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Underwater Ruins

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Its secrets once wrought the greatest artifice ever known. Now crabs loot the rubble to decorate their shells.

Staple of Video Games and undersea films, the Underwater Ruins are a city, temple, ship, or similar place of majestic wonder submerged Under the Sea or a lake. Typically, the ruins will be Greco-Roman in appearance (lots of columns and arches) to evoke an Atlantis-like catastrophe. Usually these ruins will be artfully decayed but remarkably well preserved. This setting is a Hailfire Peaks of Under the Sea and Temple of Doom.

You might see mer-people living in the ruins, or an actual domed city for air-breathers to live in nearby or hidden in the ruins. Expect to find areas with breathable air regardless for heroes to take a breather in.

Intrepid Travelers Beware! These ruins are sometimes subject to Down the Drain. For partially submerged cities see Sunken City. For boss fights in video games that take place within these, see Underwater Boss Battle.


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    Anime & Manga 


    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: A few Blue cards feature these, including the land card Academy Ruins, depicting the flooded remnants of the wizards' school that once stood on the coast of Terisiare.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Overlapping with Landmark of Lore, the Yonaguni Monument is barely recognizable on the surface as a built structure rather than a natural formation, until you delve inside it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Samson and Sally, a film about marine animals, has brief references to Atlantis. Later in the film, Samson travels to "the city man built" in order to find Moby Dick. This city is apparently a sunken New York.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman: King Atlan's tomb is located in the middle of an extensive tract of undersea ruins - probably the lost original city of the Atlanteans, although that's never stated outright.
  • Big Game: Air Force One becomes this, as its wreck lands in a lake and the heroes end up taking refuge aboard.
  • For Your Eyes Only: There isn't much seen, as the "underwater" set isn't particularly elaborate, but it's implied.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), the title character makes his lair in a sunken metropolis that has somehow wound up in a crevasse deep within the Hollow Earth. It was built by an ancient, forgotten civilization who worshipped him - and the other kaiju - as gods.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: During the second task, the contestants diving into the Black Lake pass through ruins of the underwater mermaid city.
  • In the Italian B-Movie Island Of The Fish Men, Richard Johnson is trying to excavate the ruins of one of these, just off the eponymous island. It's implied to be the ruins of Atlantis, naturally.
  • The fight between Ultraman Tiga and Darramb in Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey takes place in a set of ruins underneath R'lyeh Island, which looks a lot like Atlantis. Likely intentional, given the show's several Shout Outs towards the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Waterworld: The flooded ruins of a modern city are seen underwater when the Mariner shows Helen where he gets his dirt from. Presumably, there are a lot more than just that one beneath the oceans that now cover the entire Earth.

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: The Nautilus comes across the ruins of Atlantis, now deep beneath the oceans.
  • Conciencia y Voluntad: Most of the coastal cities are left underwater due to climate change. This generate a lot of underwater ruins, explored by searchers and adventurers.
  • Cthulhu Mythos:
  • Demons of the Deep takes place in the ruins of Atlantis, where the hero, upon being cast into the waters after getting captured by pirates, lands in a magic circle that allows him to survive underwater for a single day.
  • Dinotopia by James Gurney has the ruins of Poseidos (read: Atlantis).
  • Dream Park: Part of the story takes place in a simulation of the underwater ruins of Los Angeles. A minor character comments "This is real. I have been diving here."
  • Jingo: Subverted. It turns out that the ornate ruins on the ascended isle of Leshp were constructed underwater by Curious Squid, not above-water by people.
  • "Lucinda", by Lael Littke, concerns the disappearance of the aforementioned Lucinda six years prior to the story's beginning. It's believed that Lucinda's body was hidden in the remains of what used to her hometown, Lake Isadora, after the buildings were moved and the remaining foundations flooded to create the new lake. The main character and her brother (Lucinda's ex-boyfriend) return to the lake after it had dried up.
  • In The Mer, one large Mer settlement is in the remains of an Aztec city on an island that sank after an earthquake and tsunami.
  • The Merman's Children: The island city of Averorn was drowned long ago by a hungry kraken who was angry that the townspeople had stopped making their usual sacrifices. Tauno, Eyjan, and Kennin travel there in the cog Herning to loot the ruins. Most buildings have completely collapsed, but a few structures are still partly standing, including a roofless house where a skeleton tries to shelter two others. The siblings are delighted to see burst-open vaults of gold and jewels.
  • World War Z: Underwater ruins are the source of the outbreak. Patient Zero was a boy who had been diving for valuables with his father in a drowned township at the bottom of a Chinese reservoir. He returned to the surface with a bite wound and a death sentence for a large proportion of the human race, and his father never returned at all. It's implied by the authorities' reaction that the reservoir was created in the first place to attempt to cover up the (probably bioweapons) site.

