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This article is about dungeons in general. For a list of dungeons in the entire Legend of Zelda series and the stage in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Brawl, and Wii U, see List of dungeons and Hyrule: Temple.

Artwork of Link entering a dungeon from The Legend of Zelda

Dungeons are recurring locations in the Legend of Zelda series. Since the release of The Legend of Zelda in 1986, Nintendo has produced nineteen canon titles in the series to date. During that time, the series has also become one of Nintendo's flagship video game franchises, ranking high with the likes of Mario and Donkey Kong. A major reason for this is the complexity, challenge, and evolution of the many dungeons that have come and gone over more than 20 years. The dungeons were referred to as Temples as early as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. However, because of religious censorship at the time, they were referred to as dungeons (or in the case of Zelda II, "Palaces") until The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Nearly every Zelda game involves locating and exploring dungeons, which are locations in which much of the action in the games takes place; they are generally underground labyrinths that contain various types of traps, enemies, and puzzles, usually with a boss at the end, and often a mini-boss near the middle. Most dungeons contain one or two special items hidden inside which are required to complete the dungeon, and those items are often of use later in the game. Many of these are recurring items throughout the series, while others are exclusive to a single entry. Dungeons usually have a theme that governs the types of puzzles contained therein. Most of the time, the solutions to the puzzles require using an item that is acquired within the dungeon. In the later entries in the series, the items in each dungeon are usually used to fight that dungeon's boss.

Dungeons have been an essential component of the Zelda series beginning with the original Legend of Zelda. These dungeons were rather complex for their time, and such levels had not previously been seen in video games. Enemies occasionally re-spawn to attack adventurers, and a room may be "reset" (in the sense that everything returns to its starting point) when Link exits and reenters a room. There are a total of 148 dungeons in the series.


The Legend of Zelda

Level 1, the first dungeon in the Zelda series

In The Legend of Zelda, the dungeons retained the same format as the rest of the game: the player, as Link, maneuvers each area from a top-down perspective, facing everything from dead ends to invincible enemies to complex traps, puzzles, and maze-like passages. The first installment in the Zelda series is one of but a few in the franchise to feature a special second quest after the challenges of the first one are overcome, or by the player entering "ZELDA" as the file name. The Dungeons also form the letters necessary to spell ZELDA. In either case, the second quest proves more challenging, offering nine dungeons similar to those in the original quest. However, not only are some of the dungeons' locations mixed up in the second quest, but they are generally more difficult, with a different layout and the items hidden more carefully and stronger enemies and bosses introduced sooner. The general layout of Hyrule remains the same, but the locations of items scattered across the Overworld are also hidden in different places. While each dungeon is unique, Stone Statues are found in every dungeon in the game. In addition, side-scrolling elements are also present in the dungeons, although only in areas that feature stairs.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

The entrance to Parapa Palace in Zelda II

The Adventure of Link saw a major change in the original Zelda concept, in that, though the top-down perspective remains, it only does so when Link is wandering the Overworld. Most of the action takes place in a side-scrolling format, adding other platforming elements. Likewise, the side-scrolling elements were also expanded to be for the entirety of dungeons. The side-scrolling element adds difficulty to the overall game (and the dungeons especially), in that certain enemies are much more difficult to defeat than they were in the strictly top-down perspective offered in The Legend of Zelda. On the other hand, the addition of certain abilities—most notably the downthrust technique—make effective tools in Link's fighting repertoire. Recurring themes appear in all palaces such as statues of Iron Knuckles (Bird Knights in the Great Palace) or movable Elevators. Many of the themes and the overall layout were used in the Temple stage in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past went back to the top-down perspective, thus removing the platform and side-scrolling elements that were featured heavily in The Adventure of Link.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The game features the same top-down perspective found in A Link to the Past, but dungeons also incorporate some side-scrolling elements similar to that of the The Legend of Zelda. In addition to the nine dungeons featured in the game, the The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX version of the game sports a tenth optional dungeon, the Color Dungeon.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask

Inside the Deku Tree, the first 3D dungeon in the series

After a five-year absence on the market, the Zelda series returned with its fifth installment, titled Ocarina of Time. Its series-new 3D graphics allow the game's dungeons to be far more individual, and more unusual settings are used, such as the enormous insides of both a tree and a giant fish. The game also introduces another first in the series: an optional dungeon, the Gerudo's Training Ground, in which, if he completes the challenges therein, Link will obtain the Ice Arrows; however, the Ice Arrows are not necessary for completion of his quest.

