With The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask recently remastered for the Nintendo 3DS, we’ve been spending a lot of time pretending to be someone, or something, else with the help of a vast selection of useful and unusual masks. Throughout video game history, we’ve been using masks to conceal our identities, to obtain mystical powers, and sometimes for the sheer comedic effect.In video games, masks often transcend their façade and become the Swiss army knife of the gaming universe.
Here at Grab It, we thought it was timely to celebrate these mysterious accessories by ranking our top ten video game masks.
10. Cyclone (Kid Chameleon)
How could we possibly do a list about masks without including Sega’s king of kids - the leather jacket-clad, Wayfarer-bearing renegade, Kid Chameleon. Although I must admit nostalgia somewhat clouded my vision of this Sega gem, and I originally intended to give the Berserker mask a spot on this list. So, for integrity’s sake, I revisited Kid Chameleon to make sure my love for the wall smashing Rhino was justified.
And it wasn’t. Donning the Berserker mask dupes you into feeling unstoppable, allowing you to charge through brick walls. But that’s all it’s good for. Try ramming even the tiniest enemies with your protruding horns and you’ll be tossed backwards like a rag doll, losing health and your pathetic power-up in the process. No, the real power lies in the superhero mask: the Cyclone. Finding the Cyclone mask effectively opens up the lazily designed levels, allowing you to transform into a whirling vortex and float about the stage, discovering hard to reach secrets and giving you optimal control over the Kid’s jumps. Normally I’m not one to endorse a faultless power-up that lowers a game’s difficult, but the Cyclone is a handy tool that breathes some life into a game that stales quickly in its old age.
9. Orlesian Mask (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
The Orlesian Mask is a symbol of many things: wealth, corruption, mystery and intrigue. All of which are plentiful in The Grand Game played by the nobles and rulers of Orlais in the Dragon Age universe. The Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts story arch in Dragon Age: Inquisition has you visiting Orlais to play a part in The Game. The player must choose to sabotage or support the assassination of Empress Celine. This mission is an unusual and exciting foray that puts battling demons, mages and wardens on the backburner for a moment and delves deep into the twisted web of political turbulence that exists in Thedas.
While the Orlesian masks do not imbue their wearer with any supernatural abilities, it allows for the snooty upper class to hide their identity and reveal their true personalities. These hidden agendas unravel in a number of fascinating ways toward the end of the mission. But from the very beginning it’s clear that any and everyone who wears the mask has something to hide.
8. Masks of Yalung (Far Cry 4)
Did I burn every propaganda poster in Far Cry 4? Nope. Did I spin all 40 Mani wheels or find every lost letter? Nope and nope. I came into Far Cry 4 to liberate Kyrat, not to spend hours doing what is essentially the video game world’s version of community service. Among the over abundance of jobs to do in Far Cry 4, I generally settled for story missions, outposts, bell towers and hunting quests. Yep, I kept it pretty simple: a straight shooter. That is until I found a Mask of Yalung, then another, and another. Each time I heard that intensifying hum I gradually became obsessed with finding that damned mask.
Nearly every time you find a Mask of Yalung, you will also find a corpse and a note. The notes’ increasingly cryptic messages explain that the killer, who calls themself “The Goat,” leaves the masks and bodies as a tribute to Yalung. The messages become more and more spooky as you destroy the masks; The Goat becomes vexed with your interference and begins addressing the player directly. Though the rewards to finding these masks were worthy and plentiful, the resolution to The Goat’s story arc was rather anticlimactic. I don’t think it’s on the cards, but a detective inspired DLC focusing on The Masks of Yalung could provide closure to what was otherwise an intriguing departure from the main story of Far Cry 4.
7. Corvo’s Mask (Dishonoured)
Corvo Attano’s mask was designed after its creator had a dream where “death itself” was staring back at him. That statement begins to resonate through Corvo’s actions as he systematically assassinates many high-ranking members of Dunwall’s aristocracy.
The mechanical, skull-like mask becomes a symbol of terror in Dunwall, and rightfully so. But it’s not just its ghastly appearance that makes Corvo’s mask so useful, it’s also quite practical. With the right blueprints procured, Corvo can have the mask upgraded, attaching a telescopic lens that allows him to covertly observe and listen in on enemies from afar, making this one powerful tool for the masked felon.
6. Yamask (Pokémon Black and White)
Yamask... what a doozy. We all know the story of how Cubone, the adorable first-gen Pokémon, wears the skull of its dead mother, howling at night, awaiting her return. It’s not often the Pokémon universe treads such dark territory in its lore, but when it does... man. Such is the case with the Unova native Yamask. Yamask is inspired by the Egyptian concept of ‘Ba,’ the part of the human soul that makes an individual unique. The Ba is, essentially, the essence of a human, their personality, and is something that lives on even after the body has died. Oh, and the mask Yamask is holding? That’s a death mask. Death masks were created worldwide with a wax or plaster cast, moulding to a deceased person’s face in order to create an everlasting memento of that person’s image.
But it’s quite reasonable that Game Freak would base a Pokémon on this unique practice, especially when its evolution, Cofagrigus, is a possessed sarcophagus. But here’s where Yamask’s story gets a little creepier. It is said that Yamask is fully cognisant of its past life as a human and that it will sometimes stare at its mask and weep, longing for the life it once lived. So remember – the next time you’re spamming Shadow Ball with the spectral Pokémon - behind that mask is an aching soul pining for its lost humanity.
5. Big Face (Abe’s Oddysee)
Big Face’s mask gets a spot on this list for two reasons. Firstly, the sheer size of that mask tells of its greatness. It would take a special kind of Mudokon to bear the weight of the mask’s physical and spiritual mass. And secondly, if it weren’t for Big Face, Abe’s journey would have ended abruptly after plummeting from the top of Rupture Farms’ sheer perimeter. Our flatulent friend Abe had a lot of heart when he set out on his quest to save Mudokons from being processed into chow. But all the bravery in the world can’t compare to the mystical powers that Big Face bestowed upon Abe, such as the ability to summon the Mudokon god, Shrykull
Big Face also helped instigate the events of Exodus by accidentally putting Abe into a coma. Without this unsung hero, we wouldn’t have a sequel; further, hundreds of Mudokons were spared a death by mincing, and for that, we thank him.
4. Brandon (Hotline Miami)
Brandon was originally the second contender for this spot. I had originally intended to use Hotline Miami’s Horse mask, Don Juan. Having the ability to kick a door into your enemy, smearing their innards across the floorboards, is not only the goriest form of slapstick humour you’ve ever witnessed, but its utility also comes in handy when you’re backed into a corner. But Hotline Miami’s twitch-reflex gameplay is meant to be difficult. Its difficulty pushes you to instantly retry with each failure. This is why Brandon is such a great addition to the game.
Like many masks, Brandon is both a curse and a blessing. This Panther inspired mask grants the player super speed, which, depending on your level of mastery, will either give you the power to zip around each room, lopping off heads like a demonic incarnation of The Flash, or complicate the already frenetic gameplay, expediting your inevitable death.
3. Aku Aku (Crash Bandicoot)
This guy. Aku Aku has been there from the very first time you took your fancy new PlayStation console for a spin back in 1995. Naughty Dog first introduced the Godfather of bandicoots, Aku Aku, as a power-up with one line of dialogue - "Ooga Ooga." Aku Aku granted the gamer a short burst of invincibility when three of his masks were obtained, giving players one of the most exciting bouts of unbridled power of that era.
In each iteration that followed, Aku Aku’s role in the Crash universe expanded, and by Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, Aku Aku developed a personality and a conservationist philosophy that helped establish him as one of the franchise’s most beloved characters. Even after the many attempts to reinvent the franchise (including the one where they tried to badassify Crash with tribal tats), Aku Aku has remained a significant icon of the Crash universe.
Although Naughty Dog has moved on to, arguably, bigger and better things over recent years, it’s undeniable that it owes a lot to this altruistic ancient spirit. Sure, Crash is the Wumpa Island’s saviour, but I am noticing a trend here for early PlayStation games: behind every great hero, there is an ever greater mask.
2. Cyborg Ninja, Gray Fox (Metal Gear Solid)
Cyborg Ninja’s mask has become an icon of the Metal Gear franchise. Its simplistic design evokes mystery and fear, suitable traits for a ninja with the destructive capabilities of a small army. Meeting Cyborg Ninja for the first time is where Metal Gear Solid made the player feel truly outmatched.
Walking down that hall on Shadow Moses - a hall littered with mangled bodies and excessive blood splatter - gave you chills and a brutal warning for the upcoming battle. Seeing that single red light on his mask leave an illuminated trail hanging in the air and hearing the glitches in his speech suggested immediately that this enemy was beyond human. The steaming pool of urine that appeared under the hapless Otacon also comically demonstrated cyborg Ninja’s imposing force.
The Cyborg Ninja with the deeply depressing past as a child soldier became such a fan favourite that he was made playable in the expansion, Metal Gear Solid Integral, to which his ominous mask also donned the cover. And, although fans were never given the Gray Fox spin-off they always wanted, he was available as an alternate costume in the “other Cyborg Ninja spin-off,” Metal Gear Rising. Ever since his conception, fans have developed a need to find out more about the enigmatic man behind the mask, a desire that any good mask should provoke.
1. Majora’s Mask (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)
What’s this? Majora’s Mask gets the number one spot on a list inspired by the remastered version of the Nintendo 64 classic? What a twist. Although it comes as no surprise that Majora’s Mask does sit upon the throne as the most iconic video game mask of all time. The fact that its somewhat macabre design is instantly recognisable as being tied to what is, arguably, the greatest video game franchise of all time guarantees it that claim.
But it’s not just about brand awareness. Majora’s Mask is the paragon of video game masks, in that everything it represents, and the operation it is used for, encapsulates the cultural significance of the mask. Masks have been worn throughout history and have played an important role for many religious rituals and ceremonies. The mask often represents some kind of mystical or supernatural power, and no game has ever given a better example of the mask’s magical influence than Majora’s Mask. Before he came into contact with the villainous mask, the Skull Kid was just a simple child from the Lost Woods who liked to pull pranks and play music. But upon laying eyes on its harsh and otherworldly features, the Skull Kid became instantly obsessed, a slave to its inviting aura.
The mask’s mission was to cause havoc in Terminus by crashing the moon straight into the festive town and it found a perfect host in the wayward and impressionable child that Link jammed with in the Lost Woods way back in The Ocarina of Time.
-1. Phanto (Super Mario Bros. 2)
This son of a… You remember Phanto, right, the endlessly irritating phantom mask that dogged you throughout Super Mario Bros 2 whenever you picked up a key? Fair enough, Phanto was put there to up the difficulty whenever you were in possession of an important item that would help you progress. But, a lot of controllers were tossed and swear jars filled because of this meddling mask.
Phanto was such an abhorrent character that gamers sought out to end the miserable antagonist once and for all. Players discovered that if you lure Phanto out into the open and combine the powers of both a stopwatch and a star, you could finally take revenge on that sorry soul, abruptly ending his reign of terror.