That leads us to a hidden box
That's all locked up with locks
And buried deep away
We'll dig up the box
We know it's full of precious booty
Burst open the locks
And then we'll say 'Hurray'"!
Follow the map, dig up the treasure, get rich — A Simple Plan which seldom works.
First, the heroes have to find the map. If they're lucky, someone will conveniently drop dead at their feet with the map on them; if they're less lucky it will have been hidden in some old heirloom. If they're really unlucky, it'll have been cut up into pieces, each held by a different group of treasure hunters; the heroes will have to collect all the pieces before they can even start looking for the treasure.
Next, they'll need to find the starting point, the right tropical isle or hidden cave. Getting there may be an adventure in itself. Once there, the heroes have to find the actual location of the treasure. This can be as simple as "X" Marks the Spot", or "fifteen paces south of the dead pine" (though might find that fifteen paces for one of their group doesn't cover the same distance for another, and there's always the possibility that the landmark is no longer around - trees fall down or catch fire, rivers change course, rocks roll to a new position, etc) up to having to navigate a Bamboo Technology Death Course, with only cryptic comments scrawled on the map to help them find the safe route through. If Status Quo Is God either the treasure will turn out to be worthless or the heroes will have to abandon it for the greater good.
Expect at least one group of antagonists to be on the heroes' heels throughout all this. If both sides have a copy of the map, and the treasure goes to whoever gets to it first, expect some "No Rules" Racing to occur.
The treasure can range from criminal loot and pirate gold to ancient temples and powerful MacGuffins. The heroes will never think about handing it over to the authorities.
The Adventurer Archaeologist will often come across treasure maps. This trope is also a form of A MacGuffin Full of Money. This trope is often associated with Pirate Booty, despite the fact that pirates rarely buried treasure - the typical pirate would spend most of his income from a voyage outfitting the ship for the next one, and squander the rest on high living before setting out on said voyage (Given that piracy is a rather high-risk career, there's a pretty good chance that a pirate who cached his loot with the intent to spend it some years later wouldn't be alive at the time he planned to dig it up. As the pirates were smart enough to know this, they spent most of their loot at the first opportunity they got).
A Treasure Map does not always have to be a literal map, as in topographical chart. Encrypted messages often form an essential part of a Treasure Map, and sometimes an encrypted message is the map.
If it turns out that the map isn't real, it's a Fool's Map. In a series that doesn't usually feature this plot, see the Sub-Trope Treasure Hunt Episode, or otherwise Pirate Episode.
See also Never Win the Lottery.
- In Asteroid in Love, Ino's interest in cartography comes from the recreational use of this trope: treasure maps her elementary-school friend Keiko made for her as simple treasure-hunt games. She became interested in maps as she was fascinated in the experience of exploring with maps, even in places she knows a lot about.
- One side-arc of One Piece featured a character who, while following a treasure map, got stuck in a box and was unable to claim the treasure (several chests at the top of a cliff). The trope was subverted when Luffy climbed the cliff for him and found the treasure chests were empty - someone else had taken the treasure long before the first guy got there.
- The Road Poneglyphs are four stone blocks that have locations written on them. When all four locations are plotted on a map, they'll form an X on the location of Raftel, the island where One Piece is held.
- In Slayers Next, Lina acquires a decidedly unhelpful treasure map that guides her to the location of a book of singularly useless ritual spells/festival dances.
- Subverted in Transformers: Cybertron: The map to the planets where the Cyber Planet Keys lie turns out to have been rendered just about useless due to stellar drift, and the attempts to recalibrate it to compensate end in failure. The heroes and villains alike end up having to find more current co-ordinates via other leads.
- In Umi Monogatari, Marin and Kanon go in search of treasure, but end up finding angry pirates.
- Happy Heroes: In Season 7 episode 8, Big M. and Little M. are given a treasure map that leads to another treasure map that leads to weapons to destroy Planet Xing with, making it a "treasure map map".
