"Our tour of Northrend now brings us to Icecrown Citadel... we won't be stopping, though, they're death on visitors."
Where its cold, and ice hits your skin Few can stomach how harsh it is In the woods lies a Great Old One Who'll tear the flesh, right off your bones...
Whenever The Dark Lord
rises to gather his armies and bring destruction upon the lands of men, elves, dwarves and the race of funny midgets, he always, always, always
does this from a stronghold built in the most frigid
, dark, frigid, remote, frigid
, benighted corner of the wasteland that in most cases is simply called "the North".
This trope may stem from how generally inhospitable the North often is to human (and other) life. While a gentle cover of snow can imply romance
, and snow can often be used to create an incredibly beautiful and peaceful otherworldly air, when taken to blizzard-level extremes it becomes an icy hell
. As many forms of Always Chaotic Evil
creatures are somehow protected from extreme cold- for example, The Undead
simply don't care about temperatures- the North is an environment where the Forces of Good are often at a disadvantage.
It might also have its roots in Medieval history, as the Vikings
would often come from Scandinavia to the European coastlines for some good ol' Rape, Pillage, and Burn
; hey, beats fishing. Even before that
, one of the constant threats to the Roman Empire
were the Celtic and Germanic barbarians to its north. History repeats the pattern elsewhere; in Asia, the Mongol hordes were from the frigid steppes and the surprisingly cold Gobi Desert, north of China proper. In Africa, the colonial invaders of the 17th-20th centuries were mysterious pale people from a land far to the north. In the Cold War
, the enemy that represented the greatest threat to your way of life was so far north that they were over the pole and on the other side, a bit of geography that's true for American and Soviet alike! (However, in reality the Soviets always imagined America as "in the West").
Northern wastelands being what they are, now and then some ancient civilization
or other figures out such an inhospitable place would be perfect for preserving the Sealed Evil in a Can
It is interesting to note that while it is true that people living up north on a standard-shaped planet
don't get all that much sun in the winter and tend to be a bit gloomy, people seem to forget that they also don't have a proper night in the summer (assuming an axial tilt). They also tend to forget that the temperature difference has less to do with being Northerly than it does with the distance from the equator. After all, the only reason we Earthlings consider North to be synonymous with cold is that the planet's inhabited continents extend northward to cold parts of the Northern Hemisphere and, on average, very little south of Tropic of Capricorn. The only iced-over landmass of the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica, is isolated by distance and scarcely habitable.
Not to be confused with Oop North
, which is, confusingly, the same North from which the Trope Name originates, though it's not exactly a barrel of laughs over there, either (but at least it's not Luton).
The roots of this trope could also lie in the fact that most major religions originated in warm locations: the Abrahamic ones in Mesopotamia and the Levant (Judaism and Christianity) and the Arabian Peninsula (Islam); the Dharmic ones (chiefly Hinduism and Buddhism) in India; Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese folk religion in mostly-temperate China; and Shintoism in temperate Japan. These were all locations where cold weather was associated with winter and its connotations of the "death" stage of the seasonal cycle
rather than being the simple fact of life it becomes when actually living
On the other hand, people in those climates tend to portray very bad places — such as Hell — as hot. It is the people who live in the North who insist that Hell is cold
. See also Mysterious Antarctica
. Grim Up North is the frigid sister trope of The Savage South
The Trope Namer
appears to be the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu
song "It's Grim Up North", which contains a list of cities
in the north of England
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Anime and Manga
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, the fortress of Briggs is the furthest northern outpost of Amestris, defending against the hordes of Drachma. Up North, it's always snowing, and Olivia Armstrong and her troops are always vigilant and deadly serious because they hold the responsibility of defending the nation with their lives.
- The comic book miniseries/movie 30 Days of Night was about a remote town in Alaska attacked by vampires during its long "winter night". Subsequent miniseries in the same setting returned there a few times.
