Once you're out of the Bottle Grotto dungeon, you'll be told that the Prairie is waiting for you. That's true - but so is a revisit to Mabe Village, Kanalet Castlem and dungeon level 3 - Key Cavern.
Return to Mabe Village: shopping spree and trading
Once you exit Bottle Grotto, you and BowWow will be free to explore. As a side note, BowWow has plenty of unique interactions across the world of Link's Awakening, and so you might want to explore and talk to people and encounter a range of enemies before you return him to his owner. None of these encounters have any specific rewards, but they're often cute and original - which is its own reward.
When you're ready, head to Mabe Village and return BowWow to its owner, MeowMeow. She'll give Link a smooch for returning it! Quite the reward. You can also advance the trading sequence at this time if you want. But that's not all there is to do in Mabe village...
There's a bit of a trick coming up here: you'll need to have advanced to a certain point in Links Awakening's trading side quest to continue pretty shortly. As such, we may as well undertake the trading quest right now. It starts out at the Trendy Crane Game building in Mabe Village, directly south of the shop. In there, there's a doll of Yoshi from the Mario series. Win it using the crane, which might cost you a few rupees of trial and error. Once that's done, you can trade the Yoshi Doll, and you'll trade from one item to another as part of a wider side-quest. Here's what you need to do before advancing the story any further:
- Win the Yoshi Doll from the Crane Game in Mabe Village
- Head to the larger house in the north of Mabe Village, where a woman has a child. Trade the Yoshi Doll for her Ribbon.
- Now go to Madame MeowMeow's house, but instead of going into the house proper enter the smaller dog kennel on the side. Swap the Ribbon with the small BowWow inside - you'll get Dog Food.
- Take the dog food down to the beach, just south of where the entrance to Dungeon 1, Tail Cave, is. Inside is a crocodile who wants your tin of dog food - and will give you Bananas for it.
With that done, let's talk shopping. At this point in the game you should have at least 200 rupees and more likely somewhere in the region of 300. If you don't, you can easily find more cash by exploring some caves in the areas you've visited already, or by cutting grass and shrubs in the environment. Regardless, it's time to head to the shop, which is to the Eastern edge of Mabe Village.
You'll need a few key items to continue that'll now be up for sale in the shop. First of all there's the Deluxe Shovel, which costs 200 Rupees. Second, it'll be very handy to have some bombs - you can pick up 10 bombs for 10 rupees here. Bombs aren't something you unlock in a dungeon in this game - and actually, once you've first purchased a bunch from the shop you'll even have a chance to replenish them from drops out in the world. You need some, though - so 210 rupees will get you the bombs and the shovel, both of which are endlessly useful now.
The bow and arrow will also be for sale at this time if you exit and re-enter the shop, but the price is ridiculous. There is a method to steal from the Mabe village shop - but you wouldn't want to be a thief, would you? We can get the bow later. Once you're done in the store, it's time to head to Ukuku Prairie.
Ukuku Prairie and Kanalet Castle
To get to Ukuku Prairie, just follow the obvious path from Mabe Village, to the east. It's just right of the shop, which you likely just used. There's a warp portal here - it's a cool-looking statue with some runes and patterns on it. Right now if you approach it some text will suggest you should find out what it does, but if you try to use it you'll just be spit up into the air and then back down in the same spot. Spoiler: it's a fast travel system, and will teleport you between similar platforms across the island - but you haven't activated any other portals yet.
South of here is what is obviously the entrance to the third dungeon, which you know from the title of this walkthrough is called Key Cavern. You can't get in, however. Follow the path until you see a house; enter and speak to Richard, the man inside. He talks of a castle and five golden leaves - you've got to recover them from the castle. He says you'll need a shovel - but if you've been following along, you'll already have one.
From Richard's house, keep following the path to the east, then north, and so on - generally north-east. You can't miss the castle entrance. Unfortunately it's locked. Follow the moat to the east until you see a monkey, Kiki. This is where side quest and main game intersect: you need the bananas, a key item from the trading side quest, to persuade Kiki to help you. Kiki will call on their monkey friends and do something not exactly monkey-like... they'll build a bridge. At the end, you'll be left with a Stick, which is the next item in the trading side quest, but more importantly the bridge will lead a path to Kanalet Castle's other entrance - so take it.
Head north on this path until you can't any more. There's a phone booth house, and to the left of it, a lone, suspicious shrub. Slice it to reveal a stairway; enter it. You'll go through a side-scrolling section, then emerge inside Kanalet Castle, which is basically a mini-dungeon you have to undertake in order to access the Key Cavern. You can go left or right - so take the path west (left) for now. Defeat the darknut and follow the path around and south. There's another darknut here with sword and shield, plus a crow up in a tree.
Now, we've met these crows before - they usually charge you and go for blood. This one doesn't, which is suspicious. Pick up a nearby rock and throw it at the tree where the crow is. The crow will fly down - kill it and it'll drop your first Golden Leaf, one of five.
Continue following the path from the crow, down and around. Head past the actual castle entrance, east and then north. There's a new enemy here, the Mad Bomber. This lovely thing tosses bombs from various holes. A few hits will take it down, and it'll give up the second Golden Leaf 2/5 as a result.
Once this is done, backtrack to the castle entrance and head inside. Head to the west once inside and you'll straight away encounter a group of enemies. Defeat all three enemies and the Golden leaf 3/5 will drop. This is easy, right? Follow the path around, and note before you take the steps up to a raised path there's a switch to open the castle front gates on the far right.
Take the stairs to the raised path and then the proper stairs to a whole new screen and floor of the castle. Right away, to your immediate south, there's a pit with a fireball and some suspicious cracked walls. Bomb these cracked walls one at a time; when you bomb it a darknut will come out. One of the darknuts will drop Golden Leaf 4/5 when it is defeated.
From here, follow the path round and then back out of the castle... then straight back into the next door. The door locks in front of you, but simply pick up a pot and toss it at the door to open it again. Go through the door for a mini boss of sorts with a soldier using a ball and chain - it's sort of reminiscent of a recurring enemy in A Link to the Past. Defeat the mini boss so it drops Golden Leaf 5/5, giving you a complete set of Golden Leaves.
Now backtrack to Richard's house. As a reward he'll reveal a secret passageway under his house. There's a Secret Seashell down here inside a chest, but it ultimately leads to a field full of shrubs and grass. There's potholes everywhere, so carefully cut your way through and then dig directly in front of the owl statue - that'll give you the Slime Key, which grants entry to the Key Cavern. Lift a rock as a shortcut so that you can quickly present the key to the gates in front of the Key Cavern Dungeon. You can't enter from here, so loop back south, then east, then north - around the pothole field, then instead of heading north-east towards the castle, this time head west. Jump across some platforms, and you'll be in.
Key Cavern Walkthrough – Dungeon Level 3
The entrance hall to the Key Cavern has some statues, some bottles, and two exits. The dungeon is named as such because it's absolutely full of locked doors and keys - and in this instance, there's actually one more key than there are doors in the dungeon. It lives up to the name key cavern. While only the eastern exit from this room is open, don't take it - instead, pick up a pot and toss it at the northern door to smash it open. Brute force - yeah! On the Game Boy these doors used to be a lot less obvious, but now Nintendo has put giant pot logos on them in case you don't understand.
In the next room there's a few enemies, including new bombs - they're not Bomombs from Mario, but they may as well be. If you hit them with your sword it'll bounce around the room and then explode. If you hit it twice, it'll explode instantly. Kill all the enemies to cause a chest to spawn with your first key, then head north on the right-hand side of the room.
Defeat the four green slimes that spawn instantly in here and a chest will appear. If you open the chest, another blob comes out of it. Rude! Head north, defeating or running by the Stalfos enemies to head north once more, then down the stairs in the room where colored blocks stop you from reaching a chest. As soon as you arrive downstairs a bunch of enemies will spawn; kill them to get a breather.
This is one of the central rooms of the dungeon, with four exits, each of which require a key to open. Here's how this works: the way to go to progress the Key Cavern dungeon is to the east, but every other direction has various other rewards and on top of that will give you back a key to make up for the one used to open the door to that area. So, let's start by going north.
Defeat both of the enemies in this northern room to cause a new key to drop. In here there's an owl statue (once you have the beak this will say "Far away... Do not fear - dash and fly!" - an important clue) and one of the crystals we first encountered in the Bottle Grotto - the ones that switch blocks between raised and lowered. Hit that crystal so it turns red, then leave the room. Let's backtrack a bit - back up the stairs to the ground floor. Now you can grab that chest next to the stairs and get this dungeon's stone beak, but also if you head south two screens and then east one screen hitting the crystal has also opened the path to the chest containing the Dungeon Map for the Key Cavern. When you're done, backtrack to the four-exit room downstairs.
Revisit the owl statue in the north room for a clue, if you want, and then head west, to the room on the left. These next two rooms are optional, but cool if you want a little challenge. There's some new enemies here who teleport whenever you get close - your best bet is to separate them so one is on each side, then toss bombs at them from afar. Kill all the enemies to earn back your key, then head back to the hub room and head south. Defeat all the enemies again to get your key back. The pots in the south of the room contain bombs, so stock up if you need to.
Now take yourself east. Simply avoid the enemies in this room - swipe at the teleporting bird to get it out of your way, then head up the stairs. This room is home to five green blob enemies - but you'll have to make them spawn by walking all around the room. Once they're all dead, another key spawns. Grab it and head north. Defeat the enemies in this room and smash the pot to get more bombs - you'll need them shortly.
Now head west, beating the blobs then into the next room to the west. Defeat the enemies - that'll make yet another small key spawn. When that's done head north through the creepy one-way door. Why are these doors exactly Link-sized, anyway? Battle the enemies and kill them to force a chest to spawn, but it's out of reach - so head north once again. Kill the enemies in here, grab the bombs by jumping to them with Roc's Feather, and otherwise clean out this room. Oh, and there's an Owl statue... "To defeat the black monsters with the hard shell, feed them something explosive." Zelda fans probably now know what we're about to fight...
Climb the steps to the south-east. When at the top of the steps, head east, to the right. You'll now be on a walkway, and below there's a room with enemies and an obviously cracked, damaged wall on the right-hand side. Take out a bomb, pick it up and toss it over the edge so that it breaks down that wall. Now head west, back to the top of the stairs, and now head south. Finally we can grab that chest we spawned earlier for some cash.
Keep heading south and around; push the block at the bottom of the stairs to open this area back up. Now we want to head through the open door to the north, just right of the block you just pushed. In here there's the mini-bosses - Dodongo Snakes. I was wondering if they'd redesign these to look more like the other Dodongos throughout Zelda, but they've stayed loyal to the original Link's Awakening. Drop bombs in front of these enemies - they'll swallow them and hurt themselves. Three each will kill the pair.
When that's done, the checkpoint portal will appear, but there's no real need to use it. Instead, head east. Walk around these blocks; you'll want to push the bottom block where you have a dead end to the left and then the block immediately above it up. This will block the way you came but open up a path to the chest containing the Pegasus Boots, this Dungeon's key item and one of the best items in the game outright.
Use the boots by holding L to smash the blocks below you near the health refill, then push the bottom block to clear a new path. Now walk south through the newly opened exit, then west, then north - back to the Dodongo boss room. This time, we want to head through the warp portal, back to the entrance. From the entrance head east - in here there's one of those black hole enemies guarding a chest, except it pushes you away. Use the Pegasus Boots to dash at the black hole thing to kill it, then open the chest to get a key.
Head back to the dungeon lobby, but head north. Take the left-hand side exit to the north from that room, the narrow path. You'll smash through some more blocks, and then kill a red blob. Head back on yourself now - down to the room with the two northern exits (left and right). Now take the right-hand exit, and head north twice, to the room with two skeletons. Basically, this room is a 'kill all enemies' room - but you couldn't kill the red blob on the left before now. Now the red blob is dead, kill the skeletons to force a chest to spawn with a huge number of rupees.
Once all this is done, backtrack to the entrance and take the teleport to the mini boss room again. From here head south, then east a bunch, then north, then east again. After defeating the enemies, look at the room. Look closely! The floor tiles make an arrow pointing down... but don't worry about that for now. Instead, head north. There's new bomb-type enemies here with a countdown - just keep them at bay when they're about to explode. Clear the room to open a path west. Take that, then open the chest to get the compass. Finally, if you bombed that wall over the ledge earlier, there'll be an exit west. Take it, then clear the following room to get one more small key.
Head back to that arrow room, 'cos it's time to scratch that itch... drop a bomb where the arrow points. There's another bombable wall on the left here, but it just creates a shortcut... or a run-up. You see that big gap? It's time to combine two dungeon items. Take a run up with the Pegasus Boots and then jump with Roc's Feather to clear the wider gap!
Head north, do the jump again (the timing is tricky, but you'll get used to it) and then open the chest to get the Nightmare Key. Hop off the ledge to the left into the arrow room. You should at this point have four small keys and the boss/nightmare key, so it's time to finish up. From the arrow room head south and then west until you see the lock blocks. Unlock the first, and follow the path around. You'll use four keys in total, then take the stairs to a side-scrolling area.
There's a bright red block here that resembles one of Mario's Thwomp enemies. Take a run up and smash into it using the Pegasus Boots to force it out of the way. Drop on top of it, then walk right. There's a big gap here to the next ladder, so use your run-and-jump combination again to clear the gap, then take the ladder down back into a regular dungeon room.
There's three of those damn teleporting birds here, but this room is now satisfying: they're not fast enough to dodge a Pegasus Boots charge. So charge them all down, destroying the blocks in your way. Once the three enemies are dead, the door will open. Fight off the bats and against the moving floor in the next room, and then enter the boss room.
When you first enter the room, the Slime Eye boss taunts you that you can't see it. That's because it's hanging out on the ceiling, but luckily you have a great new move - charge at the wall and it'll make the blob-like enemy fall from the ceiling. Now the fight begins. There's a pretty obvious weak point here - the beast's eye. You'll notice that as you hit it, the boss begins to split into two. Eventually it splits almost into two completely different beings - but is held together by a thread. Act fast - get in between and push; try to walk through the stretched piece of the boss, or better still use your Pegasus Boots to dash between the two halves. This will split the boss in two.
Once the boss is split in two, simply target the eyes. This is a nice easy encounter - a couple of hits to each half will kill it. With that done, nab the piece of heart and then the next instrument from the following room - and then you'll be able to continue your journey - with advice to find a waterfall. It's not that simple, however - before you do that you'll need to visit Animal Village and a Desert, recruit Marin and lay your hands on the Angler's Tunnel key - only then can you enter the next dungeon.