1. Forest Temple – Ocarina of Time

There are many iconic, unique, and downright awesome dungeons throughout all of The Legend of Zelda, but it was a quick unanimous decision to crown The Ocarina of Time’s Forest Temple the best of them all. The Forest Temple isn’t just an perfect example of masterclass level design; it marks a complete tonal shift in the game, introducing players to a far more intricate set of puzzles. Narratively, the Forest Temple itself is a perfect metaphor for Ganon’s influence; a haunting, ancient temple that’s been reclaimed by nature, and settled by unsavory spirits. Likewise, it marks the evolution of Link into adulthood; a place of reverence at the heart of his childhood home, now besieged by the minions of darkness. The Temple is creepy and discomforting, and can even be nauseating at parts (that hallway- you know which one). The music is shrill and unnerving, subtly keeping players constantly on edge. The Forest Temple is a great way to pull the rug out from under players, making the game feel both more challenging and more foreboding. The Temple forces players to slow down and analyze their environment more, while also preparing them for what’s to come. Not only does it raise the bar in terms of required skill, but the boss fight against Phantom Ganon literally teaches players the exact method they’ll need to use in order to take down the real Ganon at the end of the game. Everything about the Forest Temple exemplifies the spirit of Zelda, from its complex and intertwining dungeon design to its presentation and narrative placement. It highlights, in my opinion, the true start of the game, and showcases exactly what The Legend of Zelda is famous for.

~Peter Starr

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