Art is a never ending process. Some say that no work is ever finished, only forgotten, and there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting. The same can be said of video games. Developers work for years on their games and are constantly editing and refining their product as they go. There are countless ideas that end up on the cutting room floor and it can be a lot of fun to sift through them and imagine what might have been.
The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is known for its spooky aesthetic and challenging gameplay. The game had a unique development cycle, rising from the ashes of Ocarina of Time expansions and was initiated under a challenge from Shigeru Miyamoto to Eiji Aonuma. It was completed in only a year using many of the assets leftover from Ocarina of Time, but this didn't stop the flow of creative ideas, and sadly, not all of them made it to the final game.
The game we could have gotten is very different from the one we got, and usually, ideas are dropped for good reason. All the same, if these ideas had been implemented, they would have changed Majora’s Mask dramatically, and it's impossible to say how different the game's cultural impact could have been. Alternate timelines in our universe probably have these versions of the game, but until inter-dimensional travel is invented, we’ll just have to settle with our imaginations and picture a game brimming with these unused ideas.
25 A Week Instead Of Three Days
When development of Majora’s Mask began in earnest, the team originally had much loftier ambitions. The time system was in place, but they imagined a game that took place over a week instead of three days. With the short development time, it quickly became clear that such a thing was overly ambitious, and there was simply too much to remember over the span of a week. Thus, the game we know and love was born, and much of the content planned for seven days was compressed down to three.
24 The Great Fairy Dojo
Collecting Stray Fairies was one of the biggest challenges in Majora’s Mask’s, and the Great Fairies always rewarded you for your trouble. In early builds of the game, you were rewarded with a hilarious cutscene as well.
The Great Fairy would bring Link to her magical dojo, where she would teach him a new move or put him through a training montage to build up his defense. Parts of this idea were used in Twilight Princess when the Hero’s Shade taught you new moves, though he’s far more stoic about the process than the Great Fairy is.
23 Curiosities On Romani Ranch
Data mining in Majora’s Mask reveals a curious cutscene on Romani’s Ranch. In the scene, Cremia can be seen petting a cow in the field and the minigame timer counts down. If the cutscene is canceled via codes, and you walk around the cutscene setup, Link has his bow equipped to the B button, which suggests there was another target practice minigame planned for the Ranch. More manipulation of the code also reveals that the Ranch was originally supposed to be overrun with Stalchildren instead of aliens.
22 Sword Beam Abilities
Many Zelda titles have Sword Beam abilities, usually granted late-game when you have a full health bar. The Sword Beam in Majora’s Mask is available to Fierce Deity Link and you can only wear the mask in boss rooms. Several enemies, however, have programmed reactions to the Sword Beam, suggesting you could have been able to use the sword beam in the Overworld. This would have been amazingly useful, as the Sword Beam could injure or outright eliminate many enemies and could stun Gerudo Guards.
21 Shoot Deku Nuts Instead Of Bubbles
Link’s transformation into a Deku was a sign that Majora’s Mask would be a Zelda game like no other. You were given entirely new ways to play through the masks, and one of Deku Link’s signature moves is shooting bubbles.
Several unused animations, however, reveal that Deku Link was initially supposed to shoot Deku nuts, like his Deku scrub brethren. The player would have to collect Deku nuts to use the ability and Link would be able to burrow into flowers and shoot nuts from there as well.
Photo art by: CindyWorks
20 Leftover Songs From Ocarina Of Time
Many of the assets from Ocarina of Time found their way into Majora’s Mask and all the songs from Ocarina are buried in the game’s code. This includes the temple warp songs, Zelda’s Lullaby, and Saria’s Song. Curiously, the “Final Hours” music starts playing when Saria’s Song is input, suggesting the tune once had a purpose in the game. There also used to be musical note icons that you would receive after learning a song, but this was removed, perhaps for being too tacky.
19 A Whole Bunch Of Items
In Ocarina of Time, Link had a pretty stacked arsenal, and this could have been the same in Majora’s Mask. Items such as the Megaton Hammer and Boomerang were all initially planned to be in the game, but mask transformations came to replace them. There are also “get item” screens in the game’s code for tools such as the Biggoron’s Sword, the Stone of Agony, and Blue Fire in a bottle. The Longshot was also going to be in the game, but was replaced by a slightly longer Hookshot.
