Follow TV Tropes


Down the Drain

Go To
Oh, yuck! The sewer level! Okay, maybe this isn't so beautiful, but it sure is cool-looking, eh?
Clockwise from top left: 

"Ah, Toad Town Tunnels! Visit its scenic filthy streams that lead to who-knows-where! It's spectacularly disgusting! Come stay awhile! If you're not totally grossed out the first night, you stay for free!"
Goombario, Paper Mario 64

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, droplets falling from ceilings and pipes that hurt upon contact, 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. This can be aggravated in 3D games that require the player to swim freely in and under the water, usually due to the difficulty of controlling the player character in these situations, because swimming like this is a 3D movement, while most forms of input for video games are only 2D in nature.

See also Under the Sea for levels which are set in more natural aquatic environments. See also Absurdly-Spacious Sewer and/or Tunnel Network for this kind of setting outside the scope of videogame levels.

Not to be confused with Down L.A. Drain. Compare Tide Level.


    open/close all folders 

  • Afterimage: The Columns area is a sewer level, complete with water-based creatures. According to the backstory, it's an aqueduct system that was built to lead the abundant waters of the Emerald Falls directly to the royal city.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Freeway 42 starts off by progressing through an Abandoned Laboratory before entering an elevator leading into a large sewer that contains an Underground City with inhabitants living alongside the massive pipes against a hostile Barbarian Tribe blocking the path forward.
  • 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.
  • Cave Story: There's a level 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 Permanently Missable.
  • Castlevania:
  • La-Mulana: The Spring in the Sky 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 (2002): 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 fit this trope:
    • 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. Later on, the second dungeon of the Dark World, Swamp Palace, involves manipulating the flow and/or level of water.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: The Great Bay Temple 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 Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The first floor of the Tower of the Gods is flooded with water due to it being connected to the open sea, allowing you to move between rooms in the King of Red Lions. Most of the puzzles force you to rely on tides as they come and go, arranging wooden crates into a pathway when the water flows in and using them to depress switches when it drains away. Later in the game, there's the basement of the Private Oasis, which contains a Triforce Chart at the end of a murky sewer system that's infested with Rats and even a pair of ReDeads.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap features Hyrule Underground, a sewer that connects various parts of Hyrule Town from below, namely the well, a cave Link can dig through with the Mole Mitts, the yard of the Mayor's house, and surprisingly the school from beneath the principal's chair; entering through the former three entrances is necessary to push the small boulders into the holes and pull a treasure chest's column across the now-built path into another hole so the chest itself can be opened. Relatedly, Hyrule Town also has two areas that serve as the respective sources of the small river and the fountain; Link can get inside them in his Minish form, and doing so is necessary because there are major items in them (the Bracelet in the fountain's source, the Flippers in the river's) that will help him in the quest to eventually reach the Temple of Droplets.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has a literal sewer as the first level for Wolf Link. The sewer is revisited at a later point, but it's a briefer visit. There's also the Lakebed Temple, which involves changing water flow to make flywheels move, which cause platforms to move, as well as draining water into the center area to reach the boss's chamber.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The Ancient Cistern 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, are Big Boo's Haunt type.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: The Swamp Palace resembles a big sewer in the middle of a swamp and requires you to solve elaborate water-raising/water-lowering puzzles to traverse.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Divine Beast Vah Ruta is a giant mechanical elephant capable of generating a vast amount of water that it sprays out of its trunk. Its innards consist of various pumps, water wheels, and waterfalls that Link must traverse to free it from Ganon's influence. The Shrines found in watery areas have similar interiors.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: The Water Temple is a set of ancient Zonai structures levitating over the Lanayru region that is the source of the sludge pouring onto Zora's Domain. Link and Sidon have to work together to open valves, all while solving various water-manipulation puzzles, in order to flush out the Mucktorok producing the sludge in the main fountain.
  • Luigi's Mansion 3: The Boilerworks become an example of this once Clem floods the place. Reaching him requires shutting off the water to reverse this state.
  • Tomb Raider III: The second half of Lud's Gate, one of the most difficult areas, 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.
  • Metroid:
    • Super Metroid has Maridia, at least the areas that have an artificial base. You have to retrieve the Gravity Suit from the Wrecked Ship beforehand, as it lets you traverse the water unhindered.
    • Metroid Fusion has Sector 4, a section of the BSL station designed to hold various aquatic creatures. The first time you visit, exposed wires keep you from safely entering the water without getting electrocuted; you must lower the water level to change this.
    • Metroid Prime: Certain sections of both Tallon Overworld and Phendrana Drifts are filled with pools of water. The Tallon Overworld section in particular requires you to traverse the crashed Frigate Orpheon from the beginning of the game with the Gravity Suit.
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes features the very difficult (even by this game'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 (or in this case, the Gravity Boost).
  • Jak II: Renegade and Jak 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.
  • Mission: Impossible (Konami): Most of the first stage is spent exploring the massive sewers underneath Moscow to find the hidden Sinister Seven base. Naturally, falling into the water kills you, and there are multiple traps and a few Pushy Mooks trying to shove you in. Sewage pipes discharge at regular intervals over walkways, posing a hazard when crossing them.
  • Hollow Knight: The Royal Waterways are the sewer system of the City of Tears, with outlets to dump sewage into the Fungal Wastes and Kingdom's Edge, a connection to the Ancient Basin further below, and a large junk pit where the kingdom's refuse washes up. They're not huge, but the mapmaker is easy to miss, making it easy to get lost in the winding pipes. Its enemies consist primarily of a variety of giant, aggressive flukes; the area's primary boss is Dung Defender, a dung beetle who lives in a secluded room in the waste pits and who fights by throwing projectiles of... locally-sourced waste, while a secondary boss fight is had against the flukes' progenitor.
  • Overlord I: In order to bypass the closed bridge entrance into the castle city of Heaven's Peak, the player has to traverse a sewer-like network in order to enter the fortress from below. The sewer entrance is found in a nearby swamp that can only be accessed after the Overlord has obtained the aquatic Blue Minions in order to remove the piece of rubble blocking the sewer entrance. The Heaven's Peak sewers is filled with a variety of zombies that the Overlord and his Minions need to fight through to reach the city.
  • Urbanoids: Each level has a sewer system which is grey and full of robots. Stenchburg is a town that's small on the surface but has a vast network of these sewers, so the majority of the action takes place there.
  • Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter has a maze of subterranean canals beneath the Solomon Palace.

