It’s the final installment of my top 20 dungeons in the Zelda series! In case you missed them, here’s the first, second, and third posts. I’ve had a lot of fun with these, and I hope they’ll be a jumping off point for a future series of Zelda posts…but for now, here are my top 5 dungeons in the Zelda series:
5) Arbiter’s Grounds – Twilight Princess
Who doesn’t love this dungeon’s item, the spinner? It’s one of the best items in the Zelda series, and it’s sad that the item doesn’t get any use outside of the dungeon. Arbiter’s Grounds is a huge part of Zelda lore, as an abandoned prison in Gerudo desert where the sages from Ocarina of Time attempted to seal Ganondorf. The dungeon does really well thematically, using enemies like poes, redeads, and stalfos to reinforce the abandoned prison turned tomb concept. Side note – how scary would redeads be in Breath of the Wild? The boss fight was fun, although it could get frustrating if you kept falling. I just wish there was more Gerudo lore here. Maybe there was and I’m forgetting it, but if that’s the case the lore wasn’t memorable enough. But it’s a fun dungeon that I can’t wait to replay.
4) Ancient Cistern – Skyward Sword
Skyward Sword gets a lot of flack for its motion controls and its very linear, closed-off world, but in my opinion the rest of the game is just so fantastic that I can completely overlook its flaws. It’s got a central puzzle (which as I’ve learned by creating this list, is a huge bonus for me). The dungeon item was unique and gave you a new way to traverse the rooms. I loved the heaven and hell concept – the upper portion of Ancient Cistern is gorgeous, but the lowest floor is a nightmare with zombie bokoblins and bones lying around that crunch as you walk over them. And who could forget the moment when you start climbing out of the bottom floor on a spider string, only to have those zombie bokoblins start climbing after you, trying to pull you back down? *Shivers* One of my favorite things about the Zelda series is that many of the games incorporate horror elements despite not being horror games, and this dungeon does that super well.
3) Hyrule Castle – Breath of the Wild
Hyrule Castle is what I want out of way more areas in Breath of the Wild. That open air, free to explore environment that still requires a few puzzles to solve to get around. Ideally there would be more puzzles to really get that dungeon feel, but I think they were on the right track here. I loved discovering areas like Zelda’s study and the library. The Hyrule Castle theme gave me chills the first time I climbed up the castle walls and snuck around the guardians. It’s a truly epic dungeon to end the game with. Some of you might not consider it a true dungeon, but it absolutely qualifies in my book.
2) Snowpeak Ruins – Twilight Princess
Snowpeak Ruins is cool before you even get to it – you have to shield surf your way there. And then you get there and its a mansion dungeon! In my opinion, it nails the concept better than the Forest Temple. It feels like you’re navigating a mansion, rather than a bunch of dungeon rooms made to look like a mansion. And I’m a sucker for an ingredient fetch quest (there’s a recipe for this in my Zelda cookbook that I’ve gotta try). The Yeto/Yeta couple is very sweet, but something seems off/spooky about this mansion. You quickly realize what’s wrong at the end of the dungeon when you realize Yeta isn’t sick, she’s possessed, and she ends up being the dungeon’s boss. It’s a truly memorable dungeon, and it ranks highly on many dungeon ranking lists.
1) Sandship – Skyward Sword
Like the previous dungeon, sand ship really nailed the thematic aspect. I will admit that the dungeon boss is terrible, but I don’t think it takes away from its quality at all. It more than makes up for it with the mini boss plank fight, after which you get one of the series’ most iconic items, the bow. This dungeon continues the time stone mechanic of the Lanayru Mining Facility. You even use it on your way to the dungeon – there’s a time stone on a boat, that when activated, creates an area surrounding it that returns to a time when there was a sea. So you’re captaining a boat where you can only see water a few feet ahead of you at a time. And then the dungeon is a ship that looks and feels like a ship the entire time you’re in it. It’s like Snowpeak Ruins, but even better. Anyway, Nintendo, if you’re reading this, please give us Skyward Sword on the Switch.
This concludes my top 20 dungeons in the Zelda series posts. I can’t wait to replay all the games and look back and see how wrong I am (hopefully not too wrong, I put some good dungeons in here). I don’t think my top 4 will change though. But I will definitely be doing some dungeon ranking posts for individual games when I get around to playing them. Thanks for reading! What is your favorite Zelda dungeon?