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Dungeon Crawling

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"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike."

Dungeon Crawling is the act of exploring a dangerous area while looking for treasure or some other Plot Coupon or MacGuffin. The characters must battle enemies (usually monsters) and use their skills and equipment to negotiate obstacles (usually traps). Usually, but not always, there is a Boss Battle at some point, and a MacGuffin or Plot Coupon at the end.

This is what many Role-Playing Games (especially video game ones) are all about — at least historically — but it is actually one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, since even myths feature it (a trip into the underworld is part of The Hero's Journey, after all). However, it was the Cliffhanger film serials of the early 20th century that defined the trope, and the Indiana Jones movies that made it popular again later.

The term comes from early RPGs, such as Dungeons & Dragons, that often had the player characters exploring some wizard's dungeon. "Dungeon crawl" is analogous to "pub crawl", a continual stroll from dungeon to dungeon to dungeon.

Note that in Real Life a "dungeon" was a type of prison, often in the lower parts of a castle, but the games expanded it to mean "any ruins or subterranean area." In fact, the term is used today for any dangerous area in an RPG, even open-air ones, as long as the same fight-your-way-across logic applies to it. This is usually to distinguish it from the two other kinds of locale in such games, towns (generally defined as anywhere that has peaceful NPCs or businesses like stores, hotels and bars) and the overworld (which, in most cases, is exclusively for getting between towns and dungeons, with the only real obstacles being Random Encounters.)

As said in an interview in Dungeon, #112, the whole dungeon shtick originated from a skirmish wargame played by Gygax, Arneson and others that involved breaking into a castle through the cellars — this turned out to be so much fun that tunnel fighting became a regular theme (the "dragon" element, and extended dungeon adventures, came slightly later, after the "break-in" premise became stale). Stir in Professor Tolkien's Moria scenario for a little fantasy and the rest, as they say, is history.

Dungeon Crawlers are also a subgenre of RPGs in which the story, setting, and town areas (usually one at most) are downplayed in favor of massive dungeons requiring level grinding, trap-avoidance, and endurance. Roguelikes are a subgenre of dungeon crawler, further distinguished by procedural level generation and highly unforgiving game mechanics.

Not to be confused with the game Dungeon Crawl, though it is a good example of this trope.

Compare Adventurer Archaeologist.


Note: Several other video game settings, such as Temple of Doom, aren't necessarily dungeon-specific — they could also refer to themed Platform Game levels, or to places of relative safety.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Black Clover, dungeons are underground vaults with magic traps that hold valuable items. Because of their danger and relics, they're explored by Magic Knights. An entire story arc is dedicated to exploring a dungeon.
  • Delicious in Dungeon: A major industry and social activity for adventurers. The manga centers on a particular party crawling a specific dungeon, and in doing so examines all the questions people don’t bother to ask about them. What separates a dungeon from a regular old ruin? What does a sudden influx of valuable dungeon loot do for nearby towns? Where do the monsters come from, and how do they survive down there? How can dungeons be in such good repair after decades or centuries without human maintenance?
  • Little Witch Academia (2013) has Akko, her friends Sucy and Lotte, and resident Alpha Bitch Diana going into a dungeon as a test at their local Wizarding School Luna Nova. The students have to traverse a series of dungeons while collecting rare treasures and dealing with monsters, they even fight a dragon.
  • The main point of Magi: Labyrinth of Magic. People seek to conquer the dangerous dungeons that have started appearing all over the world for fame, glory, and power.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Nodoka is doing this after she gets separated from everyone else during the gateport incident, and choosing her share of treasure like a professional MinMaxer.
    • The Baka Rangers' excursion to Library Island (and everything the Library Expedition Club did) definitely counts too. Nodoka even references it as the source of her trap-spotting skills.
  • In Sword Art Online, this is a prerequisite for clearing each level of Aincrad. Each level's stairway-dungeon has 20 floors, and the final floor has the boss that must be defeated to clear the level.
  • The Tower of Druaga is an anime based off the NES game of the same name. Therefore it lives and breaths the trope to the T. Adventures challenge the titular tower in search of treasure and glory. Should anyone ever manage to reach the top and face Druaga it would be a feat not accomplished since the king (the character from the game).
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle has the Ruins, sevennote  enormous structures of unknown origin filled with valuable technology and also strange monsters called Abyss. Each Ruin also contains one particularly powerful and gigantic Abyss called a Ragnarok, effectively a boss monster. People brave these dangers in order to salvage technology. In the light novels, this activity becomes more urgent when the Lords, the original owners of the Ruins, reappear and explain that the world will soon be destroyed by Sacred Eclipse, the ultimate Ragnarok. The only way to stop it is to kill the other seven Ragnarok to collect crystals known as Grand Force from them, and insert these into receptacles at the deepest part of each Ruin. This will unlock the path to Avalon, The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, containing innumerable treasures and knowledge that can be used to stop Sacred Eclipse.

    Comic Books 
  • During Batman: No Man's Land, Robin ended up searching through the interconnected old steam tunnels, spacious sewers, subway tunnels and old bomb shelters underneath the streets of Gotham for a rumored stash of canned goods while battling various Batman foes including Mister Freeze, Gearhead, Killer Croc and the Ratcatcher. He also came across a group of High School students living underground who were treating the whole situation like an opportunity to really get into their role-playing, and did manage to find the stash of goods which were then distributed to the hungry of Gotham.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Even once he's become a landed baron, Wis still takes his crew on military expeditions that amount to this. He bites off more than he can chew when he goes for a lich and suffered a Total Party Kill (thankfully, Haazheel Thorn stepped in to bring him back and deliver a pointed speech on the arrogance of youth and rushing in without warning).
  • In Superman story Death & the Family, Supergirl and Gangbuster must sneak into Insect Queen's giant hive-like lair, navigate dark, damp winding corridors and fight massive insect-like bugs until finding the villainess and kicking her out of Lana Lang's possessed body, thus stopping her invasion of Metropolis.

    Comic Strips 
  • Prince Valiant ran a story where the local dwarves, the Tuatha, kidnap Aleta into their subterranean realm. Val and a group of companions have to pursue them into the dark tunnels, fighting weird monsters and finally discovering the vast underground city of the dwarves. The whole thing was very clearly meant as an affectionate homage to Tabletop Games and this trope.

    Fan Works 
  • Done in The Dresden Fillies when Harry and the Mane Six enter Trixie's castle to rescue Spike.
  • As The Equestrian Wind Mage is a crossover between The Legend of Zelda and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, it was inevitable that this concept would be used. In fact, it ends up being plot-centric twice:
    • In Season 2, Ganondorf steals the Elements of Harmony and scatters them to locations under the control of his forces. The Mane Six, Vaati, and other allies they gather along the way therefore have to travel to and fight their way through the monster-infested Everfree Castle, Diamond Dog mines, Changeling Hive, Cloudsdale, and Griffonstone in order to recover five of the Elements, before facing off with Ganon himself in the Crystal Empire to recover the Element of Magic.
    • In Season 3, Princess Zelda realizes that the Mane Six have been chosen to become the new Six Sages, and sends them (guided by Vaati and Link) to find the five Sanctuaries and the Sacred Realm in order to unlock their powers. All with Majora's forces standing in their way along every step.
  • I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What?: As you might expect, this story is built heavily around adventurers descending into dungeons. There is a detailed explanation of why this system works. Adventurers descend into dungeons to harvest loot from the dungeon's treasure chests and from the corpses of its minions. Dungeons, meanwhile, get mana from adventurers fighting and dying within them, and so are incentivized to provide loot to attract adventurers. In addition, dungeons cycle pure mana back into the environment, and that mana is required for life to thrive, so people have a strong incentive to tend and feed their dungeons.
  • The four get to go on one of these (and manage to avoid another) in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. They comment on the illogic of the setting; they kill nothing; and they're thoroughly bored with the experience by the time they've looted everything. And they're not real happy when their hours of tedious trudging results in only around 9,000 Swords worth of treasure, when they were hoping for five or six times that amount. They avoid a second dungeon crawl when they arrive at Boidan Mine just after another group of adventurers has already sacked the place but hasn't left yet.
  • When the Brush hits the Canvas: As a novelization of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Link explores various dungeons, which have entire chapters devoted to them detailing the process of getting into them, their cosmetic appearance, their backstory, puzzle solving segments and boss fights. However, they're never actually called dungeons until Hilda uses the term, much to Link's bafflement. He thinks Hilda uses "dungeon" as shorthand for "a Sage is imprisoned there", and doesn't think of the ruins and fortresses he previously visited as such.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live Action 
  • Mythica: Every film features the party of adventurers exploring some dangerous locale to retrieve various McGuffins they need.

  • In the Alcatraz Series, librarians are all either evil cultists or vengeful undead, therefore every time the heroes infiltrate a library, it turns into dungeon crawling with monsters, traps and other dangers.
  • The Bands of Mourning both plays this straight and subverts it. The titular artifact is hidden at the end of a dungeon filled with deadly traps, an occurrence so bizarre that the characters comment on how weird it is. In the end it turns out that the dungeon contains multiple layers of fakeouts to confuse thieves, and the actual Bands of Mourning are Hidden in Plain Sight outside of the dungeon.
  • In Below, a huge underground network of abandoned cities lures in adventurers seeking gold and glory. The book follows a quest for a late wizard's famous treasure, complicated by internal strife and the little matter of the map being fake.
  • The City and the Dungeon is a Deconstruction of the genre, set in a vast metropolis built around (and above) an equally gigantic and eldritch Dungeon filled with infinite treasure and magical power. Merely setting foot in the place requires becoming a nigh-immortal Delver, whose entire life is dedicated solely to exploring the Dungeon, killing monsters, getting loot, and growing stronger. Entire industries are kept afloat by Delvers and what they bring up from the Dungeon. The Dungeon itself is strongly implied to be a Genius Loci that actually hates people crawling through and plundering it, with all the monsters, traps, and rules being a sort of defense mechanism.
  • There are some scenes reminiscent of this trope in Dracula, although they omit the "and take the monster's stuff" step once the monster (Lucy) has been tracked to her underground crypt and dispatched. Later vampire novels have added other elements of this trope, like death-traps (Salem's Lot) and guardians to protect the sleeping undead.
  • Seems to be given a knowing nod in the Dragaera story "The Desecrator", in which desecrator is the Dragaeran term for archaeologist, but the job has the typical fantasy cast of raiding ancient structures for treasure and having to fend off magical barriers.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl turns (what's left of) the entire planet into the World Dungeon. The few survivors of humanity struggle through it for the entertainment of an interstellar audience, with a system AI that laughs at their misfortunes and encourages casual violence and betrayal. And no one ever even gets close to the final level.
  • Common in Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories such as The Jewels in the Forest and Thieves House.
  • The Iron Teeth web serial’s dungeons are formed by crystals, and contain valuable treasures. Monsters such as slimes also dwell within them. One of them is near Herad's base. She was eager to find and explore it, but fortunately she couldn't find the entrance.
  • This is the entire premise of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?. Orario is built on top of a multiple-level dungeon, and its entire existence depends on this trope—the plunder from the dungeon monsters is an energy source in the universe, and while a lot of Adventurers do this for sheer heroism, there're also a lot that do it just for living. The story follows the personal growth of an Adventurer who initially does this... to seek a harem.
  • The Lord Dunsany story The Hoard of the Gibbelins is one of the earliest examples and is close to an Ur-Example of the genre.
  • One early fantasy depiction of Dungeon Crawling was the Fellowship's passage through the goblin-infested Mines of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring. No treasures or rewards, unless one counts the goal of getting through them to the other end, but the Balrog even provides a final boss of sorts. Throw in the original fantasy party, the dense labyrinth, a whole host of goblins, and other assorted monsters. It's probably the Trope Codifier of the genre.
  • As its title suggests, the majority of the plot of Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth is Dungeon Crawling through the mythical Labyrinth, which actively rearranges its layout and, as a bonus, is borderline-alive and trying to make sure visitors never come out.
  • The Wandering Inn: As expected for an RPG-Mechanics Verse. A dungeon discovered beneath Liscor kicks off a major part of the plot.

    Live-Action TV 

    Myths & Religion 
  • A number of Ancient Greek heroes (Orpheus, Odysseus, Heracles) go into the Underworld, where they face challenges like from monsters (such as Cerberus), obstacles (such as the River Styx), and gods. Perseus, who doesn't go into the literal Underworld, might be the straightest Ancient Greek version of this trope in the sense of "go underground, kill monsters, take their stuff."
  • The myth of Theseus descending into the Labyrinth to kill the Minotaur to whom Athenian hostages were regularly sacrificed is perhaps one of the oldest known examples of this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Arkham Horror spinoff Mansions of Madness is this genre as applied to the Cthulhu Mythos, with areas such as churches, university buildings, estate grounds, and the eponymous mansions serving as the dungeon.
  • Base Raiders: After the world's superheroes and villains all mysteriously disappear, an entire underground industry based on locating, breaking into, and looting their abandoned secret bases crops up.
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill is a modern-day, horror-based example of this genre. It takes place in the eponymous abandoned house, but features many staples of the genre, such as a graveyard, underground lake, locked vaults, and mysterious eldritch rooms.
  • Descent: Journeys in the Dark is very similar to HeroQuest in its setup and mechanics.
  • Unsurprisingly, the expansive card game series Dungeoneer is centered around dungeon crawls. Interestingly, it allows each player to play as the "dungeon lord" for other players while simultaneously giving each player a PC to explore the dungeon. The cards themselves form the layout of the dungeon like a board game.
  • Dungeons & Dragons is the Trope Codifier. "Killing evil and stealing its stuff" is the game's unofficial motto, after all. Wizards Of The Coast even released a book for 4th Edition which was blatantly titled "Dungeon Delve". It is literally a book containing 30 dungeons, complete with maps and descriptions of each area, as well as stat-blocks for the monsters and items found in each area, making it really easy for Dungeon Masters to prepare a dungeon crawl, since all the work is done in advance.
  • The Games Workshop Board Game Space Hulk is basically this genre Recycled In Space liberally crossed with the James Cameron film Aliens.
  • GURPS has a sub-gameline, Dungeon Fantasy, devoted exclusively to this genre. It is one of the most popular parts of the line.
  • HeroQuest was a simple dungeon crawler boardgame, produced jointly by Games Workshop and MB Games in the late 80s with the successor Warhammer Quest, set in the Warhammer world. A more complex and in-depth version with some RPG elements called Advanced Heroquest was produced by Games Workshop alone. Sci-fi versions set on giant derelict spacecraft — Space Crusade, Advanced Space Crusade and Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress — followed the same pattern.
  • Mage Knight has a variant called Dungeons, which pits teams of heroes against each other as well as against the monsters and traps.
  • Metamorphosis Alpha used a variant of the original D&D rules to explore a giant spaceship, the Warden.
  • Mice and Mystics is a series of dungeon crawls where the players are fantasy characters transformed into mice. It follows a linear story campaign, but is notable in that it is purely cooperative and no player is needed to be the "dungeon master".
  • Munchkin is nothing but this. Along with much backstabbing and stealing. Especially with Munchkin 6: Demented Dungeons. Don't ask how it's possible for the party to be in not just one but two different dungeons simultaneously!
  • Mutant Chronicles board game "Siege of the Citadel" is a campaign-style board game with a series of dungeon crawl style assaults on the titular citadel.
  • Space Hulk itself has one player control an elite force of Space Marine Terminators clearing out a space hulk of genestealers controlled by the other player. Terminators are among the most elite veterans of a Space Marine Chapter, their centuries of service giving them the right to bear the Walking Tank-like suits of Terminator armor. They rarely win against the 'nids.
  • One of The Splinter's two realities (the Realm) was created as by the citizens of the other (Earthside) to serve as a hyper-realisitic infinite dungeon crawl, making it a diegetic dungeon crawl within a recursive RPG.
  • In keeping with its "Dungeons & Dragons IN SPACE!" origins, Star Frontiers featured this style of play often in its printed adventures, with alien animals filling in for the monsters.
  • Thunderstone is a deckbuilding game in which you build your deck in the village, then take it to the dungeon to kill monsters.
  • The equally venerable Traveller features Dungeon Crawling in the form of exploring derelict spaceships, asteroid-bases and so on.
  • The old TSR board game Dungeon, which literally is "wander through the wizard's dungeon picking up treasure."
  • Warhammer 40,000's take on the loot-and-horrible-monster-filled dungeon IN SPACE! is the Space Hulk, an amalgamation of derelict spaceships (of all factions) that clumped together in the Warp and pop back into realspace for various periods of time, and of great interest to people who deal in archeotech and alien artifacts. Unfortunately for them, space hulks are more often than not filled with Tyranids or orks or Chaos forces, who are all too ready to eat/loot/desecrate their newest victims and conquer the planet they left from.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay allows for this style of play (alongside many others), and has had many dungeon-based adventures published for its four editions over its thirty-odd year existence. The original Warhammer wargame can be used to stage underground battles between adventurers and monsters too, and this was very much a popular use for it in its early days.
  • Xcrawl plays with this by making a "modern day with fantasy add-ons" world wherein dungeon crawling has become a Reality Show. Those who survive long enough (and manage to entertain the audience while they're at it) will get pricy sponsorships and superstar status.

    Video Games 
  • A few very early Dungeon Crawlers existed on the Apple.
  • The second Adventure Time game, Explore the Dungeon Because I DON'T KNOW!, was a somewhat tedious Gauntlet clone featuring Adventure Time characters and based around clearing out the dungeon under Princess Bubblegum's palace.
  • Almost Epic Adventures Neverlooted Dungeon: is a dungeon crawler with an emphasis on treacherous deadly traps with an Immersive Sim design phylosophy, where the player can create its own solutions to overcome the dangers.
  • Dungeons are present in the first Baldur's Gate, but almost all of them are optional and relatively small. Most of the time you'll be exploring the wilderness instead. The second game put much more emphasis on dungeons though, with more, larger and more complex dungeons, and very few wilderness areas to explore. Both Expansion Packs added massive Bonus Dungeons for your crawling needs: Durlag's Tower and Watcher's Keep, both of which have multiple levels, nasty monsters and traps, and of course treasure.
  • In the Borderlands series, alien Vaults replace your standard dungeon. Exploring them makes up a very small part of the game; most if it is actually finding them. Obeying tradition, opening up a Vault always leads to one final boss battle-class monster fight.
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer has you exploring the titular location, delving deeper and deeper into these elaborate tunnels filled with musical monsters, tantalizing treasure, and unimaginable power capable of raising the dead—or as is often in the player characters' cases, delaying it for a while.
  • Darkest Dungeon, as one would expect from the name.
    • The Ruins were once the seat of the family's power, now twisted by eldritch forces and overrun with the undead. The Warrens are an ancient network of aqueducts and tunnels, overrun by discarded summoning experiments known as the Swine. For looser definitions of "dungeon", there are also the Cove (a maze of caves haunted by pelagics and their allies), the Weald (a claustrophobic forest swarming with monstrous fungi), and (with the Crimson Court DLC) the Courtyard (a lavish garden transformed into a decaying marsh infested with half-mosquito vampires). Looming above it all, with a difficulty level of 6, is the Darkest Dungeon itself, a nightmare of powerful enemies, stress symbols, red mist, flesh, organs...
    • It's worth noting that Darkest Dungeon is actually a deconstruction, showing just how stressful and terrifying dungeon crawling would be in reality. The game incorporates a stress system that keeps track of how much mental strain any given hero has been placed under by the horrors of the dungeons, and accumulating too much stress results in them crossing the Despair Event Horizon and becoming afflicted. Heroes who go into the titular Darkest Dungeon will Go Mad from the Revelation and receive unique dialogue, from doomsaying to simply begging for help. Add to that permadeath, high difficulty, a very creepy art style and a general sense of gloom and foreboding, and you've got a very nasty dungeon crawling experience.
  • The Diablo series, which began life as a Roguelike which had you killing demons and undead in a sixteen-level dungeon and ultimately became the Hack and Slash series we know and love today.
  • In PLATO computer's dnd, you play through a randomly generated dungeon with labyrinthine corridors, treasure, booby traps, and wandering monsters. Notably there's no map (unless you draw one yourself) and there's no hidden doors, which are staples of dungeons in later games of this genre.
  • DragonFable has the 100 Rooms of Doom dungeon.
  • Most of the non-overworld areas in Dragon's Dogma qualify. Notable in that the game gives the player lots of freedom of movement within the dungeons, often allowing interesting ways to approach obstacles. The expansion/remaster Dark Arisen features Bitterblack Isle, which fits this trope to a T.
  • The Dungeon Maker trilogy, including Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War, and Adventures to Go!!.
  • Dwerve is a Tower Defense dungeon-crawling RPG which defend against an army of trolls and monstrous creatures using traps and turrets.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • Etrian Odyssey is a contemporary dungeon crawler that pays homage to games like Wizardry and introduces some spins of its own, most notably the F.O.E.s which are visible boss-like enemies that move with each step you take. In most games, the dungeons explored are located within the fabled Yggdrasil Labyrinth, though in Legends of the Titan and Nexus they're located in an overworld (as the goal in those games is to reach the Yggdrasil).
  • Ubiquitous in Final Fantasy games, but the original game has some of the most basic examples. Not surprising, considering how much it owes to D&D.
  • The Gauntlet series takes from two to four players through a variable number of different dungeon levels.
  • Graveyard Keeper has one beneath the church, which hints at the darker, gruesome past of the setting. It's filled with the requisite monsters and treasure, though instead of trying to clean it out for profit/the greater good, you're actually helping an eldritch cultist find suitable materials and sacrifices for his dark rituals.
  • Deconstructed by Hero Park, where you operate a small village that is rebuilding its economy by secretly populating the local dungeons with tame monsters and fake treasure, so as to attract wealthy heroes who will pay for swords and armour and wands and healing potions and provisions. If you're lucky, they might even get infected by the undead, and have to pay for healing at your temple!
  • There are three types of dungeons for you to trek through in Hytale:
    • Normal dungeons can be found throughout the game world by locating the structure above it. These dungeons contain their own challenges and enemies, plus a "Final Room" awaiting you at the end.
    • Challenge Dungeons force you to complete a particular challenge inside before you can get the rewards. The lanterns outside the door of each Challenge Dungeon will remain orange until that challenge is completed, so you'll know if you've completed one.
    • You can find entrances to Portal Dungeons scattered around, which (as the name implies) contain a portal that teleports you to a hand-crafted location. In these areas, you have a limited selection of blocks you can break, and you'll have to rely on other skills to get through. You'll need to meet certain requirements to enter Portal Dungeons, though.
  • Legend of Dungeon is, as the name suggests, grossly centered around this. Every new game starts you in the Tavern at the top, and you descend down through the eponymous dungeon, slaying monsters, collecting gold, weapons and other items, all trying to collect one most valuable treasure and then race it aaaaaalll the way back up the 26 dangerous floors you just fought (or ran) down.
  • The very core of The Legend of Zelda and its many, many sequels is Dungeon Crawling. Many of them serve as securing areas for sacred Plot Coupons, though on rare occasions you'll find a dungeon with a more unique purpose. These dungeons are often themed around an element or concept, and the puzzles and enemies present will have something to do with it either in gameplay or in motif. However, other dungeons in the series have famously relied on meta concepts, such as the Spirit Temple in Ocarina of Time for relying on the skills of both Child Link and Adult Link, the Stone Tower Temple in Majora's Mask for greatly downplaying the Big Boo's Haunt theme of its mainland of residence in favor of basing itself on concepts like inverting gravity and using all four physical forms of Link for puzzle-solving, or the Sky Keep in Skyward Sword for being in itself an overarching puzzle in terms of how to get across the rooms.
  • In Lost Pig, the player character stumbles into a mysterious underground location that's already been cleaned out by dungeon crawlers, to the considerable annoyance of the gnome whose home it is. The game's Last Lousy Point is awarded for not behaving like them, and leaving things where they belong when you've finished borrowing them.
  • Although the objective is usually to find someone rather than something, a surprising amount of Mass Effect 2 consists of reskinned dungeon crawls — although the dungeons are usually portrayed as space station environments, incomplete skyscrapers, Krogan hospitals, abandoned experimental compounds, spaceports and spaceships both derelict and functional (on one particularly memorable occasion said ship is a derelict Reaper). True to form, you find treasure (new guns, research projects and money) and regularly fight bosses (mercenary leaders, top-tier Geth, gun-encrusted krogan warlords and Collector Praetorians, to name the major recurring adversaries). There are a couple of exceptions — Archangel's recruitment mission involves defending a location rather than invading it, and most of Grunt's consists of fighting off various kinds of unpleasant Tuchanka wildlife in a semi-open arena — but the majority of missions boil down to "go to place with dungeon-like map, kill everything in it, steal everything useful, complete the primary objective — usually with a big fight of some description — and leave".
  • Master of the Monster Lair features this — with a dungeon you make yourself — along with a deconstruction of some of the assumptions usually implicit to this premise; having a dungeon near your town is considered desirable, as it acts as a tourist attraction, lures monsters out of the wilderness where they pose more of a danger to ordinary people, and the items monsters hoard in dungeons can be quite valuable. In this game and My World, My Way, which is an otherwise unconnected game that takes place in the same world, "Dungeon Maker" is a respected profession.
  • In both Mega Man Legends games, the protagonist is a Digger, someone who made exploring the many enigmatic ruins in the Scavenger World their profession. True enough, exploring these ruins is how you acquire most of the equipment and money you need.
  • Minecraft: The game has had very basic dungeons from very early on, and eventually added a few complex ones as late-game content. While they all contain useful treasure such as crafting materials, armor and weapons and enchanted items once you get past their monsters and/or traps, the actual and often unique building materials that make them up are still a draw, as Minecraft is at its core a game a game focused around building things.
    • Actual dungeons, named as such, were some of the first pre-set, randomly added structures introduced in the game. They're very simple as these things go, being single underground cubic rooms with at least one connection to a cave, and contain two chests with simple but useful goods and a spawner, a special block that continuously spawns in zombies, skeletons or Giant Spiders. Once the chests are looted, their main value is the spawner itself — it can be deactivated by raising the light level with torches and reactivated by taking a few down, and it can serve as a reliable and controllable way of continuously spawning weak enemies to kill for experience and drops.
    • Desert and jungle temples are common, and clearable early in the game. They contain some treasure and useful building materials behind some simple traps.
    • Ocean monuments spawn in the deep ocean biomes, and take the form of flooded temple-like structures inhabited by fish-like Guardians and three stronger Elder Guardians that have to be defeated to access the gold at their centers.
    • End cities shaped like branching structures holding upside-down ziggurats appear in the End. They don't have many monsters besides endermen and camouflaged shulkers, but their chests hold valuable iron, diamonds and enchanted equipment, and rare elytrae which allow you to glide are found only here.
    • Randomly-generated woodland mansions occur in roofed forests, and are composed of a number of randomly-chosen rooms and passages home to evil Villagers wielding either axes or limited magic, plus regular monsters. Naturally, there's plenty of loot to be had after the monsters are cleared.
  • Minecraft Dungeons: As a Spin-Off that takes its cues from Hack and Slash games like Diablo, this ends up being the main focus of the game in contrast to Minecraft's Wide-Open Sandbox nature.
  • The trope is downplayed in Ōkami and Ōkamiden, since the dungeons and mini-dungeons are a secondary aspect of the games, both in plot and in gameplay, and only two of them (Moon Cave and Oni Island) are noticeably complex.
  • The Persona series intersperses semi-randomized dungeon crawling with visual novel style character interactions.
  • Pikmin 2: One of the major gameplay devices is exploring underground caves that are based on different everyday places (such as a shower, a toy room, or the natural habitat of a particular group of creatures). These caves can be either short, long or gargantuan, depending on the case. The caves' different sublevels are also semi-randomized; they'll always have the same stuff (Treasures to collect, enemies to defeat, eggs to break, obstacles to destroy or avoid...), but where all that stuff is and where you start off is picked at random every time you reach said sublevel, even by reloading a save.
  • Parodied in Planescape: Torment with the Rubikon Dungeon Construct. The Modrons, beings of pure Law, are trying to study dungeon crawls in order to understand them, so they create a simulated dungeon with randomly generated rooms, filled with identical constructs that drop "loot" which looks valuable but is entirely worthless, even as Shop Fodder. Somewhere in the dungeon is the Evil Wizard Construct, who is a Card-Carrying Villain that you have to fight because that's what evil wizards are for.
  • The many, many caves you have to explore in the various Pokémon games. Places like, for example, Silph Co. and the Pokemon Tower in Lavender Town also count, as they both have stuff to find and are crawling with enemies to defeat, and usually contain one final Boss.
  • The Professor Layton series rarely does this, due to its genre (Puzzle Game) and settings (London, and fictional counterparts of other real life cities). However, Miracle Mask features a chapter where a young Hershel Layton and his friend Randall explore a very deep, intrincate labyrinth known as the Akbadain Ruins. The chapter, which spawns eight floors of puzzles to gather and solve, traps and obstacles to tackle, and enemy dodging, is played very similarly to the dungeons in Zelda, and the control scheme is similar as well (going as far as replacing the point-and-click interface). The following game, Azran Legacy has its own version of this experience with the final level, Azran Sanctuary, which by default retains the point-and-click gameplay but its puzzles replicate the crawling of the Akbadain Ruins (including the use of buttons and the D-pad to move the characters).
  • QUESTER centers around exploring the underground ruins beneath Japan after society collapses, scrounging for resources and piecing together precisely what happened.
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is part "item shop simulation" and part Dungeon Crawler. For this purpose you choose one of up to 8 different adventurers, go to one of up to 6 different dungeons and start hacking away at monsters to loot useful stuff.
  • Ruina: Fairy Tale of the Forgotten Ruins: The gameplay involves exploring nodes on a map in order to activate events and expand the visibility of the map. These nodes can contain any combination of rewards, traps, battles, and lore.
  • Shin Megami Tensei was originally a classic first-person crawler like those mentioned above, then became a third-person crawler with occasional first-person elements.
  • In Shop Heroes, players don't actually do the dungeon-crawling — instead, they dispatch parties of heroes to do it. There are a number of different quests, of varying difficulties. Each quest has a particular rare resource associated with it, which players can use to make better equipment for the dungeon-crawlers.
  • Skeletal Avenger: The game is about a recently-resurrected skeleton battling through a dungeon full of monsters.
  • Solomon's Keep for the iPhone is one, where you use a student wizard to traverse the eponymous keep, fight monsters and bosses, loot treasure and defeat the evil necromancer- as his graduation exam, no less.
  • The core gameplay of StarCrawlers involves this. Though considering the sci-fi Cyberpunk nature of the game, the dungeons often consist of corporate offices, labs, spacecraft, and factories, but more traditional mines are an area that can be explored, and most of the story missions involving the Stella Marin are pure dungeon-crawling through the guts of the abandoned ship.
  • Star Fox Adventures has both Krazoa Palace and the two Force Point Temples. In terms of gameplay, the four satellital regions of Sauria are explored like dungeons, but they're more into Dungeon Town territory.
  • This also happens in the various Mario RPGsnote  in some form or another.
  • Super Dungeon Bros: The game has you playing as four knights traversing the land of Rokheim. If nothing else, the first world you explore is very dungeon-y.
  • Epyx's Temple of Apshai, where the entire point of the game was to enter the Apshai temples, fight the monsters, and grab the loot.
  • The original System Shock is a dungeon crawler with shooter combat.
  • Vambrace: Cold Soul: You work your way through a series of dungeons which are areas in a ruined city. Each district has about 15 dungeons, and you need to traverse five to reach the district's final dungeon. Maps don't change from one run to another, but their contents and encounters are randomly generated.
  • Wizardry came out in 1981. But Richard Garriot (of Ultima) released Akalabeth in 1979. The game name comes from part of The Silmarillion; such "homages" were common with Garriot in his early games. Of course, Dungeons and Dragons came out in 1974... around the same time "Dungeon" was a popular game on mainframe computers.
  • A huge chunk of the World of Warcraft gameplay has always been the instances — sections of the world that, once entered, become exclusive to a player or a group of players for they to fight their way through without other players' interference. Their entrances are usually indicated by a blue, swirling portal. Even if you level up never setting a foot in any instance, the late game at the top levels of most expansions is all about crawling from dungeon to dungeon to find the best equipment and defeat the plot's final bosses. Unless, of course, you choose the PvP route, but then you'll be missing most of the game's plot and dynamics. There are two types of instances: dungeons (designed for 5 people) and raids (designed for 10 or more people). Dungeons you find everywhere and exist so you can get equipment with good stats even in the lower levels. The five members are three damage dealers (melee or ranged), one healer, and one tank. Raids have a normal mode (10 players) and a heroic mode (25 people), the latter being much more difficult but with better payoffs. And then there are the mythical raids that can only be accessed and completed by 20 people and have no scaling. Whichever the case, more tanks and healers are in order. Finally, the rewards you get by either looting the elite creatures/bosses or completing instance-specific quests range from rare weapons and armor sets to epic mounts.
  • The Ys series is all about this, especially the first two games which had very small overworlds thanks to the limited capacity of early computers. The mazes can be sadistic at times, and quite convoluted if you're unlucky enough not to draw up a map. In particular Solomon Shrine and the Tower of Darm are large enough to require half the game's admittedly short length to trek through. While the bosses can be hard and much Level Grinding is required, early on you'll get magic items that let you heal up simply by standing still.

  • Goblins is set in a Dungeons & Dragons-based RPG Mechanics 'Verse, so characters frequently venture (or are forced) to hunt MacGuffins in various dungeons, including one crafted by the gods themselves in a Pocket Dimension outside time itself. Occasionally Discussed:
    Names: Maybe [the stairs are] made of crystal because it looks nice. Maybe it isn't a trap at all.
    Minmax: It's a trap.
    Names: Minmax. Not every detail in a dungeon crawl is a trap.
    Minmax: Yes, Names. Every detail in every dungeon crawl is a trap. Or a clue. Or a magical space monkey made out of yogurt, that will appear and eat your thumbs. That is how dungeon crawls work!
  • In Hero Oh Hero, the town of Rauel's economy is based on raiding dungeons which appear in the desert and disappear 24 hours later.
  • A common occupation in the kingdom of Hilla in Latchkey Kingdom. Willa (who is 13) regularly defies death to retrieve ancient treasures, then uses them to buy groceries.
  • Marble Gate Dungeon is about a young cleric and her dwarf companion exploring a massive Mega Dungeon that exists on another dimension and contains at least twelve thousand levels. The dungeon is as inexplicable on her world as it is out of universe and full of treasure as well as monsters.
  • My Delirium Alcazar: At night Plaire becomes Trapped in Another World, which follows the rules of a videogame dungeon and is implied to hold answers to the mystery she is facing.
  • The Order of the Stick started off as this, before the Cerebus Syndrome hit it. The first compilation book is even called Dungeon Crawling Fools. There's also a lampshading of the activity by the cleric Malack in reference to his membership in an evil adventuring party, "Ah, the life of an adventuring cleric. I remember it well. A perpetual struggle to maintain the hit point totals of four or five nigh-suicidal tomb robbers determined to deplete them at all costs."
  • Scenes from a Multiverse: The basis of the immensely popular Dungeon Divers storyline, SFAM’s longest ongoing plot to date.

    Web Original 
  • A common setting for every other story arc in Desolate Era. The hero travels through them to gain experience, insight, and of course, treasure.
  • Under the surface of the world of Mother of Learning is an enormous catacomb of tunnels literally referred to as "The Dungeon". Many missions for young mages involve going down into the dungeons.
  • Created by an adventurer long ago for the purposes of younger adventurers to gain EXP, the dungeons of Overlord Ascendant are omnipresent.

    Western Animation 
  • As a Heroic Fantasy parody with a heavy RPG influence, Adventure Time has several examples, in particular "Dungeon", "Guardians of Sunshine", "The Limit", "Dad's Dungeon", "Lady & Peebles", "Mystery Dungeon", "Vault of Bones"...
  • ReBoot has one of these during the episode Wizards, Warriors, And A Word From Our Sponsors. 66 floors of RPG references and parodies.
  • Parodied in the episode "The Dragon Pig" in the Season 2 of Wakfu. The Dragon Pig's lair is built like a typical RPG-dungeon, giving Tristepin an edge due to being "the only one of us with experience from dungeon crawls".

    Real Life 
  • It is the job of Tunnel Rats (most notably in Vietnam and other guerrilla wars) to crawl into insurgent tunnel complexes to search for weapons, intelligence and the enemy. Being a tunnel rat is one of the worst jobs one can draw as it was highly dangerous and possibly one of the quickest paths to PTSD.
  • This has been the job of military engineers since fortification was invented. One of the main ways to break down a wall, if you can do it, is to dig under the wall, burn the supports to the tunnels and let gravity do its job (it's more effective setting off a charge of gunpowder but works more or less the same). One of the most effective counters to that is to dig under that tunnel and do the same thing. If two tunnels run into each other they fight underground. Now do you see just one reason why The Engineer is considered a badass kind of soldier?
  • Urban Explorers are in a sense, the real-life equivalent of dungeon crawlers if one thinks about it: They explore abandoned locations ranging from mines to deserted complexes, and oftentimes have to be careful of various dangers in the wild (though this may vary from hostile squatters to natural incidents like say, cave-ins). Bonus points if they're exploring an actual castle dungeon.


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Alternative Title(s): Dungeon Crawler


Dungeons & Dickholes

Dungeons & Dickholes is one of the worlds set in Game Land, a Fantasy level based off of the likes of Zelda 2 and Super Pitfall where most of the level is set underground.

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Main / DungeonCrawling

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