Ocarina of Time is often considered to be one of the best games of all time, and it contains a dozen dungeons for Link to traverse through on his adventure. Not all these dungeons are made equal, which is why I decided to look at each dungeon from a game design perspective and give my thoughts on where they rank.
If you haven’t seen last week’s video, be sure to check it out before we wrap things up in this video. Last time I got through the first six dungeons that Link encounters in his journey – from the Deku Tree to the Ice Cavern. This week we pick things up with the Water Temple, and will finish out the rest of Link’s journey to reach our final rankings.
After the ordeal in the Ice Cavern Link decides to jump in a lake with his iron shoes on, which is only a good idea if you are ABSOLUTELY SURE you can breathe underwater. The water temple gets a lot of criticism, and I won’t say that it is undeserved. However, I think that it also has a lot of really good things going for it, which is why I don’t consider it one of the worst dungeons in the game.
The biggest problem with the Water Temple is that it is slow. The major mechanic of the dungeon is raising and lowering the water level, and this requires Link to move around a lot underwater. However, much like most games that take place mostly on land, the underwater movement is very clunky and, well, bad.
Link can’t really swim, so if he wants to go down he needs to put on his iron boots and slowly sink down. If he wants to go up, he needs to take off the iron boots and slowly float up. You will be putting the iron boots on and off quite a lot in this dungeon, and that in and of itself takes forever. You have to open the menu, navigate to the equipment menu, select the iron boots and choose to put them on every single time. Finally, while you are wearing the Iron boots you move a lot slower than usual, which only further slows down the pace of the action. It also has a pretty confusing layout, which can make it difficult to find the keys that you will constantly need to advance.
That being said, the Water Temple also has a lot of really cool ideas going for it, and has some of the best moments of any temple in the game. The room with the waterfall and the falling platforms is stunning, and the fight against shadow link is absolutely incredible. It is one of the most unique and memorable dungeons in the game, with a focus around one of the game’s best items, the hookshot. I simply think that any of the positive aspects of the temple get buried underneath the negative.
The 3Ds remake also did a lot to improve this dungeon and make it easier, while maintaining the same general design. It added icons to make it easier to know where you could raise/lower the water level, it adds glowing paths, and most importantly of all it turns the iron boots into an item that you can easily take on and off with the simple press of a button. All of these changes make the entire temple much less frustrating, and let the cool parts shine through.
One last note about this temple: while underwater movement is slow and boring in Ocarina of Time, it is an absolute joy in Majora’s Mask when you gain the ability to turn into a Zora. I think that if link had gotten a pair of flippers that let him move gracefully through the water instead of clunky iron boots this temple would have been much more enjoyable to play.
For all of these reasons, I rank the water temple 7th.
Bottom of the Well
This temple creeped me the heck out as a child, and is by far one of the spookiest parts in the whole game. It’s another mini-dungeon, similar to the Ice Cavern, but improved in pretty much every way.
First things first, before you can get into the bottom of the well you must first create a simple time paradox. After learning a song from yourself in the future-past and ruining this accordion player’s entire life, you can finally go down the well and face this dungeon. One interesting thing about the Bottom of the Well is that it’s the first dungeon since Inside Jabu-Jabu’s belly that requires you to play as kid Link, so that’s a nice change of pace.
The general mood and atmosphere of this dungeon is very foreboding, and a bit claustrophobic, and every aspect of the design from the lighting to the choice of enemies enhances this feeling. This definitely includes its creepy as heck boss – this game calls it Deadhand, but it’s real name is the globglogabgalab.
The key item of the dungeon is the Lens of Truth, which (while not strictly necessary), makes the next few dungeons much more manageable. The Lens of Truth allows Link to see things that would otherwise be invisible, and unlike the iron boots is actually useful in the dungeon itself by revealing secret paths and enemies.
While this dungeon is quite short, I think it packs a lot into a very tight space. With an intense atmosphere, a cool key item, and a spooky AF boss fight, this mini-dungeon earns its spot at number 6.
Welcome to Ice Cavern #2! Okay, it’s not that bad, but it does share a lot of similarities. Both dungeons have these spinning scythe things, both dungeons use silver rupee puzzles, and both dungeons have you slipping and sliding all over the place.
Unlike the Ice Cavern, the Shadow Temple is not inherently slippery. However, the problem is with the key item of the dungeon – the hover boots. The hover boots are actually a really neat item that lets Link walk on air temporarily, which allows him to cross gaps he would not otherwise be able to get across. The downside, though, is that the bottoms of these shoes are apparently made out of butter, because when you are wearing them you absolutely cannot get traction on anything.
That being said, I like the Shadow Temple quite a bit more than the Ice Cavern. The Shadow Temple has a similar dark vibe to the Bottom of the Well, and it also uses the Lens of Truth to find hidden paths, obstacles and enemies. It has some really memorable moments, particularly when you get to activate this ghost pirate ship that takes you on a journey along this underground river, and the boss is one of the coolest in the whole game. Despite it’s flaws, it is still one of the best and most creative dungeons Ocarina of Time has to offer. For this reason, I rank the Shadow temple 4th.
Gerudo Training Ground
Another mini-dungeon, the Gerudo Training Ground is probably the most forgettable dungeon in the entire game. It is an entirely optional dungeon that Link must go through to collect the Ice Arrows. While the Ice Arrows do have a lot of puzzle-solving potential, as seen in in Majora’s Mask or the freezing mechanic in Breath of the Wild, Ocarina of Time does not explore this potential AT ALL. In this game these arrows are pretty much totally useless.
This dungeon consists of a series of disconnected puzzle rooms that have nothing to do with one another, and each require a different item from a previous temple to complete. Collect enough keys to open the path, and collect your prize.
Some of the individual rooms are somewhat interesting on their own, but the entire dungeon as a whole just feels so pointless. It is not required the advance the story, the item basically does nothing, and it really doesn’t add anything new or original – it mostly reuses elements from previous dungeons. It doesn’t even have a boss to fight, and it doesn’t even bother to show off any potential uses of the ice arrows. All of this makes the Gerudo Training ground one of the worst dungeons in the game, and is ranked 11th.
The Spirit Temple is the penultimate dungeon in the game, and it really pulls out all the stops. This dungeon will require you to use all of the skills you have learned so far, as both Child and Adult Link, to make it through. Not only that, but this temple has some of the best aesthetics, puzzles, enemies, and the most epic dungeon music in the whole game.
You start off this dungeon playing as Child Link, and it makes for a really interesting change in perspective when you start fighting enemies that you have only ever fought before as an adult. Enemies that once seemed pretty harmless now tower over you, and are much more challenging to defeat. This includes your fight against the Iron Knuckle, which is one of the most epic and difficult fights in the whole game.
Once you have defeated the Iron Knuckle and collected your Silver Gauntlets it’s time to put on your big boy pants and finish the rest of the dungeon. Along the way you will collect the Mirror Shield, fight a few more Iron Knuckles, hookshot some stuff, and rescue this lady you met one time for 30 seconds 7 years ago.
After that it’s time for the boss fight, where you will defeat Ganondorf’s elderly moms with the power of sibling rivalry. Once you take them out individually they merge together to form a much younger lady, which just raises a whole lot of questions. Defeat her, and you give Ganondorf even more reason to really not like you.
All joking aside, the fight with Koume and Kotake, and later Twinrova, is a great boss fight that makes really clever use of the mirror shield. A great ending to a great dungeon, and the last boss before you finally face off against Ganondorf himself. Because of this, I rank the Spirit Temple 2nd.
After completing his coin collection Link uses the power of friendship to create a rainbow bridge that will finally allow him to enter Ganon’s Castle. This is the final dungeon of the game, and is a bit of a mixed bag. Before you can actually face Ganondorf himself you must complete a series of random, disconnected challenges, similar to the Gerudo Training Ground, to unlock a series of seals that are blocking your way.
These individual areas are…fine. Just fine. Nothing groundbreaking, and you do have some annoying ice puzzles thrown in the mix, but overall not bad. However, none of them feel very distinctive. This is the final dungeon in the game, and I really wish they would have done something interesting and unique with it instead of just rehashing previous areas of the game. The key item for this dungeon is the Golden Gauntlets, which are just like the Silver Gauntlets except they let you lift Even Heavier Things! However, this addition seems pretty pointless seeing as you just got the silver gauntlets one temple ago.
Once you get through these trials things start to pick back up. You race up the stairs, facing a series of increasingly difficult enemies until you finally reach the top to find Ganondorf playing piano….menacingly. He asks you to give him back his toys, but you refuse, so the two of you decide to play a friendly game of tennis to decide the matter.
This boss fight is actually pretty cool, if a bit basic, and it takes place in probably the best arena in the game. Once you defeat him Ganondorf decides it’s time to bring the house down. What follows is a really cool sequence where you and Zelda work together to escape the collapsing castle, destroying enemies along the way.
Once you escape Ganon decides to pull a Marshawn Lynch and goes beast mode. This is the real final boss fight of the game, and it can actually be pretty difficult if you are not well prepared. However, Link does eventually prevail, and the Master Sword turns out to be a bit too much of a headache for Ganon to handle. Ganon is trapped in the Sacred Realm by the sages, and Link gets what he obviously wanted the entire time – a childhood.
Because Ganon’s castle has so many different parts it is hard to assign it a single numerical ranking. While it is the climax of the game I don’t think that is enough to justify it being number 1. While the boss fights are exciting, the rest of the dungeon is pretty average, and it repeats a lot of puzzles and ideas from previous dungeons. For these reasons, I rank Ganon’s Castle 3rd.
This brings us to our final rankings list:
Ice Cavern – 12th
Gerudo Training Ground – 11th
Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly – 10th
Fire Temple – 9th
Dondogo’s Cavern – 8th
Water Temple – 7th
Bottom of the Well – 6th
Deku Tree – 5th
Shadow Temple – 4th
Ganon’s Castle – 3rd
Spirit Temple – 2nd
Forest Temple – 1st
However, I want to know your thoughts – where do you think these dungeons rank amongst eachother? Was I close, or do I have it completely wrong? Please let me know in the comments down below.
Until Next Time!
That is all I have for this week. If you enjoyed this article, check out the rest of the blog and subscribe on Twitter, Youtube, or here on WordPress so you will always know when I post a new article. If you didn’t, let me know what I can do better in the comments down below. And join me next time for a special Halloween article!