Underground Level


Underground levels, carved out of endless expanses of rock, are among the favorites of video game designers, primarily because they can shape these tunnels and cavities to any sizes, shapes and lengths they desire without having to resort to the Insurmountable Waist High Fence.

Sometimes known as the Underworld, this setting appears frequently as a direct contrast to The Overworld as its where the hero goes when he enters a cave or falls in a hole. It could be an Empty Room Psych, a full fledged dungeon, or anything inbetween.

Visitors may encounter Bottomless Pits, falling rocks, stalactites, breakable walls, giant mushrooms, lava, an underground lake, and/or minecarts. Goddamned Bats abound, and watch out for the monkeys. Visitors will probably not encounter stalagmites, because game designers prefer flat, uninterrupted floors for the characters and enemies to walk along (though stalagmites may show up from time to time as the cavernous version of Spikes of Doom). The music often gets more low-key and adds drums and bass.

In most cases, light is strangely never a problem — it might be darker than usual, but you've always got enough to see by (maybe there's some sort of glowing fungus). Oddly enough, although spiders are common, Cobweb Jungles are not.

An extremely common variant is the crystal cave, featuring quartz and precious gems gleaming wall-to-wall with All-Natural Gem Polish. No one ever considers mining them out, because they're just there to look cool. And wouldn't you know it, sometimes the crystals are ice crystals.

The RPG version is usually either a fairly difficult dungeon with little reprieve, or the very first one, used as an introduction.

May at times overlap with the Absurdly Spacious Sewer or Blackout Basement. If there are people living there, see Underground City and Beneath the Earth. May also encompass the literal Underworld, though that usually gives it elements of Lethal Lava Land or Big Boo's Haunt.


Platform Game
  • Glitter Gulch Mine from Banjo-Tooie.
  • Several of the Recurring Locations in the Castlevania series, such as the aptly named Underground Caverns, Abandoned Mines, and Catacombs, are this. This makes it all the more confusing in the latter half of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night where all three of these levels are the highest points in the game, yet retain the attributes of an Underground Level.
  • Cave Story. The only thing that's not underground is the surface right before the final boss. However, while that's the official setting, only a few levels look like actual caves; there's a desert level, a grassy outdoorsy level, some techie levels, an a plantation level, among others (most of which have a rocky background). Conversely, The Outer Wall appears to be outside the caves, although it's always night there, whereas it's daytime up on the balcony.
  • Donkey Kong:
    • Chimp Caverns from Donkey Kong Country 1, with various other areas also qualifying. Occasionally subverts the "there's always" light, with levels that require you to free a parrot to carry a lantern for you, giving you an annoying flashlight-style lit area. Other stages are lit by torch light and thus have normal lighting.
    • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest improves on this with its mine shaft stages (Namely Kannon's Klaim). It also features giant ice caverns found for the first time in the penultimate world, featuring appropriately echoing and cool-sounding music.
    • Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! brings back the darker cave levels taking the stage.
    • Donkey Kong 64 has the Crystal Caves, which combines this with Slippy-Slidey Ice World.
    • The fourth world of Donkey Kong Country Returns is set completely in caverns (and its name is indeed Cave), though they're always navigated through with minecarts or a wooden rocket (including the boss level, as the battle consists of a pursuit to intercept Mole Miner Max).
    • Two levels in the Autumn Heights in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze mix this trope with Level Ate, as they're calcified caverns that have cheese in many parts.
  • The Ecco the Dolphin games manage to cross this level with Under the Sea several times. At one point the severely reduced visibility is actually acknowledged, and the use of Ecco's sonar is required to get through.
  • Virtually every Kirby game has one. The Great Cave Offensive in Kirby Super Star and its Updated Re-release is a Metroidvania subgame that takes place entirely in an underground cavern, which is apparently large enough to have its own atmosphere and clouds floating around in places.
  • Metroid:
    • Most of the first Metroid game is divided between Brinstar (caves) and Norfair (lava caves). It's also the purest example in the series, in that aside from the opening screen and the ending screen, nothing takes place above ground.
    • Later games mix things up with Maridia (flooded caves), Phendrana Drifts (frozen caves), and the Phazon Mines (irradiated caves).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • The various Super Mario Bros. levels and bonuses reached by warp pipes:
  • Super Mario Fusion Revival:
    • World 3-1: Viscous Burrow. The first area our heroes encounter in the Ocean of Oblivion is a burrow inhabited by giant maggots. This area is flooded by caustic purple fluid and at times, the only way to traverse the caustic pools is to use the slime trails produced by the maggots.
    • World 4-5 (Crimson Cavern): A maze level that switches between a blood-filled and a lava-filled version of the same cavern, with some minor differences.
  • The first Shantae game has the Golem Mine, which has lava, stalactites, and stalagmites blocking Shantae's path and puzzles involving the usage of polarities to attract and repel objects.
  • Wario Land:
  • The Moon Grotto and Gumo's Hideout in Ori And The Blind Forest.
  • Yoshi's Island:
    • The original SNES game has numerous cave levels, which have underground waterfalls (or lava in the case of World 6's cave level).
    • "The Bone Dragon Cave" in Yoshi's Story is underground and is the only truly underground level on the second page, even though it is known as The Cave.

Role-Playing Game
  • A great many locations in Breath of Fire qualify, especially the majority of the early-game dungeons.
  • Chrono Trigger features places like Heckran's Cave, the Reptite Lair, and the ruins of the Tyranno Lair as underground locales.
  • Final Fantasy VI has the optional dungeon of The Ancient Castle, which can only be accessed through the tunneling castle, Figaro.
  • Final Fantasy VII has the Mithril Mines, with glowing green rocks.
  • Final Fantasy IX has the Ice Cavern, Fossil Roo, and Gargan Roo.
  • Final Fantasy XI has quite a few areas like this: Gustav Tunnel, Kuftal Tunnel, Korroloka Tunnel, Sea Serpent Grotto, Ordelle's Caves, and Aydeewa Subterrane. And yes, there does seem to be glowing fungi in that last one.
  • Final Fantasy XII has a bunch of these, including the Lhusu mines, Barheim Passage, the Henne Mines, the Sochen Cave Palace, and Zertinan Caverns. One may or may not also include Giruvegan, as the paths and platforms are man-made.
  • Final Fantasy XIII had the Mah'habara Subterra, a network of tunnels dug for whatever reason by the fal'Cie Atomos under the Gran Pulse.
  • Final Fantasy XIV features several, notably in the form of Sastasha, the Tam-Tara Deepcroft, Copperbell Mines, the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak, Cutter's Cry, Dzemael Darkhold, and Aurum Vale.
  • The Underworld in Kingdom Hearts II is half this and half Big Boo's Haunt.
  • Too many in the Pokémon games to name them all:
    • Each mainline game seems to feature at least 3, at least one is an ice cave, and another one is pitch black and requires the Flash power to navigate with any accuracy. Victory Road is always among them, however. Wherever you are, expect to find plenty of Zubats, Geodudes, their evolved forms, or whatever batlike or rocklike Pokemon are native to the region.
    • Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum have a set of underground passages filled with treasure that spans the entire region. There are no wild Pokemon, but it's the best place to get items in... any of the games, really.
    • Relic Passage in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 is also notable. It connects Driftveil City to Castelia's sewers, Desert Resort (it's the only way into the Relic Castle then) and Twist Mountain. It lets you ride mining carts in some tunnels and also contains the chamber with the three Golems from Gen III, though you need the key from the opposite game for the final Golem. The biggest annoyance aside from how easy it is to get lost is that some areas have higher-level Boldore that have access to Explode.
    • Terminus Cave in Pokémon X and Y, home of Zygarde.
    • As for the console games, Pokémon Colosseum has the Under, a former mine where many of Pyrite Town's residents fled to after the town's normal state of semi-lawlessness escalated to chaos due to Team Cipher coming to town. It's closed off in Pokémon XD to keep any other criminal activity from going on in it.
    • This is the entirety of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, and all the other FushigiNoDungeon games, for that matter. You do have some areas that take place aboveground, but all the main action happens in underground caverns, hence the 'dungeon' title.
    • Pokémon Snap has the Cave stage, but the Factory stage is underground as well as an Eternal Engine.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has the Deep Roads, which contain equal amounts of caverns and ruined dwarf strongholds. Also That One Level for many players, though the abundance of great loot (two of the best sets of armor in the game, and several top-quality weapons, can be found down there) can help make up for it.
  • The first Ultima Underworld game in its entirety.
  • This is a common type of dungeon in The Elder Scrolls franchise. Skyrim alone has regular caves and mines (often serving as dens for bandits, Falmer, vampires, etc.), ancient Nordic burial tombs, and subterranean fortresses guarded by machines that were built by their long-since-vanished Dwemer masters. There's even a wide-open cavern deep underground connecting three Dwemer fortresses, once the location of the Dwemer city of Blackreach.
  • The first and second chapters of the Hordes of the Underdark expansion for Neverwinter Nights are (except for the very start) spent underground.

Wide-open Sandbox
  • Dwarf Fortress: Extensive cavern systems are procedurally generated during world creation. They’re dotted with groves of giant mushrooms that can be cut for lumber and home to tribes of primitive animal people that will more likely than not attack your dwarves with poisoned spears and blowguns, and a variety of wildlife ranging from regular cave critters to some very weird monsters to truly terrifying creatures like giant cave spiders and cave dragons, and the occasional Forgotten Beast. They’re split into three levels, with increasingly dangerous wildlife the deeper you go, and below the third level there’s a world-spanning magma sea, home to various fire elementals.
  • Minecraft: Procedurally generated caverns span the entire game world, getting larger and more interconnected the deeper one goes. Small, solitary surface caverns are easily converted into homes, while the deeper cavern systems provide easy access to lava and rare ores. Cave exploration is not without danger—the mazelike passages and enormous size of the deep caverns make them very easy to get lost in, sudden drop-offs to hard stone or lava pools are common and difficult to spot, and the total darkness complicates both problems, while also meaning that monsters are everywhere. Oh, and they’re the only place where bats are found.

  • The first two Avernum computer games take place entirely underground, and there are underground parts in all the others.
  • Crystal Caves takes place entirely underground, but this is one case where someone is there to mine it out.
  • Dodongo's Cavern, Beneath the Well, and the Fire and Shadow Temples from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has Turtle Rock, while The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has the aptly-named Earth Temple.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, once the speeder bike in the Darkice Mines passes a certain point, the rest of the level is cave.
  • The original Star Fox has one of these in the planet Macbeth- explained away as a planet where the core shrunk due to strange experiments by Andross.
  • As with the aforementioned source material, The Fellowship of the Ring has the Mines of Moria, which are extremely long.
  • Young Merlin has a cave system with mine carts. There are passages everywhere between various cave entrances—you just step in the entrance and get transported to a different cave entrance somewhere else. Unless you step into the cave entrance and get killed by a bunch of creatures with evil eyes (the only thing you ever see).
  • The Hollow from Primal Rage.
  • The entirety of the first two Descent games, sometimes crossing into Lethal Lava Land. Justified in that you're flying through mines to clear out berserk mining robots.
  • The final levels of Plok (pictured above, middle-left) take place in the Flea Pit.
  • World of Warcraft has several although Ahn'Kahet qualifies the best. It is an underground city that here and there borders natural subterranean life. It features large, glowy mushrooms, insects of different types and sizes and bioluminiscent birds/bats that fly around. It also contains large number of undead that took over the city as well as the few surviving Nerubians that orginally inhabited the city. While the dungeon itself is fairly linear, players are able get a good view of the massive underground caverns from ledges and combinations of creepy music, darkness and mysterious whispers (courtesy of an Old God under whose range of influence the city is located) make this place quite Nightmare Fuellerific. It was originally meant to be part of a whole underground region.
  • The entire setting of Manic Miner (duh).
  • The "Melon Mines" level of the Commander Keen episode Keen Dreams and the cave levels of Secret of the Oracle.
  • All of Touhou Project: Subterranean Animism is like this as the plot requires the characters to investigate a disturbance coming from the underground. Except the extra stage, which revisits a location from the previous game. note 
  • Sector 5 of Jumper Two is an underground cave which Ogmo fell into while asleep.
  • Turok 2: Seeds of Evil: The Lair of the Blind Ones.
  • The Old Underground Metro Area, a forgotten city district engulfed by an earthquake and used as a base for the new city, in F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate. There aren't any human enemies in the two levels it spans, which doesn't make them any less terrifying. In fact, the sheer amount of hostile apparitions probably makes the place the games' very first Big Boo's Haunt.
  • Rock Raiders. The entire game is an Underground Level.
  • Huge chunks of the Gears of War franchise.
  • Any of the caves in Terraria.
  • The Catacombs and Tomb of the Giants in Dark Souls.
  • The Fallout series has featured underground areas from the beginning, ranging from the buried Vaults and their entrance tunnels to mines and abandoned subways.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a number of mines and underground cities to explore, usually infested with weapon-eating golems and corrisive blobs.
  • Athena has World of Cavern as the second level.
  • The ancient Vanu caverns in PlanetSide. Megalithic rock formations, giant crystals composed of nanites, multiple vertical levels, zip-lines, and abandoned (but totally functional) Vanu buildings.
  • Stage 5 (Maclonna Mine) in Moon Crystal.
  • Psycho Fox has two: Stage 5 (Underground Passageway) and Stage 7 (Underground Cavern).
  • Project Eden is almost entirely set underground. This being a scifi game, underground means "abandoned and decaying ruins of the megacity that now spans above" rather than "damp caves". Occasionally overlaps with Beneath the Earth, as a few game areas are inhabited by neutral NPCs.
  • In Sly Spy, the sixth level is in a cavern leading to an underground hideout.
  • Terranigma has a cavernous dungeon inside the Ra Tree.
  • The Floor is Jelly has a large underground cavern that serves as the Hub Level. The cavern, besides being ridiculously bouncy like everything else in the game, is also populated with strange and magnificent flora as well as the occasional frog, the latter causing small wobbles through the ground as they hop around.
  • The Turbo-Grafx 16 Shoot 'em Up Dead Moon has a Moon cave stage, though the underground environment here has little significance except parallax-scrolling stalactites.