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"Another day, another death course..."

The linear version of the Death Trap, the Death Course is a gauntlet through which a hero must pass, using all their acrobatic skills, guile, Le Parkour, and witty bravado. The hero may have to traverse a narrow walkway hundreds of feet in the air while avoiding swinging blades, guillotines, statues that fire lasers at them, mechanical hands that grab him and throw him off the path to fall to his death, boulders that roll along the path to bowl them over, molten metal pouring from the ceiling, Pit Traps, etc. If they fall victim to just one obstacle or hazard, then the ordeal — and their life — is over. Essentially a sequence of Booby Traps, with Everything Trying to Kill You.

These can be found in:

Any of the pitfalls included under Death Trap may be used in the Death Course, along with a few mobile classics of its own:

The Death Course makes a mundane walk in the park into a slightly less sadistic version of football training camp. It's common in video games where hazards are commonplace — in particular, Platform Hell games are built out of these — and action series. Sometimes, there are Dungeon Bypasses available.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One features in the second episode of Angel Beats! in the form of anti-Angel traps on the path to Guild which the heroes must themselves traverse. They don't see it is a big deal because in their world, Death Is Cheap.
  • Class 3-E in Assassination Classroom must also run through one to reach the main campus for an assembly. The course entails crossing a river, dodging boulders, snakes, and Bee Hives. The real kicker is they have to make it there and line up before all the other classes.
  • The Dog Race in Deadman Wonderland features swinging pendulum blades, flamethrowers, electrified water, and a disintegrating floor that empties into a pit of spikes. Because DW is a publicly open prison/themepark, the horrific deaths and disfigurements that result from this race explained as "special effects" a la a stunt show.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed discovers one of these on his way into the Fifth Laboratory. After the first few traps, though, he gets sick of it and transmutes the hallway to have perfectly smooth, unbroken walls and walks straight through.
  • Gintama had one in an episode involving an art museum. It included a Corridor Cubbyhole Run, Spikes of Doom, a treadmill floor and a 100% normal old man, his wife, their son and their grandson riding on said treadmill
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team: La Verite has one hidden under the front lawn of the mansion.
  • Kill la Kill uses one of these during the "no late" episode; no star students have to brave the death course, and the only reward they get for making it past all the traps to arrive in class on time is that they don't get kicked out of school! The course includes many of the mobile classics listed in the trope description (giant rolling ball, stairs that become slides, laser hallway, pit traps) as well as a few local specials.
  • The offshore oil rig/cathedral from roughly the middle of Sailor Moon's third season. Complete with flying panels and completely different panels that shoot apparently invisible darts.
  • A very short over-land one shows up in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, consisting mainly of about a half-dozen spike traps and an ambush by a swarm of Buzzbombers.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has two whole temples that run on this trope.

    Comic Books 
  • In an issue of Catwoman, Catwoman had to navigate one of these in order to get into an ancient temple buried beneath the Sahara. She wondered why all of the traps were in such good working order after centuries of disuse, only to realise that her rival Hellhound had got there ahead of her and had repaired and reset all of the traps on his way in to slow her down.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: The Don Rosa Scrooge McDuckstory "Treasure of the Ten Avatars". Scrooge and Donald are trying to get through an old Hindu temple, with each room containing a deathtrap. Huey, Dewey and Louie are supporting them from outside, using a control panel that provides solutions for each of the traps themed after the god Vishnu's ten mortal avatars, the dashavatara.
  • A hero-villain inversion occurs in Sin City. Marv sets fire to Kevin's house, lures him out with gunshots, tries to trip him up with razor wire, sets up his coat as a decoy, tries to lob his head off with a hatchet, and then just resorts to handcuffing him and punching him in the face. Marv only wins by baiting Kevin into close combat so that Marv can snap the handcuff onto Kevin's wrist.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): In Queen Hippolyta's desperation to prevent her daughter's foretold death as Wonder Woman she secretly adds multiple incredibly dangerous obstacles to the race that is the last portion of The Contest to slow Diana down. Philippus tries to talk Hippolyta out of it but the queen won't have it.
  • X-Men:
    • The Danger Room, in its first incarnation, is one of these, although controlled by the participants.
    • This is Arcade's MO - for a fee, he'll capture heroes and put them in a death trap (Murderworld) of his own devising. One wonders why villains don't just pay him to capture and collect their unconscious foes.
      • Because that's Arcade's 'thing'. He's gotta put them through the Death Course, that's where the fun is!
      • He is also willing to rent his courses out to various villains so that they can train.

    Fan Works 
  • In Minions Naruto's apartment building is a massive Death Course trapped to hell and back by the other tenants there who are all former Anbu. Naruto even admits part of why he wears orange (besides it being his favorite color) is because it makes him highly visible and thus makes them feel safer.
  • A downplayed version is used for the Slytherin Quidditch tryouts in The Rigel Black Chronicles. It probably wouldn't actually kill you; the giant swinging blade isn't sharp, and no doubt someone would provide medical attention if the artificial lightning made you catch fire, or six Bludgers at once knocked you off your rain-slick broom when your cold-numbed hands lost their grip. It does scare off any players who aren't serious, and intimidate the competition, though.
  • Orochimaru's bases prove to be this in A Teacher's Glory which is why Team Inferno simply shoot fire and wind techniques down the air vents to turn said bases into giant ovens.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the direct to video sequel An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island, Fievel and his friends pass through a Death Course while exploring underground caverns on their way to the hideout of an underground tribe of Native American mice. Later on in the film some corrupt policemen are tricked into going through the death course themselves. There are noticeably fewer of them after they come out the other side.
  • One appears in the song "One Last Hope" from Hercules.
  • Shifu's temple from Kung Fu Panda has one of these.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The setting of the film Cube, and its two sequels are essentially a Death Course of bureaucratically ambiguous origin. The Cube itself is a cubical maze composed of smaller cubical rooms. Not all the rooms are trapped, but the clues to avoiding them are buried in the coordinates of each room. The traps themselves include things like razor wire, acid spray, and hypersonic sound.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons (2000) movie had a Death Course used for training in the Thieves' Guild, which the hero had to run. By purest coincidence, the guildmaster was played by Richard O'Brien, who used his Catch Phrases from The Crystal Maze.
  • Escape Room (2017): The entire escape room is a death course, with the occupants only having one hour to figure out all of the puzzles and escape. Even if a player does solve a puzzle, they might still be killed if they do not act quickly enough.
  • Escape Room (2019): The escape rooms in this film are a set of interconnected rooms with varying hazards, puzzles, and time limits. Some can be solved with no casualties, while others are designed to only let one or two survivors make it out.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the characters are moving through a spaceship based on the one in the TV show they starred in. When there's a Death Course down one corridor, one asks why the heck such a thing would be in a spaceship. The answer is, of course, because it was in the TV show.
    "Whoever wrote this episode should DIE!"
  • The tunnel network explored by The Goonies certainly qualifies; while it didn't kill anyone in the movie, its traps had caused the death of Mr. Copperpot some decades before.
  • Inverted in the Home Alone series, in that it's the villains who are forced to negotiate a Death Course, designed by the protagonist.
  • From the old kung fu movie, House of Traps, the title house is such a course. Intruders, upon entering it's ground level, will be granted by spikes extending from the floors, and if they tried rushing for the stairs in the center in order to avoid those spikes, the stairs will shoot out blades, capable of slicing off half the foot of anyone on it (as an unfortunate infiltrator finds out early in the film). It is possible to out-maneuver the staircase trap by leaping into the air, but the ceiling will then unleash a spiked cage that impales or traps anyone that gets too close. Either that, or they dodge the ceiling... and end up landing on the spikes on the ground level.
  • Indiana Jones
  • James Bond movies:
  • The Pacifier has Vin Diesel forced to navigate a ludicrously booby-trapped room (flamethrowers, spikes, an acid pit, poison gas), that can only be passed by doing the goofy dance the Disappeared Dad taught his youngest kid.
  • The path into Alcatraz in The Rock.
  • In Shark Week, Tiburon makes his captives run through a death course which essentially consists of a series of Shark Pools with traps between them.
  • In the later half of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Anakin and Padme have to survive through what amounts to the unsafe Factory version.
  • The entrance to Lex Luthor's lair in Superman, particularly in the extended cut of the movie that didn't make it into theaters.
  • In 1972's anthology Tales from the Crypt, the abusive manager of a home for the blind gets his comeuppance when the visually-impaired men he's been mistreating lock him in his office and construct a Death Course through which he must exit, with hundreds of razor blades set into the walls of a very narrow passage. They wait until he's squeezed his painful way through it once, then sic his own attack dog on him and turn out the lights.
  • The opening of the "Weird Al" Yankovic movie UHF is a loving parody of the famous Indiana Jones sequence, right down to the giant rolling stone ball. However, this one can navigate and turn corners.

  • In the Alex Rider book Eagle Strike, Alex is thrown into an exact replica of a Aztec level of a video game by the game's creator. This features darts, slippery surfaces, a robot snake which is a real snake in body armor and two Aztec gods (guards in costume).
  • In The Bands of Mourning, the heroes need to get past one of these in the local Temple of Doom to find the titular Bands. They cheat by sending their kandra MeLaan to trigger and No-Sell all the traps. The detective Wax thinks there's something wrong with the whole setup; the temple was allegedly built by a god and his priests to keep the Bands safe for his return, so why have such spectacularly lethal traps and risk dying himself? He's not satisfied when Allik explains that the traps simply wouldn't work on him, especially since a god who could survive those traps wouldn't need the Bands in the first place. That's because the trapped corridors doesn't lead to the Bands at all. The real Bands aren't bracers at all, but the spearhead on the giant statue at the entrance of the temple.
  • In the Discworld books,
    • In Jingo, it is heavily implied that Lord Vetinari has one of these set up in the passage that leads to Leonard of Quirm's cell. Leonard designed it himself, since the purpose of the cell isn't to keep the unworldly genius in, but people with an interest in doodles of unstoppable war machines out.
    • The Lost Jewelled Temple Of Doom Of Offler The Crocodile God (from Reaper Man) contains one of these, successfully traversed (for the first time) by Death. Hearing his progress, the priests note that "a chap with a whip got as far as the big spikes last week."
    • Small Gods features this as a security precaution against visiting dignitaries from hostile lands. They didn't count on the main character's photographic memory.
    • In Pyramids, there's a description of the examination course that Assassin students go through at the end of their training. Not everyone survives.
    • In Sourcery, the route to the treasure room of the Seriph of Klatch contains ... well, they're not exactly deadly traps, being more along the lines of a Bucket Booby-Trap, an Electric Joy Buzzer, etc. And they've mostly stopped working, since it wasn't a Durable Deathtrap either. Double-subverted right at the end with the massive limestone block that drops from the ceiling with "LAUGH THIS ONE OFF" carved on it, and which still works perfectly.
  • Encountered and lampshaded in one of the memory vignettes in the Forgotten Realms novel Elminster in Hell, in which an adventuring wizard runs one of these and finds it so traditional that she can basically predict the traps as they come. Justified in this case as the creator of these traps wanted sufficiently competent wizards to get past them so he could steal their bodies for himself.
  • The Games in The Hunger Games, especially when the Tributes settle down into a comfortable recovery period / stalemate. The Capitol defenses use much of the same design aesthetic. The Capitol placed a series of deactivated "pods" throughout the city, each containing a different hazard so that potential enemies would not be able to predict a safe route.
  • In the Young Bond novel Hurricane Gold, El Huracán has La Avenida de la Murete: a death course where all the challenges are based on legends of the Mayan gods.
  • Near the end of Inheritance, (the last book of the ''Inheritance Cycle') Eragon, Saphira, Elva, Arya, and eleven other elves make their way through a hallway filled with traps to get to the Big Bad.
  • The eponymous castle Malevil is well, a castle. See the Real Life section below.
  • In Robert Silverberg's 1968 novel The Man In The Maze, an abandoned alien city on the planet Lemnos is one vast Death Course, including every sort of deathtrap imaginable. The outer sections are the most dangerous, but there are traps even in the central area where (presumably) the builders lived. Who built it, and why, is a complete mystery.
  • In The Mouse Watch, Big Bad Dr. Thornpaw traps the captured Watchers in a deadlier version of the mazes he was subjected to as a test animal.
  • The Scholomance: The graduation ceremony from the Scholomance involves running through a long hall filled with monsters. Normally, only half of those who make it through all four years to that point survive (or rather ~80+% of the Enclaver kids survive, and rather fewer of everyone else).
  • In Matthew Reilly's books Seven Deadly Wonders and The Six Sacred Stones almost all the action sequences take place in Death Courses.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River:
    • Upon hearing of the evacuation order, Sid and Ryan realize that they'll have to go back through the rising water to escape the Grand Canyon.
    • When Lake Powell drops and marinas are closed, the Crawfords have to sail around Antelope Island to get to one of the last working marinas, right past the failing Glen Canyon Dam.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: At the evil Wizarding School which serves as the book's setting, 'orientation' turns out to be a gigantic obstacle course full of magical death traps.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Eliminator from American Gladiators was a toned down version of this. The two contenders would have to traverse a variety of obstacles, typically including (but not limited to) spinning cylinders, a climbing net, a zip line and a set of reverse treadmills. The Gladiators themselves would be involved, either enforcing penalties or operating/using some of the obstacles.
  • Angel runs through one of these to save Darla's life, though it should be noted that this was set up for the explicit purpose of testing the mettle of applicants to a specific and quite powerful supernatural favor.
  • The Avengers (1960s) loved this trope. Another episode had a Death Course in the form of an agent-killing automated factory.
  • The episode "Legacy" of Criminal Minds had a villain who would capture and put anyone he deemed useless to society (prostitutes, junkies, vagrants, etc.) in a meat plant he had inherited, which he filled with such pleasant things as vicious dogs, noxious gas spewing vents and a room filled entirely with broken glass. Though he told his captives that he would let them go if they found the exit within a certain amount of time this appeared to just be a means of inspiring false hope and in the end he'd just vivisect them with lots of nasty looking tools.
  • British game show The Crystal Maze (hosted by Richard "Riff-Raff" O'Brien of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame) presented a much-toned down version as the central set piece of the program.
  • In one episode of The Goodies, Graeme makes a death course for the sole purpose of committing suicide - and ends up walking blindfolded through the whole thing unscathed in order to answer the telephone.
  • The obstacles in Knightmare - the only children's game show where you could (virtually) die by being impaled on spikes, sawn in half by giant blades, having your head knocked off by flying bits of masonry, falling into bottomlessness after stepping on the wrong tile of an Indiana Jones-style causeway, and so on and so forth.
  • The game shows Legends of the Hidden Temple, Viking: The Ultimate Warrior and Sasuke (known as Ninja Warrior in North America) have these either as stages or take place within them entirely.
  • An episode of The Lucy Show, of all things, has one of these - Lucy's bank built it to protect its vault in order to entice Jack Benny to keep his money there. Naturally, she has to give Benny a "tour".
    • For that matter, Jack Benny's never displayed (if you discount the Looney Toons cartoon version) vault.
  • MacGyver (1985) features several death courses, some linear, some (implicitly) not, typically they are associated with his arch-nemesis Murdoc. One particularly blatant episode, "Halloween Knights" (which has a rather "Man with the Golden Gun" feel) involved a reformed Murdoc enlisting Mac's help to save Murdoc's sister, and being forced to traverse a linear Death Course by Murdoc's former mentor appropriately called "Death Row".
  • The New Avengers uses one of these disguised as a British agent training course. Agents would be shot with harmless little darts to show whether they passed. The villains poisoned the darts.
  • The title character of "The Girl Who Was Death", an episode of The Prisoner (1967) played like a '60s spy movie, set up a death course for No.6 in a movie set/ghost town, with appropriate obstacles in the butcher's, baker's, and candlestick-maker's shops, like triggered machine guns, trap doors, deadly electrified spikes, land mines, and poison-laced exploding candles.
  • Raven gives us the "Way of the Warrior", a perilous obstacle course with many traps with one goal in mind; the elimination of warriors. Swinging axes, shields that moved in and out, swinging barrels and jaws that moved up and down, etc. stood between a warrior and victory. Anybody who was knocked off the path was automatically out of the game. Only four contestants were ever able to defeat it.
  • Stargate SG-1 has a couple of these. Firstly in the Season 2 episode 'Thor's Chariot', and then in the Season 7 episode 'Evolution, Part 1'.
  • The games in Takeshi's Castle, known in America as MXC, features a segmented one consists of various obstacles and challenges throughout a single episode.
  • In The Walking Dead, when we see Morgan again since the pilot episode, he has turned an entire town into this.

