"Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself."
Dystopia is Ancient Greek for Crapsack World (or more literally, "bad place"). The trick to creating a Dystopia is to take a sociopolitical issue and play it straight to the extreme (as in deconstructions) or turn it Up to Eleven, creating said Crapsack World in the process. Better yet, do it with several issues, or perhaps all of them.
A dystopia is a social commentary literally in the background, as is a utopian setting. The two settings share a problem in sometimes being a little too one-note. The author is thinking "capitalism sucks!", for instance, and everything wrong with the world turns out be clearly the fault of nasty Corrupt Corporate Executives and their nasty, greedy megacorporations. Conversely, it could be "governments suck!" and the corporations are the last line of defense against the evil, totalitarian bureaucrats. Whichever, it is just one note.
The better dystopias seem to be about how a multitude of things have gone wrong, and now here we are, surviving with as much grace as possible. It is also a practice in literature to create a dystopia through the Deconstruction of an earlier creator's Utopia, showing how horrible it is to live in one. Another use is to serve as a Big Bad for The Hero and his friends to revolt against; these are more likely to be toppled, or at least escaped from, than others.
Some dystopias have its citizens living out dehumanized and often fearful lives, feeling the government's eyes upon them at every waking moment and afraid to step out of line for even a moment lest they be brutalized by the police or worse, taken away by the Secret Police. Other dystopias have the people as happy as any utopian world, but throughGovernment Drug Enforcement, The Evils of Free Will or Happiness in Slavery. Some dystopias are Empires With A Dark Secret, with those who find out about the secret often being Released to Elsewhere. Some are Bread and Circuses worlds where a minority of people are brutally repressed; any number of traits can mark out that minority (such as, say, reading books). And some Dystopias are such only for the law-breakers. One man's Utopia can easily be another man's Dystopia, and so on.
The Dystopian world may be obviously a Dystopia and there is no effort made to hide the fact that the world is in fact a Crapsack World. Frequently the heroes are constantly battling just to survive and the Big Bad is an evil dictator. Or it might be set up as Utopia but with fatal flaws. They are the less obvious Dystopias, ones where everyone appears to be happy, but there is just something wrong with it. This is the Brave New World level of Dystopia.
Expect curfews and bans on "love" to show up early in; they're a sure-fire cue card for oppression.
Occasionally, a Fish out of Water will seem to arrive in a Utopia, only to find that it's really a dystopia for all but the elite.
May have Peace & Love Incorporated and Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul, and frequently have an Ascetic Aesthetic towards buildings. Compare with Author Tract, After the End, Just Before the End, Villain World, and Cyber Punk. Contrast with Utopia and Mary Suetopia, the latter often an unintentional Dystopia created by the author.
See Dystopia Is Hard and Artistic License - Economics for one reason why certain Dystopias could not exist in reality (true oppression, especially of the Big Brother variety, is really expensive), and how people in general are resistant to the creation of a society that they believe is against their general well-being. For when someone is actually pursuing this type of society as an end in itself, see Dystopia Justifies the Means.
For more types of Dystopias, see You Would Not Want to Live in Dex. For the game, click here.
It might be noted that the term Dystopia, according to a strict definition, implies a fictional setting and precludes any possibility of Real Life examples. This is not, however, to suggest there is not a certain amount of Truth in Television to compare with fictional examples- for example, North Korea is sometimes compared to 1984, which in itself was based on the various Real Life totalitarian regimes that were around at the time of writing.
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The Apple Computer Superbowl launch ad, featuring a gray dingy 1984 style dystopia.
Anime and Manga
Gunnm (aka Battle Angel Alita) — highlights to Scrapyard. In some ways, Tiphares is even worse. In fact, it moves up to Crapsack World . Last Order applies this to the universe. And it's ALL Alita's fault!
Runessa's homeworld in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, as revealed in StrikerS Sound Stage X. Living in a land of nationalism, racism, and pointless wars, there was a severe lack of food and daily necessities, but there were plenty of weapons to go around. Runessa mentioned that, for as long as she remembered, she had always slept with guns on her side, and she had always thought that she was going to live there for the rest of her life until she was shot and an NGO rescued her. So war-torn was her land, that even during the Jail Scaglietti incident, she considered Mid-childa to be an unbelievably peaceful place.
Death Note: At the height of Light's power in the second half of the series, we see that the world has become a dark shadow of its earlier self. Crime is way down, but when all it takes for someone to die is a name, a face and a criminal record (possibly even if it's fake), everyone lives in terror.
The Blame! universe certainly qualifies, with emphasis on Abara and Biomega. Blame! itself is more of a terrifyingly vast cyberpunk. Biomega is probably the best example, with a tremendously powerful Mega Corp. trying to spread a virus over the decayed planet while the few survivors try not to get caught up in collateral damage from android fights. And then things get much, much worse.
Watchmen is set during the darkest days of a Cold War made worse by the presence of a superhero with godlike power. More or less subverted in the end, when there is finally world peace, though there are millions dead and one of the world's largest cities is destroyed.
Subverted in Transmetropolitan. The future setting appears at first to be a filthy, crowded, cruel dystopia. As the story progresses, though, it becomes clear that they're dealing with essentially the same issues we deal with today, just with the volume turned up by technology and increased population. Furthermore, some of the modern world's problems have been defeated; pollution has ceased to be an issue for example, though in Spider's childhood it apparently still was a severe threat. The subversion is further driven home by the protagonist's ultimately optimistic nature. There's even a Christmas special where he explicitly states that things tend to be better in the future.
Mega City One, home of Judge Dredd, due to being a satire on zero-tolerance policing. Actually, all of the mega cities in Judge Dredd's world qualify. And nearly all of the habitable land outside them is a wasteland, peppered with radioactive areas and populated by mutants — the result of a series of nuclear wars. So the whole of Judge Dredd's world qualifies.
The world of Strontium Dog is not quite so horrible as Judge Dredd, but it's still pretty nasty. In the aftermath of a nuclear war, mutants are a victimised underclass and big tycoons casually commit genocide in the name of profit.
Latveria, the country ruled by Doctor Doom, perennial Arch-Enemy to the Fantastic Four. Latveria is a virtual paradise, with no disease, No Poverty, and almost no crime... and no freedom, since Doctor Doom rules the place as king and tyrant and makes all the decisions. For anyone who steps out of line, the "Disintegration Chamber" is accessible by the throne room, via Trap Door.
The world of the Birthday Gift series (aka Erenisch-verse) is a colorful dystopia with a compulsory enslavement law for women.
V for Vendetta is set in a totalitarian future Britain ruled with an iron fist.
Sin City is one of the few non-futuristic versions of a dystopia. Crime is everywhere, the government and the police are corrupt, and you never know when you might become a snack for a cannibal serial killer, or even worse things.
Apokolips is a hellish Greco-Roman style, technologically advanced alien world ruled with an iron fist by the tyrannical God EmperorDarkseid, who is a literal God of Evil and has placed himself at the centre of a global and compulsory Religion of Evil that revolves around the perpetual worship of him, mainly in the form of mass forced labour whose sole task is to endlessly build monuments to him the old fashioned way (ie. by hand, with a few basic tools, with whips to keep you in line). As mentioned the planet is technologically advanced, and this system is thus designed not simply for Darkseid to glorify himself but also to completely break the spirits of the populace. It works, and though he treats them horribly nearly everyone on the planet would give their life for him, even if they hate him. To make matters even worse, Apokolips is locked in a millenia-old Cold War with its sister planet New Genesis, because Darkseid is an imperialistic warmonger with the ultimate ambition of taking over the entire universe and remaking it in his image... and he has the means to do it. His fondest desire is to eradicate free will and make every living thing everywhere a mindless, miserable automaton who will live and die at his command. And this is onlybeginning to describe why Apokolips is perhaps the single most horrible place in the DC Universe.
Played with in With Strings Attached. The Baravadans (at least the skahs) feel that they're living in a dystopia and pine for the monster- and combat-filled world of 25+ years ago. They rarely do anything useful, choosing to sit around and wait for something to happen, or to go off chasing the faintest rumors of monsters. Many of them are so bored that they end up killing themselves, and they've long since quit breeding. But Baravada itself is otherwise incredibly pleasant and safe, filled with magic and freedom. The four much prefer Baravada as is.
George Lucas' 1971 film THX 1138 takes place in an antiseptic future that seems to have combined the most self-destructive tendencies of both socialism and capitalism. Religion is illegal except for worship of the Almighty State, and the residents all work for the government, in one capacity or another, and are expected to inform on their neighbors for crimes such as computer hacking or refusing to take their medication; at the same time, though, they are encouraged to work long hours, make money, and buy as much material property as they can. (We see THX himself buying a red thing at a store that sells nothing but different-colored things; he takes it home and promptly throws it down the garbage disposal, which is what you're apparently supposed to do with them.)
Soylent Green: Massive population growth combined with deforestation means that there isn't enough food or housing, and human life has very little value. Rioters are scooped into large trucks and taken away, never to be seen again. The plot of the movie revolves around finding where exactly they go...
Remarkably, in Woody Allen's film Sleeper, he uses the setting of a future dystopia to pay homage to the style of old silent comedies.
Brazil by Terry Gilliam. A future world so consumed by bureaucracy that a simple typo on a single form can destroy a man's life. Criminal suspects are made to pay for their own interrogation and torture, and asked to confess before it ruins their credit rating.
In Time: set in the future (2169) genetic alteration has allowed people to stop aging at 25. However, as soon as you turn 25, a red digital clock on your arm activates and starts ticking down from one year. When the clock runs out, you drop dead. In this world, the currency is time, so you are paid in time when you work and all debts, bills, dues, bus fares etc. are paid in time. Don't have enough? Get a time loan- but expect to pay hefty interest rates. Poor people can live for far less than the allotted year because of debt. If you're poor enough, you could be literally living day to day with only hours left at a time, possibly down to mere minutes before your daily "paycheck"- not to mention possibly having to pay off your parent's debt when you come of age. Rich people can live forever and always look 25. Kind of creepy when your mother looks the same age as you. People live in separate "Time Zones", divided by level of richness/poverty. There's a police force called the Timekeepers. Time can be transferred between people by simple contact and it can be forcefully taken. The protagonist (from the poorest zone) and his love interest (from the rich zone) eventually become Robin Hoods, robbing banks and distributing the bounty (millions of years) to the poor, enabling the poor to become well off enough to switch Time Zones and thus upset the system.
The world of Repo! The Genetic Opera is ruled by a corporation that has had murder sanctioned by law, who rose to power on a pile of harvested organs. It is exactly as icky as it sounds.
Idiocracy was presented as a dystopia based on the extreme dumbing down of America. However, it also included extreme cases of mass consumerism and product placement (brought to you by Carl's Jr.). And apparently Mike Judge had an axe to grind about celebrities being elected into office (Wrestler, turned porn star, turned president).
Back to the Future Part II: Biff Tannen created an alternate version of 1985 when he gave the Gray's Sports Almanac to his younger self in 1955. As a result, he became "the luckiest man on Earth" by betting on everything from horse racing to boxing and always winning due to the answers in the almanac. He founded Biffco, a company that dealt with toxic waste reclamation. He bought out police departments, and altered the state of international history, by prolonging the Vietnam War and getting Richard Nixon elected to his fifth term. As a result, Hill Valley, now heavily polluted and known as "Hell Valley", had been reduced to rubble, where biker gangs and criminals made their home.
Pleasantville. The main character, David, watched the show on TV and always saw it as a utopia. When he and his sister end up getting sucked into the TV, though, things aren't as great as they appeared. The place starts out as a nostalgic and pretty view of the 1950's, but later on the uglier side of the decade (like sexual repression and racial discrimination) start to rear their ugly heads.
Minority Report, also by Dick, is set in a world where the police can predict your actions, and convict you of murder simply for thinking it, even if involuntarily. The film version goes a step further in that retinal scanners track every movement of every citizen, ads call people by name by reading their identity, and mechanical spiders are used to conduct unwarranted searches, eliminating any semblance of privacy.
Bend Sinister, a book by Vladimir Nabokov in which a fictitious East European country is taken over by the Ekwilist Party of the Average Man, who want to end conflict by equalizing all personality attributes and making everyone the "average man." In reality, all they succeed in doing is ruining the lives of the country's inhabitants, murdering the family of the country's only internationally renowned figure, the philosopher Adam Krug, and driving him insane.
Heechee Saga by Frederik Pohl. An ultra-capitalist society where everything has price but nothing has value... in space.
Watership Down: Efrafa. Both a classic ruled-by-dictator-with-a-fist-of-iron dystopia and also a rabbit warren!
Earlier in the story is Cowslip's warren. On the surface it appears to be a rabbit Utopia, with no predators in sight and plentiful food, leaving the inhabitants time to become quite cultured, but there's a reason its nickname is the Warren of Shining Wires.
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, with an America where all books are banned. In the end, there is a bit of twisted hope, as all the cities get blown apart, leaving the chance for those who have kept the literary tradition to rebuild. Also made into a movie.
In Myst: The Book of D'Ni, the survivors of the fallen Utopia D'Ni discover Terahnee, which appears to be everything D'Ni was and more, but it is not what it appears. While D'Ni's Utopia was built on semi-magical technology, Terahnee is built on slavery. In fact, slavery of the same people the D'Ni survivors intermarried with. Time to run!
Danish author Dennis Jürgensen wrote a book titled Dystopia, which hits all the main points, and offers an interesting solution... two youths from a dystopia where the 'social issues' are xenophobia, intolerance and mistrust, are thrown into a Fish out of Water situation in another world, named 'Dystopia', where the issue is apathy and defeatism. Can two different, and equally flawed, attitudes cancel each others out? Maybe so. Good luck finding a translation of that book, tho...
This Perfect Day by Ira Levin depicts a communist technocratic dystopia controlled by a computer. In fact at the end it is revealed that the computer is controlled by a programmer elite.
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Everything is rationed by the theocratic government - including women.
More precisely, the fertile women; the environment's a mess.
The People's Republic of Haven from the Honor Harrington series practically defines this trope.
The world of Jennifer Government is an ultra-capitalist Dystopia, where everything is for sale if you have enough money. Also, at one point, the antagonist John Nike reads an old sci-fi novel The Merchants in Space, and dismisses the classic notion of a big government dystopia, and is disappointed when the book turns out to be a satire of capitalism.
Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron", a short story focusing on the problem of government forcing equality by any means possible. The beautiful must wear hideous masks, the strong and agile carry sacks of iron on their backs...so it goes.
Vonnegut's recurring character Kilgore Traut is a science fiction author said to specialise in dystopian stories. In one of them, human beings have become so irrelevant in the face of advanced technology that suicide is seen as an act of great virtue and patriotism since it rids the nation of one useless mouth to feed.
The Hunger Games: Panem sacrifices twenty-four teenagers (one girl and one boy from each of the twelve districts) each year in a violent death match broadcast live in order to show the citizens of the nation the cosequences if they try to rebel again.
And that's not even taking into account how horribly and unfairly the country is run year round. Even most Capitol citizens don't have it as good as you may think...
Oddly approached in The Cure by Sonia Levittin. The near-future society depicted does not allow sex, art, inventiveness, and most forms of emotion, and like "Harrison Bergeron", differences between individuals are stamped out as best as possible. The main character is musically inclined, so the leaders of the society consider having him Released to Elsewhere—but as a last-ditch effort they put him through a simulation of the Middle Ages, attempting to show him why they fashioned their society as an opposite to that time period. (It sort of works—the main character decides both societies are horrible and there must be a way to Take a Third Option.)
The late Octavia Butler's books Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are this. They are America in the 2020's and 2030's respectively(the books were written in the 90's). People are sold into slavery by the police, given dog collar-like things, and every city is a Wretched Hive.
Kornbluth's The Marching Morons has similar themes to the film Idiocracy, above. Except that the super-intelligent aristocracy are the ones slaving away, to keep the vast mentally-challenged majority from killing themselves out of sheer incompetence.
Kornbluth produced some other memorably nasty dystopias. The two worst are probably the militarized, back-stabbing Denv with its endless, pointless nuclear war against Ellay, and the sadistic Merdeka cult, whose ideas of parenting include "child-flogging benches" and cheerful nursery rhymes such as
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
She thrust him down and broke his crown; it was a lovely slaughter.
Ayn Rand's novella Anthem follows the awakening and rebellion of the main character in a collectivist dystopia where individual identity is suppressed, and all citizens are taught to consider themselves interchangeable and replaceable parts in a great machine. On top of that, the government has mandated cultural and technological stasis at a pre-Industrial Revolution level.
The villains of Atlas Shrugged are aiming to create an effectively dystopian America, but the country collapses on them because they lack both charisma and competence. Towards the end, one of the villains insinuates that the decimation of children and the elderly might be in order to prevent starvation for the rest of the people.
The 1907 novel The Lord of the World by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson shows Western civilization as having turned into a socialist, technologically-advanced society that persecutes those still clinging to religion and individualism, and attempts to stamp out Christianity once and for all. This is brought to a head with the arising of the Anti-Christ...
"Utopia for the Devil" : James Parkes's 2010 novella focuses on a utopia where society is controlled and regulated by a system known as Eden, due to The Evils of Free Will. The protagonist, Leon, exists outside of Eden and challenges the society.
Yawning Heights by Alexander Zinoviev is an exaggerated picture of the Soviet society with names and key words (like "Khruschev" or "party") replaced with caricature substitutes in Bland-Name Product style (like "Boar" and "fratry"). Black Comedy with Fictional Document fragments containing scientific analysis in very plain words including his view on pop science — he was a professor, specialist in Mathematical Logic.
The short story "Sam Hall" is about a dystopian society where everything about everyone is recorded in a massive national database. One clerk creates a fake file about a fictional dissident named Sam Hall (named after an angry drinking song) into the database as a joke, who escapes all police searches because he doesn't actually exist. The nation eventually tears itself apart trying to track down a nonexistent criminal.
Allie Condie's Matched series takes place in The Society, where you are "matched" with your optimum partner for marriage and having children, the only person you're allowed to pursue a romantic relationship with. The Society decides everything from what you eat and where you work, to when you can have kids and when you'll die. People declared Aberrations are treated as 2nd class citizens.
The Delirium Series is set in a future America where love is considered a disease and every citizen has to be "cured" via brain surgery at eighteen.
In Divergent the city of Chicago has split into five factions based on the virtue they believe needs to held up to stop society falling into ruin again. Everyone who turns sixteen must take a test to see which faction they best fit into, and those who fail the initiation or refuse to join become homeless. Anyone who is considered Divergent is hunted down for threatening the system.
In the world Uglies is set in, anyone over sixteen is given an operation that leaves their faces and bodies flawless... and their minds empty.
The Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The world seems similar enough to the world in Real Life, with people going about their lives. However, there are indications that the world in this series is actually a Dystopia. The courts are unable to deliver justice, because the balance of power leans too heavily towards the defense attorneys, and the prosecutors are lucky if the defendant does not get Off on a Technicality, let alone win a single case. Also, the prosecutors need proof before they charge someone, but strangely, there never seems to be proof to find. On the plus side, if a character gets in legal trouble, s/he can call up a defense attorney and be assured that s/he is perfectly safe. The President of the United States has three men with gold shields at his disposal. These three men have carte blanche, can break laws with impunity, answer only to POTUS, and if they come for you, well, you better pray that they don't kill you! In Las Vegas, the casinos have more security than Homeland Security can ever hope to get! Also, the casinos are monitored by men who will have you beaten up or thrown in jail if you prove to be a threat to the casinos. When you put these details together, you get a picture of a country that is more fascist than democratic. Yikes!
The online short story "ILU-486" takes place in a world where conservative Christian views on birth control and abortion have become law, and follows the women that need medical assistance and the outlaw doctors that provide it. Chillingly, all the oppressive laws (apart from the return of gibbets) are based on actual submitted legislation from American politicians.
In Poul Anderson's "A World Called Maanerek", the Hegemony is out to force all mankind in unity, to hold loyalty only to the Cadre. They choose their mates, who are allowed contact seldom, and all children are raised in creches. Your life position is choosen when you are bred for it, and entails burning out parts of your mind if you are lowly enough. When ships sent out to find more humans to bring them into the fold, they will freely, when problems mount too high, take over part of a planet and let the men run wild with Cold-Blooded Torture and rape to release their aggressions.
The White Men by Kenneth Bøgh Andersen takes place in future Denmark where the government has put a series of vicious laws in place to counter an over-population crisis, which includes the euthanasia of a broad group of "unwanted", including everyone over the age of 65 and everyone who drops under a set national average in their grades. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the laws have essentially been rendered meaningless, the country actually suffers from a brewing under-population problem, and that the government's sole reason to uphold them is that they allow them to stay in power.
Those That Wake is set in a future New York where the city becomes more hopeless every day, and people have withdrawn into themselves. The sequel, What WE Become, turns the city into a Crapsaccharine World.
Natalie Mooshabr's Mice is set in a country that is only vaguely alluded to by names or background events. The state is controlled by a dictator Albin Rappelschlund who governs the country, nominally with support from the rightful ruler Duchess Augusta. The civilization and technology of the country appear advanced — there is metro, satellite transmission, television broadcasting, and flights to the Moon are common; however, this bizarrely contrasts with things like child labour, horse-drawn wagons, rural-like inns in the capital city or State Office for suppressing and annihilating witchcraft. People fear everything and cannot trust one another, so this vision of society is certainly very bleak with very unsettling feel.
The first season of Viper takes place in a dystopian tech noir setting. The day after tomorrow, society benefits from advanced communication technology and medical achievements such as fully artificial heart transplants. However, this comes at the cost of being constantly terrorized by the organized techno-mafia that closely runs the city behind the scenes. The police are often as corrupt as the criminals they're supposedly trying to stop, forcing the lead character to take the vigilante path in the hope of restoring the city to a brighter state. Throw in the fact the local government may rob you of your own thoughts and memories if they decide they have a better use for you, and you start to see how bleak it really is.
The Alphaverse in Charlie Jade, a corrupt megacorp-dominated plutocracy where chip implants are mandatory, people are divided into castes, justice is an illusion, and pollution and depletion of natural resources are so ridiculously high that the dominant megacorp plans to use its trans-universe link to steal water from a utopian parallel Earth.
The Mirror Universe in Star Trek is a dystopia and its own trope. Various different takes on Trek's particular mirror universe fiddle with the extent of its dystopian nature. One novel posited that it was a relatively recent thing, caused by the Enterprise-E crew not wiping Zefram Cochrane's memories before they left the past, thus causing humanity to venture into space paranoid about the threat of the Borg. Another posited that the society had simply always been more cruel and ruthless, as proved by things such as Achilles refusing to return the body of the king's son (one of his few acts of mercy) in The Iliad. Deep Space Nine seemed to have a take on it closer to just making everyone in the mirror universe a Jerkass.
Several alternate universes and/or timelines seen in Stargate SG-1 featuring the breakdown of society, the defeat/near defeat of Earth by its enemies, etc.
Two episodes of Dollhouse are set in the year 2019 after the show's technology had been used to transfer the rich into younger bodies permanently. The situation snowballed until the city is a war zone, some people going insane and others getting kidnapped for their bodies. Morale of the story is advanced technology will be abused by the privileged.
Kamen Rider Decade has Diend's World, which is essentially the Missing Ace movie split off from Blade and combined with Decade to make an original story with Diend as the protagonist. On the outside, the world seems to be an Utopia with everyone helping each other out and being nice, but it turns out that they have to be nice or else a monster comes out, grabs them, then brainwashes them to be nice. It also sucks for Riders because the brainwashed people will attack any and all riders. Tsukasa even tells the ruler of the world, Jashin 14, that he made a hellhole, not a paradise. When Jashin 14 is destroyed, Diend's older brother reveals that he was acting of his own free will and will become the new Jashin 14.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the episode "The Wish" in season three, in which Willow and Xander are vampires. The Master has taken control of Sunnydale and Angel is Willow's (and arguably Xander's) sex slave.
Daft Punk's third album, "Human After All" uses minimalism, emotional detachment and repetition to assert that with our reliance of techology, dystopia may not be a thing of the future. It may already be here.
In their 2011 album Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay paints a story in which music and color are outlawed by the government.
Rush's 2112 is in part a concept album based on Anthem by Ayn Rand. Although individual identity is not as suppressed as it is in the book, technology, and especially music, is outlawed. The main character discovers a guitar and learns to play; and when he bring it back to share with the rest of the world, the ruling elite arrest him and smash his guitar. He reacts by committing suicide in despair.
Also Red Barchetta from the album Moving Pictures based on the story A Nice Morning Drive, written by Richard Foster (itself a kind of dystopia-by-over-watchfulness). The song is about a young man driving a car in a world where cars and/or driving is outlawed.
David Bowie's Diamond Dogs was originally intended to be a rock-opera based on George Orwell's 1984; but he was unable to license the rights from the Orwell estate. Elements of 1984 are clearly present in the work.
Outside is the first volume in what was intended to be a trilogy set in a Cyberpunk dystopia, where murder has become an underground art form. The other two albums in the trilogy, Contamination and Afrikaan, never materialized; and the project appears to have been dropped.
Eurythmics performed the soundtrack for the 1984 film versionnote although its actual use was complicated by Executive Meddling; the soundtrack only appears in some cuts of the film but was released as an independent album.
Dystopian themes occur regularly in later albums from Pink Floyd, most notably Animals (inspired by Orwell's Animal Farm) and The Wall; as well as Roger Waters' solo work Radio Kaos and Amused To Death.
Kilroy Was Here by progressive rock band Styx tells the story of a young rock musician in a future fascist dystopia, where music is outlawed on the order of a powerful right-wing religious group.
Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails, is about a dystopian future where the far right has taken over America and the "Bureau of Morality" has eroded civil liberties and generally act as a Culture Police against any form of expression, particularly music, that dissents against the powers that be.
Tubeway Army, the project of noted electronica pioneer Gary Numan, produced a semi-concept album Replicas; the theme of which was humans living in a society dominated by androids and machines. It draws heavily from the writings of Phillip K. Dick, particularly Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep.
Oingo Boingo's Perfect System depicts a totalitarian socity ruled by a Big Brother figure.
A number of other songs off of the album Only a Lad (which Perfect System is from) fit into such a setting as well in addition to pointing out potentially dystopian elements of modern life.
Radiohead's OK Computer, while not having an explicitly dystopian story, does incorporate dystopian themes.
Frank Zappa's Joes Garage is a rock opera set in a semi-religious dystopia where music and sex are soon to be illegal, and all illegal activities are punished pre-emptively. The story is narrated by "The Central Scrutinizer", a McCarthy-like observer who is charged with detecting and punishing actions which will be crimes in the future.
Del tha Funkee Homosapien's Deltron 3030 concept album deals with the titular character's struggles to survive in a future that may have outlawed music, that has strict, bullet-enforced curfews, and is described via references to Neuromnancer and Akira.
The Who's song 905 (which was originally intended for a full Rock Opera by bassist John Entwistle) and the aborted Lifehouse album (which would be released decades later by Pete Townshend)
The music video for "The Wild And The Young" by Quiet Riot depicts a dystopian future where Rock and Roll has been outlawed. The video even has a Downer Ending where the rock and roll fans are lined up and executed by masked soldiers.
Oceania by Surveillance, the side project of Assemblage 23. Named after the nation in Orwell's 1984.
Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl is a game where teenage kids take down a tyrant in a dystopian future world. There's even a step of play called "Dystopia Creation," where you group-create the world that you're playing in.
The Warhammer 40,000 universe is one gigantic Dystopia, born from the sheer, horrific build-up of intolerance, hatred, repression, religious fanaticism, cruelty, hedonism, decadence, greed, and every other vice you could possibly imagine, over the span of millennia. Quite possibly the worst component, however, is simply neglect. The fact that many of said vices have physical form, are sentient, and actively working towards the eventual destruction of everything probably doesn't help. Nothing is ever going to get better there.
There's a faction of Well Intentioned Extremists who are considered to be naive because of that belief. Given the setting, there's probably a kernel of truth to that.
Paranoia is an RPG set After the End, in Alpha Complex, an underground city. The Complex is ruled by Friend Computer, a supercomputer whose databases were corrupted following a disaster that wiped out human civilization.
The Computer is quite insane and utterly paranoid, and rules with an iron fist, society being organized in a hierarchy of security clearances based on the colors of the rainbownote Infrared and Ultraviolet are represented by black and white, respectively. Rumors of a Gamma Clearance are treason. and supported by swarms of robots, omnipresent surveillance and an endless bureaucracy. Players are Red-level Troubleshooters, whose job is to find trouble and shoot it, and whose main targets are traitors, Communists and other members of secret societies, as well as unregistered mutants and Commie Mutant Traitors.
This is complicated by the fact that every human in Alpha Complex has some kind of mutant power, and is also a member of one of the secret societies, making everyone a Commie Mutant Traitor. The game provides you with six backup clones, as you WILL be found out and terminated. Or terminated by accident. Or for the hell of it. Did we mention that the entire thing is Played for Laughs?
Feng Shui : The 2056 juncture of the Tabletop Game is equal parts Brave New World and 1984. The Buro government monitors its citizens constantly, same-race relationships are frowned upon at best as "racist" and punished at worst, guns and kung fu are outlawed, it's a crime to be unhappy, all TV (except for advertising) is pay-per-view, you can't get ahead unless you work for the Buro, and the only thing worse than falling into the Public Order (2056's brutal police) machine is letting the Bureau of Happiness and Productivity get hold of you — Mind Rape is the absolute kindest term for what these guys do to people. And that's not even mentioning the CDCA (the group responsible for arcanowave technology and the Abominations) and the creepifying horrors that they get up to.
Shadowrun. One of the most famous cyberpunk RPGs set in a Dystopia, one that is played to the hilt just as described at the top of the page. Corporations are huge, often evil, and all of them employ multiple packs of criminals to do their dirty work. Old fashioned racism has been given up, but only in favor of Fantastic Racism— there are much bigger differences to make each other miserable over between metaspecies than there ever were between races. There's even this one bit from the fourth edition core book, talking about the availability of medical treatment, which cites privatized health care as one of the causes of dystopia (oddly enough, using the criticisms usually leveled at socialized/universal healthcare):
"Thanks to privatized healthcare, most people are forced to throw themselves and their ailments on the not-so-tender mercies of an overstressed public healthcare system. Spirits help you if you?re seriously sick or hurt and have to deal with a public hospital: most of them mean well, but they?re notoriously understaffed, awash in red tape, and generally a nightmare to navigate."
And that's if you're a legal citizen with a proper SIN. Everyone else is really shafted.
Tsoka, a dreary, grey empire built from the conceptions of fascism taking over the world. Ironically, it's actually one of the safer Bardos-the Party that runs the place treats Geniuses with the proper papers as foreign dignitaries. Often used as a recruitment ground for Beholden, who are all too happy to become slaves to the Genius if it means getting out of there.
The Seattle of Tomorrow, a Zeerust vision of an Atomist utopia. As the game points out repeatedly, Atomists frequently have absolutely no clue how people work.
Infinite shows another one, which runs on semi religious extremism, where the dystopia part comes from the fact that things have gotten so violent that destruction runs rampant.
Deus Ex and its sequel. The United States' economy is failing and is rampant with La Résistance forces, Europe is under a dictatorship-like rule thanks to MJ12 having enough power to work in the open, the majority of food that you find is either artificial or candy bars that mention they are made from "recycled material". All of this is happening while a pandemic is bringing the human race to its knees.
Iron Storm: World War One has been dragging on for a horrifying 50 years and has become a Forever War. Everything is saturated with industrial grimness and in general decay. The global economy has become dominated by greedy and ignorant MegaCorps and completely dependent on keeping the war running. As if that wasn't bad enough, humans in general have become militaristic Crazy Survivalists. There's an oppressive new Eurasian empire, which is ruled by a completely insane quasi-religous zealot, who claims to be the new Genghis Khan. And if you think the supposed good guy countries of the setting are any better, think again: they're militaristic jingoists and crumbling democracies masquerading as brave saviours of civilization. Seriously, it's as if someone did a Spiritual Licensee shooter game adaptation of 1984...
Shaun White Skateboarding, as unlikely as it may sound, is all based around how the 'Minstry' has taken control of the people, forcing them to conform to a bland unemotional state and being constantly monitored. The only way to save the city is to skate around it, as which point colours start to appear and suddenly people no longer want to wear a tie.
Oni definitely uses this trope. The first social issue is the environment. The environment is polluted like you would not believe. The government not only does nothing to address it, apart from using Atmospheric Processors to make the cities livable, but it brands anyone who tries to bring it up as enemies of the state and will crush attempts to reveal it. The second social issue is the development of science and technology. The government keeps an eye on scientists and carefully checks to make sure any technology developed is approvable (in other words, will not threaten it). They use the Technological Crimes Task Force as a Secret Police force to enforce this.
The setting of the Facebook game War Metal, the game is set in Acheron where the player is a commander of the Imperium, where he has to fight of rebellious Raiders, invading Xenos, horrid Bloodthirsty, and the fanatical Righteous.
Remus is an attempt to imagine what one of these would be like for people who still remember freedom.
In City Under The Hill, Babylon may have started out as a safe haven for all magic users, but after the gates closed, no-one comes or goes. No-one aside from the smugglers and refugees that is, and they're hunted to the death.
Ad Astra Per Aspera posits how a successful impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 lead to a galaxy ruled by three 1984-style dictatorships in the 28th century.
Future 1999 is a Deconstruction of dystopia in works. Since no rebellion can challenge the dystopian society, no plot happens.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the Gaang arrives in the 'Promised City' Ba Sing Se, the supposed last 'free' place from the Fire Nation after 100 years of war, only to find out that it's "just a bunch of walls and rules", which surpresses its inhabitants more efficiently than the Fire Nation ever could (to the point of brainwashing everyone who dares to mention that there's a century-long war going on in the whole world outside the walls).
Sequel SeriesThe Legend of Korra reveals that Ba Sing Se, despite its technological modernization, has barely improved from what it was 70 years ago; the secret police from the original series are still around and feared, the different social classes are still forcibly segregated, and its highly selfish and tyrannical queen even seems to have a cult of personality around her. It's telling that when the queen is assassinated and the walls separating the classes are brought down, the entire city instantly dissolves into an orgy of looting and vandalism.
Futurama combines tropes from both Dystopia and Utopia to good effect. It balances out to being more or less like the modern world but weirder.