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To Hell and Back

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Cab Driver: Where to, Mac?
Grim Reaper: To hell and back!

Hell, the infinite prison of the damned, is the ultimate Supervillain Lair; to visit it and return is the ultimate quest.

Sometimes heroes enter Hell to rescue a loved one; sometimes they go there to fight evil; some of the other, ahem, rough-around-the-edges heroes get sent there the old fashioned way. Either way, they generally see some or all of the following:

  • The river Styx, either with or without Charon the boatman and his fee
  • The gates of Hell, and their monstrous guardian, usually the three-headed dog Cerberus.
  • Fire and brimstone.
  • The dead suffering ironic punishments.
  • Chance meetings with dead relatives and friends.
  • A meeting with the guy in charge — usually Satan or some other God of Evil and/or Death.
  • The trip out is harder than the trip in.

If the hero is rescuing someone, there will be a catch. For instance, in Greek Mythology, Orpheus was told his love, Eurydice, would follow him out of Hades, provided he did not look back to check that she was there. He looked back right after he got out but before she did, and lost her. Similar tales of descending into an underworld and returning occur in numerous mythologies: Inanna in Sumerian, Hermod in Norse, Kaknu in Cholone (Native American) and many more.

Mordor can substitute for Hell, if its Evil Overlord is sufficiently god-like. See Walk into Mordor.

This is Older Than Dirt. Most modern examples are indirectly based on Dante's Inferno, or on Greek myths. The oldest story of a mortal journeying To Hell and Back is that of Odysseus, dating back to the 8th century BCE, but myths of gods descending into the underworld and returning go back to Mesopotamian Mythology. This plot actually was a named trope in ancient Greece: catabasis, literally "going down".

Compare and contrast You Are Worth Hell, where someone chooses damnation so they can stay with a loved one, and Escaped from Hell, where someone breaks out. The Hell Seeker actively wants to go to Hell. If Hell turns out to be a rockin' place, it's A Hell of a Time.

This is not to be confused with the autobiographical book and movie based on the life of Audie Murphy, or the Sabaton song about Audie Murphy of the same name.

See also Bonus Level of Hell, Escaped from Hell. Rescued from the Underworld is a subtrope.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Black★Rock Shooter: the Otherworld has a Purgatory/Hellish feel to it. Mato/Black Rock Shooter enters it to save Yomi's soul from Dead Master.
  • Ichigo, Rukia, Renji and Ishida go into Hell in Bleach: Hell Verse to rescue Ichigo's sister Yuzu from Togabito who've kidnapped her. During the second half of the movie, Ichigo goes back to Hell to save his three companions from the hands of their false ally Kokuto.
  • This happen in the Doraemon film, Doraemon: Nobita's Great Adventure into the Underworld, of all places. Nobita goes to a parallel reality where magic actually exist in the world. However, in Japan the word for magic is mahou, which translates to demon arts — demons exist in this magical world, albeit as an alien race who inhabits a Hell-like planet. One thing leads to another, and Nobita and friends must go to the Planet Heck to kill Satan and then return to Earth. For reference, this was almost a decade before Doom.
  • Son Goku went to Hell (AKA. Home For Infinite Losers) by accident in the Dragon Ball Z anime after falling from Snake Way. Since he was on a quest to receive training from King Kai at the time, he had no goal other than returning to Snake Way.
    • Note the above was filler, just like the other times Goku goes to Hell. Including that one Non-Serial Movie. Not that he doesn't kick ass during them though.
  • According to their Badass Creed, the ultimate goal of the Iscariot Organization in Hellsing is to perform a mass suicide and assault Hell itself.
    • Even better, the members of Section XIII expect that when they die they will behold all the souls of everyone who had even been in Iscariot standing in a phalanx fighting against the demons of hell itself. Then they will join their comrades in arms in an eternal war against perdition. In a way, its a version of heaven for the fanatics of Iscariot.
  • Inuyasha: Sesshoumaru's does this for his Morality Pet Rin in one of the greatest Papa Wolf moments in the entire manga. Not only does he kick the King of Hell's ass, but he also purifies every damned soul in Hell before heading back to have Rin resurrected by his mother, a youkai queen.
  • The latter half of Monster Soul takes place in Hell, which for some odd reason, can be accessed rather easily.
  • While not quite literally Hell, the infamous prison Impel Down in One Piece has enough visual parallels to count as Luffy embarks on a quest to break into Hell to rescue his older brother.
  • Reborn! (2004): Mukuro Rokudo uses the 'Six Paths of Reincarnation' which gives him six different skills. In the anime, he claims that he had gone through all six paths to Hades, thus granting him six different skills. (In the manga, he states that he had six past lives instead.)
  • The whole main cast of Saint Seiya goes on a trip to Hades to save Athena. Phoenix Ikki in particular comes and goes frequently. Also seen in Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, the entire time. Cancer Manigoldo states that the underworld is his playground, and Virgo Asmita's first appearance is in Hell. Whilst the main characters are in Hell too, of course.
  • The third and final (so far) saga of Saint Seiya has Hades (the god) waging war against Athena. The Bronze Saints and a few Golds then travel down to the Hades (the location) both to defeat Hades and rescue their Goddess, going through the Circles of Hell and ending up in Elysium. Thing is, they're alive, so they require special dispensation to enter both locations.
  • Hao Asakura from Shaman King got past the seventy five Lords of Hell and gained the ability to resurrect the dead and reincarnate himself at will. He did this while living.

    Comic Books 
  • Angel: After the Fall features all of Los Angeles being trapped in Hell.
  • Near the end of PAD's run, Triton has killed Poseidon and is kicking the crap out of Aquaman and friends. Aquaman lets Triton kill him, so he can get to the afterlife. Once there, he decks Charon, rallies the souls who didn't have boat fare, jacks Charon's boat, runs Charon over with his own boat, storms the literal Gates of Hell, cuts off one of Cerberus' heads, marches right up to Pluto and demands Poseidon back, ultimately convincing Hades with a very solid Batman Gambit. On his way out, Cerberus is back, and Aquaman has just one word for the titanic guardian of the underworld: "Stay."
  • Etrigan is from Hell, as might be expected from the title. He's ... connected ... somehow ... with Jason Blood, who is not himself a Demon but a) is ageless and undying and b) can transform into Etrigan (both are the results of a curse). Etrigan is certainly capable of going to Hell and back whenever he wants, but he doesn't necessarily do it often, because even though he's pretty powerful by demon standards he's also ambitious and has made enemies there that are much stronger than he is.
  • Super Buddies: Formerly Known As The Justice League had the ironic punishments and the Orpheus trip — Guy Gardner and Fire had to keep from looking at Ice, Guy's girlfriend and Fire's best friend, who had died some time previously. In the end, Fire looked, and they lost her.
  • IDW Publishing's miniseries Godzilla in Hell is just that. The King of the Monsters finds himself in Hell and his rampage throughout the various levels is not pretty.
  • Heck: For Zander Cannon's titular character, this is his day job: he'll travel to whichever circle of Hell you want, ask or tell someone something, and return with any information you request.
  • Hellblazer's John Constantine has been to Hell so many times it's in the comic's name.
  • Marvel Comics has Mephisto who is a Satan-like figure. Many heroes have found themselves facing Mephisto in his realm. One of the most famous being a story in Daredevil, which saw the hero and the entire Hell's Kitchen district of New York City venturing into his realm.
    • There is also Damien Hellstrom, the Son of Satan who has traveled to Hell and returned many times due to his dad being Satan himself (or one of Marvel's many versions of him).
    • Almost every version of Ghost Rider has ventured into Hell.
    • The Mighty Thor has traveled to Hel, the Asgardian version of Hell and has fought Hela, the Nordic Goddess of Death.
    • Spider-Man once died in a lesser-known and underrated story. He traveled to Death's Realm and fought Thanos for the soul of a little girl.
    • The X-Men teamed up with Doctor Strange and had an adventure in Hell. Or so it seemed. Strange was suspicious when Hell was a by-the-book copy of Dante's Inferno. And then Colossus ripped down the gates of Hell, even though according to said book, no one short of Christ is supposed to be capable of that feat. It turned out to be a hoax; "Hell" was an elaborate illusion by sorceress Margoli Szardos, and Colossus was able to break through her spells due to his iron body having an Anti-Magic effect.
    • Magik from the New Mutants rules her own region of Hell called Limbo, meaning she and her teammates technically go to Hell and back at least once an issue.
    • The plot of Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment involves the pair venturing into Mephisto's realm to rescue the soul of Doom's mother. They succeed... at a price.
  • The Saint of Killers in Preacher gets to Hell the regular way, but his hatred is so great it freezes over. Satan convinces him to take over the job of the Angel of Death just to get him out of Hell, but as he leaves he uses his new powers to kill Satan. Eventually he ascends to heaven. God returns to find every angel slaughtered, with The Saint of Killers sitting on his throne. Bang! and he becomes one of the few characters that have killed both Satan and God.
  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, where Morpheus travels to Hell to retrieve his helmet, and again to free Nada, though the latter didn't turn out so well.
  • DC's The Spectre, being the literal embodiment of the Wrath of God, is on a first-name basis (note that doesn't mean friendly, it just means they know each other) with everyone having to do with the afterlife and at least some versions of the character have the ability to send people to Hell temporarily for educational purposes.
  • In Phil Foglio's Stanley and His Monster mini-series, Stanley has to travel to Hell to rescue his pet, who is actually a renegade demon who was thrown out of Hell for being too nice.
  • A classic Strontium Dog story involved the heroes chasing a renegade bounty hunter to a Hell-dimension, and then going to track down Satan in order to escape.
  • Swamp Thing featured this in one annual, wherein the eponymous plant elemental journeyed through the afterlife — visiting the Realm of the Just-Dead, Heaven, and Hell — in order to find and bring back Abby, whose evil uncle, Anton Arcane, had cast her down to Hell. In addition to the similarity to the Orpheus myth, the issue also functioned as a retelling of The Divine Comedy, with Dante's supernatural guides being replaced by their closest DCU equivalents — Deadman, The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre, and Etrigan.
  • Tales of Telguuth: A Court Mage goes to and returns from the realm of the dead as part of an elaborate ruse hatched by the evil rapist king that he serves to kill the mage's body while his spirit was trapped in the otherworld so that he could take the mage's wife/assistant for himself. The mage is too late to save his own body from the king's soldiers and that of his mistress from the king's lust, but when her soul leaves her body the mage's spirit occupies the vacated body to punish the king for his wicked deeds.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): When Sofia Constantinas is imprisoned in Hades for wandering too close to one of its entrances without proper protections Steve Trevor, rather casually, runs in after her and pulls her back out right by Cerberus who seems more likely to greet Trevor with a friendly lick than attack. As Steve had come back from death twice by this point evidently the underworld doesn't have much hold on him.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl and Ferdinand travel to Hades to rescue Hermes, who has been imprisoned in Tartarus by Hades.
    • Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, the first issues depicts each of the six patron Goddesses of the Amazons (Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Hestia, Hecate, and Demeter)journeying through separate parts of Hades to get to the Well of Souls.

    Comic Strips 
  • One What's New? with Phil and Dixie strip is based on the principle that any PC who ends up in Hell will be rescued by the rest of the adventuring party, even if they have no idea how to get there or how to find him. It does add that this only applies to untimely death.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs": The main character finds the entrance to the Hell -described as a black and sooty place- beyond a wide river traversed by a lonely ferryman's boat. After crossing the border, he easily and quickly finds the Devil's dwelling.
  • "The Soldier And Death": The soldier travels to Hell to be punished for imprisoning Death, but the Devil refuses to let him in because all demons are afraid of him.

    Fan Works 
  • Chance Encounter II: Pirate Kingdom of Troy, features one of these, with the designated Iron Woobie and Butt-Monkey Balian getting the crap beaten out of him in a subversion of Power of Love after it had been played straight as he charged straight through hell to rescue his wife by divine dispensation. The get out after the recently deceased and sainted Prince Hector gets involved, using this line:
  • The protagonist of A Careless Wish traded a decade of his life to undo the eponymous wish God had granted the left-behind Love Interest. When a rent is torn between Earth and Hell for the explicit purpose of getting him back, after killing the demon that followed him to Earth, he opts to return to Hell before anything else can cross over. He does allude to his lack of interest in remaining there for much longer, and it seems that his deal with the Devil was to 'remain in Hell until he got bored'.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Captain General Gentle Step went into Tartarus, spent five days fighting there, and came back out with two of her Guards with just a scar on her face and a broken snout. After being a Guard for only five days at the time.
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf anthology story "Relatively Smurfing", Gargamel is dragged off to Hell at the end of the first story due to his Deal with the Devil. By the middle of the third story, with the help of his twin brother Gourmelin and the Great Book of Spells, Gargamel returns from Hell, though acting as if he had never been to Hell in the first place.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Book of Life, Manolo leaves the colorful fiesta of the Land of the Remembered and ventures to the Land of the Forgotten — a dreary and hopeless realm where the forgotten dead roam — to tell La Muerte that Xibalba cheated in the wager that gave him her realm.
  • Coco: Sort of — Miguel does go to the afterlife, but he does so purely by accident, and it's more of a colorful fantasy world than a hellish nightmare land.
  • In the stop motion movie Hell And Back, two friends enter Hell to rescue their friend, after they get him trapped there.
  • In SCOOB!, Dick Dastardly learns of Scooby-Doo's lineage ties to Alexander the Great and uses him to open the gates of Hell but for a somewhat noble cause: to rescue Muttley who had remained there after a botched attempt to plunder its riches.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Event Horizon is a film about a spaceship that miraculously reappears near Neptune after using an experimental warp drive. Unfortunately for the investigation crew who set foot on it to find out what happened, not only did the ship go to Hell, but it brought a little bit of Hell back with it.
  • Errementari concludes with Patxi, the blacksmith, forcing open the Hellgate with a blessed bell on his back, hell-bent on retrieving his late wife for the benefit of her daughter, Usue.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: After Jaspers is Buried Alive, he briefly finds himself in hell being attacked by a burning skeleton. He destroys it and races back to the land of the living.
  • The Georgics by Virgil retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, where a man goes into the underworld to save his true love.
  • The first Hellraiser film is about Frank getting completely back from Hell, and Kirsty also manages to enter and escape in confused terror. The second is about Julia getting free, and again Kirsty gets in and out, along with an autistic mute who solved the puzzle.
    • A limited graphic novel series featured a trio of escapees from Hell; a journalist, a former priest and a former nun; who make it their life mission to fight Hell back from Earth. Over the course of the story, breaking and entering there becomes old hat for them.
  • Disney's Hercules.
    • He does it many times in the TV series, including one retelling of the Orpheus myth. Charon even hangs a lampshade on it in one episode and offers Herc a frequent customer discount.
  • A variation in the demonic musical romantic comedy Lo: after the protagonist watches his girlfriend get carried off by a demon, he summons another one to bring her back from Hell so that he can speak with her again.
  • Happens entirely unintentionally to Constable Winch in The Man Who Could Work Miracles. Fotheringay tells him to "go to blazes!" and his Reality Warper powers cause Winch to vanish and reappear in a Fire and Brimstone Hell. When Fotheringay realises what has happened, he panics. Not wanting to bring Winch back to Essex and face his wrath, he instead sends to Winch San Francisco: figuring that will be far enough away to spare him any immediate consequences.
  • A variant occurs with Davy Jones' Locker in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
  • Robin Williams literally goes through hell in the movie What Dreams May Come after he dies, when he attempts to retrieve his (also) dead wife who has gone to hell because she committed suicide.

  • Discworld novels.
    • In Faust Eric, Rincewind and Eric end up in Hell by mistake, and are allowed to leave (across a road paved with good intentions) by the new Demon King due to their adventures having distracted the old one while his removal was plotted (he becomes Life President of Hell, a job with no powers whatsoever). Before that, they meet everyone they've encountered over the course of the story, and discover the most ironic punishment is mind-numbing tedium.
    • In Wintersmith, Roland and the Nac Mac Feegle rescue the Summer Lady from Limbo (so called because the door's very low). The ferryman talks in ALL CAPS, and may therefore be a certain recurring character. Roland compares it to the story of Orpheo and Euniphon.
    • Closely related in The Light Fantastic, when two characters escape Death's realm (which isn't Hell, really, but is an Eldritch Location), Death complains I MAY AS WELL INSTALL A REVOLVING DOOR.
  • The "Inferno" from Dante's The Divine Comedy. Dante is taken down to Hell to observe, then moves up to the other two realms in "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso." The episode in Hell, by the by, is by far the most interesting and well-remembered part of the poem.
  • Taltos and Morrolan traveled the Paths of the Dead in Taltos and came back with Aliera. Zerika did the same in The Paths of the Dead to get the Orb.
  • Book 15 of The Dresden Files, Skin Game features a plot to rob Hades personal vault. This includes breaking into a bank in the real world in order to open a path to the correct part of the Never Never, making it past a number of gates and their guardians, a chat with the big man himself, and of course the entire thing falling completely off the rails on the way back out.
  • In Philip Pullmans The Amber Spyglass, the main characters Lyra and Will go to where all dead people end up and free them
  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle revisited Dante's Inferno in their own modern version. The central character, Allen Carpenter, travels through the same Hell, encountering many similar events. However, some of the settings have been modernized — there are demonic cars, and the Grove of the Suicides is being bulldozed. Replacing Virgil's role as guide is Benito Mussolini. In the end, Allen has Benito climb Satan rather than himself to seek divine forgiveness.
  • Incarnations of Immortality: Most of the Incarnations visit Hell at some point in their respective books. How bad it is depends on whether Satan's showing them the vacation brochure version or allowing them to see the real thing. The Incarnations are powerful enough that Satan can't keep them there against their will, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy for them to get out, and if they've got mortal companions Satan has a lot more leverage.
  • Marla Mason: When the Walking Death takes over Marla's city and essentially holds it hostage in return for her dagger of office, Marla invades the underworld, meaning to sit in his throne and acquire the power to get him out of Felport. She has a friend show her to the Afterlife Express, and (along with her valet) encounters all of the people she has killed, some of whom want her to join them. Then it turns out that the old Death is still at home on his throne...
  • Poul Anderson's novel (actually a compilation and rewrite of several stories) Operation Chaos, about a werewolf and witch who manage to accidentally thwart the Devil in their techno-magical world (written in the 1960s, and thus possibly one of the first techno-magical milieus in fiction). Eventually one of the Devil's top henchmen (a guy with a funny little mustache and wearing a swastika — whom the heroes do not recognize as he never existed in their world) kidnaps their baby daughter and they use experimental magicks to invade Hell and snatch her back.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians and it's sequel series The Heroes of Olympus does this all the time. Unsurprising considering the series is based on Greek mythology where this is also somewhat common. On several occasions Demi-gods aren't even going there to rescue someone or something similarly dramatic, but just to have a chat with Hades or someone else. It's worth noting that most trips are to the Underworld which contains areas of punishment, rewards, and neutrality depending on what one did in their life. Tartarus is a pit below the underworld and more equivalent to Hell, and is only visited once when Percy and Annabeth fall in.
  • Darren and Vicky, the protagonists of Point Horror Unleashed's Fright Train. They are only let go because Vicky uses her and Darren's birth certificates to prove their identity, with the tickets they picked up being intended for the couple they bumped into on the platform. The Devil shoves them out of a different door to the other passengers, and they return to life (albeit with no memory of what happened.)
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero in Hell, what his children start out to do to rescue him.
  • Harry D'Amour from The Scarlet Gospels follows Pinhead into Hell to rescue his friend taken hostage by the Cenobites.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, the Big Bad Morgoth rules a vast underground fortress named Angband, the Iron Prison, which is basically Hell on Earth. While many characters are dragged there as prisoners and a few escape, only three people go there voluntarily and get out alive: Fingon, who actually only climbed the mountain heaped up over the gates, to rescue his friend Maedhros; and Beren and Lúthien, who shape-shifted into animalistic monsters, snuck all the way down to Morgoth's throne room, stole a Silmaril right out of his crown, and made it all the way back to the outermost gate before they were caught. They still escaped, anyway.
  • In Dutch author Tais Teng's novel Voorbij de Zerken (Beyond the Grave), the heroine visits the gates to the afterlife by hitching a ride with the soul of a dying friend of hers.
  • One of the legends told in the course of Watership Down features the legendary rabbit hero El-ahrairah descending into Inle — evidently the Lapine version of Hades — to seek the help of the Black Rabbit in rescuing El-ahrairah's warren from a besieging army. Hint: it involves sacrificing his ears. And that's only the beginning. No, folks, contrary to the marketing, this is not a cute bunny story.
  • The Faerie Queene, Book II: Guyon spends three days being lead through the Underworld by the fiend Mammon, walking past Anthropomorphic Personifications of evil and damned criminals as Mammon offers him a share of the many treasures buried there. Guyon refuses, so Mammon is honor-bound to return Guyon to the surface, where Guyon immediately faints from starvation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The titular hero of Angel has returned from Hell numerous times, to the point where he sometimes acts blasé about it. He received a reprieve from Hell after a thousand-year stay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which might not count as heroic. More accurate would be the Season Four finale, "Peace Out", which had Angel journeying to a layer of Hell (one with a poisonous atmosphere, preventing anyone from joining him) to retrieve the true name of a siren who was busy hypnotizing Earth into doing her bidding.
    • On two other occasions, Angel tried penetrating a different layer of Hell to slay the Big Bad of the show (the "Senior Partners") and rescue his infant son, Connor, but failed to do so.
  • Captain Sheridan on Babylon 5 does this in the the cliffhanger for the third season. He goes with his not-really-dead wife to Z'Ha'Dum, detonates two thermonuclear devices and jumps down a two-mile deep chasm. He comes back because a Sufficiently Advanced Alien finds him and is able to heal him.
  • In The Mighty Boosh, in one episode Vince travels to Monkey Hell to rescue Howard after he's sent there by mistake. Vince is able to convince the King of Monkey Hell to let them both go after by giving the king a makeover that gives him better hair.
  • In Episode 4 of MythQuest, Alex takes the place of Orpheus and recreates his journey into Hades to rescue Eurydice.
  • Stargate SG-1 did this in 'Jolinar's Memories'. In this case Hell was a moon that a Goa'uld Satan impersonator used to make his enemies suffer. This led to the memorable line, said by O'Neill, "To Hell with us."
  • Dean Winchester of Supernatural sells his soul to save his brother's life, and a season finale ends with him in Hell. At the beginning of the next season, he's digging his way out of his grave, his soul having been retrieved and put back in his body by Castiel. None of the rescue is ever shown, but it happened.
    • In later seasons, the boys bounce back and forth quite often, such that it almost becomes routine.
  • Victorious plays on this trope with their episode "Helen Back Again". Helen, from Drake & Josh, is their new principal, and their re-auditions are certainly a journey through Hell.

    Myths and Religion 
  • Mesopotamian Mythology:
  • Egyptian Mythology has Ra's daily journey through the underworld, which wasn't merely a simple cycle that sun gods of other mythologies had to contend with since Ra also had to fight Apep, who threatened to destroy the universe. In the older versions of this myth, Ra was assisted during this daily endeavor by Set, the god of desert and violence.
  • Various sources from Classical Mythology:
    • Orpheus, who entered Hades to rescue his wife Eurydice. Unfortunately, he was told that he might not look back upon her until both were out of Hades, and Orpheus was unable to follow this one command. As a result, Eurydice vanished back to the Underworld.
    • For his twelfth labor, Heracles goes to the Underworld to fight Cerberus and bring him back to King Eurystheus.
      • In Greek stories, Herakles also helps save the queen Alcestis who has taken the place of the ill King Admetus in the Underworld.
    • Odysseus descends to Hades at one point in The Odyssey, where he meets Tiresias to tell him his next step, and even has a talk with Achilles.
    • Psyche, wife of Eros/Cupid, descended as a task imposed by Aphrodite/Venus in order to beg Persephone/Prosperina for a box of beauty in order to win back her husband whose trust she had betrayed.
    • Aeneas visited Hades in order to hear a prophesy from his deceased father.
    • Pirithous and Theseus descended so that Pirithous could take the married Persephone as his wife. They end up captured by Hades. Eventually Hades let Theseus go with Herakles when he came for Cerberus, as Theseus had been in it only because he owed Pirithous and had tried to convince him not going for the Queen of the Underworld. Pirithous stayed.
    • Dionysus went to the Underworld to bring back his wife Ariadne and his mother Semele.
    • Castor and Pollux were half-brothers; Leda was their mother, but Castor's father was Leda's mortal husband (King of Sparta) and Pollux was the result of Zeus's "seduction" in the form of a swan. Pollux never gave much thought to the whole demigod thing until he and his brother died in battle. Pollux was brought up to Olympus, but Castor was sent to the mortal underworld. Long story short, Pollux marched down there, found his brother and refused to leave, forcing the Gods into a Logic Bomb. As a compromise, the brothers became the constellation Gemini.
    • As can be seen, journeys into the underworld happen sufficiently often in Greek mythology that the ancient Greeks coined the word katabasis to describe it, along with anabasis, meaning the journey back out. These words have since been applied to similar journeys in other religions.
  • Japanese Mythology tells of Izanagi, one of the first deities, and his attempt to retrieve his wife Izanami from Yomi, the underworld. Unlike Orpheus, Izanagi didn't lose his wife outright by looking back — he saw that she had rotted and was so repulsed that he panicked and ran away.
  • In Norse Mythology, Hermóðr the Brave rides to Hell (more appropriately, Hel) to get his brother Baldr back from the underworld. Hel agrees, as long as the entire world would weep for him. Everyone but Loki does, and because of Loki Baldr remains trapped in the underworld.
  • Many Christians believe that Christ descended into Hell after his crucifixion and spent a few days there rescuing people, before being resurrected: this belief is part of the "Apostle's Creed," for example. (The dates of Dante's Inferno are timed to coincide with Christ's sojourn: Dante enters Hell on Good Friday and returns to the surface of the earth on Easter Sunday.)
    • What some Christian teachings call "Hell" is not the inescapable realm, but that of Sheol, the realm where the dead, both pious and not, awaited Christ to open the gates to heaven, and leave others to be sent to hell. Translations make a big difference, as shown in confusing Hades from Greek mythology with the hell of this trope.
  • Buddhism has the story of Princess Miao Shan who willingly died and took on the negative karma of the man who killed her to save his life from her at the time rather crazy father. She then ascended to godhood in Hell, turned that portion of Hell into a Paradise by releasing all of her good karma, and traveled through the rest of Hell. All with the intention of helping her father who ordered her death in the first place.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Don't Rest Your Head supplement Don't Lose Your Mind details the Orpheus talent, which literally lets the user walk to Hell and back again.
  • All the Lower Planes can be visited in some Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. (It's never recommended, of course, at least not by any NPCs.)
  • Both Malfeas, the Demon City, and the Underworld (they're separate places in this universe) are available for adventuring in Exalted. Resurrecting deceased loved ones isn't on the table, but almost anything else is.
  • The underworlds of many different religions are available to visit in Scion. They aren't outright nasty, though social calls are generally inadvisable. Unfortunately, only two of them (Yomi, the Shinto afterlife, and Guinee, the Voodoo afterlife) are connected to functioning religions, so most of the people a Scion knows are nowhere to be seen.
    • A couple more functioning ones are added in a later supplement: Di Yu, the afterlife of Chinese folk religion, and Naraka, a stopover for Hindu believers who were wicked in life prior to eventual reincarnation.
    • Another supplement adds a third functioning one, Mord Keshvar, the Persian afterlife; notably, it allows in people who follow the virtues of the Persian gods and uphold their traditions, even if they didn't worship the gods in life.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Anytime a ship goes through the Warp to achieve FTL travel (except the Tau and Necrons), very careful precautions must be taken so the ship isn't swarmed by daemons.
    • The backstory of Ork Warboss Tuska the Daemon-Killa. Basically, he was an Ork who once took out a Warp-beast and decided from then on that he liked fighting daemons. So he launched a Waaagh straight into the Eye of Terror! After his warband cut a bloody warpath through hordes of vile monsters, he landed on a Daemon world. Here, his warband finally met their match, and were slaughtered down to the last Ork until only Tuska himself was left. Mortally wounded, he performed a Taking You with Me on the Daemon Prince of the world via a Groin Attack with a power klaw. Not the whole story. The Blood God, Khorne, took notice of the awesome path of destruction the Orks carved into his kingdom, and brought them all back to life and transported them to his personal realm. Tuska and his loyal Boyz are to this day at the foot of Khorne's palace, fighting Khorne's favoured Bloodletter generals and their armies with His personal approval. To a human, this is a nightmarish Hell, but to an Ork, this is their equivalent of Valhalla.
      Warboss Tuska: Told yer I knew where da best fightin' woz.
    • One-upped by Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra, who entered the Eye of Terror alone, fought his merry way through the daemons and hellspawn to his lost craftworld, Altansar, and guided it back out. Badass.

    Video Games 
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of ActRaiser is set in Hell, albeit renamed Deathheim in the US, and the Final Boss is Satan himself, localized as Tanzra.
  • Baldur's Gate II has a strange aversion, where the character travels to what appears to be Hell, but is revealed to be a pocket plane they created that simply resembles Hell due to their connection to Bhaal.
  • Bayonetta 2: The primary driving force behind the initial plot is for the titular character to find the Gates of Hell to enter Inferno to reclaim the soul of her dear friend and fellow Umbra Witch, Jeanne... and then manage to get back out again. Getting into Inferno takes up the majority of the game, although getting out of Inferno ends up being a lot easier, happening by accident as a result of elements from the secondary storyline in the game.
  • The final sequence of Broforce has you storming Hell itself in order to kick Satan's ass.
  • Cave Story. Though here, it's more of a physical place than a metaphysical one, and it's ruled by a mad sorcerer rather than any mythological figure. At least the level enemies are demons (albeit disguised as angels).
  • On the good ending path of Charlie Murder, the band jumps into a portal to Hell after freeing Paul Bitterman of the demons possessing him to fight the Angel of Chaos.
  • Clustertruck: The 9th, and final, level is in hell, there is no discernible reason to be going to hell, you just end up there.
  • Dante's Inferno, based on the first part of The Divine Comedy, has the titular crusader uses Death's scythe to fight down into the depths of Hell on a quest to free a lovely Damsel in Distress from mean old Satan. Unlike the poem, there isn't any indication God is allowing our human protagonist to make this journey, he can just kill the Grim Reaper and the Devil through the power of violence.
  • In Dawn of the Dragons: In retaliation for an attack on the town of Wenshire by demons, High Cleric Ludmun began a crusade to invade Hell itself. The story is continued in the flavor text of the Hell Hunter set. The crusaders enjoy success at first, but venture too deep into Hell and encounter the mighty archdevils and demon lords who rule it. The crusade is quickly routed and most of the crusaders suffer excruciating deaths and worse. High Cleric Ludmun's fate was so horrible that the crusaders who witnessed it immediately committed suicide to escape the sight. In the end, the Sole Survivor Isabelle escapes Hell by becoming as ruthless and pragmatic as Hell's demonic residents.
  • In the NES game Day Dreamin' Davey, Davey has to get though Hades' Underworld Lair not once, but two times! The first time is in Ancient Greece, when he had to pay The Ferry Man Charon one coin to get through the lair while avoiding being sunk in quicksand and defeat the three-headed Cerberus. The second time is in the final level of the Wild West, where he has to go through a tunnel to... Hades' Underworld lair! Fortunately, Hades has to get Davey to the other side in order to reach the OK Corral.
  • Detroit: Become Human: item Markus crosses off the Messianic Archetype checklist is dying, descending into a torturous land of the dead beneath the ground, and returning to life by ascending out of it. The chapter all about that is even called "From the Dead" and the edge of this robotic Gehenna is marked by an angel to know Markus' rise is divinely ordained.
  • Every mainline videogame in the Devil May Cry series (except the fourth) has had the protagonist Dante go to Hell in order to deal with something there and return to the Human World. In the second game, it's part of the ending.
  • The first two games in the Diablo series have the player character fighting through Hell to kill Diablo in the last Act. The third inverts this, you have to storm the gate of heaven after the Legions of Hell take most of it over.
  • In Doom, this is a defining aspect of the series:
    • Episode 1 of the first Doom ends with the Marine being killed and sent to Hell as a result. He then fights his way out of Hell back to Earth. On top of that, megawad Sigil (conceived as an unofficial "Episode 5" to Doom created by John Romero) has Doomguy being sent back to and fighting his way out of Hell again.
    • Doom II: Hell on Earth: The Marine ends up intentionally storming Hell in order to halt the demonic invasion of Earth, and manages to escape back to Earth after killing the Icon of Sin. The Final Doom level packs TNT: Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment (semi-sequels to Doom II) each have Doomguy invading Hell yet again to stop yet more demonic incursions.
    • Doom 64: While the original ending has Doomguy deciding to just stay in Hell to make sure everything really does stay Killed Off for Real this time, the epilogue campaign in the Updated Re-release reveals that Hell itself tried to teleport him back to Earth, forcing him to fight his way back into Hell.
    • Doom³, being a Continuity Reboot, has its version of the Marine go to Hell and back twice. The expansion adds one more round trip to Hell for a different protagonist.
    • In DOOM (2016), not only does the Doom Slayer go to Hell and back three times during the campaign, but the backstory indicates that he has already rampaged through Hell at least once before the game even begins.
    • DOOM Eternal has the Doom Slayer make two brief round trips to Hell as part of his quest to stop the demonic consumption of Earth. It also reveals that he's the original Doomguy, meaning that his final visit to Hell in 64 was also a round trip (though he ended up in the alien world of Argent D'Nur instead of his own world). Additionally, the codex entries indicate that he invaded Hell multiple times during his time with the Night Sentinels.
    • Final count; you play through FIFTEEN trips to Hell (with even more happening off-screen), and twelve of those are by the same character.
  • Dwarf Fortress has "Hidden Fun Stuff".
  • The protagonist in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion spends a fair amount of time bringing pain and terror to a reasonable facsimile of a fire-and-brimstone-flavored Hell.
  • The end of Fear Effect takes place in the Chinese version of Hell, with dead trees and bubbling black pitch taking the place of fire and brimstone.
  • Final Fantasy II has the heroes storming the Castle Pandemonium, inside Hell, to defeat Emperor Mateus, who has taken over.
  • In the interactive fiction game Frederik Pohl's Gateway (loosely based on the book) one of the final challenges is escaping Hell. Hell itself is quite small - it's only got four distinct areas but each carries a painful punishment for the player. The escape method relies on the player realizing that Hell is actually a Virtual Reality and that hydras and Virtual Reality memory limits don't mix well.
  • Kratos from God of War goes to both Hades and Tartarus in the course of his game series, and he doesn't leave either without sufficient arse-kicking. It's not just Tartarus he's escaped from. In God of War (PS4), he walked into Helheim, the Norse realm of the dead, and came back out alive!
  • The final venue of Guitar Hero III is a nightclub in hell. To escape, you must defeat the devil with The Power of Rock.
  • Kyril from Heroes of Might and Magic VI. After walking alive into Sheogh, the local equivalent of Hell, to bodyguard an angel, he is betrayed and used as a bargaining-chip, his soul sold to one of the local Arch-Devils. Enraged, he fights his way out, conquering a significant territory in Sheogh on the way, and forming a reluctant alliance with the Arch-Demon he was sold to, ensuring that when he bursts back unto the surface, he does so at the vanguard of a horde of demons. He even finds himself attracting further demonic allies even after that point, solely due to his ever-increasing badassitude, since demons follow the rule of Asskicking Leads to Leadership.
  • Jet Moto 2's final track, Nebulous, is a Marathon Level that alternates between heaven and hell.
  • Kid Icarus starts Pit off in the Underworld. Kid Icarus: Uprising has Pit return to the Underworld to fight Medusa and again on two separate occasions to fight Hades.
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow there are two paths Alexander can take to rescue Cassima. The first is much shorter, but in the second, he travels to the land of the dead. Alexander rides to the Underworld on the Nightmare, a winged demon horse, to restore Princess Cassima's parents to life. Bonus points because you can see the Underworld on the Have a Nice Death screen, THEN visit it alive, when you thought it would only be yet another twisted way of Sierra to hand you a death scene.
  • The cause of the difficulty spike in Momohime's story in Muramasa: The Demon Blade. The mission is to recover a sword, though when it can't be done, the next step is the natural one.
    • In one of Gonbe's endings in A Cause to Daikon For DLC, him, his friends, and his wife all go to Hell. However, after Momohime's rampage through Hell, the Oni's are overworked and can't properly torture the damned souls anymore. Gonbe and his friends try to plead with the ruler of Hell to help the Oni's out, and is so moved by their selflessness he just brings all of them back to life. Getting back into Hell is also Rajyaki's starting goal in Hell is Where the Heart Is, since she was a daughter of the ruler of Hell fell out of favor with her father.
    • Really any character can visit Hell at any time once you beat their campaigns, as the whole world map opens up to them when you do, DLC characters included.
  • The bottom (second) half of NetHack is Gehennom. Early versions had Hell, which would instantly kill characters without fire resistance. (Ironically, Hell was much easier to leave than to enter, since each level had an upstairs, but no downstairs.) "Gehennom" (or "Gehenna") is still Hebrew for (one form of) Hell, though.
  • Neverwinter Nights:
    • In the final chapter of Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark the player is trapped in the eighth hell and spends the whole chapter venturing deeper into its frozen wastes to find a way back to the material plane and confront the Big Bad who sent him there.
    • And then in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer the player enters the Fugue Plane to reclaim her own soul. You may or may not leave, the game has a choice of Bittersweet Endings.
  • Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden is an interesting example. His clan being responsible for preventing hell from taking over, he spends a lot of time fighting his way INTO hell and BACK OUT again.
  • In Odin Sphere, all the characters do this with the Netherworld at one point or another: Cornelius and Oswald both fight their way out after waking up trapped in there (the latter with some help from Odin), while Mercedes, Velvet and Gwendolyn all go into the Netherworld to look for someone and fight their way in and out (the latter two with some help from Odin, the former with some help from Ingway).
  • In Painkiller the protagonist, Daniel Garner, chooses to enter Hell of his own accord to save Eve, even despite being told he can never come back. He then fights his way through Lucifer's minions and passes through the gates of Hell, reaching what is considered by many to be one of the coolest levels ever created. The game ends on a cliffhanger with him defending himself and Eve against an endless horde of demons. The game's following expansion is called Battle Out of Hell.
  • Planescape: Torment has a quest of this sort. During the Nameless One's journey, he discovers that the one piece of vital information he needs is kept by the Pillar of Skulls: A writhing, babbling, screaming tower of disembodied heads... which can only be found in Baator, which is essentially D&D's version of Hell. Needless to say, the party doesn't intend to stay there longer than they have to.
  • In Portal 2, when the newly crazed Wheatley sends Chell and POTaDOS downwards hundreds of feet below the modern Aperture Laboratories building towards the hazy remains of the older Aperture Science buildings, and the subsequent traverse back upwards through the destroyed remnants of Cave Johnson's testing chambers.
  • The hero of Quest for Glory enters Hades to pick up a MacGuffin to prove his worth as king. Along the way, he gets the opportunity to go on a Orphic quest to retrieve his dead love (either one).
  • Rayman Origins makes this the main objective by getting into the Land of the Livid Dead to put a stop to the underworld invasion of Rayman's home.
  • Romancing SaGa lets you visit hell as one of the three paths to endgame if you make yourself evil enough.
  • Blue's quest in Sa Ga Frontier features Hell as the final dungeon, and its overlord as the final boss. The twist? You don't come back, at least not in the actual game. Word of God is that The Power of Friendship gave Blue the ability to find his way out.
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell: Third Street Saints members Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington have to rescue their leader from being forced into a marriage with the Devil's little girl, which involves kicking the crap out of The Legions of Hell and Satan himself.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Sam and Max take the subway to hell in "What's New, Beelzebub?" And back. And due to the nature of the game, it becomes an easily repeatable round trip.
  • Haruto Atori in Tasokare Hotel. He was saved by Neko twice; once, when Neko went back in time to stop Osoto from pushing Atori onto the tracks, thereby preventing him from having ever visited Tasokare Hotel and the events that led to his accidental shooting of Osoto, and the second time in the special stories, where Neko went to hell in Atori's nightmares to rescue him.
  • Tenchu the mission called "Save the Princess" where Rikimaru has to go to Hell to rescue princess Kiku and kill lord Mei-Oh, eventually Rikimaru get's trapped there but manages to escape trough the same portal lord Mei-Oh came from.
  • Total War: Warhammer III: This is the main plot, ala The Salvation War - Kislev and Cathay are invading the Chaos Wastes to take the fight to the Chaos Gods.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Highly Responsive to Prayers: One path has you storming hell for no reason. Though this game isn't really in continuity anymore...
    • Perfect Cherry Blossom: The last two stages are in the netherworld. Closer to purgatory than hell, but still part of the afterlife.
    • Phantasmagoria of Flower View [sic]: They fight a Shinigami and her boss, the Judge of Hell, while on the banks of the Buddhist equivalent of River Styx.
  • In Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense, Padre Destino's special weapon, Hades Gate, opens a portal to hell which Padre's vehicle then dives into before erupting out of the ground underneath the targeted enemy, causing a small earthquake and setting the enemy on fire if it's a direct hit.
  • Hades is a location in both the original Zork and Zork: Grand Inquisitor. In the former, it's mostly just another room with a piece of treasure, but you do have to exorcise the evil spirits. In the latter, Hades is more elaborate, with the River Styx, Charon to row you across for a price, and a two-headed beast guarding the gate (the original three-headed dog having been stolen some centuries ago to guard some king's museum).


    Web Original 
  • The first book in The Salvation War trilogy, Armageddon is this, a literal invasion of hell after the defeat of a demonic army. It was a curbstomp war, with the humans doing the stomping. That being said, Belial did manage to do some very damaging retaliation with his "skyvolcanoes". Act Two is storming heaven! Act Three will supposedly deal with the immediate aftermath of the war.

    Western Animation 
  • On Adventure Time Finn and Jake go to the Nightosphere (which is almost identical to Hell) to hang out with Marceline.
  • The Animaniacs did this as well. Granted, being the Warners they just annoy Satan until he kicks them out.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Happens to Master Shake in "Juggalo". Multiple times.
  • In Futurama, Fry and Leela must rescue Bender from Robot Hell — which is located just beneath the surface of New Jersey.
  • Justice League Unlimited:
    • Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl went to the underworld, ironically, to rescue Hades, who had been dethroned by Felix Faust. This includes a humorous scene where Hawkgirl scared off a couple dimwitted demons who mistook her for an angel.
    • Another time is when Batman and Zatana go with Justice to see Medusa to get information about Circe. Batman paid Charon and for her help, Justice removed a few hundred years from Medusa's sentence.
  • Looney Tunes: "Satan's Waitin'" (Sylvester and Tweety cartoon) and "Devil's Feud Cake" (Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam cartoon), define this trope.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "It's About Time", Cerberus comes to Ponyville and Twilight has to go return him to the gates of Tartarus. Based on her state when she gets back, it wasn't an easy task.
  • In the Halloween episode of Pinky and the Brain, Brain travels to Hell to rescue Pinky, who had sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for a "radish rose whatchamawhoozit." Of course, since this is a children's cartoon, they call it "Hades," and Satan isn't actually named as such (though it's obvious who he is).
  • The Rocko's Modern Life episode "To Heck and Back" features Heffer going to Heck after choking on a chicken bone. He was able to be saved by Rocko successfully getting the chicken bone out, even after being swallowed. However, it was All Just a Dream.
  • In Teen Titans, nothing is explicitly stated, being a "kid's" show and all, but it can be assumed from the fire, lava, and fiery demons that Hell is where Robin and Slade went in the Season 4 finale, Slade to reclaim his soul and Robin to find Raven.

    Real Life 
  • This happens on a daily basis to people living in a certain area in Michigan or Norway: the latter freezes over every winter.

Alternative Title(s): Journey To The Underworld