Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Which is the Best N64 Zelda?

Zelda: Majora's Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Which is the Best N64 Zelda?

The Legend of Zelda‘s first foray into 3D would prove to be so impactful to the gaming industry at large that a sequel to Ocarina of Time would be a forgone conclusion. Sure enough, 2 years after Ocarina of Time‘s complete reimagining of the Zelda franchise in the context of an immersive 3D world, Nintendo would release the follow up The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. To this day, Majora’s Mask stands as a fan-favorite Zelda title thanks to its uniquely dark take on the franchise and compelling time-loop mechanic. That said, Ocarina of Time walked so that Majora’s Mask could run, making the battle of Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time for best Nintendo 64 Zelda title about as clear-cut as they come.

Despite it taking place in the far-off realm of Termina rather than Hyrule, Majora’s Mask is essentially an expansion to Ocarina of Time during an era in which DLC for games didn’t exist. That said, the title does enough different to stand on its own as a wholly unique and worthwhile Zelda experience. In comparison, Ocarina of Time feels like a more traditional Zelda experience in 3D, while Majora’s Mask still stands as a Zelda game unlike any other. Both titles have their merits as Legend of Zelda games, but only one can claim the crown for best Zelda game on the Nintendo 64.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Side-by-Side Comparison

Zelda: Majora's Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Both Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda‘s first 3D entries would need to impress players and showcase how Nintendo’s first-party franchises could successfully transition into a new dimension. Thankfully, Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time would both completely transform the landscape and showcase the kinds of experiences possible in 3D gaming. And while Super Mario 64 would never get a sequel or an expansion, Ocarina of Time‘s success practically necessitated a follow-up for fans that were hungry for more 3D Zelda adventures. Following the development and then scrapping of the 64DD peripheral and the accompanying Zelda title for the cancelled hardware add-on, Majora’s Mask‘s release in 2000 would serve as one of the last first-party Nintendo 64 titles before the launch of the GameCube.

CharacteristicZelda: Majora’s MaskZelda: Ocarina of Time
Release DateApril 27, 2000November 21, 1998
Review Aggregate Score95%99%
Total Sales6.82 million units14.04 million units
DirectorEiji Aonuma
Yoshiaki Koizumi
Eiji Aonuma
Yoshiaki Koizumi
ProducerShigeru MiyamotoShigeru Miyamoto
Number of Dungeons59
Requires N64 Expansion Pak
Available on Nintendo Switch
Ports/Remasters/RemakesThe Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (Nintendo 3DS)The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Nintendo 3DS)

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: 5 Must-Know Facts

Here are 5 must-know facts when comparing Zelda: Majora’s Mask to Zelda: Ocarina of Time:

  • Without Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask would not be possible. In fact, most of the same creative team behind Ocarina of Time would return to work on developing Majora’s Mask, making it one of the fastest-arriving follow-ups to a mainline Zelda title.
  • Majora’s Mask would end up being a very successful game, achieving strong commercial and critical success in the same way that Ocarina of Time had two years prior. That said, Ocarina of Time‘s sales and review aggregate scores position it as one of the most acclaimed Zelda titles of all-time.
  • Other than perhaps The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Majora’s Mask presents the darkest game in the Legend of Zelda franchise. Not only is Link fighting to stop armageddon, the game continually presents players with a dwindling clock to remind them of the impending doom.
  • Where Ocarina of Time plays it relatively safe and translates much of A Link to the Past‘s gameplay into a 3D perspective, Majora’s Mask is still one of the few left-field experiments in the Zelda franchise.
  • The popularity of Majora’s Mask would help its Nintendo 3DS remaster to sell even more copies than the Nintendo 64 original, but that figure still fails to meet the success of Ocarina of Time‘s 3DS remaster. Ultimately, the popularity of Ocarina of Time helps it to persist as one of the definitive Zelda games where Majora’s Mask remains a cult-classic.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Establishing the Formula

As the first game in the Zelda series to feature full-3D gameplay, Ocarina of Time establishes several series precedents in the same way that A Link to the Past had for the 2D sereis entries years prior. As a result, Majora’s Mask owes a massive debt of gratitude to Ocarina of Time. After originally beginining development as a remix of Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64DD peripheral, Majora’s Mask would switch gears toward becoming its own standalone title. And, thanks to its use of most of the assets from Ocarina of Time, development on Majora’s Mask would only take a fraction of the time that Ocarina‘s development had taken. Additionally, Majora’s Mask features much of the same team behind Ocarina of Time at Nintendo EAD, including direction from modern Zelda series mastermind Eiji Aonuma.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Sales and Reception

Surprisingly, Ocarina of Time still holds the record for the highest-reviewed game of all time, with a review aggregate score of 99%. Majora’s Mask would end up being a critical darling at the time of its release (and its 3DS remaster would fare similarly), but its critical average of 95% still falls short of Ocarina of Time‘s legendary status. Similarly, the commercial success of Ocarina of Time far outshines that of Majora’s Mask. Though Majora’s Mask would sell a respectable 6.82 million units across both its Nintendo 64 and 3DS versions, Ocarina of Time holds much higher sales figures. In fact, just the 3DS remaster of Ocarina of Time has sold as many units across its lifetime as both versions of Majora’s Mask combined.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: The Darker Zelda

There’s something to be said for offering players an atypical experience in a series as established as The Legend of Zelda, and Majora’s Mask absolutely fits that bill. As one of the most unique entries in the entire Zelda franchise, few games are able to replicate the unique tonal qualities of Majora’s Mask, and its place as one of the “darker” Zelda games is precisely what continues to contribute to it having a devoted cult following. That said, the darkness of Majora’s Mask is a double-edged sword, preventing the game from achieving the same kind of widespread appeal and mainstream success achieved by its predecessor Ocarina of Time.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask vs Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Setting Precedent vs Branching Out

Regardless of its commercial and critical reception not meeting the incredible heights of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask still deserves plenty of credit for the risks it willingly takes with the 3D Zelda formula its predecessor had only established 2 years prior. Ultimately, though, the familiarity of Ocarina of Time (and not the experimentation of Majora’s Mask) would serve as the series’ template moving forward. For more than a decade after its release, nearly all 3D Zelda titles would follow in Ocarina of Time‘s footsteps, with each game iterating on its award-winning formula across mutliple hardware generations. Until the radical paradigm shift of Breath of the Wild, the Zelda series’ success was mostly indebted to the brilliance of Ocarina of Time.

Bottom Line

The Zelda series has never been one to shy away from experimenting with established formulas, as evidenced by the franchise’s first sequel Zelda II. Majora’s Mask is a continuation of this tradition, branching out from the success of Ocarina of Time to take a risk at providing players with a much darker and esoteric kind of Zelda game. Though its experimentation and uniqueness within the series continue to earn it a cult following, Majora’s Mask only exists thanks to the ground that Ocarina of Time breaks. Not only is Ocarina of Time one of the best Zelda games, it also happens to be one of the best video games of all time, period. Thanks to Ocarina of Time‘s innovations and its importance in the Zelda series following its release, it is undoubtedly the definitive Zelda game on the Nintendo 64.

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