5.) Unicorn’s Cave (Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons)
On the surface, the Unicorn’s Cave seems like a relatively standard dungeon, with its layout being very normal and a mini-boss that is really nothing special. However, I absolutely love this dungeon for one reason: the Magnetic Gloves. Without a single doubt, I can say that this is my favorite dungeon item out of all the items in the 2D Zelda games. The concept is simple: you can change the polarity of the gloves from north to south and vice versa in order to have the effect you would expect on other magnetic things. For example, if you had a metal ball with an N on it to indicate it has a north polarity, using the Magnetic Gloves with a northern polarity would push it away from you while a southern polarity would draw it to you.
I just love how this item is implemented throughout the dungeon, from bringing magnetized balls with you to press switches down and block incoming attacks to using magnets planted in the ground to push yourself over gaps with the opposite polarity. My favorite thing though, is when you have magnetic blocks that float over gaps and slowly rotate. To get across, you have to attract yourself to the magnet and hold it to make sure you don’t fall until the block has rotated to the side you want to go to, whereupon you quickly change the polarity to push yourself away. This is even used well with the boss of the dungeon, Digdogger, where you have to attract and push a giant spiked ball around the room to hit the boss while making sure the excess momentum doesn’t make the ball hit Link as well. Normally, I don’t let one aspect of a whole win me over, but I can’t help but love the Magnetic Gloves unconditionally and I really wish that Nintendo would use them in another game besides Oracle of Seasons, as the possibilities for such an item in one of the newer games are just plain amazing.
4.) Forest Temple (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
There have been many incarnations of a Forest Temple throughout the Zelda series and all of them have been pretty good at the very least. However, the Forest Temple from Ocarina of Time is by far the best and, indeed, is among the greatest in the series. As previously mentioned with the Arbiter’s Grounds, there are four poes that steal torchlights needed to progress in the temple. However, whereas the Arbiter’s Grounds only partially focused on the poes, practically the entire Forest Temple is focused on finding the four poe sisters and getting the torchlights back from them. Going through the dungeon looking for these four was very fun, especially because there were different circumstances to getting all of them that kept it feeling fresh. Two of them required shooting out portraits of them with the dungeon item, the Hero’s Bow, while another required you to solve a block puzzle before she came out. The last was most interesting though, as she makes copies of herself all around you and you have to consistently find the real one.
Besides that gimmick for the dungeon, the overall design felt like an old, overgrown ruin and it really seemed as though the place was built to honor the forest. The 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 overall feel. The boss, Phantom Ganon, was also an enjoyable boss where you had to fire at his horse as he came out of paintings around the room until the horse ran away and then you had to play tennis with the boss’s energy attacks until he missed so you could hit him. It wasn’t a hard battle, but it was definitely fun and a good intro to what fighting the actual Ganondorf would be like. 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.
3.) City in the Sky (Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
I know I said that Twilight Princess is probably my least favorite Zelda game, but, once again, that doesn’t prevent this dungeon from being really great. 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. 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. At first, you stand on the top and, when he flies by, use the Iron Boots and the Clawshot to grab onto parts of the armor he wears and rip them off. After ripping off enough pieces, he flies high and you climb up after him. You use flying plants placed around him as Clawshot targets in order to move around him, dodge his attacks, and eventually get behind him, where you can Clawshot onto his back and attack his weak point. 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. However, this one is higher because it was already a great dungeon that the item just made even better.
2.) Spirit Temple (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Ocarina of Time was the first game in the series that I actually played. While not my favorite in the series now, I couldn’t help but love the game to death when I played it and, nearing the end, just when I thought I couldn’t enjoy the game any more than I already did, the Spirit Temple came around. It’s hard to pin down what it is about the Spirit Temple so much, but I suppose I’ll start with the overall design. The temple felt like an old, mystical place that was more a temple to everything than anything specific. The music also really helped set the mood of the dungeon, with a slow, almost Arabic sounding song that also gave the sense of magic that I love to hear in any song. The obstacles in the temple proper also really contributed to this feeling, as it seemed to include at least one obstacle for every item Link had and every skill he learned throughout the course of the game. It was as though the game was testing your knowledge of everything before you went to Ganon’s Castle and I really like that in a final dungeon. For example, there was a section that required the Hover Boots to grab some items, just like in the Shadow Temple, while there were other sections that had Link fight Lizafoes, an enemy from a long while back in the game.
