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Underground levels, carved out of endless expanses of rock, are among the favorites of video game designers, primarily because they can shape these tunnels and cavities to any sizes, shapes and lengths they desire without having to resort to the Insurmountable Waist-High Fence.

Sometimes known as the Underworld, this setting appears frequently as a direct contrast to The Overworld as it is where the hero goes when he enters a cave or falls in a hole. It could be an Empty Room Psych, a full fledged dungeon, or anything inbetween.

Visitors may encounter Bottomless Pits, falling rocks, stalactites, breakable walls, giant mushrooms, lava, an underground lake, and/or minecarts. Goddamned Bats abound, and watch out for the monkeys. Visitors will probably not encounter stalagmites, because game designers prefer flat, uninterrupted floors for the characters and enemies to walk along (though stalagmites may show up from time to time as the cavernous version of Spikes of Doom). The music often gets more low-key and adds drums and bass.

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In most cases, light is strangely never a problem — it might be darker than usual, but you've always got enough to see by (maybe there's some sort of glowing fungus). Oddly enough, although spiders are common, Cobweb Jungles are not.

An extremely common variant when it overlaps with Crystal Landscape for a crystal cave, featuring quartz and precious gems gleaming wall-to-wall with All-Natural Gem Polish. No one ever considers mining them out, because they're just there to look cool. And wouldn't you know it, sometimes the crystals are ice crystals.

The RPG version is usually either a fairly difficult dungeon with little reprieve, or the very first one, used as an introduction.

May at times overlap with the Absurdly Spacious Sewer or Blackout Basement. If there are people living there, see Underground City and Beneath the Earth. May also encompass the literal Underworld, though that usually gives it elements of Lethal Lava Land or Big Boo's Haunt.

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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action-Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has Turtle Rock, which notably doesn't have any man-made (or even divine) design like the other dungeons, so it's more like a very extended cave.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has Dodongo's Cavern, the Fire and Shadow Temples and Beneath the Well. The former two are set inside the volcanic Death Mountain, so they also qualify as Lethal Lava Land dungeons. The latter two are placed in the underground of Kakariko Village, and them being overrun by undead creatures makes them Big Boo's Haunt locations as well.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has the Gibdo Well, which connects Ikana Canyon with its Ancient Castle. To progress there, Link has to deliver items to the mummified Gibdos while wearing the Gibdo Mask (and while doing so, he has to keep an eye on hazards like a torture device that only Deku Link can overcome and some annoying enemies).
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has the aptly named Earth Temple. Since the number of light sources is finite, Link and Medli have to reflect the available light to the dark areas where it's required.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has the underground village where the Mogmas live, located in Eldin Volcano.
  • Project Eden is almost entirely set underground. This being a scifi game, underground means "abandoned and decaying ruins of the megacity that now spans above" rather than "damp caves". Occasionally overlaps with Beneath the Earth, as a few game areas are inhabited by neutral NPCs.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, once the speeder bike in the Darkice Mines passes a certain point, the rest of the level is cave. There's also the underground field of Thorntail Hollow, where Fox has to look for white mushrooms (White Grubtubs, a special variant of the more common Blue Grubtubs) to cure Tricky's mother.

    First Person Shooter 
  • The entirety of the first two Descent games, sometimes crossing into Lethal Lava Land. Justified in that you're flying through mines to clear out berserk mining robots.
  • F.E.A.R: The expansion Perseus Mandate has the Old Underground Metro Area, a forgotten city district engulfed by an earthquake and used as a base for the new city. There aren't any human enemies in the two levels it spans, which doesn't make them any less terrifying. In fact, the sheer amount of hostile apparitions probably makes the place the games' very first Big Boo's Haunt.
  • Turok 2: Seeds of Evil: The Lair of the Blind Ones.

