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The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.
—The first line of The Gunslinger, by Stephen King.

On his neverending quest to find the MacGuffin, Hero Bob must cross a desert wasteland. Expect there to be scorpions, cacti, a few Ribcage Ridges, and maybe even a Sand Worm or two. For whatever reason, rather than travel during the night, Bob will nearly always travel starting at high noon, though this can be justified by the planet having multiple suns, or the desert having some kind of curse, what have you. If Bob's travelling with Alice, Carol, and Dave, expect at least one of them to suffer from heat stroke, and another to see a Hollywood Mirage. And All Deserts Have Cacti.

May be a Thirsty Desert. Watch out if so.

In Video Games, the setting itself will have some or all the traits of the Shifting Sand Land, and there'll usually be some aversion of Gameplay and Story Segregation, either by way of taking damage due to the extreme heat, or getting lost easily due to each screen looking nearly, if not completely, identical.

Examples of Crossing the Desert include:

Anime and Manga

  • Afro Samurai crosses a desert in Resurrection, with Ninja Ninja complaining the whole time. Kotaro follows, and nearly dies in the desert as a result.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Vita and Signum looking for monster souls in a desert planet.
  • Shows up frequently in Claymore
  • Due to the nature of the Digital World, the heroes often find themselves crossing deserts. Seldom do they have a known destination in mind.
  • The world of One Piece has the entire country of Arabasta, where Crocodile takes advantage of the climate to cause an entire war.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, it isnt exactly seen, but both Ling and May Chang cross a desert.
  • In the Ranma ½ anime (but not manga) Genma once had to cross a desert (somewhere) with baby Ranma on his back. When he ran out of water he traded Ranma to a (well fed) stranger for a bowl of rice and some fish to eat (after the stranger fed Ranma Genma stole him back). And thus Ranma gained another fiancée.
  • Gaara has done this in Naruto in order to get to the Leaf Village.
  • Happens early on in Dragon Ball when Bulma, Goku, and Oolong are on the trail of one of the titular MacGuffins. They are soon attacked by Yamcha, the desert bandit. Hilarity Ensues.

Comic Books

  • The "traveling by day" bit is averted in an early Elf Quest, where after travelling through the troll caverns the Wolfriders get thrown out into the desert (although initially they're not sure whether the desert sun is the same one they had at home, or whether it will set or not).



  • In Tribesman of Gor, Tarl Cabot must make a long trek through the Tahari Desert to stop a Doomsday Device from destroying the planet.
  • Brutha crossed the desert from Ephebe to Om with Vorbis on his back in Small Gods. There is also the metaphysical crossing of the desert; dead souls are taken to the black desert by Death, and they then must cross it and they then go to the afterlife they believed in.
  • In King Solomons Mines by H. Rider Haggard, Allan Quatermain and his crew had to spend a long time suffering while trying to cross a desert to get to the land of the Kukuanas.
  • The Dark Tower series begins the mysterious, cowboy-like protagonist chasing an equally mysterious man in black across a desert, as quoted at the top of the page.
  • In the beginning of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, Bishop Latour must cross the New Mexico desert to Santa Fe.
  • In L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second Oz book, Mombi tries this to escape Glinda. Glinda catches her.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Slithering Shadows" Conan the Barbarian and a girl are crossing the desert away from a disasterous battle.
  • An odd example, from Laurence Yep's Dragon Series - In Dragon of the Lost Sea, the dragon Shimmer injures her wing, and she and the boy Thorn have to cross a dried out sea on foot. Since all the water was removed from the sea instantaneously via magic, the dry seabed is a desert plain of blindingly white salt flats, with periodic stinging salt winds.
  • In the first book of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon, Murtagh, and Saphira have to cross the Hadarac Desert to reach the Varden.
  • Dany takes her followers across the desert in A Clash of Kings, the second book in A Song of Ice and Fire. They quickly run out of food and water, horses die, and many of her followers, including Doreah, do not survive.
  • Briefly in Count and Countess when the Turkish army sets up camp in Syria. A young Vlad Dracula, who has been taken hostage by the Ottomans and forced into the Janissaries, complains unendingly of the heat.

Live Action TV

  • One of the sequences in the Top Gear Middle East special has them doing this is Syria. The main obstacles in this case are mostly rocks and rough terrain.


  • The song "A Horse With No Name" by America.
  • Neo-Progressive Rock band Galahad reference Lawrence of Arabia in their song "Aqaba (A Matter of Going)".
  • The hero of Muse's "Knights of Cydonia" must do this after getting exiled by the sheriff.

Tabletop Games

  • Long journeys through the Desert of Desolation occur in the Dungeons and Dragons module series of the same name.

Video Games

  • In Breath of Fire III, you must cross a desert to get to The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Just before you finish, Nina suffers from heat stroke. Notably, you're strongly encouraged to only travel during the night, using the stars as guidance.
  • In Boktai 2, shortly after you get vampirized, Sabata drags you through the desert in a coffin. Somewhat touching, considering Sabata burns in the sunlight.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, you have to wander around in a desert to find "The Boss" after you're imprisoned at Gold Saucer. Every screen is identical.
  • In King's Quest V you must enter the desert to get some Mac Guffins. The sun's frozen in the sky, but you must drink water every x screens or you will die. Oddly, you only need water in the desert areas, never in the more temperate zones.
    • And again in King's Quest VII. Valenice will be just fine as long as she stays within the few screens where most of the action takes place, but when she has to venture out into the greater parts of the desert, where all the screens look the same, then she has a chance of dying of thirst.
  • Quest for Glory II took place in the desert land of Shapeir, and the hero could easily die of thirst if he ran out of water while travelling through the desert. Sierra likes these.
    • QFG2 actually had an interesting twist on this: with enough supplies, you actually can cross the desert and go from the City of Adventure to the Wretched Hive before the scripted plotline forces you to. However, there's no point, since you can't get into the second town until said plotline occurs. But still, points for letting players do it at all.
  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time has the Gerudo Desert which you must cross in order to get to the last temple, the Spirit Temple. If you get lost, you have to start over.
  • The third "chapter" of Mother 3 starts off with a trek through the desert
    • Dusty Dunes Desert and Scaraba in Earthbound. Crossing the desert for a while will get you sunburned.
  • Golden Sun has it three times accross two games. The first one requires you to find water or risk taking massive damage. The second just has tornados that will send you back to the start of the level. The third has lots of jumping around and steppes.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has Teehee valley, in which Mario And Luigi must guide Peach across to get to a Mushroom Kingdom city.
  • In Star Ocean Till the End of Time, you need to cross a (very small) desert to get to some ruins. You quickly dehydrate and have to stand in the water from an oasis in order to recover, making the gameplay in this section exploring as quickly as possible to find the next oasis before you keel over. No, we don't know how standing in water rehydrates you. Don't think about it so hard.
  • Tales of Vesperia has a desert mission that behaves like the first Golden Sun example above. It actually does have a night setting where you die a little slower.
  • In Abe's Oddysee Abe must cross the desert of Scrabania on elum-back to reach a temple.
  • In Uncharted 3, there's a chapter where you doing nothing except this.


  • The Maltak arc of Dominic Deegan consists of trekking through a vast, featureless wasteland, without pack animals, in the daytime, and without apparent protection from the sun or supplies.

Western Animation

  • In an episode of Futurama, Fry crosses a desert to make a delivery on the planet Trisol. Just as the sun goes down, a larger one rises.
  • In an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Gaang wanders the desert to find a hidden library. And yes, Sokka and Momo get high on peyote.
  • In an episode of Ben 10 Alien Force, Ben wanders the desert with a Highbreed, Reinrassig III, in order to get to a teleporter. The two eventually share a Not So Different moment, causing the latter to stay behind in self-imposed exile.
  • An episode of Rugrats plays a blacktop basketball court as a huge desert. Of course, the protagonists are babies.
  • The second act of Disney's Dinosaur, which for some reason, resembled the final act of the "Rite of Spring" segment from Fantasia. In fact, the soundtrack played during this scene is even called "Across the Desert!"
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