A city whose population is larger than a reasonably sized country. The actual size can depend on the average city size of the setting, but for modern or sci-fi settings, you can assume that the number of citizens goes into the hundreds of millions or even billions.
Depending on the setting you can expect to see a lot of tall buildings, endless suburbs and futuristic ways to get around. If you are lucky the author may have even thought of the troubles with providing food and water for all the inhabitants as well as the problems for the environment so many people naturally generate. If you are unlucky however, the heroes may find themselves alone at times and places where that should be impossible given the population density.
Notice that despite the introduction a given city does not count as a Mega City just because it is bigger than a given country. For example, in real life not less than 41 countries around the world have less than a million inhabitants, 17 even less than 100,000, and cities of that size in other countries are normal and therefore would not be seen as mega cities.
The Mega City will probably be the capital or Hub City
, and if it's not a Merchant City
, there'll definitely be a Bazaar of the Bizarre
if you know where to look. If its land area is restricted, expect it to be a Skyscraper City
Occasionally, a Mega City will grow so large that it will become a City Planet
- The City in Transmetropolitan.
- The world of Judge Dredd is divided into these kind of cities. Much of the world outside the Mega Cities was destroyed in the Atomic War of 2070, leaving the metropoles as the last centers of advanced civilization due to their missile shields having withstood the worst nuclear attacks. Dredd's home city of Mega City One grew from BosWash until it covered the entire eastern seaboard. In fact, the whole point of the Apocalypse War arc was to trim its sheer size down, as it had become too big.
- Downlode in Sinister Dexter stretches from northern Spain to west Poland.
- The Mighty Thor #372, part of a storyline involving Time Travel, says that in the future the entire east coast of the USA will be covered by the megacity of Brooklynopolis (which will be policed by the oddly-familiar Justice Peace).
- The city of NorthAm in Magnus Robot Fighter, which covers all of North America.
- The pre-war human cities in The Matrix, which "spanned hundreds of miles" and needed armies of robots to maintain themselves. It's implied that the entirety of civilization within the Matrix is one of these, dubbed "the city" for lack of need for a more specific name.
- The Big Applesauce has become this in the 1930's films Metropolis and Just Imagine — in those days New York was pretty much the only skyscraper city in existence.
- Avatar: In the extended version, and in supplementary materials the cities of Earth have become this.
- Star Wars has the city planet of Coruscant. It's rumoured that one can walk all the way around the planet without ever setting foot on its surface.
- In Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel, all of Earth's population lives in eight hundred arcologies known as 'Cities'. The average population of each City is eleven point two million. The governments of three large cities (New York, Philadelphia and Washington) are considering merging into one single Mega Mega City, but the logistics of maintaining and governing such a large conglomerate have so far prevented any action on the plan.
- Later in the Robots/Empire/Foundation series, Trantor, and presumably a few other worlds, are globe-spanning versions of these with populations in the billions. Trantor is very much the model for Coruscant.
- Discworld: While Ankh-Morpork only has a million inhabitants, it is still the biggest city in the setting. In The Fifth Elephant, Carrot points out that it's actually the largest dwarf city, having more dwarfs than any purely dwarf city. (This isn't as far-fetched as it may seem — a Real Life example is the city of São Paulo, whose Italian community is larger than any city in Italy itself.)
- In the Myth Adventures series the dimension of Deeva is entirely taken up by an open-air market.
- The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear: The Capital of the continent of Zamonia, Atlantis, has over 200 million inhabitants.
- The arcologies in The Night's Dawn Trilogy.
- In Vladimir Vasilyev's Big Kiev Technician Urban Fantasy series, Big Kiev in this Alternate Universe is roughly 600 miles in diameter. Big London is also mentioned, although it may be smaller. It takes 9 hours on a train to get from the Black Sea in the southern part of town to the Center (where our Kiev, Ukraine, is located). One of the old cities absorbed into Big Kiev is L'viv. Only canned goods are available in the Center due to lack of farmland or cattle so far from the edge, unless you're willing to spend a fortune on fresh meat and fruit.
- Big Moscow is mentioned to be even larger, although younger.
- This can be partially explained by cities apparently growing on their own, as a jungle would. This fits into the overall theme of all machines in this world being alive.
- Apparently, the major cities have been slowly growing for the past 300,000 years in the novel's timeline.
- William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy has the titular Sprawl, more officially known as BAMA, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, presumably an extension of the real Bos-Wash. Also notable for being almost completely covered by geodesic domes. Judging from descriptions in Neuromancer Chiba City and the other cities around Tokyo Bay also count.