    MMORPG 
  • The ancient Vanu caverns in PlanetSide. Megalithic rock formations, giant crystals composed of nanites, multiple vertical levels, zip-lines, and abandoned (but totally functional) Vanu buildings.
  • World of Warcraft has several although Ahn'Kahet qualifies the best. It is an underground city that here and there borders natural subterranean life. It features large, glowy mushrooms, insects of different types and sizes and bioluminiscent birds/bats that fly around. It also contains large number of undead that took over the city as well as the few surviving Nerubians that orginally inhabited the city. While the dungeon itself is fairly linear, players are able get a good view of the massive underground caverns from ledges and combinations of creepy music, darkness and mysterious whispers (courtesy of an Old God under whose range of influence the city is located) make this place quite Nightmare Fuellerific. It was originally meant to be part of a whole underground region.

    Platform Games 

    Puzzle Games 
  • World 2 of Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition is set in a cave, breaking the Mario tradition of World 2 being set in a desert. (The desert is World 3 instead.)
  • The Witness: The caves underneath the island that are accessed through a passage at the bottom of the mountain.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a number of mines and underground cities to explore, usually infested with weapon-eating golems and corrisive blobs.
  • Avernum: The first two games take place entirely underground, and there are underground parts in all the others.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The Saecelium Mine and the starting cave.
  • A great many locations in Breath of Fire qualify, especially the majority of the early-game dungeons.
  • Chrono Trigger features places like Heckran's Cave, the Reptite Lair, and the ruins of the Tyranno Lair as underground locales.
  • Dark Souls has the Catacombs and the Tomb of the Giants.
  • Dungeon Siege has many, MANY underground caverns that need to be traversed. These range from standard limestone tunnels to ice crevasses to breathtaking crystal caverns to desert badlands to dragon nests to molten lava tunnels.
  • The majority of strata in the Etrian Odyssey series are technically placed in underground floors (the trope is inverted in the second and fifth games, because you're going up instead of down). However, only the following ones show the setting proper:
    • Golden Lair in Legends of the Titan is a rocky labyrinth located within the cold Sacred Mountains, serving as the third stratum. In each floor, there are red hot scales expelled from the Boiling Lizard (the boss), but they can be excised with Ice Stakes. However, also in each floor, there's a larger-than-usual stake whose removal will restore the whole floor to its original low temperature, freezing the water in the process and allowing the player's characters to slide through them. It is home to the Sentinels, who ask you to get rid of the Boiling Lizard and find a cure to an ancient illness; they eventually lend their services to Tharsis (which leads to the availability of the Bushi class of combatants). The Golden Lair returns in Etrian Odyssey Nexus as a Nostalgia Level and, besides retaining its gimmick and boss, it adds the ice block puzzles from the second game's Frozen Grounds as well as a Mini-Boss from that game.
    • The Mini-Dungeon locations in the Sacred Mountains are Underground Levels, but each of them has its own gimmick: The Cramped Nest is a small maze with sharp, spiky walls, only some of which can be traversed (trying to get through the others will cause pain to the characters, reducing their HP). The Toxic Cave has F.O.E. that vomit harmful poison to the floor (this is actually good if the poison falls over gathering spots, as it's the only way to obtain a kind of material that is unobtainable otherwise). Lastly, the Underground Lake is a maze made of ice walls that can be melted once the central spot's chalice is lit with the Empire's Black Flame.
    • Beyond the Myth has the Lucent Hollows, a cerulean crystal cave filled with rocks that can be shattered with a special pickaxe that is crafted by the game's resident shopkeeper (he requires a material found in this very place for that, though). The stratum also has large crystals that transport the explorers from one spot to another.
    • Nexus features, alongside a revamped Golden Lair, two underground mini-dungeons: Seditious Colony (a cave that has been plagued by Ants originated from the Ant Queen), and Frigid Lake (a Slippy-Slidey Ice World cavern filled with frozen water and ice blocks).
  • The Fallout series has featured underground areas from the beginning, ranging from the buried Vaults and their entrance tunnels to mines and abandoned subways.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI has the optional dungeon of The Ancient Castle, which can only be accessed through the tunneling castle, Figaro.
    • Final Fantasy VII has the Mithril Mines, with glowing green rocks.
    • Final Fantasy IX has the Ice Cavern, Fossil Roo, and Gargan Roo.
