Friday, April 10, 2015

Video Games Brought My Brother and I Closer Together

Just like Mario and Luigi are video game partners (and sometimes rivals), my brother and I are too

Since yesterday was apparently "National Siblings Day" here in U.S. (or maybe it's just one of those crappy made-up Hallmark card holidays; I honestly don't know), and it got me thinking about siblings and video games and how the two relate.

The way I got introduced to video games was though my older brother.  He got an original PlayStation when we were about six or seven years old. Like any annoying little sibling, I wanted to do everything my brother did, so of course I played video games too. From then on out, he and I would spend countless hours cooped up in his room playing games together, which I imagine caused my parents to stare at each other in disbelief and lament, "Oh god, what have we done?!" 
The first game I remember playing with my brother (and the first game I had ever played period) was 007 Racing for the original Playstation. Yes that's right. A self proclaimed Nintendo fan's first video game experience was in fact not a Nintendo game at all, but a crappy movie-spinoff racer.

Going back and researching this game, it's apparently shittier than I remembered....

Being the blissfully ignorant children we were, this game was the most amazing thing ever made. I remember the elation I felt as I would shoot heat-seeking missiles at my brother's car, blowing it to smithereens, laughing maniacally at the carnage that I caused. Of course, he later tried to make up fake rules saying that I couldn't use the heat-seeking missiles, but being the smartass little sibling I was (and still am), I called bullshit right away, or something like what a six year old child would say. I'd like to think I said bullshit in a high pitched, pre-pubescent, yet eloquent manner, but my memory from my early years can be a bit subjective sometimes.

My six year old self felt no remorse for causing large explosions, and subsequently death. Was I a psychopath? Maybe. A badass? Definitely.

Being the younger sibling, I had to really savor my victories. I don't know what it is about being the youngest, but it always seemed like my brother managed to beat me no matter what. I was always better than my friends who played games, but my brother was always two steps ahead of me. Kind of like Luigi is always in his older brother's shadow no matter what, I'm always in my brother's shadow as well. But, I'm okay with that because playing video games brought us closer together.

I'd like to think that the reason why my brother and I are so close is because we bonded so much in our early years through playing video games together.  He and I are really close in age as well (19 months apart), so we were always each other's playmates no matter what. Video games allowed us to solve problems together. For example, when I eventually got my Gamecube (my very first console), he would help me when I would get stuck in Super Mario Sunshine.  We bonded through playing games together and helping each other out.

Even if my brother got a new game and it wasn't multiplayer, I would still sit and watch him play it. We would talk about what we liked and didn't like about the game, so I think that helped us understand each other more in one way or another.We just spent a lot of time together, and video games were really the catalyst in making our relationship so strong. I will always treasure the memories of staying up late into the night watching my brother play Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, 007: Agent Under Fire and Nightfire (he and I played a lot of James Bond games for some reason, mostly because Pierce Brosnan starred in the games that were released back then and he's the perfect Bond IMO and a certified badass). I still watch my brother play video games to this day. It's something that I love to do because I get to spend time with him.

I may not have as many siblings as the Koopalings do, but I wouldn't trade my brother for anything; quality over quantity!

Nowadays, my brother and I don't have as much time to play video games as we used to (growing up sucks! How do I adult again?). So, when we do get the chance to play together, it makes it all the more special. No matter how old we get, or how much things change in our lives, playing video games with my brother will always be my favorite pastime. Those memories and feelings never age. I know that when we're 80 years old and barely alive by medical definition, he will still demand to be player one, and he will still beat me no matter how hard I try.

Some things never change, and I'm okay with that.


Thank you for reading my blog about my dearest childhood memories with my brother! What's your experience with playing games with your siblings? What are some of your earliest experiences with games? I'd love to hear!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Could Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS be the last Smash games?

In the latest Nintendo Direct, it was announced that the developers of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS are now taking suggestions for new characters to add to the already packed roster. Two new characters that are already slated to be added are the fan-favorite Pokémon, Mewtwo, and Lucas from Earthbound. Both these characters (and the new ones to be added, most likely) are going to be available to purchase as DLC. The reasoning behind the developers wanting to add new characters could be a myriad of things ranging from a shameless cash grab, to fan service (or a combination of both), but I can't help but think that there might be an alternative reason for wanting to add fan-requested characters.

