Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games


Posted October 12, 2011 - By Brittany Vincent

Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games

What is it with developers always including a sewer level in their game? You’ve hit the midway point in the game you’re currently playing. Your abilities have grown substantially since the beginning and you nabbed the save before heading into the obligatory Basement of Doom. Who knows what waits down there, eh? Off to save the Beautiful Childhood Friend who’s been kidnapped by your Nefarious Nemesis? It’s dark down there. Probably some sort of hideous monstrosity awaits you. Oh, and lots of ammo or potions. Or rats. You descend into the inky darkness, pumped and prime for action, and familiar green water, steel pipes, and lighting greets you at the bottom. Yep. Another sewer. Filled with rats. You know there’s gonna be mazes.

Welcome to one of the most rampant video game tropes to have ever existed: sewers. Seemingly always popping up in the most inappropriate of places, even if it makes sense within the context of the plot, sewers can always be counted on to aggravate and obfuscate you into rage-quitting and tossing your controller into the wall. Whether it’s forcing you to navigate convoluted mazes or face enemies that inflict maddening status effects, sewers always seem to have evil ways of getting under your skin. Here are five of them, just in case you needed a reason to bathe your monitor in coffee out of pure rage.

Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games

Endless Mazes

It’s not enough to force you and your party into catacombs and sewers riddled with human waste. No, devs want to give you a “challenge.” So to make sure you feel adequately stimulated, they often toss in a million and one passageways, hidden switches, and dead ends to ensure you spend the glut of your time in the disgusting tunnels utterly out of your mind with confusion. You want a map? Too bad. You’re left to wander around aimlessly until by some miracle you manage to seek out daylight or the very last key item required to pass on. Never mind the fact there are plenty of ladders lying in wait – you aren’t to use that obvious, logical passageway. You’re meant to forever wander through these rank waterways until by some miracle an exit is found – that is, if you haven’t already given up and moved on to something a bit less irritating. Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us.

Notable Examples: Every video game with a waterway and/or sewer, for the most part. A sampling includes: Final Fantasy VIII, Xenogears, Batman: Arkham Asylum, City of Heroes, and Parasite Eve, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games

Status Effects

Once you’ve got a slight idea of how the never-ending network of tunnels and passageways you’re trapped within works, then the status effects are thrown your way. You’re usually wading around in some sort of waste or toxic environment, so if you’re not already facing deformed and disgusting creatures, you’re faced with noxious fumes or poison attacks that leave a lasting mark on your party in the form of deteriorating health and/or limited exploration due to the fact that you know, you’re human, and can’t be breathing in all of those chemicals. When you’re chugging through any RPG and start opening chests only to find Antidotes or Elixirs, you know you’re in for a world of hurt. Think a horde of Zubats descending on your helpless form in the dank, foul-smelling darkness, or walking through a translucent cloud of smog, and you’ve got the idea. Who thought this was a good idea again?

Notable Examples: Pokémon, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Half-Life 2

Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games

It’s Too Dark!

Hey, who turned off the lights? Not only are you doomed to wander around in filth, getting lost at every turn, but sensory deprivation is apparently in full effect in most sewer areas. You’d think at the very least you could rely on a flashlight for situations like these, but that’s typically not the case. If this were real life, you might just lie down and let the sewer water carry you away to whatever aqueduct would be eventually waiting for your bloated corpse. But you want to at least see the adventure through to the end, so you Google a sewer map, equip a dim torch, or memorize the area. Anything to get through the God-awful darkness. No one blames you for cheating. A sewer level and then being plunged into a pitch-black hell is a recipe for a disc change, at least for me. I know it’s meant to ramp up the tension, but these are video games. Video? As in I need to see what’s going on? Thanks, devs!

Notable Examples: Silent Hill, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Silent Hill: Homecoming


A Case of the Blahs

Modern shooters are infamous for their rust red, brown, and gray color schemes. In comparison to sewers, they may as well be Rainbow Brite. Sewers are monochrome, gray, black, ebony, and devour-your-soul drab. This isn’t the most annoying thing in the world, true, but when you’re ready to get up out of these mind-numbingly boring sections, it doesn’t help that every door, ladder, and tunnel looks exactly the same. When it all begins to blur together like teenagers at a Hot Chelle Rae concert, there’s a problem. Next time I need an interlocking network of sewer tunnels and waterways, I’m hiring the best interior decorator I can find.

Notable Examples: Every sewer. In every game. Ever.

Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games

Annoying Abominations

Mammoth rats, mutated soldiers, and a gaggle of genetically-altered creatures can always be counted on to be dwelling down in the depths of each waterway. Not only is there an abundance of these shady creatures, but they’re often immune to certain elements or insanely overpowered. Too often they won’t even match the environment you’re traipsing through, and they’ll be able to fell you and/or your companions in a few brutal hits. Then you’re sent back to square one. And we all know how fun that is.

Notable Examples: Summoner,X-Men Legends,Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines

Sewers: Making your digital life miserable since the dawn of time. But they’re not the only in-game annoyances we can think of. What’s a common video game theme that annoys the heck out of you?

Brittany Vincent is a freelance writer who routinely eviscerates virtual opponents and tempts fate by approaching wayward Zoloms. A connoisseur of all things bloody and bizarre, she's available to chat via Twitter @MolotovCupcake, and is always ready to take on new projects. You can peruse her archived work at PfhortheWin.com

Top image courtesy: mojorider2

Why Does It Have To Be Sewers? Down The Drain In Video Games


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