Follow TV Tropes


Industrial Ghetto

Go To

A slum district taken over or built around a nearby industrial district. The setting is often badly polluted and crippled by poverty, and/or the place is nearly all metallic due to all the leftover scrap metal and the proximity to the industrial machinery.

A protagonist might try to help the locals escape from living terribly here, but more often it simply serves as another backdrop in a Crapsack World or a more technologically advanced Empire, where there is little the protagonists can do but to move on forwards in their adventure. If this is a recurring setting in the story, it's likely the protagonist is an Anti-Hero who will commit wrongdoings to get farther ahead than the rest, even if it's only going to be slightly better for them.

Although this is often a Dystopia, it can be Truth in Television, as industrial districts were often close to where the poor lived (likely so they could get to the factories faster, also most homeowners would rather not have them in their backyard). Cyberpunk stories taking place here are going to rain.


A Sister Trope to Wretched Hive, City Noir, Urban Ruins and Urban Hellscape.

Compare Company Town, Nightmarish Factory, and Polluted Wasteland. When these get really out of hand, they may end up part of an Industrial World.

Not to be confused with Sci Fi Ghetto.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon (anime) - Gringey City is heavily polluted and nearly abandoned due to the over-construction of seemingly automated factories, with barely any people or Pokémon around. The local Muk and Grimer eventually invaded and overran the power plant, shutting off all the electricity in the city.
  • The backdrop mining city in Castle in the Sky. The place is not exactly polluted, but people do live in squalor and there's not much more than the mining industry around. Word of God mentions it's inspired by Welsh mining towns.
  • In Princess Principal, London is one. The sky is permanently hazy and smoggy, glowing orange at night; homeless litter the streets, and the city itself is a vast sprawl. Children as young as 6 are out working in factories.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Some of Gotham's least pleasant neighborhoods border or overlap with industrial parts of the city. Crime Alley for instance is just west of an industrial park.

    Fan Works 
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: The Warrens beneath Las Noches is this, a massive factory overseen by the Tenth Espada, The Smooze, to manufacture luxuries and basic necessities that would otherwise need to be stolen from the living world. When Smooze goes missing after his battle with Lightning Dust, Chrysalis takes it over.


    Live Action TV 
  • In Killjoys The Company has turned the entire moon Westerly into one of this, being the star system’s industrial center, but also impoverished and polluted.

  • The Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby.
  • The Sprawl of the Sprawl Trilogy, officially known as Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, is a massive city on the east coast, running as far north as Boston and as far south as Atlanta.
  • Subverted in Ruined City by Nevil Shute; the eponymous city used to fit the "heavily polluted" part of this trope and wasn't an especially attractive living environment by many standards, but the workers were unionised and the pay and conditions were fairly good. It only became a true ghetto when the Great Depression kicked in and the shipyard went out of business. The protagonist actually notes the lack of pollution, and describes the place as being "clean as a washed corpse".

  • "Dirty Old Town", written by Ewan MacColl about his native Manchester, and covered by many artists including Dubliners and The Pogues. Many covers of the song drop the lone reference to Salford, changing it instead to "sulphured" or "smoky".
  • "Keep the Wolves Away," by Uncle Lucius:
    Took my first breath where the muddy Brazos
    Spills into the Gulf of Mexico
    Where the skyline's colored by chemical plants
    That put bread on the table of the working man
    Where the working man does his best to provide
    Safety and shelter for kids and a wife
    Giving a little of his soul every day
    Making overtime to keep the wolves away
  • "Dirty Water" by The Standells, about Boston and its polluted Boston Harbor and Charles River

    Tabletop Games 
  • The vast majority of Salt Lake City in Deadlands, to the point it is often called "The City o' Gloom" and the locals wear bandanas and breathing masks to survive. Please note that coal isn't the fuel for these factories, but "Ghost Rock" — concentrated damned souls that burn hotter and longer than coal. The ever-present soot fog means the town's prime cause of death is lung disease; average life expectancy for those without some form of supernatural protection is five years — less than a year if they're stupid enough to forego masks.
  • Shadowrun: There are many places that qualify, with the Richmond Barrens on the outskirts of Seattle being the most well-known due to being the one that gets the most focus. There are a lot of dilapidated buildings, more than a few radioactive hotspots, and most of the inhabitants have no documentation and are usually gang members or other criminals.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has these extended to entire planets in the form of Forge Worlds, Eternal Engine-like factories using mostly backbreaking manual labor to produce an uninterrupted supply of weapons, tanks and armor for the Imperium's trillions-strong armies.

    Video Games 
  • The undercity of Midgar and Junon in Final Fantasy VII.
  • The entire city of Vector in Final Fantasy VI.
  • The Fallout 3 expansion pack The Pitt has these, in addition to the Nightmarish Factory that is the Mill. While The Pitt, post-War Pittsburg, had survived a large portion of the nuclear radiation partially due to the choking smog in the clouds and lack of nearby nuclear strikes but mutagens and radiation still leeched into the ground and water. The Monongahela River and it's shores are now extremely radioactive and quickly kill anyone foolish enough to try to swim out.
  • Carcer City from Manhunt is essentially this turned Up to Eleven, to the point where entire areas of the city have been abandoned to sadistic gangs.
  • Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 involves polluted water in the factory, with an entire city in a red hazy smog in the background.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Bilgewater Harbor has this feel.
    • Kezan has it even more. Basically anything the Goblins make or take over will at least start to show signs of this.
  • Omega in Mass Effect 2. It was originally a demi-planet full of element zero which had cracked open due to an asteroid impact, mining facilities were built on it to harvest the eezo. The expanding facilities were forced to build increasingly outward from the mineral deposits, forcing the construction into a long spire coming off one side. As the easy to access material was exhausted, it became a living and industrial hub for harvesting from other asteroids in its local belt. As those too were exhausted, it became a trading town, with lots of black market deals going on daily.
  • This is a very possible outcome of many versions of SimCity. You generally want to avoid placing residential zones next to industrial ones unless you want this to happen.
  • In Septerra Core, the Junkers of Shell 2 make a living scavenging the scrap dropped by the Chosen of Shell 1.
  • Bio-Hazard Battle: Stage 7 is a whole abandoned industrial complex.
  • Space Quest 6 has a planet called Polysorbate LX, which plays this trope Up to Eleven: It's applied to the whole planet and described as the most polluted planet in the galaxy.
  • The Redmond Barrens in Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis. They are only active because of the local nuclear power plant and the presence of the Yakuza.
  • In the City-Building Series industrial buildings drastically lower the aesthetics of the surrounding land. Because housing evolution factors in aesthetics, a nearby industrial building can keep houses from advancing beyond the simplest, and ugliest, stages.
    • In Pharaoh building these is a necessary evil on some maps. Buildings only recruit within a limited range so isolated industrial areas need a dedicated housing block to recruit from. Due to these locations having low desirability and usually a lack of water, these blocks usually remain crude mud huts (fortunately, a single house is all it takes to access the labor pool).
    • Downplayed in later games such as Zeus: Master of Olympus and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, where recruitment is now automatic- mining complexes and factories can churn out ores and finished goods by the cartload without a single house in the vicinity. The downside is that housing now requires much prettier surroundings to evolve.
    • Emperor adds a new twist: the Feng Shui mechanic determines the city's overall harmony (placing a water-attuned building in the desert will lower harmony), which in turn determines city happiness and how efficient the sacrifices to gods are (requiring greater quantities for lower results with bad harmony).
  • New Coventry from Bully. A dilapidated, impoverished urban area located near the Blue Sky Industrial Park, it's the turf of the Greasers (1950's style throwbacks seemingly inspired by The Outsiders) and the Townies (Non-Bullworth Academy students that bear a grudge against the school and its faculty).
  • Planet Leeds in Freelancer is literally capable of emitting entire nebulae of smog from just how much polluting industry has covered the planet. An in-game news article mentions that people in Leeds could actually be fed dog food for years without realizing it wasn't proper Synth Food until a foreigner told them, because they had lost their senses of smell and taste from the pollution alone. This planet-sized industrial hell is what inspired the protagonist Trent to undertake freelancing — to get out of the rat race, out of the horrendous place that is Leeds, and into the vast expanse of the outer space.
  • League of Legends has Zaun, the literal undercity to Piltover. While Piltover exists as a clean, thriving Shining City on the coastal ports between Runeterra's continents, Zaun was a sister city developed on its underground cliffs as a place where all their dirty production work is shunted down to, with mad science, corrupt opportunists, and deadly pollution being deeply ingrained with the city's identity.

    Real Life 
  • The Rust Belt and many industrial cities in the North of England are the inspiration for many fictional examples.
  • Back-to-backs, cheap houses which were boxed in on 3 sides, where often found in Victorian Britain in the inner-city near factories. They also had a reputation for being poorly built, poorly ventilated, and where the poorest people live, often just renting out 1 or 2 rooms. It got so bad laws were actually put in place to stop the building of them.
  • Seattle's Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods are both situated along the highly polluted Duwamish River waterfront, have poor road accessibility due to being surrounded by freeways and industrial zonage, especially the latter, with its main access route being an aging drawbridge that had to be closed from 2010 to 2014, and have notoriously high crime and poverty rates.
  • The idea that because the prevailing winds in North America blow from west to east the eastern side of town is often held to be the setting for industries that pollute.