Water Dungeons and their Infamy

Axle the BeastApril 13th, 2012 by Axle the Beast

Starting with the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, water-themed dungeons in the Zelda series have developed a special reputation for being challenging or frustrating dungeons. Because of the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, the term “water dungeon” came to be used for more than just identifying the core element or theme of a dungeon: It carries other connotations as well and always makes people think about difficulty or design. It’s become, in the eyes of some, a title of infamy.

Honestly I’ve never agreed with the issues people seem to have with these dungeons. For the longest time I was completely lost, actually, not understanding it at all. I mean, I’ll admit that the Water Temple was a little bit more difficult, a little bit more confusing than the rest of the dungeons in the game. It was one of Ocarina of Time’s more challenging dungeons, for sure. The same was true of the Great Bay Temple in Majora’s Mask, although honestly that dungeon was not as hard as Stone Tower Temple in the same game, which wasn’t a water-themed dungeon at all. All this led me to personally believe that there was nothing unusual about water dungeons, that the ones that were hard were just hard independently from their water theme.

I still think that this is true to a degree, and I think that in a number of ways the Ancient Cistern in Skyward Sword proves that. At the same time I’ve come to realize that there is something a little unique about the water themes: Three-dimensional puzzles.

That might seem odd to say considering that Ocarina of Time and all subsequent main console releases were all 3D games, but when you think about it, outside of certain aspects of these games, the gameplay is largely handled in the same way it was in A Link to the Past or other 2D Zelda games. Again, with certain exceptions, much of the time you might as well be playing an overhead Zelda game. The huge exception is the bulk of the water dungeons. Using the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time as an example, it forces the player to think with all of their surroundings, including what’s above and below them. All around them is an environment that must be interacted with. This is what makes these dungeons more complex. This is also true of the Great Bay Temple and to a much lesser degree, the Lakebed Temple in Twilight Princess.

That said, I don’t think that makes these dungeons bad. A hard dungeon isn’t a bad thing. In fact a lot of gamers — myself included — enjoy the challenge. And similarly, just because it’s a bit more complicated doesn’t mean it has to be harder; it’s a matter of watching out for your surroundings and paying attention to the higher number of variables. I will admit, though, that this is a highly personal thing that’s going to affect each player differently.

So bottom line is the water dungeons are a little more complicated, but that doesn’t make them bad and I think they deserve more credit for their excellent design (especially the Lakebed Temple, which I feel is one of the more well-designed dungeons of the series.) But what about you? Do you find the water dungeons challenging? Which dungeons do you qualify as water dungeons? Do you find them fun or frustrating? Tell me in the comments!

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  • King Zora

    I definitely enjoy the challenge of the water temples, i think the most annoying was the Lakebed Temple, and the most fun was the Ancient Cistern.  It is sometimes time consuming to see how the water level changes what floor you are on, but that is part of the fun.  

  • TeamRocketAgent

    I wish more dungeons were like water dungeons.

  • Tommyjoe Pete

    Water Dungeons are definitely harder. The Lakebed Temple was particulary challenging; the only other dungeons that I think were harder was Hyrule Castle and the Goron Mines…wow! That was a good dungeon! It was fun and challenging going through it the first time; then you had to do it over again…UPSIDE DOWN!!!

  • Blahookala

    the only thing i hate about water temples is SWIMMING. 

  • burgerboy21

    Water Temple was kinda hard at first, but only because of Dark Link. The Master Quest version was pathetically easy… Lakebed Temple was easy and definitely does have a nice design. Ancient Cistern was also really easy.

  • Borg

    Great Bay is by far my favorite water dungeon, travelling through the water as a Zora was one of my favorite parts of MM, and not to mention Great Bay is one of the few challenging dungeons in the 3D Zelda games.

  • Eien

    My problem with Water dungeons? I always lose something. A switch, the main chest, a key. Its something. Every time. Monsters? Not too bad, its always losing something that has me clenching my teeth XD

    Now the Mine and Sandship parts of Skyward Sword? There was a real challenge and problem for me. Between the enemies that shocked me, and the time element that brought things to life I didn’t even notice, I was sunk and frustrated many a time!

  • MsNerrrrrd

    I really like the Water Dungeons. I think it’s nice to have a tougher dungeon sometimes. Though the keys really piss me off, since when I was just about to enter the Boss lair, in the Lakebed oTemple of TP, I soon ralised, that I was missing one quite vital thing. The boss key. I was soooo frustrated, when I took a look at the map, and saw like FIVE floors underground, a chest. Well, what did I do? Why, I of course ventured in and found the chest only to find out, that there was only bombs inside of it. Plus, the chest was hard to find. Now THAT was annoying.

  • Dark Pit

    I didn’t really find the water temple difficult or confusing, I just got lost a little bit.

  • Nicholasgbarbera

    I didn’t play for about three months when i got to the water temple!Thats how long it took me to vent!! NO JOKE!

  • Mr. Resetti

    The water temple gets so much hate, it was a pain in the ass but if anything deserves such a reputation it’s the Great Bay Temple from MM.

  • Guest

    Interesting read.
    Personally, when I played Ocarina of Time for the first time, the temples progressively got easier for me and I noticed that shift in the Water Temple. As for Majora’s Mask, I was stumped in Snowhead.

    Speaking of water dungeons*, what about Jabu Jabu’s Belly? 

  • Guest

    I never noticed difference between the dungeons in OOT, well that might be because I was 10 when I played it. But I came through the water temple without thinking it was harder then the other dungeons. It’s true that most times in the water temples I get a bit lost, but I love the designs so that makes it no problem for me.

  • ZoraofTime

    In most water temples you actually get some type of hook/clawshot…

  • fiercedietylinkFTW96

    The Jabu Jabu Belly Dungeon, if that even counts as a water dungeon, was very frustrating, I HATED IT (especially the part where Ruto falls through the pit).  The OOT Water Temple seemed long, but it was easy.  Great Bay Temple was confusing, and Ghot was annoying.  The Cistern was long, but fun; I liked the underworld part.

  • Fefe1881

    I found ocarina’s water temple a nice challenge that I found fun, although alot of the time I was walking (or swimming) in circles getting nowhere. I am not much of a fan of th great bay temple in majora’s mask (which I am still working on 03o). It’s a good dungeon, but the pipes and waterworks are very confusing to me, and I’m being timed while I aimlessly swim around getting nowhere. Anyway, water dungeons aren’t bad, yet at times confusing.

  • Nexus523

    I personally love the water temple in Ocarina of Time.  The single thing that makes it awful is having to press the start button and equip or unequip the iron boots, then hit B twice, only to have to redo it 5 seconds later.  I played through it on the 3ds where the iron boots could be set to a button and it was wonderful. 

    • SethDarkcloud

      me and my friend never found any water dundegons hard though. and im pretty mush a noob at the game only haveing done it once

  • zeldalessthen3

    out of my friends i can beat the water temple the fastest on n64. i’ve never had trouble with it

  • http://twitter.com/DevilOfWestview Wally-G.

    The Water Temple is one of my fav. temples in Ocarina of Time, in the top 3. Never understood then, and don’t understand now why it is hated so much. I finished the temple in one go, it was a logical and beautifully built temple. If anything the Fire Temple was bullshit, hate that place like the plague.

  • LinkFan

    I liked the water temples in Tp and Oot, they were confusing and it was fun

  • Garo Master

    My friend and I had a race to finish Twilight Princess and if not for the Lakebed Temple I would have won!

  • :D

    in the 3DS version of ocarina of time, the water temple was pretty simple

    the original one must be way more difficult, i’m gonna play the original just to see that part

    • TheMaverickk

       The dungeon is exactly the same. Except for one small aesthetic detail… which is all the lines which basically tell you where to go in the 3DS versions.

      That was something you had to figure out on your own back in the day.

    • Borg

      no, just play Master Quest if you want a Water Temple that deserves the reputation. the N64 water temple is exactly the same.

      • Fakename

        I played the original and Master Quest, and I have to say I HATE WATER TEMPLES!!

  • banegirl

    I didn’t know people had a hard time with that level until recently. I beat it the first time through with no help from anyone or guidebook.

    …I was five-years-old at the time.

  • triforce of courage

    I never thought that the water temple from Oot was that hard either. Then, when I was doing a speed run of the game, I twice had to go back because I had missed a key. Killed my time -_-

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  • Brennanparkit

    Ive thougt that they were easy

  • Brennanparkit

    then again I do that cheap trick on the boss in Oot

  • TheMaverickk

    You did a good job nailing out the main difference of the water dungeons.

    But the bigger reason that the water dungeons are more challenging, is that the puzzles generally rely on NAVIGATION. Most of the dungeons in Zelda games that rely on navigation are generally the dungeons considered more challenging (eg. Ice Palace, Jabu Jabu, Forest Temple, Snowhead Temple, Great Bay Temple…. all NAVIGATION dungeons).

    The key element of a NAVIGATION type dungeon in a Zelda game, is that generally the real puzzles of the dungeon are based around how to get from point A to B. They are dungeons you can easily find yourself going around in circles in without a proper approach to the overall puzzle of navigating the rooms of the dungeon.

    These dungeons completely differ from the general dungeon style in any given Zelda game, and usually end up being the dungeons most players get headaches in. This is for a couple of reasons…. the main is that there is no clear path to choose.

    When you enter the water temple, the main foyer (tower section) has 3 floors with about 3-4 entrances on each floor. Sure some are locked, or blocked, ect. but still all those choices can be over whelming to a player. Not to mention you add in the element of different water levels, which simply add more variables for navigating each possible path.

    With out thinking about how to approach the dungeon, it would be very easy to get lost and frustrated.

    Most players at this point are so accustomed to the more straight forward dungeon that they are unable to treat the dungeon as one giant puzzle as opposed to a series of rooms that need to be solved individually.

    These temples themselves are not really that hard once you figure out a way to get through them…. generally the map can be your best friend in these situations. For me personally I always appreciate these dungeons because they are a refreshing change of pace from the more linear dungeons.

  • Guitardude22

    I think it’s boss fights I usually hate about these water-based dungeons. In both Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time, the boss fights of the temples were easily the most frustrating. The dungeons were great though.

  • Neutopia

    Yeah I couldn’t agree more, it’s become ”cool” to hate on the water temple, it’s so stupid. I actually found the Great Bay Temple much harder then Stone Tower Temple though personally.

  • banana25

    My favorite water dungeon is probably the Water Temple

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  • Veebles

    My thing is that as soon as I see a water dungeon I know there are going to be multiple floors involved and it will be complicated to navigate (entrances hidden underwater leading to other floors etc.). I know the article is focused on the 3D games but I’d like to add another example of annoying water dungeons: Jabu Jabu’s Belly in Oracle of Ages. Navigating between floors in that dungeon, as with most of the 3D water ones in my opinion, was just a mess.

  • legion

    the water dungeons were fine in the 3d zeldas,but ages’ jabu-jabu’s belly was hellish