Photo art by: BLUEamnesiac
18 Unused Characters (With Their Own Questlines?!)
Buried within the code of Majora’s Mask are several unused character models, all recycled from Ocarina of Time. There is the woman in the light blue dress from Castle Town, the woman from the Carpenter’s house, several people from Kakariko Village, as well as Princess Ruto. There may have been stories attached to these characters that had to be cut, and their inclusion may have given us different tales to unravel, perhaps even different masks to collect. Ruto’s model could have factored in as a young Zora, and this would have likely changed the Great Bay storyline as well.
17 Majora’s Mask Was Almost An Ocarina Of Time Expansion
After the success of Ocarina of Time, Nintendo wanted to create expansions that featured new dungeons, challenges, enemies, and stories, and was to be released on disc for the Japan-only N64DD.
The expansions were to be called Ura Zelda and Zelda Gaiden, but internal issues caused the games to be canceled. Eiji Aonuma was still determined to make a new game, and Shigeru Miyamoto challenged him to develop one in a single year, thus Majora’s Mask was born. Many of the ideas from Ura Zelda and Zelda Gaiden likely found their way into the Ocarina of Time Master Quest on GameCube.
16 So Many Unused Assets
The code of Majora’s Mask has countless characters, enemies, and items that didn’t make it to the final game. Most of these assets are leftovers from Ocarina of Time, and their inclusion would have altered the feel of Majora’s Mask greatly. We could have fought tektites, explored different looking grasslands, dealt with new puzzles, and interacted with characters in unexpected ways. Even green bumpers (as shown above) similar to those seen in A Link To The Past are in the code, and they would have made dungeons far more perilous.
15 Stop The Moon With Jabu-Jabu
When development began for Majora’s Mask, Miyamoto had big plans for fishing. He wanted to do something completely different than what had been explored in Ocarina, and played with the idea of “Jabu-Jabu” fishing. An offhand comment in a Famitsu interview stated that catching Jabu-Jabu would stop the moon from falling! Such a wild idea was never realized, and would have changed the game dramatically. However, when the 3DS version came around, fishing holes were added, and patient player could catch a mini Lord Jabu-Jabu known as Chapu-Chapu. He has yet to stop the moon from falling.
14 Money Is Time
Early builds of Majora’s Mask toyed with the idea of a game that operated in real time, where you only had a finite number of hours to complete the game’s tasks before the moon crashed into Earth.
The team accounted for lazy adventurers, however, and brainstormed a system where you could use rupees to buy more time. There was to be a literal merchant who sells the valuable commodity, and it’s hard not to imagine the banker as this character. This structure would have changed the game completely and would have likely created an even more stressful Zelda experience.
13 The Gorman Brothers Were A Single Man
The Gorman Brothers were serious drags in Majora’s Mask. They insult you when you try to talk to them, and they attempt to rob Cremia’s cart of its precious milk cargo. You hold the two of them off with your trusty bow, but this questline could have been very different. Two brothers used to be a single Ingo: the grumpy usurper of Lon Lon Ranch in Ocarina of Time. Early screenshots show him working on Romani Ranch and a character model for him still exists in the game's files.
12 A Faceless Moon
The moon is one of the most enduring images from Majora’s Mask. How could anyone forget its pained grimace, mad eyes, and razor-sharp nose? The moon adds a surreal mood to the whole game, but once upon a time, it was just a regular old moon. Promotional art for the game shows a dancing Skull Kid in front of a featureless moon. Perhaps this was done to hide the true nature of the moon or was an early idea that mistakenly found its way to the public eye. Either way, it's a good thing we got the creepy moon that we did.
11 The Hero Of Minish Cap… In Termina?
The Minish Cap is an outlier in the Zelda series, but is still an incredible game. Like most Zelda games, it features a prologue with an image of a nameless hero holding a sword to drive out the darkness, who was almost in Majora’s Mask.
An online theorist noticed the connection. Concept art in the Hyrule Historia shows a character on the Majora’s Mask page that bears a striking resemblance to the Hero in Minish Cap. How Link would interact with an ancient hero (or hero to be) would have been fascinating to see.
10 Link’s Sword And Shield
Early images of Majora’s Mask show link with his Kokiri Sword and Deku Shield, but as development continued, these items were replaced by more generic versions. Perhaps it’s for the best, as the Deku shield offered little protection in the best of times. And one can only hope that Link’s old sword is stashed away somewhere safe and hasn’t simply been cast into a ditch somewhere. That thing got him through so much!
9 Help The Beaver Brothers Build A Dam
Every Zelda game has its zany one-off characters. At the top of the river in Great Bay, you can find the Beaver Bros., who challenge you to swim through a set of rings as fast as you can. This is typical Zelda minigame fare, but the game used to have far more beaver-related implications. Early screenshots showed you collecting Deku sticks to help the beavers build a dam instead of swimming through aimless rings. Link’s not a hero for nothing!
8 The Peril Of The Sun’s Song
There are several songs from Ocarina in the code of Majoras Mask, but none are as effective as the Sun’s Song. If you implement the song, the world will jump ahead twelve hours, but there is no cutscene, and you can walk around with the world fast forwarding around you. You must be careful though, for if you play the Sun’s Song anytime past noon on the Final Day, the moon will crash into Termina and erase your save file!
7 Hold On To Your Favorite Ocarina
Few Zelda items are as iconic as the Ocarina of Time. It’s sleek, mature, mysterious, and full of magic, but this was not the first Ocarina in Link’s arsenal. The Fairy Ocarina was gifted to him by Saria, and for some reason, he seems to have discarded before the events of Majora’s Mask.
Beta screenshots show the Fairy Ocarina in Link’s inventory. Why the switch was made we’ll never know, but the character and story implications of a different Ocarina would have been great in the final game.
6 A Very Different Overworld
Games go through many aesthetic changes during their development and Majora’s Mask is no different. Beta screenshots of the game show an unfamiliar Termina. The Stone Tower Temple once had a very different look, the walls of Clock Town were painted with bright red suns, pathways leading to Great Bay were checkered, and the area near Snowhead Mountain had giant mushrooms and ice spikes. It’s fun to imagine what the game would have looked like if these ideas had stuck.
5 Navi Was Still Kicking Around
Few could forget the insistent call of “Hey, listen!” and “Link!” from our lovably annoying companion in Ocarina of Time. In Majora’s Mask, Navi was replaced by Tatl, a fairy as unpleasant as Navi. However, Early screenshots show a Navi icon on-screen, suggesting she was intended to be in the game, but plans clearly changed and the fairies removal became integral to the plot, since her disappearance resulted in Link’s arrival in Termina. But the question remains: will Navi ever be found?
Photo art by: Etrelley
4 Ganondorf, Impa, And Sheik… At The Fishing Hole?!
The fishing hole was a unique addition to the remake of Majora’s Mask and allowed for a lazy distraction from falling moons and sinister masks. The minigame was run by the fishing man, as always, but others were planned to be involved in the business as well. In the game's files are models for Ganondorf, Impa, and Sheik, all under the name “fishing_man” or “fishing _woman.” Perhaps the developers wanted these characters to run the fishing holes, like Koume and Kotake run the potion shop? The idea was likely removed to prevent lore-based confusion.
3 Skull Kid Wearing Your Face
Buried within the files of Majora’s Mask is a rearranging implication. While Skull Kid wears the Mask of Majora throughout most of the game, there are models of a Link mask that he also wears.
Is the mask just for show or does it have power? Transformation masks contain the spirits of their owners. Does this prove the “Link is gone” theory? Would Skull Kid transform into some perverse version of Link? Sadly, we may never know, and can only let our darkest imaginings run wild.
2 Backflipping Zelda
Zelda is conspicuously absent from Majora’s Mask, only appearing briefly in a flashback to remind Link about the Song Of Time (how could you forget that one, come on!). In the game's files, however, there are several unused animations for Princess Zelda and one of them shows her doing a high-flying backflip! Why this animation exists is anyone’s guess, but it would have been incredible if Zelda tagged along with such an ability. Perhaps this explains why Sheik is so athletic in Smash Bros.?
1 Adult Link Mask
Of all the unused ideas in Majora’s Mask, a new transformation would have been the most game changing. Early screenshots reveal an adult Link mask in the item slot, suggesting this transformation was once possible. Being able to switch between adult and child Link without having to go to the Temple of Time would have been amazing. Instead, the final game gave us many of adult Link’s tools, as well as the Fierce Deity Mask, which was admittedly pretty cool… if only we could use it outside of boss fights.