  • The Debussy piano piece "La Cathedrale Engloutie" (The Submerged Cathedral), based on a Breton legend.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cerulean Seas: The ruins of the drylander cities, broken and drowned in The Great Flood that covered the world in endless oceans, are still scattered around the sea bed for intrepid spelunkers to explore.

  • In BIONICLE, the Pit was once a mighty undersea prison meant for the worst criminals of the universe, but after the Great Cataclysm shattered the walls and flooded the place, it turned into these after 1000 years. Also, the surviving inmates are still around, mutated by the waters of the ocean into half-aquatic monsters that fight for survival in a prison even more inescapable than their old one.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Mythology: Atlantis sank at the end of the campaign, but you end up having to go back in the expansion. It just hasn't sunk very far yet, so there are a lot of ruins that are just under the surface, and a lot of areas shallow enough to wade through.
  • American McGee's Alice has the Vale of Tears. It's an Under the Sea level with Underwater Ruins.
  • Aquaria naturally has a lot of these, mostly acting as dungeons.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: In addition to your standard underwater caves and shipwrecks, Edward can use a diving bell to explore some underwater ruins in the West Indies Sea, primarily Mayan in origin. Some other ruins in the overworld are also partially submerged.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Tales has the main character visit the ruins of Atlantis near the end of the game.
  • Banjo-Tooie: Much of the underwater parts of Jolly Roger's Lagoon is an Atlantis-like ruin, in contrast to the nautical port town on the surface.
  • Blaster Master: The underwater world of Level 5 has some "Atlantis" like pillars for background.
  • Bricks Of Atlantis: Used as the settings. You even get to destroy some.
  • The second half of "The Storm" from Castle of Illusion is set in an ancient ruin that occassionally gets flooded. The remake even has a statue of Donald Duck for some unexplained reason. The boss of the level is a group of Merpeople that hold the Yellow Rainbow Gem.
  • Demon's Crest had one level that was split into above-water ruins and underwater ruins. By playing through the above-water section, you could acquire the Crest of Water, which gave you a form that lacked Super Drowning Skills and let you complete the underwater section.
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has some rather Atlantean-looking ruins in the Sea Breeze Cove world. This being a pretty light-on-story game, their history is unexplained. The first world, Lost Mangrove, is a partially-submerged Derelict Graveyard of shipwrecks and crashed planes, overgrown with vegetation.
  • In Ecco the Dolphin, played to the letter with the ruins of Atlantis.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The series' lore includes the sunken continent of Yokuda, home to the ancestors of the Redguards. According to popular myth, it was "sunk beneath the sea" by a renegade band of Ansei, "sword saints" who could form swords out of their own spirits called "Shehai", using a Dangerous Forbidden Technique known as the "Pankratosword", which they could use as a Fantastic Nuke. (Other accounts state that the likely cause was a much more natural type of disaster.)
    • Morrowind:
      • Mudan Grotto, off the coast of Ebonheart, leads to a long forgotten Dwemer ruin which contains the legendary Dragonbone Cuirass and a funny Easter Egg.
      • Boethiah's shrine is off the west coast of Vvardenfell. Some time ago, it was swallowed by the ocean. You can get a quest from the Daedric Prince himself there to build him a new shrine.
    • The Oblivion expansion Knights of the Nine adds an underwater Ayleid ruin where one of the artifacts was stored. For being underwater for so long, it still has a good amount of breathable air.
  • In Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy: The Underwater Temple, home to one of the game's Cosmic Keystones. You can apparently breathe there, too, thanks to some Applied Phlebotinum called oxyale.
    • Final Fantasy III: There's the Temple of Time near the continent of Saronia, underwater.
    • Final Fantasy X: These crop up quite a bit and can be explored — three of the main characters seem to be able to hold their breath indefinitely — two of them play underwater sports for a living, at least.
    • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates has the ruins of Rela Cyel, a Magitek facility used to control water levels in the lake. Much of it is flooded, but there are still enough controls functioning for the party to make their way through. The place is intact when they later visit its past, but retains the same mechanics for flooding and emptying rooms in order to progress.
  • Folklore has an entire section of the Netherworld (essentially a level) made up of eerie abandoned ruins under the sea, said to be crumbling away into oblivion due to human disbelief in an underwater afterlife.
  • Gaia Online: zOMG! features ruins of Gambino's Tower as a major part of the Undersea Cliffs, and as a portion of the SeaLab Compound zone
  • Guild Wars 2: The original Lion's Arch is underwater following the rise of Orr. Many structures in Orr also remain submerged.
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, unsurprisingly enough.
  • In the Hunt has a stage like this where your submarine is chased upwards by a giant living statue.
  • Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy: The Lost Precursor City is an abandoned underwater location with some Shark Tunnel motifs. It's still largely intact, with many of the machines still functioning, but it has been overrun by Lurkers, and the local machinery makes up for really dangerous hazards.
  • Jet Force Gemini: The Water Ruin planet is exactly what it sounds like.
  • La-Mulana: The Spring in the Sky, in which you had to swim through the water (and thus deliberately take damage) to get the underwater breathing item.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: In the game's ending, the old kingdom of Hyrule gets submerged underwater.
  • Metroid:
    • Super Metroid has the Wrecked Ship, a more science fictiony take on this. It's a mysterious spacecraft that crashed into the watery section of Crateria's surface that is full of dormant robots and ghosts.
    • The first Metroid Prime features the ruins of the frigate from the beginning of the game about 3/4 submerged in water (accompanied by a beautiful piano song).
    • In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, the lower part of Torvus Bog — a ruined, sunken temple, with a remix of Red Brinstar from Super Metroid. Dark Aether's version doesn't have nearly as much water, but is MUCH creepier and even more derelict.
  • Minecraft has two sorts of underwater ruins:
    • Underwater Monuments are sprawling temple complex of green stone populated by Guardians that can only be found in the deep ocean.
    • A more common variant consists of small clusters of partially destroyed buildings that vary in material depending on the type of ocean they are found in. One of these structures even mimics the Underwater Monument in shape, though it uses a different material.
  • Monster Hunter 3 (Tri): Sunken beneath the waters that surround Moga Village and the Deserted Island are the Underwater Ruins, which once belonged to a now-extinct civilization. It is where Ceadeus, an Elder Dragon that is threatening the peace of Moga's inhabitants lies, and the player's character has to repel it during battle. In 3 Ultimate, it's possible to find the subspecies Goldbeard Ceadeus, as well as Abyssal Lagiacrus, here as well during G Rank.
  • Panzer Dragoon has the ruins of Uru — you and your dragon fly over what few bits are tall enough to poke out of the water, then you wind up temporarily losing said dragon and explore a vast underwater laboratory.
  • In Phantasy Star III one NPC points out an underwater temple to you when you pass by it on a boat ride to an early quest, but it's not until near the end of the game that you actually get to go there with the help of a Transforming Mecha to get Orakio's Sword.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: The remakes have Sea Mauville, a former energy-extracting platform that failed, was closed down and partly sank underwater — some sections can only be explored using Dive — and is now kept as a natural reserve.
    • Pokémon Black and White: There's the underwater Abyssal Ruins by Undella Bay, which you can explore to scavenge relics to sell for large amounts of money.
  • In Psychonauts the battle with Linda the Lungfish takes place in the submerged ruins of Shaky Claim. It was a prospecting town until an insanity epidemic saw nearly the entire population committed and the valley flooded by the government.
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape: In the PS1 version, the Sanctuary of Water and Ice is located in an underwater cavern in Whale Bay.
  • Resident Evil: Revelations: the Queen Dido
  • Snoopys Grand Adventure: The second world, "Temple of Bunnies", takes place in an ancient flooded ruin, where the goal is to rescue Linus. Enemies in this world consist of fish and stone men that resemble Linus. The boss of this world is King Totem.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog seems fond of this:
    • The earliest example is Labyrinth Zone from the original game, a half-sunken ancient ruin filled with spears, floating platforms, piranha badniks, and stone bear heads that shoot fire, even when submerged. A Palette Swap of this level serves as the third act of Scrap Brain Zonenote .
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2:
      • Aquatic Ruin Zone in the Genesis version, which is an ancient half-sunken ruin filled with pillars that shoot spears, piranha badniks, floors that collapse when you walk across them, and pillars that can be destroyed with jump attacks. This level is somewhat easier than its predecessor, Labyrinth Zone, as the higher route is fully above the water.