Mewtwo makes his return to Smash Bros. for the first time since Melee

Literally. Lucas came out of nowhere, but why? Do we really need a Ness clone? *takes shelter*

Let's back up for a second. I'm sure the majority of you have heard about the theory that the Super Smash Bros. franchise being modeled after series creator Masahiro Sakurai's life.  I have always had a hunch that maybe some of the game's themes and characters were pertinent to the creator's life.
In the first Smash game for the Nintendo 64, the opening cutscene depicts a child bringing his toys to life in his bedroom to make them fight. Therefore, we can assume that the Smash franchise takes place in a child's imagination. With each entry in the series, the child gets older and becomes more mature. For instance, the characters were depicted as being plush toys in the first game, and became action figure-like statues in the later entires, giving the player the sense that the child was growing up.  Fittingly, Sakurai grew up with Nintendo, so this child could represent him and his progression through his childhood.
And then we have the series' main antagonist, Master Hand. He is the final boss if the player runs through Classic Mode. It seems rather strange that in a world full of Nintendo baddies, that a disembodied hand is the main villain. Well, in the Smash Bros. universe, Master Hand represents creation and ultimate power. He can be interpreted as representing Sakurai's desire to create. It makes even more sense if you look at the N64 opening cutscene, considering that a hand is the one making all the toys come to life and fight, much like Sakurai did when he created the series.
But, then we have Master Hand's alter ego, Crazy Hand. He's the complete opposite of Master Hand; he's sporadic, unpredictable, and erratic. Crazy Hand made his first appearance in Melee, which isn't a coincidence. The development of Melee was a difficult one for Sakurai. He reflected on the experience in a column he wrote for Famitsu magazine:

"On a personal level, Melee had an extremely grueling development cycle. Some of my other games did, too, but Melee sticks out far ahead of the pack in my mind. I worked on that game for 13 months straight, after all, without a single Sunday or holiday off that whole time. During parts of it, I was living a really destructive lifestyle -- I'd work for over 40 hours in a row, then go back home to sleep for four."

Sakurai has been quoted saying on multiple occasions that he dislikes making sequels, so Crazy Hand could represent that feeling. Crazy Hand's trophy info in Melee even mentions his desire to "destroy one's own creations". Since Melee was the first Smash sequel he made, this interpretation of Crazy Hand makes sense.

Crazy Hand could represent Sakurai's desire to break free of making Smash sequels and move on to other projects
Moving onto Brawl, we see Master Hand be under the control of a strange character called Tabuu in the Subspace Emissary story mode of the game. By definition, something that is "taboo" is not of the norm for society, such as playing with toys. By this time, the child is now in young adulthood, so playing with toys is seen as unacceptable. Tabuu represents adulthood and the judgement of society, and that's reflected in his appearance. He often has his arms crossed, almost judgmentally, closed off to the world. Not to mention that the fight against him is grueling, much like the fight against society and adulthood is in real life. 

Tabuu cold represent adulthood and society's judgement
In the latest installment of the franchise, Master and Crazy Hand make appearances again. However, if you face off against them on a high difficulty, they become Master Core, an insanely hard final boss that can take multiple forms. If you manage to defeat Master Core, he becomes a defenseless ball, emblazoned with the Smash Bros. logo. In this state, Master Core can't attack or hurt you, unless you take too long to defeat him, in which he will self destruct and kill himself anyways. This could represent Sakurai giving us one last hard fight, and once defeated, allowing the player to end him. He's willingly surrendering himself to the player, and to defeat.

Fierce Deity Link faces off against Master Core in the 3DS version

Sakurai has said that the two Smash Bros games he developed for Wii U and 3DS may be the last games he develops for the franchise. In an interview done with Game Informer he discussed his difficult position with developing another Smash game:

"I can't positively declare there won't be [another Smash Bros. game]. With both Melee and Brawl, I made those games with the thought that there wouldn't be any more sequels. Thus, I really can't deny the chance for another. However, as for myself, I don't think there will be. And yet, despite that, I also have trouble picturing someone else taking my place."

It's no secret that Sakurai is probably one of the most dedicated game developers out there. He works impossibly hard to produce the very best games possible. As a result of that dedication, he sets a higher and higher standard for himself, which he compares to a noose tightening around his neck. Creating the Smash Bros. games has taken a very big toll on him, but it's still very understandable that he would have trouble leaving a franchise that he himself created and has worked so hard on. But, as was evident in the inclusion of Master Core, it really does seem that he intends on leaving the franchise, despite being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Perhaps relating Master and Crazy Hand and Master Core to Sakurai can seem like a bit of stretch, but the franchise really is his baby, and they say that you write about what you know, and I think the same goes for him.

So what does this have to do with the inclusion of fan-requested characters?

Well, this is the first time the developers have done something like this. It seems to me that they're possibly trying to prolong the life of the Wii U and 3DS versions by adding more and more content. Could it be possible that they're doing this because these games might be the last? With the series' creator possibly leaving, it seems plausible to me.
Sakurai himself said that he couldn't see the series continuing without him. He's set a pretty high bar for anyone who comes after him, so it remains to be seen if anyone could live up to the legacy he's already created. All good things must come to an end, after all.
On the other hand, Smash Bros. is one of Nintendo's most successful and well-loved franchises. If Sakurai were to leave, they'd probably find someone else to take his place. Not to mention that in today's day and age, it's very common for developers to add content in the form of DLC to their existing games. Perhaps Nintendo is just keeping up with the times.

Take a break, Sakurai, You deserve it.

However, when I was playing the Wii U version, I couldn't help but see the signs of Sakurai's decision to leave and pay homage to the other games. The different menu themes of previous games play, and the credits theme is a mashup of all the previous Smash Bros. theme songs. I can't help but feel like that's a nostalgic goodbye of some sort. Whether it's a goodbye to the creator of the series, or to the series itself, that remains to be seen.

Be it the end of the series or not, I think Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U will be the Smash games that we will play for a very long time. After all, there was a 6 year gap between Melee and Brawl, and an 8 year gap between Brawl and the current versions. And with Nintendo's new console on the horizon, who knows what the future has in store for the Smash Bros. franchise.


Thanks for reading! I love to pick apart my favorite games (as does Game Theory), so everything I talked about is how I (and many others) interpret the game. What do you guys think? Is the Smash franchise coming to end if Sakurai leaves? Why or why not? What are some characters you'd like to see be added to Smash?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Majora's Mask truly embodies the spirit of the Zelda series

So much has been said about Majora's Mask that it's easy to overlook what makes this game so great when it comes down to bare bones. One of this game's claims to fame is the "Ben Drowned" Creepypasta that plays off of the macabre and dark environment of the game. This game has such a large cult following (it's become even more apparent with the recent collector's editions of the game being sold out in 15 minutes or less) that the premise of the game almost gets drowned out (no puns intended) by all the hype. So, what is it about Majora's Mask that that makes it so popular?

Like Majora's Mask, the Wind Waker wasn't a fan favorite at first

If you think about it, Majora's Mask and The Wind Waker have a lot in common. They both were games that resulted in an upgrade in hardware (MM with the ExpansionPak and WW with the GameCube), and they both weren't well received by the Zelda fanbase at first. You can really tell that the developers were attempting to try something new with these titles. In Majora's Mask, they were able to add more detail and complexity to the overworld that was absent from Ocarina of Time. With Ocarina, the developers introduced the concept of the 3D Zelda game, but with Majora's Mask they perfected it. With The Wind Waker, I think the developers wanted to play with the idea of a more expressive Link and more dynamic overworld, hence the cell-shaded graphics. Both titles were hailed as being too different, and therefore fans steered away from them at first. However, they both eventually became huge hits and received/are receiving remakes. In my eyes, these games (Majora's Mask more specifically) embody the spirit of the series that was introduced in the original game.

The least popular Zelda titles are often the most different (excluding the original of course)

In the original Legend of Zelda game, there was very little direction, leaving the player to explore the world as they pleased. Granted, the Zelda games of today are way more linear than the original Legend of Zelda, but I think Majora's Mask is a more modern version of the original game without being being a direct sequel.
There are so many secrets to be discovered in Majora's Mask. The game itself is like one big puzzle, and it's up to the player to figure out where all the pieces go. That's much like how the original Legend of Zelda game is. In both games, the player acts as a detective trying to solve a mystery with very few clues along the way. Granted, many other Zelda games feature these elements, but in Majora's Mask and The Legend of Zelda, I feel like the exploration element is the most prominent.

There are 24 masks to collect in Majora's Mask, and 20 unique quests to get them

The developers of the upcoming Zelda game for Wii U claim that they're going back to basics. However, I think they already have in the form of Majora's Mask. The game is such a good example of what makes Zelda times great, both new and old. The time where that game was seen as taboo and too different is now gone. I think it's arguably one of the most popular Zelda games to date. Hopefully the upcoming remake will do it justice, but only time will tell. I'll be playing that game as soon as it comes out, so expect a post about by thoughts of the game! With this post thus ends my series of Majora's Mask posts.

If you're intertested in other things I've written about Majora's Mask, be sure to check out my top 5 hopes for Majora's Mask 3D, my theory about the story of Majora's Mask and what it means, the Majora's Mask easter egg in A Link Between Worlds, the classic dungeon theme easter egg in Majora's Mask and the Star Fox easter egg in Majora's Mask.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Easter Egg Spotlight: Classic Zelda Dungeon Themes Make an Appearance in Majora's Mask

The hit Zora band of Termina, the Indigo-Go's

Instead of doing a daily easter egg like I used to, I'd like to do more of an easter egg spotlight, highlighting my favorite easter eggs. Since I'm doing a few posts about Majora's Mask, I thought I'd do a quick little post about my favorite easter egg that I found in the game.
There's a band in Majora's Mask named the Indigo-Go's. They're a popular band in Termina that's made up of Zoras, the aquatic race of the Zelda universe. When you go to Zora's Cape, you can listen in on their rehearsals. Three members of the band play classic Zelda songs when they rehearse. The first time I listened to them  playing, I thought what they were playing sounded familiar, but it wasn't until I did a little research that I found out exactly what they were playing.

Tito the drummer plays the cave theme from A Link to the Past.

Japas the bass player plays the dungeon theme from the original Legend of Zelda.

Evan the keyboard/piano player plays the "Game Over" theme from  the original Legend of Zelda.

I tried to find individual in-game examples of this easter egg, but the closest thing I found was a Let's Play episode by Dekinosai on YouTube. He collects a few Heart Pieces, but eventually shows all of the Zora band members playing their easter egg tunes. I recommend you watch the video because this is a very fascinating easter egg, as well as a good example of the atmosphere of Majora's Mask. You can watch the video here.


Monday, January 5, 2015

3 Days of Majora's Mask Love Day #2: Is Link in Purgatory in Majora's Mask?

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is widely regarded as being the black sheep of the Zelda franchise. It doesn't make much sense when compared to the other entries in the series, and it's nothing like the other Zelda games, or even like any other Nintendo game up to that point. Instead of saving a princess and going on a (mostly) lighthearted adventure, Link gets transported to a completely different land that isn't Hyrule and has to save it from impending doom. Seems pretty straightforward, right?


Majora's Mask is easily the most emotionally mature title in the Legend of Zelda series. It revolves around death, loss, hopelessness, and grief. More specifically, it highlights and mirrors the five stages of grief. There is a widespread theory that claims that Link himself is going through the five stages of grief in the game in order to overcome his own death. There aren't any overt occurrences in the game that prove this theory, but it can be gathered from many of the in game events that maybe Nintendo developed this game to represent something deeper than what can be gathered on the surface...

(Of course, I will be delving very deep into this game so if you want to avoid spoilers, you better not read this!)

Like any other great piece of art, there can be many different ways to analyze Majora's Mask beyond what you see on the surface...
Now, I realize that this is a really popular theory that has been talked about a lot, but when I played through the game, there were a lot of things I noticed that haven't been talked about as much. I'm an English major, so analyzing symbolism and dialogue is something I love to do, so there were many instances in Majora's Mask where I thought that there was something more being said than what was actually being said, if that makes any sense. Also, Majora's Mask is my favorite video game of all time, so it's fun to pick it apart. So, without further ado, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

This is the Kübler-Ross stages of grief model

The Kübler-Ross stages of grief model outlines what the average person goes through when faced with a loss of a loved one. It may look like theory on the surface, but having gone through the loss of my father 3 years ago, I can personally attest that I did indeed follow the model when grieving over the loss I experienced. The five different areas in Majora's Mask perfectly mirror the five stages of grief in order.

Somehow, the people of Clock Town don't seem to notice the ever-present and ever-terrifying moon looming over their heads, coming to bring certain doom
The first stage of grief is Denial. Consequently, the first area of the game the player is introduced to is Clock Town, where all of the residents are in denial about the astronomically apocalyptic moon that's hanging over their heads. Even the town's resident astronomer doesn't seem to be phased by it, which is completely baffling when the moon looks the way it does. When an expert on cosmic bodies doesn't seem concerned about the danger, you know that they must be in denial. To me, the moon represents the certainty of death since it is such an apparent entity, foreboding and prominent. The moon stares you right in the face,  just as death stares you in the face for all of your life. The people of Clock Town decide to ignore and deny their deaths by denying the presence of the moon.
The townspeople are so much in denial that they are planning a carnival, completely ignoring the problem at hand. And when someone shows some sanity and suggests that maybe they should evacuate the town, they get ridiculed and accused of fear mongering.

Yeah the theory is certainly groundless. I mean, a moon with a face on it being unnaturally close to the ground is completely normal!
The townspeople are certainly going through denial, but what are the consequences of this denial? As each of the three days that they have left to live passes, some of them come to their senses and leave, but some decide to stay. To me, this symbolizes how some people only realize they're dying when it's too late to do anything about it. The head carpenter in town stays in town for all three days, refusing to leave his work even though he faced certain doom, much like the people of Pompeii refused to leave when it was apparent that Vesuvius was going to erupt.
 Another  example of denial in Clock Town is the longest side quest in the game which revolves around two characters who decide to stay in town and die together in order to be together. Their relationship was doomed from the start, but they waited to be together at the very last second possible. I am of course referring to Anju and Kafei, who are separated and spend the last few days of their lives trying to reunite. You could say that they are in denial about the danger around them because they are so much in love. It's touching and sweet, but also a little maddening as well. You see, Kafei was turned into a child by the Skull Kid (the little annoying imp that stole Majora's Mask), and disappeared. It's then up to Link to track Kafei down and reunite him with Anju.

