The 5 Best Legend of Zelda Dungeons of All Time

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For over 35 years, the Legend of Zelda franchise has been going strong. While there is no one aspect of that incredible series that fans will unanimously agree they love the most, anyone who has played a Zelda game will likely remember at least one of its dungeons fondly.

Every Zelda game contains dungeons. Each of those dungeons contains unique items required for future challenges, and the majority of those items are guarded by tough boss and mini-boss monsters that serve as their own setpieces. 

Zelda dungeons are frequently the highlight of each adventure. However, just because they are the best parts of their respective games does not mean that all dungeons are created equal. Most of these puzzle and enemy gauntlets blend in with the rest of the large crowd, while others are remembered for their poor design (you know what you did, Water Temple). But every now and then, the Zelda level designer creates something truly memorable that stands out not just from the rest of the dungeons in its own game, but from the dungeons in the history of this legendary franchise. 

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Snowpeak Ruins (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

When you hear the word “dungeon,” you probably envision an underground location hidden from prying eyes and designed to house nefarious monsters. The basic idea is challenged in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Snowpeak Ruins are one-of-a-kind. It is a ramshackle location that has succumbed to the elements, like most dungeons in the game, but unlike other Zelda dungeons, it is not inhospitable. Yeto and Yeta the Yetis live in this “dungeon,” and they will gladly assist players in navigating the mansion in exchange for a simple favor: assisting them in making soup.

Despite the presence of monsters and locked rooms in the Snowpeak Ruins, the setting is so peaceful and (relatively) inviting that it’s easy to imagine two Yeti living there. In addition, the boss arena is a cozy bedroom with a heart-shaped lock. Until, that is, the Twilight Mirror shard transforms Yeta into the dungeon’s boss. It’s the kind of mood swing that’s as surprising as it is appropriate, demonstrating the type of power players are dealing with.

Snowpeak Ruins defies traditional Zelda dungeon aesthetics to such an extent that it cements the location in players’ minds. Many of the mysteries of this dungeon remain unsolved.

Forest Temple (The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had a lot of work ahead of it. As the franchise’s first foray into 3D, the game needed to show how the extra dimension could create puzzles and dungeons never seen before. The Forest Temple, despite not being the game’s first dungeon, did just that.

For a variety of reasons, Forest Temple is one of the most memorable dungeons in the Zelda franchise. It is not only the first dungeon players visit as adult Link, but it is also one of the most visually stunning dungeons any Zelda player had seen up to that point. At the press of a button, several corridors and rooms twist around each other in gravity-defying ways, and players are tasked with tracking down four Poe sisters who hide in paintings. Fans were so taken with these enemies that Nintendo reused the basic concept in later Zelda games.

The rest of the Forest Temple’s presentation is spot on and keeps players on the edge of their seats. The music is this strange earworm of discordant notes, and many rooms are infested with the ever-creepy Wall and Floormasters. Furthermore, the Forest Temple concludes with what appears to be a surprise boss battle with Ganondorf. In an unsettling twist, it turns out to be a phantasmal doppelganger. It’s the ideal way to end an almost perfect dungeon.

Hyrule Castle (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild)

Hyrule Castle is a centerpiece in many Zelda games and occasionally serves as a dungeon, but none of the many variations of that structure compare to the version seen in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

It is a veritable fortress in Breath of the Wild. The game’s toughest enemies patrol both the outskirts and the interior, guarding a valuable cache of rare items and powerful weapons. The mere thought of approaching it is terrifying.

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Furthermore, Hyrule Castle exemplifies the freeform nature of Breath of the Wild. Unlike many other Zelda dungeons, players can enter Hyrule Castle in a variety of ways. There is no such thing as a “safe” route. Each possible entrance caters to a different style of play. Furthermore, the dungeon perfectly captures the “ruined castle” aesthetic. It appears to be a stronghold that has been taken over by a formless evil and left to rot. Even the music sells the atmosphere by seamlessly combining Hyrule Castle and Ganondorf leitmotifs.

Hyrule Castle in Breath of the Wild does everything it can to make players feel . As if they are truly crawling into the belly of the beast, and it succeeds.

Stone Tower Temple (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask only has four dungeons, but that’s because the game’s designers clearly prioritized quality over quantity. The Stone Tower Temple is an example of the advantages of this approach.

Before reaching the Stone Tower Temple, players must first climb…well, a tall stone tower. The challenge does not end when they reach the summit. Unlike other dungeons in Majora’s Mask, which typically require players to switch between all of them. The Stone Tower Temple frequently requires players to switch between all of them. 

One room may contain light-based puzzles that only normal Link can solve. While another may be completely covered in lava that only Goron Link can cross. Furthermore, many rooms contain switch puzzles that require players to construct Link statues, and it’s not uncommon for players to have to switch between all of Link’s forms to solve them.

Players are introduced to a new mechanic that allows them to flip gravity halfway through the Stone Tower Temple. The ceiling transforms into the floor, and the floor transforms into the ceiling, revealing new locations and puzzle solutions. Put it all together, and you’ve got a dungeon that puts your multitasking skills to the test like few others. Oh, and did I mention you’re on a timer the whole time?

Shadow Temple (The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time)

Most video games rely on basic visual communication elements for puzzles and dungeons. What you see is what you get, but what if the dungeon deceives you? That was the central premise of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Shadow Temple. That and death, of course.

The Shadow Temple is one of the most horrifying dungeons in the Zelda series. While the temple has plenty of undead enemies. It sets an almost perfect tone thanks to its creepy music and, most surprisingly, rooms filled with torture evidence such as blood-splattered execution equipment.

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