At the time it was originally released, back in the year 199X, it felt like a sort of lesser remix of the peerless Ocarina of Time.
Many of its elements - re-living the same three days over and over, the weird melancholy that permeated the world of Termina (a dark shadow of the series' traditional Hyrule setting), Link being transformed into different creatures - felt like they broke much of what we loved. Now, looking back, we were probably stupid to feel that way. But then, we've got stupid running through our veins.
In most respects, Majora's Mask is the most complex game in the entire Zelda series - both narratively, and in terms of its gameplay.
It did everything that Zelda had always done - the dungeons, the exploration, the character interactions - but dropped Link into a doomed world, one that was destined to be destroyed in just 72 hours, via the never-quite-resolved search for a lost friend.
Link, as is the way of these things, is the only one who can stop the moon falling out of the sky (a consequence of the titular mask being stolen by some absurd, skull-faced, imp). And he can't. At least, not the first few times it happens.
Only by collecting further magical masks can Link possess the powers and abilities (spin attacks, belching bubbles, skipping over water, gliding etc.) necessary to retrace his steps, and get where he needs to go to do what he needs to do to render the power of the titular mask inert. And that.
It's unlikely we really need to recap the gameplay: if you've played any of the Zelda games, this does everything the series has always done.
It's the three-day cycle - amounting to about an hour of gameplay - and atmosphere of impending doom, which really makes this different.
Link discovers the ability to slow down or jump forwards in time - but being able to do this feels like balancing on a knife-edge. It really does seem like you have the fate of a world in your hands, and you could break it at any moment. In addition, Link also gains the ability - through song - to manipulate the weather, or teleport, or... well, you get the idea: as with previous Zelda games, Majora's Mask is one of ability-gathering, built around a peerless and beautiful structure, and interactions with probably the weirdest characters in the history of the series.
So. We were wrong. With hindsight it's difficult to remember why we weren't taken with Majora's Mask first time around, but the 3DS version has finally won us over, just 20 years late.
The changes to Majora's Mask 3D are subtle - the graphics have been given a bit of a polish, there are hint-type concessions to the shorter game sessions required by handhelds, and it generally feels a little less difficult and intimidating than before. But for our money, this was necessary. It improves the game, while holding onto the genius of its structure.
There's really not much point in saying much more (plus, we've been typing for literally minutes, and our fingers are swollen). As a game, this was probably brilliant first time around. Now its brilliance is more accessible to idiots like us.
If you want an example of singularly breathtaking game design, coupled to a story and an atmosphere that will stay with you in-between play sessions, this is a no-brainer.
SUMMARY: It's a classic, often overlooked in the Zelda pantheon, but overlook it no more. You must play this.