Zelda 30th Anniversary | Top 15 Dungeons

By Az Elias 25.02.2016 4

Making up the meat of every Legend of Zelda title are dungeons - expansive maze-like constructs that have come to be known by and take the shape of many different forms, including labyrinths, tombs, temples, palaces and towers. The realms of where the core puzzle elements take place in the series, dungeons provide the ultimate challenge for each title's hero in terms of both strength and intelligence. It is where quest-important items are hidden, with Link needing to collect each boss-guarded treasure by conquering every dungeon before being able to progress to the finale of the game. Often created around familiar themes - such as fire, ice and forest - the franchise has steadily progressed to introducing more obscure and original labyrinth designs, incorporating curious methods of gameplay and means to advance. As The Legend of Zelda looks to evolve its most significant feature, we have picked out 15 of our favourite dungeons.

Eagle Labyrinth - The Legend of Zelda

Is that the Great Deku Tree?

With rumours now abound that the Hero of Time's journey actually began with a descent into the dying Great Deku Tree, Link, wielding only a Wooden Sword he had been given by some old dude in a cave, explored the Eagle labyrinth. Eagle remains the archetype of a Zelda dungeon: secret rooms, the compass, the map, passages that can be bombed open, and Keese, Stalfos, Goriyas, and Wallmasters all have their debuts here, culminating in a fight against the ferocious Aquamentis, who... was actually a little silly.

Without bombs or full hearts, Aquamentis could prove challenging because this forced Link to melee with the cute, almost derpy dragon, and the fan of three magic fireballs was hard to avoid at close range. After defeating Aquamentis, Link stepped through the newly opened door and found something shiny and triangular in the centre of the room - a room that provided just the right amount of time for the player to wonder "What is that?" while approaching.

It was one of the eight pieces of the shattered Triforce of Courage, and thus the legend was born.
- Aria

Tower of the Gods - The Wind Waker

Really, this is a slow dungeon, and the first part is even painfully slow. Much like the Water Temple of Ocarina of Time, the Temple of the Gods uses the water's depth as a critical component, turning virtually all of the opening rooms into timed puzzles. Meanwhile, Link can only coast around the temple, since it has no wind, and that makes the opening seem like it drags on forever.

Then Link begins his ascension. From the base of the tower, Link started his climb. He battles Wizzrobes and learns a new song that allows him to control statues, so that he can guide them to where they need to be. Darknuts and other dangerous enemies block the way forward, but Link continues his journey, and soon steps through a door, where he finds himself overlooking the expansive sea, at the bottom of a great stairway that spirals along the outer circumference of the tower.

The Tower of the Gods represents Link's journey as a whole, starting at a very slow pace and accelerating as he nears the top, and the entire dungeon serves as a metaphor for Link's ascension from little boy in blue lobster pyjamas to the Hero of Winds. While the dungeon itself isn't really that great to play through, what the tower symbolises leaves it standing tall as an example of Link's own journey. Of course, it goes without saying that the loud ringing of the bell at the very end is a sign - a call to the entire world - that the Hero has awakened, and hope can be dared once more.
- Aria

Dragon Roost Cavern - The Wind Waker

Fire dungeons are a staple of the Zelda series, and many are volcano-themed, bringing a sense of height and platforming into the mix. The Wind Waker's Dragon Roost Cavern is no exception. Something in this dungeon is upsetting Valoo, and to find out what, Link will have to traverse bridges overhanging lava (which baddies might try to cut from underneath him), throw pots of water to create temporary platforms of hardened volcanic rock, and use the Grappling Hook to swing across pits and chasms.

The dungeon spreads inside and outside the volcano, requires rescuing Medli from a Moblin, and contains several puzzles related to swinging, timing, or using the rope trick from earlier to reach hidden treasures. At the end of it all is Gohma, another classic boss fight that makes Dragon Roost Cavern all the more memorable.
- David

Snowpeak Ruins - Twilgiht Princess

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One of the highlights of Twilight Princess, and one of the more unusual dungeon locations, has to be Snowpeak Ruins - a tranquil little house that's sitting within a frosty mountain location. At first, it seems like a slightly run-down mansion for two peaceful Yeti, with one even serving up soup for his bed-bound wife, Yeta. However, because one of the Shards of the Mirror of Twilight ended up there, monsters naturally invaded and started to stir up trouble.