- Tarandroland in Under The Northern Lights. It is populated by dour and violent reindeer, one of whom describes the climate as ice four fifths of the year, with the fifth part being mosquitos. While the ponies of Equestria may have to actively wrap up winter every spring, the reindeer have to literally fight winter to make it go away. The story kicks off when reindeer in dragonships get back into their old habit of plundering northern Equestria. On the other hand, following the Anachronism Stew of the original show, this trope is heavily mixed with Norse by Norsewest, and the reindeer follow many stereotypes of modern Scandinavians (the author being Swedish).
- Speaking of Hadrian's Wall, the movies Centurion and The Eagle have rather bad things happening north of it as well.
- In Doomsday, Scotland is sealed off from the rest of the UK (and the world) to contain a zombie-creating plague, and a 50-foot high version of Hadrian's Wall made of steel-reinforced concrete and lined with machineguns and spotlights. A British commando team is sent in years later to investigate after satellite images show signs of life. Hilarity Ensues.
- The main villain, Nekron from Fire and Ice, makes his home up north in Icepeak.
- The Swedish horror-comedy Frostbite has a similar premise: another town, but much larger, located well above the Arctic Circle with a month long period of darkness. The diffrence? The vampire have been there all the time...
- In Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, the ancient temple to the Ogdru Jahahd was somewhere in the Arctic circle.
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Sheriff of Nottingham hires thugs from the north — Celts (during the Third Crusade), who drink the blood of their dead, and seem to share the Sheriff's (evil) god.
- Inverted in The Little Mermaid II where the villainess Morgana (Ursula's twin sister) actually makes her home underneath Antarctica.
- The vampire horror film 30 Days of Night is set in Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost town in the U.S., well above the Arctic Circle), where the sky is completely dark for thirty days in the middle of winter, allowing the vampires to thrive on those residents who stay through this dark period rather than take the only flight south for the duration.
- In Lone Wolf, Kalte (icy wasteland populated with hostile barbarians, malevolent wildlife and as of book 3 an Evil Sorcerer), the Darklands (Mordor) and Ixia (Mordor with more ice and Sealed Evil in a Can) fit this trope perfectly, but the heroic northern kingdoms of Sommerlund and Durenor avert it.
- In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien:
- In The Silmarillion, Morgoth's fortress of Angband is in the north extreme of Beleriand. Similarly, his first fortress, Utumno, was in the north of Middle Earth. Apparently, this is why North is cold.
- Also in The Silmarillion, many Noldor emigrants die when they try to cross the Grinding Ice, a sea-strait between Aman and Middle-Earth filled with icebergs. There's no inherent evil fortress there, though; it's just a nasty stretch of inhospitable icecap.
- The Lord of the Rings mentions that Angmar, the former realm of the Witch-king, lay in the far north of the world. However Tolkien placed Mordor in the South to deliberately avert the trope.
- As noted in The Hobbit, the Grey Mountains are rife with "orcs, goblins and hobgoblins", and the Withered Heath in particular is the home of many vile dragons, including Smaug himself.
- In George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the Wall protects civilized people from all kinds of scary stuff that live in the very north of the Land of Always Winter. Most people south of the wall think there's just wild men and direwolves on the far side, the wights, Others, and giants having faded into myth for them. Seasons are also much longer, with winter typically lasting several years.
- The Starks of Winterfell, the northernmost kingdom, are always very hard and cold; their family motto is even the noticeably more depressing 'Winter is coming'. However, they're the closest thing we've got to unambiguous good guys, so you could call that a partial subversion. The Umbers, their loyal bannermen, are from even further north closer to the Wall: however, their hat seems to be Boisterous Bruiser, subverting the trope a bit more. The Starks' Token Evil Teammate House Bolton, however, have a flayed man as their sigil and their stronghold is called the Dreadfort. Would it surprise anyone that they play this trope straight?
- Durham's Acacia has villains heading from the north.
- In Bible times, throughout the Old Testament and even some in the New Testament, north was seen as Israel's weak side. Oppression giants became fewer in The Savage South (Egypt) and more plentiful in the north (Assyria, Scythia, etc.) as time progressed.
