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Down the Drain
"SEWER ADVENTURE!"

A level that takes place in the sewers or a flooded building or some sort of hydraulic plant. Common mechanics of these levels include maze-like layouts, Super Drowning Skills (or Super Not-Drowning Skills, depending on the game), narrow passages obstructed by rotating propeller blades of death, running water causing platforms to act like conveyor belts, and requiring the player to swim through sections of the level (sometimes the whole thing). Hitting switches to somehow divert the flow of water to flood or drain certain areas is also fairly common.

These traits, combined with a heightened temptation to abuse Copy And Paste Environments, make these kinds of levels highly receptive to becoming That One Level, especially if they are Marathon Levels.

See also Under the Sea for levels which are set in more natural aquatic environments.

Not to be confused with Down LA Drain.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Blaster Master's Stage 4 takes place in a very large maze of a sewer. The on-foot sections contain pools of sewer sludge (some placed around precariously narrow foot paths), and if Jason falls into one, he dies.
  • There's a level in Cave Story where you have to be thrust along with the current, through huge groups of spikes and nearly-invisible foes - right after a boss that occasionally forces you to drown if you're not careful enough, all while firing extremely damaging projectiles at you. Thankfully, you can save first. Unfortunately, if you screw up in this area or the prior boss, the best ending is Lost Forever.
  • Castlevania:
  • The Spring in the Sky in La-Mulana is literally up the drain. And to get the item which prevents water from continuously damaging you, you have to do a little painful swimming first. You also need to buy a helmet first from a Dungeon Shop to have a chance to getting past the waterfalls, at which point, Surprise Fish! The Tower of the Goddess doesn't appear to have water at first, but partway through you have to detour back to an earlier level to raise the water level. The swimming controls are not good.
  • Shantae: the Dribble Fountain, which is some kind of aqueduct/sewer thing, is the very first dungeon.
  • The Legend of Zelda series has had its share of water dungeons that could be filed under this trope.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has a sort-of sewer system infested with rats and zombies underneath a private island cabana; Link must traverse this sewer system to obtain one of the Triforce charts. Perhaps that's why Mrs. Marie, the schoolteacher at Windfall Island, was more than happy to hand over her Cabana Deed to a random child (Link) who just happened to have 40 Joy Pendants.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess also has a literal sewer as the first level for Wolf Link.
    • Likewise The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past after the first bit of castle and dungeon, Link has to escort Zelda out through the sewers.
    • The Great Bay Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a huge hydroelectric plant where Link has to operate the color-coded pipes to carry water and make elevators with them. At one point, he also has to reverse the entire flow direction of the water to access previously inaccessible areas.
    • The Ancient Cistern in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is this in the upper areas, with pipes that enable water-based elevators when the Whip is used, and a giant, golden statue raised or lowered with the help of two side waterwheels operated from a wall-placed lever (that is manipulated by the Whip as well). The lower areas of the dungeon, meanwhile, is Big Boo's Haunt type.
    • The Swamp Palace of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds resembles a big sewer in the middle of a swamp and requires you to solve elaborate water-raising/water-lowering puzzles to traverse.
  • The second half of Lud's Gate, one of the most difficult areas in Tomb Raider III, is a large underwater maze, compounded by the lack of air pockets and the clumsy controls of the UPV.
  • Star Fox Adventures has an aquatic-themed dungeon focused on pipelines, pressure, and lots of other fun stuff—the Ocean Force Point. It's not an actual sewer, being a rather pretty temple, but this is the closest place for it.
  • Ys II has a maze of subterranean canals beneath the Solomon Palace.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes features the very difficult (even by this trope's standards) lower levels of Torvus Bog, which is otherwise a Bubblegloop Swamp level. It's not the first underwater level in a Metroid game, but it might be the first that forces you through half of it without the Gravity Suit.
  • Jak II and 3 have you go into plenty of sewer sections in Haven City, often to either get around barriers or do dirty work for Krew. Even Daxter hates it when Krew sends them off down there, but mostly cause he'll be running around in a smelly sewer without pants.
    • You also go under the Port to meet up with Sig near the end of II, the entire first section of which has you traveling through an underwater section in the resident Mini-Mecha.
  • Messiah has an entire level set in sewers with some jumping puzzles and brushes with squads of Chots who live there.

