The Legend of Zelda: The 5 Best Dungeons From The N64 Games (& 5 Worst)

Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are unquestionably two of the greatest video games of all time. These two games alone are enough to elevate the Nintendo 64 to legendary heights, to say nothing of The Legend of Zelda franchise. They are two of the most inspired games in the series, defining Zelda at its best. 

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Naturally, the console is home to some of the best dungeons in the Zelda franchise, but there are a few not so stellar dungeons littered about. They don’t pop up often, but fans will remember a few with some justified ire. Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are classics to this day, but Nintendo was learning how to design in 3D while developing both games. 

10 BEST: Woodfall Temple

Being the first dungeon in Majora’s Mask, Woodfall Temple tends to get lumped up with the rest of the “first dungeons.” Everyone knows a first dungeon is bound to be easy so they aren’t paid as much mind. The Great Deku Tree is great! But it’s also incredibly simple. Unlike Woodfall Temple. 

Woodfall Temple is designed more like the Spirit Temple than it is the Great Deku Tree. It’s clearly meant to follow up on what players learned in Ocarina of Time. Majora’s Mask ends up opening incredibly strong as a result, with a dungeon that rivals some of Ocarina’s best in terms of pure design. 

9 WORST: Water Temple

It really is impossible to discuss Ocarina of Time’s dungeons without lingering on the headache that is the Water Temple. The tragedy of the dungeon is that it’s actually incredibly well designed. The Water Temple is layered, nuanced, and masterfully built around one mechanic. It makes for a great labyrinth to explore. 

Unfortunately, the Iron Boots slow the dungeon down to a crawl. It becomes genuinely tedious making one’s way through the Water Temple, especially when lost. The Water Temple isn’t particularly confusing so long as one pays attention, but it can be extremely disorienting, especially near the beginning and the very end. 

8 BEST: Gerudo Training Ground

Ocarina of Time’s only optional dungeon, the Gerudo Training Ground is unlocked extremely late in the game and the Ice Arrows don’t make for a particularly useful reward even if they are fun to play around with. Fortunately, the Gerudo Training Ground is so well designed that this hardly ends up mattering. 

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It’s challenging, thought-provoking, and throws everything at the player for one final challenge. Since it’s optional, it doesn’t hold back as much as the main game. It isn’t overwhelmingly difficult for anyone who’s played enough action games, but it makes for an interesting optional challenge in Ocarina of Time.

7 WORST: Bottom Of The Well

The Bottom of the Well is too short for its own good, unfortunately. Ocarina of Time does horror surprisingly well so the dungeon is still memorable (in the bloody Nintendo 64 version that is), but the actual Well is a bit on the bland side. Not only is it incredibly short, it’s also a little bit on the confusing side. 

Its layout isn’t very intuitive— albeit clearly intentionally— which makes exploration a slog when lost. Worse yet, or better depending on the person, it’s not difficult to walk in, get the Lens of Truth, and walk out in a few minutes. It’s barely a dungeon when taking that into consideration. 

6 BEST: Spirit Temple

The only dungeon in Ocarina of Time to make use of both child and adult Link, the Spirit Temple makes for an exciting finale to Ocarina’s second act, closing out the Medallion hunt masterfully. It’s a bit harder than previous dungeons, emphasizing both combat and puzzle-solving. There’s so much to love. 

Better yet, the Spirit Temple is given an insane amount of buildup. Link has to invade Gerudo Fortress, free the Carpenters, cross the Desert, travel back in time to start the dungeon, and then return to the future to finish it. The Spirit Temple has two creative Items, a bunch of mini-bosses, and an excellent boss battle at the very end. 

5 WORST: Beneath The Well

To the franchise’s credit, Nintendo did not let the Bottom of the Well fade away without one more try. Upon entering Ikana in Majora’s Mask, players will find yet another well to traverse, this time titled: Beneath the Well. Conceptually, it’s better. In execution, it’s far worse, essentially being a fetch quest for random items in the game. 

It’s not too difficult to get through, but unprepared players will find the ordeal tedious. Especially since the Nintendo 64 version takes the fetching to an extreme at times. Worse yet, Beneath the Well transitions into a far better dungeon, one that the Day cycle will have eaten into.

4 BEST: Forest Temple

Atmospheric, conceptually sound, and full of great puzzles and mini-bosses, the Forest Temple is perhaps the most “complete” dungeon in Ocarina of Time. It kicks off the adult portion of the game and it does so by putting its best foot forward. The Forest Temple fundamentally changes the game, offering players a lengthier challenge. 

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Without being too demanding, the Forest Temple eases the player into an ebb and flow. There are moments of intensity followed by relaxing exploration, all set in a mansion lost to the ages. Hunting ghosts in order to defeat the antagonist’s shadow, the Forest Temple is easily Ocarina of Time’s highest high. 

3 WORST: Ganon’s Castle

Tragically, Ocarina of Time ends on something of a low. The back half of Ganon’s Castle is incredibly fun as it’s more or less a mini-boss rush up to the Gerudo Thief himself, but the first half leaves a lot to be desired. More or less just playing around with established concepts, Ganon’s Castle treats itself as the game’s final challenge. 

A final challenge that Ocarina of Time didn’t really need. Ganon’s Castle is exhausting, taking Link through familiar settings with familiar puzzles. Ganon’s Castle should have been its own thing ala A Link to the Past’s final dungeon. As is, Ocarina of Time kicks off its finale in a rather uninspired way. 

2 BEST: Stone Tower Temple

The finale mask dungeon in Majora’s Mask, the Stone Tower Temple is MM’s Spirit Temple, requiring players to use every version of Link to reach the end. Not only will the dungeon likely eat up most of the player’s time— making it all the tenser— it has two distinct phases, making it all the harder. 

It really feels like the game’s final dungeon (and in a way it is), offering players challenge after challenge to earn their keep. Even the Stray Fairies are hard to find, scattered between both dungeon phases. The Giant’s Mask at the end is just the icing on the cake, bringing a fantastic dungeon to a very memorable close. 

1 WORST: The Moon

Unfortunately, the Stone Tower Temple is not Majora’s Mask’s final dungeon and the game goes on for just a bit longer. Conceptually, The Moon is such an inspired area. It’s aesthetically beautiful, requiring Link to give up his masks in order to make progress. The fact the dungeon can be done in any order (or not at all) is also a huge plus. 

That said, it’s just not all that fun. The Moon isn’t particularly challenging or exciting. Of the four main sections, only the Twinmold Mask offers anything remotely interesting. It doesn’t end the game on a whimper as the Majora fight is still plenty of fun, but it really is for the best that Link can skip right to the final boss.

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