Captain Nately: What are you talking about? America's not going to be destroyed.
Old Man in Whorehouse: Never? Rome was destroyed, Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed, Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do you think your own country will last? Forever?A common way to create a Crapsack World setting is to have the United States fall so much that it becomes much like a third world nation, with a collapsed economy, decaying infrastructure, fallen or incredibly corrupt government, and so on. Perhaps a new Civil War has left the nation battered and weak; only a shell of its former self, or possibly economic collapse due to poor management, lack of an important resource, such as oil, food, or water, or because of the rise of another foreign power has led to a weak US. An invasion by a foreign power has either conquered part of or all of the United States, or weakened it severely. Or even a natural disaster of some sort has happened. In a worst case scenario, it is even possible for the nation to cease to exist as we know it, either being swept into anarchy, broken up into new nation states, or the area as a whole being replaced by a new power. If the term "The Former United States" is said, this most likely happened. Expect to see major cities from coast to coast become massive slums, with the poor and homeless roaming the streets, sometimes with the tarnished remains of familiar or similar staple American businesses. What remains of the wealthy will be living in fortified enclaves, separated from the common rabble, and the middle class will become all but extinct. Shanty towns become a common sight, and the only form of "reliable" rule is from organized criminal organizations who will jump on the opportunity to take advantage of the desperate situation or large corporations who can now operate above the law thanks to a weakened, corrupt, and/or apathetic government. What is left of the government (if one even still exists) will be immensely ineffective and corrupt, with greasy politicians trying to hold onto power, or gain power by proposing solutions to regain the nation's once former glory and by claiming that prosperity is right around the corner, or by arrogantly still believing (or trying to fool the populace) that the nation is still strong, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The work has a huge potential to become Anvilicious if the creator is trying to preach what will happen if the Real Life United States does or doesn't do X, Y and/or Z, or as a way to create a fictional America led by political strawmen whose political views are opposed to the creator's. Can usually, but not always, go hand in hand with Divided States of America, Oppressive States of America, and/or Invaded States of America. Contrast with Expanded States of America, although it is also possible for the US to join with Canada and/or Mexico not because it is empowered, but because it is so weak that it needs to. Settings in which either Japan or China Takes Over the World will often include this. Contrast America Takes Over the World.
open/close all folders
- A controversial 2010 ad ran by a conservative financial watchdog group showed the United States as a pawn of China in the year 2030, thanks to a botched financial policy.
- This ad from 1986, set in 2017, in which the younger generation is putting the older generation on trial for the United States' crushing deficit.
Anime and Manga
- The Highlander spin off Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is mainly set in the distant future where the world has gone to crap. America itself has been split up into city states and if New York is anything to go by; they're run by crazed corporations with their own personal armies. Throughout the film we see other great empires/countries fall so it's kinda a running theme.
- In Robotech the whole world suffered, but we mostly see what happened to the former US: the Zentraedi Rain of Death at the end of the First Robotech War reduced most of the country to wasteland (even if they somehow missed New York and Detroit), and even if the place was mostly rebuilt the Robotech Masters' attack on Earth concentrate on the Great Lakes area (as that's where what they were searching for was), with at least one city hit by nuclear-level weapons. We don't know what the Invid did when they invaded, but by the time the action returns there large parts of the country are in effective anarchy, Detroit has literally frozen over during the invasion (and gets destroyed when Scott's group rediscovers the place and the Invid give chase), New York, while mostly spared by the wars, is rundown even before a crazed Invid commander tries to kill everyone in Manhattan, and the entire Great Lake region plus areas south of it are now Reflex Point, the complex from where the Invid rule the planet.
- The setting of the Bronze Age Marvel Comics version of Deathlok was a future United States where a limited nuclear war has left the country devastated, with roaming gangs and independent groups vying for control with factions and remnants of the CIA and the military.
- In the DC Comics series Hex, set 20 Minutes into the Future (from the readers' perspective), the United States seems to have fragmented into various locales ruled by warlords or, in the case of New York City, by a successor to Batman.
