Ocarina of Time Dungeons: Forest Temple

Axle the BeastAugust 21st, 2012 by Axle the Beast

Alright, so I’ve already talked about the Child Link dungeons of the game, going way into detail on the dungeons that essentially form the introduction of Ocarina of Time. Now I will be reviewing and examining the Forest Temple, the first of the game’s Adult Link dungeons, and this is significant because the second portion of the game is practically designed as the game’s true beginning. The Child Link dungeons have relatively simple design compared to the Adult Link ones, and it’s with the Forest Temple that the game first introduces several elements and ups the stakes. As the Forest Temple is the first of these dungeons, it is here that this shift is felt the most.

I’ve talked about the Forest Temple before. Quite a lot, actually, repeatedly calling it the best dungeon of the series and kind of, well, going on and on about how well it combines a lot of themes. In fact it was the main example I used when talking about how Skyward Sword’s dungeons should be before that game came out. So if you’ve kept up on my articles, not everything here will necessarily be a huge surprise, but it’s all in one place now and I made several new points. Please keep reading. Don’t leave me!

As I said, this is the point in the game where the stakes get higher. I mean this in two ways: The game gets significantly harder at this point, taking a notable spike after even the challenge of Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly, but it’s also the first dungeon to immediately follow the infamous plot twist in Ocarina of Time when all the stakes get higher and the world gets a lot more dangerous, so while yeah, it’s harder, that increased danger is all-inclusive, spread out across the story and gameplay equally, and that weight is felt a lot around the Forest Temple. This inadvertently makes it one of the series’ most intimidating dungeons, though I doubt many players would be conscious of this when first visiting it, and I know I wasn’t, being a particularly oblivious little kid at the time.

Upon entering the dungeon, that intimidation melts into multiple other feelings as the dungeon’s themes begin to be explored. As I’ve said a lot in the past, the Forest Temple is the most multilayered dungeon of the series, containing many different themes that all work in concert. It begins with you approaching the dungeon from afar and seeing the stone walls of the intimidating structure. From there you find a way past its ruined stairs into an overgrown courtyard, entering through a dusty and overgrown passage into a dark and cavernous room filled with ghosts. Then you descend deep into more misty courtyards, sewers, Escher-esque labyrinths and trick rooms, delving deep into the partial fortress, partial mansion, overrun with insects and spirits and undead. It’s pretty fascinating, to say the least. The dungeon’s surreal and mystifying song helps to bring all these themes together. And I think those are the key words: Surreal and mystifying. I don’t think there’s any dungeon in the series that manages to be more so.

I also don’t think any other dungeon in Zelda has had nearly as many different ideas or managed to combine them so amazingly. The Ancient Cistern from Skyward Sword is a good example of a dungeon with a lot of ideas, but even it didn’t combine as many together as the Forest Temple did. This is one of the reasons I believe it’s the best dungeon of the series, because it’s so dynamic.

The other reason is because of its design. Everything that’s dynamic about the dungeon extends to its gameplay. Initially the dungeon involves Hookshot navigation and familiar enemies as it introduces the Small Key for the first time, which obviously adds a layer of complexity to the design over the previous dungeons that didn’t have it. Then you see the Poe Sisters make off with the fire needed to advance, and you get an idea of what you’re going to have to be doing for the rest of the dungeon. While other dungeons in the game have non-key, central gimmicks to advance to the boss chamber like the Poe Sisters, I would personally say the Forest Temple has the most elaborate one, especially with the dungeon’s main mini-boss (the Poe Sister Meg) appearing at the beginning of the dungeon only after finding all the other sisters.

Beyond that room you go through a series of tricky parts, from mini-boss battles against Stalfos, to using the Fairy Bow to flip switches that twist up the corridors to allow you to get to new rooms, and using it to force the Poe Sisters out of their paintings. Wallmasters and Floormasters appear for the first time in the game, and the dungeon just in general combines a lot of elements, old and new, into a very challenging design, one that is confounding without feeling unfair; though often surreal, every puzzle has some semblance of logic behind it, something that you can figure out easily enough if you know where or how to look.

It’s also hella long. It is a really lengthy journey through the Forest Temple’s many rooms, probably made necessary by how many different ideas it contains. It would feel even longer to people who struggled with its puzzles and had to repeatedly wander back and forth through its rooms, as I did. I am however proud that I managed to mostly complete it without a walkthrough, save on the final room before its boss.

Ah, yes, Phantom Ganon. That brings me to the dungeon’s battles. I’ve said already that I thought the Poe Sisters were especially dynamic as a navigational element, and that’s also true of their status as bosses. The first three Poe Sisters, once fought, are essentially just tough Poes, though their tie to navigation makes them more interesting. They also must all be revealed through simplistic puzzles before fighting. The final one, Meg, on the other hand, is a totally distinct battle with its own gameplay. It’s simplistic, but fun and might be tricky if you’ve never done it before. There’s also the Stalfos, which are encountered for the first time in the Forest Temple, and at this stage in the game ought to be challenging foes. Several must be fought. Together with the Poe Sisters, that means this dungeon has a lot of battles. Its normal enemies aren’t too challenging, but that’s no wonder considering how many tough special battles must be fought.

And then there’s Phantom Ganon. With its extra weight due to the surrounding story and gameplay elements, with its many themes and new challenges, and with its dynamic design, what boss could possibly do this dungeon justice? Phantom Ganon would definitely be a good start. I don’t know if I’d call him my favorite boss of the game — I honestly don’t know which one I would give that to — but he definitely seems like he ought to be.

Upon first entering the room, you continue to hear that eerie Forest Temple music in a spooky chamber decorated with fearsome paintings, but nothing happens until you try to leave, providing excellent buildup. When he first appears, you’re meant to think he’s Ganondorf, but then he reveals his true face, turning him into an expansion of the dungeon’s theme of evil spirits (and a likely explanation for why the dungeon is haunted in the first place). Then he jumps into the paintings, which is one of the most unusual boss ideas in the game and series alike. Without knowing exactly how to do this part (aim instead of targeting), it can be very hard. He’s also one of the earliest examples in Zelda of non-final bosses that have multiple forms. A very dynamic boss, with a lot of personality and buildup. And excellent choice for the magnificent Forest Temple.

So all in all, the Forest Temple was a pretty amazing dungeon in my eyes. It’s one of my absolute favorites of the series even today, and it’s my personal pick for the best designed one. I would venture to say that it doesn’t only expand off the Child Link dungeons, but actually manages to do far more than any of the later ones in the game. It is Ocarina of Time’s biggest monster, with more to do, more to see, and more to experience before all is said and done. A riveting journey, and a great challenge.

But what about you? Do you think the Forest Temple was well designed, or not? Did it have a lot to do? Did you ever struggle in it or get captivated by its themes? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week when I discuss my least favorite dungeon of the game, the Fire Temple!

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  • fabulousgiraham

    FIRST :D

  • Jam9t3

    Oh how i wish there would be a HD remake for this game, the effects would light up the room, this temple would be a great way to show off HD graphics, you could see the cracked and mossy walls, the grass and ponds in detail, it would look fantastic.

    On another note, i just remembered, ive only completed master gauntlet once, it was a real challenge, volvagia and phantom ganon were the hardest for me, one hit kills, the reason i kept losing was because i got nervous, everytime ganon was coming out of the picture, i accidentally aimed the control stick down because i thought the controls were inverted and then i died, its not hard, its just the pressure lol, you miss=death :D

    PS- For those who havent tried, try using the motion control aiming to kill phantom ganon, it is really fun, but you have to stand up, its the most suitable situation ever to use the motion feature, give it a try, it feels like youre really in the boss room lol

  • Zelda-May

    I love the forest temple! Sad thing is I remember it best because of my first play trough when It scared me to death with the wallmasters: Hand falls on my head-me scarred for life 0_o

    • dungeonmaster

      When I first played it, I thought wallmasters were invincible. Then I realized you can attack them. Only helps until you leave the room and then return… :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/SquigglesbeeMcFicklebottom Josh Robertson

    definitely the toughest Dungeon in the game,I know the water temple can be annoying, but it’s not very tough like this 1.

    • Spenfen

      Agreed. The stalfos for the first time were a nightmare.

      • http://www.facebook.com/SquigglesbeeMcFicklebottom Josh Robertson

        Right!? Took me a few times to realize how effective my hook shot was. For me it was the only dungeon that I had to breakdown, and use a walkthrough. I could not figure out the room before P.G had to be pushed around by the pillars. I must have died four time jumping on top of the elevator, thinking a button would be on top of one of those pillars.

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  • JMThomas


    • Jam9t3

      Actually 5th

  • legendofhelga

    for me the 2nd hardest dungeon in the game, 1st is water temple by far.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SquigglesbeeMcFicklebottom Josh Robertson

      I had to pull for forest because of the difficulty of dungeon bosses, phantom Ganondorf wasn’t insanely hard, but definitely tougher than Morpha.

    • H37I

      really? just collect as many keys as you can before opening any locked doors. and also open the locked doors at the bottom first and work your way up. i hope that kinda helps.

  • melonlord

    i love the forest temple it was amazing for me and i love it every time i play that dungeon :]

  • daver

    Saris is proud of you

  • Jeshua

    Its my favorite Dungeon on this game ;D I really like it :) but… I want to know more about the origins of it, could you please do an article of this temple, it would be interesting know your opinion :D greetings and sorry for my enghlish its too bad :P geetings from México :D

  • JuicieJ

    The Forest Temple is absolutely my favorite dungeon in Ocarina of Time, and I without a doubt consider it to be the best in the entire series, even better than the Stone Tower Temple and Sandship. It’s phenomenal on all accounts and is one of the few dungeons in the series that I can describe as flawless. I seriously can’t imagine how this dungeon could get any better than it already is. I just can’t find anything wrong with it. It’s absolutely amazing in every way, and every time I play it, I’m left speechless. Simply the perfect way to start off the adult portion of the game.

  • Nicole

    By far my favorite dungeon of the game and the game is my favorite in the series. Nothing beats the total feel of the music, the puzzles, the layers, and, really, the beauty of the whole place. The third poe puzzle, the rotating blocks, is such a fun puzzle and I always enjoy this one the most! You really highlighted a lot of the pieces of this wonderful dungeon! The only thing I would personally add is just how stunning most of the spaces are; I feel like I spent a good portion of my first run through just enjoying the music and aesthetics in combination. Truly magical!!

    • Name

      You forget the family protraits in the corridor that leads to the boss door!

  • Ghiradorf

    I think you meant it introduces the big key, but otherwise great article!

    • http://axlethebeast.com/ Axle the Beast

      No, I meant Small Key. This is the first dungeon in which it appears in the game, although obviously it was in previous games in the series.

      • crb

        hi axle

  • Guest

    Ah, I’ve also gone on and on about the Forest Temple here on ZD before. The music, the twisting corridors, the overall design, how it wonderfully encapsulates Link and Saria’s friendship…it really is a fantastic dungeon.

    That music…I loved it when I was ten, and I still love it now. I never thought it was creepy (but I understand why people would think it so); rather, I found it atmospherically mysterious and oddly soothing. The twisting corridors could really screw with your mind, a sort of precursor to Stone Tower Temple. It was especially mind-blowing since it occurred when 3D-rendered games were still in their relative infancy. And, from a narrative perspective, the Forest Temple is one of my favorites in the game. Early on in the game the Sacred Forest Meadow is briefly alluded to by Saria as becoming very important to you both. Foreshadowing indeed. Fast-forward seven years into the future and Link needs to head to the Forest Temple first, of which Saria is the Sage. It’s just very well done.

    It’s also very true that this is the exact point the game stops being “child Link’s playground” and when he has to act upon more adult responsibilities that he set in motion as a kid. By that I mean, for example, his childhood friendship with Saria and earning the trust of Darunia by defeating King Dodongo. When he’s an adult, he needs to prove his friendship transcends time through the Forest Temple. Later he must return to display his loyalty and responsibility to the Gorons and Darunia by saving them from Volvagia in the Fire Temple. This is how the entire second arc of the game proceeds: approaching the growth and maturation of Link through higher stakes, through a situation that has gotten worse in his seven-year absence. It is even more poignant that Link and Zelda’s past actions attempting to stop Ganondorf are exactly what allowed things to take such a drastic turn for the worse. The Forest Temple is the first sign things have gotten substantially more serious.

  • BlackRaven6695

    What I really love about the Forest Temple is that it really thought about the place you’re in. For example, you don’t really wonder who built Skyview Temple or the Wind Temple. But with the Forest Temple you do really wonder about the history of this extravagant mansion tucked away in the forest. Other dungeons-particularly the Spirit and Stone Tower Temples-have given off a similar atmosphere but none of them quite matched the Forest Temples eerie yet peaceful mood. Not quite my favorite dungeon in the series but pretty close.

  • Tehlul

    Favorite Dungeon in the entire series,
    Perfect for the entry into the adult portion of the game

  • H37I

    is axle also going to include the bottom of the well, the ice cavern, and the gerudo training grounds in these articles? they’re not necessarily dungeons so i kinda started wondering.

    • http://axlethebeast.com/ Axle the Beast

      The Ice Cavern and the Bottom of the Well are distinctly mini-dungeons, and I do intend to include them, I’m just unsure how to do so. I could give them their own editorials… they’re just going to clearly be shorter. Or I could combine them into a single one about the mini-dungeons.

      Not sure about the Gerudo Training Grounds. Its only real point of similarity with the dungeons is it has Small Keys and takes place indoors.

      • baileygirl99

        That’s a good idea, making a different editorial with those two dungeons together

  • koolbob1872

    I never realized that you don’t even get small keys in the child dungeons until I read this. But yeah, the Forest Temple is the best dungeon in all of Zelda. Easily.

  • Sir Quaffler

    Toss-up between the Forest and Spirit Temples for my favorite Ocarina of Time dungeons. They both have some really neat ideas and themes behind them, and both are pretty difficult.

    I really liked the music to both as a kid, and the twisting hallways were a brainteaser to me to figure out how such a structure could feasibly exist. Phantom Ganon’s always been a fun one for me to mess around with and try & find different ways of defeating.

  • Lord Carlisle

    Personally, my favorite part of this dungeon was encountering the Stalfos. The way the booming music played immediately after the battle started… well, I just felt so excited!

  • Mike

    I first played Ocarina of Time when I was 6 and used no guide…

  • Guest

    Sometimes, I like to longshot my way up to the top of the tree branch in front of the Forest Temple’s entrance and shoot that big ass Moblin with arrows like a sniper. Or I’ll toss a couple of Bombchus his way–it’s fun watching an exploding mouse take down a massive bulldog monster.

  • I <3 Legend of Zelda 4Ever

    This dungeon definitely is well designed to say the least. I also liked the Phantom Ganon boss a lot. But this dungeon can get annoying, especially when you’re wondering through the courtyards countless times, all the while irritating music plays on and on. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the music, but after 2 hours straight of going through this dungeon, you can get quite frustrated (ME:RAGE!) and the music kind of taunts you at that point. So overall, probably one of my favorite dungeons in the all LoZ games.

  • Zeldas husband

    I think I had biggorron’s sword after some exploring witch made my life a whole lot easier especially with phantom ganon and jump attacks.

  • PhAnToM gUaRdIaN

    The Forest Temple IS a really awesome dungeon. It’s one of my favorite dungeons in Ocarina of Time. It is a dungeon that stands out from the rest, showing the mystery and challenges that The Legend of Zelda series is known for.

  • http://twitter.com/MixEmma Emma Mix

    Is it weird that the water temple’s my fave?

    • dungeonmaster

      No, but it’s just not a lot of people enjoyed the many rooms. It’s possible to screw it up entirely, I think.

    • punkinoodle

      Actually, it’s my favorite too. The way it designed just made sense to me. But to be honest, I really didn’t like the dark link battle. It was a little cool I guess, but I had real difficulty in beating it. *cowers behind monitor* Please don’t kill me……..

  • julian

    first time i played the dungeon it took me almost a week to beat but i enjoyed figuring it out

  • Adil Khan

    I liked the Phantom Ganon fight, but not as much as its remake, Beast Ganon from TP. The atmosphere was just more epic, and it was much scarier with the threat you could get rammed into by a giant boar

  • Adil Khan

    Do these for Twilight Princess next. Even haters admit that that game had some sick dungeon design.

    • YoMister

      Totally agree.

  • YoMister

    I wish more dungeons were designed like this. It’s no wonder that the Zelda dungeon that is most like the Forest Temple is the Arbiter’s Grounds from TP – also featuring the 4-Poe puzzle (and a twisting room that must be pushed). While Arbiter’s Grounds was my favorite TP dungeon, Forest Temple still isn’t quite as good as the Fire Dungeon. But we can discuss that when you get to it!

    Great post and discussion, Axle. Thanks

  • triforceofcourageholder93

    I would like to point out that the ice cavern even though it’s not a real temple should logically be the first “temple” since all you need is the Hookshot to get through it and it sort of sets up the other dungeons.

  • Sword of Shadows

    The first time I played this dungeon I thought it was a little creepy, but what really annoyed me were the wall master’s, but now they are no problem as I always get Biggoron’s sword before entering and the wall master’s don’t stand a chance against it, but yes I agree with you, it is an awesome dungeon but I have no Idea which is my favorite.

  • Demon Lord Link

    When i first played Forest Temple in the age of 13 , i was alone in my house. . . .and i liked the music of the temple, but i had little fear because of the tone of it and all the other sounds came from it!!!I’ts my second favourite temple in the game,the first is Spirit Temple……All in all,i agree with Axle that the Forest Temple had mixed all these:bosses,style,design,puzzles,atmosphere.

  • Neutopia

    Yeah, the forest temple is definitely very well planned out, well designed, I don’t remember ever struggling with this temple, but I enjoyed it a lot, wouldn’t be my favorite dungeon in the game though. :P
    Great article, just like usual! :D

  • HerosShade

    probably my favorite dungeon in the game, even if it was hard for me and felt really long. the music was awesome.

  • myzeldalove

    Phantom Ganon? A complete waste of time. I was really hoping for an amazing, spectacular boss to finish off such an amazing dungeon, like maybe Bongo Bongo or something, but no, just some random, unimportant dude with a knack for tennis and travelling through paintings. Seriously. Come on Nintendo. Other than that, brilliant dungeon.

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  • Ryan

    this temple developed my hatred for wallmasters

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