The ocean has always been a thing of wonder, fear and reverence, a dangerous road leading to strange and distant things. It's difficult to navigate — often impossible unless you can read the stars well — journeying upon it was filled with risks, and straying from known routes could easily get a ship terribly lost. However, skillful or daring travel could lead one to distant lands, unknown places and great riches. Consequently, there is a long and well-established tradition of romanticizing sea travel, and of stories set upon the sea becoming tales of wonder, danger and strange mystery.
The ocean itself is typically presented as a place of chaos, mystery and inconstancy, a vast and powerful force hiding its secrets well beyond the sight of sailors skimming along its surface. Travelers upon the sea are at the whim of tides, currents and winds largely out of their control, which may be equated with the actions of spirits, gods or fate, and at any moment storms may boil into existence, monsters rise out of the deep or a pirate ship appear over the horizon. At the same time, fortune may easily smile on a skilled or lucky traveler; much as the unknown depths of the sea may hide terrors, they may also hold incredible things — sunken ships, lost treasure, natural wonders or potential allies may all be found among the waves. This sense of gambling with fate, of heading out into an alien realm without knowing what will be behind the next wave, is often a major part of this sort of stories.
The other major element of the Ocean of Adventure is its islands. Isolated islands and distant shores tend to act as their own microcosms, each home to some new group, individual, creatures or phenomenon unbeholden to what's found on the mainland or on other islands. This allows stories to move between radically different settings and circumstances as the characters move from island to island, with each one holding some new trial, peril or wonder. As a result, the Wacky Wayside Tribe is an extremely common plot element in stories set in these oceans.
Characters may have many different reasons to set out across these seas, but desire for adventure, lust for wealth and treasure or simply being blown horribly off-course are all fairly common. Regardless of cause, however, journeys across the Ocean of Adventure will be neither short nor easy. Sailors and explores typically find themselves battling with a plethora of storms, foes and misfortunes, wandering from island to island and losing their ships, their crews and their belongings, often only limping back to port on rafts or other improvised craft after many months or even years away from home.
Most of these adventures takes place on the ocean's surface, but it's not uncommon for them to be set deep beneath the waves as well, taking a much more personal look at the mysteries and terrors of the depths.
Of note is the fact that most of these elements translate fairly seamlessly into space-age settings, especially ones of the softer side of science fiction — Space Is an Ocean for a very good reason, and the depths of space, mysterious phenomena and alien planets easily play the roles of the sea, storms and islands of the Ocean of Adventure. Similarly, when The Sky Is an Ocean, it also tends to be depicted in this manner, with flying ships and floating islands replacing the usual kinds.
The Island of Mystery will often be found here in great numbers. Sea Monsters and Turtle Islands are often a common part of the marine fauna. Characters found sailing these seas are likely to be Bold Explorers, Born Under the Sail or Pirates of various moral stripes, and to sail Cool Boats. Ports here are likely to be Adventure Towns.
Compare Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Tropical Island Adventure, The Sky Is an Ocean, Awesome Underwater World and Ocean Punk. Contrast Atlantis Is Boring. This is often the state of the seas in an Adventure-Friendly World.
- Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, has the cast engaging in adventures across the world's oceans, both above and below the surface.
- One Piece: The large bulk of the story takes place in the setting's island-strewn global ocean, following the adventures of a crew of nominal pirates as the pinball between an endless series of strange islands and misadventures.
- Aquaman: Some stories depict the ocean as a place of wonder and terror with scary monsters, beautiful cities and fascinating civilizations.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: During the Golden Age Diana and the Holliday Girls couldn't get so close to the ocean as a beach without running into Atlantean royalty, invading aliens using submarines, Nazi naval saboteurs, modern gangster pirates, fighting merfolk factions, pirate ghosts or a stateless civilization living on a flotilla of long lost ships. The Holliday Girls also once rescued a princess floating in a glass bottle while at the beach before freeing her hidden kingdom from tyranny.
- Fledglings has Team Traveler traveling through the Cradle, a sea containing numerous islands, most of which have some sort of Mystery Dungeon to explore.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire revolves around a team of explorers trying to find and prove the existence of the sunken city of Atlantis; they begin by traveling to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine, traversing a graveyard of ships and being pursued by a Leviathan that guards the entrance to Atlantis (which can be reached via a long series of underground tunnels and caverns accessible only underwater).
- Finding Nemo: Marlin is forced to undertake a perilous journey away from the Great Barrier Reef to find and rescue his son, Nemo, who is abducted by human divers. His journey takes him and his friend Dory from the reef to an Alcoholics Anonymous-esque support meeting for sharks, down to the inky darkness of the deep ocean where they run into a nightmarish anglerfish, through a jellyfish forest and the East Australian Current, to talking to a whale.
- Moana follows the titular heroine's journey through a mythical version of Polynesia, braving her way through adversities, a reluctant demigod, a tribe of pygmy pirates, and Lalotai the "realm of monsters" in order to return the heart of a goddess.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The franchise relies heavily on Nautical Folklore, thus a lot of the real-world seven seas (and the oceans surrounding them) are full of supernatural humdrum encountered by the protagonists, including gods, Psychopomps, sea-monsters, mermaids, cursed Aztec gold, the Fountain of Youth, the Flying Dutchman, the original Prongs of Poseidon and too many cursed pirate crews (and pirate-hunters) to count.
- Waterworld takes places almost entirely upon the ocean, as rising sea levels have caused the Earth to be covered in water, to the point that dry land is believed to be a myth by many. The plot concerns the protagonists traveling across the global oceans while searching for the last dry land, moving between surviving floating settlements, exploring underwater ruins and evading pursuit by a fleet of pirates.
- Cretan Chronicles: Sailing is a major plot point in the second and third books, as you travel across the Aegean sea to King Minos' Island to find out the truth behind your brother Theseus' death. You can also encounter pirates, mutineers, storms and whirlpools, and a massive Sea Serpent.
- Fighting Fantasy: Several books have an ocean setting:
- Bloodbones has you playing as a sailor who is traveling over the twelve seas of the old world in order to stop the dreaded pirate lord, Bloodbones. During your adventure, you're required to travel to distant islands, explore treasure caves, and encounter underwater enemies such as sharks and krakens, culminating with a climax where you lead a skeleton army to defeat the evil Bloodbones.
- Demons of the Deep is set entirely underwater. Right at the start of your adventure, you're cast into the sea after your ship's destruction, only to land in a magic circle in Atlantis which allows you to walk and breathe underwater, and from there on attempt to seek revenge on the pirates responsible for your predicament.
- Seas of Blood has you assuming the role of the Captain of the Banshee, a pirate ship, as you lead it on adventures across the seas of Southern Allansia. During the adventure, you're able to visit underwater caverns and distant lands and partake in large-scale ship-to-ship battles.
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: The story follows a submarine owned and operated by the mysterious Captain Nemo and its journey through the depths, battling giant squid, visiting the submerged ruins of Atlantis, and terrorizing the ships of the surface world, who think it's a sea monster.
- Doc Savage: In The Sargasso Ogre, Doc and his men are on an ocean liner that is hijacked and taken to the Sargasso Ocean, where both derelict and hijacked ships are looted by a team of pirates. There is considerable adventure both on the ship and in the ocean.
- The Heroes of Olympus: The third book, The Mark of Athena, has the seven traveling from San Francisco to Greece, which includes crossing the Atlantic and sailing the Mediterranean, a sea that holds a fearsome reputation as an ancient home of monsters. Rarely do they get a break, as they are constantly attacked and harassed by monsters, hostile mythological figures and other more mundane dangers, like sinking if they take too much damage.
- The Odyssey is in many ways the Trope Maker and Trope Codifier. The middle third of the story follows the long travels of Odysseus and his dwindling crew after they're swept far from known waters and into the vastness of the ocean, after which come long years of wandering between distant lands and islands home to cannibal giants, a powerful witch, the god of the winds and stranger entities, until Odysseus is eventually able, after ten years of travels, to limp his way back to the edge of the civilized world.
- Sinbad the Sailor: Sinbad is a merchant who undertakes seven long journeys across the Indian Ocean. During his journeys, he encounters terrible monsters and cannibals, travels to distant and wondrous places, and is shipwrecked or left stranded with a certain regularity, but always manages to use his wits to escape and return to Baghdad laden with riches.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The story follows the Dawn Treader sailing on an expedition led by King Caspian out to sea west of Narnia in search of seven lords who traveled that way during his father's reign, making stops at increasingly distant and strange islands before eventually reaching the far edge of the physical world.
- seaQuest DSV: The show takes this as its premise, treating the ocean as a new frontier full of mystery and dangers yet to be discovered.
- Ecco the Dolphin: The game and its sequels cast the player as a non-anthropomorphic dolphin tasked with defending the oceans from aliens that steal all the animal life. While the perils are somewhat more mundane, typically sharks, jellyfish, and the possibility of drowning from being submerged too long, the game relies heavily on exploration and has some very exotic locales.
- Endless Ocean and its sequel are simulated diving experiences that familiarize the player with the mysterious creatures of the deep.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is set in the Great Sea, what remains of Hyrule after a global flood turned it into a vast ocean dotted with islands that once were mountaintops, and which in the game's present have become home to a number of insular communities ranging from Hylian towns to the villages of nonhuman races to forbidding fortresses of monstrous pirates. The game follows Link as he sails from island to island, plumbs the seas for treasure, fights off sea monsters and hostile warships and uncovers the ancient legacy of Hyrule locked deep beneath the waves. Its sequel, Phantom Hourglass, takes largely the same approach, but is set in a distinct Pocket Dimension that naturally takes the form of a sea dotted with reefs and islands home to peculiar natives and ancient ruins.
- Minecraft: The Update Aquatic greatly expanded upon oceans; in earlier versions oceans were large, empty bodies of water with nothing but gravel and squids, and later the occasional ocean monument where players must battle Guardians to reach a treasure room. Oceans now include a variety of biomes such as coral reefs and icebergs, and in addition to ocean monuments there are sunken ships, underwater ruins, and underwater caves and ravines to explore and find treasure (or maps to treasure). There are also new mobs like dolphins (who can assist the player in locating buried treasure) and the Drowned (essentially underwater zombies). There are also some items that can only be found in oceans, all of which encourages ocean exploration.
- The Ocean Hunter: The main plot of the game is that you're an explorer in a steampunk world trying to explore the uncharted in search of treasure and research, but behemoth aquatic monsters keep attacking ships to the point bounties are put on them. Your player characters decides to collect and likewise make the ocean safe to travel in.
- Paper Mario: The Origami King: The first half of the Purple Streamer chapter, the Great Sea, is set in a stretch of ocean bordering Toad Town that Mario has to sail through and explore to reach the Sea Tower on its far side. The Sea is dotted with many small islands that can explored, in addition to clusters of rocky reefs, wandering whales and money-dropping swordfish, and secret spots where the player can dive to find sunken treasure.
- Sunless Sea: The game is set in the Unterzee, a vast dark ocean deep Beneath the Earth, dotted with many islands and bounded by strange shores, where every port hosts its own peculiar denizens, dark secrets and native dangers. Even if you avoid the worst of the dockside trouble, however, the Zee is a fickle mistress, and your voyages can easily be brought to an untimely end by sea monsters, starvation or fear-induced madness.
- World of Warcraft: The Cataclysm expansion sends players to the realm of Vashj'ir, a unique underwater zone where you find yourself battling the forces of the Naga and the Old Gods, and the Kvaldir, who are fighting everyone, culminating with assisting Neptulon, the Lord of Tides, in cleansing the waters of their filth and driving off their giant kraken Ozumat.
- The Comic Strip: The Tigersharks segments, being a ThunderCats (1985) clone, take place on an aquatic world featuring a group of human/marine animal hybrids who police it. Often, the heroes have to perform rescue missions as often as battling aquatic bad guys.
- The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Flapjack and his friend Captain K'nuckles often sail the waters surrounding their home of Stormalong Harbor in search of the mythical Candied Island. While they never find it, they do run across all manner of strange islands and bizarre characters.
- Moby Dick: A 1967 Hanna-Barbera classic features Moby Dick the Super Whale protecting Tom and Tubb on their oceanic journey to find their uncle's research vessel. Typically, each episode sees the boys getting in trouble with either underwater terrain, predators, or hostile fish people, from which Moby invariably needs to rescue them.
- The Pirates of Dark Water follows the adventures of Ren, the prince of the fallen kingdom Octopon, and his quest to restore his kingdom by finding the Thirteen Treasures of Rule, traveling the seas of the world of Mer to track them down, dealing with the pirate Bloth, who constantly hounds him, and the mysterious dark water, a substance that consumes whatever it touches and seems to have some sort of intelligence.