Especially prevalent in The Nineties, this is when a character goes on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. The character is forced to confront his subconscious or seek guidance from his Spirit Advisors in the form of some kind of pseudo-Dream Sequence, possibly Adventures in Coma Land. At times it is debatable whether the events actually take place or not. While on this journey the character may meet animal guides, dead people, ancestors, shamans, be forced to engage in some type of physical or mental trial, and will most likely experience a moment of revelation about him or herself which leads to making an important life decision.
The name is taken from the "vision quest" that many Inuit and other Native American groups undergo.
It is also the name of a 1985 film about a high school wrestler grappling with adulthood while having a crush on a 21-year-old drifter. The film was directed by Harold Becker and starred Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino. Its soundtrack yielded the hit singles "Crazy for You" by Madonna and "Only the Young" by Journey.
- Done several times in Elf Quest:
- After failing for the first time to save someone, Leetah stabs herself in the stomach to force a Vision Quest and gain more control over her healing powers.
- Most Wolfriders go on Vision Quests of varying intensity to discover their Soul Names as part of becoming an adult. Goodtree's Vision Quest is described in her short story collection.
- Some magically able elves, such as Savah and Suntop, do this on a regular basis, called "going out." Suntop eventually decides to go on a perpetual Vision Quest and leave his body behind for years at a time, interrupted only to be with his lifemate.
- Jesse from Preacher (Comic Book). Twice if you count the voodoo session.
- Famously done in Grant Morrison's run of Animal Man has the titular hero go on a peyote-fuelled Vision Quest. This expands his consciousness to the point where he briefly becomes aware of the reader, looking out of the page and shouting "I SEE YOU!"
- "Echo: Vision Quest", a Story Arc in Daredevil comics, which focussed on... er... a character called Echo undergoing a vision quest.
- Jim Morrison is depicted as having a literal vision quest in the Oliver Stone The Doors Film.
- That scene is then parodied in Wayne's World.
- In Hidalgo Frank has a vision of himself with his mother.
- In the Star Wars universe, every padawan must undergo a "Trial of the Spirit", before they can earn the rank of Jedi. This trial often takes the form of a Vision Quest:
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda sends Luke into a cave that's a nexus of the Dark Side. There, Luke fights and kills a ghost of Darth Vader, then sees his own face under Vader's mask.
- In Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin's mission to rescue the Nelvaan warriors led him into a cave where geothermal gases caused him to hallucinate. His hallucination symbolically foreshadowed his transformation into Darth Vader.
- Lampshaded by the Nelvaan.
- Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life lies somewhere between this and an existendial crisis.
- Averted in Vision Quest where nobody even once went on one.
- In Inception, the Dream Weavers create a custom dream for a business heir that includes telling him he's on a Vision Quest to come to term with his relationship with his late father. However, the whole thing is orchestrated including the epiphany at the ending that consists of a fake representation of his subconsciousness in the form of his father that tells him that his father never wanted him to be as greedy and power hungry as he had become and that after his death his monopoly should be split up. When the heir wakes, the dream will fade, but the faked epiphany remains, influencing all his future business decisions.
- The Trope Codifier may be the works of new-age spiritualist Carlos Castaneda; many comic versions are direct parodies of him.
- Castaneda himself being the indigenous Dante.
- In Frank Herbert's Dune, meeting one's spiritual Gom Jabbar is something like this.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Horus finds himself on a vision quest, where wolves force him to remember who he is and a Dead Person Conversation with an impersonator (also dead) lures him with a vision of the future.
- Similar to the Star Wars example in the Film section, The Looking Glass Wars features the "Crystal Maze," a sort of Psychological Torment Zone which princesses must endure to prove that they have enough strength and endurance to become queen.
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- Deep Space Nine. The Dax symbionts (Ezri and Jadzia) do something similar when they communicate with their past hosts.
- Lampshaded in You are Cordialy Invited. Worf leads his four groomsmen on the path to Kal'Hyah, which is a very Klingon wedding ritual. In the midst, Julian says, "I have had a vision...I am going to kill Worf".
- Locke goes all vision-questy in the Lost episode "Further Instructions." Not to mention that he ended up on the island after trying to go on an Australian Outback walkabout, only to find himself on a deeper spiritual journey.
- Dr Franklin in Babylon 5.
- Mac experiences in the MacGyver episode "Trail of Tears".
- Leo and Phoebe in Charmed underwent vision quests of their own. Of course, Leo's was closer to the actual definition of a vision quest. Phoebe's was a message that she must have babies.
- Thad Castle goes on a vision quest in the Blue Mountain State episode "Vision Quest" in order to decide whether to remain at Blue Mountain State another year or to go pro. Subverted when the vision quest tells him to stay at Blue Mountain State and remain true to his heart, but he decides to go pro because the guys on the team at BMS "were all dicks to me anyway".
- Tommy Oliver has to go on one to get his head straightened out in Power Rangers Zeo. The spirit animal he has to follow is a falcon, which makes sense because that's the animal spirit his Ninja powers were drawn from.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Giles takes Buffy on a drive out into the desert in "Intervention". Buffy is not impressed when the ritual resembles the hokey-pokey and her Spirit Advisor—the First Slayer—informs her that "Death is your gift." Later though she sends the Potentials on the same quest.
- In Mage: The Ascension the player character have to go through one to gain a level of magical power.
- In Shadowrun, it's the most efficient mean for a Shaman or Mage to improve their magical power and gain metamagical powers.
- The Lunars in Exalted have a Charm that actually allows them to make some sense out of the Wyld—they read the flow of chaos there in order to gain insight. The process is described in the general tone of a vision quest.
- One of the Avatar: The Last Airbender online flash game had Aang meeting some of his former incarnations in order to regain his power.
- Tauren characters in World of Warcraft get a quest like this during the lower levels, although it pretty much boils down to following a ghost wolf to your next quest objective. (You aren't even required to follow it, as long as you know where you're supposed to go next.)
- Hakumen's story mode in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger details the Vision Quest he had to undertake to escape from the pocket dimension he was sealed in and return to reality. Complete with fighting Jin Kisaragi as a manifestation of his past sins.
- The "Wayang Kulit" arc from Sluggy Freelance does this for Torg, Kiki, and Bun-Bun, complete with an Art Shift to a darker pallet and plenty of Mind Rape elements.
- Subverted in Order of the Stick. After his vision of Lord Shojo, Belkar remains as bloodthirsty as ever, but he's learned to fake morality and character growth to draw attention away from himself. Maybe...
- Parodied in this Questionable Content strip.
- Shelly of Wapsi Square went on a vision quest as an important part of her backstory. She found a good deal more than what she expected, and ended up in over her head.
- A character does this in Exo Squad.
- The Simpsons, in the Mushroom Samba chapter "El viaje misterioso de nuestro Homer", has Homer going in one of such journeys after eating the Merciless Peppers of Quetzaltenango.
- Homer experiences another Vision Quest (of a more traditional variety) during The Movie.
- Mocked mercilessly in South Park when Native Americans are trying to buy out the town to build casinos and Stan has to unlock his 'Magical Middle Class White Guy' abilities. He basically gets high on meth.
- Parodied in Family Guy.
- A version similar to the Simpsons example above happens to The Tick (animation) when knocked into orbit.
- The Water Tribe in Avatar: The Last Airbender are Inuit-based but extremely pragmatic; Sokka even appears to be an skeptic-atheist to start. Aang goes on several vision quest things to the spirit world to get advice and sort out wrongs. Zuko goes on one from his bed while sick with fever; it doesn't immediately equal a Heel Face Turn, but it does pin down his soul on the 'good' side, even if he doesn't realize it right away. Though his character development is actually pretty independent of this, it's all symbolic. Given this spirit stuff is actually real in universe, one must wonder whether, had the blue dragon won him, the person we know as Zuko would somehow have been able to make his peace with Ozai's Fire Nation after everything he'd seen and done. Not that he'd have survived long.
- Brock Samson went on a Castenada-influenced Vision Quest (along with Dr. Orpheus and his mystical crew) in The Venture Brothers episode "¡Viva los Muertos!"