One of the longest-standing video game hazards in existence: Pits that send your character plummeting to an early grave, usually costing one of the player's lives. In many games, there are sheer-faced bottomless pits nearly everywhere you travel, waiting for you to mistime a jump (or get smacked into it by annoyingly placed enemies).
If the player character does not take damage from long falls so long as they land on a non-damaging surface (as was common in the early days of Video Games), this can be especially jarring. There may be certain levels where you fall many, many, many screens down, but hit bottom completely unharmed; yet a simple pit would end your life instantly. More egregiously, bottomless pits are almost always instantly fatal, even in games where your character can take a point-blank explosion or a volley of bullets and only lose one point of health. However, the biggest threat to a player's Willing Suspension of Disbelief are the pits which are treated as being fatal, even when they are located above safe landing ground. The screen will simply refuse to scroll down if you fall into it.
With the advent of 3-D, and mostly realistic falling damage, most "bottomless" pits are shown (or assumed) to be really, really deep pits. Still, one wonders why science labs, factories, and temples have so many deadly drops built in them, or why the building inspectors allow them. Sometimes, the pits are clearly not bottomless but are treated as if they were anyway, because the player would be unable to get back up to the designated path.
Note that, in many cases, not all pits are "bottomless". Sometimes, the designers try to explain their lethality by putting something in them, though this often leads to other cases of weird logic. If the pit has water in it, it's a case of Super Drowning Skills. If there's lava instead, then you likely have a case of Convection Schmonvection. Other times, there may be deadly chemicals, Spikes Of Doom, or a host of other things, which brings us back to Malevolent Architecture. Note also that "bottomless" in this context is a holdover from older English usage, and means "than which there is no deeper."
Watch out for Ledge Bats, which live to knock you into these while you are jumping.
Sub Tropes include Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits, Bottomless Pit Rescue Service.
Compare with Floating Platforms.
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In Mega Man 3, holding right on a second controller as Mega Man falls into a bottomless pit will allow you to be able to jump back out of it, or stay down there for a while to become invincible. However, Dr. Wily's castle has no bottomless pits anywhere.
The early Castlevania games were very annoying about this, especially when the "bottomless" pit was only one screen deep. Very often, you would climb a set of stairs out of one screen with nothing but solid ground all around, sometimes very close to the top. But as soon as you left the screen, it no longer existed, and falling off the platform you were on would kill you, instead of just falling the few spaces to the screen below. Not only was falling damage never suffered anywhere else, but the fourth level of the first game began with a quick cutscene showing Simon falling down a well shaft to the underground cave! And the level you just beat ended at the top floor of a tower.
Super Castlevania IV has parts of stages where you must climb up, a platform on the screen will be safe only so long as it remains above the bottom of the screen. Once you scroll the screen above it, it ceases to exist; try to jump on it and it will be the same as falling into a bottomless pit.
In Enter The Matrix, most holes are too deep to see the bottom of, but you have no idea which ones are bottomless until you have the misfortune of falling into one.
Drakan, particularly the sequel, has a ridiculous number of these, especially in jumping obstacles in dungeons. This is made especially weird because partway through the fall into an endless abyss, Rynn bursts into several bloody chunks, seemingly from nowhere.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, bottomless pits are not actually bottomless pits, at least from a technical standpoint. The so-called bottomless pits actually have a bottom, as seen when a bomb is dropped into one of these pits (the bomb falls in and impacts a floor). However, Link will either fall through the floor and respawn or respawn before he hits the invisible floor.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy features traditional-style bottomless pits that cause the player to lose a portion of the Lego studs he has collected so far before teleporting to their edges again. However, the game also features a few pits in which the player can clearly see the bottom - which may not even be very far down - but that nonetheless kill the player upon impact.
Goof Troop has bottomless pits in some rooms. You lose a life if you fall into them, but you can also push enemies into them.
Some games — including the God of War series, and the Area 51First-Person Shooter — apply Bottomless Pit rules to all falls; one either kills you, or does nothing, there's no middle ground where it's simply damaging.
X-Com Enforcer has a level spanning across the roofs of high-rise buildings. The landing makes a crater decal rather than simply entering the normal death animation.
There's also a bonus level that includes bottomless pits.
In Brain Dead 13, Lance can fall into one and die if he hasn't beaten all the bosses before meeting up with Fritz in the final battle.
Dynamite Dux has these from the third stage onward. They cost a life when you fall into them, but thankfully there are warning signs placed near them.
If you fell into a bottomless pit in Zork: Grand Inquisitor, you'd end up raising a family with another unlucky pit-faller, and eventually die of old age. The question of food was not answered, nor the one about terminal velocity. Just go with it, kay? It's funny.
Most of the Zork series averts bottomless pits because of a Fridge Logic problem. In most adventure games of the time (Colossal Cave in particular), pits were plentiful in dark areas to keep you from just stumbling through blind. They were in the original version of Zork, but then someone pointed out this meant you could fall into a bottomless pit on the second floor of a house. The result, after much revision, was the grue. This is lampshaded in the prequel Zork Zero, where you actually use magic to close the bottomless pits, forcing the grues that dwelled in them to find new hiding spots...
A subversion is found in Fantasy World Dizzy, wherein the titular egg hero must jump into a (labeled) bottomless pit, travel through the earth, and pop out (upside-down) on the other side of the world.
A little freeware sidescroller called Microman had an actual bottomless pit—that is, if you jumped into it, you would pretty much fall forever. Eventually you would take a hit out of nowhere and die, but why didn't they just do that to begin with?
One Nancy Drew computer game has a bottomless pit...in a hotel, accessible by climbing around in the elevator shaft.
In Driver 2, the bottom of the skybox was pictured as water, but was really a disguised bottomless pit, with the screen fading to black upon falling in. Sometimes a Game-Breaking Bug would occur where the player could fall through a hole in the polygons into the "void".
Rainbow Road in the Mario Kart series are usually set in space or high in the sky, thus it's hovering over nothing and falling off the track is treated as being out of bounds. Rainbow Road in Double Dash is set above a city while the Wii version is in space once again, but with the Earth right below. The Ghost Valley tracks in the SNES Mario Kart also had nothingness below.
All over the place in the Jet Moto racing games, one of the things making the games that much more Nintendo Hard.
In the Super Smash Bros. series, the goal is to knock your opponents into a bottomless pit. Knocking them off screen from the sides or in the sky works, too.
Lava/Acid on the Metroid stages avert the trope and only damage the player as long as it's high enough... if it's offscreen, it doesn't exist and players will fall to their doom. Brawl also has water that characters can swim in... but only for a short time before they drown instantly. Yes, even Squirtle.
Fittingly enough, the character who has the shortest time to swim is Sonic. Though the mere fact he can swim at all is an improvement over the series of origin.
And for extra "fun", you have the 'Trout of Doom' on the Ice Climber's stage. Shudder.
First Person Shooter
While the official Duke Nukem 3D maps doesn't have any bottomless pits, an unofficial addon called "The Lost Duke Episodes", which replaces every level of every episode in the game, does have one that is literally bottomless. Inspection of the level in question in the BUILD editor shows that mid-air teleporters are used to produce the effect. If playing with the original registered release (v1.3D of the game), the jetpack can get you out. If you're playing the Atomic Edition (v1.4 or v1.5), the only ways out are to kill yourself or load a saved game.
Among the official and "official unofficial" maps Team Fortress 2, there are the Atomic Pits after they get blown up by BLU's cart on the Payload maps, and the pit around Control Point E on Steel.
The Arena map Lumberyard's claim to fame is that the one medkit on the entire level is located on a thin log above a pit of death.
Upward, another of the official maps, is located on the top of a mountain. A huge bottomless pit surrounds the battlefield, and another one is the pit in RED's base, where the BLU team must dump the payload cart to win.
Ghost Fort, the 2012 Halloween map, has one deep enough to get lampshaded by some of the characters when they fall inside.
Scout: AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH- Holy crap, this goes on forever.
Spy: AAAAAAGGHHHHH! ...come on, I don't have all day!
Most Imperial bases in the Dark Forces Saga come fitted with at least one Bottomless Pit as standard. There are truly depraved architects in a Galaxy Far Far Away, and the Empire, being the Empire doesn't care. This is understandable—they're evil—but how to explain Nar Shadaa, the vertical city, sort of a mini-Coruscant in that the entire moon is covered in superskyscrapers and people almost never actually touch the ground...except there are no guard rails. This serves to make Force push the most powerful offensive power in the game.
The Metroid Prime games that aren't the first one have these. In Echoes and Corruption, you only lose 5-10 health when you fall in, but in Hunters, falling is an instant kill.
Halo series has several deep pits to fall in, but nearly all of them have a bottom, even if it is very far down. There are space levels though in the first and second games where you could fall into what would logically be a bottomless pit.
The original Half-Life and its expansion packs had a few. There was even one area in Opposing Force where the ceiling is so high that you can't see it either. The Fan RemakeBlack Mesa replaces them all with visible floors.
Grand Chase: at certain levels (Temple of Fire, Kastulle Ruins and Bermesiah's Last Stand to name a few) you have to cross a stage filled with ever-shortening ledges, environmental hazards and falls that knock off your limited number of lives like there's no tomorrow.
World of Warcraft generally averts this; the damage taken from a fall is proportional to the distance you fall, modified by parachute-like effects. However, there are a few places that actually do have bottomless pits which are accessible but have no way back up, so you die when you hit the ground no matter what.
It's also possible to fall off the edge of the world on Outland, the shattered remnants of a planet floating in the Twisting Nether. You fall for a while, then the camera stops and watches your body recede into the depths, and you respawn at a graveyard since you can't recover your body normally. The same thing happens if you fall off the edge in the new area of Firelands.
Pretty much every 2-D Mario game features Bottomless pits, as well as water pits and lava pits. Super Mario Bros. 3 and onward tended to avoid the water pits (since Mario had learned how to swim consistently by this time), but every other pit was fair game. In addition, the 2-D Mario games other than the Donkey Kong series never show Mario suffering fall damage from any other drop.
Super Mario Galaxy, as part of its Recycled IN SPACE! theme, used black holes as bottomless pits, in addition to the regular ones. While Mario usually adhered to any small object as if it had Earth gravity, nearby black holes caused objects to function as traditional platforms where Mario could fall off. They never seemed to affect any other matter and were everywhere later in the game.
Super Mario Sunshine dramatically reduced the amount of Bottomless Pits found in the game, for the most part limiting them to the special stages. However, one stage, Pianta Village, is positioned directly above a bottomless pit. One wonders how many villagers they've lost over the years.
In these special stages and in Pianta Village, the bottomless pit has a textureless floor that Mario can cast a shadow on. This is visible when Mario nears this barrier, below which the game kills Mario.
Super Mario World. Chocolate Island. It was just a Palette Swap, but it's still notable for being one of the only games where you can die by molten chocolate pits.
The Crash Bandicoot series has many of these, and they were probably the most common hazards in the earlier games besides the enemies.
Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galxy creates an egregious example. In the laboratory level, the left side of one floor has a bottomless pit, while the right side has a pit that simply brings you further down the level. If you reach the bottom-right of that area, you can get a powerup that lets you fly - including up the bottomless pit. If the fly powerup disengages, you get killed if you are in the bottomless pit, but not if you on the other-side of a one-way-wall. Further, flying permits you to go up the pit, but stop at an invisible floor when you try going back down.
In Mega Man 1, the infamous Nintendo Hard Guts Man stage, which had bottomless pits crossed via moving platforms that dropped out from under you at certain points on their track. It's infamous because this was at the very start of the level; many players simply gave up without seeing more than 2% of Guts Man's stage.
Two egregious examples of the disappearing blocks: in Heat Man's stage, where you have to jump between them over a Lava Pit and a Bottomless Pit, with no way of knowing on the first try whether the next block will be ahead or above you. And Magnet Man's stage, where you have to jump across them over a Bottomless Pit and have a magnet pulling on you.
Later on in 3, there are two situations which require you to have a fully power up Rush Jet, one over a long Bottomless Pit, the other over a long stretch of Spikes Of Doom (2 also did this in Wily Stage 2), if you have run out of juice after the Point of No Return, the stage is Unwinnable unless you lose all your lives and start over. And you've got various Goddamned Bats (dragonflies, bees, parachuters, etc) bombarding you all the way.
But thankfully, if you kept jumping as you flew on the Rush Jet, you wouldn't actually deplete his power.
And while other games may have had it as well, the Mega Man series is the one that brought the concept of 'Killer Spikes' to the forefront of gamer consciousness - made all the more confusing because the titular character is a robot, yet he dies instantly if he touches a spike.
Prince of Persia made an early attempt at averting the trope, favoring falls that were too far for you to survive or had Spikes Of Doom at the bottom over truly bottomless pits (of which there were a grand total of one). Prince of Persia 2 was less successful in averting this trope, having bottomless pits in the opening Roof Hopping level and in several levels toward the end of the game.
Cosmos Cosmic Adventure had bottomless pits in nearly every level. Which doesn't really make sense considering he had suction cup hands and could stick to walls.
The Klonoa series features many of them - especially in Vision 6-1 and 6-2 of the first game. In the latter level, they usually had to be crossed by jumping on incredibly tiny floating platforms.
Freeware Ninja Senki features them beginning from the very first level. Sometimes they're filled with water, but usually they're the plain variety.
In the Contra series, the player character dies from merely touching a pit past a certain point - say, knee-deep or so - making the lethality of said pits even more questionable.
Or falling to the bottom of the screen in vertical levels, due to the Ratchet Scrolling. In co-op mode, you can kill your partner by scrolling him off the screen.
Pac-Land is an early example of bottomless pits appearing.
The original Tomb Raider series generally doesn't use bottomless pits, just really deep ones (or ones with Spikes Of Doom or lava etc. at the bottom); sometimes the Game Over screen appears before you hit bottom. There are a few apparently-bottomless pits in the next-gen series.
Played straight in the first Rayman game, but completely averted in the third, where falling into an area that looks like a bottomless pit instead lands you in a basement-level area that can be escaped by climbing rubble or by other means. Falling into a 'fake' bottomless pit is actually required to move on in one point of the game.
In Dynamite Headdy bottomless pits appear frequently, but they don't kill you instantly — Headdy jumps out of it (and high enough to regain footing) and it takes off about a third of his health.
In Wario World, bottomless pits always lead to the "Unithorn's Lair", where creatures called Unithorns steal your coins. You have to escape by finding the escape spring which is hidden in a random box.
Pits are a standard obstacle in Jumper series. Oddly enough, Ogmo dies the instant he goes below the screen, even if he has an extra jump left.
Pits are a common hazard to face when fighting against bosses in Banana Nababa.
Bug! has them all around you. Your character is on a level suspended over mid-air, so falling off Floating Platforms or the terrain itself could spell certain death.
In Shadow Of The Ninja, the bottom of the screen means instant death, even when on rotating platforms that just dip off the screen for a few seconds.
In Atlantis No Nazo, many levels are full of bottomless pits. The infamous "Black Hole" level is nothing but a giant bottomless pit. Guide Dang It: certain pits will warp you to another stage instead of killing you.
Most Kirby games have bottomless pits, which is odd considering Kirby can fly indefinitely in most of the games as well. (They're mostly a danger while inhaling, since Kirby can't inhale and fly at the same time, and also while using abilities like Stone.) In fact, the bottom of the screen must contain some sort of special Kirbicide, for if Kirby so much as grazes it while hovering near the bottom, he dies.
Strangely enough, the Helpers in Kirby Super Star are completely immune to the effects of these bottomless pits (in most cases they simply return to Kirby upon falling in), further supporting the Kirbicide theory.
Gruntz has them in various fashions according to the current world - tar pits, fall from very high, cooking plates...
Hunt The Wumpus: Another text-era computer game with bottomless pits was this one. You had to explore a maze and deduce where the Wumpus was (which would let you shoot it) without entering its room (and getting eaten) or entering a room with a bottomless pit.
An all too frequent hazard in this game and its many sequels.
And in several different flavours; literal bottomless drops, i.e. falling off the screen (which you could make yourself if you had spare digging attributes and wanted to wreck the level), falls onto ground that's too far away for the Lemmings to survive unaided, and falls that ended in water.
Portal: You can make your own bottomless pit; put one of your portals on the floor, and the other on the ceiling directly above. For fun, drop something into it. For nausea, drop yourself into it. There is even an achievement awarded for falling far enough in this fashion.
Portal 2: This game is full of bottomless pits, especiallywhen the facility starts falling apart, revealing just how far down it goes. This is especially egregious, as Chell has boots specifically designed to prevent fall damage from terminal-velocity landings.
Haunting Ground: A room near the end of Debilitas' section of the game features a very dark room, with two especially dark patches on the floor. Unfortunately for Fiona, there are two pits hidden in the shadows. On the flip side: fortunately for Fiona, Hewie (among other things) can lead her safely around them.
The world of Cortex Command seems to be surrounded by bottomless space. Move a little to the left or right of the screen, and you lose control of the body. Rocket too high into space, and you either return to the mothership or lose the body. Dig just a little too deep in the ground, and you fall off the screen and lose the body.
The Void in Minecraft lies beneath the bottom of the map (or at least the deadly part does), and kills you within seconds if you manage to fall into it.