- In one of Andrei Livadny's The History of the Galaxy novels, Earth cities are mentioned to have become these with populations of major cities approaching 20 billion each. That's nearly triple the population of the entire world today in a single city. This is the main reason why President John Winston Hammer of the Earth Alliance sends a fleet to force the recently-discovered Lost Colonies into submission, so as to offload the extra population. By the time of the later novels, most of the population has moved to new colonies or died in the First Galactic War (the 30-year war with the colonies, which Earth ultimately loses) with only about 100 million people left on Earth. Most urban areas, now abandoned, are covered by lush jungles, and many surviving landmarks have been moved to other areas for preservation. After the war, the colonies emerge as the industrial, economic, and scientific power in human space, forming the Confederacy of Suns for mutual protection (Earth isn't included).
- In F. Paul Wilson's La Nague Federation series, Earth (and some colonized planets) has several Megalops with stupidly huge buildings and nightmarish overpopulation. Food-riots are not pleasant affairs.
- Nessus from Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe appears to be one of these in decline (along with rest of the planet.) It takes days to travel from its center to the outskirts. Large portions of it, however, are in ruins and inhabited by cannibals.
- Appropriately enough, the Judge Dredd pinball takes place in Mega-City One.
- Warhammer 40,000 has Hive Cities, mountains of metal housing millions of inhabitants and dependent on imported food and water from neighboring Farm Planets. They tend to settle into very stratified societies, with the administrators and wealthiest citizens living comfortably in the Spire, while gangs, mutants, and worse struggle to survive in the dark and decaying Underhive. Many of the setting's "City Planets" aren't actually covered entirely by urbanization, but are rather dotted with hive cities separated by the resulting Polluted Wastelands.
- Holy Terra is a proper City Planet, though individual complexes stand out as pseudo Mega Cities in their own right: the Imperial Palace covers a good portion of the northern hemisphere, the Inquisition's headquarters is beneath what used to be the southern ice cap, and the Hall of the Astronomicon was carved out of the interior of Mount Everest. Unlike many settings' hive cities, the value of Terra is not as a trade hub, but as the slow-beating administrative heart of the Imperium and the holiest of religious sites.
- Sprawls/metroplexes in Shadowrun.
- Like much of the Shadowrun universe, these are most likely inspired by William Gibson's work, outlined above.
- Mort City in SLA Industries. which, we feel we should stress, is roughly the size of Eurasia.
- Though there have been many cities mentioned in Magic: The Gathering, none quite so massive as the plane-spanning city of guilds, Ravnica. A city so big, it has all five mana-producing lands contained within it with room to spare. A city so big, it took two blocks (at three card sets per block) to cover it all.
- Mega-Primus in X-Com: Apocalypse. According to the backstory, it's actually the prototype of the concept designed to consolidate the remaining living space on the planet following the aversion of No Endor Holocaust at the end of Terror from the Deep.
- One of the playable locations in Mass Effect 3 is a city representing the unification of Vancouver and Seattle.
- Kaineng City from Guild Wars Factions.
- One of the ultimate goals in any SimCity game is to reach as high a population as possible. In the original game, reaching a population of 100,000 would upgrade your city into a Metropolis. Reaching 500,000 citizens meant that your city be classified as a Megalopolis.
- Mute City in F-Zero. Formerly called New York City (according to the anime), it grew to a population of over two billion people and aliens.
- One of the locations in Dreamfall Chapters is Europolis, a dystopian Stark city covering most of Central and Western Europe.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo has the pre-war human Mega-cities during cutscenes.
- Gunnerkrigg Court: The court itself has gigantic proportions, its full size has yet to be revealed.
- Shifters: The comic takes place in Shade City a Mega City that encompasses a vast amount of territory in the Pacific Northwest.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se seems to encompass nearly 10% of the land area of the largest continent on its planet, and its population is equally gigantic, especially in comparison to those of the entire Air Nomad and Water Tribe civilizations.
- The Jetsons
- The proper term to describe cities- more specifically, Broad-stroke regions- that have reached extreme levels of population and urban development is Megalopolis. The following examples listed below all qualify, as most of them are a chain of metropolitan areas that are so closely connected to each other that they have begun to overlap.
- According to The Other Wiki, there are about as many people in Jakarta as there are people in Australia (especially if you count Jakarta's satellite cities and zones).
- There are about as many people in Tokyo and neighboring cities as there are people in Canada. Makes a certain trope feels juuuuust a little bit Justified.
- If Tokyo were a separate country, it would be the 34th most populous in the world, after Poland.
- Keihanshin (Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe) is no slouch either. The figures varies depending on the method, but it is somewhere around 17-20 million people. Unlike other metropolitan regions, however, Keihanshin was unique in that Kyoto and Osaka were (and to some extent, still are) separate cities with separate civic cultures for most of Japan's history. It was only until rise of modern transport in the early-to-mid 20th Century that the two cities started to form the metropolitan region.