  • Pink Floyd, in the Title Track of The Final Cut:
    If you negotiate the minefields in the drive
    And beat the dogs
    And cheat the cold electronic eyes
    And if you make it past the shotguns in the hall...

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Robo Rally, each of the players navigates a robot through a Death Course created by a bored central control computer.
  • Tomb of Horrors. The module's plot revolves around the tomb of the demilich Acererak. The player characters must battle their way past a variety of monsters and traps, with the ultimate goal of destroying Acererak.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate, most particularly the second one, where a Death Course is seen as a training ground for the Shadow Thieves of Amn.
  • Many Source Engine games such as Counter-Strike, Garry's Mod and Team Fortress 2 feature a fan-made game mode called "Death Run" where one person is given the ability to set off a variety of different traps while everyone else tries to make it to the end of a deadly obstacle course filled with lasers, pitfalls, spikes, spears, falling rocks, memes, doors that kill you, explosions and whatever else a sadistic map designer might think to cram in there, with the prize often being the ability to lock the trap activator in a chamber which kills them or play a minigame.
  • The Crash Bandicoot games are mostly a combination of the various types of Death Courses, with most of the pitfalls included. And the second and third games actually have special areas, marked with skull and crossbone platforms, that change to more ominous music and (in some cases), turn the Death Course factor up.
  • Sen's Fortress in Dark Souls has giant pendulum blades, Indiana Jones-style boulders chucked at you, hard-hitting and damage-absorbent Serpent Men, and a tar pit filled with not one but FOUR of the tougher mini-bosses in the game just in case you survive the fall down. Interestingly, this is one of the few Death Courses that has an explanation - it's a proving grounds for warriors seeking entry into Anor Londo, the city of the gods, and only the absolute toughest may pass; all of the nasty contraptions were built on purpose for weeding out the unworthy.
  • About halfway through Dead Space 2, Tiedemann seals Isaac in a section of the Sprawl meant for processing hazardous waste. This includes several large, sharp, spinning objects that will kill you if you get too close. Which must be navigated in Zero G.
  • Creating these are the whole point of the Deception trap-simulation games. Extra points for combos! Spring Wall+Giant Flaming Boulder+Floor Spikes+Electric Chair+Lava Wall= 1 very dead pursuer. Clearly these creaky old mansions are not held to OSHA standards, either.
  • The Distorted Travesty series hardly offers a room that is not a death course. No wonder the second game is advertised by a mounting body count.
  • Doritos Crash Course, being inspired by shows like Ninja Warrior and Wipeout, is naturally filled with these.
  • In Double Homework, the protagonist and the girls make their escape from an avalanche on skis. The trees in the area would have been lethal to anyone who would have crashed into them.
  • The final level on the path to the fourth ending of Drakengard involves having to fly your dragon in, around, and between legions of eldritch abominations. If you take three hits or so from their homing attacks, you fail.
  • You can make these in Dungeon Keeper being a Villain Protagonist and all.
  • Dwarf Fortress lets you build these as a very effective method of keeping your fortress safe from invaders. Interestingly, you can make an auxiliary entrance which invaders are forced to take when your drawbridge is up or your main entrance is sealed off in some other way. This entrance, of course, can be extremely long and extremely deadly.
  • The most fun part of the game Evil Genius was creating death courses for the AI heroes to attempt. The more elaborate they were, the more points you got if they tripped them.
    • It was less fun when you realized they were killing a lot more of your own minions than of the enemies.
      • Psh. That just makes it *more* fun. What good are minions if they're not expendable?
  • Fallout 4:
    • One of the game's more famous unmarked locations is a parking garage located next to the Fallon's Department Store in Roxbury that some sadist has converted into a deadly obstacle course filled with traps, explosives, turrets, ghouls, and all sorts of imaginative traps. Completing the course nets a decent reward in the form of two cages full of very good loot; however, if one cage is opened, the contents of the other are automatically destroyed, so the player must pick carefully.
    • The Nuka World DLC starts the player off in the Gauntlet, a Death Course set up by the Raiders who control the theme park in the service tunnels beneath it as a way of amusing themselves. There's creatures, mines, deadly gas, and all the usual fun to be expected. Those lucky enough to survive the Gauntlet will find themselves in one final Boss Battle with the current Overboss of the park. If the challenger beats the Overboss, they assume leadership of Nuka World and the gangs within, kicking off the main storyline.
  • In The Force Unleashed, the Death Star level consists of a series of Laser Hallways on steroids.
  • FunOrb has "Tomb Racer", a Death Course game set in a Temple of Doom, featuring as many deathtrap tropes as the creators could think of.
  • God of War has two areas that are intentional Death Courses, rather than being naturally inhospitable or dangerous due to damage: The Temple of Pandora (including the Cliffs of Madness), and Hades. The Temple of Pandora is justified, as it's explicitly designed for the sole purpose of killing anyone unworthy of obtaining Pandora's Box.
  • In Gruntz, each level amounts to this, and they get harder and harder as you go. You have to get past enemy gruntz, floors decorated with sharp spikes, eternally rolling boulders, holes in the ground, pits filled with oil, tar and such, and that's not even half of it...
  • Every single room in Hargrave is one of these. Spikes, flamethrowers, laser hallways, industrial mashers, conveyor belts, turrets, etc., some of which require precision platforming to survive. The entire point of the game is to carefully avoid every death trap in a room, collect the power cell hidden behind them, and exit the room without getting killed. If you get killed after collecting a power cell, Hargrave will re-materialize where he started, but without the power cell.
  • The K'chekrik Gauntlet in Heretic 2.
  • In Infernal Runner, the numerous land mines are merely the most common and least elaborate form of Death Trap, justifying the presence of (lifeless) skeletons on every screen.
  • This is the entire point of I Wanna Be the Guy. It would be redundant to list the numerous things that will kill The Kid throughout the game, but suffice to say that every single screen is enough to make the proudest Adventure Archaeologist shit bricks.
  • Jak II: Renegade has Mar's tomb, where the heir of Mar must face the Trials of Manhood to be awarded the Precursor Stone.
  • The final level Jedi Outcast is a Temple of Doom leading to the duel with Desann.
  • The world of Jumper is basically this.
  • One can say that Agrabah's Cave of Wonders, and the Light Cycle arenas in Space Paranoids and The Grid are death courses in the Kingdom Hearts series.
  • The Shadow Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is full of deadly guillotines, spinning Blade Traps, platforms with spikes underneath that come crashing down on you, and lethal Bottomless Pits.
  • First two Max Payne games have a level where you have to run through a building as it is burning down around you, escaping by finding the "safe route" out of the fire and generally straight into the arms of the baddies.
  • Games with Level Editors can allow players to make Death Courses. Such as a Mega Man Powered Up level where the floor and every platform are made from Spikes of Doom, or a Halo 3 multiplayer map where all the teleporters and spawn points are placed outside the map's border.
  • Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks has a good number of these.
  • N in all its incarnations is just a ninja Le Parkouring through Death Courses.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Castle levels, when they aren't simply using perplexing puzzles to keep Mario from advancing, are the purest example, until New Super Mario Bros. introduced tower levels, which are like castles but almost entirely vertical. One of Bowser's Super Smash Bros. classic tropies suggest the real reason he kidnaps Peach is to lure Mario into traps.
    • Mario Party 2 has the minigame Dungeon Dash, unlocked after purchasing at least 35 minigames from Woody. Two teams of characters attempt to escape from a castle area full of obstacles, such as Lava Bubbles hopping from lava pits and Thwomps. They move by alternating between tilting the Control Stick left and right. The team that reaches the exit first will win.
    • Mario Party 4: The minigame Dungeon Duos takes place in a long, complex dungeon filled with puzzles and obstacles, and splits the players into two teams. Each team requires coordination to overcome the obstacles, namely removing walls that obstruct one partner's path, making a gizmo spin to help a partner cross a pitfall, tackle a Pipe Maze, and inflate a hot-air balloon so they can finally escape together.
    • Mario Party 6:
      • The minigame Lift Leapers has all characters race through a prolonged obstacle course based on moving platforms above pits. The course is divided into four segments, and each player transitions between them via Warp Pipes. Whoever makes it to the end first wins.
      • The minigame Cog Jog has two dueling characters race through a large machinery area across rotating cogs to reach the other side. The cogs spin quite fast, so timing the jumps will be key to win here.
    • Mario Party 7: Three of Bowser's minigames teem around this, each employing a different flavor:
      • Funstacle Course! has all four players running away from Koopa Kids who are sitting in mobile turrets, escaping through a course featuring things like Thwomps, moving platforms, and precarious paths with holes in them.
      • Magmagical Journey! has all four players jump onto fragile rock platforms in an underground river of magma while the screen scrolls forward. The Koopa Kids, meanwhile, are riding minecarts across rails placed in both sides of the river, and from which they shoot boiling rocks at the players.
      • Funderwall! combines this with Climbing Climax, as all four players are climbing a tall chainlink fence to reach the top of a skyscraper. But as they do this, they have to dodge the spiked rotators placed on the fences as well as the Koops Kids' flamethrower attacks.
    • Mario Party 8: An Invoked Trope with the minigame Thrash 'n' Crash. Three characters are riding skateboards across a skating course, while the fourth player is riding a large hovercraft and commanding the trigger of several obstacles in an attempt to make them crash against them and be disqualified: Making a pile of oil pipes fall, make a Warp Pipe shoot a Bullet Bill, make a large wooden wheel roll, or make a Whomp pound itself onto the ground. The characters riding the skateboards must not only avoid those hazards but also avoid clashing against the walls holding the ladders used by people to leave the course. The solo character wins if they manage to make all three rivals clash against something to disqualify them; but if at least one member of the escaping trio manages to survive the antics for 30 seconds, then the trio wins.
  • Not a typical example of a death course, but the entire concept of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is that nine people are kidnapped and forced to play the "Nonary Game", a game of life of death. The objective of the game is to make it through the "course" set up, in order to escape the slowly sinking ship in time. Due to a bomb being placed in all the contenders' stomachs, any breaking of the rules results in immediate detonation, and therefore death. In reality the entire game is set up to be completely harmless, with there being no bombs in anyone's stomach (apart from two people). The game simply gave the impression of constant danger. The reason for this was that the game was set up to be completely symmetrical to what Akane had seen in the past, when she was looking into the future. It was for this reason that various people WERE killed in the game; however, everyone else was always fated to be completely fine, due to how and why the game was set up. In addition to this, the game was based on a experiment from years back, that was used to test the idea of morphogenetic fields. The only difference between the two being that the original was tested on 9 pairs of child siblings, and did have genuine risk of death involved.
  • The Gauntlet in Nox, through which prospective Warriors must fight their way to show they've got what it takes.
  • Ōkami: Oni Island is a huge deathtrap... which is apparently entertainment for the local youkai. There are even rules for these areas posted on a small, hard-to-miss sign right before them. They're hosted by Tobi, the game master for the largest of these death courses.
  • Orcs Must Die! runs on you creating these, pushing, crushing, smashing piercing, slicing, burning, electrocuting, bludgeoning, freezing and impaling hapless orcs.. Then there's the catapult trap which, when placed correctly, can catapult the orcs all the way back to the beginning of said death course.
  • Portal: The entire Aperture Science Enrichment Center appears expressly designed to murder its test subjects by exposure to vaporizing balls of energy, highly toxic liquids, fatal drops, hyperactive sentry turrets — and that's just the test chambers. And once you escape and go hunting for GLaDOS, the environments become actively murderous.
  • Portal 2: Not only are the tests back, with some new elements like high energy lasers, but there are two sequences where the AI in charge resorts to the Malevolent Architecture of the Enrichment Center in an attempt to kill you directly, and you are forced to run for it through gauntlets of crushing walls and endless drops. Further, in the second act of the game, you descend into the abandoned test facilities beneath the modern ones, which make you contend not only with the tests but also all the broken catwalks and decaying environments between them.
  • Prince of Persia, since day one, has had these in every castle of the ancient world. There are some paranoid sultans out there, apparently. (In Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, it's slightly more reasonable — the Death Courses aren't activated until partway through, whereupon the Prince helps a guard set them off to deal with the invading menace. Only after the fact does he realize he's just trapped himself behind the security... and it does nothing to the enemies. He actually notes this aloud.)
  • The Quadwrangle Mansion in Quantum Conundrum is full of lasers, deadly goo, giant turbines, and machines that spew safes everywhere. The deadly goo is not supposed to be there, but one still has to wonder why the Professor built it like this.
  • Quest for Glory I has two of these, the first played straight, the second played for laughs. In the first, there are brigand archers on either side of the room, a trap door hidden under a rug (with a "Walk here" sign on it, written kinda shakily as if the writer were laughing at the time), two tripwires, and a bridge that dumps you into a pit if you walk on it. The second death course is designed by the brigand warlock (who is actually the old court jester following the cursed daughter of the baron, who leads the brigands), and considering his nature, it almost makes sense that the room completely and totally defies logic. Doors will fall off their hinges and dump you into pits, which causes you to roll through a hole in the wall on the other side of the room and into another pit... which then dumps you out of the same exact hole. It doesn't help that the warlock himself is throwing things at you the entire time, and laughs while you roll along. Additionally, the room has Escher Physics, and walking through a door on one end brings you out on the other side. It actually hangs a lampshade on it with one of messages: "M.C. Escher would love this place."
    • Fortunately, you can get the Warlock out of your hair in the original EGA version by letting him know you're there to help Elsa once you get him to spill the beans over his identity. Granted, you don't need him out of the way to advance, but it's certainly annoying contending with his booby traps and him at the same time. For some reason, this completely logical solution to half that puzzle was removed from the VGA remake.
  • The Ratchet & Clank games have a few, most often arranged as futuristic game-shows like "Annihilation Nation". One of these is literally called "Path of Death", another simply "Death Course." Lampshaded in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, where, upon being told that the only way to retrieve a mission-critical item is to run through the Annihilation Nation death course, Ratchet responds nonchalantly with the quote at the top of this page, much to the surprise of his companions. And that's only the third game.
  • In the Rick Dangerous series almost all levels are death courses.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has the Labyrinth Zone boss in particular, which has spikes and fireball traps, and rising water.
  • Strife features the Training Facility.
  • The final mission of Thief: The Dark Project. You weren't expecting a place called The Maw of Chaos to be easy to traverse, were you?
  • Tomb Raider, in which most of the tombs are equipped with diabolical anti-raider devices.
  • Parodied in Undertale, where Papyrus's "final and most dangerous challenge" is to set up a gauntlet of weapons on ropes that are supposed to "swing violently up and down" on command. However, in the end he can't bring himself to activate any of the traps — not even the dog — out of fear of actually hurting the protagonist.
  • Jack Vambrace, Treasure Hunter, is first introduced to the party in Wild ARMs while he is escaping from one of these in an ancient ruin.
  • In Wolfenstein (2009), whenever BJ acquires a new Veil power, the the game will feature a brief segment immediately afterwards dedicated to learning and experimenting with its use. For Mire, which gives BJ the ability to slow down time, this takes the form of a series of corridors with projectiles flying down them at near-bullet velocities; the player must use Mire in order to avoid being hit.