    Action Game 
  • The sewer level in Enter the Matrix was very long, full of difficult enemies, and for some odd reason, had areas which were a several stories high underground, requiring balance and platforming in order to successfully get through.
  • Ninja Gaiden has the Absurdly Spacious Sewer that is The Aqueduct.
  • Killer Croc's Lair in Batman: Arkham Asylum. While it isn't overly large, the lack of your usual area map and the need to move as slowly and silently as possible make it one of the longest (and to some, most tedious) sections in the game.
    • The sequel had a sewer level too but it was shorter.
  • X-Men Legends has you trudging through the old sewers of New York city, the level itself is fairly straightforward, but the challenge comes from fighting off dozens of Morlock mutants. As you fight further in, the Morlocks only seem to grow in number, but it gets particularly frustrating once you encounter the Morlock Goth, a mutant who can teleport and revive her fallen comrades and has a tendency to stay hidden in an entire mob of Morlocks who can easily slaughter your team without good crowd control.
  • Devil May Cry 2 had Dante go through a sewer in the third mission (Lucia had this as her second) and Lucia later got an aqueduct level.
  • The Spider-Man game for the PS1 and PC had Venom's lair be in the sewer (with lava in What If mode).
  • The Spider-Man 3 game had about three stages where Spidey tracked the Lizard through the sewers.

    Beat Em Up 

    First Person Shooter 
  • Dark Forces, first in the Jedi Knight series, features a sewer level plagued by the Death Star trash compactor monsters (complete with conveyor belt-like currents) and a series of places where water levels (if you can call the stuff water) must be changed in the proper order. Apparently, a sewer that's convoluted enough can double as an Elaborate Underground Base.
  • Half-Life 2 features an entire chapter, Route Kanal, where the player must traverse the canals and sewers of City 17 to escape from the Combine. While the chapter is not exclusively sewer-action, a good chunk of time is spent there.
  • Redneck Rampage had a particularly terrible example towards the end of the first episode - a very big, labyrinthine series of grey corridors and tunnels with lots of swimming and switch hunts, resulting a jarring shift in pacing from the rest of the game, that wasn't helped much by having the level populated entirely by turd minions.
  • Serious Sam 2 has a level at which Sam is forced to go through the sewer system to enter a castle. As he sees the entrance to the sewers he complaints to Cortana Netricsa about it, and she says something about a mandatory sewer level in every game.
    • The First Encounter also has a brief sewer section while moving through Karnak.
  • Dead Space: Extraction, a rail shooter, features a sewer on a space ship. It's a pretty big ship, though, with a standing crew of over a thousand, plus water for the hydroponics area, so it's justified.
  • Batman Doom throws you into one of these as soon as you finish the first mission and the game proper begins ("Follow Killer Croc through the sewers"). Like in most such examples, the sewers are green, drab, moist, have enemies leaping at you from under water (these must be some tough gangsters to hold their breath in sewer water for so long) and have you walking on catwalks above big tanks of water.
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 both have maps where you spend a brief time within a sewer:
  • The original Call of Duty has a brief one, but it's not too sewer-levelish and contains no puzzles.
  • The water treatment plant (Interval 3) and part of Interval 5 in FEAR, as well as one of the first levels in its expansion pack Perseus Mandate.
  • Blood and Blood II from the same developers as FEAR both also have sewer levels, both at near-opposite ends of their respective games - the first game waited until the third episode (of four), while the second game shoved you into one after about three levels.
    • Blood also has several times when you have to dive in a more primitive outhouse pit. One such pit features an entrance to Fire and Brimstone Hell you must pass through to get to Tchernobog.
  • The Kosovo and New York missions in Soldier of Fortune have a few sewer/drain levels.
  • The first Medal of Honor has the Sewer Chase level at the end of the first mission.

    MMORP Gs 
  • In Guild Wars: Factions, the Undercity is a massive underground sprawl of sewers. The atmosphere is dark.
  • Sewer maps appear a lot in City of Heroes and City of Villains when your character gets sent out on missions. The later game lampshaded it.
    Sewer missions have always been beneath you. Hopefully someone will understand that someday.
    • City of Heroes is simply packed with sewer missions where you're wading waist deep (depending on height) through toxic waste. These levels can be extremely infuriating, as some of them are remarkably easy to get lost in, not to mention the constant nagging feeling that you're wading around in the combined filth of an entire city.
  • Ragnarok Online has the Prontera Culverts, which can house one of the weakest (and weakness is relative) Boss fights in the game.
  • Kingdomof Loathing has the clan dungeon of Hobopolis, the fabled city of underground hobos. In order to access the dungeon, a player must first track down the city via a system of sewers.
  • Tech-based superheroes in DC Universe Online have to go down the sewers of Gotham to take out Scarecrow in their first mission.

    Platform Game 
  • Batman for the NES's Stages 3-1 and 3-2 (Underground Conduits I and II), part of Gotham City's Absurdly Spacious Sewer system.
  • Earthworm Jim's "Down the Tubes" is a cross between this and Under the Sea.
  • Mega Man examples:
    • Mega Man 1 had a drain/sewer portion in the second half of Wily Stage 3. (Also appeared in the remake, Powered Up.) Mega Man actually got a speed boost from the rushing water, although this meant that any powerups that enemies dropped that were passed up during the push forward couldn't be retrieved.
    • The third Wily stage in Mega Man 2 was also a sewer, lined with Spikes Of Doom exacerbated by Mega Man's higher underwater jumping height.
    • Toadman's stage in Mega Man 4
    • Venus's stage in Mega Man V (Game Boy, not NES)
    • Toxic Seahorse's stage in Mega Man X 3
    • Pumpman's stage in Mega Man 10.
    • Aquaman's stage in Mega Man 8 had areas where swimming was necessary (a skill which has not been seen since.)
    • The optional underground section of the intro stage in 8.
    • Heatman's stage in Mega Man 2 takes place in the sewers, but with lava instead of water.
    • Mega Man Xtreme 2 aka Soul Eraser for the Game Boy added instant death electrified water to Volt Catfish's stage.
    • Rockman 4 Minus Infinity had Toad Man's stage, but also turned Cossack Stage 3 into one as well. It had various liquids with differing gimmicks.
  • One of the most loathed sections of Conkers Bad Fur Day, "U-Bend Blues", had you swimming through a long pipe filled with spinning fans that would instantly kill you with a single hit. And you had a dwindling Oxygen Meter. And once you got out of the water there were platforms with lethal blades revolving on them. And getting killed at any point in the process sent you back to the beginning.
    • And if you hadn't collected enough Plot Coupons in the previous levels, you had to turn back.
    • Bonus, the perspective was from directly behind Conker so it was pretty hard to tell how -close- you were to the damned things.
  • Banjo-Kazooie, another Rare game for the Nintendo 64, also had one of its most frustrating segments in Rusty Bucket Bay, where the oil-contaminated water drained your Oxygen Meter even on the surface, and did so at twice the normal rate when you were submerged. The part involving swimming past instant-kill propellers to get a Jiggy was widely recognized as That One Sidequest, even by Rare themselves.
    • A straighter example of this trope would be Clanker's Cavern, much earlier in the game. While a complete cakewalk compared to Rusty Bucket Bay, it was still fairly tricky, requiring you to spend quite a lot of time underwater and perform several tasks that were only hindered by the game's sub-par swimming controls.
    • Banjo-Tooie gives us Jolly Roger's Lagoon, an underwater labyrinth filled with innumerable winding and similarly-textured passageways. Luckily, Mumbo's spell gives you Super Not-Drowning Skills for the entire level, making things a bit easier.
  • The Sewer Level in Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure is quite possibly the hardest in the game, which is saying something. If the second locked-in battle room doesn't kill you, the merciless Advancing Wall of Doom directly afterward will.
  • Seen in Crash Bandicoot quite a bit. Crash 2 has its "Sewer Or Later" level which just as fun as other stages and only remotely difficult on the Hidden and Skull Routes. Crash WARPED has it's underwater levels which are fun but become very annoying under Time Trial mode. It also had the 'Tomb Wader' level set in a nilemeter where the water level constantly shifted. Wrath Of Cortex brought back WARPED's underwater stages but due to somewhat poor level design and the horrible controls of the submarine, tended to be annoying even outside of Time Trial
  • Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal: The snot-like amoeboids are everywhere, sometimes spawning right behind and in front of you at once, the camera is awkward and won't turn unless Ratchet does, certain passages are blocked until you approach them from the proper side, the tunnels all look the same while the crystal locations are initially hidden, and best of all? If you want to find all of them, you have to find a special piece of equipment later in the game to explore the second half of the area...which is as lengthy as the first half.
    • Thankfully, the sewers are (for the most part) not part of the major plot, but only for level grinding.
  • The first chapter in Gish, called Sewers of Dross. However, this is one of the easiest chapters.
  • SNES game Mr. Nutz had the character go through a witch's cabin, only to find a shrink potion, fall off the top shelf in the kitchen and then finding himself literally having to go down the drain.
  • The pipe levels in Donkey Kong Country 3 provided quite a bit of variation. "Dingy Drainpipe" was your standard "swim through the sewers" level, but "Demolition Drainpipe" and "Surf's Up" removed the water and combined the sewer levels with Minecart Madness, having you speed through the pipeline in a metal toboggan. "Low-G Labyrinth", another water-free level, added Gravity Screw to a drainpipe level, while "Poisonous Pipeline" rather sadistically added the water back and reversed your left-right controls.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • World 2-3 of New Super Mario Bros. 1 is one of these in a desert.
    • "The Impossible Maze" from Yoshi's Island, which provides the page image, involved no swimming, but it had a current which would push you to other parts of the pipeline. Getting through it requires pushing crates into position to get to pipes that are normally out of reach, and falling down the wrong path or losing your crate means starting over.
    • Also in Yoshi'd Island, Naval Pirahna's Castle also seems to be in a sewer.
    • Slimy Spring Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy 2 also takes place inside a giant sewer.
  • Stages 2-2 and 5-4 in Purple take place in sewer systems complete with fish and mines (that are out there to kill you). 4-2 has two with a strange background consisting of moving cherries (and creepy music to boot).
  • Stage 3 in the arcade version of Bionic Commando, and Stage 2 in the NES / XBLA version.
  • "Trial by Water," the fourth stage of the Wolverine game for the NES, involved swimming through narrow underwater passages lined with spinning blades.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has the dam level, the second half of which has Down the Drain mechanics. It's not as hard as Memetic Mutation would have you believe, but that still doesn't mean it's fun.
  • Turrican II's second level is like this, until you jump in the water and it becomes Under the Sea.
  • Parts of the colonial levels in Jazz Jackrabbit 2 take place in the sewers.

    Puzzle 
  • Disney's Where's My Water?, which is apparantly based on the Urban Legend concerning the myth of alligators living in sewers.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • One of the underground levels in Pikmin 2 is more similar to the sewer level; which you can only enter with blue Pikmin. It's also a bit more difficult than other "dungeon" areas thanks to the invincible Waterwraith that chases you down if you dawdle around on one level for too long.
    • Straighter is the Shower Room. It's basically just a bunch of shower floors and drainpipes.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines had a sewer level which was incredibly long and was full of high-level enemies around nearly every corner. It's even more difficult for the Ventrue class, as they cannot feed on the rats for health. Playing a Nosferatu requires you to stick to sewers for the majority of the game, because you're so hideous looking that people seeing you is a violation of the Masquerade.
    • Not to mention the absolutely insane amount of terror in that level—here's a hint: the first sub-boss, who then becomes a regular enemy, is a huge, spiderlike centaur-thing created by grafting three women together, who bounds after you.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has a level where you sneak into the Vulkar base via the Taris sewers.
    • They were quite spacious too since they could fit a rancor down there.
  • In The Elder Scrolls games, the larger cities often have sewer areas. Morrowind has Vivec's underworks, which you thankfully don't have to spend too much time navigating. They are fairly wide-open, but have most of the annoying properties of sewer levels (diseased creatures, water that's hard or impossible to get out of, drab colors). The Imperial City sewers that feature in Oblivion are at least as bad as Vivec's, and are also dark and not particularly interesting, either. You are also forced through them several times in the game—at least in Morrowind, you could usually find a sewer entrance that was right next to your quest targets. The trope was averted slightly in an expansion of Morrowind that took place in Mournhold. Although you could spend a lot of time in that city's sewers, they were well-lit and felt like just another dungeon. Plus, they led to the cavernous ruins under the city, which, while not underwater, were certainly something worth seeing.
    • Skyrim of course has the town of Riften, which has extensive sewers and is home to The Thieves Guild.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has an incredibly frustrating sewer maze in which Quistis, Zell, and Selphie get stuck and all the areas look exactly the same. Plus, you have to go all the way back to the start if you make a mistake. On the plus side, the maze doesn't have any layers, so always taking a left (or a right) where possible will get you to the exit eventually.
  • Summoner (PS2/PC/Mac, Volition) has a semi-subversion…the sewer you have to enter in the big city is moderately well lit, plausibly plotted (most exits line up with the city above), and it's actually kind of fun as they're the size of the old Roman aqueducts. So what Goddamned monster do you find crawling in those tunnels? Bats? Rats? Giant bugs? no, GODDAMNED GOLEMS. And it's hella fun, as the topside fights with basic imperial soldiers and random encounters are the boring ones.
    • The problem with it is that you're forced to go through the place from end to end at least five times, including several puzzles, and it doesn't change at all.
  • The castle basement in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, where the brothers have to fix the plumbing (they are plumbers, after all). It ends up being a trap.
  • There are sewer systems under the the Hub Level towns in both Paper Mario and its sequel, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • There was also Kerokero Sewers in Super Mario RPG.
  • The first dungeon of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is a sewer. It is used as a warehouse and as a base of operations for the bad guys, and has entrances to the thieves guild and the church. It also helpfully shows off the games water graphics.
  • Baldurs Gate 2 starts with the player and the party making their escape via some sewers. Later on in Athkatla, there is another major quest (The Unseeing Eye) that takes place in the sewers. Then there is the area connecting the Copper Coronet and the slavers' base.
    • Baldur's Gate 1 has an entire sewer area under each of the eponomous city's town areas (Meaning you could traverse the city underground) this is generally not needed aside from a sidequest or two.
  • In Pokémon Ranger, the player must explore a dungeon called the Waterworks. It's exactly what it sounds like... except it's infested with poisonous gunk Pokémon called Grimer and Muk, which are polluting the water for the entire city. These Pokémon create slippery slime literally everywhere they go. So not only do we have the usual sewer level fare, but we also get Frictionless Slime.
    • The trope was Lampshaded as well; multiple characters complained about how bad it smelled down there, and one Red Shirt was close to vomiting every time you spoke to him (which is often).
  • Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 takes you into the Castelia City Sewers,complete with Grimer,Rattata and Goddamn Zubats. At least if you find the small aboveground abandoned lot area, you get a shot at wild Eevee for the first time in history (not counting Gen IV's trophy garden).
  • Dead Island has the player need to go through the sewers to reach first the Town Hall, and then the Supermarket, and then back out the same way in the second act. In Ryder's Campaign, you need to use the sewers to get into the prison.
  • Dark Souls is home to the Depths. The area is a disgusting, pus covered sewer filled with giant evil rats, dangerous slimes, cannibals, the Gaping Dragon, and most dangerous of all, the basilisks.
  • The Moaning Well level in Napple Tale does not have any smelly sewage (it's a well; that would be unsanitary,) but it does involve a number of water level switches and a water slide sequence.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • The sewer level in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel is generally considered to be pretty good, although mostly because the music is cool. The sewer/swimming level in Metal Gear 2 was also reasonably inoffensive, since it helped you get between the Zanzibar Building and the Tower Building without having to get through Maze Wood and the deeply annoying Nariko Sand stage - but if your finger slipped, you could find yourself washing up on the wrong bank and having to backtrack a good half of the game with next to no health and a face full of mines.
    • Let's not forget Big Boss' escape from Groznjy Grad in Metal Gear Solid 3. This was fairly short and the challenge mainly came from the lack of equipment as opposed to typical sewer level mechanics.
  • The New York Sewers in Syphon Filter 2, and the Warehouse District sewers in The Omega Strain.
  • The Cloaca Maxima Romulus Lair from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.
  • The Thieves' Guild level from Thief Gold consists mostly of navigating through a series of sewers in order to reach different locations where treasure is stashed. Problem is, not only are the sewer treks long-winded and many, the tunnels are usually stuffed with bad guys that it can be tricky to overcome because of the level design. And because of the game's extremely minimalistic map system, it can be very hard to tell which way you're going, let alone which way you're supposed to go. It's so bad that fans often label it as the worst level of the entire series.

    Survival Horror 
  • Silent Hill 1 is a rare example of having all the problems associated with this trope, but actually making it work. The sewer level is repetitive, dark, filled with annoying enemies and removes your monster detector to boot. All of this combines to make for one hell of a claustrophobic and eerie run, exactly what the game is aiming for.
    • As a direct sequel to the first game, Silent Hill 3 recycles several locales as ShoutOuts. The sewer level is one of them.
    • Silent Hill 2 has the Labyrinth and the flooded Dark World hotel basement.
    • Subverted, though, in the Silent Hill: Shattered Memories re-imagining: the sewer level comes across as the next big scenario, but turns out to be a minor, brief, uneventful sequence lasting a short stretch and holding no encounters with anything or anybody.
  • Any Resident Evil games set in Raccoon City will have one of these. Such as the shark-infested flooded basement of the guest house in the first game.
    • Hell, take Resident Evil 4, which is set in Spain. You get a regular urban-ish sewer level underneath an ancient castle that also introduces a rather annoying (as in invisible) enemy type armed with a One-Hit Kill attack.
  • Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare has a sewer level early on in Edward's scenario. Though not very long, Edward's speed is halved by being partly submerged in water, and the place houses a particularly nasty Eldritch Abomination that will pop from beneath to One-Hit Kill him if he takes too long to reach the exit. Except trying to speed up catches the creature's attention. You spend the level alternating between slow/fast pacing and trying to hold off the creature with all your ammo, which can knock it back unconscious for a few seconds AT BEST.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Inverted in Gears of War where you are required to go through a sewer, and you make the other people in your group go through it while your character laughs at them at every opportunity.

Non-video game examples:

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Jhonen Vasquez comic Everything Can Be Beaten.
    "SEWER ADVENTURE!"

    Film 
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Andy's escape.
  • Cyborg has a sewer scene where the water comes up to the characters thighs. Try not to think about what could possibly be floating around in there it too much.

    Pinball 

Down LA DrainInstant Index Just Add WaterDripping Disturbance
Brutal Bonus LevelImageSource/Video GamesMost Annoying Sound
Down in the DumpsVideogame SettingsDrought Level of Doom

alternative title(s): Sewer Level
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