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Let's not go for a swim this time...

Stop falling in the death water!

Water with a tainted color (not blue) that harms or kills the character upon contact. Usually explained as water with some kind of toxin in it, or (shudder) not water at all.

It is a good way to make a video game character avoid pits of liquid without invoking Super Drowning Skills or going as far as Lava Pits. Usually appears in games with regular swimmable water as well. Sometimes it is possible to clear up the grimy water to make it swimmable. Rarely, just the surface causes injury [1]

Often involved in Rise to the Challenge levels, as well as Bubblegloop Swamp ones. The classic term, back before Duke Nukem 3D introduced swimming, was "hurt floor," since these areas were effectively just floors that dealt damage.

Not to be confused with Hazardous Water or Mucking in the Mud. See also Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid. Complete opposite of Healing Spring.

Examples of Grimy Water include:

Video game examples

Action Adventure

  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (although after you beat the boss, it becomes unpolluted)
    • Great Bay has a variation, where the ocean has become warmer and grown murky, meaning that going too far off into it without a guide causes Link to become lost (it's also apparently killing the fish and is dangerous to the Zora).
    • Also in Oracle of Ages.
  • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has purple water that hurts you when you touch it. It can be purified with the proper item, or just avoided with extremely judicious double jumping.
    • Or with the invincibility card combo.
    • Simon's Quest also has purple poisonous swamps.
  • Okami. In Tsuta Ruins, there is a very obvious (purple!) lake of poison water. Amaterasu's Exposition Fairy prompts her to draw a lily pad on the water, which is instantly destroyed. Once you destroy the totems that are polluting the water, it immediately clears.
    • The same purple water appears in other places as a course hazard. If Ammy falls in she dies instantly, with a howl that will haunt your dreams.
    • Later on there's a Womb Level where you have to use lily pads to move across a river of stomach acid. The acid functions just like water except rather than costing you a unit of health if you stay in too long it damages your health directly.
  • American McGee's Alice didn't have instakill water, but in the early stream levels a fish would eat you if you stayed in the water for more than a few seconds.
  • Lego Star Wars II: In a Tatooine level in Episode IV: A New Hope, there is an area dotted with moisture vaporators that has deadly pools of mud. A vaporator next to it, when activated, can suck the area dry and provide a walkable surface.
  • Lego Batman: there is regular water with is quite swimmable and of course grimy water with will kill you instantly. The bad water is actually green toxic waste and is accessible when you have unlocked certain characters that are immune to the toxins.
  • The purple water in the first act of ActRaiser's Bloodpool causes instant death, needless to say.
  • Subverted in La-Mulana, where the Chamber of Extinction has a pool of green water that behaves exactly the same as ordinary blue water, unlike the hot red water which merely works similarly.

Action Game

  • Tomb Raider loves insta-death water:
    • TR2 had green in one level and red in another. The red water was meant to be lava, despite it being... well, red water. Made worse by the fact that a) when you fell in it, you stood up and then keeled over and b) the very next level had proper instant burst-into-flames lava straight from the original TR.
    • TR3 had an annoying and possibly Nightmare Fuel variant, quicksand Lara sank very quickly unless it was a designated shallow spot, once submerged your breath meter went down very quickly, and the kicker? Lara was unable to climb out of the stuff.
    • Also, falling into regular water on a vehicle resulted in it exploding.
    • Once again in TR3, the penultimate level had stuff that... well, it sure didn't look like lava. More like bright gold paint. More like molten gold, given its effect on you.
      • Don't forget the subzero arctic waters in the end of the game. While you can swim in it, the hazardous cold water is only survivable for a few seconds. Once your exposure meter is depleted, then your health drains fairly quickly. If you dive under the water, the meters drain even faster.
    • Underworld has glowing blue (radioactive?) water in its final levels. Instant death if you so much as touch it.
      • This would be eitr, appropriate given the setting, and yes it is that deadly.
      • The first and last boss arenas in TR3 also have "fire water" that kills you if you touch it.
  • Evolva: Not the river water that appears in most levels, but the sea water that appears in levels 9 and 10. It drains life quite fast if you merely touch it, and diving into it causes instant death (in contrast to lava, which takes a few seconds to kill you). Oh, and the shield skill doesn't you protect you from it.

Adventure Game

  • King's Quest VI has a section with instant death water - entirely justified given the fact that it's in the Land of the Dead, and said death water is the water from the River Styx. King's Quest: Mask of Eternity also has instant death water in the Dimension of Death, along with harmful pools of blood in the same Dimension, plus toxic water from the Swamp (some of which is covering a small pond in Daventry). King's Quest II also had the swamp and lake surrounding the vampire's castle. Instant death for Graham if he swims it, so he has to find a way to hitch a ride.

First-Person Shooter

  • The Half-Life series has health-point-draining scummy green radioactive contaminated water. It is your HEV Suit that lets you survive contact as long as you get out fast. Radioactive waste is sometimes replaced with identical-looking biowaste. The difference is that while radioactive stuff triggers the Geiger counter and it does damage while you stand in it, biowaste has no audio warning and continues damaging for a while even after you leave it (and this damage is subtracted directly from your health, ignoring all armor). And of course there are the respective trefoil/biohazard signs on your HUD while you are being damaged. There is also an inversion—the healing puddles of goo on Xen.
  • Quake has both toxic waste and lava (which still behaves like water), as well as clear (and murky, but harmless) water.
  • In Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, the River of Souls (which is both its own level, an extends through a couple others) is legendary for deadly properties: anything that drinks from or falls in the water dies instantly. Towards the end of the game, you find out the river is polluted by discharge from the Big Bad's spaceship, and you are tasked with purifying it towards the end.
    • The Death Marshes also have killer quicksand, which looks similar to normal mud but has a greenish tint.
  • While green nukage and lava are always harmful in Doom and the extremely blue water is always harmless (the exception being a lonely, conveniently marked as toxic, blue water pool in Doom 1's Episode 3, level 3) , whether or not brown slime and blood are damaging varies depending on the whim of the level designer. Every so often a custom wad designer will be a really big asshole and make blue water dangerous, due to being radioactive coolant water for a reactor, electrified, or freezing cold, or, in an inversion, make what looks like nukage harmless (as just green water, most likely), a common sighting in the Plutonia megawad.
  • Duke Nukem 3D has puddles of radioactive waste that can be made walkable with a pair of special boots. Most of it isn't deep enough to be submerged, let alone swim. Strangely, if Duke dives into pools of waste that are deep enough, he loses oxygen (as if he is in water) instead of health.
  • Almost all bodies of liquid in Unreal Tournament either instantly kill players as soon as they fall in, or slowly damage them for as long as they're submerged. In some cases this is justified (lava in CTF-LavaGiant), in others not so much (the water in DM-KGalleon).
  • Three examples in Conduit 2. There's a small but lethal pool of glowing blue...stuff in the first level that is otherwise mostly for show. The levels in Atlantis have electrified water that is instantly fatal. And lastly, the China level has this quicksilver-like liquid that will also kill Mr. Ford on contact.
  • In Portal 2 the testing spheres in the old Enrichment Center are full of this at the bottoms.
    • Also, the first game contains pools that "will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. Good luck."
  • In addition to lava pits like in the first two games, Descent 3 has green acid/nukage that also damages your ship.


  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, up in the frozen lands of Fornost, going into the water instantly causes death, perhaps due to freezing. You can enter other water just fine, it's just the water in the arctic type area that is deadly. In the same game, Angmar has bright green water that is instantly fatal.
  • Guild Wars, where some water (mostly in Kryta, and then more often in Factions' Undercity) inflicts poison on you. Walking in actual sewer water (which is a dull bronze color), strangely, usually has no effect.
  • In World of Warcraft, swimming in green water such as the kind found in Undercity and several Scourge buildings used to cause damage overtime, though rather minor and very easy to get out of. Strangely it stopped doing that since the Cataclysm expansion, while the equivalent in the Naxxramas raid dungeon still does- the latter will likely take off half your health or more unless you execute a perfectly timed jump over it.
  • In Fusion Fall, large green pools of "Fusion Matter" lurk in many of the regular and infected areas. Swimming in, walking through, and even sometimes walking near these pools causes the player to take damage.

Platform Game

  • Occurs in all the Metroid games.
    • In Metroid 1/Zero Mission and Super Metroid, the "water" in Brinstar was highly acidic and would damage you until you got out. The Varia upgrade removed the hazard.
    • In Super Metroid, there is no suit which protects you from acid. The Gravity Suit prevents you taking damage from Norfair's lava, but the acid is still a problem. In Zero Mission, the acid in Brinstar becomes safe to travel through with the Varia Suit, the lava in Norfair is safe with the Gravity Suit, and the acid in Tourian is never safe.
    • Justified in the first two Metroid Primes: In the first, one of the first bosses was filling the water with toxins, and when it was defeated the water stopped causing damage. In the second the water was in Dark Aether, where pretty much everything is lethal.
    • Metroid II didn't even make a pretense of calling the fluid on SR388 water; it was acidic, toxic and generally lethal. The only way to remove the hazard was to drain the stuff.
    • In Fusion, Sector 4 AQA featured electrified water, which would cause continual damage if you fell in. Draining the water removed the hazard.
  • Whenever you encounter water that's an odd colour in the Banjo-Kazooie series, there's often something living in it, namely piranhas in the first game and Dragundas in Tooie. The picture above comes from Banjo Tooie, in the Quagmire industrial area. Strangely, it seems the only reason why the polluted goo is dangerous is because of the Dragundas who live in it, not because it's toxic.
    • Gobi Desert includes untouchable sand, dangerous not because it would suck you in but because it includes irritable sand eels.
      • Seems like a favorite trick of the programmers at Rare; they did that in the Donkey Kong Country series as well.
    • Rusty Bucket Bay has a variation: Banjo can swim in the polluted water, but the oxygen meter depletes even while swimming on the surface and twice as quickly underwater.
      • Speaking of Rusty Bucket Bay, there is a small area on land that is full of glowing green waste and toxic barrels. Contact with the waste is not instant death but it damages instead. Similar technicolor goop is found in Grunty Industries in Tooie; maybe that's where all the toxic waste came from.
    • The freezing water in Click Clock Wood winter uses the same mechanic as the oily water in Rusty Bucket Bay. The water in Freezeezy Peak just mocks you while it drains your health
    • Mad Monster Mansion includes what could best be described as a pool full of haunted water (the game does not explain why the purplish liquid harms you). Oddly, you are protected from this damage if you're an adorable pumpkin.
      • That is because harmful terrain doesn't affect you if you are transformed. Usually justified in that the form you take isn't bothered by the terrain (e.g. crocodile-form not bothered by piranhas). The hidden Washine Machine transformation is immune to all such terrain, since the Transformed flag is set.
    • Even otherwise clean seawater is a hazard to poor Banjo. Swimming in the sea in Treasure Trove Cove attracts the attention of an enormous frickin' shark that seems to be stalking you.
    • Notable exception: Swimming in the waste water in Clanker's Cavern (or even inside Clanker) is no more hazardous than 'normal' water.
  • Donkey Kong Country 3 puts a twist on the formula with toxic water with no effect other than the player's directional pad is reversed, so you must press left to swim right.
  • Occurs quite a bit in various Mario games:
    • Super Mario Sunshine has Noki Bay, where the otherwise crystal-clear water is horribly polluted from an eel in desperate need of a dentist. Only the surface is harmful, and since several of the levels there give you a suit that lets you stay underwater longer, it's actually safer to just swim under the water when you have to go in.
      • There was also Ricco Harbor before it, where Gooper Blooper polluted some of the water with his ink. In both of these cases, the water literally deals a hit a second, barely giving you any time to either jump out or dive down lest you get stuck.
      • Before that the lake in Bianco Hills was polluted for two chapters.
      • Corona Mountain also had insta-death lava that was basically orange water.
      • And, of course, that one polluted canal with the 8 red floating coins.
    • Super Mario Galaxy had a level or two where the water or some other substance was so toxic that falling into it resulted in instant death as the player watched Mario stick his hand out and garble under the muck before drowning.
      • Both the original game and the sequel had pools of dark matter which cause Mario to disintegrate upon making contact with them.
    • And then, in Super Mario 64, the second Ice world you come to has two types of water, both harmful: one is swimmable, but because of the freeziness of it, it slowly drains your life rather than help you to replenish it. The other is cold enough to act exactly like lava and forms the backdrop of a boss battle.
