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Don't worry, he'll just hold his breath... for about two and a half more minutes... and still throw fireballs.


Max: Hey! Hang on a second! We don't have gills!

Sam: It's a cartoon, jarhead. We have remarkable lung-capacity!

Humans can't breathe underwater. We can hold our breath for a short time, some of us longer than others. Longer than two minutes usually results in unconsciousness (and you'll automatically start to breathe again, which is very bad if your head is underwater).

However, this seems not to be the case with some Video Game characters, who can swim underwater for infinite amounts of time and show absolutely no signs of discomfort. This incredible feat is never ever explained, or even mentioned as something out of normal in these games.

Sometimes the character gets a diving mask equipped with only a snorkel and absolutely no oxygen containers. While in the real world, this equipment would allow you to swim only a small depth under the surface of the water, in the games following this trope it lets you plunge boldly into the deepest oceanic depths.

The most unsettling part, if you think about it, is the imagery often accompanying this trope: once in a while tiny air bubbles escape from your character's mouth and happily go speeding towards the surface.

In the real world, it would mean that what little oxygen is still left in your character's lungs is gradually depleting, leading to an impending drowning.

This trope was mostly used in underwater levels of pre-8-bit and early 8-bit Platform Games. Due to programming limits it was easier to either invoke this trope, or just give the character Super Drowning Skills. In the late 8-bit era, many games implemented a revolutionary subversion of this trope, namely the Oxygen Meter. Still, this trope continues to be used in Video Games time after time up to the present day, and is even sometimes encountered in other media.

Super Not Drowning Skills is a subtrope of Acceptable Breaks From Reality. It seems to be the opposite of Super Drowning Skills; however, they both can be present in different levels of the same game.

Not to be confused with any characters who have the supernatural ability to breathe underwater, sometimes resulting in Water Is Air. Super Not Drowning Skills happens when characters don't (or are very unlikely to) have this ability, but can survive underwater for an indefinite time anyway.

Compare with Olympic Swimmer. For the same trope, but IN SPACE, see Batman Can Breathe in Space. For similar extraordinary skills of surviving in ice, see Harmless Freezing. See also Artificial Gill, The Needless.

Examples of Super Not-Drowning Skills include:

Video game examples

Played straight

Action Adventure

  • Dizzy has no problem diving indefinitely as long as he's carrying a snorkel. Drop the snorkel and die...
  • In the Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow, the bonus characters have no real reason for why they can breathe underwater. Don't ask questions.
    • Also in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, once Shanoa has a Serpent Scale, she can move and breathe freely in water instead of floating up.
    • For Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alucard takes damages simply from touching water from the beginning of the game until you grab the Holy Symbol, which looks suspiciously like a snorkel. After this, you can stay underwater as long as you want. Justified because Alucard is half-vampire and, as per traditional folklore, running water is hazardous to him. He takes the same damage from a puddle as he does when 30 feet underwater, and the lack of oxygen appears to be of no concern.
    • By virtue of having all of one room with water, no one in Portrait of Ruin even needs an artifact to stay underwater indefinitely.

Action Game

Adventure Game

  • In Quest for Glory 5, your character can acquire a ring that allows him survive indefinitely under water. Once he learns how to swim, swimming without the ring deals damage to you. However if you pay attention, you'll notice that your character, sufficiently grinded, can stay well over an hour under the water before finally dying, longer if you have a means to heal yourself.
  • Ankh: subverted by a musical reference to Monkey Island (Guybrush Threepwood can hold his breath for exactly ten minutes).

Driving Game

  • Crazy Taxi pulled this off to a truly ludicrous level, but hell, the clue is in the title. If you think Mario holding his breath and fighting monsters for six or seven minutes is stretching it, how about taking an entire taxi plus passengers under water. And driving about. And then driving back out again. And no, that's not a bug!

First Person Shooter

  • Played straight in F.E.A.R., for some reason.


  • In Holy Beast Online, there are several maps dunked entirely underwater. While it can't really said for sure on the dragon clan and their breathing skills, it is certainly improbable for the other clans to be breathing like this. Additionally, there are butterflies FLYING underwater.

