge sometimes, but the whole thing is downright frustrating in an annoying way, sure, most of the game you have to do a long quest before the temple and whatnot, but it was never completely necessary to do most of the sidequests at all, and to be honest its rather stupid how you barely even know most of the main story, all I see (even now) is that Majora is hellbent on throwing the moon at the planet, for no reason, I’m sorry, but no matter what good story plots (which are for the most part, freaking sidequests) it may have, its still about a bad guy that is doing things because of what he is, without any damn good reason. And if there ever was a reason, I wouldnt take “because the giants left Skull Kid all alone” as an excuse. Its an interesting game mechanic, but its not THAT great, as for the music, I say meh, in my honest opinion, the music is not that a big deal, just because a game gave you so much emotions doesn’t mean that the music that goes along its game is necessarily the best one, its fitting (because it is) but its not the best. Not saying I don’t like MM, because I do, I just don’t see it as some superior game to OoT. Also, the reason OoT has its name, is because the key point to saving Hyrule all revolved into getting the Ocarina of time and playing the song to open the door to get the Master Sword, just like in MM, the Ocarina of Time isn’t what the game revolved into, it revolved in the masks, and the fact that the main villain, is someone with the mask, and that you have to get it back to the mask salesman, etc etc.

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