    • In New Super Mario Bros.., World 4 has purplish, toxic water that is fatal upon contact, regardless of Mario's current form.
      • This was probably inspired by the many infamous Platform Hell Mario hacks (especially Kaizo Mario World), where grayish-purple "death water" was ever-present.
    • Super Mario World had boiling-hot chocolate.
      • Said "death water" was also present in some levels of the original game, particularly the fortress levels.
    • Super Mario 3D Land has at least one underground level with boiling purple sludge that kills Mario on contact in a manner similar to lava, only with purple smoke burning Mario's rear instead of fire.
  • In Ratchet and Clank games, clear water is safe to swim in. Murky water always contains Lombax-eating fish.
    • In the first game, an obstacle course level had pools of clear water with those very fish. You usually had to drain the water and kill the fish, then fill it back up or they would eat you. Also, freezing cold water will instantly freeze Ratchet to death, and the poor furry guy can't swim in mud or poison goo, he simply sinks.
      • Pleasantly, the clear water pools at least had visible fish.
      • Strangely enough, Ratchet is capable of jumping out of the opaque goo in almost every level of the first and second games in the series, but will drown if he falls back in three times. In Up Your Arsenal, it kills him instantly.
      • Exploited in the Gemlik Base level of the first game, where in the section where you walk on the left side of the room, the rising orange stuff will cause Ratchet to fall off of the path.
      • Played with in Going Commando in that the main path in Notak ended in a puzzle where you had to freeze and thaw the fish-filled water to progress.
        • Attempted again in the Obani Draco level of Up Your Arsenal. Instead of causing Ratchet to fall off, it simply caused him to somehow enter his sinking animation despite not being in the goo before respawning.
  • The Rayman series does this as well. However, in those games, it seems as if the only thing that separates "swimmable" water from the "piranha-infested" kind is the presence of a sign...
    • Starting with Revolution, you could see fish jumping out. But only near walkable regions, so they could drop on your head and bite you.
  • The Spyro the Dragon series, at least the Insomniac-produced ones, occasionally had this. One level in the second game had green water that you could walk on while using the invincibility power-up.
    • No, that was lava. The level 'Spooky Swamp' in Year of the Dragon had water that Spyro could swim in, but it was full of piranhas that would kill Spyro unless he got out really really quickly.
    • Year of the Dragon and A Hero's Tail each had a level in where you had to use an invincibility powerup to swim in acid.
    • In the original game Spyro couldn't swim period.
  • Ink serves this purpose in De Blob. It Makes Sense in Context - well, it makes about as much sense as the rest of the game, anyway.
  • You can freely swim in even the grimiest water in the Jak and Daxter games, making them an aversion...unless you go too far out, in which case a shark, laser-cannon drone, or tentacle will kill you. Well, except in Jak X, but since you spend that entire game driving...
    • Played absolutely dead straight with the Dark Eco pools, however, which kill you stone dead.
  • The "Mega Mack" from the Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit) doesn't kill you on impact, but it does cut the time you can remain in it before you drown in half, and is even more hazardous because unlike regular water, there aren't any air bubbles for Sonic or Tails to use to replenish their air supply.
  • Muddy waterfalls in the Meadows of Spikes Peak.
  • Jett Rocket has two variations of this. The water in the first world is safe swimming. In the second world, the water is freezing, and while you can swim in it, it saps your rather limited health very quickly. In the third world, it will suck you into it and make you lose health, but you can wade through it for a little bit before this happens.
  • Occurs quite often in some of the Crash Bandicoot games.
  • Croc: Legend Of The Gobbos has icy water that you can't swim in, as well as lava. However you can swim in certain areas of light blue water, which is necessary to rescue certain Gobbos.
  • In Epic Mickey, all bodies of water have been replaced by paint thinner, which damages Mickey upon contact (as he is made of paint like everyone else) and forces a small leap up. He has no Mercy Invincibility, and the hops are quick, so if Mickey gets tossed out too far, it's certain death. There are also 2-D stages based on Mickey's past cartoons. Normal water exists in some of these stages, but Mickey reacts to them the same way he does to thinner.

Puzzle Game

  • Portal has grimy Instant Death Water. It is assumed to be highly toxic sludge, which kills you after you go under for a few seconds. In the sequel, it is presumed to be either highly toxic or highly acidic since one sign shows a drawing of a person whose lower body is disintegrated under the surface of the liquid.
    • In the first game this may be less to do with the quality of the water, and more down to the presence of the Aperture Science Hand-Held Portal Device. "Do not submerge the device in liquid, even partially." In the second game it's more likely because the water has been sitting in a pure asbestos tank at the bottom of a polluted salt mine for about three hundred years.

Real Time Strategy

  • A rare RTS example occurs in Total Annihilation. One tileset features acidic water that damages any units which try to slog through it. Sadly, this isn't enough of a deterrent for the AI...


  • ADOM has a puzzle - an important item is on a small island on a red-colored lake of water. Swimming skill is not an answer...

Role-Playing Game

  • All the water in Fallout 3 is irradiated, save for a very few places. You can still swim and drink from it, but will need to deal with the ensuing radiation poisoning afterwards.
    • Fallout Tactics is much worse, the water are obviously irradiated and glows with ominous sickly green glow.
    • New Vegas reverses the trend, in that (on top of the expected "clean" and "dangerous" types) there's somewhat natural looking silt-tinged water that's completely safe to drink, and absolutely pure and clean looking water that's absolutely lousy with radiation. The only real way to tell is to stop and wait to see if your Geiger counter starts clicking before taking a drink/hopping in.
  • Bahamut Lagoon has "poison swamps". They can be turned into regular swamps by casting healing magic on them.
  • This is the whole MacGuffin plot of the SNES RPG, Lagoon.
  • In Demon's Souls, the second stage of The Valley of Defilement is covered with this. Not only is the player unable to dodge when walking through it, but extended exposure causes poison.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, there are a few areas (such as a segment in the Black Citadel) where the player can walk through what appears to be purple water. Doing so slowly damages the entire party.
    • Poisonous swamps appear throughout the series, but the only game where you can actually die from its damage is the very first one; sequential titles will never let your party's health fall below 1HP.
  • The Blood Priest in Wasteland is found in the middle of a lake of blood. The water doesn't hurt you (if you can swim)...but the fish do.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, the aptly named Poison Swamp in Satorl Marsh damages anyone who wades through its sickly purple water, but only by about 4% of their max HP every few seconds. The offcolored water at the Fallen Arm and Mechonis Field causes a significantly larger amount of damage, despite not looking nearly as dangerous as the swamp, though it mostly exists to keep you from swimming too far out into the ocean and to punish you for falling. Lastly, the glowing green pools of liquid ether inside the Bionis look dangerous, and will kill you very quickly; a fact one of the bosses tries to exploit by knocking your characters around and inflicting them with status effects that cause them run around uncontrollably or keep them from moving.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Similarly, swampland in Final Fantasy Tactics is harmful, and any units that finish their turn while standing in the water will be Poisoned (treading water and climbing out onto solid ground has no ill effects.)
  • Swamp tiles in Fire Emblem Gaiden are often quite vast in the few maps they appear in, and they harm units standing on it for about 3~5HP of damage every time their army's phase begins while standing on it, swamp tiles also have a high movement cost (how many move points it takes to traverse it; the higher the value, the shorter distance that unit can go on that terrain), which makes it quite time-consuming(and unsafe) for a ground unit to cross.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • In Grand Theft Auto III, the water surrounding the city is extremely polluted, to the point where it takes on a thick slimy dark texture, and a very dark blue color. The reason for this is supposedly industrial pollutants mixed with a massive oil-spill, thus creating water so grimy, it's fatal to anyone who tries to swim in it.
  • Likewise, in Grand Theft Auto Vice City, the water is crystal clear and appears clean and safe, however attempting a swim will still kill you. Though it's never explicitly stated why, inspection of the Lifeguard Booths on the beach reveal a sign reading "Warning: Rip Tides", implying that strong rip currents are at fault.
    • Or the PC himself can't swim. Also a subversion in some places - there are "pools", which are just typical pits with a water surface drawn over them from a graphical standpoint. They contain no actual water - beachballs do stay above the drawn water level, but the PC can can just jump in and doesn't experience any water effects at all. One of the "pools" is deep enough to let the PC be fully submerged after crouching - and no drowning occurs, no matter how long he stays there.
    • All There in the Manual, the water is supposedly filled to the brim with deadly ravenous sharks that attacks anything that enters the water deep enough.
  • In the later SimCity games, severely polluted water is brown.
  • Subnautica has the toxic Underground River, which instead of being brown has a Sickly Green Glow.

Non-video game examples

Live-Action TV

  • A rare TV show example, MXC, the comically re-dubbed version of Takeshi's Castle, often features a muddy brown water that many contestants fall into in the various challenges. The water is given a disgusting name, every time it appears, like "septic sludge" or "toilet flushings from the Air Force One", often depending on who the contestants are.
  1. it is implied to be something floating on it that is harmful.