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What are those barrels supposed to be made of?

Using Surf to cross lava?!

Real Life lava is molten rock. (The subterranean version is called magma.) Imagine an entire lake of electric-stove heating elements, all glowing red-hot. Its viscosity ranges from water-like fluidity to 100,000 times greater. It is an opaque emitter of reddish-yellow light. Its temperature is typically 700-1200 degrees C; coming within a dozen yards of it can inflict fatal burns.

In fiction, Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid. It flows like water, it's no heavier than water, and it can be diverted like water. Objects can sink in it. The heat will be trivial to overcome — not just Convection, Schmonvection, but people swimming around in it with a special suit or vehicle, or game characters only taking a finite amount of damage per second spent in the lava.

Lava's animation is likely to be just as bad, especially in works where the technology and artistic technique to draw bubbling and flowing are limited. (Games are the worst offenders here, since the CPU power necessary to plausibly model fluid dynamics is often more than it would take to run the entire game, minus the fluid-dynamics model.) Lava will look like someone tipped a barrel of red Kool-Aid in a lake; if something falls in, it will still be visible, through the red tint of cherry flavor.

In many video games, lava is water recolored red with a damage script attached. (And sometimes the water causes just as much damage.) Acid and toxic waste will probably be Lemon-Lime and grape, respectively.

Compare Sand Is Water. Sometimes a subtrope of Palette Swap.

Examples of Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mazinger Z: Several times Kouji fought near flowing lava. Since he always was inside his Humongous Mecha it is Hand Waved like Mazinger-Z's armor and insolation protecting him from the extreme heat, at least for a while. Still, in one episode he got dunked INTO a volcano. The characters pointed out, though, not even Mazinger could endure that for long, and they had to get out of the magma RIGHT AWAY or Kouji would die. Nevertheless, usually the lava looks clearer and more liquid than it should be (although it is somewhat more viscous than in other examples).
    • Mazinkaiser paid homage to that episode with one scene where the titular Humongous Mecha was tossed into the crater of Mount Fuji. The lava also seems less dangerous than it should be in this instance. However, given what kind of punishment Mazinkaiser shrugs off throughout the series, withstanding a lava bath seems almost trivial.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has an example where Asuka needs to dive into a volcano. While the story makes a point to show how both she and her Eva need special equipment to even enter the caldera (though Eva-01 doesn't, Hand Waved as it using its AT Field) she still shouldn't have had anywhere NEAR the amount of mobility, speed, or sight she enjoys while submerged in molten ROCK.
    • In a related instance, she has to wear a plugsuit specially modified to beat the heat of the volcano, suffering great embarrassment over how it inflates and makes her look morbidly obese — but the suit doesn't cover her head.
    • Then again, neither should the 8th Angel that just happens to look like a Lava Fish. When in doubt, an AT Field did it. Weirder things have been done by AT Fields seems to actually alter reality around the Angel when used.
    • Shinji and Warhammer 40 K handwaves the vision as some kind of Everything Sensor, which might have been lifted from the manual.
      • To "see" in the lava, she switches to something called "imaging mode." The scene still works only due to Rule of Cool, but at least they made an effort at plausibility.
  • In Pokémon Special, Yellow surfs on lava. At one point, she even goes around in circles to create a lava tornado that sucks up Lance. (Of course, Lance survives... by protecting himself with a giant bubble.)
    • Pokemon in general in Special are amazingly resilient. While Lance and his Gyarados needed a bubble to protect them (which were, incidentally, strong enough to break Yellow's arm when she was struck by one), his Dragonite didn't need protection, and quite freely swam through the lava. It was hurt, but not by much, which may well be a reference to the Dragon-type's resistance to Fire attacks.
  • In the Pokémon anime, Ash battles Blaine in a volcano. At one point an explosion by Team Rocket causes everything to shake; a wave of lava breaks against the wall of the arena and looks like nothing more than red seawater.
    • On the other hand, Kool-Aid (of any temperature) would probably have doused Charizard's tail flame, being mostly water (not to say molten rock shouldn't have doused it, too...)
      • Well, lava is hot, and Fire-types probably use it as a spa. The heat likely kept Charizard's tail flame going. In addition, basaltic lava at a high enough temperature can actually be as runny as water. This leads to Convection, Schmonvection problems, of course...
  • Averted in Dragonball Z of all places, during the Freiza fight where it was shown lava isn't just red water. Its heavier and more viscous, and both Goku and Freiza need to stay powered up to survive the intense heat. This was even used as part of Gohan's strategy against Broly in Movie 10, where they flew through a lake of lava and Gohan shot an energy blast ahead to create a wave that pulled Broly down, instead of him flying right through it like water.
    • Humorously-enough, played entirely straight in Dragon Ball.
  • In Outlaw Star, Aisha relaxes in a lava pool, and Gean falls in. He runs out, parboilled, but otherwise unharmed.

Comic Books

  • In a rather unusual example, one strip of the Prince Valiant comics waxed narrative on the lava flow of a snowy peak, with a breathtaking image of a river of Cadillac-pink water.
  • Played with in Knights of the Dinner Table. When the GM tells Bob, "You've been skewered by a spear, you've fallen off a cliff, and you're swimming in lava," Bob asks, "Do I get a saving throw? I've got +1 with swimming."

Film — Animated

  • An early draft of Atlantis the Lost Empire had lava whales. Yes, whales that swam and lived in lava.
    • In the DTV sequel, there were lava lizards who could swim in lava, and also ate rocks.
      • Also the afore-mentioned lava whales appeared in a brief scene.
  • Oddly averted in The Incredibles, where the lava waterfall comprising the moving walls of a hallway has a very high viscosity. 'Oddly', in that this exact same scene puts its arms around Convection, Schmonvection and does not let go.
    • The pathway between the opened walls of lava was clean; so, even if it was real lava flowing in the walls, it was encased in some clear material rather than just flowing from the ceiling.
  • In the animated movie of The King and I, the prince and the servant girl fall into a river of lava that doesn't burn them, and they just keep swimming in it.
  • Averted in Fantasia. The lava in The Rite of Spring segment is very viscous and thick, and is not exactly nice to whatever it encounters.
  • In the first Direct to Video Bionicle movie, magma and lava are essentially glowing, orange water, to the point where even the directors refer to it as a generic fluid in their commentary. Characters surf on it with droplets clearly touching their feet, yet have to be protected against it by a force field if it rains down on them.

Film — Live Action

  • The Core seems to present the ultra-high pressure liquid metal at the core of the earth as being thin as water and just about as clear, just slightly yellow-orange tinted. Being under such high pressure, the "liquid" core really functions more like a solid (denser than lead), and it's most certainly not the transparency and color of tang.
    • Movie convenience. Wouldn't be much of a movie, take that as you will, if the outside views were fully based on reality now wouldn't they. As for the viscosity...least of problems present.
      • Of course, the movie may have been a lot more interesting if they didn't have any outside views, and we were limited to the same visual detectors as the crew.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Gollum and the Ring tumble into the magma within Mount Doom. Gollum splashes around and sinks, and the ring stays afloat. The rock slowly melts, and the ring melts instantly upon hitting the rock. Chalk it up to some combination of Rule of Cool, Artistic License and A Wizard Did It.
    • Although interestingly, when the Ring hits the lava it quickly flashes up its fire-writing — which took several minutes to appear when heated in a normal fire — and the lava directly below it turns dark and solid. So it looks like the Ring actually absorbed enough heat out of the lava to activate the lettering while cooling the lava it was touching to rock; it took several minutes for enough heat to conduct to re-liquify first the cooled lava and then the Ring itself.
    • Furthermore, in one of the interviews for the appendices of the Extended Edition, the creators of the film note that they wanted to have one last moment of suspense before the ring ultimately melted--would it actually disappear, or was Frodo's journey all in vain? Hence, the moment of perching on top of the lava.
  • Averted in Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. The "lava" is a bunch of computer pixels, so they have no effect on the player.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgement Day the T1000 falls into molten metal[1] that mysteriously splashes just like coloured water.
    • Molten metal does splash if hit by a hard object like a rock, even more so by a man-sized metallic object. It's not so fun for those working near it, like iron foundry workers, who need to (religiously) obey job safety rules.
  • In the Italian film Diabolik (the final episode of MST3K, if you want to see it), the eponymous thief informs his girlfriend that the protective suit he wears to smelt a giant gold ingot into smaller, more manageable ingots would allow him to "swim through the sun." Not a true example in the sense that he never attempts it, but when he's smelting the gold it's clearly just gold-tinged water.


  • In the Jules Verne 1877 novel Hector Servadac, the characters are caught from the Earth by a ricochet impact with a small comet[2] (it was 1877, but still) and carried to the coldest parts of the Solar System via the comet's orbit. Desperate to save themselves from the cold, they make their home in a cave on the side of a volcano, which is heated by a lava waterfall flowing over a remote crack of the cave.

Tabletop Games

  • In the story Under Dragon's Wing, the mooks were "magma men" - living creatures that were either made of lava or lived in it. Never mind that for them, walking on land would be like us strolling about on Pluto.
  • Strangely enough, Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 plays this trope straight but averts Convection, Schmonvection - there are rules for ongoing damage just for being near lava, but swimming in lava is perfectly possible as long as you can survive the damage received per round.
    • It also a type of shark that lived in molten lava.
    • 4th edition outright averts it. The rules are "If you touch it and aren't fully immune to fire, you die." No damage. Outright death.

Video Games

  • Contra Rebirth: Lava will glow, but it's still a viscous dark red liquid.
  • Jurassic Park for NES has it.
  • In the Famicom's King Kong 2: Ikari No Megaton Punch, the final stage is constantly flooded with crimson liquid that forms pink bubbles, and an occasional skull floating in it.
  • In One Piece Unlimited Adventure: it is possible to fish in a pool of lava, where lava fish somehow are swimming around.
  • Shadow Man's stage in Mega Man 3 goes back and forth on this. Relatively hot-looking lava can be seen cascading in the background several times, but everywhere else in the stage, it looks suspiciously like Coca-Cola. It's hard to tell if the stage is a boiler plant and the liquid is lava, or if the place is a sewage plant and the liquid is human waste. Either way, falling into pools of the stuff will kill Mega Man.
    • Ditto for Heat Man's stage in Mega Man 2.
      • It's hard to tell what that substance is supposed to be, could be molten metal?
  • In Mega Man X 5 there's one segment in Mattrex's stage where you have to duck in certain areas to avoid the waves of orange transparent lava that occasionally come by. Later on you'll find a Ride Armor which you can use to travel through it.
  • Super Mario Bros had it, naturally, which actually palette-swapped its water sprites for use in the lava-infested castles. It doesn't even damage Mario; he just falls through it into the bottomless pit.
    • Super Mario Bros 3 had stuff that looked like boiling spaghetti sauce.
      • One of the endgame levels has a navy of ships sailing on lava like an ocean. Swimming underneath it is a viable option for completing the level.
    • Averted in later games, where the lava kills Mario instantly or causes him to jump off if he touches it, although he still has Convection, Schmonvection on his side.
  • In the original The Legend of Zelda, it not only was a cheap recolor of dungeon water, but also completely invisible in the dark.
  • Believe it or not, the Christian-themed Zelda clone Spiritual Warfare partially averted this by showing lava in the demon stronghold seethe and bubble compared to the two different animations for water textures; it's harmfulness is irrelevant since you can't walk into it. It had its own recoloring in the form of boiling green slime.
  • Adventures of Lolo had this in some levels.
  • Metroid games in general have a complicated history with this trope.
    • Sometimes the games actually avert this by explaining that the lava in Norfair is really superheated acid. Similarly, the "lava" in Bryyo is highly corrosive fuel, explaining why shooting it with Ice Missiles can freeze chunks on the surface for a few seconds.
      • On the other hand, there are two types of hazardous liquid in Norfair. One is a bright orange, and is explained to be magma (or possibly some sort of subterranean lava, as it is boiling and emitting gasses and whatnot), which the Gravity Suit protects from. The other is the superheated acid found only in Lower Norfair (and a few scarce parts of normal Norfair), which is brownish in color, and damages Samus despite the Gravity Suit.
        • Although, Super Metroid's soundtrack describes the song for Lower Norfair as "Norfair: Hot Lava zone" ...
    • Metroid Prime's Magmoor, as the name might indicate, doesn't try to escape it. Aside from the damage, Samus' mobility while wading in it is all but negated.
    • Unlike most games, however, rooms with lava are typically so hot that you take constant damage, unless you have the heat-resistant Varia Suit. The first two titles in the series are the only ones known to play Convection, Schmonvection straight.
    • Let's not forget the giant worms, Other M's whales, and various other creatures that live in the lava.
  • World of Warcraft, taken to such an extent that one dungeon in particular is easier and quicker to reach by dropping into and walking through a large pool of lava, healing up as you go, than it is to take the "normal" entry route past a long chain of mobs. It's still quicker even if you're many, many levels above the mobs in question.
    • In fact, it IS water to the game. You can go into the druid's aqua form in the lava. There used to be a bug involving this where you popped out of the lava in aqua form and could walk around as a flying seal. Sadly, it was fixed.
      • They did attempt to make lava seem viscous in the game since it, unlike water, does not always have a flat surface. Most of the time it just looks weird though, as it keeps a bumpy, uneven surface while still remaining perfectly still.
    • Even better, the Cataclysm expansion added the ability to fish in lava. The best result is some form of elemental fire, but you also get small animal bones, melted weapons, and ... all the usual fishing failure Vendor Trash, like weeds and pieces of cloth.
    • Similarly, Ever Quest has lava in which the players can swim, but it kills them fairly quickly, so doing so is largely inadvisable.
  • The Sonic Adventure Series stage Red Mountain pretty much plays this straight along with the Convection, Schmonvection-ness of it. The lava is bright red bubbling goo, and is buoyant enough to have gigantic rocks floating on top of it for Sonic to jump on.
  • In La-Mulana, lava is pretty much a Palette Swap of water, with the mechanics being very similar despite the different colors: you need one item to avoid taking damage (water can cause damage too in this game) and another to use the MSX while submerged. Diving through several screens of lava in the Inferno Cavern is actually required.
    • Interestingly, with a bit of Sequence Breaking a player can acquire the item that allows them to swim in lava before the item that allows them to swim in water. Which amusingly results in Lemeza being able to swim in lava unharmed but unable to swim in water without constantly losing health.
  • In the latter Marathon games there are levels flooded with lava, and occasionally you are forced to swim through it (carrying your guns and ammo, of course). It hurts quite a bit, but it's survivable, and under the surface it looks and sounds just like red-tinted water (as the engine used the same behavior for being under all types of media).
  • In the Monster Hunter series, the Volganos/Lavasioth can swim through lava, while everything else (except you) can literally walk, run, and even sleep in it.
  • Quake treated both slime and lava exactly like water, except that slime caused slow health loss, and lava caused rapid health loss. At least one secret item required you to swim through lava using the Pentagram of Protection.
    • Oddly, due to the limitations of the graphics engine, Doom averted this as you could only stand directly atop the lava until it burned you to death.
  • Warcraft 3's dungeon maps have red-tinted water that serves as lava.
    • And lava tilesets, meaning you can literally walk on lava. Most maps using it will have the lava-covered areas deal periodic damage.
  • Clash at Demonhead allows you to swim through lava when you buy a (very expensive) Super Suit. Without it, you'll die on contact with the lava.
  • In Ufouria for the NES there is blue water, orange water (lava) and purple water (some toxic substance, possibly acid or poison). You can swim in these but only the first, obviously, won't kill you.
  • American McGee's Alice has lava with fire-breathing fish jumping out of it to burn you. Justified in that the game takes place in Wonderland. The game could have Ice Breathing Fish living in Lava and they would fit right in.
  • Ty the Tasmanian Tiger has a Mini-Mecha called the Thermo Extreme Bunyip that functions exactly like a submarine when submerged in lava.
  • Blaster Master lets you try to swim in the lava in Area 7, but you'll take damage too quickly to get very far in it. In the on-foot sections, it's still instant death if you get knocked in.
  • Okami even lets Amaterasu use the Waterspout technique on lava. If she has the Fire Tablet equipped, she can swim in lava, otherwise she's instantly ejected and suffers damage. Perhaps her being the Sun Goddess grants her this ability?
  • In No One Lives Forever 2, the evil corporation H.A.R.M. uses artificial lava in their underground lair that looks a lot like red hot water. Ingame characters exposit that the reason H.A.R.M. uses artificial lava because it looks more realistic than real lava, and is much easier to work with.
    • There's also a memo you can find in one of the final levels that was sent by the manufacturer of their fake lava, stating that while it looks far less realistic than previous versions (the lava in NOLF2 looks terrible compared to the first game), it is far hotter.
  • In Lemmings, lava looks like bubbling, red-orangey water, and causes the same kind of death as any of the other types of water.
  • In Oblivion players can swim through and under lava if they have enough hit points/health potions and the Water-Walking spell works on it. Then again, considering it's a hell dimension, it may very well be boiling blood.
    • Well, it IS referred to as the "Waters Of Oblivion." Who says it isn't just magic water that does fire damage?
    • Most likely the case, as lava in Morrowind is treated fairly realistically (you don't sink when you step on it, you can't swim in it, and it doesn't flow like water). Can stand next to it all day without minding, though. Cryodiil doesn't have much in the way of active tectonic activity, where Morrowind is set on a large volcanic island.
  • Most of the lava in Donkey Kong Country 2 is treated as a Bottomless Pit. However in one level you can cool the lava down in order to swim through it.
  • In Donkey Kong 64 there is an area filled with lava that is really only water with a lava-like pattern on the surface. You can swim in it, and it's completely transparent once you dive. The only difference is that you take damage while swimming.
  • Taken to extremes in Rollercoaster Tycoon; lava really is just water that happens to be red and behaves exactly the same way as regular water. In the second game, when you get to design custom scenarios, you literally get to choose whether your scenario's water is blue, red, or greenish.
    • Probably justified, as Real Life amusement parks do use colored water to represent lava in their attractions.
  • Lampshaded in Ben There, Dan That!:

 Dan: "It's a bubbling, boiling river of orange-hot lava."

Ben: "You sure? Looks like tomato soup to me."

Dan: "Can it, you. It's lava, alright?"

  • Dwarf Fortress's handling of lava seems to have gotten less realistic as time has passed. In the old 2D versions, lava flowed significantly more slowly than water and touching it was typically instantly fatal, though special workshops could be built hanging over magma without harming the workers (unless dangerous creatures crawled out of the magma). In 3D versions up to, it flowed at the exact same rate as water (but didn't follow the rules of pressure unless you used pumps) but was still very deadly. In the latest versions (0.31.xx), though, the introduction of tissue layers (and some apparent issues involving temperature transfer between them) means that being immersed in magma causes fat to melt off and results in bleeding to death (unless the creature is big enough and thus has enough blood, at which point the bleeding stops and the creature tends to drown before dying in the heat).
    • Still fun!
  • The Curse of Monkey Island has a lava-powered barbeque.
  • Yoshis Island: Yeah, it's hot enough for Yoshi to jump up and pull a face, but there are logs, questionmark buckets, and these weird wheels which can swim in it without any problems.
  • Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts: The first level has lava inside a volcano that is just water with a different color. It fits the theme, however, of a level with inflatable trees, clouds moved by a water mill, and a horizon provided by LCD screens.
  • In Fate, lava encountered in the Dungeon is a recolor of water. You can catch fish in it.
  • In Starcraft II one of the missions features "tides" of lava that repeatedly wash over the lower grounds of the area and then retreat without a trace.
  • Subverted in Mortal Kombat Deception. One Death Trap is a lava pit and when knocked into it your opponent still has time to make gurgling sounds as they melt in the lava. The same goes for the acid pit.
  • It's possible that it's not even supposed to be lava, but at any rate the Last Cave in Cave Story has pits filled with a red liquid that damages you. Aside from its color and its ability to damage you, it is identical to the water found elsewhere in the game.
  • Super Mario 64 had translucent red lava. Partially averted in Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy with their opaque lava, but objects and enemies still fall right through it like water.
  • One level of Tomb Raider II has the boiling kool-aid type lava, but the next has semi-realistic (with Convection, Schmonvection) lava like in the first TR.
  • In Adventures of Rad Gravity, lava causes instant death when touched, as does water.
  • Minecraft partially averts this trope by having lava flow much more slowly than water to simulate its greater density. Lava's not fatal if the player can escape quickly enough, but it is very painful. It also causes any wood in short distance from it to start burning and ice to melt, but it can (or at least could) be blocked by using snow blocks.
  • Terraria somewhat mimics Minecraft, in that the Lava's not instantly fatal and flows a bit slower than water. However, it only destroys loose blocks and common items...which leads to the Fridge Logic-inducing sight of a stone block beside a lava pool you just holding the lava in place, mind destroyed by that very same lava. This also means that wood and ice are more effective to house it, because they need something other than a pickaxe to collect (and you're using a pickaxe to mine the obsidian the lava makes when it combines with water).
  • In the Thief games Garrett can stand right next to lava without taking any damage... but stick so much as one toe in it and he falls over dead instantly.
  • Ben Jordan was forced to play a cruel Japanese quiz show, and if the player doesn't choose enough correct answers, is dunked into... harmless red liquid. The host is such a Troll about letting him imagine it's going to scald the legs right off his body without the police caring that it's happening live on a popular television show.
  • Lava looks like this in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, in contrast to its more realistic depiction in the previous game. (Even though in that game, it was possible to navigate the lava by riding it on a plum.
  • While the lava from Voltaic in Myst 3: Exile at least looks like actual lava, letting it drain out of the steam chamber causes it to flow away as swiftly as water would, leaving no crusty deposits on any submerged surfaces and no residual heat.


Western Animation

  • Done by Bender in Futurama. Despite being, well, a robot, he should not be able to see anything while "swimming" for the fossilized dog.

 Professor Farnsworth: Professor! Lava! Hot!


 Dexter: Monkey, that is not candy, it is molten lava!!

  • Done in The Secret Saturdays. Not only can people (and volcano lizards) swim in lava like it is water (complete with underlava vision), Drew dives into it from a great height.
  • An episode of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3 contains an animation goof where a flood of lava actually seems to go up to Mario's waist and doesn't kill him.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, lava is portrayed as being basically red water. Sometimes the characters even swim in it.
  • Inverted in The Simpsons episode "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo". As part of the Japanese game show they're on, they have to walk across a bridge hanging over a volcano. At the end, the lava's revealed to be orange juice with wasabi to make it sting.


Host: Don't worry. That "lava" is just Orange Ade, made by our sponsor Osaka Orange Ade Concern.


  1. (Okay, not lava but close enough.)
  2. which is solid, composed of a very hard mineral which contains gold and has a breathable atmosphere
  3. There are places where falling on the lava, such as Death Mountain Crater, counts as falling into a Bottomless Pit due to the player's inability to get out (no climbable walls and too much flinching to aim the Hookshot if Link has it), but we can assume Link somehow climbs back up