Okay, Anju, I get that you love Kafei, but he looks like he could be your little brother.

Anju's mother tries to reason with her to get her to evacuate the town, but she won't listen to her. You must be in the deepest and most ultimate form of denial to ignore your own mother to stay in town for a guy who may or not be missing. Anju seems to be in denial about her death because she doesn't seem to care about dying at all, or even realizing that she's going to die; all she cares about is Kafei. You could also infer that Anju may just be really stubborn, but isn't being stubborn almost equal to being in denial about the truth?
Not only do the characters show how Clock Town symbolizes denial, the music that plays conveys a sense of denial as well. As each day progresses, the music in Clock Town changes from cheery and pleasant to ominous and eerie. Even on the very last day, mere seconds before impending doom, the cheery melody of Clock Town plays on over the desolate and desperate melody of the final day. To get a better sense of what I'm describing, click here to experience the music for yourself.

Whoa there, Deku King, let's not make decisions when we're angry...

Moving on to both the next stage of grief, Anger, and next area the game, the player ventures to Woodfall to find that there's trouble amok. There, the Deku King's daughter (the princess) has gone missing, and he gets very angry about it. Instead of trying to look for her, he decides to punish an innocent monkey for it instead. There's no evidence that the monkey did it, other than that the monkey is actually friends with the princess and tried to save her himself. The king is just lashing out over the loss of his daughter because he's angry. Okay, so I was mistaken. You do indeed save a princess in this game, but it's less Zelda and more Deku.
To add insult to injury, Woodfall is tainted with poison, and to me that poison symbolizes how anger can get in you and kill you from the inside out, like any toxin does. Once you let anger in, it festers and can destroy things quickly, as shown by how rashly the Deku King lashed out.

Poison, like anger, can spread to other areas of your life, affecting you beyond the loss you experienced

The Deku King isn't the only person who is angry in Woodfall. The Tour Guide in the Swamp Tourist Center is embarrassed because his son acts immature for his age. If you show him a picture of his son, he gets really angry, but will give you a Heart Piece in return. Who is his son, you ask?

That's right. It's Tingle, the 35-year-old fairy wannabe!

The next area in the game is Snowhead, where the next stage of grief, Bargaining, is represented 

The player comes in to contact with characters that are experiencing Bargaining in the next area of the game, Snowhead. The mountain-dweling race known as the Gorons have lost their hero and leader, Darmani. Link comes in to contact with the spirit of Darmani, and he begs Link to bring him back to life. Or, you could say that he's bargaining for his life.

After Link plays the Song of Healing, sealing Darmani's spirit into a mask, he encourages Link to read about his life story so he can better understand how to live life in Darmani's stead. As mentioned above, one of the aspects of bargaining is the desire to tell one's story. Also, Darmani seems to be really confused about what happens, and tries to bargain with the fact that he can't be dead, which is also a classic sign of bargaining.

Lulu the Zora is Depressed over the loss of her eggs

The next stage of grief is Depression. After dealing with bargaining, the player heads to Great Bay to meet Lulu the Zora, who has lost her eggs. She is the singer of the Zora band, the Indigo-Go's, and Link has to take the form of Mikau, the slain Zora guitarist in order to find Lulu's eggs. Mikau went to recover the eggs himself, but was killed in the process. Lulu refuses to sing until her eggs are recovered. All she does is stand around, staring at the sea, silent. She's too sad to speak, let alone sing. Depression is also associated with detachment, which makes sense in Lulu's case because she refuses to let anyone help her, not to mention that she stands alone, not seeking the company of the rest of her race in the tough time she's going through.

The last area of the game before the finale is Ikana Valley. The stage of grief modeled here is Acceptance. While Ikana Valley is a place of death, the undead beings that exist here are comfortable and accepting of their existence. The most prominent example of acceptance in Ikana Valley is the Stone Tower temple. The temple requires Link to ascend into the heavens to accept his death. To complete the temple, you must flip it around so you face the ground. To me, this symbolizes the ascent to heaven, or the descent to hell.  Before the boss fight, Link acquires the Giant's Mask in order to fight the boss. To me, this symbolizes Link achieving comfort with his death, and becoming larger in life because of it.
In the Stone Tower Temple, you either ascend into the heavens, or descend into hell

The Elegy of Emptiness creates funeral effigies for the deceased characters, including Link
In order to ascend upwards, Link must make statues of the dead spirits he has healed. According to popular theory, these statues represent funeral effigies for those who have died. He's literally paying homage to the spirits that helped him along his journey by creating effigies of them. Link can create statues of the three spirits he has healed, along with a statue of himself. If he can create statues for the other characters because they're dead, that would mean that he is dead as well since he can make a statue for himself.

Another story of acceptance is that of Pamela and her dad

In order to proceed onwards with the plot, Link must get the Gibdo mask from Pamela's dad. Her dad has been turned into a Gibdo (think mummy mixed with zombie) and it's up to Link to save him. However, even though Pamela may be scared of her father the way he is, she accepts him and protects him. However, when Link turns him back to normal, they have a touching scene where they reunite. I can honestly say that seeing Pamela reunited with her father is the only time a video game has made me cry. That moment touched upon the feelings I felt during the time I lost my own father.  Even though Pamela was able to be reunited with her father since he wasn't truly gone, I think the whole situation can symbolize that even when we lose someone, they're not truly gone; they can live on in our hearts and minds, and it's up to us to accept their death the way it is.

The calm before the storm: the very last stage before Link can fully accept his death.

After Link conquers and goes through each stage of grief, he then can come face to face with the evil that has been plaguing his journey to acceptance: Skull Kid and Majora. To me, this last part of the game is the most symbolic. Link journeys inside the moon in order to confront Skull Kid. Inside the moon, he finds the scene pictured above. It seems so surreal that such a serene place would exist inside something that looks like this:

Even though he has overcome every stage of grief, his journey to acceptance isn't over yet. Inside the moon, there exist the "moon children". There are five of them, one for each area of the game. Four wear the masks of the bosses you have defeated, while one wears Majora's Mask. Link must talk to each child and give them some of the masks he's collected. He then enters into a kind of mini-dungeon that represents each dungeon he has overcome so far. It's like he's re-living the experiences that brought him to acceptance. I see these moon children as the final gatekeepers before Link can get to heaven. By giving the children the masks he's earned through his experiences in Termina, he's proving that he is worthy of entering paradise. However, even after he's proven himself to the moon children, he must prove that he can defeat what I think symbolizes his death: Majora himself.

The moon children. Each mask represents a stage of grief and boss that Link has defeated except Majora. Majora represents Link's death itself. Link cannot fully overcome his death unless he defeats Majora

If Link collects all 24 masks, he gets access to the Fierce Deity's mask. By wearing this mask, Link transforms into his adult self, except he is super powerful. To me, this symbolizes that Link has fully come to terms with each stage of grief and now has the true power to fully overcome his death,  Majora.

The question is posed whether or not the Fierce Deity is as evil as Majora. To me, the Fierce Deity represents what Link could have become if he had not died. Only after healing everyone's sorrows, Link has access to the ultimate weapon to use against Majora, fulfilling his true potential. After Link defeats Majora, Skull Kid and Link get closure. This is the ultimate symbol of Link overcoming and accepting his death since Skull Kid seems to be the one responsible for everything that has happened to Link.  Everything goes back to normal and the evil leaves the mask, like nothing had ever happened.  Finally, the three day cycle is over, symbolizing Link's acceptance of his death. A Dawn of a New Day arrives, and the journey that Link went through almost seems pointless.

The evil possessed by the mask and the way it affected Skull Kid seems random and unfair. I think this random, unfair evil symbolizes how death can be random, or unfair. They say that only the good die young, and that's obviously what happened to Link (at least in my eyes).
And so, the carnival does indeed take place, and Link (although not invited to it) rides off without even seeming to want to enjoy the place he saved by attending the carnival. Why? Well, because his work there is done. With the evil gone and his death overcome, he can finally move on.

Even Tatl knows that Link's work is done and that he should take his leave

And so he does, riding off into the light...

The end. Literally.

Lastly (well, almost, I still have a bit more to say), I interpret the end screen of this game as being Link's grave. He's pictured with Skull Kid and the four giants on a tree stump as pictured above. This represents the journey he went on. There's the beginning and end of his problems, represented by Skull Kid, and the personification of his efforts in Termina with the giants representing 4 of the 5 stages of grief (Skull Kid being the 5th).

So, in a nutshell, this is my theory of what happened:

Okay, so in the beginning of the game, we have our hero Link riding into the woods to look for Navi, the fairy that aided him in his quest in the last game. I think by this point, Link had already passed away. The woods look different. They're misty and desolate, nothing like the woods we saw in Ocarina of Time.
It is said in Ocarina of Time that anyone who wanders into the woods and gets lost who is not a child of the forest (a Kokiri) will be turned into a Stalfos, a skeleton-like monster. It is revealed in Ocarina of Time that Link is not a Kokiri, meaning that if he gets lost in the woods, he can become a Stalfos. So, I believe that Link got lost in the woods while looking for Navi and became a Stalfos.
To back up my theory even more, let's fast forward to Twilight Princess, another installment in the Legend of Zelda franchise.

What Hyrule Historia, A.K.A. The Bible of the Zelda Universe, says about The Hero's Shade

In Twilight Princess, an entity known as the Hero's Shade teaches Link secret techniques. He desires to do this because he "could not convey the lessons of that lift those who came after". In Hyrule Historia, it is confirmed that the Hero's Shade is the spirit of the Hero of Time, A.K.A. Link in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. So, why wouldn't the Hero of Time be able to convey the lessons he learned? Something must have happened to him. He wasn't able to carry on the hero's legacy because he died in the forest, becoming a Stalfos. He even appears in Stalfos form in Twilight Princess, as pictured above. That's also why I think Link's grave is that stump in the woods; that's where he died.
To further prove that the Hero's Shade is Link from OOT and MM, he's left handed like Link, and many of the songs he knows are from Ocarina and Majora. He also says the phrase "believe in your strengths", something also said by the Happy Mask Salesman, a pivotal character in Majora's Mask.

Hyrule Historia also says that he wasn't remembered as a hero. Having saved the kingdom from the ultimate evil, you think he would have been. To reiterate, something must have happened to him for him not to be remembered, such as him completely turning into a form that is so different from his own. To me, the evidence is overwhelming.

The Zelda timeline as it appears in Hyrule Historia

This theory also makes sense with the official Zelda timeline. Majora's Mask is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess (the game in which the Hero's Shade appears) comes after Majora's Mask. It is also said in The Wind Waker that the Hero of Time disappeared, resulting in Hyrule being flooded. While The Wind Waker takes place in a different timeline known as the Adult Era and Majora being in the Child Era, it still makes sense to me that the Hero of Time's disappearance would be him falling in the forest as a child, never becoming an adult, meaning that the Hero was gone from Hyrule, leaving it unprotected, resulting in the events that take place in The Wind Waker. The Hero's Shade and the timeline are in my opinion the strongest evidence supporting this theory, considering that this is all information that is confirmed to be canon by Nintendo.
Going back to the game itself, Majora's Mask just has a really surreal feel to it. Everything in the game seems otherworldly, like it can't be real. I mean, there are aliens in this game. Aliens.

Yup. That's a cow being abducted by aliens in a Zelda game. It seems too weird to be true, mostly because it probably is.
I believe that the events Link goes through in Majora's Mask are his very own form of purgatory. I mean, why else would this game take place in any other place besides Hyrule? Majora's Mask takes place in a world known as Termina, which is one letter short from "Terminal" as in "the end". Termina seems like it's a completely different world apart from Hyrule. After all, it does have its own nightmare inducing moon. Link fell into Termina though a hole in a tree. How does one fall into another world, especially one with its own sky? It doesn't seem like something that could be a part of reality. Besides, all of the normal elements of a Zelda game are absent from Majora's Mask, including well, Zelda. Ganondorf isn't in this game, and neither is the Master Sword. In fact, Link barely seems to remember what happened to him before he arrived in Termina.

Link remembers Zelda giving him the Ocarina, but that's it.
His memories of what happened in Ocarina of Time seem very distant, as if they happened in a past life. There's another Zelda title that didn't take place in Hyrule, and Ganon, the Master Sword and Zelda were absent—Link's Awakening. Spoiler alert, but everything that happens in that game turns out to be a dream.  So, that leads me to believe that when key Zelda elements are missing from a game, the events that take place may not be real. At least, that seems to be the case with Majora's Mask and Link's Awakening. Both games are also very...strange to say the least. I don't think it's a coincidence when probably the strangest Zelda titles of the bunch have so many similarities, causing me to believe that Majora's Mask also may be some sort of dream or purgatory.

Everything Link experiences in Link's Awakening is a product of the Wind Fish's dreamy imagination

So, Link dies in the forest, his body becomes a Stalfos, and his spirit moves on to the pergetory-like Termina where he must accept his death, represented by the Skull Kid and Majora's Mask. Once these two are defeated, he can finally move on. But, his regrets weren't fully eased, and he must pass down his teachings to Link in Twilight Princess to fully move on.

My theory about the prevalence of time and grief in Majora's Mask:

When I was in high school, one of the Biology classes did a big project about how humans deal with grief, which sparked my interest in the topic. They covered the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, but also talked about something called "The Loop".

"The Loop", besides being the neighborhood in Chicago I live in, is how people often deal with grief. You see, grief isn't a linear journey; we constantly cycle back though the different stages, sometimes ceaselessly.  I think this is represented in the 3 day mechanic in Majora's Mask. People cycle through the stages of grief over ad over again until they come to terms with the death they experienced.  Also, the "Grief Wheel" also bears an uncanny likeness to something else in Majora's Mask...

Clocks are an ever apparent symbol in Majora's Mask
The themes of time and grief in Majora's Mask seem to compliment each other. It takes time to get over death, but also time is feared, due to the inevitability of death. Yet, clocks are everywhere in Majora's Mask, a constant reminder that time is always running out. The game revolves around themes of grief and time, so to me it makes sense for the game's lead protagonist to be involved in those themes as well. Not to mention that Majora's Mask can be extremely creepy and unsettling, and not even just to children; this game gave me the heebie-jeebies on more than one occasion. The apocalyptic setting and the macabre imagery make me believe that this game is trying to make a point; the main character is going though something truly terrifying and pivotal.

The transformation cutscenes are some of the most terrifying and unsettling elements in the game
A lot of the characters in Majora's Mask are quite creepy as well, and there's one in particular I'd like to talk about.

My theory about the Happy Mask Salesman's character:

Before I say anything else, let me say that the Happy Mask Salesman is probably one of my favorite video game characters of all time, if not my absolute favorite. He has this air of mystery and hilarity about him. He's quirky, serious, foreboding, and not to mention terrifying all at the same time.  He's a pivotal character in the game, and the first character Link comes into contact with when he enters Termina.

The very first thing the Happy Mask Salesman says to you, and probably the most famous line in the game

The Happy Mask Salesman plays a very important role in the game. He turns Link back into a human  and gives him the most important tool that he will use in his journey through Termina— the Song of Healing. He tasks Link with getting Majora's Mask back from Skull Kid, so you could say that he really pushes him to conquer his death, or so I theorize.

He may be a bit spazzy, but the Happy Mask Salesman has a lot of power
Since the HMS pushes Link to defeat Skull Kid, I think that he represents a god-like figure, at least in Termina. Since I also theorize that Majora's Mask itself represents death, it would make sense for a god-like figure to want such power back—because only he as a deity should be able to give out death, so to speak. It's like he's trying to write the wrong that Majora's Mask (death) placed upon Link since his death in the woods was so untimely.
The HMS doesn't behave like a normal character. His animations are purposely spazzy (for lack of a better word) and at the end of the game, after getting back Majora's Mask, he just disappears into thin air. He also talks in parables, much like you would expect of a god-like figure. He also makes a giant organ appear out of nowhere, which is strange to say the least.

This isn't Animal Crossing; you can't just pull pianos out of your pocket!

He says before this "However, a parting need not last forever", which goes along with the fact that even though death separates us from our loved ones, they still exist in our hearts and minds.
The HMS is so prevalent in the game that it leads me to believe that the developers wanted him to seem like he was larger than life, and maybe even god-like. He's in the opening cut scene for the game, and you hear his creepy laugher and his famous phrase, "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?" every time Link fails to save Termina. He knows that Link failed, and he in turn wants Link to know that, much like gods want those who worship them to work towards being a better person and to realize their true potential.

The Happy Mask Salesman is he appears in the opening cutscene of Majora's Mask

According to, the Happy Mask Salesman is based off of Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Legend of Zelda series. Miyamoto is highly regarded in the gaming community, god-like almost, so I think the same can be assumed about the HMS. Sure, it may be a bit of a stretch, but it's an interesting notion nonetheless.

Remember the moon children we talked about earlier? They kind of look like the Happy Mask Salesman, don't they? It would make sense considering their interest in masks. Also, many theorize (including myself) that the Happy Mask Salesman and these children are a part of the tribe that sealed  the evil of Majora's Mask away. They would have to be pretty powerful and god-like to be able to seal away such a great evil.

The Happy Mask Salesman: Wise, quirky, helpful, god-like, and terrifying.

In closing:

Majora's Mask is easily my favorite game of all time. So much of the game is left unexplained, leaving the player to make up their own explanations. The themes of loss and grief speak to those who have experienced those feelings in real life, such as myself. All of the things I have described in this post are how I in particular interpret the game. I have heard many other theories about how this game mirrors African mythology, and other mythological stories from around the world. So much of Majora's Mask is open to interpretation, much like many great novels and works of art are as well. To me, Majora's Mask is the perfect case for why video games should be considered art— they speak to us and help us cope with the harsh reality of daily life, just like many novels, films, or paintings can. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my theories about this masterpiece of a game! Believe it or not, I have one more post planned about Majora's Mask for you guys. In the meantime, what do you think the story in Majora's Mask means? Do you believe Link is dead? Why or why not? Like I said, this game is open to so much interpretation, so I'd love to hear your take on it!