      • Aqua Lake Zone in the Game Gear and Master System versions, which is filled with spears, crab and crawfish badniks, and giant bubbles that Sonic can float in. Sonic spends the entirety of the stage's second act underwater.
    • Tidal Tempest Zone from Sonic CD is an ancient half-sunken temple filled with pillars, pipes, and crawfish badniks.
    • Sonic Chaos has Aqua Planet Zone, which is filled with pillars, spears, and chick badniks. Like Aquatic Ruin Zone from the Genesis version of Sonic 2, Sonic or Tails can choose to stay above the water altogether by taking the upper path.
    • Hydrocity Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is partially an ancient half-sunken ruin, but it's also a vertical high-speed level filled with tubes and slopes. There are plenty of pufferfish, shark, and piranha badniks present in this level as well. Hydrocity would later return in Sonic Mania.
    • Blue Marine Zone in Sonic Blast is an icy underwater labyrinth where it's easy to lose track of where you are, particularly in Act 2. The level is also a huge maze of pipes, and perhaps its only saving grace is that these pipes provide oxygen.
    • In Sonic Adventure, Sonic's section of Lost World has Sonic come across a huge underwater temple with a stone python swimming in it. To escape the temple, Sonic needs to find the three switches that open the exit door, and he must also press switches that raise the water level so that he can ride the stone python to reach the three switches to the exit door. In a later section of the same level, Sonic must light up a darkened temple and avoid falling into the water below it, and when he escapes that, he slides down a water slide leading to the next temple.
    • Sonic Pocket Adventure has Aquatic Relix Zone, which essentially resembles an 8-bit version of Aquatic Ruin Zone from the Genesis version of Sonic 2. Like Aquatic Ruin, Sonic can choose to take the upper path to avoid the water altogether, though if you're looking for the optional puzzle pieces, you're gonna have to go underwater to find some of them. The level ends with a battle against Knuckles in an arena that resembles Hidden Palace Zone from Sonic and Knuckles.
  • In Starbound, ocean planets often have the underwater ruins of an abandoned Hylotl city, making them a good source for cultural artifacts.
  • Star Fox 64: Aquas was a once-thriving planet before a bioweapon (the stage's boss) submerged the entire planet underwater. The ruins from the previous inhabitants are still present, though limited mostly to pillars that act as magnets to your torpedoes.
  • Tales of Phantasia features Thor, a technologically advanced city that sunk into the sea 2 millennia ago when a meteor struck it. Being over 2000 years underwater hasn't stopped most of the technology thanks to the city being powered by Aska, who also keeps the city's dome under which the party can freely breath.
  • Virtua Fighter: The final battle against Dural in the second game takes place in one, and is unique in that it's the only stage in the whole series to be fought underwater. Moves and animations are executed much more slowly, and while they can be better telegraphed, it does not make Dural any easier to fight. But at least everyone comes with Super Not-Drowning Skills.
  • Warframe: Uranus has been terraformed into an ocean planet whose depths are now littered with Orokin ruins, which the Grineer are predictably scavenging for any advantage over their enemies.
  • Wario Land II had the very aptly named "Ruins at the Bottom of the Sea" as a secret world/level.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The sheer number of elven ruins in Ashenvale and Azhara is staggering; there is nary a body of water in these zones without a downed column, sunken arch, or pockmarked pillar in it. Massive earthquakes are to blame for all those night elf ruins underwater. Though they seem remarkably resistant to pressure and the ravages of 10,000 years. There are also ruins of a sunken Troll city off the coast of Stranglethorn Vale and sunken Titan ruins in the waters between Arathi and Wetlands.
    • There is also the Tomb of Sargeras. Heck, the terrain type that was used to make these maps for The Frozen Throne is named "Sunken Ruins" in the editor. Notably, however, whenever the "Sunken Ruins" are encountered, they've been raised from the ocean floor.
    • Cataclysm has the Sunken City of Vashj'ir and the town of Duskhaven in Gilneas, which gets flooded during the Worgen Starting zone because of the cataclysm.
  • XCOM Terror From The Deep:
    • You shoot down alien craft all over the world, then go to capture or kill them. This happens around underwater ruins an awful lot. The Atlanteans must have had a global civilization.
    • Occasionally, later in the game, the aliens will attempt to capture "Artefact Sites" in order to expand the range of their Molecular Control network. These sites are beneath ancient pyramid structures, and have a Used Future architecture.