Another interesting thing about this temple is that Link goes through parts of it as a kid and other parts as an adult. It’s a nice touch to play as a kid in a full-fledged dungeon again, even if it’s only for about a third of the dungeon. The dungeon also has one of my favorite dungeon items in the series, the Mirror Shield, in addition to the heavy-lifting Silver Gauntlets. In this game, the Mirror Shield lets you reflect light, and I love the puzzles that come with that. Reflecting light all around the dungeon is really fun and it just causes some great setups throughout. As if that wasn’t enough, the toughest enemies in the dungeon are the always fun to fight Iron Knuckles. These are some of the toughest enemies in the game and it’s a good challenge to fight them, in addition to the slightly powered up Knuckle you find at the end of the dungeon. To top it all off, the boss of the dungeon, Twinrova, is my favorite in the game. At first, you use the mirror shield to reflect the fire and ice spells cast by each sister at the other sister to hurt them. Then, they combine and you must absorb three spells of either element with the shield and then blast them with the stored power. This is beyond fun, just like everything else with this dungeon, and that’s why it takes my number two spot.
1.) Stone Tower Temple (Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)
As I said before, Ocarina of Time may have been my first Zelda game, but it is not my favorite. That honor belongs to its direct sequel, Majora’s Mask. Getting into why that is would take too long to discuss here, but it’s only fitting that my favorite dungeon be from my favorite game in the series and Stone Tower Temple fulfills that wonderfully. As with many of the dungeons on my list, this is the last one before the final dungeon and, as such, needed to be expansive of everything that I learned throughout the game. The thing is, Majora’s Mask had the smallest amount of dungeons in any Zelda game, with just 5 of them, counting the final area. As such, the designers made the temples more complicated and expansive than almost all others throughout the series in order to compensate. Therefore, having Stone Tower Temple introduce its own concepts and designs while also covering everything else the game introduced made the dungeon confusing, huge, and very, very enjoyable.
While I said the Spirit Temple only seemed to cover everything, this one definitely covered everything. It made you use all the transformation masks, all the items throughout the game, and all the skills you learned, because the temples in Majora’s Mask could be quite difficult and Stone Tower Temple was no exception. Another thing about Majora’s Mask was that, while the dungeon items always factored into the dungeon, in this case being the Light Arrows, the items you get in the area before the dungeon were often just as important. 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. I really liked the fact that it was obviously focused on more than just one item. In addition, I really liked the overall feel and design of the temple, which was very similar to the Spirit Temple in many respects. Although, where the Spirit Temple seemed very mystical, Stone Tower Temple was more about the importance the place had and how old it felt. 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’s “character,” so to speak.
All of that is more than enough to get me to love the temple, but what really cements it is the incredibly clever gimmick of the temple: flipping the entire temple upside-down. This makes the temple twice as long as it would be already and opens up very interesting avenues for puzzles throughout the temple because of how the temple changes when flipped and the interactions you can have between the flipped and unflipped versions. The music also shifts to a slightly creepier song that fits how off it feels to see the entire place upside-down and I love how the overall look of the flipped temple made it feel like a completely alien place, even though I had just familiarized myself with it. The boss, Twinmold, while not the best, is definitely an interesting one, as you can try fighting the giant worms at your regular size by timing things perfectly, or you can put on the Giant’s Mask that you find in the dungeon to become the boss’ size and fight on equal footing. The fact that you can do such a thing just makes me like the dungeon that much more. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this dungeon. The difficulty, design, music, use of items needed to progress, and completeness of the area just amazes me every time I go through it. I can’t think of a more deserving dungeon for my top spot than Stone Tower Temple.
Whoa, I really gushed a lot on this list, didn’t I? Anyway, that’s my favorite dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series. Please, tell me what you thought of the list and talk about your own personal choices in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you and I hope you enjoyed reading the list.