  • 8-Bit Theater: Defied. To become the bearded warriors and therefore told the earth orbs location the light warriors are supposed to go through the four hundred bearded trials of strength. Black Mage solves it (almost) single-handedly by hadokening the whole course.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the titular Dr. McNinja was hired to infiltrate an ancient temple full of these, blocking a tennis robot which supposedly destroys the world if it's not beaten in tennis.
  • Champions of Far'aus: The last room in the House of insanity that Skye and Karla have to go through is this, with Spikes of Doom on the floor, a Pendulum of Death right at the end of those, and then a pit filled with Lunacy potion that has a sea serpent swimming in it right after the pendulum, who won't let them across unless they answer his three riddles.
  • Darths & Droids. Pete puts the party through the factory sequence from Attack of the Clones while subbing for the regular GM, all because of something that Jim and the others did in a previous RP. They eventually make it through by SHEER LUCK, as revealed in a review by the original GM, who remarks "Wow... I don't see how anyone could make it through this..." This becomes a Hoist by His Own Petard for Pete as, when the regular GM returns, Pete's character is forced to make his way back through his own Death Course, thus missing out on all the action taking place at the same time.
  • Detox Camp: One exists for the "entertainment" of the campers, complete with a 100-foot drop into a pit full of bones. A monthly victim is selected by (un)popular vote.
  • Girl Genius: Most of Castle Heterodyne has turned into one of these by the time Agatha enters it. Then again, it was originally one of these by design; it was also alive, and since it was damaged, has gotten crazier.
  • Oglaf features one of these, in the form of a Death Trap-store that was proud to showcase its merchandise, with the owner bragging that no one had ever escaped... the store closes in the final panel.
  • In Reality Experiment, one of the main characters has to run a death course to return to life after being killed. The price of failure is eternal torment. However, after being asked by the Grim Reaper('s assistant) to try to avoid the grinding gears at the beginning, since it jams the whole course and takes forever to clear up, the character throws the Grim Reaper into the gears to jam the whole course and run back to life.