    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.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has a few of these, they tend to be long, full of SWAT teams, Agents and have really high places you have to cover allies...and blow up.
  • 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:
    • Devil May Cry: Dante has to go through the underground sections of Mallet Island's castle at some points. Early on from Mission 6, he has to traverse a maze-like waterway system, and it's where he first encounters the Death Scissors. Near the end-game, Dante falls through this same sewer area, where he has to fight Mundus for the last time.
    • 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.
    • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: The Chamber of Sins is a small sewage area of the tower, first accessed in Mission 5 if you fall down the chasm without the Soul of Steel item. After defeating the enemies, a portal sends you back to the previous room.
    • Devil May Cry 5: Mission 3 has you go through a sewer area after jumping across the rooftops of the flooded buildings. Qliphoth Roots have infested this area as well, and you end up in a library afterwards.
  • The Spider-Man (2000) 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.
  • Dino Crisis 2 has one such underwater level that's actually a very fun part of the game. You wear a diving suit that gives you unlimited air and is too heavy to swim (meaning you walk around only slightly slower than normal rather than screwy swimming controls) and the suit has built in jets allowing for a moon jump ability. Adding to this is the enemies here are slow moving large targets, allowing for a ton of free experience points. It could actually be considered a mid-game Breather Level.
  • A creepy example is featured in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, with bodies dissolving in acid pools and chilling background music.

    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: the first episode's fifth level, aptly named "Sewers", is a very big, labyrinthine and dimly-lit series of identical-looking grey-brown corridors and tunnels with lots of swimming and switch hunts. A few things make it even more aggravating than the average Down The Drain level: Turd Minions are the whole cut of opposition, the layout is confusing enough to get most players turned around several times, and there's absolutely no indication of what switch messes with what lock, forcing anyone who doesn't have perfect memories of the level's layout (or a walkthrough handy) to backtrack repeatedly to check each passageway for any changes after every single switch, and the drab environment has nothing for Leonard to drop a funny quip about. Overall it's a jarring change from the straightforward and quick pace of the previous levels that seems more like padding the shareware, and to the surprise of no one, it's considered by many to be among the worst parts of the game.
  • All Serious Sam games aside from BFE feature one of these.
    • The First Encounter has a brief sewer section while moving through Karnak. It's a Breather Level before Metropolis.
    • The Second Encounter has a fairly large underwater maze near the start of the Courtyards of Gilgamesh – NETRICSA even says she (somehow) can smell water, and a lot of it. The swim through is a real test of the Oxygen Meter, especially if you're going for all the secrets, but as a small mercy, there are very few Electro-Fish to worry about, and once you find the exit, it can be entered from either side, making searching through for secrets much more comfortable.
    • 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 Netricsa about it, and she says something about there being a mandatory sewer level in every game.
  • 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.
  • Doom and its mods:
    • MAP02 of Doom II: Hell on Earth, "Underhalls", is a sewer level, possibly the earliest one in a first-person shooter game. It's hard to notice, though, considering the "real-world" levels are incredibly abstract even before the forces of Hell start warping things, and that it's not particularly annoying compared to any of the other levels.
    • This kind of level, or at least location within a larger level, is common in Game Mods. Two examples that comes to mind is the entire second part of Eternal Doom's MAP04, "Nucleus", and the final stretch of Hellcore 2.0's MAP02, "Baron Streets".
    • 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 and moist, with enemies leaping at you from under the water, and several catwalks above big water tanks.
    • My House has the Bathhouse, inspired by Level 37 (Poolrooms) of The Backrooms.
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 both have maps where you spend a brief time within a sewer:
    • Part 3 of No Mercy, aptly named "The Sewer", has an Absurdly-Spacious Sewer with many passageways that lead to the hospital. Interestingly, only about a third of the level actually takes place in the sewer.
    • Death Toll gets special mention for having an entire chapter, "The Drains", take place in a sewer. Unlike most other sewers, it's accessed through a building on a cliffside rather than a manhole.
    • The Passing has the second part of the underground tour at the end of "The Underground" take place in the sewer, with a gauntlet to wrap it up. Also an Absurdly-Spacious Sewer, but wide open rather than maze-like, so the only reason to go in any direction other than straight towards the exit is to dodge infected.
    • The Parish, near the end of "The Cemetery". It's basically a straight shot that only goes about twenty feet before you get back out; the real danger is that it's cramped to the point a Charger is almost a death sentence in it, and it opens up into a field of alarmed cars.
    • Cold Stream's gauntlet finale also takes you on a short romp through a sewer tunnel, right after the scripted Tank attack.
    • The Suicide Blitz custom campaign takes its sweet time taking the player through Fort Harris County's sewer system. A lot less time is spent in it in its sequel, Suicide Blitz 2.
  • The original Call of Duty has a brief one early in the Soviet campaign, but it's not too sewer-levelish and contains no puzzles.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon has a few examples. Interestingly, they're not considered low points in the games, thanks to avoiding the usual sewer level trappings — the layout is not difficult to navigate, water is rarely and barely a hindrance, lighting and music differences from room to room keep the environments from feeling same-y, and there are multiple intense firefights. Last but certainly not least, the murky and enclosed industrial environments lend themselves to some huge scares.
    • The South River wastewater treatment plant (Interval 3) and part of Interval 5, in the lower levels of the Armacham HQ, both are very sewer-like.
    • One of the first levels in the Perseus Mandate standalone Expansion Pack takes place in a storm drain system a la Down L.A. Drain. You start at the surface and eventually into the drainage tunnels.
  • Blood
    • Blood (1997) waited until the third episode of four to have a dedicated sewer level ("Raw Sewage", which thankfully isn't too bad), though it also has several times when you have to dive in more primitive outhouse pits. One such pit connects to the aquifer leading to a lake and features an entrance to the Fire and Brimstone Hell you must pass through to get to Tchernobog.
    • Blood II: The Chosen, on the other Choking Hand, shoves you into one right in the fifth level of episode 1 ("Steam Tunnels"), which is an annoyingly long but not extremely difficult area. The third level of episode 2 ("Sewage Treatment Plant") is mercifully a lot shorter, but also quite a bit harder, with several spots where Cabal's Fanatics wait in ambush with hitscan weaponry, including a Howitzer. Episode 2 also has "Love Canal", an older and more open style of sewer, with plenty of dark areas. At one point in the game, Caleb muses that, were he to obtain godlike power, one of his first steps would be to completely eliminate sewers from the universe.

  • 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. There are many 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, plus there's the constant nagging feeling that you're wading around in the combined filth of an entire city.
    Sewer missions have always been beneath you. Hopefully someone will understand that someday.
  • Ragnarok Online has the Prontera Culverts, which can house one of the weakest (and weakness is relative) Boss fights in the game.
  • Kingdom of 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.

    Party Game 
  • Mario Party 3:
    • In the minigame Spotlight Swim, all characters are in a dark basement where a small cistern surrounded by pipes lies. One of the four characters is swimming in the water, while the other three use color-coded searchlights. If the solo player avoids being spotted by all three searchlights at once during 30 seconds, they win. If the three players manage to illuminate them at the same time, then they win. The solo player can evade the lights by diving underwater temporarily.
    • In the minigame Cheep Cheep Chase, the characters are swimming in the waters of a dungeon's underground sewer, and do so because they have to flee from a big Cheep Cheep that wants to eat them. They must also avoid the floating mines, which the Cheep Cheep can eat just fine.

    Platform Game 
  • In the Zelda segment of Distorted Travesty 3, there's the water temple, with all the joy of drowning over and over while raising and lowering the water level to solve puzzles. All while Goddamn Bats assault the player every moment.
  • 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 had a drain/sewer portion in the second half of Wily Stage 3 (also appears in the remake, Powered Up). Mega Man actually gets a speed boost from the rushing water, although this means that that it's impossible to pick up enemy drops again if they're passed by.
    • 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.
    • Toad Man's stage in Mega Man 4.
    • Venus's stage in Mega Man V (Game Boy, not NES).
    • Toxic Seahorse's stage in Mega Man X3.
    • Pump Man's stage in Mega Man 10.
    • Aqua Man'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.
    • Heat Man'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 ∞ had Toad Man's stage, but also turned Cossack Stage 3 into one as well. It had various liquids with differing gimmicks.
    • Bifrost's stage from Mega Man ZX Advent.
  • Spider: The Video Game have a stage where you get washed down a kitchen drain and ends up in the pipes infested with slugs. Note that this game have you playing as a sentient, regular-sized spider.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day:
    • The chapter Bats' Tower doesn't start like this (the first sections you explore are a river and a tall tower), but once Conker enters the catfish ladies' safe, he has to venture through a dark underwater pipe network. It's easy to get lost, and the keeping an eye for the Oxygen Meter is a priority, but the paths are coded by luminiscent signals that tell how close Conker is to the goal: Blue for the first path, green for the second, and yellow for the third.
    • A very difficult section in the aftermath of the Sloprano chapter, "U-Bend Blues", has you swimming through a long pipe filled with spinning fans that can instantly kill you with a single hit. And you have a dwindling Oxygen Meter. And once you get out of the water there are platforms with lethal blades revolving on them. And getting killed at any point in the process sends you back to the beginning. And you must have collected enough money (namely $1000) in the previous levels to proceed, or else turn back.
  • Banjo-Kazooie:
    • Rusty Bucket Bay, where the oil-contaminated water drains your Oxygen Meter even on the surface, doing so at twice the normal rate when you are submerged. The part involving swimming past instant-kill propellers to get a Jiggy is one of the most difficult tasks, even by Rare themselves.
    • Clanker's Cavern, the third level. It's a large sewage network with many parts flooded, requiring efficiency when swimming in search of items to avoid drowning.
    • Banjo-Tooie has Jolly Roger's Lagoon, which includes various mechanical underwater sections like a metal fish and pipelines leading to other levels. 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 the "Sewer Or Later" levels which feature electric eels, sentient electromagnets and scientists with flamethrowers. Crash WARPED has the underwater levels, where Crash can swim safely unlike in all other levels, though there are rotating spiky pieces that are harmful; the game also has the 'Tomb Wader' level set in a nilemeter where the water level constantly shifts. Wrath Of Cortex has underwater sewers as well.
  • The Moaning Well level in Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream 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.
  • Ratchet & Clank:
    • Story-critical path on Rilgar on Ratchet & Clank (2002) takes place in a city sewers. The first part is easy as only it includes a few Hydrodisplacer puzzles and no enemies. However, the hard part starts once you slide down a sewer pipe since when you step on suspicious button on the ground, the water starts to pour in. You can't outrun the water, the idea is to get as much of a head start as you can so you can swim through the rest before you drown.
    • 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. The sewers are rarely 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.
  • Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!: The pipe levels provide quite a bit of variation. "Dingy Drainpipe" is your standard "swim through the sewers" level, but "Demolition Drainpipe" and "Surf's Up" remove the water and combine the sewer levels with Minecart Madness, having you speed through the pipeline in a metal toboggan. "Low-G Labyrinth", another water-free level, adds Gravity Screw to a drainpipe level, while "Poisonous Pipeline" adds the water back and reverses your left-right controls.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins: Mario is too tiny to enter the house in Macro Zone through the front door, so he travels up the plumbing to emerge out of the kitchen sink.
    • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island:
      • "The Impossible Maze" from World 4, which provides the page image, involves no swimming, but has currents that can 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. It also has shades of Blackout Basement, as one half of the level is totally in the dark.
      • Naval Piranha's Castle, the last regular level of World 3, takes place in a sewer or storm drain. In slopes, the falling water makes it impossible to go up, as the current's strength cannot be overriden. As a gameplay novelty, Yoshi learns to make the eggs go through the water's surface when he throws them from a certain angle.
    • Yoshi's Island DS: "Big Bungee Piranha's Lair". It's a waterlogged sewer with outdoors areas where Yoshi has to manipulate corridors whose positions can be toggled by pressing (or shooting at) color-coded switches, tackle an underground maze with ponds of water, and defeat a large Piranha Plant monster rooted from the ceiling.
    • New Super Mario Bros.: World 2-3 is a partially-dry sewer found in a desert. The manhole covers can be ground-pounded from above, but it's not possible to go through them from below. At one point, certain switches can be pressed to temporarily raise the water's level (notably, reaching a certain high spot with the help of the raised water leads to a secret exit).
    • Super Mario 64 has Wet-Dry World, where it's possible to control the water level.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2: Slimy Spring Galaxy from World 6 takes place inside a giant underwater cave. Due to the lacking number of bubbles and coins, the galaxy is a race against the Oxygen Meter.
    • Wario: Master of Disguise: Ancient Waterworks, the setting of Episode 6, is a temple that features an internal watery passageway. It serves as the location of the third piece of the Wishstone (after Wario was told that it wasn't in the pyramid), and to reach it Wario has to find a way to cease the flow of a strong waterfall (for which he has to use stone statues to clog it).
  • 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 (1989) 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.
  • The level Wishy Washy in The Cat in the Hat is a very sewer-like environment.
  • "Browntown" in The Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation is a very large sewer where, apparently, the Nerd is swimming not through water but through raw shit! He also finds himself facing electric kelp like the TMNT game on NES.
  • Giana Sisters DS: Many Castle levels take place in the strongholds' storm drains, which are home to large numbers of enemies.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: The Mis-Edventures: Scam 2 of the console version mostly has the Eds going through the Cul-de-Sac sewers to sneak in to Jimmy's party. The sewers are flooded with shallow water, and introduce sewer gator and clam enemies. One segment involves lowering the water levels to distract Jonny.
  • Pizza Tower has a classic sewer level, rather bluntly named Oh Shit!. No points for guessing what’s strewn across the level. You even get a new outfit for crouching on a pile of shit for ten seconds!
  • The second stage of Shadow of the Ninja is the Underground Sewer, with a variety of pipes to platform around on. Much of the stage has a pit of grimy water across the bottom, with ninjas swimming around that jump out to attack you.
  • Chapter 2 of Grey Area (2023) has a hidden level set in the sewers, in which Hailey runs across pipes while jumping over pits of sewage and evading Blob Monsters made of sewer sludge. It's the only dangerous place in the entire chapter.


    Racing Game 
  • Crash Team Racing has Sewer Speedway, which has the racers driving along a large drain while avoiding giant barrels.
  • Mario Kart:
    • Mario Kart 7: Piranha Plant Slide features the drivers going down a sewer system that's mostly dry, until reaching a water-filled section. It returns in Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart Tour as a Nostalgia Level.
    • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Added as part of the Booster Course Pass DLC, Squeaky Clean Sprint features a more literal interpretation of this, as drivers eventually find themselves getting sucked down a bathtub drain with screws and a diamond ring clogged inside it.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Pikmin 2:
    • A few dungeon sublevels (including an entire dungeon, appropriately named "Shower Room") look like partially flooded bathrooms; the two-player level Tile Lands and the Giant's Bath in Challenge Mode are of the same design. The Shower Room also features a rest floor set within a compact pipeline network. These are are primarily home to aquatic and amphibious enemies, such as frog-like wollywogs, their wogpole young, water-spraying watery blowhogs, and water dumples.
    • One of the underground levels, the Submerged Castle, is more similar to a true sewer level due to consisting of partly flooded tunnels and pipes, and can only be entered enter with blue Pikmin. It's also a bit more difficult than other underground areas thanks to the invincible Waterwraith that chases you down if you dawdle around on one level for too long.

  • The Binding of Isaac:
    • The Afterbirth expansion added the Flooded Caves, a version of the Caves that is completely flooded.
    • Antibirth has the Downpour as the first floor of the mod's new path. It's a massive storm drain. Repentance, in addition to canonizing the Downpour, also added the Dross (an outright Absurdly-Spacious Sewer) as an alternate version of the floor. Main difference between this floor and most other examples? It's got a ton of poop. It even has two extremely rare poop based elements to find!

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Baldur's Gate:
  • Bug Fables: Upper Snakemouth, an abandoned lab that had been flooded with water after years of dissuse. The water and pipes are not the main focus of this location — that would be the Cordyceps experiments — but they are involved in some puzzles, namely Leif learning the ability to freeze platforms in water and using that on some of the lab's rivers.
  • Child of Light has the Capilli Village Well, which contains the sacred Water of Lethe necessary to lift the curse on the village.
  • Chrono Cross has the sewers under Viper Manor. Despite a somewhat annoying quantity of enemy encounters (which are usually difficult to avoid due to the cramped passageways), the area itself is mercifully short.
  • Chrono Trigger has the Sewer Access. Although it is accessible when you first visit 2300 A.D., it is entirely optional at that point. By the time you're actually required to go through it, you're likely to be significantly over-leveled compared to the enemies there.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • EarthBound (1994) has the sewers of Fourside. Ness and his friends have to go through here to find one of Ness's "Your Sanctuary" locations, but not before having to fight the Plauge Rat of Doom.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Morrowind:
      • Vivec has plenty of Absurdly Spacious Sewers (though they are justified due to Vivec being a City of Canals). 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).
      • Mournhold in the Tribunal expansion also has plenty of sewers, though they are once again justified by the city being built atop the ruins of "Old Mournhold", which was destroyed a few thousand years in the past. Although you could spend a lot of time in Mournhold's sewers, they are well-lit and feel like just another dungeon. Plus, they lead to the cavernous ruins under the city, which, while not underwater, are certainly something worth seeing.
    • Oblivion has the Imperial City sewers. Much like Mournhold above, they are parts of the ruined Ayleid city on which the current city was built. You're forced through them several times, including several times in the main quest alone.
    • Skyrim has the town of Riften, which has extensive sewers which double as the lair of 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.
  • Might and Magic VI has the Free Haven Sewers, X has the Karthal Sewers — both need to be passed as part of the main quest. VII has the Erathia Sewers, but they only play a part in sidequests (although if you have a Thief in the party, it is almost obligatory, as their class promoter is in the sewers).
  • Neverwinter Nights features several contenders, the most obvious being the sewer labyrinth within the city Docks District, which players must run through to collect the fourth reagent needed to cure the plague in the first chapter.
  • Pandora's Tower: Wellspring Steeple and Torrent Peak. In both towers, Aeron has to make use of a giant waterwheel and its attached hooks to reach hard-to-access areas. Both towers also have a room where a big body of water is rising upward.
  • Pokémon:
    • 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 above ground abandoned lot area, you get a shot at wild Eevee for the first time in history (not counting Gen IV's trophy garden).
    • 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). Granted, the abundance of living pollution Pokémon didn't help the smell any.
  • 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.
  • Summoner: 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. You mostly fight golems here, instead of the expected rats, bats or insects.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario RPG: Kero Sewers. Mario comes through here with Mallow in search of a star piece only to be flushed out and sent down the river.
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga: The castle basement, where the brothers have to fix the plumbing (they are plumbers, after all) while dodging giant flies.
    • Paper Mario:
      • Paper Mario 64 provides the page quote. The Toad Town Tunnels are the sewer system beneath Toad Town proper, and contain — besides the typical unrealistically spacious and empty sewer tunnels interspersed with flooded areas — a network of pipes that can take you to most areas in the game.
      • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: The Rogueport Sewers are a combination of a sewer system and a maze of buried ruins beneath the eponymous port town.
      • Paper Mario: The Origami King: The Graffiti Underground, a sewer area connecting Toad Town proper with Peach's Castle, consists of several levels of Absurdly Spacious Sewers and their associated maintenance tunnels, incorporating some basic puzzles themed around lowering and raising water levels and inhabited by bats and rats. They also overlap with Blackout Basement, as several sections are pitch black until Mario hits a light switch.
  • TS!Underswap adds a small sewer level to the first area. There's only one real puzzle to be solved and no random encounters with monsters, but you do get chased by the Mad Dummy through it, forcing you to avoid their attacks as well as the leaks in the pipes their attacks cause. Optionally, you can backtrack into it afterwards as part of a sidequest for extra G.
  • 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. Plus there's 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.
  • The Kislev Sewer in Xenogears is often considered That One Level due to a complicated maze-like layout, a high random encounter rate, and That One Boss at the end.

    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: Solid Snake 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. There's also Big Boss' escape from Groznjy Grad in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater; it is fairly short and the challenge mainly comes 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.
  • Vattic and Jayne escape from the insane asylum through the sewers in Second Sight.
  • The sub-chapter named "The Sewers" in The Last of Us features a sewers environment involving yet another pallet puzzle to bring Ellie across a body of water, along with several infected encounters that take advantage of the sewage system's dimly lit and maze-like layout.

    Survival Horror 
  • Silent Hill:
    • Silent Hill 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 Shout Outs. 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. Resident Evil 4, which is set in Spain, has a regular urban-ish sewer level underneath an ancient castle that features an invisible enemy.
  • 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.
  • The fourth (out of five) level in Oakwood occurs in an Absurdly-Spacious Sewer that never even fully finished construction due to it ending up becoming the lair of a vicious dilophosaurus...which proves itself a dangerous foe for player character Madison to avoid as she tries to travel through the sewer in search of her few surviving missing friends at the camp.

    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.
  • Jet Force Gemini: The second level of Mizar's Palace is Flume, which serves as a highly-advanced network to store water and also doubles as an extended aquarium for fish. Vela is the only character who can swim underwater, so this level is exclusive to her.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Battle for Wesnoth: "The Sewers of Southbay" in The Rise of Wesnoth takes place in the titular Absurdly-Spacious Sewer, where the sewer water is represented by swamp hexes and the enemies are monsters led by two banished mages.

Non-video game examples:

    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Jhonen Vasquez comic Everything Can Be Beaten.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy makes his escape by tunneling into the jail's sewer system and using it to both get away from the jail and mask himself from the bloodhounds used to track him.
  • Cyborg (1989) has a scene where a pair of protagonists try to escape from a post-apocalyptic gang of marauders by traveling through a sewer. The water in the sewer comes up to the characters' thighs, and at one point an unconscious character has to be set down in a place where her head is just barely above water. It's probably best to not think too much about what might be floating around in that water.
  • Much of the Polish film Kanał takes place in the sewers of Warsaw during the late stages of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, as the last survivors of the uprising try to get away via the sewers.
  • The climactic chase in The Third Man takes place in the Absurdly-Spacious Sewer system of Vienna.
  • Ant-Man discovers that the good 'ole Air Vent Infiltration won't work as the Properly Paranoid Big Bad has put micromesh across the ventilators. But he realises that they won't have covered the water pipes.

  • In book 29 of Animorphs, the Animorphs' initial plan in book 29 is to break into the heavily guarded Yeerk pool by morphing eels and navigating the city sewer system until they reach a sink outlet there. They end up getting lost in the pipes and getting spewed out of a firefighter's hose.

    Live-Action Series 


    Web Original 
  • Sewer levels are constantly discussed in Civvie's Dungeon, to the point where Civvie keeps a running count of how many sewer levels he's encountered on the show.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sewer Level


Sewer or Later

"Sewer or Later" is a sewer themed level in the game. It takes place in a sewer filled with pools of water, barrels with toxic waste, and rotating fans. Enemies include robotic scrubbers, electric eels, and scientists using flamethrowers. (Gameplay done by LadyPhoenix Games) (

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DownTheDrain

Media sources: