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Malevolent Architecture

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At least the rent's cheap, right?.

"Would you put up with a row of whirling knives in the cereal aisle at Safeway?" the Double Dragon guy asked. "Of course not. Why, then, should Duke Nukem have to run through a corridor of them to get the health pack he needs to survive?"

Who designed this place?!

Imagine if, every time you went to work, you had to negotiate a complicated laser grid just to get in the building. Every time you needed to open a door, you needed to go on a long trek to find a key, which disappeared into the aether as soon as you used it. If you needed a new stapler, you'd have to push giant granite blocks around a room. Every room is a puzzle, every hallway a maze, and the slightest mistake invites death. Shortcuts? Forget it. They either prove impassable or zap you back outside the laser grid. And that's without having to fight every living thing that crosses your path. And it will be a different set of challenges during your next adventure. In short, everything is explicitly and obviously designed to make life as difficult for you as possible. (Not to mention in violation of every building code in existence.)

Such are the lives of video game characters, where the layout of buildings seems completely divorced from any practical purpose the designers might have originally envisioned for them. Castles aren't large walled structures where people live and work, they're intricate mazes riddled with spike traps, Monster Closets and hallways with pendulum-swinging blades or maces. Temples aren't places where people go to worship their various deities, they're where the ancients practiced their Booby Trap- and Death Course-making skills (and they were so good at it that they are still functional after hundreds of years without maintenance). If you need to find a door, it's probably hidden in a Bookcase Passage. Even places like warehouses and sewers, where the design should be fairly straightforward, are designed solely to deter intruders, even if there is no earthly reason why it should be so, and even if it utterly inconveniences non-intruders. One wonders what the regular people do.

In short, anything can be a dungeon if the designers need it to be. Related to Solve the Soup Cans. The architectural equivalent of Everything Trying to Kill You. Justified Trope if the building actually is a dungeon/prison or was designed to protect a MacGuffin. The Logical Extreme of this is Living Structure Monster when they're actually alive and actively trying to kill you.

Contrast Benevolent Architecture. Game worlds are often made up of equal parts Benevolent and Malevolent Architecture — this is one of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality, as without the former you wouldn't have a game and without the latter, the game would be too easy. Related to and may be caused by No OSHA Compliance. See also Theme Park Landscape, which doesn't distinguish between malevolent and benevolent.

See also Alien Geometries, for something that does something similar, except to your brain, and Stage Fatality, which is what happens when somebody weaponizes this during a fight.


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    Video Games 
  • In Binary Boy, you have a beautiful green field... which has stumps with man-sized balls spinning around, and meter-tall red blades flipping up and down, both very much lethal to the protagonist.
  • Mostly justified in Borderlands and Borderlands 2:
    • The majority of the buildings in the setting are either cobbled together by bandits of questionable sanity (and as a result wouldn't necessarily have a logical layout anyway), and most of the other constructions actually make some sense (although many of them have fallen into heavy disuse). The few exceptions (such as Opportunity, which has a rather unintuitive layout for a city) are also justified, as the guy who built them cares much more about stroking his ego than about any practical concerns.
    • Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep brings us the Lair of Infinite Agony, the dungeon of the titular Dragon Keep. The place is filled with spiders and numerous traps, including a hallway with constantly-moving platforms that will crush you against the ceiling.
  • Dracula's Castle in all its forms in the Castlevania games. Given who it belongs to, it is quite malevolent. It is, as his son puts it, "a creature of chaos". It isn't even Dracula's doing — it's ever-shifting, creating new deathtraps without his lifting a finger, although he does stock it with monsters — but some of them just appear regardless. After his death, his reincarnation has to deal with it just as the Belmonts did — and it's just as bad despite his metaphorical deed of ownership.
  • In Cave Story, it's unclear how much of any given cave is designed, and how much was just naturally hazardous. Some parts make sense: The Labyrinth is supposed to be impassible because it's meant to confine the Gaudis and protect the Core. And some of it makes less sense, such as the Grasstown pathway running through Chaco's fireplace, or the pit with instant death spikes (helpfully labeled) in Santa's house.
  • The Malevolent Architecture of Chips' Challenge is the point of the game. Chip is traversing the deliberately malevolent clubhouse to win the heart of Melinda.
  • Control takes place in the Oldest House, a brutalist skyscraper of extradimensional origin. It frequently rearranges itself, often trapping the FBC's employees within it. It happens so frequently that protocols have to be created in case of building shifts. Not to mention the House is also filled with supernatural artifacts that range from disturbing at best to outright dangerous at worst.
  • For whatever reason, Crash Bandicoot has to deal with tons of explosive crates left by whoever in all his adventures. Aside from that, the first game alone had trap-filled tribal fortresses, broken bridges in misty terrain, ruins with flaming platforms, and power plants containing burning pipes and toxic waste pools.
  • The prevalence of the traps in ancient temples is lampshaded in Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge.
  • Dark Messiah has loads of spiky things around to kick enemies into/onto. As one review memorably said "Welcome to The Adventures of Sir Kicksalot Deathboot in the Land of the Conspicuously Placed Spike Racks."
  • In Dark Souls, Sen's Fortress would seem an archetypal example with rolling boulders, swinging axes, unreasonably thin bridges, and tons of aggressive snake people whose only goal in life is to knock you into pits where if the fall doesn't kill you, the massive stone demons will. However, it plays with the trope a little as the whole fortress was set up as a proving ground to screen access to Anor Londo so that only the strongest would be able to continue.
  • Deadly Rooms of Death: What else would you expect from a title like that? In fact, the main plot is actually about investigating why dungeons are so unnecessarily dangerous.
  • Used for fun in Tecmo's Deception. In the sequels, even the buildings inhabited by the heroes are filled with death-dealing devices that never shut off.
    • This is actually the entire point of Deception: Every game involves the player building death-courses to protect themselves from a nigh-endless stream of attackers. In the first game, you have to build most of the house, and building the course inside it. In the later games, they simply give you a pre-existing terribly dangerous area to hide in and go "Here's a giant pile of traps, make this place worse."
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: The entire tower of Temen-ni-gru was basically built to be as demonic as possible, justifying the prevalence of traps, and doors locking you with ambushes. The most appropriate examples are in the hallways; if you thought those wall-saw-blades were annoying during fights, expect to see a lot of them in puzzles and platforming sections as well.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry: The Dark World of Limbo is alive, which at times will actively try to block your path or kill you by changing the terrain around you, verbally threaten you, occasionally exclaim "NO" if you make unexpected amounts of progress, and outright taunt and insult you by writing "FUCK YOU DANTE" on the floors, ceilings or walls.
  • Goes back at least as far as Donkey Kong, in which a building under construction is transformed into a series of death traps for poor Mario — because a gorilla jumps on the beams a few times. (Gorillas are heavy — but not that heavy!)
    • Not quite... the main danger's not the building, but either falling off bits of it (oddly for a platformer, falling more than about 1-2m would KILL you), or the wandering deadly things like thrown barrels, sentient firechickens, and so on.
  • Doom: The original batch of games say that the influence of hell has changed the layouts of many of the proper Earth levels. Once you enter Hell itself, all bets are off. Keys in Hell itself are an explanation of Benevolent Architecture.
  • Dragon Age: Origins uses this trope quite a lot in the ancient elven ruins since the ones you do get to visit were designed as burial chambers and so traps (including jets of flame between the statues) are needed to keep people out. The trope is also outright invoked in the trap-laden Temple of Andraste, where the scholar Genitivi explains the cultists' referral to Maker's retribution for trespassing thusly:
    Brother Genitivi: It's much more lyrical to write "Maker will smite the heathen", then "Billy toiled for years and years to make sure the spike goes right up some traveller's ass.".
  • In Dragon Age II, this is somewhat justified, as Kirkwall was originally built by Tevinter Magisters. To prevent slave uprisings in Lowtown, the streets were purposefully designed to be narrow and "fences" are knee-high, jagged iron spikes. "The Enigma of Kirkwall" codex entry speculates that many streets were intentionally designed to form sigils for Blood Magic rituals, making the entire city itself both Malevolent Architecture and an Eldritch Location.
  • Dwarf Fortress:
    • Instead of trying to dodge Malevolent Architecture, you're the one creating it. You can do this by accident to your own dwarves if you're not careful, as traps like rising spikes, drawbridges and minecart abuse don't discriminate, but otherwise you can make your architecture Malevolent enough that entire armies can come, barge into your fortress and just mulch themselves completely against gigantic saws and axes, spiked balls, smashing walls and many others without ever seeing a dwarf.
    • Project "Fuck the World" is go!
    • Wherever mummies can be found in Adventurer mode, there too will be traps of every kind. Triggering one, even if you manage to successfully evade the trap, will wake the mummy's wrath.
  • The Dungeon Keeper series (which has you, well, keeping a dungeon) demonstrates just why this is necessary.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Largely averted in Morrowind. The player can explore tons of ancient ruins, especially those of the technocentric (and extinct) Dwemer, but the only things trying to kill you are the mechanical defenders. However, in the Tribunal expansion, the player can visit Sotha Sil's Clockwork City, where there ARE deathtraps that WILL kill you and anything else that they get a hold of. Partly explained by the Clockwork City only having one real inhabitant, who is both a recluse and (being both a god and the creator of the City) in control of its functions, including the traps.
    • Played oh-so-straight in Oblivion. Ayleid ruins are the most justified example, since they were xenophobic against all other species, and so nearly every ruin is filled with traps. However, not only do they fail to actually keep anyone besides the player out, but other ruins also include traps with much less justification. A goblin-infested cave featuring tripwires? Makes sense. An abandoned mine reclaimed by bandits can drop logs on your head? Plausible. An Imperial fort full of undead that has clearly inbuilt pressure plates and swinging axes? This trope to a hilt. One quest even had you walk through a grid of pressure plates which triggered darts if you didn't follow a pattern of symbols on the conveniently-given map. Of course, this quest took place in a crazed guy's head, so it makes sense in retrospect.
  • In Evil Genius, you have to make the choice between making corridors easy for minions to use and filling them with traps against enemy agents: there's very little common ground between the two.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Blackberry's pyramid, especially when one of its incarnations is seen more fully in EXTRAPOWER: Giant Fist. Ghosts trapped in the pyramid, hostile statues, spear and arrow traps coming from all angles all serve to keep thieves and enemies away from Blackberry's magic research and the eternal slumber of the ancient wizard Diamond Mine.
  • The Fatal Frame/Project Zero franchise. It almost seems a common practice to create the building in ancient Japan as puzzle rooms requiring the inhabitant to find all the missing pieces or shuffle around blocks to get into the next room, and certain rooms in the third game can only be accessed by climbing around in the rafters...
  • Final Fantasy V has a library with a sentient bookshelf that deliberately moves in your way to block a passage. You need to defeat and recruit the fire summon Ifrit to scare the bookshelf into standing aside.
  • Ultimecia's castle in Final Fantasy VIII, which, true to the trope, requires a good bit of puzzle-solving to navigate. In this case, it's justified, partly by Time Compression, but mostly by the fact that the place is falling apart, requiring some creativity on the part of the characters to get around its broken staircases, blocked doors, and crumbling halls.
    • Zig-zagged in Final Fantasy X. When Summoners go on their pilgrimage, they are required to pray at all of the temples across Spira, with the "Trial of the Fayth" being reportedly very dangerous. The actual trials are all variations of block maze puzzles, but with lethal elemental magic. In Killika, there are flames that could kill you if you did the puzzle wrong. In Djose, there's lightning everywhere, in Macalania, if you can't solve the puzzle (and it's quite difficult), you stay there forever, and in Bevelle, there are many platforms one could have fallen off from. Of course, the game doesn't actually let you die in any of those trials, and the first temple in Besaid is not dangerous in any reasonable way.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 2 has a pair of vents leading into the office that a)are completely open, b)don't seem to actually ventilate much since they connect directly to the neighbouring party rooms, and c)are big enough for the animatronics to crawl through. Oh, and there are no doors, so they can just waltz in whenever they feel like it, too.
  • Gift: Everywhere except level select zone and Lolita's house.
  • Severely downplayed in Goblet Grotto. Even though the game is full of Bizarrchitecture, the Egyptian Pyramid level is the only one that comes close to this trope — and all it has are a few shallow pits, that are easily seen and avoided in spite of the trapmasters attempting to persuade you they're full of jewels and perfectly safe. Of course, the game is a parody, so this was to be expected.
  • God of War:
    • God of War: Pandora's Temple. Justified in that it protects the only weapon powerful enough to let a mortal kill a god, and as such, it was specifically designed (by an architect, making it actual Malevolent Architecture) for no other purpose than to kill every single thing that crosses its threshold.
    • Justified in God of War II: The Isle of Fates is trying to protect something similar to Pandora's Box: the Sisters of Fate, who call the shots for even gods.
    • Surprisingly averted in 3, if an area isn't really fitting a death trap (like most of Olympus, which is only siege ready in the terms of their army), the most you'll find are a few foes. There is one exception though, the foyer where you fight Hercules has thorns that can be either this or Benevolent Architecture, since you and the boss can both be skewered by them.
  • Gremlins 2 for the NES takes this trope to the extreme. The game takes place mostly in an office building whose architect would most likely be sued by integrating an extreme amount of spikes, electricity, lava, bottomless pits, inconveniently placed conveyor belts, spinning flails and moving platforms into the building.
  • In Half-Life, Gordon Freeman frequently needs to turn on equipment, but the required buttons, valves and switches are in dangerous or unlikely locations, such as underwater or on the wrong side of an enormous fan.
    • Partially (but only partially) justified by the fact that the aftermath of the Resonance Cascade banged up the place pretty badly, and Marines and aliens shooting stuff what go "BOOM!" at each other all over the place probably didn't improve things. Nevertheless, the OSHA would probably have had a field day at Black Mesa even pre-Resonance Cascade.
    • Not at all justified with the Room For Dropping Crates Into an Almost Bottomless Pit.
    • Fan Remake Black Mesa remodels a lot of setpieces so that they at least look a bit saner, and serve some kind of identifiable purpose.
  • The S.S. "Literally Can't Sink" from A Hat in Time, considering it's supposed to be a cruise ship for passengers, either has a bunch of off-screen elevators Hat Kid can't use or is basically one big architectural flaw. Slightly justified by every single one of its crew (except the captain) being completely incompetent at their jobs.
  • Haunting Ground: Belli Castle is riddled with puzzles and death traps at nearly every turn, which is why the dynamic between Fiona and Hewie is a central game mechanic. Hewie is integral in detecting traps, so Fiona can safely navigate around them, and he'll warn her by barking, whenever any of the stalkers are near. That way, she'll know when to hide.
  • The finale location in Heavy Rain. Conveyor Belts which lead into meat grinders, a pit filled with water that can be used to drown kids, Pipes lying around for no reason...Almost justified when you discover it's a scrap reprocessing plant. But then it just raises more questions!
  • The Team ICO Series has plenty of examples:
    • Subverted in ICO, where the deathtrap of a castle you're trying to escape was clearly a perfectly inhabitable building before the ravages of time knocked out most of the access ladders, walkways, ropes, bridges, and anything else that falls to pieces easily with time. (A few puzzles even involve accelerating this process with acts of creative vandalism to create new paths.)
    • In Shadow of the Colossus, some of the bosses themselves are malevolent architecture themselves, with little ledges and platforms built onto them that Wander can climb. Most of them can and will kill him if he isn't careful. The final Boss is a giant sentient tower you need to climb up to reach its weakpoint... if you can reach it.
    • The entirety of the Nest is this in The Last Guardian. Whatever isn't a deliberate trap has decayed into brittle ruins that collapse under the slightest weight. Many of the rooms in it have no clear purpose and much of the architecture seems to be specifically designed for people to fall to their deaths.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy. The architecture in the game is loaded with this. The palace or castle of The Guy truly stands out.
  • Jak and Daxter:
    • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy:
      • There is an area known as The Lost Precursor City. Let's just say it's pretty hard to imagine any number of people ever having lived there, what with the electrified water, pools of dark eco, death traps, hot pipes, long and spacious slide corridors that are impossible to climb up, completely pointless pipes and platforms (some of which are on a time limit), and the fact that not that many rooms even have floors. Not to mention there isn't any evidence of the place ever being host to any sort of housing. Then there's Gol and Maia's Citadel, which was apparently somehow built right smack dab in the middle of one huge Bottomless Pit...
      • The Forbidden Forest temple prominently features multiple Bottomless Pits and floating platforms that turn upside-down, dumping you straight to your death. Oh yeah, and the only way to get in the place is to climb up to the top of one of the towers (via multiple Floating Platforms) to reach an elevator that then takes you down.
    • Jak II: Renegade features such locales as the Fortress, the Palace (and its support cables), the Secret Weapons Laboratory, and the Haven Forest Temple.
    • Jak 3: Wastelander continues the trend, with most notable examples being Mar's Eco Mines where the rails for minecarts have to be shot down, and the Catacomb Grind Rail system that is awesomely impractical due to being full of holes and the drones attacking anyone going through for some reason.
  • In Jedi Academy:
    • In the second level on Vjun, about two-thirds of the way through the game, you start in a hanger with the series's star Kyle Katarn, who immediately runs to the locked elevator, then starts talking about how the switch to summon it is hidden in a control panel fourteen floors up, and generally mocks the trope he has lived in for about five games so far. This sequence is easy to miss as the real exit is blatantly obvious and closer than the elevator; approaching it starts a new cutscene where Kyle makes more comments about your next stop being a garbage compactor.
    • Throughout the entire level, Kyle uses his superior abilities to bypass the jumping puzzles and death lasers you must get through. While the presence of nonfunctional elevators in nearly every corner takes some of the edge off, the player still has to wonder what the architect was smoking. The architect was probably Vader, so maybe deathtraps are to be expected?
    • Really, Imperial architects and designers are very clearly not right in the head — what purpose DO all those random death pits in their bases and ships serve? And how exactly do non-Jedi, like the Stormtroopers, manage to get to their positions when even Kyle. Kriffing. Katarn is nearly killed or maimed getting around these places by the architecture alone?
    • One extremely powerful build in Jedi Academy is to get Level 3 Force Grip as soon as possible, which turns Malevolent Architecture into your weapon of choice.
  • The Jumper series is chock-full of buildings that seem to be made with challenging agile creatures in mind than serving any other purpose, from an abandoned laboratory with numerous cannons to a factory that even without deliberately-placed traps still looks work-unsafe, to jungles and windswept mountains that have far more spikes and electricity than could be naturally possible.
  • The Catacombs in King's Quest VI are an interesting example in that, after you play through them, the Winged Ones have the traps taken out of them.
  • The Legend of Zelda epitomizes the concept by having Link puzzle his way through labyrinthine dungeons, ancient ruins, and natural environmental dwellings. Of particular note are:
    • The Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time has to take the cake with invisible moving platforms, spikes, and illusionary floors. In certain rooms, clay jars will even hurl themselves at you! Justified, as the place was implied to be a torture chamber.
    • Majora's Mask: The Stone Tower Temple is so complex, that it requires completing half of it by fighting its first mini-boss for the Light Arrows. Then you have to exit the temple, fire an arrow at the crystal beneath the entrance to turn the temple and the surrounding environment upside-down, before going back inside to complete the other halfnote . Which will require you to cross open expanses, while trying not to fall into the sky!
    • Twilight Princess has both the Lakebed Temple and The City in the Sky. Fans have debated which of them is more difficult: the former requires you to redirect the flow of water throughout the temple, by using the central chamber's rotating staircase to raise the temple's water levelnote . While The City in the Sky is a non-linear 8-floor monstrosity where you'll have to use the Spinner to bridge bottomless chasms, or Clawshot your way across them, all while trying not to get lost, or fall to your death. There's also Hyrule Castle, which has Link climb the main tower platform by platform to get to the throne room. One has to wonder how Zelda manages to do that every day.
  • Lampshaded in the E3 trailer for "LEGO City: Undercover" where Chase Mccain, the protagonist, is falling down a mine's air shaft and narrowly misses a fan. He yells:
  • Mortal Kombat has Stage Fatalities, which are special Fatalities the winner of a match can use to kill his/her opponent using the rather hazardous nature of the specific arena. The first one was The Pit in the first game, which simply required the winner to uppercut the loser to drop him down into the spiked pit below. Several other games in the series had Stage Fatalities with spikes, but many were far more creative (some involved throwing your opponent into acid, crushing walls, lava, or even a laser grid that dices the victim. Some don't even use actual architecture; in the Living Forest, you throw your victim to carnivorous trees.) Mortal Kombat: Deception also had a special version called Death Traps, which like Brutalities, could kill your opponent (or you, if you don't look where you're going) even if his Life Bar wasn't empty, sort of the Kombat version of a ring-out. There was even one arena, the Falling Cliffs, that with a Death Trap that could kill both Kombatant's at once. (If that happened, the player who had taken the least amount of damage won the match.)
  • Treacherous Mansion in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. The name kind of says it all, but for those who haven't played the game, the house/museum is perched on a tiny rock a few hundred feet above a canyon with waterfalls all around it. The interior isn't much safer, with a moving staircase to access the second floor, working space rockets and machinery, a maze of catacombs, and Animated Armour wanting to slice whoever in half. The fact it has the 'strongest paranormal signals ever recorded' just makes it even worse.
  • In Marathon, the builders of the U.E.S.C. Marathon decided to put crushing elevators and huge pits of lava in a civilian residential area, among other things. Oh, and the seven-platform puzzle which is monstrously difficult and requires an hour of trekking back and forth between control rooms which activate a mechanical staircase to get to the friggin' observatory. Some of it is justified, since the AI in charge of doors, lifts, and platforms has gone quite insane, so things aren't working properly. There's no excuse for the lava, though.
  • Invoked in Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death, the villain Heng Long comes up over the PA early in the game and fires all his maintenance people, instructing them to make the place as unsafe as possible before leaving to try and get the various obstacles to kill the hero.
  • The Mass Effect series generally averts this, although the haphazardly arranged volatile containers are another issue. One location in the second game has this fully in force: Jarrahe Station. You go on board to find that everyone is dead. Then you get to engineering where the hallways appear to have steam venting into them. Then the computer tells that it's actual plasma venting into the hallways. So then you have to make your way to the controls way in the back of the section, dodging the vents along the way to restore power to the section and shut the vents down. The plasma was venting due to the Axe-Crazy VI running the place, but one wonders why there were plasma vents in the hallways in the first place.
  • Metal Gear Solid:
    • The series is somewhat guilty of this but not as bad as some other examples. In Shadow Moses Island, there are trap doors around the pillbox armory, and there's a blast furnace room right now to an extremely cold room — the former makes it extremely easy for someone to be incinerated with a misstep (or a helpful little push). In Big Shell, there are several-story high walkways with sections falling out, although this is due to crap workmanship, rather than the architect's intent.
    • Perhaps the most absurd example is from the first MGS, which has one hallway start off with an electrified floor, contact with it being lethal and the rest of the hallway being flooded with toxic gas. Granted, in the current circumstances it makes sense as FOXHOUND needs to keep Otacon locked away in his lab, but this brings to mind several problems. 1: The path to Otacon already has several guards. 2: Their own people need to use that hallway too, but perhaps worst of all 3: Prior to the takeover, this was just a normal base. The only rooms in this hallway are a few offices, a conference room, and a lab. What was the thinking behind it? In case the military can't pay their salaries, they'll just keep their personnel locked in behind the death floor?
    • Naturally, The Last Days of Foxhound mocks this as with everything else with the series. First with the trap doors by that it had already killed several Mooks and nearly claimed Sniper Wolf, and later on, upon examining the Furnace Room/Freezing Warehouse (directly adjacent), Ocelot remarks that "whoever designed this place can go straight to Hell." Liquid had earlier criticized the trapdoors by asking if Dr. Doom was the architectural consultant?
  • Metroid's Samus Aran has to deal with traps and machines everywhere she goes, even ships and stations belonging to her Federation allies. On the other hand, these puzzles are always perfectly suited to her battle armor's powers; no one else could possibly get around these places. The Prime games set new records for both using and explaining away this trope — there are reams of scan text that tell you how, for example, Space Pirates unlock some of their doors with metal balls the same size as Samus's morph ball.
    • This is justified in many cases in Prime by decay of some sort. Either the ravages of time or battle have messed up the status quo and your only hope is what's in your arsenal of gadgets, or the world is crashing down around you (Prime 1 for instance, where you start off brimming with techno-wonders and lose it all to an explosion as the station self destructs around you).
    • One example is Echoes's Sanctuary Fortress. There is a single elevator to the roof, with one access door. That door is behind a wall of glass that can't be moved. You have to shatter the glass to get to the roof. To do that, you must shut off the main generator of the fortress, become a small sphere, magnetically adhere yourself to the generator's surface, and then propel yourself away from it with enough force to fly upwards several feet and shatter the glass. No trouble for Samus, but virtually impossible for anyone else, until you realize the species that lived there could fly and had mechanoids to help them.
  • Standard in Minecraft. Though there are some "canon" examples in the randomly generated structures (eg. both types of temples), the most prominent ones occur on multiplayer. In a vanilla Minecraft server, there is no protection against someone murdering you, stealing your stuff, and razing your base or house, making you a noob again. Though many servers have mods to prevent this, some don't or make you donate (pay) to use them. So what are you to do? Why integrate as many traps into your house as possible to kill any would-be thieves of course! Nearly every serious player's house will have many traps and decoy treasure rooms, and they will have to go through great lengths navigating their own traps every time they want to deposit or withdrawal so much as an iron ingot from their horde. However, in Minecraft, you can always mine blocks so there is no trap that can't be successful or destroyed, so expect lots of obsidian to try to Rail Road you into forcing to go down the trapped paths and make you solve the puzzles. Many players even go a step further and, taking a page from every super villain, rig their buildings to self destruct with TNT upon command, so no one benefits from stealing.
  • Myst contains many examples of how the D'Ni seemingly wanted their lives to be a constant challenge, in which you couldn't go to the bathroom without solving a puzzle to unlock the control cabinet containing the switch which will free up the gear that you have to turn to open the lavatory door. The architecture can't actually hurt you (since there's no damage mechanism in the game), but it can block your progress and leave you frustrated for hours.
    • Uru's Gahreesen age. Two rotating fortresses "connected" by nothing more than a small rocky platform. Time your jumps carefully. Justified as additional security measures (the aforementioned rocky platform is the only place an intruder could conceivably enter) thus making an attack on the age with an army of more than about five people impossible.
      • Only if you assume the attackers don't have the means to fly, which is doubtful given how many weird creatures exist in other Ages, presumably including a Giant Flyer or two.
  • The eponymous house in Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor contains an underground series of rotating rooms, chambers with collapsing floors and ceilings, and a door which will explode if a puzzle is completed incorrectly.
  • Pops up in virtually every level of Ninja Senki. There are large gaps requiring pixel-perfect double-jumps to get through, caves with floors, ceilings, and occasionally walls laden with instant-kill spikes, disappearing platforms you have to jump on, jets of high-temperature flame to bypass, a section requiring the player to jump off of water's surface or else drown ... You're a ninja, technically, and so are your antagonists (when they aren't ghosts, demons, or worse), but that seems like overkill even for them.
  • The fourth episode of Nocturne pins you against a deranged ex-demonhunter, with an overwhelming hatred for all non-human beings. Almost every room in his three-floor villa is conceived as a deadly trap. Given that this apparently frail old man keeps a greater demon prisoner in his basement, a werewolf in the attic, several monsters roam the corridors and he has no problems navigating his home, could also be a token of his badassery.
  • In Nosgoth there is a section of the map "The Fane" that, as a result of the rubble from the humans blasting in, is practically a cage. Well-coordinated Sentinels can pick up a human victim and throw them in there to be alone with the rest of the vampire team because that's the only way any humans are getting in. The only way of escaping quickly? Suffering fall damage. Which the vampires don't suffer. And they will chase you.
  • Subverted in Wigglytuff's story in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky. Playing as Guildmaster Wigglytuff in his youth, you face a chamber with a puzzle on the floor, blocks to drag, crystals to hit, Spikes of Doom, crushing walls with more Spikes, and a mysterious seal with a strangely shaped hole in the center. The solution? YOOM-TAH!!!
  • Portal and Portal 2 have the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, where some of the tests are potentially lethal, and the whole place is controlled by a malicious A.I. At one point in Portal 2, you find the remains of the employee nursery and "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day" mentioned in the first game. It's in the bowels of Aperture, a few feet away from a giant device that produces and distributes neurotoxin. Although, the test chambers themselves can't count because they are designed to be lethal and dangerous. There's no excuse for everywhere else though. Similarly, in Portal, after chamber 19 you have to go through the place where people work in order to get to the boss battle. And that place is a maze of deadly pistons and portal puzzles.
    • Though not excused, it is somewhat justified that the company was founded by a man who not only lacked common sense, but was actually vehemently opposed to it and insisted that everything (and we do mean everything) be done in the most dangerous, impractical or dangerously impractical manner possible, and that the entire facility and everything produced there was built with this philosophy in mind. This is a man who invented and spent billions of dollars testing a teleportation device as a means to (somehow) create better military-issue shower curtains, after all.
  • Every Prince of Persia game features this to some extent; one wonders why architects can't build a palace without filling it with Spikes of Doom.
    • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time had a room you couldn't get past unless you help the guard "activate the Palace Defense Systems," which, once activated, were more inconvenient to the Prince than the enemies, who almost never appeared in an area which would affect them. The guard dies about five seconds later.
    • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within justifies this: the Prince is using a castle whose owner is actively trying to kill him. Worn-out paths on the walls over chasms show that mooks have to wall-run routinely while going around as well. At least the traps in this game work on the monsters.
    • The palace segments of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, which take place in the Prince's home. You'd think he'd know how to bypass the traps, except for the completely inexplicable ones in the palace well. One possible explanation is that the traps had never been activated during his lifetime, and/or he hadn't really been paying attention when instructed about the bypasses, being kind of an arrogant jerk before SOT. "Who on Earth would dare to attack Babylon?", he may have said.
    • Prince of Persia (2008), however, makes no excuses, as it's implied people actually moved around the city as ruined as it is. In fact, when asked why she's so athletic, Elika responds that her home does not allow one to be weak. Yes, in a city that has no floor, one can imagine. However, when you enter the Royal Palace for the first time, when asked how people got around in that place, Elika remarks that the bridges that used to be there must have collapsed.
  • The Azran sites you visit in various Professor Layton games most notably in "Miracle Mask" and "Azran Legacy" where you deal with killer robots, spiked floors, and trap rooms that you can only proceed if you can solve a puzzle.
  • Pops up from time to time in the Quest for Glory series, but most prominent in Quest for Glory IV. The Cave of the Dark One is filled with rooms that will kill you in the Endgame. Make a mistake solving the puzzles needed to get around? Death. Screw up the ritual you need to perform in each chamber? Death. Fail to safely navigate the pools of lava, electrical barriers, and deadly wind-tunnels that the ritual you performed just activated? Death.
  • Ratchet & Clank either averts it or justifies it (such as with Umbris level in the first game, which is explicitly designed as a Death Course, or Oltanis which was raided recently), but there are few instances where this is played straight without any explanation:
    • Blarg Depot on Gaspar has battleship fuel stations placed on islands spread over giant sea of lava that have to be accessed by local variant of Grappling-Hook Pistol and riding on hovering platforms instead of, say, easily accessible main island with landing pod for starships. How those don't explode is anybody's guess.
    • Lampshaded in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. In one of the games within a game (which is one of the few points where this trope is played straight), the Big Bad asks who designed his lava-filled base. His butler agrees it isn't very practical.
  • Two words: Resident Evil. Ooh, why not lock a very important door of a police station with four chess pieces, each of which held in a separate location far, far away from the others? Why not, indeed...
    • Attempted justification in Resident Evil 2, where the police chief was stark raving mad and did it on purpose.
    • In the first Resident Evil, the architect of the trap-filled mansion was named George Trevor, who was hired because he liked to put such unusual quirks in his designs. Then other people started adding their own more additions to the mansion to make it even more complicated, and eventually Trevor got lost and died in the mansion because he did not recognize the layout. (Actually, retconned in the R Emake, that George Trevor was forced against his will to build death traps because his wife and daughter were kidnapped and put into torturous experiments. Once he was finished Umbrella couldn't let him go because he knew too much, so they killed him)
      • Trevor also was apparently partly responsible for places in town, in particular the police station. The novels indicate (and thus lampshade) that most of the city's Powers that Be were nuttier than a bag of almonds.
    • To be fair, a lot of the weird puzzles are intended to keep the place hard to access on purpose (for example, the Aztec sacrifice puzzle in Chief Iron's office, which lets a person access the sewers and which is not supposed to be there) — these are secret passages/chambers for a reason. Also, you do tend to show up at these places after the initial chaos of a Zombie Apocalypse is over; in several cases, it's quite plausible that the items were scattered by people panicking or trying to avoid being attacked or security details just getting things screwed up. And there are some cases where items are where they should sensibly be — Resident Evil 2 has a spare fuse in the superconductor room, where you need to fill it in order to create a replacement main fuse.
  • Blackwood Manor in Scratches is a subtle example, in that every door in the place is designed to swing in both directions, allowing you to push them open no matter which side you approach them from. So many two-way hinges might be logical if the house had been built to accommodate a wheelchair, but it has too many stairs for that. Rather, it's to keep you wondering if something's lurking behind the door you just opened.
    • Which does happen once...
  • Serious Sam 2: The final level of the game, aptly titled "Mental Institution", is a long gauntlet of the game's toughest and largest battles as Sam gets closer and closer to the titular fortress of series Big Bad Mental, a massive, futuristic pyramid made out of metal. When he finally gets to Mental's front door, the Final Boss of the game turns out to be the Mental Institution itself, revealing itself to be both heavily armed and mobile.
  • The 7th Guest: Old man Stauf built a house, and filled it with his toys...
    • The puzzles in question are there to instruct the guests as to what Stauf wants them to do. It's also implied both in this game and in its sequel that the house itself is actually alive.
  • Shrek the Third tie-in game had the sewers converted into a makeshift prison. Amongst other things, there's also a row of curved, hair-like spikes that emerge at different times in a pattern of sorts. There are also two guards nearby who are either discouraging you from going through or taunting you to go forward and get skewered.
  • Two words: Silent Hill. A town forged of Chaos Architecture and designed by the subconscious guilt of the main character, that leads to such things as the entire city being transformed into a maze of rubble, uncrossable police tape, and fissures; doors held closed with keys being convoluted puzzles involving unnerving poems, and coins scattered around the building.
  • Several buildings, such as the Obelisk, and later, the Tower of Kagutsuchi, are very good examples of this in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, but the Diet Building really takes the cake. Painted doors, irregular, twisting halls that only look normal, and memorably, several nasty optical illusion tricks are several of the horrors awaiting within.
  • Every Sonic The Hedgehog game ever made. Let's run through some examples:
    • Every Eggman's base seems to consist of nothing more than endless rooms filled with deathtraps, bottomless pits, robots, and Spikes of Doom, along with a few things that vary depending on the game. Justified in those cases, as Eggman can fly around in his Egg Mobile and he wants to give Sonic a hard time upon entering them.
    • One has to wonder about when Aquatic Ruin Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was more than just ruins. It's full of arrow-shooting devices, Spikes of Doom, and loops, among other things.
    • Speed Highway from Sonic Adventure, and Radical Highway from the sequel. They're both floating highways with 360-degree loops, traps and bottomless pits all over the place.
    • Hang Castle from Sonic Heroes. Turning the castle upside down just to open a door?
    • The majority of Sonic Unleashed is like this, as most of it takes place in urban areas right by where people live. Cobblestone roads in Apotos have flamethrowers and beds of spikes installed in them with hovering moving platforms nearby. The walled city in Mazuri requires its inhabitants to swing from pole to pole as spike balls float around (though this may just be part of the city's defenses, as Sonic is traveling through its citadel). Fountains in Spagonia shoot Sonic to the rooftops. Giant stone walls with narrow gaps on the floor randomly block major roads in Shamar's capital city. Highways in Empire City have ramps, very sharp turns with no guardrails, and explosive roadblocks. The waters near the villages in Adabat have violet vertical jets of water and columns prone to collapsing as you approach them.
    • The front of Spagonia University in Sonic Generations has axes swinging like pendulums all over it. It is otherwise averted for most of that stage, as the danger comes either from Eggman putting enemies and death traps in front of Sonic or Sonic traveling through areas people wouldn't normally go.
  • The cave complex in Spelunky is one gigantic death-trap.
  • You generally got one section of this per indoor level in Franchise/Starcraft, although once during Brood War you get to make it work for you.
  • Namco's Famicom version of Star Wars is rich in levels that require precise jumping or else you'll end up falling to your death, whether it be a bed of spikes, water, quicksand, or a bottomless pit.
    • The NES version of Star Wars: The last section of the 'appropriately-named' Death Star level is covered in lots and LOTS AND LOTS of spikes from TOP TO BOTTOM.
  • Super Meat Boy and its abandoned hospital with deadly needles and blood shooting out of pipes, as well as the inexplicable laser cannons. Same goes for the Salt Factory, with its deadly salt piled everywhere (what do you expect would be more dangerous for a boy without skin?) and the even more inexplicable rocket launchers.
  • The Subspace Emissary in Super Smash Bros. Brawl commonly features this in several locations.
  • One of the Renegades in Tales of Symphonia complains about Botta feeling the need to make overly-complicated security systems.
  • Largely averted in the Thief; the levels are usually pretty logical and you get the impression that people COULD live in them; there are kitchens, bathrooms, toilets, etc. There are still some exceptions, though, such as Constantine's mansion in "The Sword" (though that was justified by it being a deliberate test for Garrett, and its owner being the deity known as the Trickster), from Thief: The Dark Project.
  • The entire Tomb Raider series really, but in particular Tomb Raider 2, in which an oil rig, a sunken ship and the streets of Venice usually feature doors that require a 3-mile away switch to open, deadly traps, timed runs through flames, extremely tall ladders, boulders, "dropped" keys that could only have been put there on purpose, and generally anything to pad the levels out and make them interesting.
    • Legend both plays this straight and plays with it a little. In one particular tomb, Lara is somewhat disappointed to find that the death traps are not functioning. Even if activating them wasn't a requirement of passing the Broken Bridge puzzle that impeded progress through the level, one feels that she would have figured out how to get the traps running regardless. She even mentioned installing them in the Gym, which is full of equipment made just for practicing traversing small platforms and balance beams like those in temples, so it's only a matter of time before she installs a sawblade corridor in Croft Manor. Of course, it's hard to tell if she's actually serious or joking.
      • In the movie, she actually has an ancient temple in her house, just to keep in practice.
  • The haunted hotel in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is a labyrinthine maze where chandeliers fall on you, floors burst open, and vases, paintings and other small ornaments leap at you in order to kill you; at one point, the ghost(s?) even try dropping the elevator on you. The place is haunted, and wouldn't be very malevolent otherwise. Unlike...
    • The house of Dr. Alastair Grout later on. In this case, the mazeline nature and tricky doors are justified due to Grout specifically building with defence in mind; some of the more inventive traps, like the room full of electricity, are justified by Grout having an intense fit of paranoia and hiding from the things he thought were out to get him. The lunatics that wander the mansion (Grout's experimental subjects) presumably were either released as a bonus obstacle or got out of their cells when Grout sealed himself in. Being a vampire, he probably had little problem with the place himself — unfortunately, neither had other vampires, like the main character, or Ming Xiao. Grunfeld Bach is human, but seems to get in easy enough—this is after the PC opened all the doors and got rid of all the crazies.
  • In Voodoo Vince, the eponymous character stumbles upon a mansion that, for no apparent reason, contains a complex room-rotating system. The then narrator comments "wow, that must have been one screwed up architect."
  • Both Crescent Moon Village and Hotel Horror from Wario Land 4 have this in spades. The former seems almost unlivable, with the fire escape being the entrance, an open storm drain in the town, and a cliff in the middle of nowhere, and the latter has huge vertical shafts in rooms with no floor. And randomly locked doors.
    • Also, Glittertown/Neon City and Derailed Express from Shake it. The former has slot machines with bombs as winnable as well as fire and enemies, the latter is not only a freaking dangerous train, the timetable (one of the treasures in the level) actually says it's scheduled to derail at 09:29.
  • The fourth level of World of Goo gives this a Lampshade Hanging with a message from The Sign Painter, who apparently aspires to be The Narrator: "The Goo Balls were excited to explore the mysterious pipe system... even if it meant traversing ridiculously contrived terrain."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill generates a completely new, usually absurd house each time. Even with full cooperation from the other players, it's possible to discover a room with a door adjoining a room with solid wall. This is discussed in the rules and errata as being false doors, not uncommon in ghost story houses.
    • The Underground Lake is also misprinted as an Upper Floor tile, which the errata says to play as discovered by a player suddenly falling from the Upper Floor into the Basement.
  • Many dungeons in Dungeons & Dragons, especially those with the infamous Grimtooth's Traps.
    • Tomb of Horrors is something of a Trope Codifier amongst Tabletop RPGs. The dungeon was explicitly designed as a place where the layout and traps would provide most of the danger, rather than monsters and combat. Justified in its sequel Return to the Tomb of Horrors where it's revealed that the original inhabitant of the Tomb, the lich Acererak, purposefully spread rumors of the fabulous wealth of the tomb to lure adventurers in, killing them and harvesting their soul energy in a bid for godhood.
  • Exalted has a very literal example in Malfeas, the Demon City. A bipolar living city that hates everything, including himself. And it's amazing what he can do with green fire. Luckily, in that body (he's got several), he's kind of blind to street-level stuff, meaning a character has to go out of their way to have that malevolence pointed at them (in the form of being beaten to their knees with buildings and set on radioactive fire), but since his attempts at self-harm take the form of slamming two shells of the city together with mass casualties, Malfeas is still not a place where you particularly want to spend your time unless you absolutely have to.
    • Autochton is a more neutral example: Another living city that's also an Eternal Engine, and doesn't get the concept of railings because machines can't hurt it.
  • A number of cards in Magic: The Gathering's Stronghold set seem to be derived directly from this trope. Particularly malevolent examples include Ensnaring Bridge, Bottomless Pit, Shifting Wall, and Wall of Razors. As if those features weren't hazardous enough, the backstory has the eponymous Stronghold seated inside a volcano.
    • In fact, most of the plane of Rath was made out of flowstone, an intelligent, malevolent substance that's keyed directly to the ruler of Rath.
  • Alpha Complex, the dilapidated underground city in Paranoia, thanks to the Orwellian Big Brother type A.I. that rules over all of Alpha Complex. Danger lurks around every corner and in every hallway, ranging from nuclear leaks, crazed robots, medical experiments, and exploding prototype equipment to your fellow clone citizens out for a quick promotion. The bureaucracy is a maze that strangles you in red tape. And let's not even talk about the food vats. The slightest mistake can be instantly fatal or at least invite summary execution.
  • Not only is the eponymous castle of Ravenloft crawling with traps, but the original I6 module offers a literal example of this trope: one of the castle's towers is alive and tries to dump you off its stairs or whack you with the halberds mounted on its interior walls.
  • The object of Robo Rally is to win a race through a factory-floor obstacle course of lasers, flamethrowers, conveyor belts, etc.
  • The Realm in The Splinter is arguably made of malevolent architecture.
    • Traps are literally programmed into the very fabric of the universe.
    • In addition to standard traps, the architecture will randomly shift which can, and does, lead to unwary players falling or being crushed to death.
  • 13th Age has 'Living Dungeons' - living agglomerations of subterranean architecture that swim through the ground, occasionally surfacing to lure in unlucky heroes and monsters or devour new buildings to add to their ever-shifting bodies. The biggest and most terrible of these is the titular villain and setting of the module Eyes of the Stone Thief.

Non-Game Examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sayoko's castle in Ah! My Goddess.
  • The Guild in Angel Beats! has a huge series of traps. They can (supposedly) be deactivated, though, and the deathtrap chain is justified since they need the traps to defend the place from Angel (and Death Is Cheap in their world anyway).
  • The titular castle in The Castle of Cagliostro is full of booby traps (and a basement of skeletons to show for it).
  • In Magi: Labyrinth of Magic the dungeons embody this trope, along with having malevolent living things inside too. Everything about dungeons wants to kill anyone who dares to enter them.
  • Library Island from Negima! Magister Negi Magi. A library with not only monsters but also booby traps. So much so that there's a club dedicated to exploring it. A member of the club actually becomes a full-fledged treasure hunter in a later arc. Library Island is apparently comparable to the most dangerous dungeons the Magic World has to offer.
  • The Twelve Temples Stairs from the Saint Seiya Sanctuary Arc. An endless staircase on a mountain, with twelve temples to cross for everyone without using their superhuman speed or teleportation (though dimension warps do work, strangely), invader or non-invader. The kicker? The heroes have to go through these to save their Goddess, who would normally be owning the place if not for the Big Bad, and to add insult to injury, it even has this giant fire clock (12 flames, 1 hour for each flame) whose only purpose is to give a sense of time running out to the heroes. Architecture bearing ill will towards the legitimate owner of the place (and her warriors) on this level HAS to be this.
    • Also, Hades' Castle and the endless spiral staircase leading to Hell. With no security ramps. And every character has to jump in the pit anyway, with a very likely risk to die in the process.
  • The Garden of Sinners: Araya's apartment building is made this way on purpose. Touko explains it's an Eldritch Location made to be as repetitive as possible to drive people crazy the more they stay inside. Underneath it is the remnants of the people living inside, with Tomoe discovering his brain connected in a machine along with hundreds of discarded dolls.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Downplayed in A Triangle in the Stars, but this is more or less what the school becomes because of Bill messing with it. Lights flickering off when the halls are filled, demons crawling out of former chemicals, computers acting up, and chemistry equipment going berserk certainly add to the perfect chaos for high school students and staff. Oh, and there's a Gem Monster loose.
    • And it's not the first time. Second time around has forks in halls, one three-pronged. It's not possible for that to be there. And at one point the lights go out. Twice. And there are Cluster Demons roaming the place, however unseen they are. Bill speculates that this was Gabriel's doing.
  • In Hurog fanfic The Haunted Castle, Hurog is both an example of Malevolent Architecture and Benevolent Architecture, depending on who you ask. The place is Powered by a Forsaken Child, and while Oreg likes some people, he very much dislikes others.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • If we're looking for a pyramid-shaped building complete with moving three-dimensional puzzle hallways and chambers, where death can jump at you from every angle in the form of deadly monsters, look no further than the movie AVP: Alien vs. Predator. That pyramid was explicitly designed to be a maze where a lurking enemy is trying to kill you and the hunter can become the hunted.
    • Not that the architecture in the games of the same franchise is much friendlier, though...
  • The trap in the chilling movie Cube: another prime example of Malevolent Architecture, created no doubt as a sadistic experiment in human psychology. Every room is indeed a puzzle, and the slightest mistake will invite death. In short, everything is explicitly designed to be as lethal as possible, to force the unwilling participants to work together or perish.
  • City of Ember has an escape route (meant to eventually be followed by all the inhabitants, no less) that requires activating a complex machine that moves around small boats, destabilizes a power reactor, generates a powerful water current and finally blasts the hapless citizens in the aforementioned tiny boats through a waterslide course any entertainment company would pay millions for (replete with suspended structure). You'd think they could have built, I dunno, an elevator instead... It might have been justified if not for the waterslide since the place was already past its expiration date anyway.
  • In Death Ship, the interior of the titular Ghost Ship is a veritable death trap full of parts that it can use to inflict harm on those it sets its sights on.
  • This is the weapon of choice of Death in the Final Destination movies, applicable to any location: Electric devices malfunction, containers holding liquids leak, sharp objects line up, heavy objects start moving, load-bearing structures break and so on.
  • Another literal example, like the one in Neverwhere, can be found in the Stephen King movie 1408. "It's an evil fucking room!"
  • In Galaxy Quest, Sigourney Weaver complains a lot about having to go through a Death Course to disarm a nuclear reactor:
    Gwen DeMarco: What is this thing? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway. No, I mean we shouldn't have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here?
    Jason Nesmith: 'Cause it's on the television show.
    Gwen DeMarco: Well, forget it! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!
  • When Judge Dredd and Fergie are sneaking back into Mega-City One, they do so via a vent that belches fire every thirty seconds. Dredd mentions that some people figured out the pattern, but died trying to take advantage of it.
  • The Black Fortress in Krull was one of these, including pits that randomly open and a spike trap room with absolutely no purpose. Then again, almost everything in that movie was bizarre and fatal.
  • The house at the center of the Jacques Tati film Mon Oncle is much the same, although this time it's played for comedy. In Tati's follow-up film Play Time, the theme is carried even further, showing a section of Paris ruthlessly sealed up in glass, concrete, glass, metal, and then more glass.
  • Played seriously and fairly well in The People Under the Stairs. The house is designed to keep people in and includes secret rooms, trick stairs, and electrified doorknobs.
  • The ancient South American Temple of Doom at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. No one has set foot in it in centuries and everything is absolutely coated in dust and cobwebs the size of blankets, but every single Death Trap is in perfect working order.
    • The Grail Temple at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade also qualifies, as a series of deadly traps divide the entrance to the grail's antechamber. After those traps have been conquered, trying to leave with the grail in hand triggers a Cataclysm Climax. Dr. Elsa Schneider discovered this fact the hard way when she stepped across the Great Seal in the middle of the temple: the ensuing earthquake claimed her life. That said, Grail Temple is both a test to determine who is worthy to become the next Grail guardian, and to prevent it from being removed, so it's justified.
  • In The Rock, John Mason gets in and out of the cistern room underneath the furnace by way of crawling through a tight space with turning gears and belching fire. Mason: "I memorized the timing. I just hope it hasn't been changed..."
    • Which is odd because the first time he went through he was escaping and the door opened from the inside. Meaning that he memorized and went through the dangerous fire tunnel instead of using the door. (Of course, that particular door was probably locked when the prison was in use.)
  • Doors in Star Wars often make you wonder if they were designed by Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. See the scene where Obi-Wan tells Luke that the Force will be with him always. Careful with that door, Luke! Then again, it's Empire architecture.
    • Pre-Empire architecture doesn't seem much better, as there's a similar door in Queen Amidala's throne room seen when they capture Nute Gunray. Also there's the power generator room on Naboo: Lots of catwalks, no railings anywhere, and a corridor that appeared to serve no purpose except to have deadly-looking force fields periodically be turned on in it.
  • A more subtle example occurs in the film Targets; murderer-to-be Bobby Thompson lives exists with his parents and wife in a suburban house "decorated" in such hideously sterile banality that it would drive anyone insane.
  • 13 Assassins features not only a Malevolent Architecture but a Malevolent URBANISM as an entire village is turned into a death trap to catch the evil and sadistic xogum's brother.
  • The house in Thir13en Ghosts is actually one huge glass-and-metal machine, designed to trap victims and ghosts inside and then unleash the latter onto the former in a timed sequence. One victim is killed by the shifting glass directly, others attacked by the hostile spirits.

  • In Clive Barker's story Down, Satan! in The Books of Blood, a middle-aged businessman deliberately builds a hell on earth to attract Satan.
  • Justified in The English Patient; the characters live in a villa that was booby-trapped by retreating Axis forces.
  • Forest Kingdom: Book 2 (Blood and Honor features Castle Midnight, which is slowly turning into an Eldritch Abomination. Amongst the many joys contained therein is a suite that one day spontaneously turned into a stomach and digested the family (including small children) that was living in it.
  • A borderline case occurs in Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, with the M25 London orbital motorway. While it isn't actively trying to kill anyone, it is in the shape of a glyph from the ancient Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu that means "Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds." The frustration of travelers on the M25 is described as perpetually generating a form of low-grade evil into the surrounding landscape. Later it becomes a straight example when such leaking evil turned it into a lethal barrier that was at both the hottest and coldest temperatures conceivable at the same time. Needless to say, crossing it was a bad idea.
  • The underworld of Atlantis in Grailblazers may not actively try to kill you, but the results are indistinguishable when the corridor you were running along suddenly changes into a spiral staircase, causing you to plummet at full speed. This is a side effect of the relocation spell which moves Atlantis (the ultimate offshore banking haven) randomly around the world every 30 seconds.
  • Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter shows tendencies for this, with labyrinthine corridors, disappearing stairs, doors that lead to a different room on Tuesdays, and the death course that leads to the Philosopher's Stone.
    • And should you venture outside, it's surrounded by a forest populated with people-hating, man-eating monsters. Have fun, kids!
    • Starting in the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, the entrance of Hogwarts has a giant iron pendulum swinging in front of it at the perfect height to decapitate inattentive students.
  • In John Peel's Hide and Seek six teens take shelter from a storm in a seemingly abandoned house. They play hide and seek to pass the time. Then they start disappearing.
  • The house from House of Leaves is malevolent not in the "ludicrously designed" sense, but in the "actively trying to eat the residents" sense.
  • In Hurog, Hurog Keep, with the interesting twist that while Oreg, who literally is the place, is rather friendly and actively helps some of the people who live there, children raised in Hurog Keep have a tendency to not survive to adulthood.
  • In the Imperial Radch trilogy, there are sentient spaceships and space stations. If you piss them off, and they have some help in overriding their programming, they can become this.
  • Iain Sinclair wrote a book (London Orbital) exploring the grimness of the motorway and its surroundings.
  • In one of Manly Wade Wellman's short stories, Silver John encounters a living creature called a gardinel that resembles a house and eats whoever comes inside.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, a room in the monastery of the Black Friars is malevolent, as entering it gives you horrific visions of your own worthlessness and cheerily urges you to commit suicide. Granted, it serves as a trial protecting a very important key, so it needs to be pretty nasty.
  • Spoofed in Pelevin's Prince of Central Planning, where the protagonist has to pass through Prince of Persia-styled deathtraps routinely while going around his job (being a petty clerk in Central Planning).
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld
    • Reaper Man features the Lost Jewelled Temple of Doom of Offler the Crocodile God. The priests have a very easy time of it as, of the very few people who ever find the place, none gets past the Death Course, even as far as the jolly drawing of a thermometer for the Roof Repair Fund (a joke about the maintenance problems of old English churches, by the way). The priests barely look up from their game of cards to comment, "Heyup, another one for the big rolling ball, then." To date, two people have gotten through: one is Mrs. Cake, feared by all churches as a stubborn busybody, and the other is Death. When the latter showed up, the priests ran screaming, thinking it was the former. Essentially, their choices boiled down to Cake or Death. The mall organism from the same novel is a literal and living example of this trope.
    • The Labyrinth in Ephebe as seen in Small Gods, and it gets redesigned every so often.
  • In Michael Slade's Ripper, a mansion on an isolated island has been converted into this trope by the pair of serial killers, as inspired by a book about H.H. Holmes (see Real Life below).
  • The Star Trek EU novel Before Dishonor turns Borg Cubes into Malevolent Spacecraft. It makes the claim that all Borg ships are sentient, but only exorcise said sentience if left crewless for a prolonged period. The Cube in question develops the ability to willfully reshape its interior spaces - moving and creating new walls, even engulfing hapless humans in conduits and other hazards (to be assimilated).
  • The ... structure ... being investigated in Algys Budrys' novella Rogue Moon may be intended as an intelligence test. Or a test of determination. Or ... who knows. It kills people in bizarre ways for seemingly arbitrary things, such as kneeling while facing north. Or raising one hand above your head. Or for having visible oxygen hoses instead of having them integrated into your suit. Even more arbitrary is that some of these rules only apply past a certain point in the maze and before that, you can freely do the proscribed actions.
  • In The Newest Plutarch, Benito Umberti's Gimnastyco style invokes it deliberately. The whole idea is building a house that makes you stronger by being an obstacle course.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: Kimberly Magic Academy is built atop of an ancient labyrinth that has a tendency to encroach upon the school buildings after nightfall: Oliver, Pete, and Michela return to a classroom to retrieve a forgotten textbook only to discover when they try to leave that the door now opens into the upper levels of the labyrinth.
  • Wax and Wayne: The temple holding the Bands of Mourning was said to have been built to protect the titular Bands for the Sovereign's return, and consists of a long hallway covered in lethal traps. Wax wonders why the builders would risk killing their king with all those traps, but Allik assures him that traps would not affect him. Wax is right to be suspicious. The temple is a decoy meant only to kill explorers, and the Bands aren't inside the temple at all. The real Bands are Hidden in Plain Sight on the statue near the entrance.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Legacy", the UnSub has converted an old meat-packing plant into a torture house. He abducts homeless people, prostitutes, and other "undesirables" off the street, knocks them out, and plants them in the middle of the facility. They have until sundown to escape (or so he tells them). Features include: a room covered in shards of broken glass (he takes their shoes first), incinerators, vents that spew gas, and a pack of vicious dogs. Probably inspired by H. H. Holmes (see Real Life section below).
  • In one episode of CSI: NY, Mac and the team had to navigate a penthouse that was still deadly years after its architect had it built, plus hidden puzzles and switches comparable to those found in the early Resident Evil games. Step on a panel, get stabbed by a what looks like a saw folded in half that pops out from the ceiling; an Advancing Wall of Doom that doubled as a very big broiler; and a room that'll drown you if you didn't bust open the correct wall.
  • Dexter featured a serial killer who transformed his house into a murder maze.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In part 3 of "The Keys of Marinus", a building full of death traps houses one of the titular artifacts.
    • The episode "Paradise Towers" has a malevolent architect who designed his apartment complex to be a Death Trap because he couldn't stand the idea of people living in and "ruining" his perfect structures.
    • Subverted in the Comic Relief spoof "The Curse of Fatal Death", in which the Doctor reveals that he popped back in time to have a word with the architect, so the Master's would-be deathtrap dungeon turns out instead to contain only a Sofa of Reasonable Comfort. In fact, the Master bribed the architect to install death-traps, but the Doctor anticipated that he'd do this, and bribed the architect to allow for escape from said death-traps, but the Master anticipated this bribery and bribed the architect to install more death-traps, but the Doctor anticipated this too and bribed the architect in defense. Eventually, the Master decides that after meeting the Doctor, he'll go back and buy the architect an expensive dinner. However, the Doctor already had dinner with him.
    • Played straight in "The End of the World", in which the switch to restart Platform One's heat shields is on the wrong side of three enormous spinning fans.
    • The episode "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" shows what happens when you make the TARDIS angry. Namely, she'll turn hallways into endless loops, turn you into a zombie, and then send you after your past self.
  • British CITV series Knightmare invoked this trope on a regular basis - rooms filled with tiles which would send you plummeting into an abyss were common puzzles for the dungeoneers. The most literal examples were Wall Monsters; creatures who would appear in clue rooms and give hints as to which items would be most useful... assuming you could answer their questions correctly, that is. Later seasons sped up proceedings by introducing Blockers, mobile walls who would simply ask for a password... and devour any dungeoneer who didn't possess it.
  • Let's hear it from Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    Mr. Tid: Gentlemen, we have two basic suggestions for the design of this architectural block, the residential block, and I thought it best that the architects themselves came in to explain the advantages of both designs.
    (knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock knock)
    Mr. Tid: That must be the first architect now. Ah, yes. It's Mr. Wiggin of Ironside and Malone.
    Mr. Wiggin: Good morning, gentlemen. Uh, this is a twelve-storey block combining classical neo-Georgian features with all the advantages of modern design. Uhh, the tenants arrive in the entrance hall here, are carried along the corridor on a conveyor belt in extreme comfort and past murals depicting Mediterranean scenes, towards the rotating knives. The last twenty feet of the corridor are heavily soundproofed. The blood pours down these chutes and the mangled flesh slurps into these large containers—
    City Gent #1: Excuse me.
    Mr. Wiggin: Hmm?
    City Gent #1: Uh, did you say "knives"?
    Mr. Wiggin: Uh, rotating knives. Yes.
    City Gent #2: Are you, uh, proposing to slaughter our tenants?
    Mr. Wiggin: Does that not fit in with your plans?
    City Gent #1: No, it does not. Uh, we— we wanted a... simple... block of flats.
    Mr. Wiggin: Ahh, I see. I hadn't, uh, correctly divined your attitude...
    City Gent #2: Uh, huh huh.
    Mr. Wiggin: ... towards your tenants.
    City Gent #2: Huh huh.
    Mr. Wiggin: You see, I mainly design slaughterhouses.
    City Gent #1: Yes. Pity.
    Mr. Wiggin: Mind you, this is a real beaut. I mean, none of your blood caked on the walls and flesh flying out of the windows inconveniencing passers-by with this one. I mean, my life has been building up to this.
    City Gent #2: Yes, and well done, huh, but we did want a block of flats.
    Mr. Wiggin: Well, may I ask you to reconsider? I mean, you wouldn't regret it. Think of the tourist trade.
    City Gent #1: No, no, it's— it's just that we wanted a block of flats and not an abattoir.
    • The next design tips over and then spontaneously combusts while the architect is explaining how safe it is... but the architect gets the contract anyway because he and the city gents are Masons.
  • The Prisoner (1967): In the episode "The Girl Who Was Death", the eponymous girl lures Number 6 into a ghost town, to a block of shops for a butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, each equipped with lethal booby traps inspired by their trade.
  • Robot Wars and Battlebots, both shows featuring homemade combat machines, had the arena be as much of a potential threat at the other robots. Sawblades, spikes from the floor, fire coming from the ground, and many other things were available for potential damage. The former even had a Pit Of Do... Oblivion, which was an instant win if a team got the opponent in it, along with being a disposal bin of sorts for defeated robots; and the "Drop Zone", in which defeated robots are placed on a square on the ground with something very heavy hanging above. What's about to happen should be quite obvious.
    • "The Flipper". Defeated robots got some of their dignity back by getting air time. LOTS of air time. On more than one occasion the latter flung said defeated robots into one of the former. And in early series, the pit was perpetually open, and more than one obvious winner threw the competition on a driving error...
  • Rose Red. (Also based on the Winchester Mystery House.)
  • The premise of the Syfy series Estate of Panic and Exit - the former has contestants searching for cash in rooms full of various traps; the latter has contestants answering questions to escape from similar rooms.

  • Scottish avant-garde/progressive black metal band Ashenspire's 2022 sophomore album Hostile Architecture is a Concept Album named after a term of art in architecture that encompasses cases of this very trope found in the Real Life folder further down this page - in particular, "The Law of Asbestos" explicitly cites the "homeless spikes". However, its thesis extends even deeper than that, as the band argues that hostile architecture serves as an apt metaphor for how society itself is deliberately designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many. They linked this fan review that explores several of its themes at great length - some 2,500 words, if we're counting - on their Facebook page.

  • In Absit Omen, a group of first- and second-year Hogwarts students became lost in a previously-unknown section of dungeon alternatively called 'The Lost Dungeons' or 'The Terror Dungeons' depending on who you talk to. Possibly as the result of a massive Boggart infestation, the dungeons separated the lost kids, subjected them to their worst fears, and left them wandering lost for hours until rescue arrived via professor.


    Web Original 
  • The Empty City in The Fear Mythos is a sentient city that likes to... play with its food. Its food being people who enter one of its Doors and then proceed to wander the City until they die. However, if you piss off the City (like interfering with one of its meals), it will find... creative ways of keeping you alive.
  • Supernatural portals to spatially-twisted or other paranormal structures are so common in the SCP Foundation that "things what lead to some vast dimension of pointlessness" have a spot on The Big List Of Overdone SCP Clichés. That said, the site also collects many well-done nightmare structures, such as SCP-455.
  • In Worm, Bohu turns entire cities into this, by merging with them and then reshaping them over periodic intervals to create deadfalls, pitfalls, and complex mechanical traps, closing off sections in order to trap and suffocate defenders, and on occasion just flooding the area with a Flechette Storm.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In the episode "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?" of Batman: The Animated Series (featuring The Riddler's Start of Darkness), there is a maze in an amusement park full of death traps, path-blocking puzzles, and highly lethal robots that prevent you from going back the way you came. Given that it was designed by an Evil Genius, it probably only took the flipping of a couple of switches to go from theme park attraction to Death Course.
  • In Code Lyoko, Sector 5 or "Carthage" includes about every example of this trope: from crushing walls and Descending Ceilings to Laser Hallway or deadly doors, and a whole room that just fall down on the heroes. And that's not even accounting the monsters.
    • And all of this is on a timer — the heroes get trapped unless they press a switch within a certain amount of time.
  • Being a parody of video games, Code Monkeys often has characters navigate through Malevolent Architecture when traveling within the Gameavision building.
  • In an episode of Fish Hooks it's revealed that Principal Stickler has a secret lair with pits of molten metal akin to the ending of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Bea lampshades this asking why he would need them.
  • The Hotel Cabal from Gargoyles employs several Death Trap tropes and provided one of the most chilling episode endings ever seen in a Disney cartoon.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The episode "Castle Mane-ia" revolves around the cast exploring Celestia and Luna's old abandoned castle, which includes numerous trapdoors, secret passages, and numerous other oddities, all controlled by a giant underground organ. The only possible explanation is that Celestia and Luna apparently liked messing with each other because the castle is anything but practical.
    • Stated as such in-episode. Apparently one sister would sit at the organ and "play" the house while the other would get to pass through the decidedly non-lethal traps. Well, mostly non-lethal. They apparently didn't consider the possibility of a non-winged creature like Applejack winding up on that ledge...
  • An early episode of The Penguins of Madagascar did this with a toy factory with tanks of molten metal and a conveyor belt with pendulums and other things that have no earthly business being in a toy factory, prompting Skipper's lampshading of the situation with the question "What kind of sick and twisted toy factory is this?!"
  • Parodied in a skit on Robot Chicken, where it shows the Mayans building the temple from the first Indiana Jones movie, with the head engineer explaining to the chieftain all of the death traps and how there's no way anyone could possibly pull off all of the specific things Indy did to avoid them...
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Robotropolis is a sprawling megapolis made entirely of gargantuan industrial complexes that stretch for miles in all directions, as far as the eye can see... and in all of it, there are no people, anywhere. Buildings that could hold people - businesses, restaurants, apartments, and the like - can be seen scattered around the less developed areas, but all of them completely empty and decayed by time and lack of upkeep. To top it off, everything is shrouded in dense, purplish fog.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • Once Grievous is home and reactivates his lair's defenses in "Lair of Grievous" the place proves to have been designed to be quite deadly to uninvited guests.
    • The titular "Box" of the episode "The Box". It is a death trap maze that is meant to lethally weed out bounty hunters to find those skilled and hardy enough to participate in a plot to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine. It helps that it is also being run by a Killer Game-Master who wants to kill his closest rivals to prove he's the number 1 bounty hunter.
  • ThunderCats (2011) episode "Journey to the Tower of Omens" has a video game-style Temple of Doom and makes its existence make sense. A bunch of Warrior Monks created it to guard a holy book that no-one else should have (hence the gratuitous sharp objects). They are extremely badass and know where all the traps are, so it would probably be easy for its makers to use. Anyone else would have a hard time not getting ground into hamburger.
  • The original '80s Thunder Cats series has Baron Karnor's tower from the episode "The Tower of Traps", in the 1st season. Lion-O and WilyKit have to deal with several Booby Traps through the whole tower.

    Real Life 
  • The Winchester Mystery House, a giant mansion begun in 1884 by Sarah L. Winchester, and under construction continuously until her death thirty-eight years later. It features hundreds of false doors, dead ends, stairways to nowhere, and closets that open into five-bedroom suites in an attempt to confuse the ghosts of people who were shot to death by the Winchester rifles her family made. It was part of the inspiration for the house in House of Leaves and Rose Red mentioned above, as well as the Grandchester Mystery Mansion in Fallout 4: Nuka-World. A movie named Winchester was made about the mansion.
  • Truth in Television: Egyptian tombs were equipped with false passages, false burial chambers and death traps to foil grave robbers.
    • Incidentally, modern analysis reveals several chambers in many pyramids that are completely sealed from all sides with tons of rock, that may well be real burial chambers, and those easily accessible ones just fake, or ceremonial. Unfortunately getting into them would require severely vandalizing national monuments, so it may take long before any can be studied.
  • H. H. Holmes, one of America's first serial killers, built a hotel called the "Castle", which, in addition to being a grade-A Torture Cellar, featured windowless rooms, labyrinthine hallways, hidden passages, trap doors, rooms that were literal death traps (some were gas chambers, some were incinerators, and some were just soundproofed self-sealing rooms where Holmes could murder the victim at his pleasure), and a pit of lime for disposing of bodies once he was done.
    • It's worth noting that while the building was under construction, Holmes never let any worker stay on the job for more than a week, making sure that no one knew the exact layout of the building.
    • And he constructed it just in time for the Chicago World's Fair, ensuring he'd have plenty of victims. Chicago: come for the fair, stay for the torture.
  • In many cities, homeless folk will discover to their dismay that the landscape has been designed to drive them away. Park benches have armrests in the middle, bridges have piles of jagged rocks beneath them, and so on. Nowadays, anti-homeless spikes are the newest in what is euphemistically called defensive architecture.
  • Much thought has gone into preventing members of unknown future societies from accidentally or deliberately digging up radioactive waste, which can remain dangerous to human life for hundreds of thousands of years. Needless to say, such a timeframe precludes depending on a simple written warning to convey the right message. Some of the proposed solutions have involved marking the burial sites with hostile structures designed to deter people from exploring the surrounding areas. This is an interesting example in that the design intent is entirely benevolent.
  • An entertainment variant is the Escape Room, in which participants are locked inside and must discover and decipher puzzles and clues in a set amount of time to free themselves.