"There are secrets here that were meant to be forgotten."What you get when a Ghost Town is global in scale. Another planet or Another Dimension that, by the time we get to see it, has been left in ruins for a long, long time. There are signs here and there that this world once boasted a civilization, maybe even a great civilization, but all that's left now are a few decaying remnants. The world need not be entirely barren of life, but, generally speaking, if there are enough of the original denizens left to form a town or city, it's not a Ghost Planet. Please keep in mind, a Ghost Planet should not be a future version of our own Earth (or at least not explicitly so). Only alien worlds which have gone through their own Armageddon (somewhere between Class 2 and Class 5 on the Apocalypse How scale) need apply. Not to be confused with Space Ghost's home planet, or Ghost World. Compare Ghost Town and Ghost City. May be a Beautiful Void.
— Garrus, Mass Effect
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Anime and Manga
- The Shinigami World from Death Note has hints that things other than shinigami once dwelled in it, or, at least, that shinigami were not always like they now are. There are a few remaining signs that the world once had buildings and maybe even cities, something the dozen or so shinigami we see have neither the energy nor the manpower to do. When you add in the fact that the skulls shinigami gamble with had to come from someone, and Rem's comment that shinigami have "evolved" beyond the need for food, you get the impression that the Shinigami World was once a far less desolate place.
- The Moon Kingdom from Sailor Moon has sat in ruins for over a thousand years by the time it's seen in a non-flashback scene. In the fifth and final arc/season, it's revealed that most of the planets that hold life in the galaxy have been reduced to ghost planets, thanks to the main villain, Galaxia's, conquest.
- Two in Kiddy Grade, first the space prison that Alv, Dvergr, Éclair, and Lumière are sent to investigate, and later, a space colony that Éclair and Lumière escape to.
- One of the planets visited by the Nirvana in Vandread is like this. The only remaining activity is from an automated defense system left by the people who destroyed the colony there.
- There are several in the Dragon Ball series, often due to the Monster of the Week wiping out all life. Early on, it's revealed to be the Saiyans' job to clear out planets and sell them, such as Kanassa and Meat. Later on was Namek, another victim of Frieza's troops. Then there was New Planet Vegeta, which was already ruined and about to collide with a meteor. After that was Earth itself, thanks to Buu.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, at one point Calvin daydreams about Spaceman Spiff being stranded on one of these. aided by the fact that he missed the lunch bell and is sitting alone in the classroom.
- The Ghost Planet from Space Ghost wasn't an example of this trope until the Darker and Edgier reboot comic published by DC.
- In Issue 14 of Planetary, Elijah Snow visits one of these. Yet another one of the the Four's atrocities.
- Green Lantern: sector 666, only 5 people survived the slaughter of every living being, all were held in a different sector. Even after the Red Lanterns use one planet in it as home base, it's still ruins as far as the eye can see.
- Asgard in the Marvel 100th Anniversary Special has long been abandoned by the gods and Yggdrasil's roots have overgrown the ruins.
- Altair IV in Forbidden Planet contains many still-functioning relics of the hyper-advanced Krell civilization, despite the disappearance of the Krell themselves, which seems to have happened quite suddenly.
- The Hell Planet in Pitch Black. Also, any world the Necromongers visit is left this way.
- The planet Miranda in Serenity. When the Alliance tested a drug meant to curb violent emotions on the people of the planet, the result was nearly all the population ceasing to do...pretty much anything, eventually laying down and dying. The tiny percentage of people who survived had the exact opposite reaction, becoming the psychotic and cannibalistic Reavers.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia novel The Magician's Nephew, the city/world of Charn is one of these by the time Digory and Polly arrive. The buildings, sidewalks, and other examples of human industry are mostly intact, though in a state of ruin. However, except for the witch queen Jadis, every other living thing on the planet (including vines partially pulled down walls) was killed by the Deplorable Word. It's more than a little creepy.
- Mars in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is like this, showing signs of a Crystal Spires and Togas civilization.
- Jonathan Lethem's Girl In Landscape primarily takes place on one which is being sparsely colonized by humans. There are still a few lingering aliens, but they have only a passive interest in either the humans or the relics of their ruined civilization.
- Alastair Reynolds:
- Revelation Space has an archaeologist main character and the plot centers on the mystery behind the dead Amarantin civilization.
- House of Suns has the galaxy littered with the remnants of human civilization; in an Ungovernable Galaxy with no Faster-Than-Light Travel or Subspace Ansible, human civilizations surge up before withering away after a few thousand years from internal pressure. Every system that the protagonists visit have some trace of human habitation, such as an asteroid belt littered with derelict ships or nanotech-infused clouds on planets.
- In Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Earth, the characters discover some of the planets where space-faring humans first settled, in ruins and devoid of intelligent life.
- Mars in H. Beam Piper's short story "Omnilingual." His short story "Graveyard of Dreams," later expanded into the novel The Cosmic Computer, took its title from a poem by a colonist on Mars who was apparently inspired by the planet's ruins.
- Paul S. Kemp's The Twilight War trilogy set in the Forgotten Realms reveals that Shar has been doing this to other worlds and intends to do the same to Abeir-Toril.
- The "pit-stop" planet and alien spaceport in Andre Norton's Galactic Derelict. The home planet of the alien spacecraft is still inhabited by two primitive alien tribes who are at war, but it is made clear that they are not the civilization that built the ruined city they dwell in.
- Kiva, in Galaxy of Fear. It's without life except for the furious ghosts of the people who lived there, and mentioned to be charcoal-colored when seen from orbit.
- More Star Wars: Revan, a tie-in novel to Star Wars: The Old Republic, reveals the Sith Emperor's homeworld of Nathema to be one of these. His ascension to immortality involved a Force ritual that consumed every living thing on the planet. Several hundred years later, the bodies are still there exactly as they died, because the microorganisms that would normally decompose them were all killed. It's hinted that the Emperor intends to repeat this process for the entire galaxy, and this scares the handful of Sith who know about it enough that they're secretly planning to assassinate him.
- In the Short Story The End of History, Antron Back hides himself and a collection of Jedi artifacts on a nameless and abandoned moon that had once been colonized by Geonosians, who left tunnel systems the size of cities behind which made for a perfect hiding spot.
- The fourth Skulduggery Pleasant book features a Ghost Universe. Everything in it has been murdered by the Faceless Ones.
- The Lost Fleet series details a number of solar systems that had once been host to heavy traffic but have been bypassed by the time the titular fleet passes through because the Portal Network rendered the old mode of system-to-system hyperspace travel obsolete. Some of these systems have been completely abandoned, while others still have dwindling populations that lack the means to leave (there aren't any spaceships passing through anymore, after all).
- In The Wandering, Neshi visits many of these, all of which were destroyed (presumably) by the Natasians.
- Eden Green has the title character explore an abandoned planet from which horrifying needle monsters are spreading onto Earth.
Live Action TV
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield", the planet Cheron ended up this way. So was the Time Vortex Planet from "The City On The Edge Of Forever" and "Yesteryear", but for different reasons.
- San Helios in the Doctor Who episode "Planet of the Dead". Despite no signs of life apart from the planet-destroying stingrays, the city was fine a year a before the story.
- Skaro, the Dalek homeworld also counts for a large part of the series between the times when the Daleks would abandon and reclaim it.
- Several examples in the old series, too, including Exxilon in Death to the Daleks.
- The planet-sized Library has a million million intelligent lifeforms following a catastrophe 100 years prior, though the Doctor and his allies can't seem to find any of them.
- Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (a documentary series) included model shots of a fictional Mars fitting this trope, before going on to describe what Mars is really like.
- Kobol, Caprica, and "Earth" in Battlestar Galactica. Technically, New Caprica also becomes one, though only after one year of habitation.
- Brunnis and TV World in Lexx.
- Markab Prime and Daltron 7 become ghost planets in Babylon 5.
- In the B5 spin-off Crusade, a number of these are also visited.
- Happened quite often in Stargate SG-1. Sometimes it was a plague, or technology gone wrong, or something else horrible happened to wipe out life on the planet. It was rarely not spooky.
- One Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers two-parter features a trip to the aptly-named "Deserted Planet."
- Lost in Space - Although not developed afterwards, implied by the subterranean dead city on the Robinsons' first planetfall.
- Several Classic Traveller adventures had planets like this, including Adventure 4 Leviathan and Double Adventure 5 The Chamax Plague.
- Happens occasionally in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Sometimes it happens when a planet gets swallowed up in a Warp space related-anomaly, and that world is physically twisted, or sometimes it becomes a haunted with no sign of the original human population. Most often, however, this trope describes worlds that were all that was left behind after an Exterminatus.
- On other occasions, an entire planet's populace may be abducted by hostile aliens, particularly the Dark Eldar or Necrons.
- During one notable incident, a Night Lords raid killed the population of an entire planet…without damaging a single building.
- Echo V was home to the Iktomi in Eclipse Phase. Now there's nothing but cobwebs. Literally.
- In Spore, one of the planets in your home system has a crashed alien spaceship on it. Before they died, the survivors left directions to a nearby system, which turns out to be a ruined planet that was devastated by the Grox. Some theories suggest that the ruins may be human in origin, especially when you consider that Earth is deserted when you discover it.
- LucasArts' old PC adventure game, The Dig. Astronauts end up playing archeologist in the ruins of an alien civilization.
- Most all of the worlds visited by Samus Aran in the Metroid games. And if they weren't at first, they are when she leaves. If they're still there.
- In the higher levels of City of Heroes, you get the chance to go dimension hopping, discovering several Ghost Dimensions, including a literal Ghost Dimension where the calamity that wiped out the entire population was you. Needless to say, the ghosts aren't happy to see you.
- Mass Effect
- The page quote concerns Ilos from Mass Effect, and the place is appropriately creepy to boot.
- In the sequel, once you start looking at places off the beaten track you'll notice that there are a lot of dead planets out there. Time and again seemingly empty systems will have burial grounds, ruins or even just million-year-old mass accelerator craters spread across the planet. The phrase "Bombardment was focused on population centres" appears far too often for comfort. Of course, this all makes sense, since every 50,000 years the Reapers show up and kill all sentient lifeforms.
- The third game reveals that Ilos was a ghost planet when the Protheans found it, and the statues are implied to depict the once native Inusannon. Subsequent playthroughs of the first game, knowing that both the Inusannon and the Protheans became extinct on this world makes it even more creepy.
- Star Control 2 - the Taalo homeworld (sterilized by mind-controlled Ur-Quan), the Burvixese homeworlds (wiped out by the Kohr-Ah after being betrayed by the Druuge), and the Androsynth's adopted homeworld ("Androsynth are not here. Only Orz is here"). Also, any alien homeworld becomes one once the Kohr-Ah reach it on their Death March.
- Lh'owon from Marathon was razed by Pfhor slavers. It is mostly a desert, with a few instances of nasty wildlife and aforementioned slavers.
- Halo: The myriad planets and installations built by the Forerunners, including the eponymous ringworlds, are ghost space constructs.
- The "Forbidden Planet" in Sigma Star Saga takes this trope more literally than most—you'll find yourself under attack from levitating tombstones. Turns out the former inhabitants had(/have) a serious grudge against the aliens you've allied with, and not even death is stopping them from revenge. In a notorious bug, those tombstones are the most lethal enemy in the game; killing one to end the level will instead trap you in purgatory forever.
- Schizm cribs from Forbidden Planet as well—everyone on the world you're exploring just vanished in what must have been a single day, leaving behind unfinished work and uneaten meals. The initial research team vanished more slowly, and had enough time to leave behind increasingly panicky audio diaries speculating on what the hell was going on. What's left is a rather sinister Beautiful Void. Subverted in the end. Everyone is still alive, but they were transported into separate dimensions so that the planet's defense system could observe them and determine if they were a threat.
- This is the planet Quartia in Tales of Hearts. Everything inhabiting the planet quite literally had the life sucked out of it.
- Similarly, Fodra from Tales of Graces, however there are a few survivors, instead of machines.
- The planet Ultimacrash from Starshot: Space Circus Fever is another literal version of the trope. It's surrounded by spaceship debris and is inhabited by the ghosts of space travelers whose ships crashed into it, hence its name and reputation as "the gloomiest place in the galaxy".
- Dead Space 3 takes this to a chilling extreme. Not only is the planet of Tau Volantis a ghost planet, this game reveals that the setting is essentially a ghost galaxy thanks to the Brethren Moons periodically turning the populations of entire worlds into Necromorphs and consuming them to propagate their own race.
- It is only a minor element of the setting (absolutely nothing encourages you to land, it's just possible in case you want to read the flavour text), but Neo New York in Escape Velocity Nova is this — once a prosperous colony, a terrible plague swept through it, destroying the entire biosphere. The planetary image wouldn't look out of place for any of the more inhabited Federation colonies, although the fact that the fog surrounding the skyscrapers is green is somewhat telling...
- A ghost system in Alien Legacy. When the UNS Calypso arrives to the Beta Caeli system, the crew is woken up from cryosleep, and the Captain reads all the messages received from Earth since their departure centuries (if not millennia) ago. One of these notifies you that another ship was sent to the same system just over a decade after the Calypso's departure. However, due a slightly more efficient drive, it was supposed to have arrived to Beta Caeli about two decades before you. So, naturally, you expect to find a colonized system with thousands of settlers awaiting your arrival. What you find are planets filled with ruins of the colonies and no trace of the UNS Tantalus, the Calypso's sister-ship. Besides settling the system, much of the game involves tracking down the clues and figuring out what happened to the other ship and the colonists. The ship was scrapped for parts by order of her captain, and most of the shuttle fleet was later wiped out in a suicidal charge on the H'riak seedship hiding in the system, leaving the major colonies on the two habitable worlds and numerous tiny outposts isolated from one another; then the habitable planets' native life went insane and wiped out the colonists there; eventually, the isolated outposts died out too.
- This trope certainly applies in force once you reach Old Miltia in the third episode of Xenosaga - the entire planet is completely devoid of human life, though all the trappings of the setting's technologically-advanced society are in place, adding to the creep factor.
- In the Xtended Game Mod for X3: Terran Conflict, the Expansion system Portal Network is littered with the remnants of Terran colonies that were wiped out 800 years ago when their AI terraformer fleets went haywire and started "terraforming" inhabited worlds. The modern Terrans under the Earth State government control the majority of these abandoned ghost planets, but a few are under the control of the Boron Kingdom or Split Dynasty, which has caused some friction between the races.
- Tomb worlds in Stellaris start this way. This is also the doom of colonies that have fallen to the Unbidden - the building remains, the colonists are just gone. Which makes them a really nice spot to (re)settle once the Unbidden are taken care of.
- The Dimension of Pain from Sluggy Freelance is eventually revealed to be one of these. It originally just seemed to be a barren, rocky world populated by a smattering of demons. It's not until the end of the "That Which Redeems" arc that we discover the dimension originally belonged to a race of human-like beings, whom the demons overthrew. Over the centuries the demons wiped out all other life in the dimension. They even devoured the original inhabitants' souls and destroyed everything they had built, save for a single, ruined city, preserved as a testament to the demons' victory. It is also implied that these 'demons' were actually mutants created by Nofun labs, and the same could happen to the main dimension as well.
- In A Miracle of Science, Mars finds many of these when searching for other intelligent life in the universe.
- Subnormality gives us Wonte IV. "There was something besides oil that came out when the drills got down there and it didn't mix with the human mind and its fuckin' little creations."
- In Homestuck, Jane's Land, the Land of Crypts and Helium, is almost completely lifeless save for a few plants that have managed to cling to life. All the Alpha Kids' Lands are the same.
- Filmation's Ghostbusters was fond of ghost planets, featuring at least two or three throughout its 65-episode run.