Continuing our weekend of Zelda, the Legend of Zelda series is known for its impressive world design, endearing characters, epic stories, great secrets, and enjoyable to use items. One piece of the series that every Zelda game possesses is that of dungeons, the places where Link enters to solve puzzles, obtain keys, and face bosses in order to progress the story.
There are over a hundred dungeons across over a dozen Legend of Zelda games to choose from, so it was no easy task to come up with a list of my personal favorites. After you've taken a glance at and read mine picks, I'd love to read your own choices. Maybe with this list we can make each other appreciate dungeons that we might not have thought much about before!
10) Sword & Shield Dungeon/Maze - The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (GBC)
We kick off this countdown of the best dungeons from The Legend of Zelda series with the eighth dungeon from The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, the Sword & Shield Dungeon or Maze, if you're in the Americas like I am. The dungeon has two massive floors, one shaped like a sword and the other shaped like a shield, hence the name. The top floor is made up of ice while the bottom is devised of lava. A big puzzle has Link throwing ice crystals down from the top floor to the bottom floor to create patches of hardened lava that can be crossed to progress in the dungeon. A memorable dungeon full of hot and cold peril, the Sword & Shield Maze is my number ten choice.
9) Goron Mines - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii U, Wii, GCN)
Some of the best dungeons in a 3D Zelda happen to be from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, so it was mighty difficult choosing just one dungeon to represent the game on this list. Thus, I cheated and picked two. Regardless, the Goron Mines is the second dungeon in the game, and it's nestled just beyond the Goron hall in Death Mountain. Lava bursts out from every seam, giving Link an unwanted sensation if he dares touches it. A lot of machinery works on its own, allowing Link to take advantage of it to move through the dungeon. A component to this dungeon is utilizing the Iron Boots to walk across magnetic floors, walls, and ceilings to proceed through it. The Goron Mines is home to a collection of Gorons that will give Link a portion of the dungeon's Big Key that leads to the boss, Fyrus, otherwise known as Darbus before evil took him over and changed his form. I like the Goron Mines because not only does it have clever puzzles, indoor and outdoor sections, fun mini and major bosses, but it grants Link with one of my favorite traditional items in Zelda games, the Bow and Arrow.
8) Palace of Winds - The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)
One of the final dungeons that Link must fight through in The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, the Palace of Winds is a dungeon set high above the clouds, requiring Link to utilizing Roc's Cape to make accurate jumps and fly across gaps or else fall into the myriad pits surrounding the platforms of the palace. It's not as easy as jumping and guiding Link to the platform of his choosing. There are fans that look to push Link into said pits, but not all of the dungeon's obstacles are bad. Cloud platforms bounce Link up the various floors of the palace, eventually leading Link to a one-on-two boss battle against a pair of Gyorgs where he must ride on the backs of the foes to survive. The Palace of Winds is a sky high dungeon that turns the traditional dungeon idea on its head, making it my number eight choice.
7) Turtle Rock - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, GBA)
The seventh dungeon in Link's journey through the Dark World in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, it is home to a myriad of challenges and obstacles that our green clad hero must overcome. From pipes that lead Link to different portions of the dungeon to eyes that launch lasers whenever Link is in their paths (these can only be reflected with the dungeon's treasure, the Mirror Shield), to platforms that travel along trails whose directions Link can influence, Turtle Rock is an incredibly challenging dungeon that requires him to have plenty of Blue and Green Potions in hand, as a lot of magic is required to get through the dungeon. I like this version of Turtle Rock best as it features both outdoor and indoor potions, is pretty difficult, and features plenty of puzzles and obstacles that require a great deal of thinking and finesse to overcome.
6) Eagle's Tower - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (GBC, GB)
One of the penultimate dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Eagle's Tower sits tall at the northeastern corner of the map. This multi-floor tower has many pits that allow Link to fall down to lower floors. What makes this dungeon so loved by me is the immensely clever puzzle that spans the second, third, and fourth floors. Through picking up an iron ball and throwing it into four pillars, Link destroys the pillars, thus causing the top floor of the dungeon to collapse downward, making itself to become part of the third floor. This grants Link access to new areas of Eagle's Tower, including the boss's chamber, the top of the tower, where Link faces an eagle boss in a 2D scuffle. While the other dungeons in Link's Awakening are smartly designed in their own ways, nothing beats Eagle's Tower for cleverness.
