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Oxygenated Underwater Bubbles

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Simply put, air bubbles that float up from the sea floor in games with an Oxygen Meter. Grabbing them restores some or all of your Oxygen Meter.

Exactly how they're made underwater, and contain enough oxygen to allow the character to breathe longer, is virtually never elaborated on. You just have to not worry about it too much, because chances are, you'll need these bubbles either way to keep yourself from drowning when you're underwater. Most often, they tend to be spaced through water-based levels as designated stops to breathe while submerged for long periods.

If the character is somehow able to breathe underwater in ways that should actually be impossible for them to do (such as a human character with an overall lack of any scuba gear), then you have Super Not-Drowning Skills, instead.

Common in Video Games where there's no other way to survive underwater besides surfacing for air. Compare with Artificial Gill.


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    Action Adventure Games 
  • American McGee's Alice has underwater sections where you need to seek oxygen periodically. There's no visible oxygen meter, but after a while without air, Alice will drown. Air is stored inside the Turtle's shell, although since this is Wonderland, the details of how this all works are fairly irrelevant - it works because Alice expects it to work. Oxygen bubbles up from underwater plants and some vents, or occasionally for no visible reason.
  • The Ecco the Dolphin games occasionally feature oxygenated currents and oxygen bubbles trapped in underwater caves; they show up as giant bubbles on Ecco's sonar map in the first two games. Shelled Ones (clams) kind of look like they're giving you oxygenated bubbles, but these are actually for replenishing health. Just watch out for poisonous Shelled Ones.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has these for its underwater segments, as well as poisoned purple bubbles that drain a ton of your breath meter, almost assuring you'll drown if you don't surface ASAP.
  • An Untitled Story features oxygen bubbles in DeepDive, although their purpose is more for bouncing off from, especially since there are much more reliable jets of oxygen found in the same area that don't take a while to appear.

    Adventure Games 
  • Blue Port J: Summer Sky Prelude feature these (in a surprising rarity for this game considering the Signature Style of its developer). The girls can gobble up air leaks to refill their Oxygen Meter. Typically, these air leaks don't appear unless you've dived so deeply into the ocean that the air leaks end up being the only practical way that your character can avoid drowning, because otherwise, surfacing would be too far away for any of them to reach in time.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In the underwater levels of Duke Nukem Forever, Duke can replenish his oxygen meter by swimming through air bubbles rising from ruptured pipes. There is even a Boss Fight where you have to dart between ammo dump and bubbles while avoiding the boss' attacks and shooting at it.

    Platform Games 
  • 40 Winks has underwater vents that spew breathable bubbles. Just running through them is not enough, however; you have to linger on them to get a full-sized gulp of air.
  • Banjo-Kazooie: One area in Clanker's Cavern has a huge pit you need to swim into, but it's very, very deep. A friendly fish named Gloop appears down there who spits out oxygenated bubbles. He appears nowhere else, however, making him a Unique Helpful Mook. The sequel takes it to the extreme in Jolly Roger's Lagoon: Mumbo's magic oxygenates all the water in the level, removing the need for the air meter entirely for that level.
  • Karoshi 2.0: Oxygen bubbles pop up in an underwater level. This being a game about comitting suicide, you're supposed to avoid them so that you can die.
  • LittleBigPlanet 2 has bubble generators which you can swim by for bonus air.
  • Kirby Mass Attack has those bubbles since it's one of the few games where Kirby cannot breathe underwater infinitely.
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape normally uses Blue Lums to restore air underwater, but Carmen the Whale produces air bubbles that work identically. Rayman Revolution replaces the Blue Lums with bubble vents.
  • Every 2D game in Sonic the Hedgehog (plus Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations) that contains a water level of some kind features spots that spawn air bubbles that Sonic would have to breathe in to avoid drowning. In some games (such as the originals), the breathable bubbles would appear at irregular intervals, sometimes forcing a drowning Sonic to desperately wait for one. This is remedied in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, where there is a Water Shield that, should Sonic, Tails or Knuckles have it on, will eliminate the need for breathing in the bubbles.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • While coins in Super Mario 64 somehow gave you some of your air/health back, inhaling an air bubble would fill it up completely.
    • Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel also have air bubbles.
    • Despite taking place in a tropical seaside resort, Super Mario Sunshine only has these bubbles appear in one specific instance: the battle against Eely-Mouth.
    • In Super Mario Odyssey, you can find air bubbles in both the Lake Kingdom and Seaside Kingdom. They're not as necessary, since you can also use the game's Capture mechanic to possess a Cheep-Cheep, allowing you to not only breathe underwater but maneuver more easily.
  • Vexx has bubbles in The Below (and a side-area in Dragonreach) that refill your air. Vexx can hold his breath a long time without them, though.
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has such bubbles in its underwater sections, usually released from a treasure chest or a scaphander helmet. There also are continuous strems of small bubbles at some key points of the stages.
  • Freedom Planet has bubbles in some of the water sections which will expand and allow you to breathe as long as you're standing in them. Similar to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the Water Shield will also allow you to breathe normally underwater and in otherwise deoxygenated areas, such as the section of Final Dreadnought where Brevon vents the atmosphere to try and take out the heroes.
  • Yooka-Laylee takes this to new heights with one of Yooka's moves, an oxygenated underwater fart that fully envelopes himself and Laylee, and gives the duo access to their on-land moveset underwater.
  • In RiME, bubbles appear on some kind of of tube-like creature. They're replenished a few seconds after being used, so you can spend an arbitrary amount of time underwater if you don't get lost or stuck.

    Party Games 
  • In Sonic Shuffle, the first board, Emerald Coast, has underwater sections. Sonic and his friends can only spend five turns underwater, and if they drown, they lose a turn. Fortunately, there are air bubble spaces that they can land on to refill their oxygen meters.

    Puzzle Games 
  • One of the puzzles in The Time Warp of Dr. Brain had you controlling a lungfish in an underwater maze. As you swam, your oxygen would gradually run out, but you could refill it by sucking up bubbles or by finding air pockets.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The underwater area in Mother 3 features an Oxygen Meter refilled not by bubbles, but big-lipped mermen who deliver oxygen via a kiss. Everyone stands around blushing afterwards. One of these oxygen supply "machines" also appears later in the Empire Porky Building, this time as a centaur, just for laughs.
  • The Kelp Reef in Wandering Hamster features large bubbles you can walk into to reset the timer representing your Oxygen Meter and keep it from counting down.
  • In A Witch's Tale when Liddell is under the sea, she'll constantly take minor damage and lose air until she finds air bubbles.
  • The gimmick of NapalmMan's/TomahawkMan's stage in Mega Man Battle Network 5: Team Colonel and Team ProtoMan is that the ship's computer area is flooded, so you can grab these to refill your Oxygen Meter.

  • Club Penguin: During the Aqua Grabber minigame, the player pilots a machine underwater in order to collect, depending on the level, pearls or soda cans. The player has to inhale air bubbles every now to avoid a drowning-caused game over.
  • In Elsword, bubble vents are found in one single dungeon (the second one, specifically) of Hamel. Like the 40 Winks example above, just walking through it won't suffice; the player has to stand there for a few moments to refill the Oxygen Meter based on how much has been drained.
  • Final Fantasy XIV's Royal City of Rabanastre raid has the first boss flood the arena, giving players stacks of Breathless that instantly KO once they reach 10. To avoid this, players kill the Flume Toad adds that conveniently appear at the same time and stand in the bubbles they leave behind.
  • Some areas in World of Warcraft have fissures which spew enough oxygen for your character to breathe underwater.

  • In NetHack the Elemental Plane of Water has randomly moving air bubbles that you can walk in. Being turn-based, much of the level involves waiting for the bubbles to move to the exit.
  • Tales of Maj'Eyal has a few underwater levels with stationary (and depletable) bubbles that you have to travel between to avoid suffocation.

    Survival Games 
  • In Grounded, the pond has an aeration hose running through parts of it, occasionally releasing bubbles of oxygen. Given that its purpose is aeration, it's not surprising the hose releases pure oxygen. The bubbles in question are naturally tiny (only a few millimeter in diameter), but given the size of the protagonists, that's plenty.
  • In Subnautica, there exists a species of "brain coral" that, according to its scan data, metabolizes carbon dioxide from the water to build its shell and releases the waste oxygen in a form that, by coincidence, the player's air tanks are equipped to make use of. Downplayed in that only a set amount of oxygen is provided per bubble; you usually need to catch multiple bubbles to fully refill your tank.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Minecraft:
    • Doors cannot be waterlogged, meaning they can be placed underwater to create pockets of air. Such pockets also occasionally show up naturally due to glitches. Since water won't flow through the block either, it's possible to make a deadfall trap look like a waterfall.
    • Magma blocks create columns of air bubbles when placed underwater. Unfortunately, they also pull your character down to the seafloor (and can destroy boats if you're not careful) and will deal a bit of damage if you touch them, so they're not a perfect way for exploring the ocean. Conversely, soul sand can create bubble columns that push entities upwards.

Non-Video Game examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood, Jonathan is dragged into a lake by a zombie to prevent him from unleashing his Ripple (which requires breathing). Jonathan then realizes that from the way the lake was formed, the bottom must contain pockets of air, since it's bubbling up now and then, and dives down to extract enough air to fill his lungs with. Exactly how he could be sure that the air was breathable after being trapped for centuries under a lake is not mentioned.
  • Dr. STONE features an extended sequence of this at one point. During the Treasure Island arc, most of the good guys are petrified and thrown into the ocean. Ryusui tries to restore Taiju, but realizes that the revival fluid will just dissipate uselessly in the water, so he uses the mouthpiece of his oxygen tank to create a pocket of air around Taiju's body so he can administer the fluid. After being revived, Taiju sucks a big lungful of air from the bubbles coming out of the mouthpiece, not from the mouthpiece itself, before setting to work getting Kaseki out of the seabed.

    Comic Books 
  • The Girl from the Sea: While Keltie the Selkie can't control the water itself in any of her forms, she can bestow a cloak of air bubbles that protects against drowning.
  • In the Pocket God story arc, "A Tribe Called Quest", the pygmies encounter a tribe of anthropomorphic crustaceans called Bubble Breathers. True to their name, they blow bubbles with their oxygenated saliva. The pygmies use these bubbles when their oxygen tanks go empty.
  • In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil supplementary comic "Deep Trouble," Star, Marco, Pony Head, and several others are in bubbles while in the Underwater Kingdom.

    Fan Works 
  • In Zelda and the Manacle of Cahla, while Zelda wears the Pearl Mask to traverse underwater areas, her magic owl sidekick Groo encases himself in a bubble. Which he totally knew he could do.
  • In the Pony POV Series, this is how Derpy got her cutie mark. As a filly, her mother tried to kill her by having her fly over a river while wearing a heavy "good luck necklace". She fell in, but used bubbles caught in her wing feathers to breathe until she could get to the surface. Her own interpretation of her cutie mark is that her bubbles represent how she does her best to never give up.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): In a nod to the games, Sonic sucks in an air bubble when underwater trying to free the trapped Knuckles.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, the Elemental Plane of Water contains enormous air bubbles that non-aquatic residents occupy - since the plane lacks gravity, the bubbles don't move much. The air comes from the Elemental Plane of Air, since the planes occasionally interact.

    Theme Parks 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Robotnik Jr.", the titular robot traps Sonic in a sewer. In a nod to the underwater levels of the video games, Sonic breathes in air bubbles to avoid drowning. In this particular case, the bubbles even allow him to talk underwater.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Team Avatar and their allies sneak up on the Fire Nation with a submarine approach. But Appa can't fit in a sub, so Katara creates a bubble around his head to trap some air.
  • Big Blue: Human characters in the show's setting wear bubbles instead of diving helmets.

    Real Life 
  • Some types of diving beetle (and one diving spider) trap a thin layer of air against their bodies and use these to breathe. The spider even makes an underwater web to trap air in, allowing it to live most of its life underwater.
  • Subverted by fish tank bubblers. They do indeed help to keep the water more oxygenated, but they do so by encouraging the surface water to move around more, rather than the bubbles themselves adding oxygen.

Alternative Title(s): Underwater Air Bubbles