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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.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Appears in Transformers Armada. It's Atlantis, and was actually destroyed by a plot device.
  • Early in StrikerS Sound Stage X, Subaru mentions an underwater ruin that was uncovered when the Marine Garden was being built. It could be seen from the Crystal Valley underwater tunnel. It's really romantic, the color's really blue and very beautiful, and it becomes very important later as it turns out that the Dark King Ixpellia is sleeping there.
  • In Lupin III:
    • The Castle of Cagliostro: These turn out to be the treasure of the Cagliostro country, revealed after the lake's water level drops due to a dam break.
    • Lupin III Elusiveness Of Fog: Exploring the ruined tower at the beginning of the movie also helps Lupin figure out what he has to do in the past.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • There was some of this in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Not much, the "underwater" set wasn't particularly elaborate, but it was implied.
  • In the Black Lake during the second task in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, there's ruins of the underwater mermaid city.
  • In Big Game, Air Force One becomes this, as it's wreck lands in a lake and the heroes end up taking refuge aboard.
  • 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.

  • In Esteban Ruquet's Conciencia y Voluntad, most of the coastal cities are buried underwater after the climatic change. This generate a lot of underwater ruins, explored by searchers and adventurers.
  • In Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the ruins of Atlantis.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
  • Subverted in Terry Pratchett's Jingo, where it turns out that the ornate ruins on the ascended isle of Leshp were constructed underwater by Curious Squid, not above-water by people.
  • Underwater Ruins were the source of the outbreak in World War Z. Patient Zero was a boy who had been diving for valuables with his father in the 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 is implied by the authorities' reaction that the reservoir was created in the first place to attempt to cover up the (probably bioweapons) site.
  • Dinotopia by James Gurney has the ruins of Poseidos (read: Atlantis).
  • Lael Littke's short story Lucinda in Thirteen 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.
  • Part of Dream Park takes place in a simulation of the underwater ruins of Los Angeles. A minor character comments "This is real. I have been diving here."

    Tabletop Games 
  • A few blue-related Magic: The Gathering cards feature these, including the Land card Academy Ruins, pictured above.

  • 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 
  • In addition to your standard underwater caves and shipwrecks, Edward Kenway in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag 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.
  • Blaster Master - The underwater world of Level 5 has some "Atlantis" like pillars for background.
  • In Banjo-Tooie, the Atlantis section of Jolly Roger's Lagoon.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Endless Ocean has one as a bonus area.
    • The sequel has some as regular areas.
  • In Final Fantasy I, 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.
  • In Final Fantasy III, There's the Temple of Time near the continent of Saronia, underwater.
  • In Final Fantasy X, these crop up quite a bit. Able to be explored because three of the main characters seem to be able to hold their breath indefinitely (justified because two of them play underwater sports for a living and the latter is a thief).
  • In Guild Wars 2 the original Lion's Arch is underwater following the rise of Orr. Many structures in Orr also remain submerged.
  • The Lost Precursor City in Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy.
  • The Water Ruin planet in Jet Force Gemini looks exactly how it sounds.
  • In La-Mulana, The Spring In The Sky, in which you had to swim through the water (thus, deliberately take damage) to get the underwater breathing item.
  • 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 the sequel, the lower part of Torvus - 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.
    • The Wrecked Ship in Super Metroid is similar to Prime's, except without the awesome music.
  • Ristar has ALL of Planet Undertow like this.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series seems fond of this:
  • Star Fox 64's Aquas, which 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.
  • In 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.
    • Another example from the Warcraft universe: 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.
      • Should be pointed out that by the time we encounter any of the 'Sunken Ruins' locations in TFT, 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.
  • Wario Land II had the very aptly named "Ruins at the Bottom of the Sea" as a secret world/level.
  • In XCOM Terror From The Deep, you shot down alien craft all over the world, then went to capture or kill them. This happened around underwater ruins an awful lot. The Atlateans must have had a global civilization.
    • A similar example from the same game. 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.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the old kingdom of Hyrule gets submerged underwater.
  • zOMG! features ruins of Gambino's Tower as a major part of the Undersea Cliffs, and as a portion of the SeaLab Compound zone
  • Atlantis sank at the end of the campaign in Age of Mythology, 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.
  • In the Hunt has a stage like this where your submarine is chased upwards by a giant living statue.
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, unsurprisingly enough.
  • The underwater indie game Aquaria naturally has a lot of these, mostly acting as dungeons.
  • Centaur Man's stage in Mega Man 6.
  • Slimy Spring Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
  • Panzer Dragoon Saga 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.
  • American McGee's Alice has the Vale of Tears. It's an Under the Sea level with Underwater Ruins.
  • In Pokémon Black and White, there's the underwater Abyssal Ruins by Undella Bay.
  • 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.
  • Resident Evil: Revelations: the Queen Dido
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Snoopy's 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 stone men that resemble Linus, and fish. The boss of this world is King Totem.
  • Atlantis II has the main character visit the ruins of Atlantis near the end of the game.
  • 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 uses a different material.
  • 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.
  • The final battle against Dural in Virtua Fighter 2 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.
  • In Starbound, ocean planets often have the underwater ruins of an abandoned Hylotl city, making them a good source for cultural artifacts.
  • Used as the settings for Bricks Of Atlantis. You even get to destroy some.
  • Uranus in Warframe 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.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama has the lost city of Atlanta, GA.
  • Little-known film Samson and Sally had brief references to Atlantis. Later in the film, Samson (a whale - most characters were marine animals) traveled to "the city man built" in order to find Moby Dick. This city is apparently a sunken New York.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy Billy inadvertently destroys Atlantis.
  • Similarly, Cosmo of The Fairly OddParents! 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 (to get cool pictures for a school history report or something), he ends up having to rescue Cosmo from their revenge/justice by proving they were actually better off safe and secluded under the ocean.
  • The sunken island of Quetso in Flipper and Lopaka.
  • In 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 Yonaguni Monument and temples of Mahabalipuram, but they are rarely more than a few sunken structures.
  • Similarly to the Quabbin Reservoir example (Literature), 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.


Example of: