"And so we return again to the holy void. Some say this is simply our destiny, but I would have you remember always that the void exists, just as surely as you or I. Is nothingness any less a miracle than substance?"
—Sister Miriam Godwinson, “We Must Dissent”
A setting that lacks a background and supporting characters, often in a deliberately jarring fashion. A Beautiful Void
will often be exactly what the name implies: beautiful, yet somehow also a wasteland, often with a touch of After the End
thrown in for good measure. Typically, the reason why the obviously vibrant world is so deserted and empty will be mysterious, but this may vary depending on medium and plot. Named for Douglas Adams
' description of Myst
. Stories set in this trope tend to have major philosophical aspects. Often coexists with Ontological Mystery
Wistfulness is an important factor. Overlaps with Scenery Porn
A similar effect can be used to evoke fear, as well - see Nothing Is Scarier
, It's Quiet... Too Quiet
, and Ghost City
Anime and Manga
- The Bakemonogatari series is nominally an Urban Fantasy set in a modern city. Yet it adheres to this trope in how it presents the characters: a dozen named characters are the only people seen, and the urban landscape is entirely immobile and deserted (except for identical cars passing by). The nearest it comes to acknowledging others is a crowd in episode 14 that is rendered by something resembling pop-up figurines.
- Blame! uses this setting.
- Haibane Renmei: The town of Glie is surrounded by a mysterious wall that no one except the Renmei may pass through, and while there are population centers, much of the town is open countryside or woods.
- Kurogane Communication does this.
- Tenshi No Tamago has this type of setting.
- Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: In the setting, large portions of the Japanese islands are partially or completely submerged in the ocean, population centers are widely spread apart, and human contact is infrequent. The overall atmosphere is of quiet, slow decline.
- Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior: Zero sees the Reverse World as this, and plans to bring Giratina to the real World so he can have it all to himself.
- The beautiful, quiet, and peaceful fungus forests in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
- A few of the early scenes of 28 Days Later, with Cillian Murphy wondering the eerily-silent streets of London.
- Gerry (2002) is just two men lost in the New Mexico desert.
- The Canadian film Nothing is entirely this trope, although we do know what happened.
- While The Film of the Book The Quiet Earth is more or less post-apocalyptic, the last five minutes take place somewhere that most definitely isn't our Earth, that is seemingly uninhabited except for the protagonist, whose fate is unclear but awesome. Without spoiling, let's just say that the final theme is entitled Saturn Rising.
- The pristine forest surrounding The Village works this way, and is critical to The Reveal.
Live Action TV
- In The Giver, all we know about the background is that people got sick of unique differences and pains and got rid of them somehow. And something about infanticide.
- A lot of the landscape crossed by the heroes in The Lord of the Rings is breathtakingly beautiful, yet quite uninhabited by anyone. Justified in that they're avoiding civilization to elude Sauron's spies much of the time, and many areas' usual residents have fled the coming war.
- And according to the Appendices at least the northern half of Middle-Earth (Eriador) never really recovered from the Great Plague and the war against Angmar, with only the Shire, Breeland and Rivendell remaining as significant population centers.
- The Wood Between the Worlds is one in The Magician's Nephew.
- More Than This takes place in a town with no inhabitants except Seth and later Regine, Tomasz and the Driver, contributing to the eerie, dream-like atmosphere.
- Craig Harrison's The Quiet Earth.
- Cittŕgazze in The Subtle Knife appears completely uninhabited to Lyra and Will when they first arrive there. Turns out it's sparsely inhabited only by children, the Spectres having rendered the city's adults Empty Shells.
- The song "Storybook Sundown", alternately titled "Beautiful Nothing". As the author himself described it, "I envisioned being doomed to eternal solitude in an endless void when I made this."
- Aquaria: Most of the sea life is either neutral or openly aggressive. The only real companions you meet are Satellite Love Interest Li and any pets you get. Aside from that, most of the world is massive, empty, and incredibly beautiful.
- Cloud, although it has a vague story, takes place in the sky, with only some clouds and the occasional view of an island.
- The world of the Coil is this.
- The Crystal Key has a partially known background—an alien empire is annihilating everything in its path, and you're trying to contact the only civilization known to have held out against it even temporarily. However, most of the game essentially fits this, as the people you're looking for have long since vanished except for their Apocalyptic Logs, and enemy soldiers only rarely show up. The aura is quite deliberately a mix of exoticism and quiet menace.
- Lordran of Dark Souls, aside from all of the undead nasties, is all but devoid of actual life.
- The island in Dear Esther.
- The Xbox Live Indie game The Deep Cave.
- The Dig - actually a double example, with both Cocytus and Spacetime Six.
- FEZ largely takes place in these. Although there are a few places outside your hometown with people in them, you can't understand them for the most part.
- The dungeons for the first FFCC game. Gorgeous rivers, lakes, forests, and ruins. But the whole world is covered in poisonous gas so there really are just very few people outside of the sheltered towns.
- Flywrench. Glitch ambient music plays in the background and everything is dark and mysterious all around, yet somehow peaceful.
- Fragile Dreams takes place in this.
- Homeworld gets extra points for being actually set entirely in space. You never see any planet up close, there are no named characters other than Karan S'jet and Captain Elson, and you never learn how any of the aliens look in person. And even though you can amass a fleet of significant size that ends up in numerous massive battles, individual starfighters are too small to take notice of, and the capital ships are too slow and heavy to do any fancy evasive actions. And since you usually need to have a good overview over the battlespace, all you see of the pitched and dramatic battles is some slight glitter of warships on fire and exploding starfighters, and the occasional flash of an exploding destroyer. The music aknowledges the start of a battle by slightly increasing the pacing.
- ICO is set in one of these, with supremely beautiful buildings with extremely little to do.
- Every video game ever made by thatgamecompany has this.
- This appears to be one of the core principles behind Journey.
- Flower, definitely the beautiful kind most of the time.
- Played with in Knytt; there are people and other creatures, but you can't interact with them.
- Metroid Prime. Echoes and Corruption less so, because of friendly NPCs.
- Super Metroid, too - the opening sees you traverse an otherwise empty area, discover something, then Back Track through the same, now populated, area.
- This is key to the horror of Limbo, where the player has no idea what's going on or what has happened to the world. Since the first part of the game is set in a thick forest, it makes sense that you run into very few people (although the ones you do are murderous kids with spears or something, which makes less sense and is never explained) but then you progress into a factory and a hotel which are utterly abandoned.
- Looming. The game consists entirely of exploring a quiet, lonely wasteland, uncovering the relics of civilizations that have moved on. Also, the player character is about ten pixels tall.
- Minecraft played this straight until the introduction of villages with NPCs, although there's still an option to remove structures at world generation so you can play in an uninhabited world. Prior to that, the only sign of other intelligent life was two of the enemies, zombies and skeletons, which are both types of monsters that traditionally used to be people.
- One could even argue that the point of Minecraft is to invoke this.
- Myst, with a quote from Douglas Adams about it is the Trope Namer.
- The world of The Neverhood.
- The world of Secrets of Rćtikon, at least in the sense that nature has been left to its own devices, allowing a multitude of plants and animals to thrive among the various dormant machines.
- Noctis contains 70 billion stars, all procedurally generated. Precious few have life, and your character is the only sentient being. (The website says that there are other exploration ships around, but it's "fantastically unlikely" that you'll ever meet one - the only time you see another starship is when you activate the emergency distress call when you run out of fuel.) There's no win condition, and no way of losing except against existentialist angst—just exploration, and wonder at the sheer emptiness of it all.
- Conspicuously the case in The Omega Stone, in which you visit some of the world's most famed (and tourist-attracting) ancient monuments, yet there's not a living soul in sight. You only meet four people in the entire game, and only one of them is actually at a monument.
- The Path, wandering through a melancholy forest accompanied by sad and ambient music really defines this trope, but this Beautiful Void can quickly turn scary.
- Portal: Just you and a lying computer voice in a starkly-designed testing centre, with windows to empty offices and implications that something really went wrong.
- Portal 2 adds precisely one more major character to the cast, not counting the three personality spheres that show up only for the last chapter, and not counting the long-deceased Cave Johnson, who shows up only in pre-recorded messages. Plus there's the heavy implications that the game, set an unknown (but probably very long) time after its predecessor, takes place After the End, which was really plausible in the first game, as Portal is set in the Half-Life universe and as such would be affected by the Combine invasion of Earth - however the ending of Portal 2 shows Earth with normal shorelines (The Combine drained the oceans) and after exiting Aperture, Chell emerges into a crop field, so perhaps some civilization survived in the USA.
- Proteus. You start off near the shore of a vibrantly coloured island that generates itself as you go. The only thing there is the wildlife, and the only sign of human life on the island is a cabin that may or may not even appear in your playthrough.
- Schizm emphasizes the "void" over the "beautiful," even more than The Crystal Key. Civilization on the Ghost Planet you're exploring vanished quickly and mysteriously, as did the entire research team you were supposed to be delivering supplies to. The only remaining signs of life are the audio diaries left by the scientists.
- Scratches is set in one of these.
- Shadow of the Colossus has a beautiful, massive world, but except for Colossi, stray shrines with shining lizards and fruit trees are just about the only other things.
- Spyro The Dragon is made of this trope. There's a lot of enemies, but once you clear them there's nothing but beautiful void left.
- Submachine. You don't know what happened to the people who used the Submachine network before you found it (Murtagh is still around somewhere, but there used to be teams at some of these places). You don't know why many of these buildings have been buried. And you don't even really know where anywhere is, because you travel everywhere by teleporter. (At the end of The Root and beginning of The Edge you seem to be travelling through a literal void.)
- Timelapse involves traveling to many "past" civilizations, all of which are now devoid of human life (except for occasional obstacle puzzles, such as the Amazon crocodile or the killer robot patrolling Atlantis).
- Turgor (in English-speaking countries, The Void, appropriately enough).
- In The Unfinished Swan, the world starts off as an absolute void, and begins to fill up with detail as you shoot out ink around you. There are still no other creatures around, however.
- A world of the Vagrant Story easily fits.
- The island of The Witness is filled with a diverse array of environments and buildings of both ancient and modern design, but no humans other than yourself. All you really get are audio recordings scattered about the place that give you bits and pieces of backstory. It should come as no surprise that Jonathan Blow intended the game to be a Genre Throwback to old Adventure Games from The Nineties such as Myst.
- On the whole, Yume Nikki's quiet dreamscapes tend to be rather more bizarre and unsettling than beautiful, but they certainly capture the spirit of this trope.
- Blank It. The title should give a clue.
- Draw With Me takes place in one of these, though it's implied that there is civilization in the area that we never see.
- In Homestuck, Jane's Sburb land is this, the land of Crypts and Helium. It is very atmospheric and the update it is introduced in contains various puzzles. The author himself said that it was an homage to Myst and other such point-and-click games.
- Likewise, a Dead Session starts out in a similar state before getting more complex.
- Beast Wars is kinda like this. There are less than ten Maximals, and less than ten Predacons, in a prehistoric Earth populated by primitive hominids.
- The Universe, until proven otherwise.
- To be more precise, the night sky. Sure, it has thousands of stars, but mostly it is black abyss, staring in our eyes.
- The moon. "Magnificent Desolation" indeed. When you are on the light side, sunlight reflected from the ground is so bright that eyes and cameras adjusting to the ambient lighting can't see or capture the stars, making the sky perfectly black with only the sun and possibly the Earth visible. On the dark side, there is only star light in the sky, and perfect darkness on the ground.