Last week, we discussed the many spooky enemies that reside in the land of Hyrule (or Termina, as the case may be). Well, oftentimes, creepy creatures live in creepy places, and when you think of scary locations in the Zelda series, more often than not you think of the dungeons these games are known for. Not only are these dungeons filled with trials meant to challenge Link’s mind, but our green-clad hero is often forced to put his own courage to the test, as well. Yep, as the title suggests, we’re covering creepy dungeons, and today we’ll be discussing which dungeons in particular leave the Duck quaking in her boots.
#1: Skull Dungeon – I think the spooky dungeon that deserves the first mention should be the Skull Dungeon from A Link to the Past. It is the oldest, after all. If you’re not familiar with this game, halfway through, you are granted the ability to travel freely between Hyrule and its dark, more sinister version. While the forest in Hyrule’s northwestern corner is peaceful and filled with woodland critters…and thieves (okay, it’s not totally peaceful), the Dark World’s forest is one unsettling place, with twisted trees, treacherous holes in the ground, and rocks that look like skulls, among other things. And hidden beneath the dark underbrush is a rather unique, if not rather creepy dungeon.
The Skull Dungeon has haunted me since childhood, for a reason I’ll get to soon. What makes this place rather special is the fact that it is split into many different sections. Much of the dungeon can actually be accessed by falling through the deep, dark pits strewn about the woods or by descending creepy, definitely safe stairs leading underneath the forest floor. If that isn’t creepy enough for you, let’s not forget that this dungeon is filled with relentless mummies, hands that drop down from the ceiling, and skeletons that throw their own bones at you. I don’t know about you, but when I’m walking through a haunted forest, knowing that a maze filled with the undead rests just below my feet is rather unsettling. But what has always creeped me out the most was the dungeon’s main entrance. What you discover upon reaching the deepest corner of the forest is nothing short of disturbing, as the true entrance to the dungeon appears to be the skull of some monstrosity from beyond. I’m serious, the sight of that hideous, unnatural skull has scarred me for life. It looks like it has mandibles on the end of a long, spine-like snout, and… It’s just…it’s just too horrifying for words! I don’t know what the heck that creature was like in life, and I sure hope I never find out. (If you want to see what I’m talking about, skip to 8:55 or so in the video below.)
Video from Youtube User: Spectacular66
#2: Bottom of the Well/Shadow Temple – Yes, yes, I know, just because I separated the aforementioned locations with a slash, that doesn’t mean they should rightly be counted as one place. Nevertheless, the Shadow Temple and its associated mini dungeon share many of the same features, so I might as well list them as one unit. Both locations are dark, dank, and creepy and are filled with all sorts of monsters, including being a hotspot for ReDeads and the sole locations in the entire series where Dead Hand can be found. And yet, for me, it’s not just the creatures that inhabit these two places that make them creepy, it’s the mystery behind them. While I can in no way speculate in any great detail over what sinister purposes these structures may have been created, I can at least tell you why they chill me to my very bones.
To start, the Bottom of the Well is where you obtain the Lens of Truth, an item that lets you see invisible objects or shows you walls that aren’t really there. To make frequent use of this item all the more essential, there are countless invisible pits littering the floor. Some of them are guarded by truly bizarre images on the wall that look like disturbing grinning faces, while others can swallow you up without warning. Falling into these pits will not kill you, however, but I almost wish they did because they lead to a room filled with ReDeads and hands sticking up out of some kind of poisonous liquid. All of that, coupled with chains, metal doors, a room filled with coffins, and what almost appears to be prison cells make visiting the well a chilling experience indeed.
Video from Youtube User: Zelda Dungeon
Much of the same imagery returns in the subsequent Shadow Temple, including the need to use the Lens of Truth to distinguish between illusion and reality. Progress further and you will face such obstacles as guillotines and several rooms containing a spinning contraption comprised of grim reaper-esque statues with long scythes that are large enough to encompass nearly the entire room. There is no shortage of things here that would like nothing more than to impale, stab, or otherwise slice Link, so you can imagine how fun this place is to explore. I think what has always been the most mysterious thing about the Shadow Temple, however, is the large ship you discover within one of the temple’s deepest chambers. You must play Zelda’s Lullaby to get it moving, which implies it might have some connection to Hyrule’s Royal Family, and as it sails along what appears to be a canal filled with nothing but mist, it rings two large bells. The fact that a creepy boat has been residing deep within this temple dedicated to death and darkness has always been particularly haunting to me. Best not to think about it.
Video from Youtube User: Zelda Dungeon
#3: Arbiter’s Grounds – Last of all we have the Arbiter’s Grounds from Twilight Princess. This is definitely one of the spookier dungeons in an already darker-than-usual Zelda game (remember, this is when the series delved into T-rated territory). Considering this place can be found deep within the Gerudo Desert, it makes sense that this particular dungeon would be rather reminiscent of a tomb. It’s dark. It’s creepy. It’s filled with quicksand and swarms of scarabs that latch onto your body, or sometimes even invisible rats, not to mention bizarre miniature skeletons and this game’s own version of the ReDead. Though I find these far less menacing than the ReDeads from the N64 era, they can still paralyze you with their screams, which is rather inconvenient, I must stay. At least they don’t…grab you like their N64 counterparts did….
Okay, that’s all well and good, as far as haunted locales filled with the undead go. But what really creeped me out about this place, and which accounts for the very reason it’s on this list, is because of the four Poes you must find. Twilight Princess has plenty of Poes scattered across Hyrule’s vast realm, and for me, I never found them to be all that creepy. When I first watched the scene with the Poes lighting the four lanterns, I thought nothing of it, aside from the fact that this was suspiciously similar to the Forest Temple from Ocarina of Time. (This scene begins about 3:20 in the video below. The Poe shows up shortly after.) Until a moment later, when I was forced to fight the first of said Poes. Let me tell you, this was probably the single most startling moment of the entire game. Here I was, expecting to see just another Poe like the ones I had already faced plenty of times before, and instead, when I turn into my wolf form, I find myself face-to-face with something tall and thin and, above all, horrifying, with a face that will give me nightmares for decades to come. I think it was the eerie manner in which it opened and closed its mouth that got to me the most. Needless to say, I was taken aback, and I spent the rest of the dungeon anxious for when I would next run into these creepy things. The Arbiter’s Grounds is one reason I hope we never have a T-rated Zelda game ever again. I don’t think my nerves can handle it.
Video from Youtube User: Zelda Dungeon
Well, those were three (technically four) places I would never go if I didn’t have good, old Link by my side. But I’m sure there are plenty of creepy places I didn’t mention that I’d love to hear about. Which dungeons give you the creeps? Please let me know in the comments.
I Wonder If There Will Ever Be a Duck-Themed Dungeon…