- The Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventure Doctor Who and the Pirates features just about every pirate trope. Including a treasure map.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Carl Barks' and Don Rosa's uncle Scrooge stories often used this plot.
- In Mampato and the pirates, there is a treasure and a map, but the only one who knows where this is an extremely irritating and rude parrot (when the villains get him drunk in an attempt to reveal the place where the treasure is hidden, the only thing that they get a lot of insults loudly). But after an accident with a little powder, the mystery is discovered: He has the map tattooed on his skin, they only discover it after he lost all his feathers.
- The "Kitchen Irish" arc of The Punisher MAX revolves around a modern version of this trope. An evil elderly Irish gangster had willed three map coordinates that would lead to his hidden money somewhere in New York, and given each to a different gang leader, knowing that they all hated both him and each other and would tear each other apart trying to get the others coordinates after he died. On the off-chance that they ever decided to put the hostilities on hold and find the treasure together (which they do at the climax of the story), it turns out the treasure wasn't even real, it was just a bomb with the word CUNTS! carved into the C4 attached to it.
- Averted in the Tintin two-part story "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure"; the necessary information is not a map, but three papers that when held together reveal the coordinates of the sunken ship's location. Even then, Tintin had to reckon with Capt'n Haddock using the Paris Meridian and not the Prime Meridian for his starting point and even then, the whole message on the papers really meant that the treasure was actually hidden in Marlinspike Hall. At one point they misunderstand the map, thinking the treasure is buried on the Island, then after digging realize that Sir Francis wouldn't have left the treasure on the island and never come back for it.
- In Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian, the Subway Pirates are fighting over a map to the fabled "Foundation Stone" or "God Machine", which is actually a Father Box. The map is tattooed on one pirate's back, which doesn't stop a rival crew from stealing it.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: In #48, the Barnacle Gang discovers the map made by the long dead ruthless pirate Capt. Storm which leads to his buried treasure.
- A 2009 Pearls Before Swine strip features a pirate whose dry-cleaning business has terrible customer service.
- The four take a complicated map off a mugger in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. They're told it leads to a mine. “Why would we want to go to a mine?” George sensibly asks. The woman they asked tells them the mine is probably infested with monsters or bandits and must hold something good, since it requires a rare jump gem to get there. The four decide the map must have been given them by the gods to point them to the amulet Ringo wants so badly. However, when they finally get the requisite jump gem and go to the valley where the mine is, they discover that another adventuring party has beaten them there and is just about to come out with the spoils. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Barbie & Her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure, Barbie and her sisters finding a treasure map in the attic is what sparks the plot.
- The Road to El Dorado uses this for the first half-hour or so, with the rest set in the 'treasure' of El Dorado. It's also a bit of a historical joke as fake maps to El Dorado were common during the era, but this one just happened to be real.
- In Titan A.E., a map to the eponymous Titan is hidden inside the ring the main character, Cale, has as a memento of his father. Like a treasure map, you have to decode and visit every stop along the way.
- Treasure Planet. - A holographic treasure map guides the way ... which is not surprising, since it is Treasure Island IN SPACE!
- In 13 (the American remake of 13 Tzameti), a 'contestant' in the Deadly Game draws a map of where he's buried money from a heist, and tells a guard that if he dies (a likely possibility, as they're playing Russian Roulette) he can take the map off his corpse and keep half the money, as long as he gives the rest of his son. Turns out he survives, so the guard tries to murder him for the map. The other guards intervene, whereupon the contestant brandishes a blank sheet of paper to taunt him, claiming there never was any buried money. He then burns the genuine map once the guard is out of sight.
- In Anne of the Indies, Pierre has a half of a treasure map showing the location of Henry Morgan's treasure. It is a fake and part of a plan to lure Anne and the Sheba Queen into a trap.
- City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold subverts this: the map led to fake treasure as part of an "adventure tour."
- However, it turned out at the very end that this was only a portion of the map, and that the complete version would lead to real treasure.
- Before anyone can venture into the Cutthroat Island, the three pieces that construct its map must be found first.
- In The Goonies, Mikey leads the Goonies with the centuries-old map hoping it still leads to Pirate Booty. Of course, it does.
- Featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, complete with a Lampshade Hanging on the trope. The beginning of the movie has Indy telling his students that "[archeologists] don't follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever marks the spot." Of course, both statements turn out to be untrue.
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - Grogan's Final Speech functions as a treasure map.
- In Long John Silver, Long John has a map to a second treasure cache on Treasure Island; but needs a special medallion to decode it.
- In Lust for Gold, Floyd Buckley possesses a map that he says will lead him to the Lost Dutchman Mine. A flashback later reveals that this map originally belonged to Ramon Peralta and was lost when he was murdered by Walz.
- The Mummy Trilogy
- The Mummy features a map to Hamunaptra, although it's destroyed accidentally-on-purpose by the curator (secretly a Medjai) and Jonathan and Evy have to rely on Rick's knowledge of where Hamunaptra is.
- In The Mummy Returns, the map is in the form of a hologram projected by the Bracelet of Anubis, showing the way to Ahm Shere.
- One of the infamous plot points of National Treasure was that there was a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. It turns out to be of the encrypted message-type rather than an actual map.
- The Pacifier also had a bit of this, with the route for how to get through the obstacle course coded into "The Peter Panda Dance", a child's bedtime rhyme.
- Romancing the Stone plays this one straight. Joan Wilder is sent a treasure map by her sister for safekeeping. But then the sister is kidnapped and Joan is forced to travel to South America to deliver the map. Inevitably, she and Jesse Colton end up following the map themselves.
- In The Sign of Four: Sherlock Holmes' Greatest Case, Small gives Sholto and Marston a map indicating where the treasure is hidden in the fortress. After Sholto murders Marston, the map ends up in Marston's personal effects and is eventually passed on to his daughter. She gives it to Holmes who is able to deduce from it what this case is really about.
- Three Kings was a strange example of this, with bored infantry finding the map in an enemy soldier's butt. It's better than it sounds.
- In Wanda Nevada, an elderly prospector claims there's gold in the Grand Canyon. When Wanda gets her hands on his bag of gold and his map, she and Beau go prospecting, following the map.
- Waterworld featured a map tattooed on a child's back. As the entire world was flooded, the island it led to was the treasure.
- Yellowbeard: The treasure map is tattooed on the head of Yellowbeard's son Dan.
- In Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold, The Pecos Kid steals the map to the Mayan gold which Grey Cloud has engraved on a deer antler.
- Subverted in Going Postal. In the first chapter, the imprisoned Moist indicates to his jailers that yes, he has a treasure map to his ill-gotten gains in his pockets, a map full of everything to gladden a treasure hunter's heart, cryptography, puzzles, clues, etc etc. It's fake. According to Moist, any criminal worth the title would simply remember where he's stashed the loot.
- In The Last Hero its strongly implied that the maps barbarian heroes keep finding that lead them to dungeon complexes containing treasure (and monsters, but barbarian heroes reckon you've got to deal with monsters if you want treasure) are left by the gods themselves, as part of their Cosmic Game That's Not as Complicated as Chess.
- Played with in Ghost In the Noonday Sun by Sid Fleischman, which revolves around the search for a legendary pirate captain's treasure. His old crew know what island it's on but not where exactly it's buried — there was a map, but it mysteriously disappeared after the first mate killed him for it. The map never does reappear, but the protagonist figures out what happened to it, which gives him to clue to where the treasure was buried.
- In Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Gold-Bug, a hobby entomologist looking for beetles at a beach stumbles upon a piece of parchment with an encrypted message, which, once decoded, points the way to Captain Kidd's fabled buried treasure.
- In the novel The Jerusalem Diamond, by writer Noah Gordon, a new roll of copper is discovered in Israel (see in the section on Real Life) that serves as a complement to the one found in 1952, in Qumran, which would allow to finally discover the treasures described in them, including the Ark of the Covenant.
- In Though Not Dead, Kate Shugak gets sent on a treasure hunt by Old Sam's will. It ultimately leads her to an actual treasure map that guides her to the lost icon.
- Kit Williams' Masquerade, published in 1979, was a picture book containing clues to a real hidden treasure: a jeweled rabbit crafted by the author to promote its sales.
- In a subversion, the "winner" didn't actually solve the puzzle: he just used information from William's ex-girlfriend and a metal detector. It's a sad story.
- In Washington Irving's story "The Legend of the Moor's Legacy", an ancient scroll (translated by another Moor) provides directions and instructions for retrieving a treasure.
- The short story "The Most Precious of Treasures" by Desmond Warzel. The map is genuine, but the treasure is...unexpected.
- The Quest for the Missing Map, a Nancy Drew book, concerns the "pirate map divided in half" variation.
- Nina Tanleven: In The Ghost Wore Gray, Captain Gray left one to where he buried the jewels he’d brought from South Carolina to New York. It’s mistaken for a map to his grave, and a tombstone is subsequently erected over the spot.
- In Needful Things, Gaunt sells Ace Merrill a supposed treasure map where his rich dead uncle Pop buried his missing fortune. However, when he follows it it only leads him to worthless garbage, weird porn and a couple rolls of semi-rare coins only worth a few hundred dollars.
- The Drew children follow one to find the grail in Over Sea, Under Stone.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Pool of the Black One", Zaporavo has a book.
He desired to learn if this island were indeed that mentioned in the mysterious Book of Skelos, whereon, nameless sages aver, strange monsters guard crypts filled with hieroglyph-carven gold.
- In one of The Riftwar Cycle novels, it's mentioned that selling fake treasure maps was a common trick to get young men to wander out into the middle of nowhere so they could be captured by slavers. The boy who would become Macros the Black was one said victim of this con.
- In the Sherlock Holmes stories, the eponymous "Musgrave Ritual" was in fact a set of steps to find where the crown of Charles I had been hidden. The story glosses over the point that given that the ritual was created circa 1650 and utilized circa 1870, it was only chance that the instructions in the ritual weren't hopelessly inaccurate (The starting point of the ritual is determined by the shadow cast by a certain tree when the sun was above a second tree. After 220 years, both trees would have grown, changing the angle of the sun and the length of the shadow. In addition, all later directions were marked in steps, which vary from person to person. Had the treasure been buried rather than stashed in a hidden basement, they'd have never found it).
- Simon Ark: In "The Treasure of Jack the Ripper", Simon is called in by an old friend who is an antiquarian bookseller to authenticate a journal supposedly written by Jack the Ripper and an accompanying map that claims to lead to a great treasure. The claim gains more credibility when Simon identifies the map as being written on human skin.
- Treasure Island: The map Jim Hawkins pilfered from among Billy Bones' possessions is the Trope Codifier, and possibly the Trope Maker too.
- Welcome To Wonderland: In "Home Sweet Motel", P.T. and Gloria decide to have a treasure hunt to drum up business for the motel. To help customers find the treasure, they make a treasure map on some old stationary paper, which they then make copies of to sell to the customers at five dollars a pop.
- Bassie & Adriaan: The series "het geheim van de schatkaart" (the secret of the treasure map) resolves around one of these found behind an old painting. It comes with the added difficulty that one first has to solve a riddle to find the starting point of the map.
- In Crusoe, the guy who knew the whereabouts of the treasure hidden on Crusoe's island (a golden cannon!) tattooed it onto the back of the guy he was stuck in prison with — while the mapmaker was sinking deeper into dementia. Remarkably, the map worked, though it was coded so only Crusoe could figure it out. The map resurfaces much later as a guide to the island — salvaged from the poor guy's back after he died.
Jeremiah Blackthorn: Is this leather?
Santos Santana: Not exactly.
- Friday later explains Crusoe's surprised reaction to seeing the "leather" version by joking that Crusoe "knew the map's previous owner."
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: In "Treasure Hunt", the water heater breaks down, but skinflint Claymore will not repair it, so the captain hits upon a scheme of burying treasure maps around the grounds, so Claymore will fix things as a cover for digging up treasure.
- The song at the top of this page from LazyTown fits this trope perfectly.
- On Leverage, Hardison invokes this during "The Gold Job" when he attempts to run the con, basing it on video game design. Unfortunately, it fails and Nate's 60 second plan actually works.
- Monk notably inverts this in one episode: Troy, the disrespecting, rebellious teenage son of Dr. Charles Kroger, Monk's psychiatrist, found what appeared to be a treasure map inside of a dead criminal's hand while playing hookie. He then ends up dragging Monk along to find the treasure. Turns out the map didn't lead to treasure at all. Here's what really happened: during the robbery, one of the robbers, Jack Connolly, was mortally wounded when he was shot by a guard (who was promptly killed by Jack's partner, said criminal that Troy's friends got the map from after he died of a heart attack). This proved trouble for Jack's brother Steven, who happened to be the bank's assistant branch manager (and had planned the heist with him), after Jack succumbed hours later, since the police would know the robbery was an inside job if the body was identified. So the heart attack criminal was drawn a map that indicated where to bury the body.
- Our Flag Means Death features a treasure hunt lead by Captain Stede Bonnet in episode 7 in which he drags along both his scribe Lucius and Edward "Blackbeard" Teach after buying a map from a vendor in St. Augustine. Neither Lucius nor Ed appreciate going on what amounts to a snipe hunt for buried treasure that by all reasonable logic doesn't exist at all, neatly lampshaded in the conversation the three of them have before setting out.
Ed: Look, mate, I hate to be a downer, but... people just don't bury treasure. It's just not done.
Stede: Well, why make a map?
Lucius: He's saying the map's not real.
Stede: What? Course, it's real! Look at it. Tatty edges. It's burnt. It's been around, it's seen things!
Ed: If it were real, why would she have sold it to you? Why not keep the map herself, and find the treasure herself?
Lucius: Oh, strong question. Love that.
Stede: Well, maybe she's just lazy. I mean, she works down at the dock selling maps, for God's sake.
- Pirate Master is centered around a fictional story of the pirate captain Henry Steel and the Treasure of Zanzibar. After acquiring the treasure, Steel divided the loot into 14 parts and hid them across the island of Dominica. A special chest, the Chest of Zanzibar, contains fifteen locked compartments, each containing maps and clues to help find one of the stashes. Fourteen of the keys — all but the key for the first compartment — are each hidden with one of the hidden treasures; thus, the treasures must be found, and the compartments opened, in a predetermined order. The final compartment contains a map showing the location of every gold stash on the island of Dominica, leading to the grand prize.
- In the Porridge episode "Happy Release", The Old Convict Blanco draws Fletch a treasure map, saying that if he doesn't make it out, he wants Fletch to have his hidden loot. It gets stolen by a vindictive fellow prisoner who's due for release. Which turns out to be the plan, the whole treasure map business was just a way of tricking this guy into digging up a football pitch, thereby getting rearrested.
- The Time Team dig on Looe Island was actually given a real "treasure map" that had been discovered by an amateur historian which, intriguingly, managed to coincide with a real geophysical anomaly. It turned out to be the marker place for a Victorian era flagpole. So much for the treasure of Cornish pirates.
- Treasure Hunt. Contestants in the studio were given a clue to the location of another clue, and the game consisted of Anneka/Annabel being flown to the location of each clue so the contestants could figure out where she had to find the next clue, etc. The object of the game was to solve the last clue and find the "treasure" within the allotted time.
- Whodunnit? (UK): In "Which Eye Jack", Jack is murdered so the killer can steal a valuable pearl and a map showing the location where the rest of the treasure is hidden.
- The Mad Dog Morgan episode of Wild Boys centres around the a map to cache of stolen gold.
- The revived WKRP in Cincinnati did an episode where the gang goes on a treasure hunt inside the (multistory) building that houses the station. In a subversion, the treasure exists, and they find it, but do so much damage to the building in the process they end up merely breaking even.
- An episode of Xena: Warrior Princess included the search for a large, hidden treasure with a treasure map that had been ripped into several pieces. The different people looking for the map were forced to work together as they had memorized their portions of the map and then destroyed them. Most of the treasure was the usual gold trinkets, but it included a plate of Ambrosia, which would supposedly would turn whoever ate it into a god.
- In Congo, shooting the Map Saucer displays a map on the display; at each juncture, the player can choose one of three routes to take and travel to either the Volcano or Diamond Hunt Multiball.
- The "Skulduggery" table of Full Tilt! Pinball requires the player to assemble a treasure map to find Peg Leg's treasure.
- Assassin's Creed:
- In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, you can find and follow treasure maps. Some just have money, but others contain schematics for elite upgrades for the Jackdaw.
- Assassin's Creed Rogue also uses the trope in the exact same manner, but they only give you keys to a cage containing a set of 12th Century Templar armor.
- Dragon Quest IX: Treasure maps form a huge part of the endgame, as they open randomly-generated dungeons full of horrible monsters and treasure (emphasis on the random- one Japanese player found one with a floor full of Metal Slimes). Some specific ones let you fight Optional Bosses from earlier games.
- There are several treasure maps to be found by the player in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, each leading to a particular location with a wooden chest containing loot equivalent to a large chest from the end of a dungeon. In the Dragonborn DLC, one particular map (obtained by besting a group of pirates) provides the locations of each piece of the Deathbrand armour, which belonged to the long-dead pirate king Haknir Death-Brand.
- Final Fantasy XIV has treasure maps inside bottles that players can find while mining, fishing, or doing botany. The map shows a small section of the regional map and a red X indicating where the treasure coffer is located. After digging up the coffer, trying to open it will always have a group of monsters attack you since the coffer is rigged with a trap and you have to kill all the monsters before you can open the coffer for its contents (usually rare materials, tomestones, gil, or even a more rare treasure map). Certain coffers summon beasts so numerous and deadly that the map's tooltip recommends bringing a full party of players — these coffers also have a chance of summoning a portal to a dungeon full of even more treasure.
- For the King: Treasure Maps are rare consumable items that spawn a visible treasure chest on The Overworld. They can be gained as loot drops, quest rewards, or store purchases, and the Treasure Hunter Character Class naturally has one as Starter Equipment.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has a LOT of these. Justified seeing as the majority of the game is based on sailing and navigation. The Dungeon maps may or may not count, seeing as they do show locations of treasure maps.
- In Love & Pies, Amelia finds one of Appleton while cleaning the walls of the café, gives it to Sven, and asks him to find the treasure with it, hoping that it'll pay off all her debts. Sven is concerned that the treasure hunt might fail just like when his father (Amelia's grandfather) tried to find it, but Amelia is confident that she and her friends can do it.
- Oceans in Minecraft are littered with shipwrecks in which you can find maps with spots marked with an "X". If you dig in these marked spots you may find a chest containing valuable loot, including exclusive "Hearts of the Sea" used as components in conduits, structures that provide various benefits to nearby players in water.
- The Monkey Island series features this often. Notably the Treasure hunting trial in the first game (also a slight subversion, since the Treasure Map was actually a set of dance instructions, and the treasure was a T-shirt), and the quest for Big Whoop in the second, where finding all pieces of the map took up most of the game.
- Guybrush was very unlucky in the third game, when he had to get the map off of some guy's back. The map was actually sunburned skin. Rottingham said it perfectly: "That's your map? Eeeew."
- Some examples turn up in the Nancy Drew video games, although they're more likely to lead to an intermediate clue to the treasure than the actual loot.
- In Red Dead Redemption you can follow Treasure Maps and follow them for treasure, achievements, and perks. Also, the character Seth has long been searching for treasure via maps and word of mouth, and though the treasure he threw his life away to find turns out to be a dud, after the end of the game you can read a newspaper which implies he eventually found another one elsewhere.
- Romancing SaGa pulls this off well several times:
- One Treasure is the Opal of Wind that was stolen by Captain Silver from the Bafal Empire, Silver employed Gecklings to haul the treasure in a cave in the jungle, and then killed off all but one who escaped; the one who escaped created a map to get there. You will get this when you complete the Gecklings request regardless.
- The Second is the Moonstone which is hidden in Twinmoon Temple, but you need to get the directions in an ancient language and decipher it in order to get the keys to enter the temple, however you have to be quick in getting it because if you do not, Hawke will get it, which is a better idea since you can pull Wutai Theft on him to get the directions.
- Also you can find maps to regular treasure throughout the game, often more valuable than other treasure you can find.
- Sid Meier's Pirates!: The player character can buy or win maps to buried Pirate Booty, lost Cities of Gold, and villain strongholds where their long-lost family members are held in captivity. Some maps are obtained in pieces, but a lucky player doesn't always need to reassemble the whole thing before following its directions.
- There was a treasure map minigame in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.
- Treasure maps are items to be collected in Treasure Adventure Game. They reveal the location of secret passages that lead to dungeons and special items.
- Tattered Maps in Wayward provide a very grainy image of some place in the game world. If you keep trying to read it, your cartography skill will increase and you'll get more hints such as the map image being larger and less covered up, the general direction of the treasure, and the approximate distance. If you manage to find and dig at the precise right space, you'll find a treasure chest with random items that may or may not be worth the trouble. And a number of powerful enemies might suddenly spawn.
- Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure justifies this seeing as it's a game about a Pirate. One is awarded after every boss battle (minus the last three), which unlocks the next area.
- In Li'l Gotham, the pirate Greenbeard plants treasure maps to lead unsuspecting tourists into his ambush. When they reach the spot, there is even a giant X painted on the ground.
- In The Story of Anima, a treasure map belonging to the Blackmare Pirate clan is what leads into the Treasure Hunt arc.
- What's New? with Phil and Dixie demonstrates the usefulness:
The Soulless One: Ever since I started handing out fake maps I've saved a fortune in monster feed!
- Kor Icomb of Skies Unbroken inherited one (ekhm) from his old Sky Pirate captain. He's now following it.
- Used as a plot point in the New Nethervegas arc of We Are Our Avatars. The treasure found was a set of notes relevant to the election and a Panic Button.
- A continuous bumper segment of The Beatles has George and Ringo following a treasure map which eventually leads them to what they think is a giant pearl atop a tree. It turns out to be a goose egg.
- Raj from Camp Lazlo gets a treasure map marked out on his butt in mosquito bites (It Makes Sense in Context) in "Lumpy Treasure".
- In Donkey Kong Country, DK finds a treasure map, and the entire cast (Minus Cranky and Klump) gets mixed up in the hunt. In the end we learn that DK himself drew that map as a child while playing pirates, and the 'treasure' was nothing more than a barrel full of bananas- bananas that have gone rotten from age.
- In one My Little Pony: Equestria Girls short, while on the beach, Sunset, Twilight, and Pinkie Pie discover a map in a bottle. Much to their chagrin, however, it turns out to be merely a publicity stunt when it leads them to a sushi truck.
- In the Gofrette episode "The Pirates of Zanimo", Gofrette, along with Fudge and Ellie, try to find his treasure map, sent by his Granny Smith, after two pirates get a hold of it and reach the treasure first.
- The Hair Bear Bunch episode "Gobs Of Gobaloons" has the bears finding the map to a hidden treasure. The problem: it's buried under zookeeper Peevly's office. The bears find it, but a coin specialist tells them the treasure was stolen from the country of Ptomania with imprisonment to anyone who tries to take it for themselves.
Hair Bear: Look, even if we go to Ptomania we're broke.
