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The use of empty, pitch-black backgrounds in games for artistical (or visibility) reasons rather than technical limitations. Used exclusively in games that have the possibility of implementing colorful and detailed backgrounds, yet they still choose this kind of background.

Nothing says "dark" like a videogame screen with a black background. It's simple looking, easy to implement, and in the 8-bit era allowed artists to use negative space to draw the darkest lines on certain sprites.note  As time went on and graphical capabilities improved, the use of more colorful and varied backgrounds began to be implemented, however, even in the 16-bit era, this simple type of background would occasionally serve as dramatic flair, or nice contrast to a bright foreground. At other times, in a game normally rife with colorful and complicated background textures, Nothing Is Scarier.

Compare White Void Room, a polar opposite of sorts to this trope. Contrast Serendipity Writes the Plot when technical limitations dictate the black background rather than artistical choices.


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    Film - Animated 
  • Over the Moon: When the characters first arrive on the moon, they find that it looks just like it does in real life — a landscape of white rock and a sky of empty blackness. Then they cross over into the dark side of the moon, where everything is pitch black until they reach Lunaria, a colorful and cartoonish city.
  • Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure:
    • Unlike the rest of the film, the scenes taking place in the Taffy Pit and Looney Land have completely black backgrounds. This highlights how unsettling and uncomfortable they are.
    • King Koo Koo, ruler of Looney Land, gets a black background with only a single spotlight on him during his Villain Song, "It's Not Easy Being King When You're Short."
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Fix-it Felix, the game where Ralph lives, has a black background. It contrasts nicely with more advanced games like Hero's Duty or Sugar Rush, which have more elaborate and colorful environments.

    Video Games 
  • In Blaster Master, when you enter a boss fight room, the stage starts flashing before cutting to an open, pitch-black room containing only the boss.
  • Conjoined: As part of the game's nature as a homebrew on the Atari 2600, everything is presented against a black background.
  • Donkey Kong is certainly one of the most iconic uses of this trope. It can be inferred that the game takes place on a construction site at night, although some later games are more ambiguous about it.
  • One of the bonus levels in the N64 adaptation of GoldenEye has 007 face off against Baron Samedi in an Egyptian Temple no less than three times. Once Samedi has been killed twice, the level's normal blue distance fog fades to an ominous black, both signifying the final battle and an attempt to intimidate the player with his voodoo powers.
  • Gradius
    • The NES adaptation of Lifeforce combined this with Dramatic Disappearing Display when the player faced off against most of the game's bosses. The end result was like two beings fighting in an empty void. It is unclear whether or not this was done for practicality or purely for drama, as both player and boss are already in a completely black screen with no obstacles.
    • Curiously, Gradius II continued to employ the stark background for boss battles, but did not remove the game's HUD.
    • Many of the more modern games in the franchise have backgrounds fade to black and then back into a new background, in lieu of having multiple backgrounds appear and transition seamlessly.
  • James Pond 3: Operation StarFI5H, which is set on the moon, has mountain backdrops over a space background in most of the levels, but some boss levels and a few normal levels just have a space background with stars. It's not background of outright nothing, as the stars do have some animation, but it still fits the trope. (At least in the original Sega Genesis and Super NES port, the Amiga version actually has ONLY the space background, even in cave levels.)
  • All of the 8-bit Megaman games employ this trope when facing off against bosses in Dr. Wily's fortress, as well as against some large enemies found in earlier stages. The reason is the same in both cases: the large sprites can take advantage of using the blank "transparent" color for their line art, without worrying about what the player may or may not be able to see through it.
  • Quake: Scourge of Armagon has the Secret Level "HIPDM1: The Edge of Oblivion", a repurposed Deathmatch level set in a multi-level floating platform whose background is completely pitch-black.
  • Quake III: Arena: The so-called "space maps", despite some of their names and classification, are ambiented in a pitch-black void with no stars or planets to be seen to actually be called "space maps". In fact, there aren't even ambient sounds, outside of those sounds emitted by the players as well as jumppads and teleporters.
    • The main game has q3dm16 ("The Bouncy Map"), q3dm17 ("The Longest Yard"), q3dm18 ("Space Chamber"), q3dm19 ("Apocalypse Void"), q3tourney6 ("The Very End Of You") and q3ctf4 ("Space CTF"). An update introduced a Capture the Flag adaptation of q3tourney6 as q3tourney6-ctf.
    • The Expansion Pack Team Arena adds mptourney6 ("Vortex Portal") and a Capture the Flag version for q3tourney6 (mpq3tourney6 "Beyond Reality") as well as another version of q3ctf4 ("Chaos in Space"). A Downloadable Content piece added a reversion of q3tourney6 for team games (mpteam9, "Beyond Reality II").
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Upon inputting a virus that shuts down Reality 2.0, Sam & Max find themselves transported to a black void with nothing but text to interact with.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom: Patricks dream is a completely black space with nothing in it but a door back to Spongebob's dream, Patrick himself, and a golden spatula.
  • One stage of Super Castlevania IV employs the trope when the player must jump across a series of colossal chandeliers, despite the fact that it is logically located directly above a well lit hallway with pillars and tapestries in the background. Additionally, for some reason, the background occasionally flashes red.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In Super Mario World, most bosses are fought in this type of setting. The absence of a background allows for certain elements to be treated as a background, and thanks to the Super Nintendo's Mode 7, this allows them to be stretch and rotated, such as the "Reznor" sign, the platform Iggy and Larry are fought on top of, and Bowser himself.
    • This is the only background in the original Mario Bros. game, however Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 use it as the background for their underground/inside-the-pipe, dungeons, night-time stages, and boss stages (as well the original Mario Bros. mini-game in SMB3).
  • Super Metroid:
    • Backgrounds played a big part in the graphical merit of the game, so it is a bit surprising that one room in the game plays this completely straight - Draygon's chamber in Maridia. There are some other boss rooms in the game that start off like this, but usually have a background Fade In after a short while.
    • The trope is however enforced any time the X-ray scope is used. Backgrounds turn completely black to allow the player to better see hidden secrets in the foreground.
  • Trine 2: The Final Boss battle takes place in a dungeon with a pitch-black background, allowing it to be seen clearly.
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had background textures for nearly every environment in the game, except for two rooms: one at the very beginning, and the other at the very end. Considering that every room in every dungeon previous has had some sort of a background, you should know you're in for trouble when you enter the final room of The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and suddenly this is no longer the case. Of course, this was also likely because the background turns bright red - It has to in order for the player to even see the final boss.

    Visual Novels 
  • At the start of the first two arcs of Exit/Corners, there's a scene where Ink seems to talk with someone, however the screen is black, apart from the text and Ink.

    Western Animation 
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951): Many of the backgrounds are kept pitch black (most notably in scenes with a lot in the foreground such as the Mad Tea Party), allowing the color to stand out and hint at the subtly hinting how uncomfortable, abnormal, and unsettling the situation actually is.