The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Countdown Timer Explained

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask gameplay

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Countdown Timer Explained

One of the main reasons millions of fans continue to hold The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask as their favorite game in the series is due to the way that it cleverly bucks Zelda tradition. Whereas its predecessor Ocarina of Time is a traditional Zelda experience through and through (albeit one that is in 3D), Majora’s Mask is one of the first times that the franchise drastically deviates from its formula following the misstep that is Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Thankfully, where Zelda II is a strange one-off experiment that fails to land, Majora’s Mask builds on the incredible foundation of Ocarina of Time to deliver something more than just your average sequel.

The core mechanic at the heart of Majora’s Mask is the doomsday clock signaling the end of the world of Termina. Link has 72 hours to stop the Moon from plummeting down to the surface, and in the course of the player’s journey through Termina, learning how to manipulate that window of time and when or where to do the right things at the right times is critical to success. For anyone who has yet to play Majora’s Mask or is simply unsure of how the game’s central time mechanic works, this guide aims to clear up exactly what goes into preventing Termina’s destruction and stopping the Moon from its apocalyptic descent.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – How Days Work

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask gameplay

Once players get through the introductory sequence of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and finally gain control of Link, the game presents a cryptic warning — “Dawn of The First Day -72 Hours Remain-“. The player learns, as Link does, that there are only three in-game days remaining in Termina before the Moon reaches the surface and destroys all life as we know it. Immediately, the in-game timer starts at 6:00 am on the morning of the first of three days left in the world. Days in Majora’s Mask begin and end at 6:00 am, and each day features a division between Dawn and Night. Dawn starts at 6:00 am, while Night begins at 6:00 pm.

The beginnings of both Dawn and Night, as well as the changing of the Day, each receive an in-game reminder for Link as a means of being able to tell how much time remains. For reference, the major time markers in the game are:

  • 6:00 am, Dawn of the First Day, 72 Hours Remain
  • 6:00 pm, Night of the First Day, 60 Hours Remain
  • 6:00 am, Dawn of the Second Day, 48 Hours Remain
  • 6:00 pm, Night of the Second Day, 36 Hours Remain
  • 6:00 am, Dawn of the Final Day, 24 Hours Remain
  • 6:00 pm, Night of the Final Day, 12 Hours Remain

There are also two events on the Final Day worth noting. At Midnight on the Final Day (12:00 am), the upper door on the Clock Town clock tower opens and the people launch fireworks as part of the annual Carnival of Time. This is the one time in which Link can finally confront the Skull Kid, as well as summon the Four Giants and save the world anytime before 6:00 am. However, at 6:00 am the Moon will crash into the center of Clock Town, triggering Termina’s apocalypse.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Resetting the Clock

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask gameplay

Once the Moon crashes into the center of Clock Town, Link effectively loses the game and returns to Dawn of the First Day outside the Happy Mask Salesman’s shop. To make matters worse, he also loses all of his possessions and pretty much any progress that the player makes throughout the three days. But, because there’s no way in which players can simply complete the game in the time that it gives, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask affords Link a means to slow, reverse, or fast-forward the flow of time. And, naturally, the main method Link will use to manipulate time is his trusty Ocarina and the Song of Time from Ocarina of Time.

Once Link unlocks the Ocarina, he can use the instrument to rewind time back to the Dawn of the First Day without losing his progress or possessions. Further, there are two songs that come in handy for some of Majora’s Mask‘s time-specific events and items (more on that later). These two songs are the Inverted Song of Time and the Song of Double Time. As their names indicate, the Inverted Song of Time simply slows the flow of time in Termina rather than reversing it (such as with the standard Song of Time) while the Song of Double Time speeds up the flow of time.

Playing the Song of Time will prompt the player to save their game before returning Link to the Dawn of the First Day, but for a price. While players will retain all of their key items and permanent dungeon unlocks (beating bosses, collecting Heart Containers, etc.), they will lose all of their non-permnanet resources. As such, Link will lose all of the Rupees in his Wallet as well as forfeit any current stock of Arrows and Bombs.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Time-Gated Events

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask gameplay

With time being so central to the gameplay and narrative of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, it makes sense that so many of the game’s key moments along its critical path are specific to certain days, and even certain times of those days. As an example, there are several Pieces of Heart which are only obtainable after clearing specific dungeons and returning on specific Days and times. Further, Link must return to Clock Town after Midnight on the Final Day in order to confront Skull Kid, which is necessary before summoning the Four Giants and stopping the Moon before 6:00am on the Final Day.

The first run of three days that players will experience will be as a Deku Scrub, which Link can finally reverse after obtaining the Ocarina at some point before the three days are up. Not only does this serve to illustrate how important time manipulation is within the context of Majora’s Mask, it also helps those first three days serve as a tutorial of sorts for something that players will do repeatedly throughout their time with the game. Begin on the Dawn of the First Day, complete tasks (some of which are specific to Dawn or Night and on specific Days), then use the Song of Time to reset the clock and return to the beginning of the loop.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – General Time Tips

Learning the ins and outs of Majora’s Mask‘s time mechanic is necessary to beating the game, but it’s nowhere near impossible (and actually quite fun). Here are some tips that will help any player experiencing Majora’s Mask for the first time or revisiting it after an extended absence.

Use Owl Statues

Owl Statues are fairly common and a great way for players to be able to save without needing to play the Song of Time and reset the clock. Simply slash one of the Owl Statues with Link’s sword and then save the game. Note that these saves are temporary and only loadable once before they are deleted from the game’s memory.

Here is a table indicating what Link keeps as well as what he loses after playing the Song of Time and resetting Majora’s Mask‘s “doomsday clock”.

Things Link KeepsThings Link Loses
New Songs LearnedAmmunition (Arrows, Bombs, Deku Nuts, etc.)
Owl Statues ActivatedItems in Bottles
Quest Items (Equipment, etc.)People and Events
Maps from TingleHigh Scores
Rupees in the BankRupees in his Wallet
MasksTreasure Chests (most restock with 5 Rupees)
Boss RemainsFairies
Dungeon Items (Maps, Compasses)Incomplete Dungeons
Gifts from the Great FairySmall Keys, Boss Key
Progress in the Bomber’s Notebook

Time-Manipulating Ocarina Songs

Finally, here are the three songs that Link will want to master in order to control the flow of time in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. For reference, both the Nintendo 64 and 3DS controls are included.

SongNintendo 64 Controls
Song of Time► A ▼ ► A ▼
Inverted Song of Time▼ A ► ▼ A ►
Song of Double Time► ► A A ▼ ▼
Song3DS Controls
Song of TimeY L R Y L R
Inverted Song of TimeR L Y R L Y
Song of Double TimeY Y L L R R
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