- Something like this is also the result of the supervillains' takeover in the Wolverine story Old Man Logan. The United States is divided into the warring fiefdoms of various major Marvel villains, so that, for example, the Red Skull controls what used to be the Eastern Seaboard.
- The America of American Flagg! is falling apart from a variety of internal and external enemies (including a neo-Nazi revolution), natural and unnatural disasters, and simultaneously powerful and neglectful rule by The Plex.
- In Judge Dredd, America has collapsed into four independent mega cities based around New York and Washington and the eastern seaboard, Los Angeles and the western seaboard, Texas and the mid-and southwest, and Las Vegas, each of which is a fascist Police State, separated by vast areas of lawless, radioactive wasteland. Mega City-2 (LA) is eventually nuked to slow down a zombie apocalypse, and Las Vegas is destroyed by Judge Death.
- During the Ultimate Marvel storyline Divided We Fall, a combination of the revelation that mutants were created by the US Government while testing the Super Soldier formula, the unleashing of the Nimrod-type Sentinels to arrest or kill mutants and the destruction of Asgard and Washington DC at the hands of The Maker caused the US to fall apart, with notable instances being Texas becoming an independent nuclear-powered nation and Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma and New Mexico abandoned due to the Nimrod attacks. When Captain America took over as President, he gave a portion of Utah to the remaining mutants, turning it into Utopia.
- Soylent Green
- The Last Chase
- Implied in the Film version of V for Vendetta, which opens with Lewis Prothero claiming the 'Ulcered Sphincter of Arse-erica' has become 'the world's biggest leper colony' and its government is desperately petitioning the British government to supply it with humanitarian aid and medical supplies.
- Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. feature a war-ravaged USA under a dictatorship in all but name, and former great cities used as penal colonies.
- Not only that, but the US military strength is not what it used to be, considering that an invasion by several South American nations is seen as a real threat, and the only way to stop it is to use a superweapon.
- Word of God is that Snake may be in part to blame for the state of the world in the second film, after stealing and (presumably) destroying the President's tape. According to the creators, the tape had the secret to cold fusion.
- Americathon depicts an energy-starved bankrupt USA.
- The Running Man: The world's economy is in shambles, along with the United States, which has become a police state. In the book it was based on however, it's even worse, being a polluted Cyberpunk dystopia where everyone is kept docile through the use of Blood Sport Bread and Circuses TV and the poor are ridiculously, horribly poor.
- Death Race 2000: A financial crisis and military coup have devastated the US, turning it into a police state.
- The remake also features this with a financial collapse in 2012.
- Idiocracy: In someways played here. The United States has become an idiotic dumbed-down society, ruined by years of mindless consumerism and pop culture, although it is Played for Laughs rather than drama, and the real focus is on the downfall of humanity.
- Society is about to fall, though. There's not enough food, and a huge dustbowl is messing up much of the country. Turns out the cause is the use of a (salty) sports drink to water crops.
- In The Day After Tomorrow, the US becomes so endangered by a climate change superstorm bringing temperatures down that Americans had to emigrate to Mexico. There was even a speech by the Vice President thanking Mexico for their hospitality.
- The Red Dawn remake has the US taken over by North Koreans with Nodongs (originally meant to be Chinese with Chopper Support but re-dubbed after filming to let the film be shown in China) using some sort of EMP weapon to shut down America's defenses.
- Barb Wire is a blatant Casablanca rip-off set in a dystopian future where continuous wars have turned the US into a third-world dictatorship with obvious Nazi overtones. It's telling when the protagonist demands that she be paid for the job in Canadian dollars, meaning American dollars aren't worth much, and everyone is trying to emigrate to Canada.
- Tomorrowland makes out the present world to be a Crapsack World in general, but the United States is highlighted primarily through the lens of NASA's decline in addition to the general issues of economic decline and looming threats of climate change and war.
- The news reports in Children of Men mention that the USA has collapsed, with a nuclear bomb going off in NYC, and militias taking control of the cities of Spokane, Cincinatti and Bozeman.
