Legends of the Hidden Temple is an action-adventure game show for children. The show centers around a "Temple" that is "filled with lost treasures protected by mysterious Mayan Temple Guards". Kirk Fogg hosts and serves as the teams' guide, while Dee Bradley Baker announces and voices a talking Olmec head who "knows the secrets behind each of the treasures in his Temple". Six teams of two children (one boy and one girl) compete to retrieve one of the historical artifacts in the Temple by performing physical stunts and answering questions based on history, mythology, and geography. After three elimination rounds, only one team remains, who then earns the right to go through the Temple to retrieve the artifact within three minutes and win a grand prize.
Legends was produced by Stone Stanley Productions in association with Nickelodeon and was taped at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. It aired on Nickelodeon from September 11, 1993 to 1995  in first-run and through August 23, 1998 in reruns. From 1999 to 2009, reruns of the show aired on Nick GAS. Legends won a CableACE award in 1995 for Best Game Show Special or Series.
Legends of the Hidden Temple began airing on Nickelodeon on September 11, 1993. The show originally aired on weekends at 6:30. In that time slot, it increased the Nielsen rating from 1.5 to 2. Due to this success, it began airing weekdays at 5:30 starting the week of February 14, 1994. The show was renewed for a second season in February 1994. Auditions for new episodes took place on February 26 and 27, and production occurred from March 27 through April 17. Second season episodes began airing June 6, 1994. A third season was produced and aired in 1995.
In 1996, the Orlando Business Journal reported that Nickelodeon was considering renewing Legends for a fourth season, but according to Scott Fishman, Vice-President of Production Services at Nickelodeon, renewal was "not [a] sure bet" because Nickelodeon was considering three new game show pilots filmed in Orlando. The series stopped producing new episodes by April 1996.
Legends continued airing in reruns for three years until August 23, 1998 when the show stopped airing on Nickelodeon. However, in 1999, the show once again began airing in reruns on Nick GAS until that network ceased operations in 2009. In March 2009, TV Week reported that David Stanley acquired the rights to several Stone-Stanley shows, including Legends of the Hidden Temple., and this assignment was recorded in the copyright office May 2, 2008. In 1999, Nickelodeon included Legends in a block of Nickelodeon programming that aired on Zee TV. In October 2011, reruns of the series began airing on The '90s Are All That, a 1990s-oriented program block that began airing on TeenNick that July.
The set design of Legends was based on the Indiana Jones movies, and Marianne Arneberg of the Orlando Sentinel described Legends as "a combination of Jeopardy and Raiders of the Lost Ark". The set design has been described as Mayan. It included areas for different types of physical challenges: a broad but shallow pool of water (the Moat), a set of steps (the Steps of Knowledge), and a large, two-and-a-half-floor vertical labyrinth (the Hidden Temple) at the back of the stage. At the labyrinth's gate was a talking Olmec head simply named Olmec (voiced by Dee Baker). Olmec narrated the stories told in the steps of knowledge and temple game challenges (although in a few early episodes Kirk narrated the temple game challenges). Every episode had a theme: a particular legend was picked (written), regarding a certain artifact from around the world that found its way to the Temple (a replica of the actual artifact, if such an artifact existed in real life), and the winning team had to retrieve it. Some artifacts included "Lawrence of Arabia's Headdress," "The Walking Stick of Harriet Tubman," "The Jewel-Encrusted Egg of Catherine the Great," "The Levitating Dog Leash of Nostradamus," "The Diary of Dr. Livingstone," and "The Broken Wing of Icarus." In addition to providing an artifact, the legend also was important to other aspects of the show: the Steps of Knowledge used questions based on the historical legend, and the theming of the Temple Games was also loosely based on the legend.
In each episode, six teams of two players begin a three round competition to determine which team earn the right to enter the Temple. Each team is identified with a color and an animal, indicated on their uniform shirts. The following teams were always present.
- Red Jaguars
- Blue Barracudas
- Green Monkeys
- Orange Iguanas
- Purple Parrots
- Silver Snakes
In the first round of the show, the six teams must cross a narrow swimming pool known as the "moat" in a prescribed manner. For example, the teams may have to swing out to a rope net in the middle of the moat, climb it, and then swim to the other side. All six teams attempt to get both members across according to the rules and push a button on a pedestal to ring a gong. The first four teams to cross the moat and ring their gongs advance to the second round.
The four remaining teams now stand on the topmost of the four levels of the Steps of Knowledge. Olmec begins this round by telling the remaining teams the episode's legend, which becomes the theme for the remainder of the episode. The legend centers around an "artifact" which the winning team will search for in the final round. At the end of the legend, Olmec tells the teams the room in which the artifact may be found. After finishing, he asks the teams a series of questions to test their memories. Each multiple-choice question has three possible answers. A team that knows the answer buzzes in by stomping on the button ("ancient marking") on their step, causing the front of the step to illuminate (if Olmec is still in the middle of asking the question, he stops talking immediately). A team answering correctly moves down to the next level. If a team answers incorrectly or runs out of time (three seconds after being called upon), the other teams have a chance to answer. The first two teams to answer three questions correctly and thereby reach the bottom level advance to the next round.
The Temple Games feature the two remaining teams competing in three physical challenges to earn Pendants of Life that the winning team will use in the final round. Legends employs many types of Temple Games, with the day's legend serving as a theme for each. Temple Games are either untimed or last for a maximum of 60 seconds (or less if a team finishes earlier). After each challenge, the winning team (the team who completed the objective first or, failing that, the team who made the most progress) receives some portion of a protective Pendant of Life. The first two challenges, pitting single members from each team, are worth one half of a pendant, while the final challenge, involving both players on both teams, is worth a full pendant. If a Temple Game ends in a tie, both teams receive the pendant value of that game.
At the end of the Temple Games, the team that has earned the greater number of pendants earns the right to enter the Temple. In the event that the two teams earn the same number of pendants after the three temple games, the teams play a tiebreaker to determine who advances to the Temple. The teams stand behind a "tiebreaker pedestal," and Kirk (in later episodes, Olmec) asks a tiebreaker question to determine the winner. The first team to hit the button on top of their gong gets to answer the question. The team has three seconds to answer, and their first response must be accepted. A correct answer allows the team to go to the Temple. Originally, a team that buzzes in and gives an incorrect answer (or runs out of time) automatically loses (allowing the other team to advance to the Temple by default), but in later episodes, the other team must answer the question correctly to go to the Temple.
A contestant assembles a three piece statue in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey. When the statue is built correctly, the unlocked doors of the room will open and the contestant can advance towards the artifact, indicated by the pink square on the map at the bottom leftIn the final round, the winning team takes the Pendants of Life the players have earned into the Temple (1, 1½, or 2), and attempt to retrieve the day's artifact and bring it back out of the temple within a three minute time limit. The team designates one member to enter the Temple first; that team member carries one of the team's pendants. The other team member holds the remaining pendant or half pendant (if applicable) and stands by to enter should the first team member be taken out of the Temple by a Temple Guard. A diagram of the layout of the Temple.The Temple consists of 12 or 13 rooms, each connected to adjacent rooms by doorways. The doors are either locked or unlocked; the pattern of locked and unlocked doors changes from episode to episode. The unlocked doors are closed at the start of the round, but they can be opened by completing a specific task or puzzle within each room. One room in the Temple contains the themed artifact (as stated by Olmec prior to the Steps of Knowledge round); three other designated rooms hold Temple Guards (spotters in lavish Mayan sentinel costumes). If the winning team has exactly 1½ pendants, the remaining half pendant is also placed in a room for the player with the half pendant to collect to make a full pendant.
A player who encounters a Temple Guard is forced to give up a full pendant in order to go on; however, if the first player is caught without a pendant in his or her possession, he or she is taken out of the temple and the second player enters. In either case, the Temple Guard who captures the player is out of play for the rest of the round. When the second player enters, any doors that the first player opened remain open. If the second player is caught without a full pendant, the run ends immediately. Teams with two pendants cannot have their run end due to the Temple Guards, as the first player will remove two Temple Guards (one with a pendant, one with being eliminated) and the second player will remove the third Temple Guard with his or her pendant. Thus, the only way they can lose is by running out of time.
The team has three minutes to retrieve the artifact and leave the temple with it. If either player grabs the artifact, all remaining Temple Guards "vanish" and all doors in the temple instantly open, allowing the player to escape unhindered. For entering the temple, the team automatically wins a prize. If a team member picks up the artifact, the team wins a more expensive prize as well. A team that retrieves the artifact and exits the temple with it before time runs out earns the grand prize, in addition to the other two prizes.
On later episodes, during the Temple Run, the home viewers see a heads-up display showing a map of the temple in the lower left corner of the screen, with a pink line showing the current contestant's path through the temple, with a blinking pink dot showing the room where the artifact is located. The viewers also see a graphic showing how many pendants the contestants have remaining.
In its three years of production, Legends produced 120 episodes (40 in each of the three seasons). Many historical and mythological figures were featured as subjects of legends during the show's run.
Writing for Entertainment Weekly, A. J. Jacobs listed Legends among a series of imitators of American Gladiators, describing the concept as "Gladiators meets Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." Jacobs criticized the "Steps of Knowledge" round as filler, but concluded that "kids'll praise it to the moon." Legends won the award for best game show at the Sixteenth Annual CableACE awards in January 1995. The show also received nominations at the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Annual CableACE awards in December 1995 and October 1996, but lost to The News Hole and Debt. Feminist author Susan Douglas, a Hampshire College professor of media and American studies, praised Legends for being a "nonsexist and nonviolent" show.
A journalist at West Boca Raton High School wrote an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about how high school students had fond memories for Nickelodeon shows including Legends. According to a 2007 poll in the Springfield, Illinois State Journal-Register, ten percent of respondents said that Legends was their "favorite 'old school' Nickelodeon show." Legends served as a theme for Cornell's 2008 Greek Week. In April 2009, Walnut Creek, California made Legends the theme of its "Kids' Night Out" program.