With the 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask now out, there’s been a lot of recent conversation about the title’s surrealist left-field tonal departure from the rest of the series. Its dread-inducing 3-day cycle, array of kitschy masks, characters ranging from the endearing to the perturbed and giant moon antagonist have cemented it as the most off-kilter game in the series. Majora’s Mask seems dedicated to being a “darker” Zelda in a way no title in the series has bothered with sense, and as the series begins to look more and more stuck in its rhythms with each entry, the title is rightfully garnering attention for breaking from the typical Zelda mode.
But Zelda has always been off its rocker, to some extent. There are bits and pieces of the bizarre embedded in every Zelda game—Majora simply lays it on a little more thick. Creator Shigeru Miyamoto and current director Eiji Aonuma are certified wackadoos who have been embedding their kooky ideas into the games for years now. Here’s a minor taste of the examples that prove it. And if you bring up the Philips CD-i games as being the strangest of the bunch, you’re a bad person.
Link may have used more outlandish equipment over the years (Minish Cap’s Mole Mitts, Bow-Wows, whatever the hell a Bombchu is supposed to be), but none have struck me as being as self-aware as Roc’s Feather. The item allows you to jump over holes in the ground. That’s it. They’re not big holes, either—about as wide as Link is. At least the upgrade, Roc’s Cape, makes a bit more sense as a gliding mechanism since it allows you to cross three times the distances. The item acknowledges that, like Rad Spencer, Link doesn’t know how to get both his feet off the ground without gravity doing most of the work. It lets him do something most other people are capable of doing. I mean, I know he’s not “human” or whatever, but the inability to jump isn’t a trait I’ve ever seen attributed to half-elves.
The Biggoron is a Big-ass Goron. He’s an enormous mountain creature that likes to craft miniature swords for teenagers, or get sick, or use his gigantic cheeks to blow winds that kill other Gorons. The issue here is that while it’s perfectly fine for Biggoron to be so big, it’s not fine for no one to ever acknowledge it. We shouldn’t clown on people’s aspects of themselves that they can’t control, but c’mon. No one ever bothers to ask the question, as though being several stories tall is something perfectly normal for a Goron to be. I also have to wonder how big he was at birth, since his parents thought the name would be appropriate. But that raises a lot of other questions: where do Gorons come from? Aren’t they just rocks? How’s your brother Medigoron doing?
It had a be big day over at the Zelda forums when Nintendo announced they’d release their official timeline for the series. Fans had been speculating about which game fit in which of the two timelines created by Ocarina of Time for years, and Nintendo had kept its mouth shut since, let’s face it, the Zelda lore isn’t all that important to designing puzzles and side quests. But how incredible, how absolutely spectacular did the reactions of Zelda astrophysicists have to be when Nintendo put out their Zelda Historia book, revealing there were not two but three goddamn timelines for them to follow. Most had been thinking of ways to wrangle every Zelda game into two paths, but when it turned out that the official truth was even stranger than fan theories, well, that was the strangest thing of all. I’m sure a few had to be bummed they could no longer indulge their speculation, but now that the issue’s been put to rest, well… it’s still really weird.
Like the Biggoron, Gossip Stones remain an unsolved mystery in the Zelda universe. They’re in some way connected to the Sheikah Tribe, since they share a symbol. They can tell the time and provide some healing and magic items if you play them the right song, but no one really knows why they’re there to help. But that’s not weird, it’s just mysterious. What’s weird is when they shoot off into space like a rocket when you hit them with bombs, or when they turn to mush when struck by a hammer, only to spring back to their original, rock-hard form. They’re one of the series’ biggest anachronisms, but here I’m perfectly fine with Nintendo never explaining where they came from or why they blast off, or where they go before coming back the next time you load up the area.
So maybe Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland isn’t a “real” Zelda game, but its implications to the series are profound, none moreso than Uncle Rupee. Tingle is a much-hated and annoying figure in the Zelda universe, overcharging you for items he knows you need, but it’s Uncle Rupee that made him that way. Tingle is the name of a person and a condition, and so Uncle Rupee, whose disturbing visage is centered around his Rupee-shaped head, turned Tingle into a Tingle, a being forced to collect Rupees until the end of time or die. He eventually frees himself of the curse and yada yada yada, but the realization that this whole time, Tingle had been extorting us not because he was greedy, but because his life literally depended on it is some serious food for thought.
Distancing ourselves further from our entry point (part-and-parcel with any rabbit hole), the Meter Giant isn’t actually a real object in the Zelda universe. Developers simply thought it best to measure all creatures and objects in Twilight Princess with a disconcerting model of an enormous man in a striped onesie (complete with bulge) and a wooden mask with no eyes. It’s nothing close to canon, but what it tells us about the people who make these games is more important than whatever role it could play in the timeline. This is the only image I could find of the Meter Giant, and this list is as good a place as any to subject you to it.
This is, bar none, the weirdest thing to have come out of the Zelda series, and yes, Majora’s Mask is responsible. Some of this revered cartridge’s features are nothing but 1s going where 0s oughta be and causing malfunctions, but the urban myth surrounding it is pure malice. These aberrations may not be the ghastly writings of a specter searching for the proper medium to deliver its exalted message and finding only circuitry to muck around with. The whole story of the “BEN” file was likely conjured up by some kook with too much coding experience and time on their hands. But at this point, I think it hardly matters. Imagine, also, another tale, one where this is Nintendo’s magnum opus: a single unhinged cart showcasing their real plans for their darkest game to date. How weird would that be?
Suriel Vazquez is a freelance writer who used the infinite rotation in Tetris DS to cheese his way to high scores, but never felt guilty about it until now. You can follow him @SurielVazquez.