    Western Animation 
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Cosmo sunk Atlantis... seven or eight times. Eventually the residents just gave up on living on the surface and evolved into mer-people. When Timmy wishes to visit Atlantis, he ends up having to rescue Cosmo from their revenge by proving that they're actually better off safe and secluded under the ocean.
  • Flipper and Lopaka: Beneath the surrounding ocean lies Quetzo, a sunken Millhouse island now home to many sea creatures, which unlike Illoka, has many modern influences. Lopaka, Flipper and their friends must work together to thwart the plans of the nefarious Dexter, an octopus wanting to claim Quetzo as his own
  • Futurama has the lost city of Atlanta, GA, which was moved to a floating island and eventually sank from the weight of excessive building. Its natives are still around, having become mermaids.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Billy inadvertently destroys Atlantis.
  • Scooby-Doo: Camp Scare: The lake in Camp Big Moose has the remnants of an old town, Moose Creek, sunken in it. It gets dried up by the bad guys.

    Real Life 
  • Subverted with ruins discovered off the coast of Zakynthos in Greece. What appeared to be ruins, including columns and courtyard stones, turned out to be totally natural phenomena caused by methane leaks and bacteria, that just happened to look shockingly like man-made ruins.
  • A few have been found in real life, such as the temples of Mahabalipuram, but they are rarely more than a few sunken structures.
  • Many towns along the Tennessee River were flooded by the construction of hydroelectric dams. Most of the buildings were demolished, but divers can still see the foundations of some. There are also many places where existing towns, or parts of them, were submerged by the construction of flood-control lakes and reservoirs in the late 20th century.
  • The Sunken Villages project documents the ruins of old towns visible in the St. Lawrence Seaway along the New York/Ontario border of the US and Canada. Instead of flooding due to hydroelectric dams, in this case it's because the river was expanded into the Seaway for shipping. The invasive zebra mussel "cleaned" algae out of the Seaway in recent years, turning the formerly murky waters clear and allowing easy aerial photography of the ruins (which are now mostly foundations and roads).
  • Look at the footage of RMS Titanic's interiors sometime (YouTube is just lousy with pirated documentaries). Even amongst the wreckage and ruin brought on by the sinking and a century under the waves, glimpses of the once grand glory can still be seen.
  • Alexandria's harbor is just littered with ruins that have fallen into the sea/been dumped there. Some of these stones are believed to be remnants of the legendary Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • The hydroelectric dams built on the Upper Nile have flooded, and most likely destroyed, a great many archaeological sites of the ancient Egyptian and Nubian civilizations.
  • Older Than Dirt: The oldest known sunken town is Pavlopetri in Greece, which was inhabited during the bronze age and is thought to have sunk around 1000 BCE. Areas around the Black Sea are dotted with sunken ruins. Some archeologists have speculated that the Black Sea may originally have been a lake with surfaces well below sea level that got flooded with seawater when it got connected with the Mediterranean.
  • That Other Wiki has a list of real sunken ruins here.


Diamond Island

An ancient diamond-shaped structure under the ocean

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