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Sand Worm

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Shai-Hulud, the Great Maker, the Grandfather of the Desert, the Worm Who Is God.
"The enormous Amorbis can move through solid rock and earth with ease, and can sense the location of surface-level prey deep within the ground."
— Scan Data for Amorbis, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

So you're traveling the desert. A dangerous place, isn't it? You've got dehydration and heatstroke to worry about of course, and that's not getting to how it seems like Everything Is Trying to Kill You - scorpions, snakes, pack animals of dubious trustworthiness, and native peoples who may be ruthlessly territorial or just poorly disposed toward your particular ethnicity. But if you think that these are all you have got to worry about, check your setting. If you are somewhere other than Earth, be it a sci-fi or fantasy world, then tread softly, without rhythm, and check the ground often. Because you may just wind up with a case of Sand Worms.

Scaled-up versions of real-life worms, these beasties tunnel through sand and dirt, being halted only by rocky terrain or artificial ground, though often enough they can force their way through that as well. They generally have no eyes or ears, rather detecting vibrations through their bodies. Beyond these basic traits, even the most incidental similarity to real creatures ceases. Sandworms are big, typically ranging between man-sized and resembling something like a moving mountain. They seem to be carnivorous since they tend to go out of their way to attack and eat anything trudging upon the surface, either leaping without warning to swallow the prey whole or approaching with a telltale furrow of disturbed earth, depending on whether the writers want to give the target a chance to run away. Aside from the worm-like shape, these monsters are also recognizable by their mouths: they are always either completely round or trifurcated, lined with rows of teeth, and with long tentacular tongues, the better to grab you by the feet and reel you in.

Intelligence varies but is usually pretty animalistic. They may be loners or travel in packs, again depending on how threatening the writers want them. Since they hunt almost exclusively by dint of sound transferred through the ground, they can be diverted by standing still or setting off something loud and percussive a ways off.

Similar monsters can be found in snow or water. These are, perhaps, a bit more believable.

Even in the best of cases, these are obvious instances of artistic license; it simply isn't possible for a creature so dense and large to pass that easily through heavy earth, even if it is fine sand. Failure to observe the Square-Cube Law also applies, especially in larger cases, and especially since worms don't have any internal support structure such as a skeleton. (Exceptions may be made for low-gravity worlds and/or worms with a Bizarre Alien Biology.) Not to mention how does that thing sustain itself? They are usually depicted as being carnivorous, and huge. Nothing is even close to its size, and it doesn't feed that often. Even so, it would be sustaining itself on creatures less than a hundredth its size. And it lives in deserts, which have much less biomass than other biomes.

Though when you think about it, they are kind of like scaled-up, desert-dwelling earthworms.

A related creature is the Landshark, a ground-burrowing creature with the appetite, temperament, and often appearance of a Threatening Shark. A landshark is often (but not always) a Shark Man.

The bigger ones are a type of Kaiju. In video games, this is a common type of Mole Monster. Compare Space Whale, Flying Seafood Special, Drill Tank, Antlion Monster. See also Wormsign.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's had a desert planet that contained these which the Wolkenritter extracted Mana from. Pretty powerful too, considering how one of them almost killed Signum.
  • Dragon Ball GT: These appear in a desert planet.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: They appear in the "Acid Tokyo" arc.
  • In Trigun, Sandworms are apparently the dominant native species on the planet; in the manga, they play a fairly major part in the story, because they are sentient and able to communicate with one another telepathically.
  • Excel♡Saga: Sand worms appeared when Excel fell through a trapdoor and came out in a desert.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has sand worms controlled by a naughtier Paio II who turned out to be an extremely naughty little girl.
  • Mister from Coyote Ragtime Show takes advantage of Sand Worms as weapons against the 12 Sisters.
  • Bleach: The hollow Bawabawa acts like one of these in desert-like Hueco Mundo, including giving the protagonists a ride to Las Noches.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: According to Miyazaki himself, the Ohmus are partly inspired by Dune's Sandworms, though they don't really burrow and look more like pillbugs. The name is actually a dual pun on both "King Bug" (Oh-Mushi) and the way Sandworm is pronounced in Japanese (Sando Uohmu).
  • The Big O: In episode 17 "Leviathan", the title megadeus is a giant mechanical version.
  • Though shaped more like a lobster, Renocraft in the Monster Farm/Monster Rancher anime digs through the sand and targets its prey much like a sandworm.
  • Vexille uses this, in the form of Jags, giant revolving tubes of scrap metal that make their way across the desert outside Tokyo. They eat more metal to survive, which means that it's really not a good idea to drive cars out there. Also, the reason why there's a "giant concrete gate" outside the main city. They also die when they fall into the water, a fact that is used to great effect in the movie.
  • Space Runaway Ideon: On some occasions, sandworms appear.
  • Sands of Destruction has sand whales. They look like large, green worms with flippers and vaguely whale-like heads. The anime mentions that they're attracted to sound, as it's difficult to actually see in the sand.
  • In the first trial of Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Yugi and his friends have to battle such worms in the middle of a sandstorm. To make it worse, anyone who gets hit by their vomit gets Taken for Granite.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Behold the Thermopod, a giant slug that is not unlike D&D's Remorhaz. This one actually has a plentiful supply of caribou and goblins to feed on, though.
    • Also of note is the Wurm creature type. These can vary quite a bit from creature to creature, but generally resemble either enormous, limbless dragons or gigantic wormlike beasts. Being chiefly Green creatures, most live in forests and jungles, but there are also a few more traditional desert-dwelling wurms as well. The ones native to Amonkhet hew closest to the traditional Dune archetype, being titanic, wormlike beasts who lurk beneath the dunes to lunge at prey passing above.
      A sandwurm can lie in wait beneath the sands for years until the slightest tremor alerts it to the presence of prey.Flavor Text for Greater Sandwurm
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Medusa Worm is a card that, when flip summoned, can destroy an opponent's monster. You can then flip it back down so it can eat your opponent's monsters again the next turn.

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): In the original Knuckles the Echidna mini-series, Knuckles encountered a sand worm in the Floating Island's desert, Sandopolis Zone.
  • The Mighty Thor: The Asgardian desert has giant sand worms.
  • In Superman series DC Retroactive Superman, the "Cruiser" is a genetically-engineered, blind, worm-like burrowing creature whose huge mouth, shark-like rows of teeth, tiny clawed upper limbs, and corrosive skin secretions allow it to burrow through bedrock at great speed.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The scavenger worms on Hope's End, whose mouths are ringed with arachnid-looking legs to better pull bodies in.

    Fan Works 
  • Pokemon: Shadow of Time: Emphasis is placed on Gible's status as a land-shark, to the extent that the Jaws theme plays whenever he's digging through the ground.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dune film by David Lynch helped codify their typical appearance. They're also a Fantastic Cavalry.
  • The sand worm design in Denis Villeneuve's Dune and Dune: Part Two eschews the pedipalps for a Lamprey Mouth, but its massive scale is perhaps the best rendered out of all examples on this page, thanks to flawless CGI. The films also add an additional explanation as to how the sand worms can swim through sand, namely that the sandworms use the real life process of fluidization (where sand can be made to act like a liquid by blowing air through it), which also means the sandworms are living quicksand generators.
  • Tremors reinvented the trope to drastic degrees. Indeed, the Graboids weren't really wormlike at all except in basic principles, and asserted the predatorial habits that have made Sandworms the monster-movie favorite they are now.
    • They made some nice theoretical background for the series, though. They "swim" through the ground through the use of thousands of little "spines" on their sides pushing the ground, they must retreat from explosions due to sheer pain from vibrational shock, and they have a brilliantly executed life cycle; the Sandworms which show up on seismometers, then mini-velociraptors with infrared-vision, then organic rocket-critters which carry the eggs to other areas.
    • The website explained that their initial classification as "pre-Cambrian" life was incorrect, and graboids actually evolved from squid or cuttlefish-like organisms that adapted to drier habitats (such as by losing the eyes and relying on other senses). This theoretical background was rather well thought out even if it did have its flaws. The squid/cuttlefish connection does make a lot of sense when you look at the Graboids' anatomy and intelligent behavior.
  • The titular monster from the Chinese sci-fi film, Land Shark, a kaiju-sized shark created from an experiment gone wrong. It needs to be seen to believe.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire Strikes Back, where the Millennium Falcon lands inside one - well, inside of an Asteroid Worm - and barely escapes.
    • The Force Awakens has a more conventional sand worm on Jakku called the nightwatcher worm. All we see of it is its disproportionately tiny eyestalk that belies its true size, but supplementary material confirms it's at least 20 meters if not much bigger.
  • Beetlejuice was taken out by one of another iconic sandworm species that lived on Saturn. These had white-and-black stripes and one mouth inside another- compare the xenomorphs of the Alien movies.
  • The Sci Fi Channel movie Sand Serpents has gigantic sand worms accidentally awakened by a fire fight between soldiers and Taliban.
  • Jeff from Men in Black II, though he uses tunnels which are already built (the NYC subway).
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon introduces The Driller, which is essentially a Mechanical Lifeform version of a sandworm. They're supposedly Cybertron's apex predators. Shockwave has one as a "pet".
  • In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Azog employs were-worms, massive, rock-eating giant worms which he used to burrow a tunnel to Erebor as a quick route for his troops. They didn't actually participate in the battle, because then the heroes would have been completely outmatched.
  • The "Land Shark" variety of this trope shows up at the end of the trashy, So Bad, It's Good Taiwanese movie, Zodiac Fighters. The main villain is an aquatic-themed martial arts warlord whose minions are adorned in armour resembling crabs and swordfishes, and his throne is adorned with mechanical sharks which he sics on the good guys in the final battle. These sharks can either fly or tunnel into the sands of the beaches where the final battle occurs, and give the heroes a difficult time in the final battle.
  • Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn: Deep in Nomad territory, Dogen and Rhodes are attacked by a sand-swimming snake that almost drags Rhodes underground before Dogen shoots it.
  • Love And Monsters: One of the monsters Joel encounters on his journey are burrowing lamprey-like predators known as Sand-Gobblers First, he lands in a pit filled with baby Sand-Gobblers, which swarm him like piranhas, and he later encounters the much larger Sand-Gobbler Queen, which is able to swim through dirt like a shark through water, complete with a Shark Fin of Doom.


  • After Man: A Zoology of the Future: Desert sharks are sausage-shaped, hairless mammals descended from insectivores, which spend most of their time hiding beneath the sand to avoid the desert heat. They swim through the sand with their strong, paddle-shaped limbs and feed on rodents whose burrows their track down by smell.
  • Alien in a Small Town has the Great Striped Hoon. Like most creatures from the Jan's homeworld (including the sapient inhabitants), it's silicon based, can burrow, and has trilateral symmetry. It's described as more catarpillar-shaped than worm-like, capable of moving across the surface as well as tunneling. Its tripartite mouth is long, bone-colored, and has strange whorls making it resemble a three-way reflection of a cow or horse skull. They use sound as a weapon, projecting deafening blasts into the ground that can stun sonar-using beings like the Jan. They prey on the Jan and have "almost totemic" significance to them — the Jan deliberately bring a few to any planet they colonize, figuring that having these a few of these monsters prowling around keeps them on their toes and prevents sloth and decadence.
  • Dune codified and popularized this trope. The beasties here are hundreds of feet long, used as mounts, capable of swallowing entire ships whole, and their offspring crap out the substance that keeps the entire cosmos's economy running. Practically every case of Sandworms in fiction since has been a carbon-copy of these critters, though scaled down to somewhat less incredulous levels. The Dune example is also a bit more realistic than its successors tend to be. It's established that they usually feed on a combination of the plankton-like larval form of themselves, and other, smaller worms, explaining how they can sustain such colossal bodies. Their mass is physically sustained by their semi-crystalline body, and their ability to pass through the sand is because they consume it, as part of getting the aforementioned plankton. The reason they attack anything that vibrates is because, since they are blind and have low intelligence, they attack on the off-chance that the vibration is caused by another worm. Their physical attributes are consistently extrapolated from the neccessities of their living-in-sand nature — their bodies are designed to be capable of passing off enormous amounts of heat to deal with the friction in sand (generating a lot of oxygen in the process, explaining why Arrakis has a breathable atmosphere), and their strength is quite enormous, as it would have to be to move such a mass through such a dense medium.
  • The Conqueror Worms: Man-eating giant earthworms begin crawling on the surface after an endless rainstorm forces them out from deep underground.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Dholes or bholes (it's not quite clear whether they are different creatures or just a different way of spelling) appear in H. P. Lovecraft's mythos. They are enormous wormlike creatures that secrete corrosive acid slime that helps them tunnel through solid rock, and can eventually devastate a planet by eating so much of it that it collapses on itself. Cthonians are another burrowing mythos creature, but they are more squidlike than wormlike, and are very good at causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions if their ire is roused.
  • Bore grubs inhabit the Clayr's Glacier in Garth Nix's Lirael. Unlike other examples on this page, they're not actually malevolent, but they're pretty stupid, slow to react, and can chew through solid rock and ice with their rotating jaws, so it's best to stay out of their way. The bigger ones are largely responsible for hollowing out the places where the Clayr live.
  • According to supplemental material, the planet Vulcan has a second, silicon-based type of these known as a'kweth, or "underliers". They're sapient.
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons has these in the rural Midwest. They're described as being like Moray eels.
  • Subverted in the third book of John Varley's Gaea Trilogy. Yes, there is a giant sand worm; Gaea herself has created and placed it, no doubt directly inspired by Earth fiction. It's miles long, it's probably hungry (it has turned the original landscape into the desert it is now)...and it moves so slowly that it's basically just a living terrain feature.note  Some of the passing humans cut graffiti into its skin.
  • Diggles in Piers Anthony's Xanth series are giant worms that could phase through solid rock and literally worked for a song.
  • A Star Wars Expanded Universe example is Greater Krayt Dragons, ridiculously huge ten-legged dragons that mostly ate banthas, but there's an illustration in The Wildlife of Star Wars of one digging up and eating a sarlaac . Usually they stayed buried in the sand.
    • Tatooine also has dune worms, which... are basically exact Expys of sand worms.
  • The Flayers in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch are carnivorous worm-like creatures which lurk beneath the sand of a certain desert on the planet Harkoum. They're known to eat people; crossing the desert on foot is practically suicide.
  • In the Retief story "Internal Affair", the ambassador sent to the planet Quahogg disappears after reporting being chased by forty-foot giant worms, and Retief and Magnan are sent to investigate. The worms turn out to be the intelligent life forms the ambassador was sent to meet (somehow the CDT overlooked this little fact), and, while the ambassador was eaten, this did no harm—in fact, it turns out that the only safe place for humans on the planet is inside the worms.
  • Redshirts has Borgovian Land Worms, which eat two characters.
    • Later it is revealed that not only did the lead writer of the show have nothing to do with these, he was on vacation, but the TV company got in trouble with the Herbert estate as well proving that sand worms are VERY lawyer unfriendly.
  • The Ship Who...: In The City Who Fought, Simeon is attacked by a literal "worm" program, two metres thick with rows of rotating concentric teeth — apparently based on a real creature.
  • In Exiles of ColSec, these are a recurring threat. They vary from about three feet long to about seven feet in diameter, and are armed with deadly stinging tentacles. They're at least somewhat justified in that they have durable exoskeletons, and that they lurk under a shallow layer of soil and ground cover rather than actually burrowing. In the end, it's helping to kill a particularly large one that serves to somewhat endear the central cast to the native humanoids.
  • The Guan a Var in Perry Rhodan, basically giant worms that live in hyperspace, feed on the energy of stars, and cause them to go nova to reproduce, got their start like this — the issue detailing their backstory even includes a couple of not-at-all-subtle shout-outs. Probably nothing would ever have happened if some clever aliens hadn't discovered them, realized these animals were sensitive to hyperspace energies, and decided it'd be a great idea to over successive generations engineer them into organic starships...
  • Giant rust worms appear in Brian Lumley's The House Of Doors, when the trapped humans enter a realm of ruined machines and all-rust deserts, generated from the inborn fears of Gill the machine-empath.
  • Daystar and Shadow has fireworms, monstrous beings with poisonous bristles who can swallow a man whole. They tend to attack people who venture alone into the desert, except for Robin, whom the fireworms protect.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tremors: The Series: While El Blanco the sterile albino Graboid appears more often in the background and is the focus of a few episodes, one episode features a normal Graboid as well.
  • The Sand Rays and Sharks from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, obviously based on the Graboids from Tremors.
  • During its "movie ripoff" phase, Sliders likewise did an episode featuring one.
  • The Frank Herbert's Dune miniseries.
  • An episode of The Outer Limits (1963) titled "The Invisible Enemy" has an astronaut team investigating why a previous landing party has vanished and their ship destroyed. They barely escape after being attacked by giant sand sharks.
  • SeaQuest DSV features a giant, fire-breathing worm that lives in underwater caves.
  • Earth 2 had the Terrians, humanoids with a complex and very alien psychology who traveled like sandworms through the soil of their (living, symbiotic) homeworld.
  • Lost Tapes did an episode about Mongolian death worms.
  • Andromeda featured an episode with "Squorms," large, genetically engineered mining beasts that looked like fat worms, moved through rock, and excreted aluminum.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Deathworms are voracious, humanoid creatures burrowing underground. They are not sentient or smart at all, but very resilient and always mean trouble.
  • The Ultraman Tiga episode "Land Shark" gives Exactly What It Says on the Tin as the Monster of the Week. However, Geozark turns out to actually be a digging robot constructed by a Corrupt Corporate Executive to tunnel out the tomb of a previously unknown Ultra.
  • In season two of The Mandalorian, we finally see a Greater Krayt Dragon. Sure enough, it mostly stays buried under the sand while its movement causes massive disruptions in the sand above it, almost like a living wave. Judging just by the size of its head and neck, it's enormous, able to swallow elephant-sized Banthas whole. During the climax of the episode the Krayt is able to force its head through the top of the mountain that sits above its den.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Olgoi-Khorkhoi (Mongolian Death Worm), a legendary beast said to inhabit the Gobi Desert, is a 2-5 foot long worm capable of spitting acid and able to electrocute prey. Fortean Times regularly covering Mongolia to summarise the latest reported sightings and seeks to evaluate the evidence, using cryptozoologists who have made expeditions here as a sort of "roving reporter".
  • Some Classical authors made reference to giant worms called Indus Worms, described as pallid serpentine creatures with monstrous teeth that dwelt along riverbanks in India and attacked passerbys.
  • The Minhocão (Big Worm) from Brazilian Folklore is a creature who swims in both rivers and land alike, devouring fishermen and causing tremors and landslides. Despite its name, it is generally described as a giant serpent, sometimes with fish-like attributes; the name would have come from the holes it leaves in the ground.
  • Northern European and Siberian folklore held that the dead mammoths, whose bones were found in earth, or who sometimes were embedded in the permafrost, were burrowing creatures that died instantly upon contact with air. The word "mammoth" is likely derived from "underground deer" in some Finno-Ugric languages.
  • Medieval Russian folklore had the beast Indrik ("the beast of all beasts"), who cuts underground riverbeds through earth and dies from exposure to light. Depending on the narrator, it could be the same creature as mammoth, or a separate animal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has lots of these.
    • The iconic Purple Worm, which looks very much like a sandworm from Tremors, including the mouth parts, but lives underground and tunnels through solid rock, leaving tunnels similar to the Horta from "The Devil in the Dark". It hunts by sensing tremors of moving creatures which touch the ground, so flying is advised. And they're purple, covered in slime, and pictures of them have inspired a lot of eye-rolling from gamers. One of the monsters that would go beyond the game's PG-13 rating, if parents didn't pretend they hadn't seen it. In later editions, the artwork has made more the worm more scaly and less suggestive (which is a bit funny because the monster was originally meant to be a kind of serpentine dragon; its inspiration was in fact the Lambton Wyrm of English folklore rather than any of the other worm monsters mentioned on this page).
    • 3.5 Edition has the ashworm, the purple worm's smaller brother, which similarly burrows around under desert sands. There's a prestige class called the Ashworm Dragoon that allows players to act as sandworm-mounted heavy cavalry.
    • Sand burrowers, from the 3rd Edition Creature Collection, track prey through vibrations. They also grab their victims with tentacles that extend from their mouth, making them very similar to the graboids in the film Tremors.
    • On the "Landshark" side, there's the bulette (aka landshark), another classic monsters that resembles an armoured dinosaur of some kind mixed with a shark on legs or a cross between an armadillo and a snapping turtle the size of a small car. Its appellation is earned from the distinctive fin cutting through the soil as it burrows, as well as for it having the appetite and temperament associated with sharks.
    • The desert-dwelling sand dragons spend most of their time buried under the desert sands, slithering beneath the surface when they wish to move, and prefer to ambush prey from beneath when hidden in this manner.
    • The frost worm (based directly off of the yakhmar from the Lair of the Ice Worm) and the Remorhaz (also inspired by the yakhmar, but is a bit more like a giant centipede than a worm and burrows through ice and snow with a body temperature that rivals molten iron), which burrow through glaciers instead.
    • Dragonlance: In module DL12 Dragons of Faith, one possible encounter is with a Dune-style sand worm. Its approach causes an earth tremor and leaves "worm sign" on the surface.
    • Forgotten Realms: Illithid tadpoles that manage to grow up without a host become Neothelids. Basically Sand Worms with Psychic Powers and tentacles growing on their "faces".
    • Dark Sun, set on the desert planet of Athas, has several examples.
      • Silt drakes, red silt horrors and silt spawn all swim through the Silt Sea.
      • The sink worm is Dark Sun's version of the Dune sandworm. It's 50 feet long, leaves a sunken depression in the ground behind it, bursts out of the ground under its prey and swallows it whole, its mouth is lined with teeth, and it can feel the vibrations of creatures walking on the ground.
      • Polyhedron magazine #80: The Sand Worm is a worm-like creature 100-500 feet long that lives underground in sandy desert areas. It is covered with hard plates and detects prey through their vibrations up to a mile away. It has a mouth (filled with rows of sharp teeth) which is large enough to allow victims up to 18 feet high and 12 feet wide to be Swallowed Whole. In short, it's yet another D&D version of the Dune sandworm.
    • Mystara has the Leviathan Worm. The desert version is up to 500 feet long and 40 wide. It's sensitive to vibrations and attacks anything moving on the surface within a quarter mile. When moving underground, it causes a ripple like an ocean wave on the surface above it. It attacks by engulfing an area of sand.
  • Exalted: Ghostfishers are a peculiar variant of this native to the Underworld. For the most part, they're fairly typical examples — giant worms with gaping, fang-lined maws that lurk beneath the ground and prey on people passing above. Their two unusual traits are that they feed almost entirely on ghosts and that they hunt by means of a lure dangling from their forehead; a hunting ghostfisher hides just underground and shapes its lure to resemble a pitiable ghost in some kind of difficulty. When other shades stop by to help, the worm bursts from the ground to attack.
  • Pathfinder, aside from adopting the purple worm, remorhaz, frost worm, thoqqua, bulette, nightcrawler, and neothelid (that last now uncoupled from its connection to illithids, which are a Wizards identity product) from Dungeons & Dragons, adds the death worm (a direct interpretation of the olgoi-khorkhoi) and seugathi (neothelids' servitor spawn) to its lineup of such beasts. There's also the Spawn of Rovagug known as Chemnosit, the Monarch Worm. It's a kaiju-sized Eldritch Abomination sandworm with Disintegrator Ray Eye Beams and the ability to Mind Rape those it stares at into feeling insatiable hunger for the flesh of their own kind, driving them into insane rampages of cannibalism in which they will eat their own flesh if they can't get anyone else's. Chemnosit has been described as actually holding back from devouring cities to first let its Hungry Gaze do its terrible work; only once the city's inhabitants have devastated themselves does it grow bored and consume the few survivors.
  • Shadowrun: Rockworms are Awakened earthworms about two meters long, with three-lobed jaws, lots of strong, sharp teeth and corrosive saliva. They use these to bore tunnels through solid rock, digging extensive tunnel systems. They don't prey on other animals, but their tunnel systems can and will cause large collapses when they grow too big — and they're just as happy eating the concrete in dams, highway supports and buildings as they are eating rock.
  • Deadlands has rattlers. No, not those. Mojave rattlers are named for the noise a cowpoke's teeth make as they race toward him. Before taking one on, re-read that part about "varying intelligence" real careful: rattlers in different parts of the country even have different personalities, implying at least the intelligence of a clever hunting animal. They're smarter than they seem, too. And they don't eat everyone they catch. What do they do with them...?
  • Warhammer: Dread maws are immense, blind, scaly serpents native to the Chaos Wastes, which burrow their way beneath the ground before erupting on the surface to attack prey. Smaller creatures are devoured as is, but in the case of larger beasts a dread maw will simply burrow directly into its target and eat it alive.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has had several incarnations of these with the Tyranids since third edition.
    • "The Red Terror" was a relative of the Ravener species (snake or worm-like Tyranids) that had the ability to burrow its way onto the battlefield and swallow smaller enemies whole. The Red Terror was later removed from the playable creatures: the Raveners got its burrowing abilities.
    • The Trygon is a giant version of the Ravener with all its burrowing abilities and an electrical attack. Since Raveners were much too small for a proper Sand Worm, the Imperial Armour books introduced their giant form (their being able to move is Hand Waved as their electrical field breaking the ground into fine particles, which are easier to move around).
    • January 2010 had Games Workshop feature a new sub-strain of the Trygon called the Mawloc. It is the most Sandworm-like creature in the game so far, having shorter arms and a multi-jawed mouth. On top of everything the Mawloc is not only able to burrow underground, but move around while underground and reappear elsewhere later (apparently it's faster while underground than on the surface).
    • Given how it attacks, most players have come to the conclusion that the Mawloc is what you get when you mix the genes from the Trygon and the Red Terror. Essentially it's the product of two sand worms into one.
    • Supplement Creatures of the Night: The Graveworm is an effectively harmless version of this. They're very easy to kill (literally, they have the "Easy To Kill" disadvantage) and have no real attacks but if people that spend to much time around a living one find their intelligence being drained away.
    • Supplement Space Bestiary'. The alien species known as world worms travel between planets in pods. When a pod lands, the worms pour out and infest the planet, eating their way to the planet's core. By the time they've grown to full size (several miles long), they've done so much damage to the planet that it disintegrates. After mating, the worms split up and release pods, which begin their journey to find a new planet to destroy.
  • Call of Cthulhu has two:
    • Dholes, gigantic underground worms with a penchant for destroying planets by burrowing through them. They are that large. Getting hit by a Dhole requires you to make a Luck roll; a success means there is enough of you left to hold a proper funeral.
    • Chthonians, somewhat smaller underground worms with blood-draining tentacles and telepathy.
  • Arkham Horror, being Cthulhu Mythos The Board Game, has dholes and cthonians as per the literature and RPG examples above. In game terms, dholes are massive and incredibly powerful while cthonians can damage all the investigators by causing earthquakes.
  • Chaosium: The All the Worlds' Monsters supplement has Sand Worms that grow 100-200 meters long, live in sandy deserts, are poisoned by water, can hear things miles away, attack creatures on the surface by creating a sand whirlpool beneath them, and can be controlled and used as mounts with a certain item. In other words, they're a fantasy version of Dune sandworms.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Thunderwyrms, gigantic beasts that travel under the earth and are drawn above the surface by storms (hence the name). It's believed they were born of irradiated soil, a belief backed up by the fact that the largest Thunderwyrm (big enough to host a Caern inside it) nests under the soil of the Trinity test site.
  • Rocket Age's Silt Seas of Mars are home to a range of animals, of which the apex predator is the Silt Dragon, a serpent over 150 metres long.
  • Heroes magazine Volume I #3 article "Creepy Critters: Insects for RuneQuest'': Sandswimmers are the worm-like maggots of giant flies and grow up to 10 meters long. They burrow beneath the surface of sandy areas (beaches and deserts). They sense their prey through vibrations and burst through the surface to attack it.
  • Talislanta has the Land Kra, a subterranean eel that may exceed 40' in length and weigh up to five tons.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Wonders: Enormous, funnel-mouth sand worms appear as units in the Azrac army.
  • In Akuji the Heartless, giant sandworms roams the shores of the river Styx, and attacks by lashing their heads out at Akuji. They're among the first enemies encountered during gameplay.
  • Alone in the Dark (1992) features the Chtonian, a great burrowing worm that lives in caverns and makes new tunnels. He's the one independent monster not under the control of Pregzt.
  • The first stage of Andro Dunos has scorpion-like creatures that burrow under the sand and then emerge to fire off shots. They're not that large or aggressive, though.
  • ARK: Survival Evolved: The Scorched Earth expansion packs has giant deathworms in the sand dunes surrounding the map that attack any creature that enters the area. The lore gives them the scientific name Khorkhoi arrakis, and reveals they were placed there by the artificial environment to prevent inhabitants from wandering outside the designated area.
  • Armageddon 2, a map-pack for Skulltag, has a pair of these as bosses in the "Sand Worm Trench" level. They don't swallow people, just breathe fire at them (and are lanky, looking somewhat like snakes).
  • Battle Axe has gigantic worms that resembles cephalopod tentacles as enemies, who pops up from underground to attack. They can be spotted before appearing thanks to Worm Sign.
  • BattleForge
    • The game has rare, artificial versions of these for all terrains in Core Dredges, enormous worm-like constructs built from temple ruins, ice and tree roots weaved together into a cohesive, enormous creature. Its wormsign alone can knock down and damage smaller enemies, and it breathes blasts of crushed eye that will utterly demolish either structures or frozen enemies, depending on the version you have. It's also one of the earlier XL units you can get, which is a plus all by itself.
    • Fire Worms are more traditional examples, while still being all-terrain and spewing magma to attack. Everything they do seems to cause massive geological instability: summoning them is destructive, and their movements through the earthknock enemies around if they're anywhere nearby; furthermore, they can cause an Earthquake that damages and knocks down everything in a wide area.
  • Black Sigil has a desert in which are sandworms. You can avoid them by walking through a specific path, but going out of said path leads to interesting items (in chests, of course).
  • Body Harvest: Some of the aliens in the America stage are giant worms who burrow through the ground throughout the desert level.
  • Threshers in Borderlands 2. Threshers tend to live on fertile ground near water, and they have squid-like tentacles that they use to either pummel or throw rocks at you. The "Captain Scarlett" DLC campaign introduces actual Sand Worm enemies, which are found in an arid desert; they don't seem to be related to Threshers, appearing and behaving quite different from them.
  • Breath of Fire IV actually has a dragon that resembles a sandworm with fins. It wrecks your ship, enabling you to find the Heroic Mime Ryu.
  • Bug!! had a really nasty swamp worm as the boss of Splot.
  • These pop out of the sand in the Egyptian stage of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth has the Siege Worms, massive, Boss in Mook Clothing aliens that spawn in the world starting from turn 1. Luckily, they aren't automatically hostile; aliens are only hostile to humans if humans have a reputation for attacking aliens. If you get lucky, it's possible to get one for yourself, long before the other factions have access to anything that stands a chance against them. In addition, because of the Affinity's Nuclear Weapons Taboo, Harmony players can instead send spies to set up a Thumper in an enemy city, summoning a horde of Siege Worms to ravage it.
  • In Clicker Guild, the Sand Worm is a segmented and toothed worm in the Desert Zone.
  • The red Crawler Tank/Twilobite in Stage 5 of Contra III, the "Snow Worm" in Shattered Soldier and the "Land Worm" in Area 3 of Neo Contra are the most obvious examples of this trope.
  • Creature Shock have those giant alien worms as recurring enemies, though they turn out to be of the Fake Ultimate Mook variety; despite their size, they go down after spamming enough shots with your blaster, and they're hard to miss because they take up more than half a screen.
  • Crying Suns features Sandworms as one of the Major Threats that your commandos may encounter during expeditions. They’re so dangerous that you get an achievement just for completing an expedition where a Sandworm appears.
  • Darksiders has these in a desert called the Ashlands, with an even larger one as the boss of the area.
  • Dark Souls III: A unique miniboss in the Smouldering Lake is the Carthus Sandworm. Highly aggressive, heavily armored, and large enough to swallow several men whole at once. It can also, for some reason, shoot giant beams of lightning out of its mouth. Speculation abounds as to its origin, since it is the only sandworm that has ever been seen in the franchise.
  • Death Worm, in which you play a giant worm, leaping from the ground and eating people to grow larger.
  • The Burrow Beast in Destroy All Humans! 2, a Tremors Shout-Out that Crypto summons by dropping bait, whereupon it starts popping up from beneath any mook in the surrounding area and dragging them underground to feed on.
  • Diablo II has the burrowing Sand Maggots, which the official backstory points out are actually arthropods and not worms at all. A gigantic boss variant named Coldworm the Burrower was so bloated it resembled a worm more than the normal Sand Maggots. Diablo III once again features desert locations with giant worms, this time the far more traditional Rockworms, which can swallow players whole and spit them out. The Cave of Burrowing Horror has the corpse of a truly immense specimen winding through the floor. This game also features the dinosaur-like Dune Threshers swimming through the sand like sharks, and one particular unique giant rockworm, Shaitan The Broodmother - Great Maker, explicitly references Dune.
  • Dune, Dune II (and its remake Dune 2000), and Emperor: Battle for Dune, of course. In the first game (which doesn't actually share any continuity with the others) they mostly serve as Paul's means of transportation and to occasionally eat a spice harvester if your troop does not also have an orni to watch for Worm Sign, while in 2 they show up semi-randomly to eat units. In Emperor they mostly do the same thing, but Fremen can intentionally summon them and temporarily control them.
  • Dusty Raging Fist have giant worms in the underground temple stages, who sticks their heads out trying to chomp on Dusty. They're immobile however and relies on the element of surprise - Dusty can simply dodge them, then backtrack and shoot the worms from a distance.
  • Sandworms are a recurring enemy in the desert stage of Dyna Gear, sticking their heads out from sand pits when you're trying to jump over.
  • The Effing Worms series, a small franchise of games where you are the Sand Worm. Where you spend entire levels tunneling in and out the ground, devouring hundreds of people and growing larger as you advance into later levels. You can even gain power-upgrades of your choice, like giving your worm wings or a more streamlined body for easier tunneling.
  • Several appear in Epic Battle Fantasy.
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden featured these in one level. Notably, they are the only invincible enemy in the game, fortunately they wouldn't attack you actively, though one might pop out of the ground under or in front of you. A later level featured sand-dwelling dinosaur-like creatures called Mosuchop which would jump out and bite you before retreating under the sand. (Real Moschops, the mammal-like reptile on which it was based, were not known to do this.)
  • Fallout 4's Nuka World DLC adds bloodworms, meter long barbed worms that burst out of the ground and leap for your face.
  • FAST Racing NEO and RMX: The background of Scorpio Circuit features giant worms to complement the futuristic setting.
  • In Fe, the iguana-like Lizard Folk mature into burrowing serpents, which the protagonist can ride a la Dune, and their leader is a ginormous version of the latter.
  • A recurring enemy in the Final Fantasy series.
    • In V, the defeated worm's corpse provides a stable path across the desert.
    • A particular area of the overworld in V has a winding path of greenery passing through the desert. Simply traveling across the desert is faster, but you run the risk of encountering these things, which will almost certainly kill you at that point of the game.
    • In VI, being eaten by a specific one on a specific island leads to a hidden dungeon and party member.
    • These monstrosities are living, breathing, adventurer-eating entrances to special boss fights in Final Fantasy XI. There are also much smaller person-sized worms that cast magic— although considering they are immobile in combat, it's needed to prevent them from being too damn easy to kill with ranged attacks.
    • The first time you face a Sand Worm in Final Fantasy X, it has the most HP of any enemy you've faced thus far and it's only a random encounter! Fortunately, it's not too deadly, and it's vulnerable to attacks that remove fractions of the enemy's HP, so if you have some Shadow Gems lying around, you can make quick work of one. And if you don't, you can steal Shadow Gems from the Sand Worm itself.
    • The Abyssal Worm in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon can be farmed for the very valuable items that allow you to exceed the 9999 damage cap. Unfortunately, they're located after the Point of No Return.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses features Giant Crawlers as enemies in its desert map, which, despite their name, are effectively giant sandworms. They give Agarthium when their armor is broken.
  • F-Zero GX shows a sandworm in the background of the Sand Ocean stages, though since this is a racing game, you (thankfully) don't interact with the scenery in any way.
  • Gears of War 2 features the Riftworm, a gigantic worm that the Locust use to sink cities, awakened by the detonation of the lightmass bomb in the first game. "Giant" doesn't even BEGIN to describe it — it'd probably be around 4 kilometers long. It's also Hand Waved as far as biology and physics go. It's supported by a skeleton, and doesn't seem to be carnivorous. Also it has red blood, and a lot of it.
  • One of the bosses in Ginormo Sword is called "Sand Worm".
  • Gradius series:
  • Golden Force has gigantic worms sticking out of the ground as enemies, though instead of a splayed mouth they have gigantic mandibles for heads.
  • Giant Worms or "Wurms" are recurring monsters in Guild Wars. They come in a wide variety from basic Sand Wurms in the Crystal Desert, Frost Wurms in Shiverpeaks of Tyria, the Desert Wurms and unique undead Junundu wurms of the Elonan Desolation and the Chaos Wurms of the Fissure of Woe. They're by far the biggest monsters in the game (with the exception of one of the endgame bosses) and the boss versions of some of them, (and unique ones such as the Canthan Leviathan) are absolutely TITANIC. Very intimidating. The expansion pack Eye of the North gives us even more Wurms, with a whole dungeon dedicated to them. The end boss of that dungeon is the second largest enemy in all of Guild Wars, only bowing to Abbadon. Yes, they surpassed their previous records of gigantic Wurms with even more gigantic Wurms.
  • One appears in Halo 5: Guardians as an Easter Egg. Activating several secret triggers on the desert map "The Rig" causes one to rise in the distance, consume a mining platform, and slowly sink back into the earth.
  • Heavy Weapon has the robotic Mechworm boss, fought in Antagonistan. It jumps out of the sand and spams missiles and bombs.
  • In Hollow Knight, the Pale King's original form prior to his arrival in Hallownest and subsequent metamorphosis was that of a gargantuan Graboid-like Wyrm.
  • The Rockbreaker in Horizon Zero Dawn has a design more like a mechanical Mole Monster, but its role in combat suits a sandworm instead: drawn to the sound of movement, leaves wormsign as it tunnels, and its main attack is to attempt to swallow its prey whole. Its ability to tunnel through sand and dirt at a massive size is also justified by its being made of metal.
  • The Immortal features these as recurring enemies up until level five. Level four is dedicated to avoiding them by floating around on a magic carpet with extremely bad handling.
  • Jewel Master have sand worms as large enemies in the desert stages, leaping in and out of the sands trying to chomp on you.
  • In Kaiju Wars, the kaiju Duggemundr resembles a gigantic armor-plated serpent with tusks and tiny arms ending in finned hands. Its body never fully emerges from the ground, and it can burrow through the earth as quickly as the other kaiju can walk or fly.
  • The pop culture reference-heavy Kingdom of Loathing has a quest that involves sandworm riding.
  • Scorch from Krazy Ivan is a robot sandworm who spends the whole fight tunneling in and out the ground to attack you randomly.
  • The Sian Captain must fight one called Wahsh Al-Sahraa to rescue an expedition in one raid in Legacy of a Thousand Suns.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has Geldarms, centipede-like creatures that emerge out of the sand in desert-based Random Encounters.
    • A recurring boss enemy in the series, often fought multiple times in any given game, takes the form of a giant worm- or centipede-like monsters fought in a sandy arena, where it burrows in and out of the sand to attack Link. These enemies include the Moldorm in the first game, the Lanmolas in A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, Twinmold in Majora's Mask and Molgera in The Wind Waker. Oddly enough, most of them can fly for short durations.
    • On a more minor scale, Leevers, fat leech-like creatures that appear in some beach and desert areas, are able to hide themselves beneath the sand before suddenly emerging to attack Link.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess sizes down its Moldorms to a more reasonable size and populates the Gerudo Desert and the quicksand pits in the Arbiter's Ground with them. They leap out of the sand like fishes to attack Link, and must be pulled out with the Clawshot to be defeated.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has green worm-like enemies (which are literally called Sandworms) that chase and try to eat Link if he moves any faster than walking speed across certain sandy areas.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has a variant of the shark-like Gyorg seen in Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass called Malgyorg who swim in the desert of Sand Realm.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild features the Molduga, a field boss in the Gerudo Desert that's basically a whale crossed with this trope. It detects something moving on the surface of the sand, wormsigns its way under it, and lunges out of the desert like a shark. If that's Link, he can say goodbye to ten of his hearts. If it's not...
  • Lost Land Adventure has a sand worm boss in the underground crypt levels, which attacks you as you're in a minecart finding a way out of the tunnels. It blocks your way at the tunnel's exit, at which point you're required to shoot it's fangs and head to avoid getting chomped by the worm.
  • Lost Planet features a giant snow worm in one of its missions.
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue has Sand Sharks in the Salyan Desert.
  • Mabinogi has two different types of these.
    • One is an odd twist on the traditional sandworm type; which bizarrely occurs in normal terrain rather than sand, including inside certain dungeons, moving indiscriminantly through turf, rock, and soil. Possibly justified, in that it appears to be partly supernatural in nature. This was the first version developed. There is a high-level field boss version, the giant sandworm, which does occur in desert sand dunes; and a minor variant, the ice worm, found only in snowfields. Both of these are played completely straight.
    • A second type is called a "lungfish" (and looks vaguely like a real-life lungfish). Although the appearance is actually that of an eel-like fish, it acts like a straight sandworm, and is found in desert sand dunes.
  • One of the earliest obstacles in Majyuo is a giant sand worm which serves as an Advancing Wall of Doom, pursuing your hero down a tunnel, which your handgun couldn't do any sort of real damage on it because you're not a demon yet. Once you gained demonic powers, you fight the worm as an easy-to-beat Mini-Boss.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Thresher maws, apex predator of the Death World that raised the krogan. They don't exclusively appear on desert planets, but the only one that's actually necessary to fight in order to complete a mission does. Others can be found here and there, but they can be avoided with no ill effect beyond missing out on the experience from killing it. The codex also explains that they never fully leave the ground. The Alliance's first contact with them was when they destroyed a colony on Akuze. If you chose the Sole Survivor background for Shepard, Shepard was one of the marines sent to investigate and was the sole survivor of the squad.
    • The lore also explains what in the hell they eat to maintain their mass: metal. That is, underground ore, usually. This also explains why they attack things like tanks and settlements: plenty of metal to munch on. It even explains the damaging acid they can spit, as they would need some pretty potent acids to digest metal.
      Mordin: Thresher maw getting closer!
      Wrex: Tell me something I don't know!
      Mordin: Metal in truck an excellent iron supplement for Maw's diet.
    • Mass Effect 3 introduces Kalros, planet Tuchanka's guardian, the ancient and exceedingly large "Mother Of All Thresher maws". She gets into a fight with a Destroyer-class Reaper, and wins.
    • To further the Dune comparisons, they can be summoned by massive devices called "Maw Hammers" (Dune had similar devices), and Javik can make an offhand comment that Protheans could ride them. They gotten a lot bigger since his time, so that isn't possible anymore.
    • Elaaden in Mass Effect: Andromeda has a variant, the Remnant Abyssal, more commonly simply called "the Worm". This is actually a Humongous Mecha left behind by Precursors and is just a terrain hazard, not an enemy that needs fighting (not that the krogan haven't tried).
  • Master of Magic has the fantastic unit Great Wyrm of the Nature school of magic. This is giant worm with a green dragon head, it's the physically strongest creature in the game in pure stats and it also has a poisonous bite to inflict heavy damage on its victims.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 6: Cybeast Gregar and Cybeast Falzar has a seldom seen sandworm virus that leaps in and out of panels, periodically appearing in front of or behind you before trying to plow through you. Its chip summons worms from behind your foes to attack in the same fashion.
  • Melfand Stories have a sand worm boss in the desert level who repeatedly leaps in and out of the sands to ambush you until you kill it.
  • Meatgrinder have some impressively massive worms. One Womb Level happens after a sand worm suddenly pops up and devours everyone, including you, and later during a train chase you'll need to leap between carriages because there are other worms trying to swallow the whole trains!
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes features Amorbis, a trio of Sand Worms, as the boss of Dark Agon Wastes, which is a huge scaled-up version of the light world critter the Sandigger, which are about 6 foot long and spit acid.
  • The Desolation of Mordor DLC expansion for Middle-earth: Shadow of War reintroduces the were-wyrms, now properly occupying the desert region of Lithlad where a clan of Marauder Orcs have set up shop in the local fortress. Baranor even loses what's left of his Gondorian brigade to them while trying to locate the Vanishing Sons mercenary company. Of particular note is a were-wyrm called the "Rumbler", and it earns the name by being thrice the size of regular wyrms, large enough to destroy whole rock cliffs as well as completely devastate the Orcs' fortress when baited by Baranor with several gallons of spilled grog.
  • Monster Hunter: While the series doesn't have actual worms (so far), these dragons still serve this trope's role:
    • Monster Hunter (2004): Cephalos and Cephadrome are sand-swimming Piscine Wyverns which are designed like Hammersharks. The latter is a King Mook of the former, and is part of the list of boss monsters to hunt (strangely, it has no unique drops; they're all shared with Cephalos).
    • Monster Hunter 3 (Tri): Jhen Mohran is a 350-feet Elder Dragon with a whale-like appearance and two large tusks, and is capable of swimming within the sands of the Great Desert. The Updated Re-release 3 Ultimate introduces the subspecies Hallowed Jhen Mohran, which not only attacks more aggresively but also has a very powerful attack that allows it to vomit a gigantic torrent of sand.
    • Monster Hunter Portable 3rd: The Nibelsnarf is a three-way cross between a sandworm, a sand shark and a submarine. It even has the distinctive "burst up vertically from the sand and eat something on the way" move.
    • Monster Hunter 4: Dah'ren Mohran is a close relative of the Jhen Mohran with one front tusk instead of two front ones. It borrows many of the attacks from its cousin, and in G Rank (only available in 4 Ultimate) it will start the second phase of the battle very close to the Sandship.
    • Monster Hunter: World: Iceborne: Beotodus is a Piscine Wyvern that swims through the deep snow of Hoarfrost Reach.
  • Mousehunt has the "Big Bad Burroughs Mouse" and its smaller brother, the Itty-Bitty Burroughs Mouse. They're a cross between this trope and a mouse.
  • Giant sand worms, or their burrows at least, are among the field hazards in Mutant Football League. If a player (on either team) gets close to a worm hole, the worm will pop out and take a bite, killing any player instantly and forcing a fumble if they had the ball. If the field has worms, you're going to lose a few players to them, primarily slower/less agile players on your kickoff and return teams (linemen, 3rd- and sometimes 2nd-string defensive backs etc).
  • Mystik Belle has a Cave Worm in the Detention Dungeon, which Belle needs to ride on to reach the higher platforms.
  • Mystic Defender have a giant green worm-monster sticking out the ground in the first stage, serving as an easily-killed mid-boss. Later on you encounter demon cultists, who can Fusion Dance themselves into gigantic worm monsters sticking from the ground.
  • NetHack features both D&D Purple Worms, and lawyer-friendly versions of Dune's sandworms. Neither actually burrow through the ground, though.
  • Noita has the Matot (Worms in Finnish), they are monsters which can burrow through any substance, leaving behind tunnels. They come in various sizes and small ones can even be hatched from eggs the player finds. they diverge from the small Pikkumato, to the massive Jättimato. And the biggest of them all, the Helvetinmato, lives in Hell.
  • No Man's Sky: A few are seen at the end of the VGX reveal trailer, though its scaly exterior suggests it has more in common with a snake than a worm. Absent from launch, finally added in the 3.0. updates.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps has relatively normal-sized burrowing worms in the Windswept Wastes, and a gigantic one that resembles a cross between a Dune worm and a Graboid during an Escape Sequence at the end of the Windtorn Ruins.
  • Overlord features giant sand worms in the later levels.
  • Pankapu has Sah'laks, which are large, black, one-eyed worms that start appearing in the Starry Deep. They burrow back and forth in the ground until Pankapu gets close, whereupon they burst out of the ground to attack.
  • Patapon has Zaknel, a worm freqeuently encountered in deserts and so large it has palm trees growing on it. Its primary attacks consist of slamming itself against the earth for massive damage. Its more dangerous counterpart, Dokaknel, averts this by being encountered in ruins instead.
  • Panzer Dragoon has plenty of examples; they make an especially prevalent appearance in the second level of the first game. A pair of these worms also show up as Dual Mini Bosses in the second stage of Orta, although that stage is a lush rain-forest instead of an arid desert.
  • In the Patapon games, there are two Sandworms named Zaknel and Dokaknel in the deserts. They drop vegetables.
  • Penumbra has these deep inside an old mine. They are mutations of indigenous rock worms. They are "only" about four to eight feet in diameter...
  • Phantasy Star IV had these infesting the planet Motavia, with an enterprising farmer deciding to open a sandworm ranch. Unfortunately, it gets too big for its britches, and thus becomes one of the first (and hardest) Optional Boss fights in the game at that point. You often fought baby Sandworms in Random Encounters, and at least one variant, if you left a single one alive, would run off and summon Mama (another full-sized one like the boss mentioned above). When you get the Land Rover, one of the enemies you ran into was a Palette Swap of the Sandworm, while swaps of both the small and large kind could be found in the planet's oceans.
  • Pikmin:
    • The Burrowing Snagrets are functionally similar to these, though they're technically bird-headed reptiles and can burrow through the dirt as well as the sand.
    • Pikmin 3 has the Sandbelching Meerslug, an Antlion Monster resembling a fat worm with a vertebrate mouth that serves as the boss of the Tropical Wilds, where it's fought in a large sandpit. Much of the fight has you track it down as it tunnels about in the sand, then Feed It a Bomb once it makes the sand funnel with its mouth at the bottom. Ironically, since Pikmin are little more that 10cm tall, the Sandbelching Meerslug wouldn't be considered giant to us.
  • Pokémon:
    • Onix and Steelix are Rock Pokémon that resemble giant snakes made out of boulders or iron. Fittingly, their respective types are Rock/Ground and Steel/Ground.
    • Gible and its kin resemble sharks in their design, but they're really Dragon/Ground types.
    • This is probably the most apt description of the legendary Zygarde's default form, an enormous Dragon/Ground, glowing green worm creature.
    • Orthworm is a Steel-type earthworm-like creature that lives in arid deserts. It eats the iron in the soil to maintain its metal body, and its Earth Eater ability turns its weakness to Ground into a source of healing.
  • There were a couple of these in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. Some were real sand worms, and some were ice worms.
  • In Reksio i UFO, giant sandworms known as The Great Worm are part of the fauna of the desertic planet Kurakis, which was based directly on Arrakis. The first challenge on this planet is to go through a maze full of these enemies. Any encountering with a worm forces the player to start over.
  • Resident Evil – Code: Veronica has the Gulp Worm. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has the Grave Digger, though it is based on the millipede.
  • Rigid Force Alpha has Clapworms, who dwell in the sands of the planet Vurgos, which also features an Ohmu-like miniboss, and snow/ice worms on Creeo.
  • Rogue Galaxy has them. And they're huge, even by this trope's standard.
  • RuneScape has the Strykewyrms, which come in Jungle, Desert, Ice, and Lava varieties. There also is a giant Lava Strykewyrm called the Wildywyrm. They're normally unagressive and can only be fought as a Slayer task.
  • The land shark variety is in Saints Row: The Third and a League of Legends champion, released at about the same time. You shoot or throw a fish at the target, and after a short delay a shark breaks through the pavement and takes a big bite. SR3 claims it is a sewer shark. LoL does not explain anything.
  • Sands of Destruction has sandwhales. They look like large, green worms with flippers and vaguely-whale-like heads. They're also supposed to be gentle, but the impending end of the world has turned them violent.
  • In the Scribblenauts games, you can conjure these up. Said monsters can be rideable, too. They instantly die when exposed to water.
  • Serious Sam 3: BFE has gigantic creatures called Sand Whales living in the Egyptian desert. Contrary to the usual example, these (unkillable game-wise) bad boys eat mineral matter without a damn to give about mostly everything. Sand Whales are extremely territorial though, which makes them a perfectly diegetic example of Border Patrol in the more open-ended levels. They even play a very important role in the game's final level, as one of them keeps attacking and distracting the Final Boss, allowing the player to go on the offensive.
  • Shadow of the Colossus: Dirge, the tenth Colossus, is a giant sand worm. Except it hits you. At high speeds. And it's hard.
  • Shantae (2002) has these in the desert area near Oasis Town. They're long, durable, and look menacing with their mandibles and single eye, but they're mostly harmless since they just sit there in their hole in the sand.
  • Shining Wisdom has a Sand Worm as the boss of the Sand Labyrinth.
  • The Silent Hill series has the Twinfeeler, a giant burrowing caterpillar fought in a sand pit, in the first game; and the Split Worm, a Whack-a-Monster worm with Xenomorph-like jaws, in the third game.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog series has some robotic ones in Sonic 3 & Knuckles located in Sandopolis zone. Giant stone sandworms appear in Sonic Adventure. Alien worms appeared in Shadow the Hedgehog. More organic and fiery ones can be found in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) although the latter two seem to prefer any surface, not just sand.
  • Space Quest I used one of these to prevent the player from venturing into the open desert.
  • A variation in Splatoon 2 is the Maws, a mutant salmon which travels through ink in the same physics-defying way as the inklings, only to emerge and devour an unsuspecting player, sand worm style. If the player is quick, they can get out of the way and leave behind a grenade instead.
  • Nydus Worms in StarCraft II are an improvement on the first game's Nydus Canals: Load a bunch of units into a Nydus Network building, and have it grow a giant underground worm in another area. The creature bursts out of the ground and begins disgorging tons of units all at once.
  • One mission in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm features an "ash worm" that pops out of the ground to spit acid at your units before burrowing again and popping up somewhere else. It apparently killed a Brood Mother that way. When slain the Zerg use its DNA to enable Swarm Hosts to move while burrowed.
  • In Star Fox Zero the boss of Titania is the Scrapworm, a giant mechanical worm that lives in the vast sandy desert of the planet.
  • The first Star Ocean game features Sandworms in the deserts of planet Roak, and also their cousins, called "Fellworms," in the mountains.
  • Starsand is set in an alien desert planet, where spiky giant sand-worms are a recurring threat. One even shows up on the game cover.
  • Steel Harbinger have giant worm enemies in the last few stages, spawned by fully-hatched alien pods, depicted as a gigantic worm-like head attached to the ground and comes at you with a biting attack.
  • Star Trek Online has aehallh worms, first seen on the desert planet Nimbus. They are sessile predators that sprout from the ground and let their prey come to them. The name refers back to the TOS novel The Romulan Way, where it is the Romulan word for "ghost" or "monster".
  • Stellaris has a possible archaeology site called "The Echoes Inside" that has a chance to occur on Barren Planets. Completing the event reveals that a giant burrowing worm is the reason that the planet is now devoid of other life. The ominous final lines of the event reveal that the unnamed ancient alien empire apparently already "seeded" every habitable planet in the galaxy with a larval form of this biological doomsday weapon.
  • In Street Fighter 2010, sandworms appear as enemies on the desert planet. The mid-level boss can summon them, and the end-of-level boss appears to ride in on one.
  • Subnautica: Below Zero has the Ice Worm, which is more or less an expy of Dune's own sandworms brought to arctic ice (complete with thumpers drawing their attention away from you). Anything they hear on the surface of any ice floes they stalk is likely going to get eaten.
  • Sundered has Wurms, burrowing robots that are found only in the Valkyrie Encampment. They attack by bursting out of the ground beneath Eshe’s feet, leaping high into the air, and then releasing an electrical discharge when they land. They can only spawn on rocky surfaces, and will not spawn on metal floors or scaffolding.
  • Starlink: Battle for Atlas has sandworms on the first planet Kirite, a desert world. Their scales are very valuable and a sandworm would blindly chase one down, beliving it to be another of its species.
  • Super Cyborg have a deformed sandworm-like monster called an Evevva Parasite, which chases you down a narrow corridor as an Advancing Boss of Doom
  • Super Mega Worm is yet another unique game that casts you as the titular worm, a gigantic monster that feeds on humans. It turns out you're the product of Gaia's Vengeance - because of pollution and rapid development by humans, you're spawned by Mother Nature to reclaim the surface world and wipe out humans.
  • In Super Star Wars, the Saarlac Pit Monster is depicted this way despite it barely being seen in the original trilogy.
  • The planet Blenjeel from Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is loaded with them. There's a reason why you only have to do 4 of 5 missions in each act. Perhaps as a shout-out, you can trick them into eating explosives to distract them from chasing you.
  • Tales Series:
  • Terraria has quite a few: Giant worms, devourers (corrupted versions of the former), tomb crawlers, dune splicers (the hardmode version of tomb crawlers) the Eater of Worlds, diggers, world feeders (stronger versions of the first two) and the Destroyer (a robotic version of the Eater of Worlds).
  • TimeSplitters Future Perfect has twenty-foot-long vicious dirt-worms in the backyard of the haunted mansion. The player gets to rescue a scientist who had taken refuge in a tree by defeating the worms with a flamethrower. The scientist also references Tremors by name, in keeping with the game being filled with movie Shout Outs.
  • Toukiden has the serpentine minor oni Earth Fang that burrows underground and may pop up beneath a character. There is also a rare variant known as a Frost Fang that gains some ice powers.
  • The Subterranean in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and the Swamp/Cave Worms in the sequel.
  • Viva Pińata doesn't technically have a sandworm, but the Whirlms can dive into the ground without making a mark and pop out again without any dirt on them, so they could easily burrow through ground like a sandworm if they wanted.
  • One of Wario World's bosses is named one of these, but in reality it's more like an antlion with scythe-hands. It still tunnels through the sandpit it's found in at high speed.
  • World of Warcraft has a few, the first being Ouro, a then-unique model boss in the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj. The Burning Crusade expansion introduced acid-spitting worms capable of tunneling through solid rock in Hellfire Peninsula and the Bone Wastes in the middle of Terokkar Forest. In homage to Frank Herbert, one quest chain ends with summoning a giant undeground worm named "Hai'shulud" with a "fumper", and gives "Dib'Muad's Crysknife" as a quest reward. Jormungar of Northrend are quite a bit smaller, but adhere to the same principles (and spit acid too). With the release of the Cataclysm expansion, World Of Warcraft got sandworms that are made of stone Stargates and magma wurms.
  • Writhe have you fighting oversized sago worms in Bangkok, with the largest of them emerging from the ground and are as large as common depiction of sandworms.
  • The entirely desert-set FPS, Wrought Flesh, have one of these called a "Terraworm" as it's first boss. Who attacks you by pouncing in and out the sands trying to chomp on you, and you'll need to shoot it's head and underbelly when it's above you.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: Sabulas, which can be found in certain sandy terrains (though, oddly enough, not the actual desert region). They're about thirty to fifty feet long, but are mostly docile, only attacking if attacked first. However, there are certain individual Sabulas that are gigantic (on the order of a mile or more in length) that serve as optional post-game bosses... two of which are named "Atreides" and "Gesserit".
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors the excellent but Nintendo Hard Lucas Arts game for the SNES is filled with homage monsters for the two teens to battle, and of course, has a gigantic people-eating worm. It lashes its tongue in and out at people.
  • The Superboss of zOMG! shares its name with this trope's alternate title/humorous variation: Landshark. It is, quite literally, a shark that swims through (and appears to be made of) sand. Other than its anatomy, it acts almost exactly like a sandworm, burrowing underground and eating unsuspecting Gaians. (It can kill a CL 10.0 Player with multiple armor buffs and a health boost in 3 hits, and unbuffed players in less than that. It took three 6-Person Crews of CL 10 players to take it down. Plus the area it spawns in is usually filled with CL 5 players).

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Sand Snake meets the qualifications for one better than a snake.
  • RWBY: The Blind Worm is an enormous Grimm, as wide as a Nevermore's full wingspan and as long as six Goliaths, and is a threat that comes from below the sand. When traveling towards its intended prey, its movements through the sand throw up dust like a sandstorm and it will leap through this dusty air and back into the sand like a dolphin cresting ocean waves. It then completes the attack approach from underneath the sand. Despite its name, it has a single, burning red eye in the centre of its head.

  • In Demon Eater some demons are seen to grow into this shape.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: At one point Halfling Clover Firelight and Gnome Gummer Groundpounder take down a rampaging bulette. (Gummer is an open copy/homage of Burt Gummer of the Tremors franchise.)
  • Star Trip, also in a reference to Dune, features enormous worms in the deserts of planet Zren.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • At least two episodes of Disney's Aladdin: The Series featured or alluded to what was essentially a landshark-variety sandworm hunted by an Captain Ahab Captain Ersatz.
  • Sandworms weren't just in the live action Beetlejuice. They were also a fairly constant theme in the animated series as well, and Beetlejuice was pretty darned terrified of them.
  • Ben 10 ran afoul of several of these while trapped on an alien planet.
  • Bounty Hamster. A white sandworm is pursued by mad Captain Rehab in a spoof of Moby-Dick.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog had one episode dealing with a sand whale attacking the house, trying to get back his accordion from Eustace (who he thought was his father, who actually did steal the accordion). At the very end of the episode when he does get it back, it's revealed that he's part of an entire orchestra of sand whales.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: "Sandbusted": Hiccup and the Riders run into a sand swimming dragon known as the Sandbuster, a dragon who lives under a sandy beach and pulls people who enter its territory down into its cave.
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, Cosmo poofs up a sand worm during Septemberfest.
  • In The Flight of Dragons, the band encounters a giant worm swimming in some kind of slime in Ommadon's kingdom. They are able to defeat it by having Danielle shoot a flaming arrow into its mouth, causing its head, then body, to explode. The slime is sulfuric acid that the worm oozes from its skin as a defensive mechanism. Fortunately for the heroes, it is also highly flammable.
  • In Futurama:
    • Al Gore claims to have "ridden the mighty moon worm", though it's not seen until much later we on-screen; its habitat seems to be more jungle than sand.
    • A sandworm also appears on Mars in Into the Wild Green Yonder. The locals use it for transport.
  • Unlike first two Intruders, which features a blob monster, the third one's title characters were these. Additionally, they were trying help get TOM and SARA off the planet because it was dying and help them in exchange for the two taking the youngest and last one of their number with them.
  • The Legend of Korra has an episode where Korra and Asami encounter a gigantic land shark in the middle of the Earth Kingdom's desert. It's made more terrifying by the fact that it has the jaws of a fish called a "Sarcastic Fringehead".
  • The suckoids from Major Lazer are a variation. In a shoutout to the trope maker, they attack anything above ground that dances/moves with rhythm.
  • In an episode of The Mummy: The Animated Series, Imhotep sends a sand worm after the heroes.
  • The episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic "Three's a Crowd" has the Tatzlwurm, a giant earthworm with Tremors-style tentacle tongues that attacks Twilight and Cadance after they pick the giant flower it was under. Bizarrely enough, the Tatzelwurm from Alpine folklore on which this creature was based is actually a feline creature with only two forelegs and a long, reptilian tail.
  • The Pirates of Dark Water:
    • The series has one of these; though it is referred to several times in dialog as a "crustacean", it has a long, serpentine body and other characteristics that fits this trope.
    • A recurring character is Bloth's sandworm-like pet, the Constrictus, which looks like an homage to Tremors but is more realistically depicted as dwelling in and moving though water and sewage rather than sand or soil (it lives in the bowels of Bloth's huge ship). It is a large, mindless, constantly hungry beast with a worm-like body, tentacles and sharp teeth.
  • In Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja: Randy used the Ninja Earth Attack during a rap battle and ended up creating a giant Sand Worm with high levels of regeneration.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants had the Alaskan Bull Worm, which went around eating half the town, prompting Sandy and SpongeBob to go hunt for it. At one point, Sandy even claims to have found "wormsign", which is a small wooden sign with "WORM" written on it. "It's BIG, SCARY, and PINK!"
  • Star Wars Rebels: "The Lost Commanders" has the joopa, which are roughly the size of an AT-TE and with the pulling power to match. The retired clonetroopers hunt them for food, which involves using Zeb as live bait (which he's only told shortly before he's Swallowed Whole).
  • Terra's introductory episode in the second season of Teen Titans (2003). Granted, they're mechanical, but they still count.
  • What's New, Scooby-Doo? had an episode where the gang encountered a (fake, natch) sand worm while on a cross-country race in Mexico.

    Real Life 
  • Quite a few desert snakes or legless lizards behave a lot like sand worms, avoiding the sun's direct rays by sliding along just under the surface of loose sand. Few are more than a couple of feet long, however.
  • The desert sandfish lizard is able to dive straight into loose sand and literally swim through it, folding its limbs to its sides and propelling itself with side-to-side movements of its body.
  • The seaside-dwelling lugworms are commonly referred to as "sandworms" in various languages. The sea annelid Allita virens is also known under the same name, but that's about as far as the connection goes...
  • The Eunice aphroditois, also known as "Bobbit Worms" or "Sand Strikers", dwell at the ocean bed and prey on unsuspecting fish swimming past them. They don't have eyes or a brain, and only react when their antenna is triggered or when a shadow lingers above them. But these worms are fully capable of eating fish that are formidable predators in their own rights. They are also the real-life inspiration for Mass Effect's thresher maws.
  • Giant species of earthworms able to reach lengths of ten feet can be found in places like Australia and Africa. They're the same as normal-sized earthworms, except they do everything on a bigger scale. Some people claim you can feel the worms moving when they tunnel beneath you!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Land Shark, Shai Hulud



While not technically worms, the most iconic form does resemble one and they in fact played a big role in reimagining the predatory roles of such creatures.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / SandWorm

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