- In the Conqueror books, the evil Tartars live in northern Mongolia, where the winters are even harsher than the south.
- In Michael A. Stackpole's Draconcrown cycle, the Big Bad, Chytrine, rules from the frozen wastes far to the north.
- While the plot of Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane is situated in the south, the north it starts in is incredibly grim.
- In Dwarves, the Perished Land approaches from the north.
- His Dark Materials: The baddies' fortress of Bolvangar in the first book, Northern Lights.
- Although they are just intruders there; the land actually belongs to the more or less good Panserbjørner (armoured polar bears!) and witches.
- Calling them good would be wrong. The Panserbjore are definitely neutral, often serving as mercenaries, with their king happening to be friendly with the protagonists. The witches are split: they have several queens, and some fight for the good guys, some fight for the bad guys. The "bad witches" just don't get much screen time.
- According to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Grinch actually lives just north of Whoville.
- Greg Keyes' Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone — and how!
- In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, while there are the sympathetic Rimmersmen and Qanuc civilizations in the north, go a bit further and you start running into the deeply unpleasant Black Rimmersmen- and further than that you come to Stormspike, mountain citadel of the Norns (the Always Chaotic Evil variant of the Fair Folk) and base of operations for the Storm King. Not a nice place.
- Many, many of the villains in Redwall originally came from here.
- Also subverted: So did the (chronologically) first hero of the stories, Martin the Warrior.
- The Reynard Cycle: Calvaria is so inhospitable during the winter that its people live underground, and have developed into a genocidal race of Blood Knights just to survive. They don't welcome tourists.
- In Shannara, the Warlock Lord is based in the North, at Skull Mountain, but in the sequels, the threats come successively from the West, the East, and the South.
- The Back Story and prologue actually begin the base of evil in the Center of the world. That moved North, then East, but while the East was still unpacking a Sealed Evil in a Can in the West popped open, which lead to the East now being ready to be evil, which jumps back to the West who migrates to the South to be Evil and from there it reaches out to the Far-far West, other worlds, etc.
- JV Jones' Sword of Shadows. Pretty much the whole series takes place in what the rest of the world would consider to be the grim north, though even beyond that you get to "the Great Want", frozen Mordor and Eldritch Location par excellence.
- The baddies of Tailchasers Song set up their little hell-on-earth in the northern forest of Rootwood.
- The blighted wasteland and Dark Tower of the Big Bad Torak in The Belgariad are in the far north... east, close enough.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia was often at war with the evil giants that live in the Wild Waste Lands of the North. It was also in the north where the White Witch built up her power and where the Lady of the Green Kirtle lived and held Prince Rilian hostage.
- Interestingly, the Calormenes tend to describe Narnia as a "savage North" region, full of barbarians, monsters, and terrifying demonic lions.
- Some of the Northern giants do seem friendly and civilized, until...
- In Clark Ashton Smith's "The Coming of the White Worm", the titular conquering worm Rlim Shaikorth comes "from spaces beyond the limits of the north".
- He also used the trope for other stories, such as The Ice Demon and The Light from the Pole, and there are plenty of nasty things to be found North in his "Hyperborean Cycle". Other contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos such as H.P. Lovecraft's ghost-written Ran-Tegoth, August Derleth's Ithaqua, and Lin Carter's Aphoom-Zhah make the Arctic Circle and especially Greenland home to more Eldritch Abominations than anywhere else on Earth, and potentially even deadlier than Mythos Antarctica.
- Even in the Finnish national epic The Kalevala, the northerners are the bad guys. Well, from the contemporary viewpoint. Most of the bad things they do are in retaliation to the bad things done by the protagonists. They're just the enemies, because they're foreigners.
- This probably was an echo of the conflicts that the Finns had with the indigenous Sami-folk who they robbed much of their lands from, forcing them to retreat to the northernmost reaches of the land.
- In Robert E. Howard's "The Phoenix on the Sword" how Conan the Barbarian describes his native Cimmeria:
"Perhaps it's the land they live in," answered the king. "A gloomier land never was — all of hills, darkly wooded, under skies nearly always gray, with winds moaning drearily down the valleys."
