The Legend of Zelda franchise features dozens upon dozens of mind hurting dungeons to conquer. From the dark depths of a Graveyard to the lofty tops of ancient floating city, dungeons are the best and most fun part of any Zelda game. With so many memorable dungeons, have you ever thought about what are the best dungeons in the franchise history. What dungeons are the most memorable? What dungeons pose the greatest dungeon?
Today, I attempt to answer these questions with a top 10 list for the best Zelda dungeons of all time. All mainline Zelda games are eligible including handheld and the early-bit titles. Sadly, spin-off have not been considered.
Please be mindful that this is my OPINION and is not paraded as facts. You are entitled to agree, disagree and criticize, but please do it in a respectful and tasteful manner.
So without further ado, here is my list for the best Zelda Dungeons of all time.
10. Great Bay Temple (Majora’s Mask)
I know many Zelda fans are not particularly fond of the water themed dungeons. I – myself – are the opposite. I love me some water temple, it just wouldn’t be a Zelda game without them. The Great Bay Temple is one of my favorites and has to be in the top 10 dungeons of all time. Unlike say – the Water Temple from Ocarina – which deploys the concept of volume, the Great Bay Temple is designed around the idea of water flow. Admittedly, at the age of 10 I did not grasp the design principle behind the Great Bay Temple. A tip was given me that greatly assisted: Just go with the flow. Quite literally just go with the flow. Following this tip highlights cleverness behind the Temple.
9. Snowpeak Ruins (Twilight Princess)
Snowpeak Ruins makes into the list thanks to its unique setting. Snowpeak Ruins is no ordinary dungeon, it is set in the isolated mansion of a Yeti couple. It’s not cozy or welcoming for that matter, but it is unique enough to warm the heart or is it that the Pumpkin Soup talking. From exploring the attic to the prisoners quarters, Snowpeak Ruins offers a unique setting that has never been seen before in a Zelda game. Also smashing the crazy Yeti lady with the Chain and Ball is a task I take pleasure in.
8. Tower of Gods (Wind Waker)
A big prominent tower situated in the middle of the sea, the Tower of Gods rightfully enters the top 10 best dungeons of all time. What I most enjoyed about the dungeon is the neat premise of controlling the cute guardians back to their rightful spot. Although some fans may not enjoy escort missions, the Tower of Gods isn’t designed to test your patience, but your skills in lateral thinking. The boss dungeon is nice homage to the Shadow Temples, Bongo Bongo.
7. Palace of Winds (Minish Cap)
My favorite 2D dungeon, the Palace of Winds from Minish Cap grabs 7th spot. Set in the skies way above Hyrule, the Palace of Winds extensively used one of my favorite Zelda items of all time, the Roc’s Cape. Nothing can beat the feeling of gliding around the skies like a chicken, flying from one platform to another platform, hopping from cloud to cloud, this was handheld gaming at its best. Just reminiscing about the dungeon makes me want to jump right back in to playing Minish Cap again.
Best of all, the boss battle was a memorable mid-air battle against two flying manta-rays.
6. The Water Temple (Ocarina of Time)
Earning the number of 6th spot, is the famous Water Temple from Ocarina of Time. In retrospect, the Water Temple isn’t the hair-pulling dungeon it was made out to be all those years ago. Perhaps for the time, when 3D adventure games were still at their infancy, the Water Temple was a devilish obstacle, but nowadays its difficulty is now considered normal. From a design point of view, the Water Temple is expertly designed, even by modern standards. Learning and understanding how the water level interacted and affected the environment is what made the dungeon so joyous to conquer. Plus one cannot forget the trademark Dark Link battle.
5. Forsaken Fortress (The Wind Waker)
Some fans may not agree with this choice, I suspect most will argue that the dungeon is easy, lacks decent puzzles and falls on the short side. However, the Forsaken Fortress enter the list on uniqueness. The first time you enter the Forsaken Fortress, Link has to sneak around underneath the ruse of a barrel, avoiding search lights and passing patrolling guards. The Forsaken Fortress plays like a Metal Gear Solid game, stealthily moving across areas underneath a cardboard box. Its dungeon like Forsaken Fortress that add diversity to Zelda game and is something that should be appreciated. Revisit the fortress again and you will be treated to a nice battle with Phantom Ganon and the Helmaroc King.
4. Goron Mines (Twilight Princess)
The Iron Boots have typically been used for water and weight puzzles. However, Twilight Princess challenges that convention with a new game design choice found at the sublime Goron Mines. The Goron Mines use the brilliant idea of magnetism to create one of the most clever dungeons in the franchise. Using the principles of magnetism, the Iron Boots becomes a tool to traversing roofs, walls and even cranes, which double up as interesting puzzles dezigns.
The Goron Mines also features an extremely fun wrestling mini-boss battle with an enormous Elder Goron. It is rather unfortunate that the Goron Mines ends in a sour note with a fierce looking but easy boss battle. Nevertheless, you can use the Iron Boots to climb wall. Beat that!
3. Sandship (Skyward Sword)
Skyward Swords second best, the Sandship is a dungeon that you would not expect from a Zelda game. The Sandship is an invisible ship that travels on sand and is commanded by a mechanical pirate; this is not something you often see in a Zelda game… right? Link is tasked to free a couple of locked-up prisoners. To complete this you use time-shift stones to switch from present to past and past to present. Watching the environments changefrom past and present is something to behold. A sea of Sand turning into a blue ocean is one of my fondest memories of Skyward Sword . Best of all, the Sandship features – what is in my opinion – the best mini-boss dungeon that the franchise has to offer.
2. Spirit Temple (Ocarina of Time)
The final dungeon of Ocarina of Time, the Spirit Temple misses out on the top honor. Nevertheless, 2nd place isn’t too bad, especially considering all the stiff competition that has come before it. What is most memorable about the Spirit Temple is that you get to visit the dungeon twice: once as a child and the second time as an adult. What you accomplish in the temple as a child can be seen when you visit again as an adult. For an N64 game, this was groundbreaking stuff.
Furthermore, Spirit Temple featured the clever light reflection puzzle, which would eventually be a common puzzle design in future Zelda Games.
1. Lanaryu Mining Facility (Skyward Sword)
Taking the number one spot and honor of “Best Zelda Dungeons Of All Time” is the time bending Lanaryu, Mining Facility. I believe Lanaryu Mining Facilitiy is the most creative and ingenious dungeon that has ever graced a Zelda game. An old, rusty and sand invaded dungeon, Lanaryu Mining Facility captures the imagination with a fresh take on past- present time bending designs.
In the present, the Lanaryu Mine Facility is a sand covered cesspool and in its past it is colorful and bustling factory. With a time-swith stone, Link can switch between the two and seeing the different bewteen the two times highlight the cleverness behind the idea. Following this strong design principle, Lanaryu Mining Facility offers a true challenge that will test your capacity to think out of the square. For this, Lanaryu Mining Facility takes the title of “Best Zelda Dungeon Of All Time”
What are your thoughts on my list for the best Zelda dungeons of all time? Do you agree? Or do you disagree? Also share your top 10 below!