9. Forest Temple
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Perhaps a rather unconventional choice, this one, but the Forest Temple is without doubt one of my favourite dungeon themes of all time. So many dungeons these days seem content to resign themselves to dull, ambient background noise that criminally undersells any kind of tension or personality they might be trying to put across to the player, but just listen to those echoing… whatever instrument that is, and those creepy, offbeat voices “huh”-ing and “ah”-ing just after the one minute mark. Now that is atmospheric.
It also proves that Zelda’s not all about big, bombastic anthems that get your adventurer’s blood pumping (although several of those will certainly be cropping up in this list later on). It’s a marked departure from everything else we’ve heard in Ocarina of Time up until this point, and it makes everything, from Link’s sudden jump to adulthood to the Forest Temple itself, seem that much more alien and removed from what we’ve encountered before. It helps reinforce that there’s something not quite right about the Forest Temple, and this aural assault of echoes and reverberations from all corners of your speakers perfectly reflects its obsession with trickery and illusion.
Of course, many might argue that the Shadow Temple should be sitting here if we’re going to talk about atmosphere, but while the Shadow Temple is quite possibly the most spine-tingling, goosebumps-inducing dungeon theme I’ve ever heard, the Forest Temple wins out here because, well, it’s actually got a bit more of a melody and is a far more pleasant listening experience on its own. That, and it doesn’t make my skin crawl every time I hear it!