Cool gadgets. Quirky characters. Epic adventure. There are many things you expect to find in a Legend of Zelda game. Also counted among them are the dungeons that appear in every single main-entry Zelda title (albeit in bitesize form in Breath of the Wild). They challenge your wits and reward your intelligence with cool loot, which can then be put to good use to defeat the big bad.
Some of these dungeons are especially notable for their intricate design. Some for their items. Others for their tone. And of the most memorable Zelda dungeons, these 10 remain the best.
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10. Ancient Cistern (Skyward Sword): Critical opinion has somewhat cooled on Skyward Sword since its initial release, but this hasn't changed the fact that it had some wonderful dungeons. The best of these was arguably the Ancient Cistern, the fourth dungeon in the game.
It's a rare case of a water level that actually manages to maintain a sense of urgency and speed, as you torpedo through the water and don't get caught up on switching items or battling currents. There's also an amazing level of variety in the environments and the obstacles that you'll encounter. You'll find yourself climbing through underground caverns, chopping away spider webs blocking your path and cutting through water like a dolphin. Rest assured—there's never a dull moment.
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9. Arbiter's Grounds (Twilight Princess): The Arbiter's Grounds from Twilight Princess grabs a spot on this list for one simple reason: the spinner.
Obtained after beating the mini-boss Death Sword, this item allows you to turn gears, cross quicksand and ride on rails. It's extremely fun to use and is incorporated spectacularly across the dungeon, letting you perform amazing stunts and reach greater heights.
Despite its dark theming, the Arbiter's Grounds feels like a large playground that you can mess about in. It also gives you a glimpse into what it would be like if Link were to take up an extreme sport.
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8. Forest Temple (Ocarina of Time): Ocarina of Time had many memorable dungeons, but the one that really sticks in my mind is the Forest Temple. Located beyond a wooded labyrinth, it's striking because of its oppressive atmosphere and fantastic structure.
To beat it, you need to locate the four Poe sisters who are scattered across the dungeon to light the four torches in the main room and earn access to the boss. In brief, it's a spooky ghost hunt, with dead ends, devilish puzzles and an unsettling musical theme by series' composer Koji Kondo that's sure to make your skin crawl.
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7. Eagle's Tower (Link's Awakening): The penultimate dungeon in Link's Awakening, the Eagle's Tower is a location that has tons of neat details that add up to make something magnificent.
In this dungeon, you move from floor to floor, utilizing both the power bracelet and iron balls to destroy several supporting columns. The goal is to break all of these around the dungeon, in order to send the boss room plummeting down to your level. This way you can then gain access to the roof and fight the boss: a giant eagle.
Boasting some of the most challenging puzzles included in the game, a great layout and an epic boss battle, it's an extraordinarily well executed piece of level design.
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6. Palace of Winds (The Minish Cap): The Game Boy Advance title The Minish Cap had a lot going for it: witty characters, an enjoyable size-changing mechanic and some remarkable dungeons. The best of these being the Palace of Winds.
What makes the Palace of Winds the standout? The most obvious reason I can call to mind is the dungeon's premise: that of a floating fortress. It's an inspired idea and one that provides a lot of interesting platforming opportunities for the player.
Using the dungeon item Roc's Cape, you can move vertically, as opposed to just horizontally. This makes traversing the dungeon much more satisfying, as you climb up columns of clouds to ascend the many floors.
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5. Wind Temple (The Wind Waker): The sixth dungeon in The Wind Waker, the Wind Temple is comprised of a long cylindrical shaft with a fan fitted in it, and numerous rooms that branch out from the center. It's an example of dungeon that reuses the same central space over and over, while somehow keeping things fresh.
During this dungeon, you'll also be accompanied by the Wind Sage Makar in some areas. He can be controlled by using the Command Melody, to solve puzzles and to grow trees that you can hookshot up to. This provides some diversity within the level, as you encounter the same rooms as different characters with slight alterations made to them.
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4. Skull Woods (A Link to the Past): When I was a kid, the Skull Woods from A Link to the Past blew my mind, because of its huge labyrinthine layout and its gloomy aesthetic.
Breaking tradition, the dungeon had multiple entrances, many of which were hidden around a large skeleton forest. This meant exploring both interior and exterior locations to advance. Creepy and foreboding, it definitely deserves all the praise it gets.
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3. City in the Sky (Twilight Princess): Twilight Princess's City in the Sky is another floating fortress. Only this time you won't be using Roc's cape to get around, but dual clawshots.
Zipping from one surface to another with the clawshots is incredibly entertaining, and is made even more gratifying by the scenic exteriors you traverse.
Importantly, the City in the Sky feels like a place you actually want to explore and is filled with a hidden history that's just begging to be uncovered.
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2. Lorule Castle (A Link Between Worlds): There are plenty of reasons to love A Link Between World's Lorule Castle dungeon. The most obvious being its ornate architecture.
The dungeon has a verticality to it that would've been impossible to achieve in its Super Nintendo predecessor A Link to the Past. It's an incredibly elaborate piece of stage design, possessing four distinct chambers that each require specific items to be cleared successfully.
If you're searching for proof of the ingenuity of A Link Between Worlds, you needn't look any further than Lorule Castle.
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1. Shadow Temple (Ocarina of Time): Also referred to as "The House of the Dead", the Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time is another dungeon with a great theme.
Located in a graveyard, it's filled with ReDeads, Wallmasters and other unnerving foes that like to lurk out of sight. It requires the Lens of Truth to be navigated properly, with invisible walls and unseen enemies spread throughout.
On top of this, it's also got an underground river system that's inspired by the River Styx, which you have to ride along to reach the boss. The Shadow Temple is another case of Ocarina of Time embracing the macabre and producing something brilliant.