Though not included in the original release of the game for the Nintendo 64, the GameCube release of Ocarina of Time carries a Master Quest, which is a similar revisiting of the game to that of the second quest from the original Legend of Zelda. One major difference of note between the second quest and the "Master Quest" (from The Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time, respectively) is that, in the second quest from The Legend of Zelda, both the Overworld and dungeons undergo radical changes, but in Ocarina of Time Master Quest, only the dungeons change, offering new puzzles and traps, as well as different locations for the items within and stronger enemies introduced sooner.

Majora's Mask employs the same game engine used for Ocarina of Time, but so far has not offered a second quest. However, the use of masks, which transform Link into either a Deku, a Goron, or a Zora, provide a different type of challenge to the dungeons and overall gameplay.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages

Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages are played in top-down perspective, although the side-scrolling function is used multiple times throughout the games. There are eight required dungeons in each game.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures

The four Links in the Tower of Winds

Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures brought back the top-down perspective, but introduced into the gameplay another first in the series: the first and so far only multi-player Zelda adventures, making for more varied and interesting puzzles and gameplay. To accommodate this, areas are broken up into stages, with the dungeon's stages being much shorter than other Zelda games. There are other small changes as well, such as items being found much more commonly and are swapped out, or in the case of Four Sword Adventures, small keys being carried. In addition, in a manner similar to The Adventure of Link, some instances have the player enter side-scrolling mode (eg, when entering a cave or falling down a pit), which either have a GBA screen pop up or force the players to look at the linked up Game Boy Advances (depending on whether the mode is single player or multi-player).

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The series' next installment, The Wind Waker, saw more breakthroughs in graphics and changes to the way the game is played through the dungeons. While many people were neither pleased nor impressed at first with series' creator Shigeru Miyamoto's arguably different approach (Miyamoto's idea was actually to appeal to all ages with the advent of cel shading, not necessarily just a younger audience); the game retains in spades the same basic puzzle and other elements that have made the Zelda franchise so popular. In this installment, the dungeon idea got another renovation: as new items are introduced in the game, The Wind Waker proves once again that a new spin on an old idea can work. With every item Link obtains throughout the dungeons, new abilities become available, but the puzzles change more than ever to conform to the usability of the items, and the series has continued more this way since. This game also makes significant use of the ability to manipulate other crucial characters and inanimate objects (such as statues), adding another layer to the gameplay and challenging puzzle elements that are hallmarks of the series.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

The Minish Cap once again uses the top-down perspective of many of its predecessors, and the overall plot is to tell the backstory to Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures. Although Link once again gains the ability to split himself into up to four Links (as in the other two games), this game does not feature a multi-player mode, but the complexity of the dungeons once again takes a turn and keeps the player on his/her toes. Adding a new layer of puzzle challenge to the game is the Minish Cap, which allows Link to shrink to the tiny size of the Picori who inhabit most of Hyrule. This item and ability combination grants Link access to places he could never have gone before, such as inside certain enemies and into the homes of the Picori, who live in everything from mouse holes to shoes to tree stumps. However, this newfound freedom to go where he wants is replete with new dangers, too, from cats to giant ChuChus, which become deadly enemies when Link is only the size of the Picori. Most of the dungeons Link visits in this game require him to be this size—or require that he shrink at certain places while he traverses the dungeons—to either enter the dungeons or access otherwise inaccessible areas.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The Legend of Zelda series is well known for its innovations in gameplay and advances in computer graphics technology, always stretching the limits of all that is currently known. Twilight Princess returns the player to the 3D perspective, but adds a new element of puzzle and gameplay: the ability Link gains to turn himself into a wolf. Certain puzzles can only be solved and obstacles overcome by Link when he is in wolf or human form. The items play a heavy role in puzzle specifications once again. Statue manipulation also returns to stretch the player's abilities and test his/her puzzle-solving skills.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

The Temple of the Ocean King

This sequel to The Wind Waker once again uses cel-shading and similar puzzle elements. A new addition to the series with this game is the almost-exclusive use of the stylus. This game hardly makes use of the D-pad or the buttons of the Nintendo DS; the stylus is therefore used for everything: movement, swordplay, using items, picking items up, etc. For instance, the player can now use the stylus to control the movement of Link's Boomerang, to plot his path through dungeons, and highlight dungeon items (i.e. the dungeon map, Compass, etc.). Traditional Zelda elements remain, but are significantly altered by the extensive use of the stylus, adding challenging features that are another first in the series.

Phantom Hourglass also contains a "master dungeon" — the Temple of the Ocean King. This master dungeon is rather large, and Link must visit it between regular dungeons to acquire sea charts; he then uses the sea charts to guide him to previously unexplored areas. The Temple of the Ocean King is filled with fog, which limits the amount of time which Link can spend in the dungeon to the amount of sand remaining in the titular Phantom Hourglass. The dungeon itself contains Phantoms, which are enemies that Link cannot defeat until he acquires the Phantom Sword. Both the time limit and the Phantoms are nullified by the various Safe Zones throughout the dungeon.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The dungeon style of Spirit Tracks is the same as Phantom Hourglass, along with the inclusion of a "master dungeon", the Tower of Spirits. However, there are several differences, such as the use of a Phantom to access some areas, and the lack of replaying through the Tower of Spirits, as well as the lack of a timer. With 30 floors, the Tower of Spirits is the largest dungeon in the series by far. Replaying through some of the dungeons after their completion will allow access to previously unavailable treasures, rooms, or Stamp Stations.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

In Skyward Sword, the dungeons are similar to that of Twilight Princess, but noticeably shorter. Each of the six items acquired in dungeons (the seventh and final dungeon has no items) play a significant role in completing their respective dungeon, and the new items include new puzzles. Dungeons are more complicated than before, with Link needing to hit locks in specific order to unlock them, and must even manipulate time to complete certain dungeons. Unlike most games, there is no way to teleport out of the final room of a dungeon if Link goes through a completed dungeon again, meaning he must take the long way back out for most cases, unless he uses a Bird Statue to teleport back out.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Artwork of Link exploring a dungeon from A Link Between Worlds

Dungeons work differently in A Link Between Worlds that in other games with the fact than the dungeon items must be bought or rented from Ravio before entering the dungeon. An item is found in each Lorule dungeon, but they are not necessary to complete the dungeon (with the exception of the Titan's Mitt). Many of the bosses are returning bosses from A Link to the Past or bosses similar to A Link to the Past bosses.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Link exploring a dungeon from Breath of the Wild

In Breath of the Wild, the dungeons do not have a fixed location. They are less labyrinthine, more linear, and smaller than those found in Twilight Princess, namely rooms and corridors are less numerous, however they are not simpler and easier to clear. There are no compasses available and no new specific item to find in each dungeon. Each dungeon contains Malice, a poisonous substance. Before gaining access to a dungeon, Link must complete a series of missions. Since Link is free to explore the entire Hyrule as he sees fit, there is no set order in which dungeon he is to complete first, and he can even not complete any of the four dungeons and head straight to the fifth and final one. Once Link has completed a Divine Beast dungeon and activate the Main Control Unit, he cannot enter the dungeon again, thus any treasure chests and Heart Containers he left behind will be inaccessible; he is even given a warning before he activates the Main Control Unit. The only exception to this is the final dungeon, the Hyrule Castle, which is in a fixed location that Link can enter and leave as he pleases, and is a complexly large maze-like dungeon.

The true dungeons of Breath of the Wild have a three-dimensional Dungeon Map accessible via the Sheikah Slate though Link must activate terminals inside the Divine Beasts to acquire their dungeon maps while Hyrule Castle's map is automatically available by default though can only be accessed within the confines of the dungeon area of Hyrule Castle. The Yiga Clan Hideout is a mini-dungeon.

Shrines and certain areas like the Lomei Labyrinths function as mini-dungeon like areas though they lack three-dimensional dungeon maps.