    • Final Fantasy XI has quite a few areas like this: Gustav Tunnel, Kuftal Tunnel, Korroloka Tunnel, Sea Serpent Grotto, Ordelle's Caves, and Aydeewa Subterrane. And yes, there does seem to be glowing fungi in that last one.
    • Final Fantasy XII has a bunch of these, including the Lhusu mines, Barheim Passage, the Henne Mines, the Sochen Cave Palace, and Zertinan Caverns. One may or may not also include Giruvegan, as the paths and platforms are man-made.
    • Final Fantasy XIII had the Mah'habara Subterra, a network of tunnels dug for whatever reason by the fal'Cie Atomos under the Gran Pulse.
    • Final Fantasy XIV features several, notably in the form of Sastasha, the Tam-Tara Deepcroft, Copperbell Mines, the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak, Cutter's Cry, Dzemael Darkhold, and Aurum Vale.
  • The Underworld in Kingdom Hearts II is half this and half Big Boo's Haunt.
  • Monster Hunter introduces the Sunken Hollow in the fourth generation of games. Only the resting area takes plaxe outdoors, while the rest of the areas are several meters underground. Monsters like Tetsucabra, Nerscylla and Rathian roam the place. At one point during the story of Monster Hunter 4, the volcanic activity in all of Harth is restored, thus turning this hunting zone into Lethal Lava Land and becoming the Volcanic Hollow.
  • Too many in the Pokémon games to name them all:
    • Each mainline game seems to feature at least 3, at least one is an ice cave, and another one is pitch black and requires the Flash power to navigate with any accuracy. Victory Road is always among them, however. Wherever you are, expect to find plenty of Zubats, Geodudes, their evolved forms, or whatever batlike or rocklike Pokemon are native to the region.
    • Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum have a set of underground passages filled with treasure that spans the entire region. There are no wild Pokemon, but it's the best place to get items in... any of the games, really.
    • Relic Passage in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 is also notable. It connects Driftveil City to Castelia's sewers, Desert Resort (it's the only way into the Relic Castle then) and Twist Mountain. It lets you ride mining carts in some tunnels and also contains the chamber with the three Golems from Gen III, though you need the key from the opposite game for the final Golem. The biggest annoyance aside from how easy it is to get lost is that some areas have higher-level Boldore that have access to Explode.
    • Terminus Cave in Pokémon X and Y, home of Zygarde.
    • As for the console games, Pokémon Colosseum has the Under, a former mine where many of Pyrite Town's residents fled to after the town's normal state of semi-lawlessness escalated to chaos due to Team Cipher coming to town. It's closed off in Pokémon XD to keep any other criminal activity from going on in it.
    • This is the entirety of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, and all the other FushigiNoDungeon games, for that matter. You do have some areas that take place aboveground, but all the main action happens in underground caverns, hence the 'dungeon' title.
    • Pokémon Snap has the Cave stage, but the Factory stage is underground as well as an Eternal Engine.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has the Deep Roads, which contain equal amounts of caverns and ruined dwarf strongholds. Also That One Level for many players, though the abundance of great loot (two of the best sets of armor in the game, and several top-quality weapons, can be found down there) can help make up for it.
  • The first Ultima Underworld game in its entirety.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Procedurally and Randomly Generated Levels present in Arena and Daggerfall lead to this frequently. Dungeons of all sorts entered on the ground level tend to have staircases leading you down, and down, into the underground dungeon depths.
    • Morrowind:
      • Morrowind does away with the previous games' random and procedural generation, but still has plenty of ruins and tombs which take you underground, many of which are quite extensive. In particular are the Dwemer ruins, whose cultural epicenter was build into and around Red Mountain.
      • The Tribunal expansion restricts you to only one part of the stated-to-be massive capital city of Mournhold, though it has extensive ruins (both city sewers as well as Dwemer and Daedric ruins) that run beneath it.
    • Oblivion keeps the series trend alive with plentiful underground Ayleid ruins as well as caves and Abandoned Mines.
    • Skyrim alone has regular caves and mines (often serving as dens for bandits, Falmer, vampires, etc.), ancient Nordic burial tombs, and subterranean fortresses guarded by machines that were built by their long-since-vanished Dwemer masters. There's even a wide-open cavern deep underground connecting three Dwemer fortresses, once the location of the Dwemer city of Blackreach.
  • The first and second chapters of the Hordes of the Underdark expansion for Neverwinter Nights are (except for the very start) spent underground.

    Shoot 'Em Ups 
  • The TurboGrafx-16 game Dead Moon has a Moon cave stage, though the underground environment here has little significance except parallax-scrolling stalactites.
  • Star Fox has one of these in the planet Macbeth, which is explained away as a planet where the core shrunk due to strange experiments by Andross.
  • All of Touhou Project: Subterranean Animism is like this, as the plot requires the characters to investigate a disturbance coming from the underground. Except the extra stage, which revisits a location from the previous game. note 

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Dwarf Fortress: Extensive cavern systems are procedurally generated during world creation. They’re dotted with groves of giant mushrooms that can be cut for lumber and home to tribes of primitive animal people that will more likely than not attack your dwarves with poisoned spears and blowguns, and a variety of wildlife ranging from regular cave critters to some very weird monsters to truly terrifying creatures like giant cave spiders and cave dragons, and the occasional Forgotten Beast. They’re split into three levels, with increasingly dangerous wildlife the deeper you go, and below the third level there’s a world-spanning magma sea, home to various fire elementals.
  • Minecraft: Procedurally generated caverns span the entire game world, getting larger and more interconnected the deeper one goes. Small, solitary surface caverns are easily converted into homes, while the deeper cavern systems provide easy access to lava and rare ores. Cave exploration is not without danger—the mazelike passages and enormous size of the deep caverns make them very easy to get lost in, sudden drop-offs to hard stone or lava pools are common and difficult to spot, and the total darkness complicates both problems, while also meaning that monsters are everywhere. And they’re the only place where bats are found.
  • Terraria: Everything between the Green Hill Zone at the top of the map and the Lethal Lava Land the bottom is this, except for the Underground Jungle and the Dungeon.

    Unsorted 
  • As with the aforementioned source material, The Fellowship Of The Ring has the Mines of Moria, which are extremely long.
  • Young Merlin has a cave system with mine carts. There are passages everywhere between various cave entrances—you just step in the entrance and get transported to a different cave entrance somewhere else. Unless you step into the cave entrance and get killed by a bunch of creatures with evil eyes (the only thing you ever see).
  • The Hollow from Primal Rage.
  • The entire setting of Manic Miner.
  • Sector 5 of Jumper Two is an underground cave which Ogmo fell into while asleep.
  • Rock Raiders. The entire game is an Underground Level.
  • Huge chunks of the Gears of War franchise.
  • Stage 5 (Maclonna Mine) in Moon Crystal.
  • Psycho Fox has two: Stage 5 (Underground Passageway) and Stage 7 (Underground Cavern).
  • In Sly Spy, the sixth level is in a cavern leading to an underground hideout.
  • Terranigma has a cavernous dungeon inside the Ra Tree.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends features Thunder Rift, an massive underground cavern full of waterfalls, natural land bridges, with rocks raining down from the hole in the cavern ceiling. It's large enough to justify Future Copter factories and repair facilities.

 
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Mystic Cave Zone

After braving the subsurface magma chambers of Hill Top Zone's volcanoes, Sonic now descends deeper underground to the dark, yawning caverns beneath West Side Island's mountain range. Mystic Cave features moss-covered rocks and dangling plant tendrils within these dimly-lit subterranean spaces. Impassable walls can be lowered to form convenient bridges if you are sharp-eyed enough to spot the hidden switches within the slimy vines that hang from the ceiling.

Dr. Robotnik has deployed a variety of fiendish Badniks within the caves to slow our heroes down. Crawlton snake-bots are particularly frightening; like a scaled down version of Gigalopolis Zone's Bead Worm Boss, the blue-yellow segmented worms spring out at you from hidden nooks, with their heads being the only weak point. Flasher firefly-bots hover around enveloped in forcefields of light and the only way to destroy them is to wait until the shield peters out.

The second act is notorious for having a particular part in which the player must grab a vine or else drop into an inescapable pit of spikes, which would be troublesome even for Super Sonic. However, in the 2013 re-release of the game, the spikes were removed to reveal a special secret passage underneath a wide drop: Hidden Palace Zone.

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