Follow TV Tropes


Underwater Ruins

Go To
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.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Macross: Do You Remember Love? has the sunken Protoculture city on Earth, that may or may not have inspired the legends of Atlantis. Hikaru and Misa are able to raise it, only to have the Zentradi and Meltrandi raze it shortly thereafter.
  • StrikerS Sound Stage X: Early in, 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.
  • Transformers Armada: The flooded ruins of Atlantis appear, and are later destroyed by a plot device.


    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.

    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 
  • Big Game: Air Force One becomes this, as its wreck lands in a lake and the heroes end up taking refuge aboard.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Final Fantasy:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 Prime:
    • The firs game 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • 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 Atlateans 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Alexandria's harbor is is just littered with ruins that have fallen into the sea/been dumped there. Some of these stones are thought to be large that they only could have come from Alexandria's legendary light house.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Aquatic Ruin Zone

A crumbling, semi-submerged stonework ruin, this Zone sports a couple of main terrain features that make it unique compared to the others. Water, for one; the movement speed underwater is much slower, so be prepared. Like with the Mega Mack from Chemical Plant Zone, if the player stays underwater for too long, Sonic will eventually drown. To avoid drowning, stand near a small pile of Air Bubbles on the ground and wait for a big bubble to rise. There are also alternate paths on the surface to avoid the water altogether.<br><br>The ancient stone pillars that lie dotted around Aquatic Ruin will rise up when you approach them and you must jump on them to destroy them. Aside from the underwater sections, the other main obstacles are pillars with Dr Robotnik's face embedded on them. Their eyes will flash red when the player approaches them and after passing them, they will fire an arrow that flies horizontally and are usually dangerous in large numbers.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / UnderwaterRuins

Media sources:

Main / UnderwaterRuins