Link traveled up into the clouds to save Hyrule long before Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword made it cool. The Palace of the Winds was easily one of the biggest “wow” moments in Minish Cap, and this dungeon still holds up today, which is why it earns a spot on this list.
Palace of Winds (which isn’t to be confused with Minish Cap’s Fortress of Winds dungeon, which has little to do with the wind or the sky) is the final dungeon in Link’s quest. This palace is located in the cloud tops and was built to protect the Wind Element from the evil Vaati.
The dungeon makes effective use of the Roc’s Cape, which allows Link to glide across dangerous gaps or ascend even higher into the clouds. As the dungeon’s name suggests, wind is a constant element that makes it difficult to traverse without being blown in the wrong direction. The ideas here are basic, but they are smart.
Gyorg Pair, the boss of Palace of Winds, is a fun fight. It takes place entirely in the air; Link must jump from one Gyorg to the other while battling them and avoiding their attacks, all while trying not to fall to his death.
11. Hyrule Castle (Breath of the Wild)
Okay, so technically this isn’t a traditional Zelda dungeon in the true sense of the concept. But it still makes this list because it has many of the elements that make a Zelda dungeon great, and we believe Nintendo can build upon this in Breath of the Wild’s sequel.
The Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild are fine, but they feel somewhat identical to each other and don’t hold up as well as dungeons in previous Zelda games. Hyrule Castle, on the other hand, is the place to explore.
From the moment Link steps foot within Hyrule Castle’s boundaries, the entire tone of the game shifts. The music changes dramatically, and you can immediately feel a sense of danger and evil.
And it is dangerous and evil—the enemies here don’t hold back, and there’s not a corner without a Guardian, Lynel, or Lizalfos ready to attack. There’s rarely a break from the fighting within the castle walls, and the hardest battles feel truly like the mini-bosses in a typical dungeon.
Every room in the castle, while derelict and in ruins, tells the story of what life was like before Calamity Ganon took over. From a library, a dining hall, and Zelda’s bedroom to gatehouses, shrines, and a sanctum, it’s a huge area to get lost in.
So, while this version of Hyrule Castle isn’t a dungeon in the traditional sense, it has the exact atmosphere and challenge that any good Zelda dungeon would have.
It is with the highest hopes that Breath of the Wild’s sequel will treat us with plenty of dungeons that give us the same feeling we experienced while exploring Hyrule Castle.
10. Turtle Rock (A Link to the Past)
Turtle Rock houses the seventh and final maiden that Link must rescue before facing Ganon. This dungeon is memorable because of how challenging it is. The enemies here definitely do some damage.
What’s great about Turtle Rock is that it finally feels like the journey is coming together.
The puzzles in this dungeon make creative use of combining items: for example, Link uses the Cane of Somaria (which was previously used to create blocks) to create moving platforms while simultaneously using the Fire Rod to light torches.
This blend of using old items in new ways gives new purpose and relevancy to your inventory of items that you worked so hard to collect throughout the game.
Turtle Rock also has many memorable aspects such as tunnel mazes and hard-hitting enemies that don’t appear anywhere else in the game, such as Chain Chomps. It’s a long, unforgiving dungeon.
If you’ve ever struggled to reach Trinexx, the boss of Turtle Rock, and realized you never picked up the Ice Rod (one of the two key items to defeating him) on the opposite side of Hyrule, you’re not alone.
There’s probably a support group for that.
9. Eagle’s Tower (Link’s Awakening)
Eagle’s Tower is one of the most unique dungeons from any top-down Zelda game. The main puzzle involves destroying the four pillars holding up one of the floors to crash it down, merging the two floors.
It seems like a simple premise, but despite the fact that the dungeon is basically a giant square, there are plenty of hurdles and roadblocks to overcome in order to reach each of the pillars. One of the downsides is that every corner looks nearly identical, and there are many rooms, so it’s easy to get lost.
Finally, once the pillars have been destroyed, Link can climb to the very top of the tower to face the dungeon boss, the Evil Eagle. It’s a fun fight, though a difficult one because of the eagle’s ability to knock Link off of the platform (in which case he regains all of his health).
Eagle’s Tower was great in the original Link’s Awakening, and seeing it come to life in the HD remake on the Switch made it even better.
8. Ganon’s Tower (A Link to the Past)
Ganon’s Tower is the final dungeon Link must face after collecting the seven crystals. It’s a very long, arduous tower that our hero must climb to face off with Agahnim.
Link finds himself in many iterations of Ganon’s Tower over the course of the series. This particular version, which is split into a lower half and upper half, has some of the most challenging puzzles and enemies in the game.
The upper half of the tower can’t be accessed until Link has traversed through the basements and defeated three of the bosses he previously faced at the beginning of the game. Only then, he can begin climbing upwards in a gauntlet of challenges to get to Agahnim’s chamber.
It is there where we learn Agahnim is simply the alter-ego of Ganon, and once defeated, he turns into his true form and flies to the top of the Pyramid of Power. Then, in an epic moment, Link calls his trusty bird to fly him there to challenge Ganon once and for all.
This version of Ganon’s Tower makes our list because of the difficulty of the gauntlet and how rewarding it is to finally make it through to the final stretch of the game. The only thing that would have made it better would be if every previous dungeon boss was there to battle against instead of just the first three.
7. Spirit Temple (Ocarina of Time)
The Spirit Temple is one of the most unique dungeons in any Zelda game because it involves navigation as both child Link and adult Link. Most people discover the dungeon as adult Link, but upon learning there is crawl space too big for him to fit through, it becomes necessary to go back to the past and return as a child.
Some of the puzzles are completed as a child, which feels odd with this dungeon being so late in the game. Once Link obtains the Silver Gauntlets, he can return as an adult and continue journeying through the dungeon to find the Mirror Shield.
Both of these items are vital to solving the dungeon’s puzzles to free the sage Nabooru and face the boss. The witch sisters Koume and Kotake then merge to become Twinrova, one of the most fun bosses in the entire Legend of Zelda series.
The majority of the dungeon is spent as adult Link; it would have been even more fun if there was more to do as child Link that greatly affected the puzzles seven years later as an adult. It’s hard to be too critical, though, as this was the series’s first attempt at the concept on this grand of a scale.
6. Ancient Cistern (Skyward Sword)
It’s fun to hate on water-themed dungeons and levels in games. We’ve all been frustrated by the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time at least once. But Ancient Cistern is finally a water dungeon where the ideas are executed in an enjoyable, stress-free way.
Link finds and uses an item called the Whip in Ancient Cistern, which makes pulling on levers to change the water levels a breeze. Otherwise, the Whip is a bit of an unconventional item for a water dungeon, and it does feel somewhat of place here.
There are other fun puzzles in Ancient Cistern such as flipping lilypads, moving the direction of water wheels, and clearing poisonous purple water, all which set it apart from other water dungeons in the series.
This dungeon isn’t just about puzzles, though; completing the entire bottom half relies more on fighting skill than strategy, making it a good mix overall.
Ancient Cistern is also home to one of the most fun bosses in Skyward Sword, Koloktos, who is defeated by using the Whip to pull off all of his arms. Plus, the color scheme in this dungeon is incredibly pleasing to look at.
5. Lanayru Mining Facility (Skyward Sword)
People seem to have fairly mixed opinions about Skyward Sword as a whole, but there’s no denying that it had some of the greatest dungeons in the entire series. Lanayru Mining Facility is easily one of the most creative there is.
Not unlike the Spirit Temple in Ocarina of Time, the main gimmick of the Lanayru Mining Facility involves shifting between the past and present using Timeshift Stones. This brings new (or maybe should I say old) life to the landscape of the dungeon.
The physical presentation of this dungeon is something we’d never seen in a Zelda game before. The Lanayru Mining Facility is a mechanical factory with advanced technology created by the ancient race of robots.
A better boss might have been the cherry on top of Lanayru Mining Facility. The dungeon’s creative use of the Timeshift Stones, conveyor belts, electrical barriers, and moving platforms make it unique and unforgettable.
4. Snowpeak Ruins (Twilight Princess)
Snowpeak Ruins is such an odd Zelda dungeon because, at times, it doesn’t even feel like a dungeon. It’s the home to a yeti couple named Yeto and Yeta, but something is amiss…
Yeta is sick, and Yeto sends Link running around the mansion to find ingredients to make soup for his wife. In return, they will give Link the piece of Mirror Shard they have.
Making soup? Not exactly what you’d expect from a Zelda dungeon.
There are still standard enemies, and Link even acquires an awesome weapon called the Ball and Chain. When he finds the “Bedroom Key” instead of a boss key, it starts to make more sense what is happening here.
Yeta leads Link to the bedroom to give him the Mirror Shard, but it quickly becomes apparent that she is mesmerized and brainwashed by it. She turns into Blizzeta, the dungeon’s boss. Once defeated, she apologizes and gives Link the Mirror Shard.
Snowpeak Ruins feels special because it doesn’t feel like a random dungeon thrown into the world for the sake of having a dungeon. It blends seamlessly into Hyrule and its location has an actual purpose, which is something untrue of many dungeons in the series.
3. Forest Temple (Ocarina of Time)
Deep within the Sacred Woods, the Forest Temple is the first dungeon Link finds himself in after pulling the Master Sword and becoming an adult. With twisting hallways and open-air elements, it’s a change of pace from the straight-forward dungeons Link faced as a child.
The main puzzle in the Forest Temple involves hunting the four Poe Sisters to return their flames to the central room. Once Link does this and finds the Fairy Bow, he can challenge the dungeon boss, Phantom Ganon, and free his childhood friend and sage Saria.
It’s easy to get lost in the Forest Temple, but it doesn’t feel frustrating here. Every room has secrets to discover, like playing the Song of Time to remove blocks and draining a well to navigate through it to the next area.
One of the most memorable aspects of the Forest Temple is the music. It’s an eerie theme that sets the tone that the world has changed in seven years and that Link isn’t a kid anymore. The song is haunting and fitting for the atmosphere of a dungeon infested with Poes.
Because of the fitting atmosphere along with the mix of unique enemies and an appropriate difficulty spike, it’s no wonder the Forest Temple is a fan favorite.
2. Stone Tower Temple (Majora’s Mask)
Located within the Ikana Canyon, the Stone Tower Temple is the ultimate dungeon in Majora’s Mask. While the previous dungeons made use of one of Link’s transformation masks, the Stone Tower Temple makes use of all three: Deku, Goron, and Zora.
The Stone Temple Tower is all sorts of weird. Where to even begin? Link can use the Elegy of Emptiness to summon disturbing statues that look like him to solve puzzles. The Giant’s Mask is a special mask that can only be used in the dungeon’s boss room and allows Link to grow to an enormous size in order to face Twinmold.
But what makes the Stone Tower Temple most memorable is that Light Arrows can be used to flip the entire dungeon upside-down.
This literally gives a new perspective to solving the puzzles and facing enemies—something we had a tiny taste of in Ocarina of Time’s Forest Temple, but this dungeon improved on the idea greatly, which is why we rank it slightly higher.
The lore behind the Arbiter’s Grounds is pretty deep. Located on the far edges of the Gerudo Desert, this dungeon was originally built as a prison for those awaiting sentence to the Twilight Realm. This is evident through the chains, cells, and even bones found within it.
The first part of this dungeon has Link running around to hunt four Poes to return their flames to a central room (sound familiar?) and proceed deeper into the grounds. This is where the dungeon really begins to open up.
Here, Link acquires the Spinner, which allows him to ride metal rails and reach parts of the dungeon he couldn’t before. This item is so much fun, and it’s a shame it wasn’t used more outside of Arbiter’s Grounds, because it made for a very memorable boss battle with Stallord.
After Stallord’s defeat, Link finds the Twilight Mirror, which is a huge turning point in the game.
Arbiter’s Grounds is a dungeon that checks every box for a great Zelda dungeon: plot significance, creepy atmospheric music, a wide range of puzzles and enemies, and a fun, two-phase boss fight. There is no doubt that it is the best the series has to offer.