Created By: MyFinalEditsJune 6, 2013 Last Edited By: MyFinalEditsDecember 2, 2013
Troped

Mini-Dungeon

Miniature, lower-tier dungeon or level placed halfway towards a bigger one.

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Trope
One of the oldest, but also most underappreciated, Videogame Settings.

In the same way a Mini Boss can be placed halfway through the way to the whereabouts of a main boss, a mini-dungeon is a location accesible through the overworld that appears as a precedent to a main dungeon. It is explored for a particular purpose, but in terms of storyline it's less important than a main dungeon. Because of the lower importance, the mini-dungeon has a simpler layout and design, and thus it's not too difficult to tackle. Though the standards of the average mini-dungeon can vary according to the game, there are some general characteristics shared by most of them:

  • As mentioned before, it's less complex and intrincate than main dungeons. As a general rule, it's not guarded by a boss, but rather a mini-boss.
  • It can share some traits and trends with the dungeon it's preceding, thematically or in terms of gameplay.
  • It may combine some aspects of a normal overworld area, similar to a Dungeon Town.
  • In some cases, it's a place that is intended for characters to test their skills before venturing into the more dangerous dungeons.

If the place is optional to begin with, then it's either a Bonus Stage or Bonus Dungeon (depending on how and when it's accessed). Compare Dungeon Town.


Examples:

  • By nature, almost any Noob Cave is in and of itself a mini-dungeon, unless the first area in the game happens to be of a caliber as high as that of any further level.
  • From Super Mario Bros 3 onwards, it has been a tradition in subsequent 2D Mario games to have a midway-placed Fortress level in each world (two in some cases), often guarded by a Mini Boss that appears recurringly through the game. In the case of Super Mario World, in addition to having fortresses, it also introduced Ghost Houses, and one of them is even guarded by a mini-boss: Big Boo.
  • By extension, this also applies to the two Yoshis Island games, though the mini-boss in each fortress is unique to it. There's also "KEEP MOVING!!" in the first game, played right before the final level, that even has the castle/fortress theme heard.
  • In the fourth episode (game) of Commander Keen, the Castle of Sand Yego is played similarly to the Pyramids (the game's resident dungeons), but it's optional and serves mostly to prepare the player for harder levels.
  • Most mini-dungeons in The Legend Of Zelda are present for Link to search items, abilities or anything else necessary to enter the main dungeons:
    • Southern Face Shrine in Link's Awakening. It houses the Face Key that gives access to the northern Face Shrine (main dungeon).
    • Ice Cavern and Bottom of the Well in Ocarina of Time. The former is necessary as Link earns there the Iron Boots, which are required for tackling the Water Temple. In the latter, the Lens of Truth lies within, and is necessary for navigating the Shadow Temple. To a lesser extent, there's the Thieves' Hideout, inside which the young hero has to rescue the four carpenters before he can proceed into the desert.
    • At least four in Majora's Mask: The Deku Palace where Link infiltrates to learn a song that gives him access to Woodfall Temple, Pirate's Fortress to retrieve the Zora Eggs which are the key to learn the melody that opens the way to the Great Bay Temple, the Gibdo Well to get direct access to another mini-dungeon, the Ancient Castle of Ikana, where in turn Link looks for a way to get access to Stone Tower Temple.
    • The Savage Labyrinth in The Wind Waker, whose first 30 floors are required to get the chart that leads to one of the Triforce fragments to enter the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. The game also has Fire Mountain and Ice Ring Isle, which are short but contain items (the Power Bracelets and the Iron Boots, respectively) necessary to access through main dungeons (Earth Temple and Wind Temple, again respectively).
    • Royal Crypt in The Minish Cap.
    • The Bokoblin's fortress in Twilight Princess, immediately preceding the Arbiter's Grounds.
    • The pyramidal tombs in Phantom Hourglass where the corresponding four Cobble Knights rest, in them Link has to 1) find a way to the isle where Mutoh's Temple is, 2) enable said way in that island, and 3) enter the temple.
    • Pirate Stronghold in Skyward Sword, where Link has to find clues to track the next main dungeon, the Sandship.
  • The Spacestation in Jet Force Gemini. It's pretty much like the cargo ships visited by Juno, Vela and Lupus through their individual routes, but it's severely wrecked and the only relevant thing to do is to rescue Tribals.
  • Inverted in Star Fox Adventures. The first Plot Coupon Fox looks for is a Spellstone, so he makes his way towards one of the satellital regions of Dinosaur Planet to retrieve it. After he does so and gives it back to its corresponding Force Point Temple, the next thing he tries to find is a Krazoa Spirit, which lies within one of the Krazoa Shrines, and then puts it back into Krazoa Palace. In other words, he first goes to the dungeon areas and then goes to the mini-dungeons, the Shrines, which are little more than obstacle courses compared to the clusters of puzzles and obstacles that constitute the floating parts of Dinosaur Planet.
  • Metroid Prime 1 and 3 have, respectively, the sunken Orpheon Frigate and the wrecked GFS Valhalla as relatively large and intrincate mini-dungeons, which respectively precede the Phazon Mines and Pirate Homeworld as huge, gargantuam dungeons.
  • Okami has two: The Sunken Ship and the inside of the Water Dragon. The former precedes the Imperial Palace and even has the ítem that allows Amaterasu to get access to it. The latter is explored to get a magical Crystal Ball in order to give it to Queen Otohime and, right after its completion, a series of dramatic events occurs and leads to the entrance to Oni Island, the next main dungeon.
  • The entirety of Challenge Mode in Pikmin 2 is about exploring 30 miniature caves, most of which are only 1-3 floors deep, and derive from the Story Mode caves whose depths range from 5 to 15 floors except the Emergency Cave, which is a Noob Cave and thus another mini-dungeon.
  • The two areas of Vono Islands explored in The Last Story. Namely, the Mysterious Forest and the Shipwreck. They're explored before the Gurak Island, a main dungeon.
  • Net Hack has a few side branches, such as the dwarf caverns, a couple towers and the quest.
  • Dragon Age Origins had The Fade, the realm where spirits, demons, and dreaming human reside. You enter it completely out of nowhere, while exploring a tower where demons have overrun the mages within, and once you're in, you must complete it to continue. The stage itself is a repetitive puzzle maze, your player character is completely alone, there is next to no dialogue or plot progression, and the entire place is intentionally blurry and out of focus. It is so infamous to DA fans that several mods exist which allow you to bypass the mini-dungeon completely while collecting every reward from it.
  • The Brick Road dungeon in Earth Bound is placed just before the cave leading to Rainy Circle, which contains one of the Eight Melodies.
  • World Of Warcraft used to have several places commonly referred as mini dungeons or outworld dungeos. These were areas in the main game world (rather than being instances like proper dungeons), that othervise functioned similar to dungeons, with elite enemies designed to be fought as a group. They usually had quests associated with them with rewards similar to ones you'd get from actual dungeons. However, in later expansions most of the enemies in them lost their elite status, making them easier to solo and not any different from normal areas.
  • Aside from Bonus Stages, the first three games in the Crash Bandicoot series have special mini-stages that is accessed through special means: Collecting N. Brio or Neo Cortex icons (first game) and stepping on a colored platform or skull-patterned platform, aside from other things (second and third game). These stages - often called "Gem Routes" or "Skull Routes" - are much harder than the actual levels and rarely have a checkpoint. In the case of Skull Routes, you also have to reach the place without dying beforehand. Completing succesfully the Neo Cortex stages will net you keys that open secret levels; completing the Skull Routes will net you gems (in some rare cases colored ones, which are the ones that give access to the Gem Routes). The Gem Routes themselves only have regular gems as rewards.
Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • June 6, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Bump?
  • June 7, 2013
    henke37
    Net Hack has a few side branches, such as the dwarf caverns, a couple towers and the quest.
  • June 7, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Added!
  • June 7, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I think the definition should be tightened up to pretty much a smaller dungeon that immediately precedes a larger one. Not quite to the extent of a Plot Tunnel, perhaps, but more than just "dungeon X is smaller and encountered before dungeon Y".
  • June 7, 2013
    MiinU
    The Zelda examples should be sorted by game.

    • The Legend of Zelda has had a fair number of these; each containing an item necessary for conquering one of the main dungeons:
      • Ocarina of Time has the Ice Cavern, at the end of which, you earn the Iron Boots; which are required for tackling the Water Temple. The Lense of Truth which is retrieved from the Bottom of the Well, in necessary for navigating the Shadow Temple. And the player had to rescue the four carpenters from Gerudo Fortress, before they can proceed into the desert.
      • Majora's Mask's version of the Bottom of the Well is much tougher than it's predecessor, requiring Link to battle tough enemies, and give specific items to the Gibdo guarding each door. After the boss battle at the end, and obtaining the Mirror Shield, you find that it leads diretly into Ikana Castle. Defeating the boss there, earns you the Elergy of Emptiness, which is needed to reach the Stone Tower Temple. In short, it's a mini-dungeon, on top of a mini-dungeon, before tackling the main dungeon, itself.
        • There's also the Pirate's Fortress, which is far bigger and much more challenging than the Gerudo Fortress, unless you cheat by using the Stone Mask. Rescung the Zora eggs, to learn the New Wave Bossanova, is a required step in reaching the Great Bay Temple.
      • Twilight Princess: Link has to get past the Bokoblin Compound, on his way to the Arbiter's Grounds. You can either battle your way through it, or do it the smart way.

  • June 7, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Stratadrake: The problem is that very few video game levels actually play the role that way. The point of a mini-dungeon is that it serves as a precedent to a main dungeon, in the same way a mini-boss serves as a precedent to a main boss.

    MiinU: Going to add that now.
  • June 7, 2013
    KingZeal
    • Dragon Age Origins had The Fade, the realm where spirits, demons, and dreaming human reside. You enter it completely out of nowhere, while exploring a tower where demons have overrun the mages within, and once you're in, you must complete it to continue. The stage itself is a repetitive puzzle maze, your player character is completely alone, there is next to no dialogue or plot progression, and the entire place is intentionally blurry and out of focus. It is so infamous to DA fans that several mods exist which allow you to bypass the mini-dungeon completely while collecting every reward from it.
  • June 8, 2013
    Stratadrake
    "The point of a mini-dungeon is that it serves as a precedent to a main dungeon"

    That sounds like we agree.
  • June 8, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    ^ Yeah, but the precedence doesn't have to be strictly immediate. Otherwise, the supposed mini-dungeon would simply be the main dungeon previewed.

    ^^ Added.
  • June 9, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Bump?
  • June 12, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    It appears like this one's not going to fly. Not a happy start for my first YKTTW this year, but that's how life Works most of the time.
  • June 15, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Last chance.

    EDIT: I don't know why, but the Dragon Age example doesn't show up despite being added already.
  • August 4, 2013
    DAN004
    Isn't this Bonus Stage?
  • August 4, 2013
    IAmATropist
    • The Brick Road dungeon in EarthBound is placed just before the cave leading to Rainy Circle, which contains one of the Eight Melodies.

    ^ Not necessarily, because it is not always optional.
  • August 4, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Make some notes on difference plz.
  • August 4, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ No, a Bonus Stage is an extra level that's (1) optional, and often (2) a reward of some kind.
  • August 4, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    The distinction has been italicized for clarification. I may put it on bold just in case.

    Earthbound example added.
  • August 4, 2013
    Stratadrake
    If it's clearly optional, it doesn't count.
  • August 26, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    I've eliminated the optional part of the definition, as that seems to confuse things a lot.
  • August 26, 2013
    Nomic
    World Of Warcraft used to have several places commonly referred as mini dungeons or outworld dungeos. These were areas in the main game world (rather than being instances like proper dungeons), that othervise functioned similar to dungeons, with elite enemies designed to be fought as a group. They usually had quests associated with them with rewards similar to ones you'd get from actual dungeons. However, in later expansions most of the enemies in them lost their elite status, making them easier to solo and not any different from normal areas.
  • August 26, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Added.
  • October 18, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Bump.
  • October 19, 2013
    AgProv
    Sort of a mezzanine-dungeon, neither one floor nor the other?
  • October 19, 2013
    DAN004
    • Aside from Bonus Stages, Crash Bandicoot's first three games has special mini-stages that is accessed through special means: Collecting N. Brio or Neo Cortex icons (first game) and stepping on a colored platform or skull-patterned platform, aside from other things (second and third game). These stages - often called "Gem Routes" or "Skull Routes" - are much harder than the actual levels and rarely has a checkpoint. In case of Skull Routes, you also have to reach the place without dying beforehand.
  • October 22, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Added. It's been quite long since I proposed this, but I don't want to give up!

    AgProv: Maybe, yes.
  • November 8, 2013
    somerandomdude
    Wind Waker also has Fire Mountain and Ice Ring Isle, which are short, and only have minibosses at the end, but contain items (the Power Bracelets and the Iron Boots respectively) necessary to advance in the game.
  • November 9, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Thanks. I'll add it. I was convinced that this draft world never catch on, but at least one person managed to get interested in this. It sucks that I haven't been able to launch a trope this year yet, though.
  • November 29, 2013
    BlueGuy
    Bump.
  • November 30, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Only one more hat to go! And no, I didn't add or remove any since I seek actual support and input. Is the description satisfying? Do the examples fit? Is the name good enough? Any suggestions are welcome!
  • December 1, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    Simple trope, simple description, this is ready. Take your hat and go forth!
  • December 2, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch?
  • December 2, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    I appreciate your support, guys. I assure you this launch won't disappoint you!

    EDIT: I'm having a couple problems (poor connection and a doubt about the name's format I'm already consulting in Ask the Tropers), so this might take a brief while.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable