Ocarina of Time may be the most famous Zelda game released, but Steven Balbirnie highlights its oft-forgotten successor, Majora’s Mask

Majora’s Mask is one of the forgotten gems of the Zelda series. This game ranks not only among the best of its series, but among the best games ever made. It’s unfortunate that the game is constantly overshadowed by Ocarina of Time, which is being re-released for the 3DS this year because of its popularity.

The brilliance of Majora’s Mask arises from the innovative plot and superb gameplay mechanics. Link, the hero of the series, finds himself in Termina, a twisted mirror-image of Hyrule where essentially, he must endure a darker version of Groundhog Day. Link has three days to prevent the demonic Majora’s Mask from crashing the moon into the earth and destroying all life in Termina.

Each of the 72 hours equates roughly to a minute of playtime, giving the player about an hour to save the world. If you fail to do so, you have to travel back in time to the first day and live through it again; though each time you’ll gain new knowledge and some items such as masks and weapons carry over with you.

The three-day mechanic of the game works fantastically, as the tangible passage of time adds to the experience. As the sinister moon looms ever closer, the background music grows progressively more erratic, while the behaviour of characters shifts noticeably with some beginning to flee their homes.

What’s also excellent about this mechanic is that it allows for events taking place concurrently throughout the world. Unlike many other games, events take place whether or not you witness them with non-playable characters getting on with their lives rather than eternally standing in one spot and repeating the same statement every time they speak to you.

Aside from the timeline feature, the other novel aspect of the game is the masks. There are over 20 masks to obtain throughout the game with their functions ranging from the essential to the bizarre. For example, one mask has the useful ability of increasing Link’s speed while another solely allows you to listen to an old lady’s stories without falling asleep.

However, the best masks are those which allow Link to transform into some of the creatures of the series – the Deku Scrubs, Gorons and Zoras. Each race has its own unique abilities introducing a fresh dynamic to the series as Link must transform himself to tackle the various challenges he encounters in his quest.

Essentially, Majora’s Mask retains all of the best aspects of the series while staying innovative. If you have a Wii, then make sure to download this treasure from the Virtual Console channel.