- Popeye has a treasure map hidden somewhere in his house in an Al Brodax-produced episode, so the Sea Hag employs a circus midget to impersonate Swee'Pea and search for the map while she kidnaps the real Swee'Pea. Presumably successful, the midget and Sea Hag take off for the treasure (giving back Swee'Pea) while Popeye was hip to the plot all along. The map the Sea Hag has is a bogus map while the real map was used as Swee'Pea's diaper.
- Two theatrical Popeye cartoons also dealt with following a map to a treasure, which Bluto covets.
- Zig-Zag: Quick Draw McGraw and his bloodhound track down the Naugahyde Kid who is holding Baba Looey hostage because he thinks Baba has the map of a gold mine tattooed on his chest.
- In Ready Jet Go!, Jet makes a map Mitchell to use to find the treasure in the episode "Treasure Map".
- The Ruff & Reddy Show: "The Treasure Of Skipper Kipper" story arc has villains Captain Greedy and Salt Water Daffy holding the titular sailor and his parrot hostage in exchange for a treasure's whereabouts. Ruff and Reddy help Skipper Kipper elude the two villains, and he shows our heroes the map where the treasure is located—it's drawn on top of his head.
- Sea Princesses: In "The Treasure", when the Shark King leaves a secret treasure map lying around, Tubarina, Marcello, Ester and Polvina see it and go off in search of the treasure.
- The Simpsons:
- In an episode, Bart and Grandpa do find the treasure, and it's not worthless, but it's immediately seized by the US State Department for return to its original owners.
- Another episode subverted the idea with a parody of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - the criminal lied about the treasure to give himself the time to escape from prison. Of course, the Springfieldians are too stupid to realize that there's no treasure, even after they find a note from the crook telling them the truth.
- Inversion: The whole premise of Hanna-Barbera's The Space Kidettes is Captain Skyhook and his crony Static trying to get hold of a treasure map the Kidettes presumably have. The map is never seen nor its potential treasure disclosed.
- On the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Aargh!", Spongebob, Patrick and Mr. Krabs play a board game called Dutchman's Treasure, which Krabs becomes obsessed with. The next day, Krabs claims to have a real treasure map and takes Spongebob and Patrick on a journey to find it. Later, the map turns out to be the game board, which Krabs had taken for a real map. However, it does turns out to be a real treasure map, as they do find the treasure, only for the Flying Dutchman to take it back.
- He did give Spongebob and Patrick a gold doubloon for digging it up for him, while Mr. Krabs got a little plastic treasure chest based on the real thing.
- Popeye's Treasure Hunt and its all-star Hanna-Barbera redeux Yogi's Treasure Hunt used no map as such. Just clues leading to a treasure (some of worth, some not).
- Legend and Wikipedia has it that the notorious pirate Olivier Levasseur, nicknamed La Buse, threw a parchment with an encrypted message into the assembled crowd immediately before he was hanged in Saint-Denis on Réunion in 1730, allegedly accompanied by the words "Find my treasure, ye who may understand it!" note . It is furthermore rumored that, since then, many a father's inheritance has been blown on projects of decoding the message and finding the treasure. You can try your luck, since the cryptogram is obviously in the public domain. However, considering that the cryptogram's history is only tracable back to 1923, there is no hard evidence that the message is original, or that such a message existed in the first place, or that Levasseur ever buried treasure. Spoiler indeed.
- Geocaching is a 21st-century recreational variant of this trope, using GPS coordinates and riddles as the "map" and bragging rights for having found caches as the "treasure".
- The mysterious so-called Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, lists the locations and contents of no less than 63 treasure troves. Archeologists have attempted to follow the directions, but have found nothing.
- The Beale ciphers are a set of three encrypted texts ostensibly involved in treasure buried by Thomas J. Beale in Bedford County, VA. Only the second text has been decrypted, describing the contents of the treasure, estimated today at around $43 million. The first ostensibly lists the location of treasure, and the third who it belongs to.