Platform Game

  • Super Mario Bros. series:
    • Super Mario Bros (NES): In the underwater levels. In the land levels, bodies of water work just like Bottomless Pits (There are more in abundance in Lost Levels).
      • Now that I think about it... that makes even LESS sense!
      • Super Mario Bros. had a time limit of 400 in-game seconds (about six minutes, forty seconds to us) to beat each level. Maybe that was his limit?
        • So he holds his breath as he plows through turtles on dry land as well? What.
    • Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)
    • Super Mario Land 2 (Game Boy)
    • Super Mario World (SNES): Not only can Mario or Luigi go underwater, so can Yoshi.
    • Super Paper Mario: The main characters can breathe underwater, but not in space. Fanon speculates that Mario can filter oxygen out of the water with his moustache.
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (Game Boy Advance)
      • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story added a section where Bowser could breathe underwater indefinitely ala this trope. Thankfully, he couldn't breathe fire outside of battle though.
    • Wario Land series: Being a spinoff from the Super Mario Bros. series, it also uses this trope.
      • The exception is the latest Wario Land game where Wario uses a subwarine in underwater levels.
    • New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, being very much like the NES/SNES days use this, and they'd probably use it for Yoshi if Yoshi could be brought outside a level.
    • Super Mario 3D Land was the first 3D style Mario game that featured this, considering it is a bridge between 3D and 2D style Mario games.
    • Mario has this in the Assist Mode of Super Mario Odyssey, but not in Normal Mode, where he can hold his breath for a limited amount of time before he loses health. In order to reach some areas safely, he has to use Cappy to Body Surf to a Cheep-Cheep (but he cannot fight in that form). Also, trying to swim in the freezing waters of the Snow Kingdom will also cause him to lose health.
  • Contra (NES): For characters that die if they touch anything that isn't friendly or a powerup, they sure can stay with their head underwater for as long as they like without any harm whatsoever.
  • Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
    • Quite ironic seeing how gorillas in Real Life possess Super Drowning Skills.
    • Donkey Kong Country 2 has a contradictory depiction of Super Not-Drowning Skills. In most water levels, your character can stay underwater indefinitely. However, in the swamp levels the water acts as Bottomless are dead if you fall into it.
        • It's possible that the swamp sludge is too thick for the Kongs to move in it.
    • Averted in Donkey Kong Country Returns, where all water is treated as a Bottomless Pit.
  • Felix the Cat (NES)
  • Adventure Island series starting at 2 (NES)
  • The Addams Family series:
    • The Addams Family (NES): If you dive in the lake without any gear, your health meter would start gradually depleting. But if you find a diving mask with a snorkel, you can swim through a set of underground caverns with no problems.
    • The Addams Family 2 (NES/SNES)
  • Barney's Hide & Seek Game (Genesis): In this game not just the reptilians Barney and Baby Bop, but even human children can survive underwater without any equipment whatsoever.
  • Ristar (Genesis)
  • Mushroom Kingdom Fusion
  • In Glider PRO, all watery environments are nothing but custom backgrounds; no special mechanics are involved. Logically, Super Drowning Skills ought to be involved, since gliders are made of paper and can ordinarily be destroyed by a single droplet of water.
  • The main character of Spelunky is able to go into deep pits of water for extended periods of time without losing damage, despite having no visible breathing apparatus.
  • Pitfall II: Lost Caverns had elaborate parts where you swim—and this is an Atari 2600 game.
  • The PC game Jazz Jackrabbit and its sequel.
  • Purple lets you stay underwater as long as there's time left on the counter.
  • Bug!! for the Sega Saturn (or PC) had Quaria, where the entire level was underwater. What's weird was that the previous level was Splot, a swamp with instant-lethal water.
  • Chack'n Pop has no limit on how long Chack'n can swim. Then again, the Monstas can't drown either.
  • In Little Nemo the Dream Master, Nemo can't drown unless he has a Powerup Mount that can't swim, in which case he has to abandon it quickly.

Real Time Strategy

  • Hedgewars has a underwater theme. Strangely enough as the titular hedgehogs still retain their Super Drowning Skills should they make contact with the ubiquitous mud below the landscape.

Role Playing Game

  • Final Fantasy V: While you can't swim, you do need to walk through flooded sections within the ship graveyard.
    • And much later in the game, you have to get to the bottom of the Water Tower, beat Gogo, and get back out in seven minutes to get the Mime class.
  • Final Fantasy VI: A diving helmet is needed to access an ocean path. But only one is needed or found for the whole party, and no explanation is given of its functionality without other supporting equipment.
    • To say nothing of the remake involving a boss battle underwater with 4 characters and said mining helmet probably being lost at that point.
  • Final Fantasy X: Tidus, and all other blitzball players (and for some strange reason, Rikku), can all hold their breath for inhumanly long periods of time. Even Yuna seems to be able to in the Macalania Springs Scene.
    • Rikku's part of a mechanist diving team and you meet her in a wetsuit. She probably carries some kind of rebreather.
    • One NPC says that the best blitzball players can even sleep underwater.
      • One possibility is that water in Spira is highly oxygenated and breathable - figures of speech aside, it's not the physical ability to hold one's breath that's important, but the mental fortitude needed to breathe liquid without panicking.
      • Spira's water goes beyond even that - there are scenes when characters underwater talk to each other, and it seems as if they can clearly understand what people above water are saying, too. Some have speculated this is a result of humans in Spira being subject to Call a Smeerp a Rabbit as well as extensive artistic license regarding acoustics, buoyancy, the solubility of certain gasses, physiology, and more.
    • Each half of a blitzball game lasts for 5 minutes. Humans holding their breath for that long is rather extreme to say the least, but less so than many other examples.
  • Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, with the HM Dive you ride on the back of your Pokémon at the bottom of the sea and have no problem staying there for hours without any gear.
    • Your Pokemon have no problem battling underwater either, even Pokemon like Charmander, which supposedly dies if the flame on its tail goes out.
    • Also, swimmer class trainers will complain about how exhausted they are and one even asked for a ride back to shore if he wins the battle. If you win, he just continues to float there and not drown. (Same can be said of any swimmer trainer far away from any type of land.)

Sports Game

  • If you play in the Aquadome in Backyard Baseball, the gameplay is not altered; the characters can still breathe and hit hard.

Stealth-Based Game

  • Garrett from the Thief series can, in the first two games, hold his breath and swim around underwater for a decent amount of time. This is despite him carrying a sword, a bow, arrows, other thief tools and loot he may have collected.
    • Averted in the third game where, due to engine limitations, falling in water results in instant death.

Survival Game

  • Subnautica's "Creative" mode disables all the various "survival" gauges that play a major part of the "default" game — including your need for oxygen, allowing you swim indefinitely at any depth.

Third Person Shooter


Action Adventure

  • Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver: Water is acid to Nosgothic vampires, and Raziel carries this weakness over in his transformation to a reaver of souls. If he falls into water, his material form is instantly destroyed and he falls into the spirit world. His brother Rahab, however, evolves an immunity to water, and Raziel gains this ability when he reaves Rahab's soul. Being Dead to Begin With, he has no need to breathe and can swim indefinitely.
  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time: Once you put on the Zora Tunic you can be underwater as long as you want without drowning. Justified by the shirt being explicitly magical.
    • Twilight Princess: The Zora Armor does the same thing, but has the decency of Hand Waving it by having a face mask pop up to cover your mouth whenever you're underwater.
    • Majora's Mask takes it a step further: one mask turns you into a Zora.
    • It is also notable that one of the few games where Link does not get Super Not Drowning Skills of any kind is Wind Waker, somewhat odd when you consider that it is also the only game that takes place on an ocean. (Also problematic when the damn boat keeps talking to you instead of letting you on, even when your swim meter is about to run out.)
      • He, for some reason, regains his Super Not Drowning Skills in certain bodies of water, leading fans to speculate that the great sea might be poisoned, which would also explain why there are neither fish nor Zora around... The fishmen are probably immune to that poison, as are the monsters.
  • The Goonies II: Mikey wears a diving suit in the underwater levels.
  • In the Castlevania Sorrow games, Soma usually floats/swims when in a body of water, except when he equips the Skula soul, which instead makes him sink. You could say the breathing is just part of the soul's effect, but if you unequip the soul in an area you can't surface in, it becomes more of a straight example of Super Not-Drowning Skills.
  • Most games in the Ecco the Dolphin series use an Oxygen Meter instead, but edutainment game Ecco Jr. invokes this for all three playable characters.
  • In American McGee's Alice, the first underwater level requires following the Mock Turtle closely and somehow breathing the trail of bubbles in his wake. After this, Alice earns the ability to survive underwater indefinitely when the Mock Turtle makes her an "honorary reptile."
    • That just makes Alice swim better. She can still drown.

Action Game

Adventure Game

  • Police Quest 2: as befitting such a realistic game, going underwater requires you to wear a whole range of Scuba gear, including a wetsuit, fins, goggles, a weighted belt, and an oxygen tank. If you forget to pick up an item, you will not be able to dive. Additionally, you must inspect all available oxygen tanks and pick the one with the most oxygen remaining, or you could easily drown before completing the underwater task!
  • Subverted/Averted/somethinged in The Secret of Monkey Island. Guybrush Threepwood can hold his breath for ten minutes... but not a second longer. The only way to die is to leave him underwater for 10 minutes.
    • Played as a joke and an Easter Egg. Guybrush swaggers about his ability to hold his breath for 10 minutes. Much later in the game, a puzzle involves being thrown to the sea with a weight tied to the feet. The puzzle is easy enough to solve in much less time, but waiting to see what happens may reveal the unexpected ending.
    • Leaving him underwater after ten minutes in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, The Curse of Monkey Island (maybe), Escape from Monkey Island (only once), and Tales of Monkey Island (both while still alive and as a zombie) only results in him scrambling back up to the surface for air, after which he can dive underwater to try again as many times as he wants. The only exceptions to these are in Escape, when, after ten minutes on the second time underwater, he will drown, with no second chances this time; and in Tales, when he becomes a Ghost Pirate in Chapter 5, and not only does he walk or run while underwater in the Manatee Mating Grounds as a ghost, but he stays underwater indefinitely (I think), until the player decides to make him come up to the surface. This will happen until he finds a way to repossess his own body.
    • Also, in spite of his ability to hold his breath for ten minutes, Guybrush is able to move his lips while talking underwater, as seen in Secret and Curse, for example, but especially evident in Tales, when his lips are clearly seen moving when he talks underwater.
  • Grim Fandango. They're dead. However, that doesn't explain their ability to talk normally. Or smoke.
    • Toyed with in the case of Glottis, who is a demon, in the afterlife. He did eventually have to get out of the water, but only because his skin was getting all pruney.
  • In King's Quest II (+), a mermaid's kiss allows King Graham to breathe underwater. The spell wears off once the underwater segment is over.

Collectible Card Game

  • In the Magi-Nation game, the main character Tony Jones can breathe underwater and swim really fast after acquiring a magic belt. According to the official fiction of the card game, all of the people on the moonlands have this skill.

First-Person Shooter

  • Likewise, in the Marathon series, precursor to Halo by Bungie, but you do have an Oxygen Meter, and it doesn't refill with air simply by surfacing; you must recharge your suit's oxygen tank from canisters and wall sockets. You can stay under water for a long amount of time, but the second that tank has depleted...
  • Justified and lampshaded in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines: Since you are Dead to Begin With, you don't need to breathe at all, let alone under water. The Lampshade Hanging comes in one of the final levels, when you infiltrate The Hunters' base and can overhear two of them discussing an underwater passage, to which one remarks, "I can't imagine any man holding his breath for so long," and the other says, "It's not mortal men that should be our concern."
  • In Crysis the protagonist is wearing a super-tech nanosuit. Presumably this can act like a CO2 scrubber, or just holds enough air in its structure to make it a non-issue.
  • Team Fortress 2 - Since drowning is resolved in the game mechanics as taking persistent damage until the player dies or goes up for air, one can gain Super Not Drowning Skills by being in the range of a friendly Medic or Dispenser.
  • The Metroid Prime series allows Samus to stay under water for any duration she wants, without drowning, thanks to her Varia Suit. If she can walk in space without dying, why should water stop her? However, movement and visibility in water are both highly limited, until one receives the Gravity Suit, as which point the water's actually just there to look fancy. Or in the case of MP 2, to let Samus have better maneuverability than anywhere else.


  • World of Warcraft is semi-justified. Most player-races have an Oxygen Meter but the Forsaken, being Dead to Begin With, they have no need to breathe and can stay underwater much longer than the others. When they run out of air they quickly die from drowning damage. Some classes also have spells to let them breathe underwater, plus there's an alchemist potion and engineering helm. Pets, however, have no oxygen meter and can breathe underwater without the aid of magic. This might be Handwaved in the case of Warlocks' demonic minions, but the most likely explanation for Hunters' pets is that most of the animals in question can hold their breath at least as long as a humanoid or much longer. Though this doesn't explain Hunters who use artificial means.
    • Undead players, however, do not need to breathe and can last indefinitely underwater. That's one of their racial perks.
    • Non-player enemies, of course, are not affected by this, but some will not even chase players who escape into water. Even fire elementals can swim without fail.
    • Siege engines on the other hand have Super Drowning Skills, taking a lot of damage quickly due to water damaging the machinery.
    • The game also uses a secondary meter to prevent players from swimming out into places they are not supposed to reach, called Fatigue. This meter appears in or above deep water (unless the player is on a ship or other automated transports), runs out much quicker and there is no way to avoid it quickly killing you except turning back.
      • Unless you're a druid, which, with decent gear and liberal application of its instant-cast heal-over-time spells, can swim indefinitely through Fatigue.
    • One zone, Vashj'ir, takes place entirely underwater. In order to prevent drowning from becoming an issue, the first quest in the zone, which is a prerequisite for all of the others, has you collect some of the local creatures to help a shaman cast an enchantment on you that will allow you to breathe underwater while in the zone.
    • In the original game and the first (Burning Crusade) expansion, your breath meter went down at a realistic rate while you were underwater. After about 30 seconds of holding your breath, you started to drown. Nowadays, though, even the lowliest neophyte can hold his breath under water for two solid minutes with no ill effect. He can also cast fireball spells (if a mage) or use his Battle Shout and Demoralizing Shout abilities (if a warrior) while fully immersed.
  • In zOMG! you aren't supposed to enter the underwater area until after being blessed with the ability to breathe water... except that there's ways to get to that area without the blessing. Well, the devs tried?
  • In Dungeons and Dragons Online, characters have an oxygen meter that depends on their Swim skill. But with the waterbreathing spell or an underwater action item, it becomes irrelevant. Warforged, being magically animated living constructs, don't breathe in the first place and can always stay underwater indefinitely.
  • A good chunk of Guild Wars 2's content is underwater, and it's been confirmed that you get a breath mask item that allows you to stay underwater indefinitely. However, amphibious Ranger pets (anything that isn't a fish, bird, or spider) get no breath mask, but can stay underwater indefinitely.

Platform Game

  • James Pond series (various 16-bit systems): The main character is a talking fish.
    • And in the second game known as Robocod - he wears a mechanical life support suit allowing him to completely invert this trope... by wandering around on land. Without a helmet. (Presumably his gills are fully enclosed.)
  • Mega Man series: The main character is a robot. Still creates bubbles as if he were breathing, though.
    • The bubbles are probably air escaping from whatever open space exists in his robot body.
    • Mega Man Zero give Zero similar underwater properties, but plays with in it one level where Zero does have a time limit to get inside a submarine before it dives too deep and the pressure crushes him.
  • Metroid series: The main character wears a Powered Armor.
  • Spyro the Dragon series (Playstation), starting with Spyro the Dragon 2: Ripto's Rage: In these games it's a magical ability.
  • Trine initially averts this trope, with all three playable characters having their own oxygen meters that only reset when you get air—switching to another character nets another full air meter, but switching back to the original character keeps his/her oxygen meter where it was when they were switched out. However, a magic item later on in the game allows one character to play this trope straight - as long as the item is equipped on that character, they can swim underwater indefinitely.
  • In the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, one of the levels involves swimming in the Hudson River to disable a series of underwater bombs. The four playable characters are all turtles, which means that they do have greater underwater survival ability than most; however, the timer on the bombs is short enough (two minutes, thirty seconds) that breath is the least of their worries. (If the timer runs out, it's an instant game over, but if a turtle dies in some other way before it does, it resets for the next one...)
  • Ratchet cannot breathe underwater at first, until he finds an O2 mask, which allows him to subsequently breathe for as long as is needed.
  • Commander Keen 4: You're wearing full scuba gear in the underwater level. In other levels, you have Super Drowning Skills.
  • World of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck (Genesis): The title characters swim underwater in big air bubbles, containing their whole bodies. Which is an example of Acceptable Breaks From Reality in itself.
    • In The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, Mickey's head is surrounded by an air bubble if he is wearing the magician outfit while underwater. With the other costumes, he has no air supply and takes damage after several seconds.
  • In Banjo Tooie, Banjo has an Oxygen Meter. In the water level, Mumbo Jumbo casts a spell that oxygenates the water so that Banjo can breathe it.
    • . . . However, Donkey Kong 64, which is built on the same engine and has very similar gameplay, has neither an Oxygen Meter nor a justification.
  • Gish: Character is a tarball.
  • In Wonder Boy in Monster World, Shion needs Poseidon's Trident to swim underwater. (Just like God of War, oddly enough.)
  • In Tak: The Great Juju Challenge, Lok (who normally has Super Drowning Skills, due to fish hating him) can walk around underwater indefinitely while he's wearing the Lobster Suit, which was specifically designed for underwater exploration.

Puzzle Game

Role Playing Game

  • Adventure Quest: A shipload of water breathing potions got dumped into the ocean in Dragon Fable, which takes place five years before the events of Adventure Quest.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance: It is explained that the presence of special nanites allows the heroes to survive and fight while underwater.
    • Whether it allows the Human Torch to stay use his fire powers is a different story, however...
  • In Soul Blazer you cannot enter the underwater level until you get the Bubble Armor first, which surrounds you in a magically maintained bubble of air. Apparently the air is also kept fresh and somehow you are still able to fight with a sword without popping it.
  • Kingdom Hearts: In Atlantica the characters are transformed into underwater creatures by Donald.
    • In Chain of Memories, the characters don't transform and briefly ponder why they appear to be underwater without a need to breathe. Yet they don't try to swim or wonder why there is apparently no water resistance to their movements. Either way, they're just visiting a realm constructed by Sora's memories of that world.
  • The Elder Scrolls: There's a Water Breathing spell, there is also the Argonians who apparently have gills.
    • Still doesn't explain how the player can swim through water in full plate mail with a backpack full of loot.
      • It doesn't need an explanation, since the Rule of Cool is obviously at work here.
  • Final Fantasy I requires you, at one point, to travel into an underwater shrine. Before you can go about doing that, you need to buy a bottled fairy and release her, then find her so she can give you the Oxyale relic that supplies your party with oxygen.
  • Whilst fighting Emerald WEAPON in Final Fantasy VII, the party normally has a twenty minute time limit. However, equipping the "Underwater" Materia on a character will replace the time limit with Super Not Drowning Skills. However, this doesn't explain how the other two characters in the party can breathe indefinitely.

Possibly Justified

The following examples could be explained considering the character's traits or the game world mechanics or some other facts. But that explanation was never actually done by the game authors themselves. Is this trope played straight in these examples, is it handwaved or justified? Maybe we'll never know.

Action Adventure

  • Blaster Master: Jason is able to swim around with no problem, even though his battle suit doesn't have a visible oxygen tank on it.
  • The titular Azurik could stay underwater until being killed by the uncommon underwater hazards, going into one of the very rare whirlpools, or getting out of the water yourself. There wasn't a limit otherwise. Unfortunately, you couldn't fight while swimming. His skin, hair, eyes, and tattoos were blue, so maybe he's some unnamed amphibious...thingy.

Action Game

  • Rampage Total Destruction has this, in that Lizzy and the aquatic creatures are able to actually gain health from water hazards, which both injure and knock down other characters.


  • In Champions Online there are large segments completely underwater, but as you play as a superhero underwater breathing might just be a shared power across every hero.
    • Actually explained in one of the first missions in the underwater zone - you gather herbs that are used to create the elixir that lets heroes breathe underwater. You've already been using it, especially during the Lemuria trial, they just need to make more for other, incoming heroes.
  • City of Heroes - Once you're out of waist depth, you can swim underwater as long as you like. Possibly justified by being one of your super abilities.

Platform Game

  • Donkey Kong 64 for the N64 gives one character the ability to turn into a swordfish. This doesn't explain how the other characters can breathe underwater indefinitely.
    • Notably, the Banjo-Kazooie games (which were based off of the same engine as DK64 and had many gameplay similarities) averted this trope with an Oxygen Meter.
  • Kirby likes to put on a scuba mask when he's underwater. Unfortunately, it still counts as Super Not-Drowning Skills, because he doesn't don any air tanks, just the mask... Possibly justified by the fact that he's got a large pocket of Hammerspace inside of him, which may store more air than he could ever need.
  • Normally Sonic the Hedgehog either drowns instantly hitting water in more recent games, or can only last about thirty seconds before Super Drowning Skills kick in. However, find a Bubble Shield in Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic can stay underwater without worrying at all about air indefinitely. (Or at least for ten minutes...)
    • And don't forget about how if he inhales a large air bubble while underwater, the thirty second counter restarts.
    • Sonic can breathe in space. He can't breathe underwater. Don't think about it.
    • Even the otherwise-completely-invulnerable Super Sonic can die by drowning. Apparently Hyper Sonic can breathe underwater, however. Sonic the Hedgehog 4, however, has finally given Super Sonic this trope.
    • And in Sonic Adventure 2, Knuckles can breathe underwater indefinitely after getting the Air Necklace. A necklace that allows you to breathe underwater?
      • Well, he puts it over his mouth when he's under water, so... it's probably a very small oxygen tank?

Role Playing Game

  • Final Fantasy X has many examples of possibly justified use of this trope:
    • The first example of this is Blitzball, a cross between polo and soccer that takes place inside a giant sphere of water, which serves as the national pastime (and also as a minigame). A match lasts for ten minutes, and the players can't leave the water during that time. There's no explanation given at all as to what makes this possible, although this video alludes to breath holding. Given that the current world record is just over 17 minutes, it could be possible for Blitzball players to be trained to hold their breath for ten.
    • The thing is, the world record for holding your breath in real life while swimming and playing a very physically intensive sport would be nowhere near 17 or even 10 minutes. A more plausible justification would be relating it to magic, since every character in the game has the potential to use magic it seems like blitzball players (and Rikku, who was part of a diving team) are just magic users who have adapted a new use for their innate magic powers through intense training. This also helps explain how Tidus picks up magic so easily, and Wakka has a fighting technique combining blitzball and magic attacks. Oh, and several of the blitzball shots in Spira definitely use magic.
    • Let's not forget the famous kissing scene at the Macalania spring between Tidus and Yuna. In Real Life getting into heavy kissing underwater would have the tendency to consume your oxygen pretty quickly. So, even Tidus, being the master breath holder he is, would likely have needed to come up for air. This however does not explain how Yuna can hold her breath for so long, she can barely swim much less hold her breath for long periods of time.
    • One of the most popular Fanon theories is that the water is full of pyreflies. Or something like that...
    • The game is also played in five minute periods, so the players might come up for air at halftime.
    • The extended gameplay sequences underwater make this borderline wallbanger during the turn-based battles, where your characters not only fail to drown, but are somehow also able to move around and fight just like they do on land (though they do make swimming motions). It was so bad that I expected the game to handwave it at some point ("Our Souls Are Different... and by the way, our water is different, too". One wonders why the people of Spira limit themselves to living on land, when they could just as easily build awesome underwater cities and live in them.
    • It could also be that FFX's humans are different from us. They could have evolved in a way so that their circulatory system is more like marine mammals, which can actively swim underwater for very long periods of time. Seeing as this is a fantasy world, it's not that far-fetched.
    • Any arguments about holding their breath are moot since one aspect of blitzeball is tackling other players. When holding one's breath for setting a record, are they getting pummeled? No. Getting hit so hard you drop something you're holding (ex, the ball), should cause the person to exhale. The full body tackles we see in the game would result in the tackled player coughing out their air supply and either struggling to the surface, or drowning.
    • Isn't there a cut scene in the beginning of the game that shows an Al Bhed shoving a breathing device in his mouth before going on an underwater treasure hunt?

Non-video game examples

Anime and Manga

  • Marine Boy uses one of Professor Fumble's inventions: "oxy-gum" which Marine Boy can chew and receive hours of oxygenation.
  • Subaru Nakajima of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is capable of spending up to an hour underwater without an air tank, as a result of being a Combat Cyborg.
  • In the anime Grenadier, Rushuna encounters an opponent who uses an apparatus for breathing and fighting underwater. She fights with seemingly no ill effects for an extended period of time. Although she does eventually need to get air, she goes well over two minutes without any.
    • In the same fight, she evens the scales with a breathing apparatus provided by one of her allies. Said ally is a balloon seller by trade, and the apparatus in question is a helium pump.
  • Though not exactly Super Not Drowning Skills, more like Super breath holding skills, during the Aqua op at Mt. Chimney, Sapphire and Flannery are trapped in a air tight cable car that has filled with water, and are able to survive about 7 minutes without oxygen, even though they're both just kids, and Flannery is about fire types. Also apparently, The girls can hear every word the bad guy was saying even though he was wearing a air filled helmet, and even if he wasn't, you can't hear stuff underwater.
    • You can hear stuff underwater, but for the most part it would be garbled. As for how she can hold her breath underwater, some wild Pokemon can track their prey by sound or scent, and Sapphire would have to hold her breath and remain completely still to avoid detection in those instances. She is the Wild Child of the dex holders, after all. That, and the other Badass Normal feats she performs, make this par for the course.
  • Naruto occasionally treats us to extended fights underwater in which the characters seem to forget about drowning.
  • Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge tries to teach the iron brothers how to swim by example. She disappears underwater for eight minutes, and returns with armfuls of fish. Eight minutes is very impressive, although not world record material. Later, a minor character followed her underwater with SCUBA gear and remarks that an hour of oxygen wasn't enough. (Perhaps it's Nino's Venusian physiology?)
  • Squid Girl from Squid Girl, being oceanic, can breathe underwater (and demonstrates it, much to the boredom of her friends). However, in one chapter she forgets that she can breathe underwater and gets rescued by a lifeguard.
  • There's a few lengthy underwater scenes (or at least mentions of how long they're underwater) in Dragon Ball and Z. It's kinda-justified for the Saiyans who can apparently hold their breath a VERY long time (including apparently being able to fight and, somehow, talk, in low orbit of a planet, at least for a while) but no so much the couple of humans like Krillin who get in on the action.
  • Played completely straight in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Syaoran is wearing a eyemask (but no scuba gear!) and diving straight into the deep. They have enough time to start a fire before he resurfaces. That's gotta be at least ten minutes of holding his breath!

Comic Books

  • The Kraken from The Umbrella Academy can only, as creator Gerard Way said, "hold his breath and throw knives." He also said he was "fucking useless" and compared him to Aquaman. Ouch.
  • The Juggernaut from X-Men has walked along the bottom of the ocean multiple times. This is justified in that he has mystical abilities.
  • Modesty Blaise as well as sidekick Willie use yoga training to stay underwater for up to five minutes. Notably they're perfectly aware of the exact limits of their bodies, and even count how many seconds a given pulse-raising activity (such as fighting) costs them, which is most definitely a Super Not Drowning Skill.
  • Marvel comics characters who fight the Sub-Mariner often get in extended underwater battles. This is especially true for the Fantastic Four; Ben can hold his breath for nearly ten minutes, but the others usually need Reed to invent something for them. It's taken to ridiculous extremes in one episode of the '90s animated show, where Reed comes up with an "oxygenating spray" that lets them breathe without any gear (and survive deep-sea pressure, apparently) for three hours. He also makes it possible for the Torch to burn underwater... with a wristband.
    • Actually, the show did not invent anything here. The "oxygenating spray" and the Torch burning underwater were created during the Lee-Kirby era, in the comic book that episode was based from.
  • The Avengers have also gone underwater with no gear before, courtesy of Sersi using her transformation magic to turn them into water-breathers. This was crazy enough that even the characters remarked on it, but as the Beast pointed out, she does that kind of thing.
  • According to his profile on, The Hulk requires very, very little oxygen to function. This is part of the reason he can function in space by holding his breath, but even more amazing is that his lungs are efficient enough to absorb oxygen from air or water!


  • Captain Kirk in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in a minor Crowning Moment of Awesome, rescues two whales from the cargo hold of a crashed, sinking Klingon starship.
  • Averted in The Abyss: Lindsey survives a long swim by being resuscitated rather than by this means.
  • Godzilla can somehow breathe underwater. How this is possible is unknown...
    • A more extreme example is when Godzilla swims a great distance through LAVA and doesn't die. He actually spent five years trapped in a volcano in the interregnum between two movies, and was no worse for wear after he got out.
  • Strangely, this seems to happen in The Boat That Rocked. When the ship starts to sink, Carl and Bob spend plenty of time arguing underwater about Bob trying to rescue all of his records at once, without looking even slightly distressed at the lack of oxygen. Bob then spends further time trying to choose one record to rescue, still not looking at all bothered about being underwater for so long.
  • The Poseidon Adventure was mentioned in Roger Ebert's book of movie cliches (see Shelley Winters Index).
  • Jason Bourne spends long enough underwater in The Bourne Supremacy (with one brief gulp of the air left in his submerged car) that the hitman assumes he's dead. The next thing we know, he's standing on dry land without even medical attention. Of course, Bourne is a general Badass.
  • In Highlander, Ramirez throws Connor (who is discovering he's immortal) into a lake, causing him to discover he doesn't drown.


  • Older Than Print: In Beowulf, the title character spends several hours underwater going after Grendel's mother. It's unclear if he can breathe underwater or if he's just badass enough to hold his breath that long, but either way, it's impressive. Elsewhere in the poem, his recounting of a week-long swim during his youth makes clear just how good he is in the water.
  • Averted and/or justified in the fourth Harry Potter book. One of the events requires the contestants to stay underwater for a significant period of time, and much of the challenge is figuring out how to do that.
  • Percy Jackson, in the books and the movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief. In the movie, the first hint that there's something very different about Percy is when we see he can just sit on the bottom of a pool for minutes at a time. This makes a lot more sense when we learn he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon.
  • Micheal also uses this to demonstrate his mental abilities in Stranger in A Strange Land.
  • Septimus Heap's brother Simon apparently spent months with his head in a bucket learning the Darke Art of Suspension Underwater.
  • The backstory to Titan, the world of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, describes how Hydana, the god of the sea, got lonely in his underwater kingdom and decided to kidnap some humans so he could have some company. It wasn't until after the first few humans had drowned that Hydana realized they couldn't breathe underwater. After that, he turned the lungs of his human "guests" into gills (he's a god, he can do that sort of thing) so they could breathe. This led the humans to be turned into Mermen, even as the elves, trolls and even giants that Hydana added to their number also adapted to the ocean in their own ways.
  • In the Mind Pool duology by Charles Sheffield, Angels (a species of plant-like creatures; no relation to messengers from heaven) can survive underwater for extremely long periods of time. One describes it thus:

Angel: "We can not breathe underwater... however, we can not breathe underwater, as well."

  • In Dragon Steel, the second book of Laurence Yep's Dragon Series, dragons can breathe and move underwater as easily as they can in air or on land. Humans visiting the dragon kingdom, however, need an enchanted pearl to allow them to breathe and talk while under the sea. It also keeps them warm and prevents the crushing pressure at the bottom of the ocean from killing them. There are ordinary humans who have spent their whole lives—birth to old age to death—living at the bottom of the ocean.
  • Chelestra, the completely water-based world in the third book of the Death Gate Cycle, automatically granted this power to everyone—even visitors could breathe underwater. Of course, the ocean also had the property of obliterating rune-based magic, so it might not have been water.

Live-Action TV

  • Meredith on Grey's Anatomy spent an entire episode floating around under water and suffered no physical consequences.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Water Breathing spell and a few magical items can let you breathe underwater.
    • And in the book on fantastic architecture, you can build a room of water breathable to both land and sea creatures.
  • The Shadowrun Verse's mega-Badass Kid Stealth was able to survive underwater for ten minutes after being tossed in the Sound with cement overshoes. A professional sniper-style hit man, he'd had an oxygen tank installed in place of one of his lung lobes so his own breathing wouldn't interfere with his aim.
  • In Titan, the Fighting Fantasy world, the underwater races came about because of this trope. Hydana, the god of the waters, got bored just hanging out with the fish and other sea creatures, and started kidnapping humans to join him under the waves. When he realized that the humans were drowning after he took them underwater, he used his powers to turn their lungs into gills, and they eventually turned into the Mermen. Hydana would later repeat this feat with elves, trolls and giants, who all became aquatic equivalents of their land-dwelling kin as well.

Web Comics

  • Fighter in 8-Bit Theater invokes this trope when playing Drownball. He comes in last because of his Super Not-Drowning Skills but wins by default, because he is the only surviving participant.
    • Of course, this is a pretty naked reference to FFX's Blitzball, as outlined above, down to using the blitz pool and locker room from FFX as backgrounds.
  • Adventure Dennis. Dennis doesn't even seem to notice that he is underwater.
  • Tales of the Questor: The inhabitants of freedom shore can hold their breath for up to fifteen minutes and are compared to pearl dives.

Web Original

  • Most of the characters who fall under this trope from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe are justified because their powers are somehow aquatic in nature. Starfish, for example, is a "human starfish" while Master Shark is a "shark-man". Sea Lion and Nemo are both homages to Aquaman. Calypso is a shapeshifter who turns into sea animals. The Shield, though, doesn't have any sort of justification for his ability to operate underwater without breathing apparatus; its just that, quite literally, one of his powers is Super Not-Drowning Skills.
  • SCP-076 from the SCP Foundation is able to survive for over an hour in the absence of oxygen.

Western Animation

  • Just like the 2D games, Super Mario Bros Super Show did at least one entire episode set underwater with the cast suffering no apparent breathing problems (or the Princess's hair even floating upward), and even holding conversations. Oddly enough, a later episode on follow-up series The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 had Mario almost drown when one of the Doomsub's lasers zapped him. Luigi immedately lampshaded this, saying that Mario swims better than most fish.
    • There's the episode "Plumber's Academy" from Super Mario Bros Super Show that had Mario and Luigi borrow scuba gear to fix a cemented clog in the sewers of New York City. Perhaps the Mushroom World's waters are oxygenated?
      • If the Mushroom World's waters are oxygenated, why does "20,000 Koopas Under the Sea" feature a human character character that puts on a DIVING HELMET to go underwater whereas Mario, Luigi, Toad and Peach can breathe without one?
      • Not to mention that drowning example from The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 is still very confusing.
  • Lampshaded in the Heavy Metal movie, when Den is surprised that neither he nor the Damsel in Distress drowned during an underwater escape.
  • Billy is able to survive underwater by breathing his own farts. Try not to think about how his farts contain enough oxygen for Billy to survive. PLEEZE don't think about it!
  • In episode 20 of the web series Making Fiends, it's revealed that, as Charlotte puts it "I can hold my breath for niiiiine hours. Tee-hee!". Although, like Fighter and Grim, she probably doesn't need much air.
  • In the Russian children's cartoon Luntik, the titular "moon person" can breathe and speak equally well in water or in air, though at least some of the fish characters are apparently unable to leave the water.
    • The damn titular thing hatched from an egg on the Moon surface. First words? "I hatched!". I really don't think that the sober fraction of the production crew was statistically significant at any stage of the production...
  • In Disney's Pinocchio, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket spend eight minutes of screen time (and possibly days of real time) under the ocean looking for Monstro the whale with no effect other than garbled underwater voices. It sort of makes sense for Pinocchio, since he's made of wood—what doesn't make sense is that a few minutes later, he apparently drowns.
  • There's a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Hare Ribbin' where Bugs Bunny is chased by a dog into a lake and the rest of the cartoon takes place underwater.
  • In one episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (the 2002 remake) Evil-Lynn uses a spell so she and Skeletor's other henchmen can breathe underwater; Beast-Man is a little surprised when he finds himself breathing water, while Trap-Jaw isn't sure he wants to.
    • Also, the Snake-Men, despite being, well, Snake People, have both lungs and gills and can breathe easily underwater. Naturally this is not the case with real reptiles.

Real Life

  • Real Life aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins can hold their breath for periods ranging from several minutes to a few hours, depending on the species. Even they have to come up for air at some point though.
    • Another real-life example: hypothermia may help a drowning victim to survive for much longer than usual by slowing your metabolism; hence the adage "you are not dead until you are warm and dead".
      • That idiom actually refers to the fact that people who "died" of hypothermia can sometimes be brought back to life if found soon enough because the cold prevents brain damage and decay.
  • Harry Houdini's magic tricks required him to hold his breath for three minutes, which is bordering on superhuman. Various rumours indicated that he could hold his breath longer were created by some of his tricks, or confusion with details of other feats as well (e.g. surviving 1 hour 30 minutes in a sealed casket underwater by controlled breathing).
    • Depending on who you ask, the current (Oct 2009) record is somewhere between 11 and 18 minutes.
  • There is a hypothetical construct called a respirocyte, which is basically a nanotech version of a red blood cell. Made of diamond and capable of holding gases internally at pressures up to 1000 atmospheres, each would function over 200 times more efficiently than the natural counterpart. They could, when combined with a similar nanotech lung, let an average person hold their breath for nearly 4 days.