"Little wonder men grow moody there," quoth Prospero with a shrug of his shoulders, thinking of the smiling sun-washed plains and blue lazy rivers of Poitain, Aquilonia's southernmost province.
"They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Aesir were more to my liking."
- In The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond Feist, the (sort-of) Always Chaotic Evil race of moredhel (dark elves) reside in the frozen Northlands. Justified, however. Firstly, the Northlands have many places that were frequented by the Valheru in times of old, and are sought out by the moredhel as places of power. Secondly, and more importantly, the moredhel had earlier occupied more hospitable territory, but have been at war with the humans for centuries, and due to inferior numbers (read: slower breeding rate) have been forced back to the Northlands where the land is simply too cold and barren for the humans to even want to press on.
- Sara Douglass' Axis and The Wayfarer Redemption Trilogies played up with this trope.
- In The Wheel of Time, The Blight is a huge northern land, home of the Dark One and full of evil creatures and desolation. It's separated from the rest of Randland by the "Mountains of Dhoom" and incursions of evil forces are buffered by the border nations.
- Interestingly, a map of the world provided in an encyclopaedia for the series showed that the Blight eventually gives way to the polar ice cap, which isn't considered interesting by anyone at all.
- Subverted in that the Blight proper is a steamy jungle, although the Blasted Lands beyond it are pretty cold.
- In The Wild Boy, the Lindauzi cities are all in the north. Justifed, because they can't survive the warmer tropical latitudes.
- The Ancient North, which consists of the northern half of Eärwa, is save for a few human holdouts an After the End wasteland populated by tribes of vicious Sranc. The headquarters of the evil Ancient Conspiracy are at the northern edge of that.
- In the Warrior Cats series, ShadowClan, the Clan that produces the most evil cats and that is normally thought to always be plotting something, lives in the northernmost territory. There's even a saying in ThunderClan that the cold north wind blows over every ShadowClan cat and chills their heart.
- In World War Z and the worldwide Zombie Apocalypse, the Arctic Circle actually fares better than most areas as zombies freeze solid in the winter. Mind, "better than most" still means that most evacuees are completely unprepared for winter survival and die anyway. Those who do survive and set up fortifications are able to scavenge unimpeded during the winter and hole up during the summer.
- Later it makes the cleanup process far more difficult than in the south however, as the zombies freeze for winter, and are easily overlooked under the snow. Finland is shown still to be struggling to make itself habitable, while Iceland is one of the worst White Zones (areas completely overrun) on the map.
- The only thing that keeps the North in The First Law from being a straight example is that it's grim everywhere else too.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books, the north pole of Barsoom is overrun with apts - six-limbed monsters that resemble some combination of a gorilla and a hippopotamus. Worse still, they are capable of hunting their prey for 30 days straight. And up until John Carter invaded the region to rescue Dejah Thoris, it was not safe to travel there by aircraft, as the locals, the yellow-skinned Okarians, used powerful magnets to draw in and capture aircrafts.
- Referenced for atmosphere several times in The Ballad of the White Horse, first in the description of the "apocalypse" in the first book, then with Ogier as a sort of personification of it. "For the ice of the north is broken, and the blood of the north is free!"
- The kingdom of Gorhaut from A Song For Arbonne is cold, harsh, and warlike, in stark contrast to the titular, Mediterranean Arbonne. It is also the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of France, which might be the first time France serves as the grim northern land.
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who serial The Ribos Operation, the locals on the planet Ribos assume that aliens, with their advanced technology, are from The Great North. A local heretic who holds the unpopular belief that the stars are not ice crystals but other worlds scoffs at this, as he's travelled to the north and knows there's no mighty empire there.
- Gloomy copper Wallander polices the picturesque town of Ystad in southern Sweden, on the Baltic coast. Although both adptations, the English-language version commissioned by the BBC and the native Swedish version, strongly veer away from snow and ice and eternal winter night and seek to portray Sweden as a rather nice place to live and visit, the essential svarmod quality of the Swedish archetype rings out loud and true in the troubled lead character, who is beset by illness and the male menopause, and who often interrupts a police investigation to wonder loudly what the existential point of it all is. Catch one criminal, and there's only going to be another one coming along afterwards... The original novels by Henning Maskell develop this essential Swedish-ness still further.
- In Helix, the story is set in the blistering cold of the Arctic. "Big pharma" company Arctic Biosystems hosts over a hundred Morally Ambiguous Doctorates in its Elaborate Underground Base, where researchers go to work without interference from regulatory agencies. Then a Synthetic Plague they're developing gets loose, leading to an outbreak of The Virus as it makes the jump to a human researcher.
- The genre of Black Metal, owing to its origins in Norway, has a fondness for imagery involving the cold north. A particularly notable example is the band Immortal, whose song titles include Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms, Sons of Northern Darkness and In My Kingdom Cold.
- Parodied by the "acoustic black metal" joke band Impaled Northern Moonforest, with songs like Grim and Frostbitten Moongoats of the North and Lustfully Worshipping the Inverted Moongoat While Skiing down the Inverted Necromountain of Necrodeathmortum. They even have an Impaled Northern Moonforest song title generator that lets you create your own grim and frostbitten song titles.
- Snow W.Wwhite's entire concept is based heavily on this theme.
- Inverted in the Emerald Sword saga by Rhapsody of Fire, where the main character is called the "Warrior of Ice" or "Nordic Warrior", who calls the forces of winter against the Legions of Hell.
Mythology and Folklore
- Germanic mythology placed the realm of the giants, the monstrous enemies of gods and men, in the far North-East. This is attested as early as c. 100 AD by Tacitus in his ethnographical work Germania.
- In many of the "Alexander Romances"—legends and folkloric embellishments of the life and exploits of Alexander the Great—a land beset by "unclean" nations to the north is encountered by Alexander during his conquests. Recognizing their need, Alexander has his army construct the "Gates of Alexander" across the mountain pass which served as the border between the peaceful southern tribes and their warlike neighbors to the north; these nigh-impenetrable gates, often said to be constructed of the mythical substance "adamantium", effectively severed the north's capacity to reach the south, therefore preserving the southerners' safety and way of life. Note: in many cases, these barbarous and unclean northern tribes are identified as none other than Gog and Magog—mentioned in the various Abrahamic religions, where they are invariably portrayed as bad or evil or at the least "unclean", and who in extra-Biblical tradition become the Big Bad who are said to one day rise up and make war on the rest of the world, bringing about Armageddon.
- In solemn, historical fact, ancient Macedonia (and the northern Greek states in general) was threatened by assorted (probably Celtic and later Germanic) tribes coming down from the Danube region into the Balkans. Alexander's father only succeeded to the throne after two elder brothers were killed fighting, and Upper Macedonia completely overrun. Things stabilised for a while for the successor kingdoms, but the Romans regarded the area as a military, frontier province.
- Kylmä kuin ryssän helvetissä - "Cold as in the Russkie Hell" - a Finnish proverb to describe really low temperatures. Although Russia is east of Finland, not north.
- A more straight example from the Finnish mythology and The Kalevala: Pohjola (literally "northplace") is the enemy land ruled by the witch Louhi and the place where all evil comes from. Note that the Sámi people have always lived north of Finns and were the natural enemy for a long time until the arrival of Swedes from the west and Russians from the east. (However, Finnsnote claimed much of the former Sámi lands and pushed them further north to Lapland, creating pre-modern Finland and Karelia, so technically the area that was called Pohjola by the first Finns is now Finland: it's even possible that all of Finland is former Pohjola, depending on which theory you believe. It may have been colder back then, though.)
- Just like Poles have the Tartars, the Swedes have Finns - a saying of the 17th century. Not that Sweden wasn't exactly a warm place itself.
- In Navajo religion north is the direction of death and evil, symbolized by night and the color black.
- In Irish mythology, of the five provinces, "Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death."
- Inverted in the Krynn D&D setting, as Ansalon, the main continent for Dragonlance stories and adventures, is in the southern hemisphere. The northernmost land, Nordmaar, is a tropical jungle. Icewall is to the south of Ansalon.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting, the land of
Angmar Vaasa in the north of Faerun is where the Witch-King of the Nazgul Zhengyi created his Castle Perilous and launched an invasion of the neighboring country of Arnor Damara.
- The elves of the Iron Kingdoms sealed the heart of the dragon Everblight on the top of the highest mountain they could find. Guess which direction a horde of monstrous Body Horror dragonspawn is pouring out from?
- In the campaign setting Midnight, the evil god who was cast down from the Heavens retreats to the North to gather his strength and from there launches his campaign of conquest.
- Denegoth, a suitably-grim northern realm with a spooky history and imperialistic intentions, was added to the Mystara setting purely to play this trope as straight as possible.
- Averted in Ravenloft, a literal Patchwork Map setting. While one of the coldest regions of the Core (Lamordia) is in the northwest, it's only 200 miles from a tropical island (Markovia) that's even farther northwest. An even colder island, Todstein, is in the southeast corner of the Core. Neither it nor Lamordia really fit this trope; the closest Ravenloft has to a Grim Up North is Vorostokov, which is too underpopulated and isolated by the Mists to invade anybody.
- The world of Warhammer has arguably the grimmest up North in fiction. Past the merely inhospitable
Russia Kislev, you get to Norsca and the Kurgan lands (evil Vikings and evil Mongolian Vikings, respectively), the closest of all the realms of men to the Powers of Chaos; where dwell the Marauder tribes that form the core of the Legions of Hell and the Champions of Chaos who lead the Hordes in war. In particular, the Norscans are the vanguard of that Horde as they are fanatically devoted to the Chaos Gods and are perhaps the most vicious and cruelest warriors to stalk the Old World, with a hatred of the South, in the particular the Empire, which dates back several thousand years to the age of Sigmar. Further north, through the Chaos Wastes (daemon-infested black deserts where reality is wearing pretty damn thin) you eventually reach the Realm of Chaos, which is basically hell. All of these regularly spew out The Legions of Hell to lay waste to the Old World.
- In true Warhammer fashion, there's another wide-open portal to the Realm of Chaos in the South pole of the Old World that nobody's doing anything about. It's only a matter of time until the world is overwhelmed by The Legions of Hell from both sides. (Well, the Lizardmen might since it's their job.)
- Warhammer 40,000's Fenris is a Grim Up North Single-Biome Planet. It's where the Space Wolves recruit the local tribesmen who become their Viking Super Soldiers.
- Valhalla is likewise a single-biome frost world. The inhabitants here "only" get to be Imperial Guard badasses, though. Valhalla itself is noted to have an even grimmer Up North, where the climate goes from "unforgiving" to "completely uninhabitable" and worse.
- In 4th Edition, now this is part of the generic setting. The goddess of death has her citadel in the grim north, where all souls now pass when they die. The darkness and grimness of her frost-bound fortress even bleeds over to the real world from her home dimension, because reality is thin up there. Mildly subverted in that the Raven Queen is not evil, but then again she is definitely not nice, and quite grim.
- BIONICLE's Bara Magna arc has the villainous Skrall tribe coming from the mountainous north to conquer the planet, though they themselves were driven south by an even nastier group of shapeshifting warriors.
- Inverted in the Command & Conquer for the Tiberium timeline: The element Tiberium, with its extreme mutagenic and toxic properties, has its growth stymied by the cold. Therefore, it is the Good Guys that strike from the North.
- Lord of Destruction, the Expansion Pack to Diablo II, adds a fifth act which sets the barbarian homeland way up in the snowy mountain peaks of Arreat. Subverted as their entire culture is dedicated to battling evil, and Baal invaded their space rather than controlling it from the get-go.
- MMORPG Dofus has an entire continent called Frigost. Oddly, it's not particularly far north, instead being situated in the middle of the ocean far to the west of the normal world. It was originally not particularly grim at all, until the ruler of the island decided it would be a good idea to try and create an eternal summer for the island's farmers. This did not go down well with the demon who controls December, and provoked him into freezing the island for the past century.
- Donkey Kong Country 2, sort of. Both of the game's ice-themed levels are in the northern-most area of the map. And it is a pretty grim place. And it's definitely "up".
- The Korcari Wilds in Ferelden in Dragon Age: Origins are actually Grim Down South, due to the continent of Thedas being located on the planet's southern hemisphere. They are dangerous swamp-lands, home to Chasind Wilders, fearsome Witches and more recently, the location where the Darkspawn horde came to the surface during the Fifth Blight.
- The Dune RTS games feature the sinister House Ordos, which is based on Sigma Draconis IV, an ice world.
- Kind of Subverted in the first Dune game: Evil House Harkonnen's main fortress is near the north pole of Arrakis. Dune being what it is, that's still not exactly a cold place...
- Actually, that's true to the book. The northern lands had less severe winds and were blocked from the sandworms by rock.
- The grand finale of both the original, un-expanded Final Fantasy XI and the Wings of the Goddess expansion is in the frozen wastes of Xarcabard, where the Shadow Lord masses his armies.
- The finale of Final Fantasy VII, as well as the pivotal turning point of the story, takes place in the Northern Crater.
- There's a hidden cut scene where it is explained that the Northern Continent stays cold year round because the Planet is still gathering spirit energy to heal the wound cause by an ancient meteor strike (Jenova's arrival some 2000+ years before).
- The final dungeon of Golden Sun: The Lost Age is located on the blizzard-ridden northern continent. Amusingly enough, it's a fire-based dungeon covered in ice, demonstrating that the northern reaches weren't always so cold.
- The final stage of Guitar Hero: Metallica takes place in the Arctic, in the underground lair of an Eldritch Abomination. This finale song is "The Thing That Should Not Be", for obvious reasons.
- Subverted in the MUD Imperian, where the north is home to two different groups: Kinsarmar, magic-users who fight demons, and Ithaqua, forest-dwelling barbarians that fight demons and magic-users.
- In the first Jak and Daxter, the Green Sage tells Daxter that the only person who will be able to reverse his case of Baleful Polymorph will be no easy matter to reach because he lives to the north - "far, far to the north." He turns out to be the one of the Big Bads and the reason the protagonists go there ends up being to bring down his evil lair.
- Online adventure game Kingdom of Loathing has a character class which "hail from the frigid Northlands, because one character class always hails from the frigid Northlands." The class? Seal Clubbers, appropriately enough.
- Didn't you notice the Seal Clubber is the only player character figure that's frowning? That's 'cause it's grim where he's from.
- In Kingdom Under Fire The Crusaders, the Sealed Evil in a Can is found on in the far north of the map... and boy, what a can that was.
- In Mega Man X2, the X-Hunters' Lair lies at the North Pole.
- Judging by the map in Mega Man Zero 4 and the Point Galapagos map in Mega Man X8, Neo Arcadia is apparently on the north side of South America; while the sometimes-frozen underground sea in Zero 1 gives away the Resistance Base's location southward...as well as the trope-subversive climate (what with being in the Southern Hemisphere).
- If the Derelict Spacecraft serves as a base for Omega and Weil in Zero 3, that would actually be Grim Down South, judging from the above.
- In Metal Gear Solid, Snake must infiltrate an Alaskan fortress that resides on an island with sub-zero temperatures and snowfall.
- In Ōkami, the source of all the monsters and lair of Yami, Lord of Darkness lies to the far north.
- Runescape uses this too many times to count. Whenever ancient evils are let out of the can they inevitably depart for 'the North'. This locale, overrun with ancient evils as it is, is never seen in game. Players who do go north - at least from older parts of the map - are greeted with the Wilderness, a place filled with ruin, hideous monsters, and (formerly) other players with murderous intent that gets worse the further North you go. This is revealed to be merely the battleground of an ancient war fought over the domain of a defeated god with evils located in the aforementioned (and unseen) North.
- In Skies of Arcadia, The Empire is headquartered on a perpetually grim and stormy Floating Continent north of most of the rest of civilization. The actual arctic ice cap isn't so bad, though; it just has one dungeon and a couple of Bonus Bosses, no worse than the rest of the world. Of course, given that lazy programming makes Arcadia look like a torus according to the map, it's impossible to tell whether this dungeon is the north pole or the south pole.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has Solthsheim, and to a lesser extent, Sheogorad.
- About half of Skyrim fits. The city of Windhelm wins the award for grimness, being plagued with Fantastic Racism, slums, and a serial killer in the streets. The further north you go, the more dangerous things become, with the wilderness around Dawnstar and Winterhold best being described as an endless parade of irate polar bears, hungry frost trolls, pissed-off horkers, and terminally idiotic bandits. However, the northernmost city in the game, Solitude, is actually fairly nice and not snowy at all, apparently due to warm water currents in coming through the northern sea. note Its grim enough that Nord culture has the Fourth Date Marriage as the norm. Skyrim is such a harsh and dangerous land even within the civilized areas that Nord culture in general frowns on lengthy courtships, so if you care about someone enough to love them or want to marry them, you wear an Amulet of Mara and just tell them, and if they're favorably inclined they'll accept, you get married, and then everyone can go back to keeping the bear, vampires, trolls, bandits, and dragons at bay.
- All this said, the actual northern-most realm (the continent of Atmora) does not appear to fit this trope (at least, not anymore. It very likely did look a lot like this trope to the Mer during the early days of Man-Mer hostility in Skyrim, as Atmoran Men kept emigrating over and supplementing the Mannish manpower). It is too cold: the last reliable reports indicate that it is frozen over and uninhabited.
- In the original Legend of Zelda, Death Mountain, the dungeon home of the Big Bad is located at the northernmost portion of the map, but the terrain isn't snowy, and Death Mountain is a Lethal Lava Land in later games.
- Since Too Human is a retelling of Norse myths with science fiction, it comes as no surprise that the whole game takes place during the fimbul winter under heavy snowfall.
- The Lich King of the Warcraft fame, whose realm of Northrend lies in the far north of the world.
- Minor subversion in that some areas of Northrend are quite beautiful, and in the case of Sholozar Basin, practically tropical (it's kept that way by magic). Played razor straight in the Lich King's main base, Icecrown Glacier, where it seems that the only things that are alive are Vrykul seeking to become the Lich King's undead servants, and soldiers of the Horde, Alliance, and the Argent Crusade who seek to destroy him.
- The practical reason for this is that the designers thought it would be pretty boring to have an entire expansion covered with snow, so they didn't. The two northernmost areas of the northern continent though both follow this trope in slightly different ways. The aforementioned Undead/Vikings/Undead Vikings in Icecrown, and both Precursor ruins and a Sealed Evil in a Can in the Storm Peaks.
- The northern reaches of the Eastern Kingdoms are also rather grim, having the second largest amount of undead behind Northrend. Northern Kalimdor is dreary and covered in perpetual twilight, but it's not "grim" as such.
- The tundra biome in Wolf is difficult to survive in due to the extreme cold. In compensation, you'll have fewer cattle ranchers to deal with, but hunters will still brave the cold (or hitch a ride in a plane) to put a bullet in your hide.
- Muktuk Wolfsbreath Hard Boiled Shaman takes place in the snow-bound Siberian taiga and uses the grimness of the setting to achieve the same effect that Film Noir does with rain-soaked cities.
- Snow By Night portrays Winter as a humanoid who makes an annual journey down from what is presumably Corthis' equivalent of the Arctic Circle.
- In season three of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic the northern region of Equestria is shown to be a dark, frigid place, but the Crystal Empire is pretty bright, shiny, and happy behind their shield. When they're not being ground under the shadowy hooves of King Sombra.