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While almost every aspect of these games is very enjoyable, from the wonderful music to the feel of exploring the world of Hyrule, my favorite part of the games has always been the dungeons. I love going through these areas as they are generally the most clever, interesting, and difficult sections of the games, with good puzzles to figure out and tough enemies to fight. In the spirit of this feeling, I'm going to list my favorite dungeons from the Zelda series. This list was difficult to compile, so I've decided the only way to truly compile this list is to take into account not just how entertaining it is to play, but also the creativity of the dungeon's puzzles and its general aesthetic and design. Let's get right to it!
Tower of The Gods- Wind Waker
While Wind Waker is one of my favorite games in the series, I have to say that, on the whole, the dungeons weren't the most memorable. They were all good, but only one of them stood out in my eyes, and that was the Tower of the Gods. After getting the first three plot coupons of the game, you raise the Tower of the Gods from the sea and go through it to try and open a path to Hyrule. The tower's main themes were using the old, mystical mechanisms in the temple and using a song you find in the tower, called the Command Melody, to lead some statues into position to progress to the boss. The mechanisms really helped give the tower a unique feel of technology lost long ago and what kind of place Hyrule was. The music also added to that feel by using bells and a mournful sounding choir to add a sense of how important the place used to be. Despite my appreciation of the feel of the dungeon, the Command Melody is what makes this dungeon really great. With the song, you can take control of another being, in this case, the statues you need to move across rooms. I just loved having to guide the statues around the room until they were in the right position, switching back to Link to open another path, and repeating those steps until I found the solution.
Eagle's Tower- Link's Awakening
Despite being 8- bit, Zelda dungeons were creative from the get- go, and the Eagle's Tower is no exception. First, the exterior is something to behold. It's not some hole in a mountain or anything like that, it's a full on tower, with multiple floors and some pretty interesting concepts. The main premise is to knock down four large pillars to collaspe the fourth floor into the third floor. Not only does this sound very ambitious for an 8- bit game, but thinking about it a bit more, could you imagine what it would look like in a 3D Zelda game? Maybe Nintendo can use this in a Zelda game later down the line. Considering it's the 7th dungeon in the game, it seems very natural that you'd use alot of items you gathered during your adventures, but it also throws in something kind of interesting. The Boomerang in Link's Awakening is completey optional, only aquired after a long fetch quest. But if you have it on you by the time you reach the Eagle's Tower, it makes the dungeon a ton easier, allowing you to get the Mirror Shield with much ease. Also, the boss is pretty unique. Instead of fighting on a horizontal plane for the previous, you fight on a vertical plane, which is another reason the Eagle's Tower is one of the best.
Palace of Winds- Minish Cap
Being the last dungeon of the game, the Palace of Winds is where you find you last plot device, this time in the form of the Wind Element, so you can restore power to the Picori Blade. Also, it's naturally the dungeon that offers up the most demanding puzzles and an enjoyable boss fight with the Gyork Pair. Along the way, you find the Roc's Cape, which is conveniently a ton fun. By this stage in Minish Cap, the developers know that your pretty good at the game, and that throwing a bunch of tricky puzzles in won't slow you down. Instead, they treat the Palace of Winds more as a test of stamina. A trial of speed or power instead of wrecking your brains for a solution to that one puzzle with messed up difficulty.
Forest Temple- Ocarina of Time
It's Ocarina of Time, what do you except?
Hunting for the poes is a unique and clever design because it prepares you for the boss. How do you find the poes? Shoot the paintings. How do you kill Phantom Ganon? Shoot the paintings. Brilliant! The overall aesthetic is very appealing and completely fitting with the actual name of the temple. It looks like a temple that's been in the forest for hundreds of years. You rescue Saria, a childhood friend to Link. The only other Sage that even comes close is Darunia, and even then Link barely knows him. It makes sense that Saria would be the first one Link rescues, and it's satisfying to do it.he music was also very fitting for the dungeon, with a mostly calm sounding song mixed with a bit of creepiness that only added to the feel. Overall, this dungeon just worked well on every level, giving good puzzles, great fights against enemies like the Stalfoes, and an interesting layout and design that made me interested in what was around every corner.
Goron Mines- Twilight Princess
I never appreciated the iron boots in Zelda games until Twilight Princess. There used to their most creative extent in that games mainly in the 2nd dungeon. Not only can you walk under water but you can also stick metal surfaces so you can walk on walks and ceilings. Walking upside down was fun as hell, and shooting down enemies on on the way to the final boss made me feel like a badass. This was also a dungeon that made sense considering it's setting. The guard mini-boss, the elders that give you key pieces, the monster infestation, and the imprisonment of the final boss were all given context, which was a refreshing change from tradition. Puzzle solving and progression using the Iron Boots is creative, intuitive and best of yet it's a simple concept that goes a long way.
Sky Keep- Skyward Sword
The final dungeon in Skyward Sword and the most unique one that I had the honor of playing. The Sky Keep isn't your average Zelda dungeon, well there are enemies to fight and puzzles to solve. However, the ENTIRE Dungeon is one big puzzle. Now this is creativity at it's finest... Using the Puzzle slider to change and manipulate the rooms was kind of a headache to solve it at first, but after getting the hang of things, it was awesome. The purpose of the dungeon wasn't to get an item and then go to the boss; it was to get the three Triforce pieces. I thought that it was awesome how the game forced you to use Wisdom, Power, and Courage to get to each piece of the Triforce. You had to use Wisdom to move the rooms and find a path to a Triforce piece or key, then you had to use Courage to get through each room, and you had to use Power to defeat the mini bosses scattered among the dungeon. It was the first time that, when you got the completed Triforce, you felt that you earned it.
Sword and Shield Maze- Oracle Games
One thing that I always like to see in a Zelda dungeon is a well-implemented mechanic that isn't entirely based on the dungeon item itself and that's why I'm very fond of the Sword and Shield Maze. The dungeon item for this final dungeon is the Hyper Slingshot, which fires out three seeds in three different directions in front of Link and is used well for both puzzles and general usage. However, while the Hyper Slingshot is nice, what really cements this dungeon as a favorite is the fire and ice dichotomy present in the dungeon and the numerous clever rooms scattered throughout. One floor is covered in ice and the other has lava all over the place. In order to progress, you have to keep dropping ice blocks to the lower floor so you can walk over the cooled lava. I like the interaction between the two floors because you always have to think about where you can go next and what you can do to open up new paths. In addition to that, there are many individual rooms in this dungeon that I really like, such as the room where you have to follow the exact path of an Armos enemy in order to get a key or the ice block puzzle room. This dungeon tests pretty much all the skills you acquire throughout the game in one form or another, and I really appreciate that in the final dungeon of a Zelda game.
Ancient Cistern- Skyward Sword
Many Zelda fans will immediately cringe at the thought due to the reputation water-based dungeons have for being confusing and annoying to progress through. While my thoughts on that particular idea might not differ from most people's feelings, I feel that the Ancient Cistern manages to subvert those expectations entirely with an overall design of two distinct faces: a peaceful, beautiful paradise above and a hellish cave below. The top areas really are extremely pretty to look at and the water, despite having a constant presence, isn't an obstruction so much as another path to follow thanks to the smooth swimming controls. The dungeon item, the whip, is also used to great effect from flipping lily-pads blocking the way to pulling out of reach switches. However, the real genius here is the dichotomy between the top and bottom floors, as it mirrors a story written about the Buddha called The Spider's Thread. In the story, the Buddha lowers a spider's thread into hell from a lotus-covered pond in an attempt to save a man from eternal damnation. However, as the man climbed the thread, other lost souls start climbing as well and when the man said tried to kick them off and claim the redemption for just himself, the thread snapped and he was sent plummeting back down. The entire dungeon is based around this famous story, from the paradise above and hell below to the literal lit thread Link must climb to escape from the lower floors, complete with cursed Bokoblins climbing up after him. This shows just how much thought went into every aspect of the design and the attention-to-detail pays off brilliantly. To wrap the area up, Koloktos, the boss, is my favorite in the game. It's an incredibly fun battle where Link fights a giant Shiva-based statue, dismantles it piece by piece, and eventually picks up its own oversized swords to deal the real damage. It's the perfect end to an awesome dungeon.
City in the Sky- Twilight Princess
This dungeon is, as its name implies, a city floating in the sky. This means that the entire dungeon is designed around being in the air, with air currents blowing all over the place and large empty spaces in the floor throughout. Going through this dungeon is a very careful procedure when it's so easy to drop and I really like how much thinking it requires to move around the rooms correctly. However, the initial part of the dungeon pales in comparison to how progressing through the dungeon feels after getting the dungeon item, another Clawshot. The Clawshot was an early item you received that is very similar to the Hookshot in almost all respects and getting another one gives you the Double Clawshots. These allow Link to, while he's hanging on something he used the Clawshot to get to, use the other Clawshot to hook onto something else, kinda like Spiderman. This allows so much more freedom in the dungeon that it just increases the enjoyment exponentially and the feeling you get when you're using the Double Clawshots to hook all over the place quickly can only be described as awesome. The boss, Argorok, is also a great one that you fight at the very top of the city. The battle is extremely enjoyable and makes great use of the dungeon item, which is always important in a dungeon boss. Finally, the music is, again, very fitting for the dungeon, with a simple melody enhanced with a couple off-sounding voices that give a creepy vibe that I can't help but like. This is honestly a similar case to the Unicorn's Cave for me, where the dungeon item is what makes the dungeon truly standout.
And Number 1...
Stone Tower Temple- Majora's Mask
Majora's Mask is a Zelda game that doesn't really boast when it comes to dungeons. For a start, there's only 4 of them if you discount the moon, and lets be honest, there not that brilliant as a whole. Woodfall is... okay, Showhead was pretty descent, I guess... And I don't think I'll ever want to play through the Great Bay Temple again. But, you know what they say. Fourth times the charm, right? The last three dungeons have to concentrate to a particular theme, taking on the design that fits the race and mask that Link has at the time. Come the Stone Tower Temple, and we're out of transformation masks and races. So, what does Nintendo do? Make one of the greatest Zelda dungeons of all time. It was worth crawling through the Great Bay temple just for this. The Stone Tower Temple acts as the Tower of Bable from religious mythology. A tower was built so that people could reach the heavens and be on the same level as the gods. And there's a bunch of references everywhere about it, some not so pleasant. It's like the people stuck two fingers up at the God, because they realized they were going to be on the same level as them. When you receive the light arrows, when you get to turn the temple upsidedown. Why is this interesting? When you think about it, if you invert a tower that is building up toward the heavens, you actually end up building the tower toward the other, not very nice place to go: Hell. So the Gods practically stuck two fingers up back at the people and flipped the temple upsidedown, and sent them to Hell to have a party with Twinrold... Just a theory, though. What I loved about this temple is that it made you use all the transformation masks in some very creative ways, all the items throughout the game, and all the skills you learned, just like many final dungeons. Here, the main focus was the Mirror Shield, Light Arrows, and the Elegy of Emptiness song, all of which were needed constantly throughout the temple as light manipulation was, once again, the focus. In addition, I really liked the overall feel and design of the temple. The song also helped to add to that feeling in addition to being my favorite dungeon theme in the series. It is a simple two-part melody, with a flute forming the main part and a mournful sounding instrument forming the back beat. This is further heightened by a tortured sounding chorus in the background that only adds to the temple. Add satisfying puzzles and a bunch of great fights, like the one with the Garrum Master, and you have a challenging, thought- prevoking, and and a very, very memorable Zelda dungeon.
What is your favorite dungeon in Zelda? Comment below and thanks for reading!