- In the US (and other places), urban sprawl has started expanding cities to the point where they run together. For instance:
- The first was known originally as BosWash (sometimes New BosNYWash given New York City is a big percentage of the people), a near contiguous mass of cities and suburbs running from Boston to Washington DC. Currently the cities in this area have yet to fully coalesce, although New York City/North Jersey/Fairfield County (CT) and Philadelphia/Camden (NJ) are close, as are Boston, Worcester (MA), and Providence (RI). Likewise, the DC area spills over into northern Virginia and Maryland, to the point of sometimes being grouped with Baltimore.
- The Los Angeles metropolitan area is currently the largest (in terms of area) metropolitan area in the United States and the second most populous, with more than 15 million residents.
- The coastline of Southern California is essentially this. Driving on Interstate 5 from the US-Mexico border at San Diego all the way to the Interstate 210 interchange in north San Fernando is about 140 miles of urban scenery. The total distance is really about 160 miles, but 20 of that goes through a nature preserve in Camp Pendleton.
- The San Francisco Bay Area (in California), depending on where exactly you draw the boundaries, comprises up to 8.5 million people and is potentially the 2nd-largest metropolis in the United States - after the Los Angeles area - with a steadily growing population from immigration into the region. It's a well-networked mesh of cities, suburbs, and large towns that surround the SF Bay, and continue to extend outward from there.
- South Florida (the metropolitan area based around Miami) is a continuous strip of connected cities running 110 miles, though never more than 20 miles wide. It's the longest unbroken strip of urbanization in the United States and is home to over 5 million people.
- The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex of Texas has about 6.5 million inhabitants living in well over 200 individual towns and cities, the largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States. It is generally split between two main divisions, the Dallas-Plano-Irving group and the Fort Worth-Arlington group, but they're all close enough that it hardly matters.
- Mexico City. Depending on who asks, the population ranges between 20 and 22 million people. That's more than the entire population of some Latin American countries like Chile.
- Outside of the western world:
- There are very large cities in China such as Shanghai (20 million) and Beijing (17 million) and there are a number of large cities in the Pearl River Delta such as Shenzhen (12 million) and Guangzhou (16 million) which may one day merge to form the largest mega city in the world .
- Foreign media often neglects the differences between a city proper and a City-Prefecture unitary authority, resulting in plain wrong statements. The prefecture is often much larger and populous than the city proper of the same name, comparable to a small European country.
- When Chaohu prefecture (population 4 million) was dissloved, there are news claiming a city as large as Los Angeles suddenly disappeared from map. The Chaohu city proper (not really annexed but now a county-level city belongs to Hefei prefecture) have a population of about 800,000.
- "World's most populous" Chongqing Municipality is a merger of 4 former prefectures, have a population of 29 million, and larger than Scotland. The real city proper of Chongqiong, have 8 million residents.
- "World's biggest by land area" Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia is even larger than the entire UK. This city-prefecture contains several counties and other cities (as the norm), the real city proper (Hailar District) occupies 0.5% of the total land, and not big by Chinese standards.
- The above figures for Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen is similarly inflated, as a prefecture may have many rural counties. Nonetheless, their urban area is large on their own. If you count people regularly resides (as opposed to only those have Hukou which is official permanent residence and entitles you to full social benefits of such city) then Beijing and Shanghai already have over 20 million people in city proper (as of 2014).
- Shanghai Metro have crossed Shanghai-Jiangsu province border with stations in Huaqiao, Suzhou Prefecture, Jiangsu (not Suzhou city proper, but easily reached by Suzhou city bus). Downtown Suzhou is 80km away from Downtown Shanghai.
- After Feb 2014, there does not exist a single county in Southern Jiangsu and one one in Shanghai (the distant Chongming Island). All such areas, home to over 53 million people, are city districts or county-level cities, although many suburbs are not meant to be completely urbanized. This does not even include cities on the north bank of the Yangtze (Central Jiangsu) or further south (Northern Zhejiang) where urban areas are not large enough to touch each other but still heavily connected via numerous expressways (not to mention high-speed rail).
- Guangzhou have effectively integrated neighboring Foshan (which is 20 km away from downtown Guangzhou, administratively still a separate prefecture-city), and the larger Pearl River Delta, not only Shenzhen, is also urbanized and interconnected similar to above. (Even includes Hong Kong despite border controls, with Shenzhen Metro and Hong Kong MTR connecting at checkpoints)
- Mumbai and Delhi/New Delhi in India have populations of over 20 million and over 15 million respectively.
- Cairo (20 million people when you include Giza and the suburbs, which you should) and Lagos (12 million) in Africa.
- Moscow (12 million officially, over 20 million if you count all them transients, unregistered residents and illegal migrants, and another 5 million from the suburbs).
- The fertile valleys of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers allowed Babylon, Thebes, and Alexandria to each become a Mega City at different points in history, at least by the standards of their time. Later, grain brought in from all over the Mediterranean (including the aforementioned Nile valley) allowed Ancient Rome to do so.