Death Routes (also known as Skull Routes) are special paths that appear in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, and The Wrath of Cortex. The death routes are alternate routes in certain levels that can only be accessed by a special lift that has a crossbones symbol on it. Crash will only be able to access the lift with the crossbones by making it through a certain portion of the level without losing a life. If he dies along the way before reaching the lift, then only an outline will appear in its place.
Once Crash gains access to the lift, he will take an alternate route that is usually more difficult than the regular route. The death routes always contain a gem, and sometimes also crates that must be broken to receive the level's box gem. Some death routes contain iron checkpoint crates as the death route is not required for box completion. Death routes usually feature more dangers than found in a normal level. They often have more nitro crates and/or TNT crates, than normal routes. Gem paths are similar to death routes, except they require colored gems to enter, but still use the same music as a death route.
In The Wrath of Cortex, death routes always return to outline form if Crash dies outside of the death route, even after Crash has already taken the death route platform.
- In the prototype version of Cortex Strikes Back, Death Route platforms moved much faster and the player would occasionally fall through them and lose a life, if it's not on the ground.
- The same outline is used for all ghost death route platforms in both Cortex Strikes Back and Warped, regardless of the original platform's shape.
- In Cortex Strikes Back, Air Crash, Diggin' It, Cold Hard Crash, and Night Fight share the same platform.
- In Cortex Strikes Back, some death routes are required for box completion, but in Warped and The Wrath of Cortex, death routes are never required for box completion.
- In Cortex Strikes Back, death routes always contain a clear gem, whereas in Warped and The Wrath of Cortex, death routes always contain a colored gem.
- In The Wrath of Cortex, all five colored gems are found inside death routes.
- Before the end of the death route in Tomb Wader, the normal area music is used instead of a death route due to a mistake when setting it up. The end of the death route has the intended death route music.
- Warped has death route platforms for the pre-historic and future levels, but they went unused in the retail versions.