It’s not unusual for even the most diehard Zelda fans to write off Skyward Sword as the worst 3D installment in the franchise. Skyward Sword’s original Wii release – while critically lauded – was divisive with the average consumer. Motion controls, a heavy emphasis on story (with slow text crawl), and releasing late enough in the Wii’s life cycle to require an accessory to play, Skyward Sword was always a hard sell.

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All the same, Skyward Sword has always had its strengths. Underneath one of the most linear Zelda experiences ever, Skyward Sword is home to some of the absolute best dungeons in the franchise. Skyward Sword’s dungeons are lengthy, make you think, and put up a fight that's sure to make you break a sweat.

Earth Temple

Earth Temple

The Earth Temple is the second dungeon in Skyward Sword and is actually more fire themed than its name implies. The dungeon requires you to traverse across lava without burning Link while making extensive use of Bombs. By tilting the Wiimote/Joycons downwards, Link can bowl his Bombs into alcoves or at enemies from long range – a technique the Earth Temple makes extensive use of.


Like Dodongo’s Cavern from Ocarina of Time, the Earth Temple forces you to pick up Bombs from the environment before unlocking a Bomb Bag of your own. The Earth Temple’s boss, Scaldera, puts up a surprisingly tough fight for a second dungeon. When all is said and done, though, the Earth Temple just doesn’t hit the same highs as the rest of Skyward Sword’s dungeons.

Skyview Temple

Skyview Temple

Skyview Temple is one of the best starter dungeons in The Legend of Zelda, largely because it actually expects you to think critically. It’s here where you’ll be introduced to the nuances of swordplay and puzzle solving. Virtually every room is designed to teach you some fundamental lesson about Skyward Sword’s approach to puzzles. Better yet, there’s a healthy mix of combat weaved in to keep navigation exciting.

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Skyview Temple’s unique aesthetic certainly earns it some points, but what raises it above the Earth Temple is ultimately its boss fights. Ghirahim is an outstanding introduction to Skyward Sword’s difficult boss design. You need to think carefully about what you’re doing while reacting fast enough to deal damage – all the while making sure your aim is as precise as possible.

Lanayru Mining Facility

Lanayru Mining Facility

The Lanayru Mining Facility is an extremely long dungeon with a complex central puzzle, but it’s incredibly rewarding to solve and explore. While the dungeon’s main item is extremely underwhelming, the Gust Bellows do force you to reconsider the level design while observing your surroundings closely. Beyond that, the Lanayru Mining Facility’s layout does a great job at conveying scope.

The main gimmick of the dungeon sees you using timeshift stones to swap the Mining Facility between two distinct time periods. This fundamentally gives the dungeon two distinct sets of level design depending on the room. The vast majority of puzzles in the Lanayru Mining Facility require you to think critically about something as basic as traversal. It makes for an excellent challenge and Moldarach is a fun boss to end on.

Fire Sanctuary


The Fire Sanctuary is the second to last dungeon in Skyward Sword, featuring an Earth aesthetic that clashes with the Earth Temple’s fiery theme. The dungeon’s main item are the Mogma Mitts, which simply let you dig underground, but this does lead to some engaging puzzle design. More importantly, the Fire Sanctuary simply makes use of all your previous items up to this point to keep things compelling.

One of Skyward Sword’s strengths is that the linear structure leads to dungeons that can reiterate on puzzles and gameplay concepts introduced earlier. The Fire Sanctuary features a healthy mix of challenges that force you to think about the items you have on hand, not just the Mogma Mitts. As an added bonus, the dungeon ends with a second fight against Ghirahim.


Sandship Skyward Sword

The Sandship is one of the most creative dungeons in The Legend of Zelda, not just Skyward Sword. By using the Bow to shoot a Timeshift Stone on the Sandship’s mast, you can warp the ship back in time to when it was still active. Like the Lanayru Mining Facility, this fundamentally changes the layout of the dungeon. Unlike the Lanayru Mining Facility, time shifting is far more complex here since the concept was already introduced earlier.

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What really sells the Sandship, though, is the setting: a pirate ship manned by robots sailing an ocean made entirely of sand. It’s the kind of sight you can only see in The Legend of Zelda, but it gives Skyward Sword so much personality while adding an interesting footnote to Hyrule’s lore.

Sky Keep

Sky Keep

The final dungeon in Skyward Sword, the Sky Keep is an excellent way to ease into the game’s finale. The Sky Keep structure itself as a final test of everything the game has taught you thus far. Not only does the Sky Keep directly lift ideas from previous dungeons, you need to solve a tile puzzle that shifts all the rooms inside. The Sky Keep is nothing short of a final exam.

While the Sky Keep may not have the Sandship’s unique aesthetic, it maintains an epic quality on premise alone. Link’s goal here is to collect the Triforce by proving his Power, Wisdom, and Courage. It’s a great way of tying Zelda’s three core themes into the franchise’s origin story.

Ancient Cistern

Ancient Cistern

The Ancient Cistern is quite simply one of the best dungeons to grace a video game. Besides loosely adapting the short story, “The Spider’s Thread,” The Ancient Cistern features a deeply spiritual aesthetic the likes Zelda has never seen before. It’s as if Link is traveling through Heaven, Hell, and everything in-between to complete the dungeon.

The Whip serves as an incredibly fun tool to use, both for puzzles and in combat, while Koloktos might very well be the single best boss in Skyward Sword. Elevating Ancient Cistern even more is the fact that the dungeon serves as the game’s turning point, upgrading Link’s Goddess Sword with Farore’s Flame.

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