From its earliest entries, the Legend of Zelda series has been home to creative and challenging puzzles and dungeons. Since its first release over 35 years ago, dungeons have served as the basis for the series’ game design. Some have united the fandom in mutual hatred — like the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time — but there are plenty of beloved dungeons in the game. Here are our top ten dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series to add to the discourse.
Best dungeons in The Legend of Zelda series – our top ten
The Legend of Zelda series is known for many things, from its memorable characters to its continuously floating and changing timeline. However, it is the dungeons that form the core of the gameplay in the series. This list will focus on some of the most challenging and memorable dungeons in the series’ history.
10) Divine Beast Vah Ruta – Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild completely changed the structure of The Legend of Zelda, so there aren’t as many dungeons in the game as in previous games, focusing more on exploration than dungeon-crawling. Of the four Divine Beasts that Link must master to save Hyrule, Vah Ruta is the most memorable. Not only does it reward players with an emotional reunion with Mipha, but the trunk-moving mechanic in the dungeon is much more straightforward than some of the other Divine Beasts.
9) Lorule Castle – A Link Between Worlds
A Link Between Worlds is a great nostalgic game for fans of A Link to the Past, but this dungeon is also a great example of the game’s themes in motion. Not only does it force players to use every mechanic and weapon they’ve received to this point, but it also highlights the flipped nature of Lorule. It is everything that Hyrule isn’t but still feels like it is cute from the same cloth. There is a careful balance here that works better than any of the other dungeons in the game.
8) Spirit Temple – Ocarina of Time
No dungeon in Ocarina of Time leans into the time travel mechanic quite like the Spirit Temple. At multiple points, you can only progress in either your child or adult body. This is the first time that it feels like Link has fully mastered time itself, becoming the Hero of Time that he keeps being called. Plus, the boss fight against Twinrova is a great example of using the dungeon’s key item in a fun and creative way.
7) Lanayru Mining Facility – Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword is full of interesting dungeon designs, but our favorite is the Lanaryu Mining Facility section, which forces players to play with the fabric of time to reach the end. Moving the time crystals around the expansive rooms, bringing the machines to life and then switching them off, is the key to progressing, but it is more than a gimmick. It helps tell a story of a world that predates even Hyrule’s legends as Link finally reaches the end.
6) The Deku Tree – Ocarina of Time
Starting off one of the best Legend of Zelda games, The Deku Tree is a bittersweet moment for players. They go there looking to save their forest’s guardian but end up witnessing its death and rebirth instead. The dungeon also hammers home the need to think in three dimensions to reach the end, which was a big change from previous games. It is hard not to feel emotional at the end of this dungeon, knowing that it gets Link banished from his home for good.
5) Skull Woods – A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past is brilliant in its use of parallel worlds, with Light World locations having a twisted but still familiar version in the Dark World. Here, the whimsical and tricky Lost Woods, where Link finds the Master Sword, are transformed into one of the most interesting dungeon designs in the game. With multiple entrances and a great boss fight at the end, this area feels dark and sinister from start to finish.
4) Snowpeak Ruins – Twilight Princess
This dungeon stands out among the others on this list because it feels less sinister than most Legend of Zelda dungeons. Instead of being inhabited by one of Ganon’s servants, it is home to a pair of loved-up yeti who need help to free them from a curse. The icy puzzles are challenging but not as bad as many ice levels in video games. The long trek to the top of the mountain where this dungeon is adds to the sense of isolation and dread that players feel when they enter. Top it all off with a solid boss fight at the end, and you have one of the all-time best Legend of Zelda dungeons.
3) Tower of the Gods – The Wind Waker
This is another dungeon that mixes elements of fantasy with sci-fi to great effect. The Tower of the Gods is easily the standout dungeon of The Wind Waker, with your first experience with Darknuts and one of the most epic boss fights in the game. You have to travel through multiple levels, climb along the outside, and master the statue puzzles to get to the other side, but it’s all worth it for the satisfaction of coming out on top.
2) Palace of Twilight – Twilight Princess
This is one of the simpler dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series, but it is a perfect example of storytelling through an environment. No other dungeon in the game looks and feels so dark and hopeless, telling us more about Midna and her past than any dialogue in the game. It is incredibly atmospheric and stands out among every other dungeon in the series.
1) Jabu-Jabu’s Stomach – Ocarina of Time
A controversial pick? Maybe, but if you want a memorable Legend of Zelda dungeon, you won’t find a better one than rescuing a princess from the belly of a whale. Everything about this dungeon highlights how Ocarina of Time’s dungeons works, from the multiple levels to needing to rescue the stubborn Princess Ruta from the belly of the beast. Best of all, the dungeon feels like completing it has a positive impact on the world around you, freeing Jabu-Jabu from the dark influence that had taken control.