5) Snowpeak Ruins - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii U, Wii, GCN)
My number five favorite dungeon from The Legend of Zelda series comes from Twilight Princess, which recently saw a remastering on the Wii U. It's a dungeon that doesn't really feel like a dungeon, Snowpeak Ruins, which is a derelict snow-covered mansion that has been infested with monsters. The main progression here comes from fetching ingredients for a female Yeti from marked treasure chests sprinkled around the dungeon. Upon finding the last treasure, opening it up reveals the Bedroom Key, opening a chamber at the top of the tower in the courtyard where the boss is battled. The treasure is the Ball and Chain, a weapon that can replace some required uses of bombs, as well as being able to be used to smash through ice cold rock. This allows Link to reach new portions of the mansion, where he must bring iron balls and place them into cannons to destroy obstructions that his Ball and Chain can reach. The Snowpeak Ruins is a fun dungeon to me because of how different it is compared to other dungeons in the series, initially not even feeling like a dungeon at all.
4) Thieves' Town - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, GBA)
Taking the conventions of Zelda dungeons and turning them on their collective head, Thieves' Town is the fourth Dark World dungeon Link must investigate to find the maiden trapped inside. It is located in the gargoyle statue in the middle of the Thieves' Town. The dungeon starts off with four large labyrinth rooms with a series of platforms on top and a floor on the bottom. Through successfully maneuvering through these rooms, Link can find the Big Key to progress. Upon reaching the boss's chamber which is down the following hallway, he finds it empty. Link must venture through the basement of the dungeon to not only find the dungeon's treasure, the Titan's Mitt, but he must also locate the supposed maiden in one of the cell blocks. She asks Link to take her outside, but doing so will make her disappear back to the spot where Link found her. Instead, through bombing a hole on the top floor of the dungeon and taking the maiden to the room (the then-empty boss room) underneath, where a newly found beam of light shines in, the maiden will step into the light, revealing herself to be an impostor, the boss of the dungeon, the thief Blind. This is such a smart retooling and take of the familiar dungeon formula that makes it my favorite dungeon in any 2D Zelda.
3) Stone Tower Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (3DS, N64)
My favorite of the four main dungeons within The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the Stone Tower Temple is an ancient temple which requires Link to use all of his skills and abilities he's learned and gained over the duration of his adventure to overcome the myriad challenges the temple offers. This means not only is Link by himself needed obviously, but also his Deku Scrub, Goron, and Zora mask transformations are required to complete this dungeon. The temple treasure is the Light Arrows, and these tie into the main gimmick of the dungeon. Before receiving this item, the temple goes along innocently enough with some very cool trials and puzzles to pass. However, upon using a Light Arrow on a specific object, the entire dungeon flips upside down. What was once the ceiling is now the floor, and what was once the sky is now a bottomless pit. Through strategically flipping the temple on its head and vice versa. Link proceeds through the Stone Tower Temple until he reaches the end, where a colossal boss battle awaits.
2) Ancient Cistern - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
The Ancient Cistern dungeon from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword might seem to be water-centric at first glance of the dungeon. After all, the main chamber is a giant statue surrounding by a pool of water and lilypads. However, the main theme of the Ancient Cistern is actually a heaven and hell type scenario. The top half of the dungeon is bright, filled with luminous light and a colorful palette, but the bottom half is where poison flows through the water, Cursed Bokoblins roam, and a foreboding underworld dwells. There's even a section underground where Link pulls himself up to the surface on a lone rope while a series of Bokoblins climb up after him, attempting to pull him back down to their level. The Ancient Cistern's treasure is the Whip, used to latch onto things, crossing chasms, activating switches, and flipping the aforementioned lilypads. It's also used in one of my favorite boss battles in The Legend of Zelda series, the fight against the gold golem Koloktos.
1) Forest Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3DS, N64)
When Adult Link enters this first dungeon as his grown up self, you know things are getting serious. The Forest Temple is a large, sprawling, creepy and unsettling place with plenty of block pushing puzzles, a hunt for four Poe ghosts that will light four torches that allow Link to continue in the dungeon, and various awesome perils to worry about. Vegetation is home to a good portion of the dungeon, and memorable locations like the twisted hallway (which way is up?), the checkerboard room where the ceiling threatens to crush Link, and much more make for a temple that I adore. Once again, the treasure given to Link in this temple is the Bow and Arrows, a traditional item, but a lovely one all the same. The boss battle against Phantom Ganon also makes this temple one of my favorites from Ocarina of Time. My brain fought hard between choosing the Forest Temple and the penultimate dungeon, the Spirit Temple, but alas, the first dungeon that Adult Link must journey through won out overall.