- A Mind Forever Voyaging depicts a world where the US is in danger of becoming this. The player experiences several simulations of a possible future, each one set 10 years after the previous one. The situation worsens with each simulation, as the economy collapses, law enforcement becomes more brutal and corrupt, a border security force frequently searches homes (and becomes less apologetic and more harsh about it in each period), racism and religious intolerance become more overt, and dusk to dawn curfews are enforced. In the final simulation, the last vestiges of authority have collapsed, and anarchy ensues with the city streets now home to violent gangs and wild dogs killing weaker people for food. Naturally, the player's goal is to prevent these possible futures from coming to pass.
- In Snow Crash, America is just a stub-state, existing in the cracks between independent corporate domains.
- The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. America loses World War II and is divvied up by the Axis powers.
- Sprawl Trilogy. Because of Gibson's love of the incredibly vague description, it's not certain, but the U.S Government has been destroyed and most of the U.S outside the Sprawl is implied to be very, very unpleasant.
- In Parable of the Sower the United States has collapsed into a dystopia filled with gangs, prostitution and slavery. (It's set in a 20 Minutes into the Future California)
- In Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka's Warday, the US and USSR engage in a limited nuclear exchange; years later, the US is a third world nation slowly balkanizing into separate countries.
- In the Alternate History novel Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore, the US is defeated by the Confederate States of America in the civil war and subsequently spirals into poverty and political corruption.
- Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five has the United States of the future bombed "by angry Chinamen" and Balkanized into a number of heavily-militarized zones so as not to be a threat to anyone.
- The Running Man: The world's economy is in shambles, along with the United States, which has become a police state.
- The Handmaid's Tale: The Republic of Gilead that replaced the United States roughly a few decades before after an unknown disaster, a terrorist attack and military coup. For all intents and purposes, it is the United States, just under a totalitarian theocratic society.
- House of the Scorpion: Illegal immigrants escape not only to the US by the time the book takes place, but into Aztlán (what Mexico is called by the time of the book) as well. It is never detailed how bad the US is, but it is assumed it is pretty bad if people are justifying risking everything to escape into Aztlán.
- Kim Newman and Brain Craig's Dark Future novels for Games Workshop greatly expanded on the base concept of a crapsack US of A, piling economic collapse on top of a reduction in the President's status from Most Powerful Man In The World to somewhere around 138th Most Powerful Man In The World.
- Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America is set in a dystopian future where, after a series of dramatic setbacks, the United States has slid backwards into a near-Third World country. Not only technologically, but culturally as well, meaning things like Slavery have cropped up again.
- Many modern Russian sci-fi writers tend to be anti-American and will gladly include at least a mention of America that has fallen on hard times, had another Civil War, or has become all-black. Naturally, the glorious Mother Russia rises again.
- In The Presence of Mine Enemies features a globe-girdling German Empire consisting of the Reich proper, satellite states in Europe, and Occupied North and South America. The USA in particular was nuked, blasting Washington, DC off the map. The new capital is in Omaha, and the US dollar is practically worthless.
- Mack Maloney's Wingman series of modern pulp novels takes place in a world where World War III led to the United States soundly beating the Soviet Union in Europe, only for the traitorous Vice President to lower the missile defenses and lead to a nuking of the United States. The entire Midwest is a mostly deserted radioactive wasteland, and at the time the series begins the nation has collapsed into warring states and city-states and Sky Pirates. A major part of the series involves the protagonist and his military friends gradually rebuilding America and fighting the remnants of the USSR.
- In Brendan DuBois' alternate history novel Resurrection Day, the United States has fallen on hard times ten years after the Cuban Missiles Crisis turned the Cold War hot. Washington, New York, South Florida, Omaha, and dozens of old SAC bases around the country are radioactive craters. A police state rules what's left, and people are subject to rationing, curfews, censorship, travel restrictions, and being shipped off to do decontamination work in the restricted zones if they get out of line. The nation is reliant on humanitarian and food aid from the UK, and the rest of the world treats the country as a pariah, since as bad as the US got, the Soviet Union fared far, far worse in the exchange.
- Stephen King's The Long Walk is set in another alternate history where the US is under military dictatorship. Exactly what form, and how things got to this point are left vague; there are a couple of comments indicating that World War II dragged out much longer in this reality.
- John Birmingham's Without Warning series is focused on what happens when a Negative Space Wedgie known as the Wave suddenly "removes" most of the population of the US, effectively removing the world's only remaining superpower on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The second novel in the series is even called After America.
- In the beginning of Atlas Shrugged, it's a moderately decadent United States that merely downplays this trope. The events of the book involve the society of the United States undergoing a degeneration into extreme economic collapse, both because of the actions of the looters in the government, as well as the ways in which John Galt and the strikers react to these actions.
- In Fyodor Berezin's Red Stars trilogy, the Parallel!USA is barely hanging on against the expanded Parallel!USSR, and the two superpowers (if the US can still be called one) even occasionally trade nuclear blows (mostly of the tactical variety). It should be noted that the Parallel!USA is a military dictatorship, having been in this state pretty much since World War II, when the Parallel!USSR crushes Nazi Germany in under 2 years and continues taking over (sorry, liberating) countries.
- The Daybreak series is about a radical environmentalist group using nanotech, biological agents, and fusion bombs (super nukes) to destroy modern technology and infrastructure, sending the world back into (at best) early 1800s tech. While this is a global event, the main focus is on the United States, and its disintegration over the course of the series. By the time the series is done: after the nuking of DC, two rival governments emerge — the Provisional Constitutional Government, based in Olympia, Washington, which directly controls the Pacific Northwest and has influence over the entire western half of the country, and the Temporary National Government, based in Athens, Georgia, which controls most of the South (and which is later taken over by religious extremists who declare the region the Christian States of America). Utah, Texas, and California (which is taken over by a neo-feudal movement and declared a duchy) become highly autonomous, with the latter two eventually seceding. Alaska secedes early on. Hawaii dissolves into chaos and loses contact with the mainland. Arizona loses territory to California and Nevada, as well as the Apache and Navajo nations, which declare independence. Oklahoma likewise loses its eastern half to Native American independence, resulting in the Allied First Nations and Western Oklahoma. Montana is part of the PCG, but has strong movements for both independence and federating with Alberta. And then there's the Lost Quarter, the entire region north of the Carolinas and east of Kentucky and Illinois, which is so heavily devastated by the immediate and after effects of Daybreak and overrun by pro-Daybreak tribals that any large government in the area is impossible. That said, there are a few centers of civilization — Castle Earthstone in Indiana, a tribal stronghold that declares independence from Daybreak and eventually establishes a Domain around the eastern Great Lakes region; Pelissipi, several counties along the Virginia/West Virgina border region which banded together to drive off the tribals and found a new state; and Manbrookstat, which is technically just a city-state operating out of the ruins of New York City, but whose totalitarian leader, the Commandant, declares nominal control of all Lost Quarter territory not claimed by the TNG/CSA or the Domain. And further complicating things is the Commandant founding the Atlantic League (a confederacy of similar city-states around the Atlantic), and opening the Lost Quarter to colonization by his partners.
- The Hunger Games: The Nations of North America and possibly the rest of the world have been gone for at least 175 years. The United States and it's Republic are even noted.
- Dark Angel: After the denotation of an EMP device by terrorist groups in 2009, the United States is barely more than a third world nation.
- Doctor Who: The episode "Turn Left" suggests very strongly that this happens to the U.S. after the Adipose kill a large portion of its population. The fragmentation is used to end a Hope Spot, since the UK, beset by other alien invaders, was looking to America for much-needed aid.
- Dollhouse: The Bad Future seen in the "Epilogue" episodes shows a United States that, like much of the world, has fallen into chaos due to Rossum — or someone else — weaponizing the Mind Wipe technology from the Dollhouses.
- The Fire Next Time: This 1993 TV movie has global warming turn the USA into a nation of climate refugees seeking entry into Canada.
- Jericho: The United States has been nuked to hell and back, and has been split into three nations, the Allied States of America, the United States of America, and an independent Texas.
- 15 years after the blackout, all American cities are ruined Wretched Hives, and the rest of the country has been divided up between militant warlords.
- At least only the Monroe Republic — the warlord state the series so far takes place in — has been confirmed to be a warlord state. The other republics haven't even been mentioned by name, let alone what governmental structure they've adopted).
- This map (shown in episode 5) gives an idea of the size, shape and names of the major powers in what used to be the United States, some of which, including the Monroe Republic, stretch into what used to be Canada and/or Mexico.
- In addition, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" show that the Georgia Federation is a much nicer place to live, with wealth, commerce, and international trade. Then the episodes "Home", "The Love Boat", and "The Longest Day" show that the people of the Plains Nation are living very much like the Plains Indians (without the racist implications), and that the friendliness depends on which tribes you encounter.
- Sliders: Happened in a few episodes, the pilot in particular showed that this happened after the US lost the Cold War.
- Games Workshop's now-defunct Dark Future had an America of the mid-90s wracked by environmental damage, essentially owned by Japanese megacorp GenTech in which the cities were divided into Policed Zones and No-Go Ghettos and most of the Southern States were effectively independent of Washington.
- GURPS has a time-travel supplement that describes an alternate timeline where Germany has won World War II and made the U.S. a police state under its influence after annihilating a few cities to show who's the boss.
- The 80s action-inspired free game The Hard Way features an America much like the one from Escape from New York, with MICOMnote and the Yuppies controlling everything, Manhattan being turned into a state penitentiary, political dissent being considered treason under the "Freedom Act," HOMSEC goons blackbagging people at night and sending them to FEMA camps, Chinese-Americans being interned because of the current war against China, survivalists, death cults and racial supremacists thriving outside the big cities; and everyone with slave wages, potato chips and TV sets — basically a corporate-fascist America nightmare. All this in the backdrop of a three-way conflict between the US, the Chinese and the Soviet Union for the last remaining natural resources, with the rest of the world not being much better than America.
- This is the end result of the OGRE universe, though to be fair, the entire rest of the world goes first.
- This is basically the state of the UCAS (United Canadian and American States) in Shadowrun. It's a standard Cyberpunk dystopia, with much of the original U.S. lost to the Native American nations, extensive Mega Corp. influence, and so on.
- In GDW's Twilight 2000, the US was shattered by a nuclear war in the late '90s. The government has fractured into two factions, "Civgov" and "Milgov" but most of the country is actually in anarchy. The follow-up game, 2300 AD, shows that the nation eventually recovers, though it does not regain super-power status.
- Dystopia: The United States in the backstory began a downward spiral as its currency collapsed as more and more nations switched over to other reserve currencies. By the time of the game, it no longer exists, now broken up into several different nations, the most powerful being the United Dominion of Canada.
- Deus Ex: The United States is in a what is the worst economical state it has ever been in its history, as implied by a conversation between two French civilians. The Grey Death has hit the nation hard, the majority of civilians encountered are homeless, many citizens are in active revolt, parts of Texas have been conquered by the Russo-Mexican alliance, and the backstory explains the United States has been in the gutter ever since a massive earthquake sank a good chunk of the West Coast twenty years before the game starts, which along with new gun control legislation about twelve years afterwards, led to a second civil war. News articles read show that politicians still act like the nation is a superpower, but this is obviously no longer the case, with that honor now taken by China. One ending has the US dissolve in the turmoil of the collapse, and the other it can be assumed that it's functions were absorbed in the JC-Helios government. If one doesn't reject Invisible War, it fell apart completely in the years during the Collapse.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Not as bad as the original game, but it is on its way there. News articles and books read mention that the economy for the United States has taken a turn for the worse, and secessionism, cities and states declaring or demanding more autonomous rule and internal fighting is starting to become a political issue. An e-book mentions that Canada is starting to become the place to be in North America.
- By the look of things, China is already in the lead by this point. Just look at Hengsha, an enormous two-tiered city.
- Assassins Creed: An email in the first game reads about a border conflict between Mexican soldiers and Americans trying to escape into Mexico. Later revealed to be hoax emails planted by a resistance group.
- Homefront: Even before the Korean invasion, the United States was a mess, with gas prices skyrocketing, and the nation's states threatening to go to war with each other. Both Canada and Mexico closed their borders in order to stem the wave of refugees flooding in.
