Video Games

The Best Zelda Dungeons

Here is a list of the best dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series, including Forest Temple Ocarina of Time

The Legend of Zelda is home to countless exciting dungeons over the series. Whether Link is navigating through a fiery volcano, an underwater temple, or exploring a city in the sky, these dungeons offer unique puzzles in exciting and immersive locations. And best yet, they often are paired with a great boss fight or an important in-game story beat. So here is a subjective list of the best Legend of Zelda dungeons.

A List of the 10 Best Legend of Zelda Series Dungeons

Snowpeak Ruins from Twilight Princess

Snowpeak Ruins is one of the most peculiar Zelda dungeons. Here Link finds himself working with a pair of friendly yetis in an abandoned mansion on the side of a snowy cliff, looking to find ingredients to make a really tasty pumpkin soup. Its slower pacing offers several memorable ice block puzzles and more time put into studying the mansion’s layout to figure out where to go next. This contemplative weirdness is also well reflected in its ambient theme that plays out more like a game show thinking jingle rather than an ominous undertaking for our hero.

But while the puzzles are intriguing and Yeto and Yeta bring a lot of cute warmth to the level, Snowpeak Ruins is also home to some pretty fun fights, such as the close-quarters battle with miniboss Darkhammer. There’s also the iconic jump scare when a Mirror of Twilight piece turns the sweet, caring Yeta into the mansion’s main boss, Blizzeta. Snowpeak Ruins is weird, contemplative, and a joy to explore.

The Thieves’ Hideout from A Link Between Worlds

The Thieves’ Hideout restructured what a Zelda dungeon could be. By de-emphasizing long-form puzzles and changing the objective to simply “escape prison,” this dungeon keeps excitement, stealth, and combat at the forefront. There are plenty of trapdoors and ambushes you’ll have to deal with, all while working to escort your fellow prisoner out of the dungeon.

The dungeon’s theme is also a frantic racing series of strings, adding to the overall excitement of the hideout escape. And when you add in the fantastic boss fight with Stalblind at the dungeon’s finale, the Thieves’ Hideout ends up becoming one of the fastest-paced (and best) Legend of Zelda dungeons in the series.

Here is a list of the best dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series, including the likes of the Sandship and Tower of the Gods.

The Sandship from Skyward Sword

The Sandship’s central element of using a Timeshift Stone to access different parts of an ancient pirate vessel makes the entire dungeon in itself a creative puzzle. Finding new paths by finding an access point to snipe the stone makes players become fully aware of every room’s position on the ship, giving a terrific sense of place. It’s a mechanic that will prod players’ imaginations and have them carefully exploring every nook and cranny aboard.

But there are plenty of small moments that also contribute to the intrigue. There are dusty corridors crowded with herds of small scorpions. There are plentiful electronic traps or guard towers that require expert shots or quick sword actions. The miniboss is a game of chicken with a hook-armed robotic captain. There are cute robotic crew members waiting to be saved. And the start of the boss fight has Link running up through the sinking ship and avoiding tentacles and cargo, which is one of the most thrilling sequences in the entire game.

Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time

Even if it was only in 64 bits, the Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time lives up to its horrifying subject matter of being the location representing Hyrule’s bloody history of greed and hatred. There are creepy torture chambers with slicing guillotines and skeletal enemies. While it’s the second time Link faces one, the dungeon’s miniboss fight with the body horror monstrosity Dead Hand is just as creepy in its second round. And equally scary, the temple’s main boss, Bongo Bongo, is a disorienting battle against a floating-handed behemoth who is trying to buck you off the boss platform with some haunting rhythms.

The temple’s theme adds plenty of eeriness as well, including deep chanting, dissolving harmonic chords, and a sort of sacrificial drum beat and ominous hellish soundscapes. Add in the hidden traps with spinning scythes, as well as a haunting ride on the River Styx on an enemy-crowded boat, and the Shadow Temple easily takes the title for one of the scariest temples in the Legend of Zelda series.

Eagle’s Tower from Link’s Awakening

Eagle’s Tower takes a goofy idea and doubles down, showing how following a silly creative direction can lead to some pretty terrific level design. In this dungeon, Link is tasked with making it to the top of the tower, but instead of searching for stairwells, ladders, or ropes to climb to the top, he simply has to lower that ceiling by taking out important support pillars.

With most of the temple being filled with either blue or orange blockades that can be raised or lowered, Link will have to find a way to create a path for himself, along with an oversized wrecking ball, to navigate to each pillar and take it out Miley Cyrus-style. And finding out where to go can be incredibly tricky, though ultimately super rewarding. And with the reward being a fight against the Evil Eagle, arguably Link’s Awakening’s best boss fight, Eagle’s Tower easily becomes one of the best and most memorable dungeons in all of the Legend of Zelda series.

Here is a list of the best dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series, including the likes of Eagle's Tower

Tower of the Gods from The Wind Waker

The Tower of the Gods is a pretty straightforward simple dungeon, but the puzzles that Link encounters on his climb to the top make for a gauntlet of interesting solutions and mechanics. Upon first entering the dungeon, Link will stay aboard the King of Red Lions and bomb out the temple’s older walls. Behind these walls are some great riddles that require the player to properly place certain boxes and other items strategically to align with the incoming tide to get the proper keys to proceed.

From here, Link will begin his ascent and utilize the Command Melody to control ancient automatons to their proper locations and help them navigate through tricky pathways. Here Link will also have to deal with some platforming with the grappling hook and some well-timed jumps, making the most out of the tower’s verticality. And while concluding with the classic “floating head and two hands” boss fight may seem anticlimactic, Gohdan is one of the best iterations, spewing cel-shaded plumbing bombardments. The Tower of the Gods may be simple, but in the end it’s this simplicity that makes it so replayable and fun to climb.

Ancient Cistern from Skyward Sword

Basically the Water Temple that Nintendo finally got right, Ancient Cistern is a Buddhist-inspired nirvana filled with lotus imagery and pristine waters that’s secretly hiding a poisonous basement hellscape. Rather than focusing on water-based puzzles, instead the Ancient Cistern focuses more on water exploration and fountains to get around the dungeon. Instead, its large Buddhist statue centerpiece acts as the primary puzzle focus, as players are tasked with moving it around to access different parts of the temple.

But it’s not just the visuals that borrow heavily from Buddhist folklore, as the temple’s own story is a soft retelling of the myth of Kandata and the spider’s thread. At one point during the poisoned swampy underground section, Link will have to climb up a spider thread to escape a host of zombified Bokoblins, cutting it once he gets to the top. This segment represents Kandata’s own attempt to escape hell on a spider’s thread, offering a unique depth of storytelling from a Zelda dungeon.

And while the level’s final boss Koloktos is less tied to the myths recreated in the dungeon, it is still one of the best Zelda bosses of all time.

Arbiter’s Grounds from Twilight Princess

Part haunted ancient tomb, part scarab-filled pyramid, Arbiter’s Grounds almost seems like it’s more inspired by the Brendan Fraser Mummy franchise than anything in a Zelda game. But that by no means is a bad thing. Here, Link battles through screaming mummified Poes, armies of small skeletons, and sinking sand, emphasizing horror and adventure a bit more over puzzles. That being said, following the Poe trails in Wolf Link form and finding secrets hidden behind revolving rooms is just as rewarding.

Arbiter’s Ground is also home to one of the strangest and most fun items to use, the Spinner. This device allows Link to rocket across rooms on preset tracks, making for some terrific action platforming segments in the dungeon. The item also makes the Stallord boss fight so spectacular at the end.

Here is a list of the best dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series, including the likes of Arbiter's Grounds

Stone Tower Temple from Majora’s Mask

One of the most complex Zelda dungeons of all time, the Stone Tower Temple puts a major emphasis on Link’s transformations, using the skill sets of flight, swimming, and rolling to tackle specific rooms. Then there’s the mechanic that literally flips the entire dungeon upside down, which recontextualizes everything the player saw on their first walk through.

There are a lot of secrets here, which can make getting all the stray fairies or even just progressing forward a daunting but rewarding challenge. And perhaps the best secret hiding in the temple is an optional miniboss and the Giant’s Mask, which can be used in the dungeon’s boss battle against Twinmold.

The Forest Temple from Ocarina of Time

This haunted mansion in the middle of the woods is a deserted eerie series of corridors, ghosts, and ambient sounds. The level plays with trickery and madness with its twisting corridors and vanishing pictures, in addition to introducing players to the horrifying Wallmasters that can grab Link and take him back to the start of the dungeon.

Even the level’s main boss plays into this level of uncertainty, as Phantom Ganon will utilize several large pictures to try to ambush Link from behind. From start to finish, the Forest Temple plays mind games with the player, and the whole experience feels just the right amount of disorienting.

That does it for this list of the best dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series. Did we miss any? Be sure to let us know your favorite dungeons in the comments!

About the author

Jeff Levene
Jeff Levene is an avid lover and writer of games, film, and theatre, who plays a little too much DnD in their free time. You can follow them on Twitter at @jefflevene498