The aims of this dungeon become blurred in the narrative between Link and the Yeti, offering up a fresh take to the generic dungeon approach, as Link explores different rooms in stages within the mansion to uncover the Ball and Chain. Even the dungeon map is acquired in a different way this time round. Because it is freezing cold, most of the dungeon is buried in thick and unrelenting sheets of ice, so must be tackled in different stages. The setup sees Link using cannons to break through, eventually uncovering the key to Yeta's bedroom, but something doesn't seem quite right inside…
- Jorge

Inside Jabu-Jabu's Belly - Ocarina of Time

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After obtaining a fish, getting the Zora King to (painfully and slowly) move out of the way, and approaching the giant Zora guardian Lord Jabu-Jabu, Link gains access to one of the oddest dungeons in the series. Inside Jabu-Jabu is a multi-layer dungeon full of opening and closing orifices, veiny walls, and all kinds of wobbly, dangly things swinging around (not to mention a concerning amount of electricity, and, in the Master Quest version, various cows).

It's safe to say Lord Jabu-Jabu has one of the most epic tummy-aches in all of gaming, and it's up to Link to navigate this creature's insides (with a little help from Princess Ruto, who can be used to hold down pressure switches) before fighting the classic boss, Barinade.
- David

Earth Temple - The Wind Waker

In the world of The Wind Waker, there are two temples  - the Earth Temple and the Wind Temple - designed to safeguard the power that's within the Master Sword. The Sages within these sacred grounds pray to the Golden Goddesses in order to keep the Master Sword in shipshape. However, the devious Ganondorf decides to, well, murder Sages in order to overcome the evil-repelling goodness within the blade. It's down to Link to venture deep below the ocean, into a sunken Hyrule, to help restore order, before awakening the descendants of the previous Sages and bringing them to the temples to pray, ensuring the power to repel evil remains inside the Master Sword.

The Earth Temple is a dark and foreboding temple for a reason - the light mechanics, similar to those from Ocarina of Time's Spirit Temple, return in full force and are prominent within the ingenious puzzle designs. Link isn't alone this time round, either, teaming up with a harp-playing anthropomorphic bird called Medli to fly across tricky areas and also taking control of her to solve light puzzles together. The flow of light is played to a tee within the puzzle designs, with Medli's glowing harp used to trigger switches that Link may not have been able to access alone, but beware of the Floormasters…

After overcoming a boss that lurks within the darkest recesses of the temple, part of the Master Sword's power is restored to its former glory.
- Jorge

Sandship - Skyward Sword

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Manipulating time has always been a staple part of The Legend of Zelda series in some way, being most prominent in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, but in Skyward Sword things become more dynamic, woven into an intriguing and compelling part of the adventure. As one of the more memorable portions of the game, this particular area is buried within a sand covered part of the overworld, ravaged by time and devious pirates. Getting onto the boat isn't as simple as it may sound, either, with it being cloaked invisible.

Once Link pelts the ship with cannonballs, he stumbles on-board to discover that things are a little too quiet. A "Timeshift Stone" is the key mechanic within the dungeon, unlocking the past within a few feet around Link, serving up really interesting and thought-provoking puzzles. This isn't the usual case of keys, baddies and boss battles, but a mass puzzle in itself, coupled with a tragic story from the on-board crew, which can only be revived when the stone is active.

Together with light puzzles, electricity-wielding monsters and a heated confrontation with a mechanical pirate captain is a tentacle-ridden beast that is lurking at the bottom of the sea…
- Jorge

Skull Woods - A Link to the Past

Perhaps the most unique dungeon in the entire franchise, Skull Woods consists of various small groups of rooms, all woven together in a web, with entrances to each part of the dungeon hidden somewhere in the Dark World version of the Lost Woods. Before Link could really explore the entire dungeon, each entrance to the dungeon had to be found, which often proved tricky. Because of this, however, Skull Woods remains one of the hardest dungeons to complete from memory, practically forcing players to rediscover the path through it on each playthrough of the game.

After collecting the Fire Rod, the final portion of the dungeon could be opened up from the overworld, and, although the remaining part was relatively straightforward, it didn't really get any easier because players had to master using the new item very quickly, and some of the enemies within were very dangerous. On top of that, the Wallmasters continued harassing Link, making it impossible to stand still for long. The whole thing culminated with Link falling into a pit where the walls were lined with spikes that randomly slid across the floor, and where he had to fight a giant moth that constantly fired lasers. Needless to say, it was awesome.
- Aria

Spirit Temple - Ocarina of Time

Located on the very outskirts of Hyrule, the Spirit Temple is certainly up there with one of the more memorable moments in the series so far. Even the road to the dungeon itself is a torturous trek through a desert that's been blitzed by treacherous sandstorms, plus a mini quest where Link ends up having to save bumbling builders from highly trained female assassins.

As one of the later dungeons to master in Ocarina of Time, the Spirit Temple was split into two segments; one that establishes the groundwork as a youngster, and the latter portion that concludes over seven years later. It kicks off with the younger hero encountering the rather ravishing Nabooru, who requests his help to retrieve the Silver Gauntlets, which, incidentally, are needed by the adult Link to progress through the remainder of the challenging dungeon.

The mark-up of the temple itself is driven by ingenious puzzles that find you bending light across walls and onto switches by using the Mirror Shield as a guide. After a heated battle with a tricky and ridiculously strong Iron Knuckle, an equally challenging boss encounter with Twinrova ensues.
- Jorge

Eagle's Tower - Link's Awakening

Of all the dungeons in Link's Awakening, Eagle's Tower stands out amongst the group more than any other. Perched in the far eastern heights of the Tal Tal Mountain Range, even accessing the front door requires some tricky and out-of-the-norm shenanigans, as Link must use the Flying Rooster to cross a large pit and reach the key to the tower.

It is within this dungeon that Link unleashes his pent-up frustration by throwing a large iron ball into stone pillars placed around the tower. It isn't just for stress relief or a twisted form of fun, however, because Link needs to smash the four pillars to collapse the fourth floor onto the one below. It is far from safe, but in order to reach the Evil Eagle boss, merging the floors with this undeniably perilous tactic must be done. New areas become accessible and other rooms are adjusted with extra platforms and puzzles.

Eagle's Tower is one of the few cases of the entire dungeon itself being a puzzle, as Link must take the ball to various rooms, throwing it across pits and finding ways to reach it and the pillars placed around the floor. It is a complex one, and one that also requires players to be extra careful when chucking the weight around; it is actually possible to break the game and render Eagle's Tower - and, as a result, the rest of the game - unbeatable by throwing it into areas where it can never be retrieved. It is rare that this occurs…but it is possible!
- Az

Temple of Time - Twilight Princess

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Like similar temples and towers from previous Zelda games, the Temple of Time in Twilight Princess was one of the later challenges in the game, as the Hero Chosen by the Gods wanders inside in order to nab the final shard of the Mirror of Twilight. With eight floors of puzzles and crazed monsters, it proved quite the challenge to ascend to the very top. Dynalfos, lizards coated in armour, and series favourite Lizalfos, the sword-wielding variety, pounce like rampant parents protecting their eggs.

Spiders scuttle about waiting for their next helping of food; in this case, it's, well, Link. Out of breath, battered and bruised, reaching the top is a challenge in itself. There's no moment to rest as a Darknut guards the dungeon's treasure: a scared tool called the Dominion Rod - a weapon with the ability to move inanimate objects.

That's where the dungeon's main uniqueness comes into play, shifting from pure combat and survival to putting that noggin to good use. By shifting statues around and solving puzzles, Link is able to venture into areas previously unexplored, gradually chipping away towards the boss that's been sleeping, tucked away in the shadows.
- Jorge

Ancient Tomb - Oracle of Ages

When it comes to playing the full Oracle series story and conquering all 16 dungeons, there is no more fitting final labyrinth than Ancient Tomb in Oracle of Ages. An underground pyramid of sorts, this is by far the largest dungeon Link explores at 52 rooms, and features a heavy puzzle theme throughout. Heck, even finding the actual area itself in the Sea of No Return is a conundrum, as the Maku Tree is unable to detect its Essence of Time, and, therefore, cannot pinpoint the Tomb's location. Players must use their own initiative to find this one. Ah, just like the old days…

Taking elements from all dungeons in Ages up to that point, as well as some from Oracle of Seasons, Ancient Tomb is the ultimate test of knowledge and strength, and requires patience, intelligence and a lot of running around. Floor tile puzzles, lava rooms, ice floors, Chaser mazes, and even underwater sections - there is bound to be something you liked (and hated!) from previous dungeons here. This is all designed around the overarching goal of obtaining four hidden stone slates that grant access to the boss, Ramrock, who is a tough and frustrating cookie in itself, and a fitting finale to this cleverly-designed hidden crypt.
- Az

Shadow Temple - Ocarina of Time

The mysterious Shadow Temple is a place shrouded in mystery and with several fan theories circulating about its true purpose for the authorities of Hyrule. Within a couple of minutes, visitors will understand why. To begin with, the temple was built by the Sheikah, a secretive tribe that served the Royal Family as magic users and combatants. The way to access the temple also makes it stand out from the others. It is actually impossible to reach or enter without the use of magic, requiring the Nocturne of Shadow to be played on the Ocarina of Time to get there and Din's Fire to be used outside of the entrance.

Once inside, Link is met with several obstacles that, without the Sheikah artefact, the Lens of Truth, seem impossible to overcome. The deeper Link travels into the dungeon, the more bloodstains, execution devices and torture equipment he is faced with. These elements give a very popular fan theory meat on the bone; namely that the temple was used by the Sheikah as a prison for enemies of the Royal Family of Hyrule, only adding to the already creepy atmosphere in this dungeon and potentially giving a dark twist to the backstory of the royal bloodline.
- André

Stone Tower Temple - Majora's Mask

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Overlooking the haunting and desolate Ikana Canyon is the Stone Tower Temple. Getting into Majora's Mask's final dungeon is itself a feat, as the tower's entrance involves climbing via a series of Hookshot points and moveable blocks activated by pressure switches. Link must overcome loneliness itself, making copies of himself to hold switches down, as he climbs his way to the top.

Adding to the weird, quirky nature of the game, the dungeon can't be completed until Link obtains the Light Arrow, which can be used to turn the entire temple upside-down, giving him access to new items, passages, or just a new perspective on its puzzles. All of this leads to an epic boss battle in the desert, where Link uses the Giant's Mask to turn himself larger or smaller to take on the temple's master, Twinmold.
- David

Forest Temple - Ocarina of Time

The Forest Temple, for most, is a memorable one for a variety of reasons. This particular dungeon was the first one you would step into as an older, stronger and more courageous Link, the Hero of Time. Naturally, as a tougher hero, the challenges in the level would become more complex and introduce players into just a taster of what's to come.

After having to scurry through a dimly lit underground tomb to acquire the Hookshot just to get into the Forest Temple, the biggest challenge comes from four sneaky ghostly Poe sisters, each holding a glowing  torch - they seal the lift to the boss that lurks below, scampering to four corners of the dungeon. Bugger. Twisted corridors await that dramatically change the structure of the path that lies ahead - when warped, a staircase will curve to the right; when set straight, a treasure chest appears as if by magic. Skulltulas are also in abundance, proving troublesome when trying to rapidly climb up vines or sprint to a door that's just a few steps away. These critters are small fry when compared to one of the temple's sub-bosses: tricky skeleton swordsmen called Stalfos, each armed and relentless.

After solving the tricky puzzles that distort the temple, the ghosts each come with a twist in order to capture their flame, from shifting blocks to finding the odd one out. After all four siblings are defeated, the dungeon boss is sitting in a painting downstairs…
- Jorge

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Got to be Forest Temple for me, always has been my favourite and continues to be to this day. Snowpeak is my other favourite though! Absolutely brilliant temple. Both those two offered something unique and both have amazing music.

I quite liked the Death Mountain dungeon in TP, as well. I liked the magnetic boots mechanic and the boss was pretty cool. Also, Wind Temple is cool in The Wind Waker, I love Makar! Smilie

( Edited 13.07.2017 18:25 by Guest )

Got to be Forest Temple for me, always has been my favourite and continues to be to this day.

Defo one of my faves! On replays I always think "this is Marzy's favourite!"
Yes, and yes to Snowpeak too - original concepts, great tune! I wish for more of those, where it isn't so clear cut 

( Edited 13.07.2017 18:25 by Guest )

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

I can really get behind this list. Lots of excellent ones here.

OoT again had great stuff - Forest, Shadow, Spirit and Jabu-Jabu defo some of the best.

I love Earth Temple in WW, and always look forward to that one. More so because I love Medli. Love Stone Tower, and we need more like Snowpeak.

Sandship was a step in the right direction again. Actually discovering the ship and boarding it and then entering it - it wasn't really known whether it was a dungeon, and the whole process before it could well have been the dungeon, as well.

Bit harder to find the best 2D ones, but think we mostly nailed them. Defo agree with Skull Woods, but I think many LttP ones stood a chance on top of that.

Hope the dungeons really evolve again in Zelda U. More exploring and fun stuff to do to unlock them a la Majora's Mask/Skyward Sword Sandship, and make them less obvious they're dungeons a la Snowpeak Ruins.

( Edited 13.07.2017 18:25 by Guest )

Our member of the week

Top 4 were all among my own top choices, all of them are my own favourites from each game they're from Smilie. Same for stone temple. Can't say that I have any outstanding memory from Ancient Tomb though, though I do remember the dungeon from that game.

( Edited 13.07.2017 18:25 by Guest )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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