- Shattered Union: Washington DC was destroyed by a nuclear attack killing everyone in the federal government, and the US had been divided into 6 factions, all plus the European Union vying to reunify the country in their terms and not to mention Russia "taking back" Alaska.
- The manual implies that the country was already in a downward spiral. The President effectively disqualifies all potential opponents and "wins" his re-election. The resulting riots on the West Coast cause the President to declare martial law and send in the military to put them down. Domestic terrorism is on the rise, resulting in the above-mentioned nuking. However, it's revealed close to the end of the game that the whole thing was deliberately set up by the Russian President to cripple the US.
- Interestingly, your actions in the game will reflect whether or not you will restore the nation to its former glory or turn it into a dictatorship with many cities nuked into rubble. Essentially, if you avoid damaging cities, you're good. If you frequently damage cities and/or use nukes, you're bad.
- Call of Duty: Ghosts is set ten years in the wake of a successful attack on the United States that kills 27 million Americans and leaves the nation in shambles. Industry is all but destroyed, cities are decaying, and the government is unable to field a proper military, leading to the ones responsible for the attack (a collaboration of various South American nations led by Venezuela) able to stage an invasion of the country and occupy the American Southwest. The "Ghosts" are a collection of individuals who worked in special operations prior to the assault and now fight to defend the remnants of their broken nation from its enemies.
- Not explicitly stated, but implied in order for the settings of open-world crime simulators like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row to exist. Both feature largely autonomous city-states run by criminal warlords with military-grade firepower fighting against systematically-corrupt and highly-militarized police forces, while the political leaders are even more cartoonishly corrupt than they are in real-life, approaching an odd mix between post-colapse former Soviet states and war-torn African nations.
- The Nazis Take Over the World in Wolfenstein: The New Order and that includes America, topped off by dropping an atomic bomb on New York City. The rest of the country surrenders shortly after.
- A strong possibility in Choice of Robots either due to the Sino-American War or the Alaska Rebellion.
- A Zombie Apocalypse results in the complete collapse of the United States in The Last of Us; during the initial outbreak, the government is dissolved and taken over by the military, who rules over a series of walled-off "Quarantine Zones" across the country. Within 20 years, the vast majority of Zones have fallen, either to civilian uprisings (like Pittsburgh) or simple neglect and lack of supplies (like Hartford and presumably Salt Lake City). By the time the game starts, Boston is one of the only Zones still under total military control, and they rule with an iron fist, executing suspected Infected along with anyone who so much as looks at a soldier funny. A resistance group called the Fireflies fights to restore the original US government and find a cure, but the country is arguably too far gone for any of that to help.
- Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg (a mod for Hearts of Iron 2/Darkest Hour) has the USA in a bad state in the alternate 1930s of the game, with extremist factions both left and right rising, secessionist rumblings on the Pacific Coast, and the economy in a depression without an FDR-like inspirational figure amongst the democratic factions. Then comes a four-way civil war... though the end-result of that is likely to still be a powerful America, it just might be under the aegis of the Combined Syndicates of America or the American Union State rather than the USA. It really only sticks with this trope if the Pacific States of America wins (in which case the the rump USA established is a puppet state of the PSA) or if the USA becomes and remains a military dictatorship under MacArthur and then collapses into chaos upon the general's death (which leads to the USA splintering into several independent republics).
- In Sinfest, Uncle Sam often appears in strips depicting this.
- The American Civil War: The costliest war the US has fought - in relative monetary terms and in both relative and absolute numbers of casualties - in addition to actually being on US soil (the USA has waged most of its wars overseas). The US is noteworthy for having very little bad blood around despite its frequent - low-cost - wars, but the Civil and Revolutionary wars are notable exceptions to this rule as they left the country (somewhat) impoverished and exhausted. The Civil War remains a sore topic in the 'South' to this day.
- Frequently a Discussed Trope in US election campaign ads, or by anyone dissatisfied with the state of the country. This has been done for about 50 years or so at this point, but they may be right eventually.