    Western Animation 
  • Beware the Batman: In "Games", Humpty Dumpty traps Batman, Katana, Commissioner Gordon, Mayor Grange and Tobias Whale in a house full of death traps that they have to navigate their way through.
  • Clone High: Abe does a deadly obstacle course for a publicity stunt in "Episode Two: Election Blu-Galoo," to prove he is "cool" after signing on with X-Stream Blu.
  • In Danny Phantom, Fright Knight's entire castle is a Death Course!
  • Kim Possible has faced many, notably an ancient monkey temple in Cambodia in the episode "Monkey Fist Strikes".
  • In a episode of °Mucha Lucha!, Rikochet ends up taking on soccer, and is doing a rather... challenging drill. As exemplified by his coach: "You must run the course like your life depends on it! Because, a matter of fact... it does!"
  • My Little Pony:
  • Oh Yeah! Cartoons: The Dan Danger short "Danger 101" has Dan having to go back to his old school Thinkin' Lincoln Junior High to make up for a day in gym class he missed in his youth. He's horrified to find that he is to go through a series of dangerous obstacles (e.g. flamethrowers and quicksand pits), but manages to endure all the hazards by pretending he's in Puppy Town.
  • The Robot Chicken sketch You Bet Your Ass That's a Boulder shows you how the giant boulder death trap from Raiders of the Lost Ark was made: by a contractor who loves his job to absolute death. He works so hard to sell the GIANT ASS BOULDER that you almost wish it would squish Indy.
    • The game show "The Hall of Memory" is built on this trope with an Indiana Jones styles cavern corridor filled with traps. Each contestant gets to watch where the previous victims died in order to get a little further each time. The contestant who makes it across and is congratulated by the host is thrilled... until he points her to her prize, a bag of money suspiciously set on a stone pedestal. Sure enough, grabbing her prize triggers another trap that no one had seen up to this point.
  • Samurai Jack: Jack is lured inside a cave, only to find an elaborate death course inside (that has claimed many victims judging by the number of skeletons he finds along the way), with a terrifying rock monster at the end. The "monster" explains that he is actually a Viking warrior who once tried to fight Aku and got his ass kicked hard. Since dying in battle is something desirable for Vikings, and because Aku is a Jerkass, Aku decided not to kill him. Instead, Aku placed him in an unbreakable crystal prison where he would live forever, and then put the crystal in the middle of a mountain just for good measure. Over his centuries of imprisonment, the Viking managed to Charles Atlas his way to a Dishing Out Dirt superpower, and formed a body of rock around the crystal so he could move around and fight, then crafted the death course inside of the mountain so that only someone strong enough to give him the warrior's death he desired could reach his lair.
  • The Raiders death course is parodied at the beginning of The Simpsons episode "Milhouse Falls in Love."
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Green Goblin sets up one of these for Spider-Man and Tombstone in a refinery with No OSHA Compliance, stuffed to the gills with bombs.
  • Steven Universe faces a deadly assault course set up by the Crystal Gems in the episode "The Test", featuring rolling boulders, swinging axes, lava pits, walls of flame and descending spikes. Subverted as the whole assault course is set up to be completely harmless and impossible to fail; the gems made it to build Steven's self-confidence.
  • The ThunderCats episode "Tower of Traps" is, well, exactly as it says. It features a octopus type monster, swinging blades, trick stairs, and more. Fun for everyone involved!
  • The ThunderCats (2011) episode "Journey to the Tower of Omens" features a spinning blade version, and several other Booby Trap rooms in a Temple of Doom that blocks the way to the Tower of Omens.
  • Baxter Stockman subjects the turtles and fellow Shredder minions Fishface and Dogpound to a lengthy one of these in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012).
  • The inner depths of Titans are made up these in Transformers: Cyberverse.

    Real Life 
  • Castles, trench lines and other fortifications are typically designed to be a death course, at least for the attacking army. Storming a properly built fortification using a direct assault in practically any time period is an absolute suicide mission — there's a reason generals would often prefer to wait years on end to starve them out instead. Charging under interlocking fields of fire, crossing mine or trap fields (specifically designed to slow you down inside an interlocking field of fire), needing to somehow cross deep trenches or moats under interlocking fields of fire, scaling walls loaded up with murder holes (a little window you could stick a gun or a spear from) while the fellows on the other side try to pour boiling oil or molten lead over your head...
  • Worse still in a modern setting, where interlocking fields of projectile fire are much more capable, and where artillery fire starts raining down (with interlocking fields of coverage of course). In modern warfare, one strategy is to use passive defenses (such as walls, barbed wire, or land mines), and to make them as visible as possible (including signage helpfully warning you about the general location of the mines). This is so that when an enemy tries to move around these defenses, they will leave themselves exposed longer to aforementioned Interlocking Fields of Fire, invoking a case of Scylla and Charybdis.
  • The no-man's land between the two sides of the Berlin Wall was specifically designed to be this. It included smooth pipes on top of the wall, barbed wire, signal flares to help in guards' aim, sand troughs to aid guards, automatic machine guns on trip wires, attack dogs on long leashes and, land mines and nail traps, among other devices meant to keep spies from entering the Democratic Republic of Germany.
  • A particularly horrible example are death marches, where prisoners are made to march through a desert or other harsh environment until they die of thirst or fatigue.


Video Example(s):


Temple Run

The opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark set in a remote temple holding a golden idol, which includes a corridor with arrows shooting from the walls, Spikes of Doom and a giant rolling stone ball.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathCourse

Media sources: