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Impassable Desert

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A kind of Broken Bridge.

Deserts in video games are a hassle. Not only are these places dangerous and full of Random Encounters, they are also difficult if not impossible to enter without the right accessory, artifact or skill. Be it glasses against the sand, a map to avoid getting lost, Seven League Boots to walk on quicksand, you'll never be able to "just" enter the desert.

Examples :

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the virtual-reality RPG arc of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the heroes had to find a Niwatori card that would allow them to pass through the desert. A card that, in the actual card game, is one of many mediocre Com Mons.

    Board Games 
  • In Talisman, a character will lose a life (leading to death if they are on their last life) whenever landing in a desert square, unless they have the water bottle, Holy Grail, or Profane Relic objects.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Sandman (1989), travelers lost in sandstorms sometimes end up in the Shifting Places, a seemingly infinite desert region of the Dreaming in which past, present and future overlap. The only way to get out and return to the waking world is for the titular character to intervene magically.
  • Leaves on the Wind has a prison on a planet wide one. Guards don’t chase runners because they’ll just die in the desert. Zoe at least gets the benefit of a Big Damn Heroes rescue from the Trope Namers.

  • Invoked in Lawrence of Arabia with the Nefud. "It cannot be crossed!" Yes, it can.
  • In Australia, the Never-Never (a real-life name for the more inhospitable regions of the Outback) is described this way.

  • Dune features an entire planet that's an impassable desert. People are forced to inhabit only a few cities and crossing the desert without stillsuits and thumpers (to confuse the ginormous sandworms) will be certain death. Even the Fremen can't cross without stillsuits though they've learned to manage without thumpers and hitch rides on the backs of sandworms themselves as transport.
    • With a stillsuit and thumpers it's still pretty much certain death for non-Fremen without an aircraft. Among other things, the Fremen stillsuits are significantly better than Imperial-make. Paul impresses several Fremen (and pseudo-Fremen Liet-Kynes, who is an Imperial who's "gone native") by managing to put on his stillsuit correctly without being told how, and by surviving on foot in the desert for even a short time.
  • The desert between the nations of Ephebe and Omnia in Small Gods was widely believed to be impassable for an army. Unfortunately the book's Big Bad was enough of a Diabolical Mastermind to figure out how to do it: the Omnian army sends a detachment out into the desert, they march as far as they can, leave a cache of supplies, then turn back. The next detachment does the same, using the supplies left to go further, then turn back while also leaving supplies. Do it enough times (and sacrifice enough of your own men along the way) and a small army can in fact cross the desert.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has a deadly desert that turn everything it touches into sand, making it effectively impossible to enter without some trick (e.g., a infinite carpet).
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, the Calormene Empire believes it is impossible to conquer Narnia, despite outnumbering them many times over, due to the desert between them being impassable to large armies. Rabadash, in a moment of rare cleverness, thinks of a way: send a small army of experienced survivors to launch a surprise attack to conquer and hold Archenland (the smaller kingdom that separates the desert from Narnia), and then the Empire can send its forces over in small groups until the garrison is strong enough to launch an all-out invasion. It might have worked, if the Narnians and Archenlanders hadn't been warned in advance and defeated the initial invasion.
  • While not technically a desert, in the original short story version of Damnation Alley, North America had become an impassible wilderness, with snakes big enough to crush tanks without even noticing they were there and storms of rock from the sky. The protagonist, Hell Tanner was given a pardon for his substantial crimes if he would attempt to cross coast to coast to deliver a vaccine.

    Video Games 
  • Breath of Fire III has the aptly-named 'Desert of Death'. It's made even more annoying by a translation error in the directions for crossing it. There's also one in Breath of Fire IV, but it's not quite as irritating. The fourth game also includes an impassable plain, where you pretty much have to be riding an animal (like the floating snail) to get anywhere.
    • In the original Breath of Fire, the desert region can only be entered when you have a (very expensive) item in your inventory.
  • Caveman2Cosmos, a Game Mod for Civilization IV, has an option to enable certain terrains (like tundra or desert) to cause Damage Over Time to units ending their turn there. With more "realistic" map generators the game can spawn some fairly large deserts which may very well be outright impossible to cross until the proper technologies or unit upgrades come along.
  • In Dune, you have to get a special suit to avoid dehydration.
  • In the first God of War game, you couldn't get through the Desert of Lost Souls until you'd tracked down and murdered all of the Desert Sirens. Fortunately, it's a really tiny desert.
  • In Golden Sun:
    • The Lamakan Desert will make you overheat and lose HP (represented by a bar which fills with every step you take, and the odd complaint from party members). You need to use Reveal to see hidden oases so you can cool yourself off (some oases instead hide treasure, a Djinni, or an Antlion Monster). It's possible to cross the desert without using Reveal if you like pain, but to make sure you can't actually get through it, the exit is hidden by a mirage (and blocked by a giant manticore), and entry into the desert itself is blocked by a rock until you get the Reveal-granting NPCs to help.
    • The Suhalla Desert doesn't have a heat meter, but it does have tornadoes that will fling you back to the start unless you use the right spell to get rid of them. Note that you can pass this desert early, and in fact can do so just after getting off the Karagol ferry... but the events leading to your ascent of the Venus Lighthouse won't trigger.
  • In Half-Minute Hero, you have to follow a pattern of the cacti to get through a desert that will, otherwise, spit you back out near a town. For a game with an insanely small time limit, this is infuriating occasionally.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, You can't pass through the desert in Agrabah without first freeing carpet from Aladdin's house.
  • In King's Quest III, Gwydion cannot safely explore the desert without defeating Medusa, which requires using the right item. He never really tries to pass through it, though (the desert is eight screens, only one of which has an item you need).
  • Patapon: You can't cross the desert without the rain juju, because just walking on the ground hurts your patapons.
  • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the desert is impassible (because of a perpetual sandstorm) until your character's friend gives you a pair of "go-goggles". Even then, any battles you have will take place in a sandstorm which damages your non-rock/earth/steel -based pokemon.
    • Even Pokemon XD, a game where Crossing the Desert is basically all you do (since Orre is a giant desert), has an example. The sand in a certain part of Orre is a different consistency from the kind that's everywhere else, so your scooter just gets stuck unless you get it fitted with hover jets.
  • In Quest for Glory II, you were heavily advised to purchase a Saurus before entering the desert, because you could command the Saurus to "go home" and it would return you to the city. You could still traverse the desert alone if you wanted, but with no map to chart your location with it was up to you to remember where the town was; forget, and you could become permanently lost as the desert extended infinitely with no landmarks to guide you. If you stubbornly refuse to buy the Saurus when the saurus salesman shows up, the game drops a bridge on you. You can get to Raseir before the caravan departs near the end of the game, if you know where to go and have all the gear you need (the Saurus, plenty of food and water). However, you aren't allowed to enter the town yet so while you can do it, there's no reason to do so; it's mostly just Developer's Foresight.
  • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, crossing the Mosel Dunes requires the player to jump between several distantly separated oases. This is represented as a water-filled meter on the side of the screen. There's a chest containing a key item called the Aqua Veil that let's the player cross the desert without the threat of dehydration.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: You need the Longshot or Hover Boots to successfully cross the enormous pit of quicksand in Haunted Wasteland, as well as the Lens of Truth to receive the guidance of a Poe who knows the only safe way to the end of the desert. Until then, the path to the Spirit Temple is blocked.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom: The Gerudo Desert gets very hot during the day and very cold during the night outside of Kara Kara Bazaar and Gerudo Town, requiring you to wear temperature-appropriate clothes or eat special foods to traverse it safely. There are also areas with sandstorms that disable the Sheikah Slate's/Purah Pad's map.
  • In Super Robot Wars: OG Saga: Endless Frontier, the only way to pass the desert is by a giant cat-shaped tank that carries a city.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, one of the three areas of the Dune Sea on Tatooine requires a map to enter, presumably to avoid getting lost. However, once you enter the area, it has the same boundary-marker posts as the other two areas. Presumably, it's the process of getting there that's difficult.
  • The Desolation in Guild Wars Nightfall feature sulfuric sand that gives off fumes toxic to any living, non-demonic creature that tries to pass. The way to successfully pass is to tame the undead junundu wurms and have them swallow you.
  • Dragon Quest IV: The desert near Casabranca/Branka is surrounded by a mountain range, leaving an inn as a choke point. You can't cross until you obtain a wagon, which is conveniently available at that same inn.
  • In Wasteland, the map edges are described as endless desert reaching as far as the eye can see. The in-map deserts require a canteen or your player will take heat damage, but this isn't a problem because everyone starts with a canteen.
  • You can't cross the snow plains in Final Fantasy II until you recruit Josef and acquire his ice boat. Not a desert, but the same principle.
  • Final Fantasy XII has the unending sandstorm in the Westersand which blocks passage to the North until the player defeats the monster which is creating it (but first they have to get a special item to not get lost in the storm in order to find the boss).
  • Final Fantasy VII has the desert surrounding the Gold Saucer. You can't enter it without the Buggy or a Chocobo. Not much of a problem since you can just go around it, but it does contain an enemy from which you can learn the Disc-One Nuke, Aqualung.
  • The Desert of Shifting Sands in Final Fantasy V can't be passed until the party learns of and defeats the sandworm in the area, resulting in its corpse leaving a short, passable crossing to the deeper part of the desert (i.e. the part that doesn't push you back to the entrance).
  • NieR features a desert that is mostly safe to traverse (save for the random monster attacks). Unfortunately, the portion of the desert that contains the local dungeon holds to this trope. You need a local guide to lead you to the dungeon's entrance, though you can eventually earn the power to cross on your own to perform sidequests there.
  • Tales of Vesperia has one you can't enter before receiving canteens. You then have to constantly collect water from cacti to avoid death as you cross it. But after you cross it once, you can then cross it again freely with no requirements.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic has exhaustion zones on Tatooine, if you get too far away from a civilized area, you'll start to rapidly die of heat exhaustion. Something similar happens with hypothermia on Hoth.
  • Terranigma has the Taklama desert which can only be crossed if you get directions from some nomads. It acts as a Broken Bridge because you can only do so after you finish Louran.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, visiting The Arid, Extra-Dry Desert will produce negative status effects after every combat if you go there without first visiting The Oasis to get the Ultrahydrated effect. (Notable in that the desert used to show up first, requiring you to pick up some nasty effects before The Oasis becomes available.)
  • Napoleon: Total War features attrition if you're currently in a desert, this will reduce the number of your men in your army; not impassible but highly ill-advised to attempt to cross the desert to attack lone cities. You can however recruit camel units that suffer no such attrition.
  • Far Cry 2 is guilty of this. You can't simply cross the desert to the southern portion of the map at any time; only once the story takes you there can you travel in that direction. Try it any other time, and your mercenary passes out in the sand and wakes up closer to the border of the normal game map.
  • In Metal Gear, you cannot cross the desert north of Building 2 until you find the compass.
  • Hollow Knight has a desert at the base of the Howling Cliffs that a lore tablet says is endless and has "no world beyond", and an Overpowering Constant Wind prevents the Knight from venturing westward.
  • In Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter, the open desert of Kerona is home to Dune-style Sand Worms that devour those who enter it on foot. The only way to cross it is via Hover Bike.
  • The Oregon Trail II's desert areas will deal a Total Party Kill to travelers who fail to bring sufficient canteens and/or water kegs. In the larger deserts, attempting to cross by day is also a death sentence for the party.

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted in Daughter for Dessert. Lily even wants to cross the desert on foot when she decides to leave the diner.