5. Shadow Temple (Ocarina of Time)

Shadow Temple
Image: Zelda Wiki

Fifth on our list of best dungeons is Ocarina of Time's Shadow Temple, which is a late-game nightmare made real that makes you think that maybe Ganondorf can just have Hyrule after all. This temple hints at a shady past for the Hyrulian Royal Family, since its bloody decor hints that they might have employed torturers to interrogate their enemies.

But who cares about that! It's a temple that turns the scary dial up to 11 in a game that's already pretty frightening, putting Link (who, let's not forget, is a child in a grown-up's body) face-to-face with terror incarnate in the form of Gibdos, ReDeads, Wallmasters and the unforgettable Dead Hand. Oh, and Bongo Bongo, of course — whatever he is.

4. Deepwood Shrine (Minish Cap)

Deepwood Shrine
Image: Zelda Wiki

Minish Cap is the first time that Link gets real tiny, and its first dungeon, Deepwood Shrine, makes the most of his new size. The dungeon itself is a teeny-weeny one, filled with teeny-weeny pests, like mushrooms and slugs. The obstacles and puzzles are teeny-weeny to match as well, including figuring out how to navigate a puddle, and rolling around inside a barrel to access new parts of the dungeon.

Once again, it's the boss that makes this dungeon so great. Everyone knows that Chuchus are the least threatening enemy in most Zelda games, but Minish Cap makes them the most threatening enemy once Link is miniaturised. We'll never forget the reveal when it drops down from the ceiling. That was tense.

3. Arbiter's Grounds (Twilight Princess)

Arbiter's Grounds
Image: Zelda Wiki

Who doesn't love the Spinner from Twilight Princess? It's sort of like a Beyblade and a unicycle had a baby, and it's one of the coolest new additions to the Zelda series in a while, even if it does look a bit dorky.

You'll find the Spinner in the Arbiter's Grounds, which was formerly a prison full of all the worst sorts from Hyrule's seedy underbelly. It's packed with ghosts, mummies, and skeletons, presumably of the criminals who died here (and rats who also died here), and its creepy Roman-colosseum-meets-Egyptian-tomb vibe is enough to make anyone wish they'd stayed at home — all of which is to say that it's an atmospheric masterpiece of a dungeon, and you know we love those.

2. Ancient Cistern (Skyward Sword)

Ancient Cistern
Image: Zelda Wiki

It's a shame that Skyward Sword isn't most people's idea of a good Zelda, because that means a lot of people will miss out on Ancient Cistern — one of the most gorgeous, strange Zelda dungeons in the series. Themed around Buddhism, with a giant Buddha statue right at the centre surrounded by lotus flowers, this temple is more than just a place to fight mini-bosses and solve puzzles — it's got a narrative of its own, too.

Our favourite part of this dungeon is actually the subversive part, which takes Link away from the serenity of the temple and down into the bowels of what is basically hell, filled with bones, poison, and Cursed Bokoblins. A particularly memorable escape from this underworld is a pseudo-cutscene which sees Link climbing up a rope into the light, chased by Bokoblins who want to drag him back down. Terrifying stuff!

1. Forest Temple (Ocarina of Time)

Forest Temple
Image: Architecture of Zelda

Yes, we let our nostalgia win out. Forest Temple is by no means the cleverest dungeon, or the most innovative, or even the most beautiful, but its combination of atmosphere and music will forever cement it in our minds as a glorious experience.

As the first adult temple in Ocarina of Time, it feels much more mature and frightening than the ones you've completed so far, and it tasks players with finding four ghosts (sorry, Poes) and rescuing your trapped childhood friend, Saria. Its tonal change from the welcoming, friendly Kokiri Forest to the ominous, lonely, unsettling vibes of the temple itself perfectly reflect the "lost innocence" theme of the game. It's just a masterpiece, even if it's coming up to 30 years old.

Which Zelda dungeon is your #1?

Are your surprised by our top five? Do you think Breath of the Wild's Divine Beasts were robbed? Do you perhaps disagree that dungeons are good, and you much prefer the bits in-between dungeoneering? The comments section is open for all your dungeony deliberations, debates, and disagreements below!