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Land of One City

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When a country is a city-state, i.e. the city is the country, or the other way around: the country has only one city.

Although this can be justified by the country being small (e.g. Monaco, Vatican City, Singapore), it is NOT justified when a country of this size has an economy the size of the US economy. This is a perfect opportunity to mix this trope with a hearty helping of City of Adventure. In Anime a city like this is usually a Utopia or Dystopia.


Note that the area with one city DOES NOT have to be a country, it can be a planet or county or etc... And also be aware that the lines blur if the nation has one city, but it's a really big city.

Compare Britain Is Only London when an entire Real-Life country is reduced into consisting of nothing more than its most popular city, and Developing Nations Lack Cities when a poor nation doesn't have a single major city. If the country is also a monarchy, see Micro Monarchy.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Appleseed, Olympus, the most powerful country, apparently has only one city.
  • Almost all (or maybe all) the "countries" in Kino's Journey are like this. Even if there are a few that aren't, Kino never stays long enough to find out.
  • At the end of Super Dimension Fortress Macross (or the first season of Robotech), humans have been nearly wiped out by the Zentradi, and have only one city left. Nonetheless, they still field a very powerful military.
  • Academy City in A Certain Magical Index. While located inside Japan, it is its own nation, one of the most powerful influences in the world, and can even declare war.
  • Exaggerated in Code Geass R2, where Zero announces the formation of the United States of Japan by declaring its first territory (and thus "city") to be the very room he is currently broadcasting from. Everybody reacts just about how you'd expect them to by this point since it's Zero and all.
  • In SD Gundam Force, Neotopia is the only piece of civilization that exists on the Earth-like planet that's the main setting of the first season. Lacroa also appears to be a single city.
  • Industria in Future Boy Conan was once a full-on country, but in the Flooded Future World is reduced to the largely-nonfunctional Triangle Tower, a shanty town built around it, and a few outposts. They're still the most influential force on the known Earth because everywhere else is so scarcely populated and they're the best-armed.

    Comic Books 
  • The various Mega-Cities in Judge Dredd each only have direct authority over their respective urban areas, though MC-1 at least does have some influence over parts of the Cursed Earth, and Brit-Cit technically rules the Caledonian Habitation Zone and treats Murphyville as a client state.
  • In the Marvel Universe, Attilan, home of The Inhumans, and Madripoor - which, conveniently enough, is next door to Singapore.
  • From Wildstorm (recently transplanted into The DCU) is the small island nation of Gamorra, which is the home base of Kaizen Gamorra.
  • Wonder Woman: Paradise Island/Themyscira is a tiny island nation with a single city.

    Films — Animation 
  • The eponymous city of Zootopia appears be a political entity unto itself, as no authority higher than the mayor is ever suggested and there seems to be little in the surrounding area, as the only other mentioned towns are a good distance away with unclear associations. It is vaguely implied in supplementary materials that there may be other nations out there as well, just insular and xenophobic single-species ones.
  • Subverted in Frozen. At first it looks as if the entire country is delegated to the castle and the village shown in the film. However, it becomes clear Arendelle is bigger than that once you take into account that it takes characters some while to travel from the castle to, say, the Trolls or Elsa's castle.
  • Most other Disney Princess play this straight with the kingdom only having one mentioned town or city.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Matrix has Zion, the last human city. Within the Matrix is a single, gigantic megalopolis that houses the entire enslaved population, and is known only as the City.
  • Planet of the Apes (1968) is implied to have only one civilized area surrounded by a continent of wilderness: Ape City.
  • In the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie, the parallel world where Koopas reside had only one city, surrounded by endless tracts of desert.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Asgard is a tiny planet with one city surrounded by wilderness.
  • Equilibrium: The state of Libria seems to be just one city and its environs.
  • Judge Dredd: Mega City One (developed from New York City, since the Statue of Liberty still stands there) is technically a city-state, though it's massive enough to equal many existing countries that are far more extensive.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Themyscira is an isolated island nation of a single beautiful city.
  • Maleficent has multiple one town kingdoms within casual walking distance of each other.
    • King Stefan's Castle and the surrounding town looks to be about a mile or two from the Moors.
    • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has the kingdom of Ulstead across a river from the Moors and Queen Ingrith mentions her father's kingdom also bordered the Moors.
    • The novelization outright says that Ulstead's castle is bigger than Aurora's entire kingdom.
  • Justified in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in that The Realms' inhabitants are all toys and ornaments magically animated by one person who probably wouldn't have bothered to fill more than one town.

  • Quite a few locations in Discworld are city-states. Of particular note is Ankh-Morpork, wherein most of the books are set, and which is also surrounded by other city-states, such as Quirm and Pseudopolis. Each is a stand-in for a real-world country. At one point these were all part of a single Ankh-Morpork empire but said empire went into decline and its wider surroundings are now largely autonomous. However, Ankh-Morpork is still the economic powerhouse of not just the region but the entire continent, and thus has significant political influence over these.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Encyclopedists": Terminus has been colonized for only fifty years, and has not yet grown large enough to need a second city. When a much-larger galactic neighbor decides to conquer the planet, they're unable to fight back.
  • The Wheel of Time
    • Tar Valon, the Citadel City of the Aes Sedai Magical Society, is located on an island at a comfortable distance from any country. In past millennia, it was the de facto capital of a nation-sized surrounding area, but the Aes Sedai claim jurisdiction only over the city itself at the time of the books.
    • Mayene asserts its independence as a city-state despite being nominally claimed by the nearby country of Tear — not that Tear has made the political or military investment to assert its claim.
    • The city-state of Far Madding only claims jurisdiction over itself and its immediate surroundings — out of necessity, since they're an Antimagical Faction and their irreplaceable Anti-Magic artifact only affects that area.
    • By the time of the books, this is somewhat true of most of the nations in the main continent of the setting. The powerful nations may have large borders, at least on a map, but they only have one city that deserves the name, and usually hold little if any authority beyond that city. Most of the countryside is populated by autonomous villages.
  • Grantville in 1632 is effectively this (for the first book — they end up joining/helping to form a new state at the end of the first book, and a couple of books later they're one of the major cities of a powerful confederation). Interestingly there were a number of independent cities like that at the time. Unfortunately they didn't possess repeating rifles.
  • Perdido Street Station and Iron Council feature New Crobuzon, which in the latter book is at war with the city-state of Tesh. The Scar also features a city-state made of pirate ships stuck together.
  • The crumbling city of Gormenghast appears to be the only city in the world. In fact, it seems to be the world. (Until the third book, "Titus Alone" when the titular hero runs away from Gormenghast and ventures out into the world.)
  • The Queens in Septimus Heap rule only over the Castle.
  • The entire Marîd Audran mystery/crime series takes place in one moderately sized Middle Eastern city based on New Orleans. Hell most of the stories set in the city is set in one neighborhood, the Budayeen (think an Arabic red light district)
  • Melniboné is one of these, by the time the events of The Elric Saga begin. It used to be the capital of a vast conquered empire but now it's just an insular little city-state in the middle of the sea.
    • Melniboné itself is a fairly large island which at one time contained several large metropolises: by the time Elric ascended to its throne, its society had grown so decandant and its nobility so apathetic that all of the island apart from its capital was abandoned and reverted to wilderness, while Imrryr (the aforementioned capital) itself is still by far the largest city in the world, although half of its buildings are empty.
  • The Nine Free Cities of Essos in A Song of Ice and Fire, based on the real-life Italian city-states, except much larger. Initially they were colonies of Valyria's empire, who were forced to become autonomous after the Doom destroyed Valyria. However, they may also be something of a subversion; it's remarked that the Free Cities are more or less the same country in all but name, "hiring the same soldiers to fight the same wars for the same rulers".
    • Subverted for the North. The only major city and seaport in the North is White Harbor (population of several tens of thousands), which is ruled by House Manderly, who are sworn to the Starks. The rest of the settlements in the North are mostly small villages and the occasional town, holdfasts, and castles...across a vast territory the size of the other six kingdoms of Westeros put together. (Basically, the North=Russia, but also Scotland, White Harbor=Glasgow but also Edinburgh, Moscow, and St. Petersburg). The capital is Winterfell, which while large enough in population to count as a city by medieval standardsnote  is dwarfed by White Harbor. The only other known city is Barrowton, the second largest settlement in the North, and also much smaller and poorer than White Harbor.
    • Slaver's Bay is a straight example: there are three large independent cities (Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen) each surrounded by farming hamlets and not much else.
    • The Crownlands are dominated by the massive city of King's Landing (population: over half a million, larger than any city in medieval Europe).
  • The city-state of Tharios from the Circle of Magic book Shatterglass.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Rough Draft duology, one of the parallel Earths is a Steam Punkish world called Veroz (or Earth 3). One of the notable things about it is its complete lack of nation-states. All cities are independent.
  • In Vladimir Vasilyev's The Big Kiev Technician, the world of 300,000 years in the future (with Modern Stasis in full effect) is made up of country-sized cities, usually the most well-known Real Life city in a country having grown and absorbed the other settlements, now being called with the "Big" prefix. The titular Big Kiev is about the size of modern-day Ukraine with Big Moscow being even larger. Other "Big" cities are mentioned as well (e.g. Big Berlin, Big London, Big New York).
  • In the legend of St. George and the Dragon, the ruler of the city that is harassed by a dragon goes by the name of king, and yet he rules only this one city.
  • Greenglass House is set in Nagspeake, a port city that is also home to smugglers and other outside-the-law types, which is implied to be a sovereign state somewhere between the U.S. and Canada.
  • The Belgariad: Riva is a remote island nation with one Citadel City built on the only bit of coast that isn't inaccessible cliff. Justified since it was colonized for the specific purpose of guarding a Cosmic Keystone, so the entire country was planned out with defensibility in mind.
  • In Super Sales on Super Heroes, after a supervillain named Skipper captures a city and renames it "Skippercity", it becomes an independent city-state within the (unnamed but US-like) country. The League of Superheroes makes several attempts to retake the city, but they all end in a failure as, Skipper's power is to see possible futures, thus allowing her to counter any move made by her enemies. Surprisingly, Skippercity becomes a pretty decent place to live, as the citizens no longer need to pay federal or state taxes. Skipper also institutes universal health care and legalizes most crimes, including slavery, although income from those crimes is still taxable. Any remaining superheroes in the city are hunted down and either killed or sold in slave auctions. Unfortunately, one city isn't enough for Skipper, and she invades Tilen, the nearby state capital, in book 2. By book 3, five years later, Skippercity is a smoking radioactive ruin, and Tilen isn't much better.
  • The Reluctant King: The states of Novaria are all these. The protagonist Jorian is from one, Kortoli, and becomes king of another, Xylar. They all have different government structures, and twelve exist in all.
  • Guardians of the Flame: There are many of these in the region where the books are set. Pandathaway has the most power, as a merchant city which is the hub of all regional commerce.
  • Bazil Broketail: Argonath includes nine city states in a federation. Marneri is the one the stories mostly focus on.
  • The Unwilling Warlord: Semma is one castle and its environs, while several nearby port city-states also exist.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Republic of Sarah: Greylock becomes this after becoming independent from the US, as it's just a small town (previously in New Hampshire).
  • Utopia Falls: New Babyl is one city and its environs, all that's left on Earth. Or so they're told at first-it turns out two other cities exist as well, one of which control New Babyl secretly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech fiction can edge into this, with worlds frequently depicted as thinly populated Planetvilles on which only the capital matters. Other settlements are sometimes mentioned but rarely actually depicted — notably, forces driven back from the capital seem to favor retreating into outright wilderness over actually falling back to any more developed locales.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dark Sun has several city-states, each of which controls one of the few remaining fair-sized spots of fertile land and not much else (centuries of sorcerous warfare and use of magical WMDs millennia past reduced most of the world to desert, natch).
    • Forgotten Realms: The Sword Coast is mainly wilderness, interspersed with various city-states. Notable ones include Neverwinter, Waterdeep, and Baldur's Gate.
    • Greyhawk has the eponymous Free City of Greyhawk, a major city-state that keeps its independence by taking advantage of its central location, ideal for trade and politics. It helps that most of its neighbors are ruled by Good-aligned leaders who are more concerned with their own hostile neighbors than sparking a war over ownership of the city.
    • In the Tippyverse setting, the existence of Teleportation Circles has reduced the world to city-states, since no one has any reason to go outside when they can just teleport between cities and farming is unnecessary thanks to limitless magically created food.
  • Exalted:
    • Lookshy, a relatively small city-state, is capable of fielding military forces comparable to the Realm (which on its own is an island the size of the continental United States or Asia and recieves tribute from across the world), through a combination of an extremely militant society and huge stockpiles of artifact weaponry. Lookshy is comparably disadvantaged in that it doesn't have nearly the same power projection as the Realm (they can protect themselves and their neighbours, but are unable to be as expansive).
    • Nexus has economic power comparable to the Realm, partially because it is at the heart of the Scavenger Lands (and benefits from some protection by Lookshy) and partially because it serves as the headquarters of a powerful, worldwide mercantile guild. The Emmissary is also important in maintaining the autonomy and power of the city.
  • GURPS Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World: The "Broken World" used to be patchwork of vaguely Bronze Age-style city-states. Now, the patchwork has been torn up and rearranged at random.
  • Savage Worlds: The Runepunk setting takes place entirely within the city of Scatterpoint, a Steampunk-eqsque city 600 miles across that was torn from its home plane and set adrift between dimensions.
  • Warhammer:
    • The Estalian and Tilean cities are fiercely independent and self-ruling — Tileans, in particular, identify very strongly with their hometowns above everything else and perceive even takeover by their nearest neighbors as foreign conquest — while the Border Princes consist entirely of isolated villages and colonies looking after themselves.
    • Marienburg is a city-state planted across the mouth of the river Reik. While it nominally controls an area of land around the Reik's estuary, this is primarily uninhabited marsh and wasteland. Marienburg's sourcebook, Sold Down The River states that the census counted 150,000 tax-paying households in the nation, of which 135,000 were in Marienburg; unless almost all of the country goes uncounted, this suggests the vast majority of the population lives within its sprawling capital (and its suburbs), which is the primary thing that comes to people's minds when Marienburg is discussed.
    • The Eonir Wood Elves who inhabit the Empire (less fey and xenophobic than the Asrai Wood Elves down in Athel Loren) are split roughly three ways between the Great Forest, the Drakwald Forest, and Laurelorn Forest. They inhabit the first two as a bunch of disconnected small settlements and semi-nomadic bands, while the ones in in Laurelorn form a kingdom that is basically just one rich city (Tor Lithanel) plus a handful of towns and villages in the immediate surroundings (the entire state is less than 50 miles in diameter). The Eonir consider themselves independent while the Empire officially considers them a protectorate.
    • The Dwarfholds are the purest version of this trope possible. For thousands of years they've depended on trade with humans for food in exchange for minerals, machinery, and crafts, allowing the Dwarfs to live an almost entirely urban existence. The Dwarfholds nominally swear loyalty to their High King (for most of them that's the King of Karaz-a-Karak) but each one is left to their own devices unless there's an extreme crisis and they're largely autonomous, and wars between holds is not unheard of. Each Dwarfhold leader is given the title of King to reflect this.
  • Warhammer Ageof Sigmar: The Cities of Sigmar are independent states (in a confederation under Sigmar the God-King) centered around large cities (who share their names with the state), with the main urban area varying from as little as ten thousand to as many as ten million inhabitants. While there are unique cases like Hammerhall which is actually two cities in different Realms connected by a giant portal called a Realmgate, most are just one city within a wall. Some also have underground cities of Duardin (dwarfs) below the city on the surface where Humans, Aelves, and Seraphon live. Soulbound and the Dawnbringer Crusades supplements specify that the Free Cities rule a considerable amount of land around the cities themselves, colonizing new territory and building smaller settlements along the same lines. Interestingly, getting around within each city-state is almost always much harder than traveling from one capital city to another because there aren't Realmgates linking locations within the state, only to other capitals.

    Video Games 
  • In Battle Brothers, the Blazing Deserts DLC adds in the southernmost desert three Arabia/Persia inspired city-states which are the only settlement belonging to their respective faction.
  • Black & White 2: Each level is set on an island with several cities on it. The Good strategy involves building a Shining City that will entice everyone else on the island to abandon their homes and immigrate.
  • BioShock has Rapture, which isn't especially large compared to most cities but is self-contained, self-sufficient, and a sovereign nation as far as it's concerned, while BioShock Infinite has the flying city of Columbia, which was originally part of the United States but went rogue. In both cases, many people in-universe treat these cities as urban legends, and both cities are unable to stay self-sustaining, eventually destroying themselves in vicious civil wars.
  • Civilization, like many 4X games, gives each player a single Settler with which to found a city at the game's start, though going on to found on conquer more settlements is an important part of gameplay. But some Civ players enjoy the "One City Challenge" as a radical change of pace, which subsequent games have included as an official game mode.
    • Civilization V introduced "city-states", which can eventually expand their borders to control as much territory as any player city, but which will never found a second city (though in rare cases they may conquer and puppet one if they get drawn into a war). They more or less serve as "minor" civs compared to the major playable empires, representing real-life city-states like Vatican City and Monaco, or the best-known cities of nations that didn't make the cut, like in the cases of Hanoi, M'banza-Kongo, Kabul, or Cahokia. Happily, some city-states like Stockholm, Seoul, and Toronto ended up Promoted to Playable empires in later expansions and installments of the series.
    • The Brave New World expansion for Civ V added the Republic of Venice as a playable civ, whose unique trait renders it unable to build settlers and do more than indirectly rule conquered cities as puppet cities. To compensate, Venice has a unique unit that can puppet AI-controlled city-states and has twice as many trade routes as a normal civ, allowing it to become ludicrously wealthy.
  • As revealed in Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Island has one city: Big Ape City.
  • In the Dragon Age games and expanded media, the Free Marches are a region of 11 independent city-states in eastern Thedas. They trade amongst each other and are able to form a joint military when necessary, but each city operates as its own entity, meaning they all fall under this trope. The southernmost city, Kirkwall, is the setting of Dragon Age II.
  • The entire continent of Gransys in Dragon's Dogma has only one city (Gran Soren) and one small fishing village. Lots of vast, wide-open tracts of land, though.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy IX has Lindblum and Burmecia, which control a goodly portion of the continent with only one city. Also, narrowly averted in that Alexandria has a whopping three cities (or two, it's ambiguous where Treno stands)
    • Final Fantasy VII has Wutai, though this may be a result of Wutai's war with Shinra. Crisis Core showed that the post-war resistance movement against Shinra had more people than Wutai itself had in the original game. Given that the rest of the Wutai island is made up of dead earth interspersed with rope bridges, it's entirely possible that the one small town is all that's left of Wutai.
    • Final Fantasy XI's nations of San d'Oria, Bastok, Windurst, and Jeuno are all technically city-states in the present time, although the first three have historical areas that they controlled in the past that are now up for grabs. Aht Urhgan is seemingly the only in-game nation with actual vast stretches of territory.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has the Eorzean city-states of Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, Ul'dah and Ishgard; while each has several small settlements, camps and even hamlets under their territory, they all only have one major titular city. Every other nation follows suit, with each only have one major city with one or two villages in the vicinity; though some nations, like Hingashi, are implied to have multiple major cities outside of the ones we see in-game.
    • Final Fantasy XV begins in the Kingdom of Lucis, which once was a large country but has been losing ground for decades to the expanding Empire of Niflheim. When the game starts, Lucis has been reduced to its capital city of Insomnia. The external regions are de facto independent: Insomnia uses its own currency, and the series staple "Gil" is a new concept to your party members outside the city walls.
  • Implied in the Mass Effect series: the Codex mentions that the asari homeworld, Thessia, was divided into loose confederacies of republican cities, similar to Earth's ancient Mediterranean city-states, for much of the asari's pre-spaceflight history. These city-states only started to truly grow close in the asari Information Age.
  • Master of Orion has each planet treated as a single city. The trope is bizarrely consistent, with the player allowed to micromanage individual buildings and each planet having a population of only a few million.
  • The now-destroyed Zendar from Mount & Blade.
  • Averted in the earlier Neptunia games, which had numerous small towns as well as the capitals, but this ended up achieving little besides making the Shares system unnecessarily byzantine. Later games reduce Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox, and Lowee to only having the capitals visible, with the understanding that the Player Party being composed of those nations' leaders means they're only interested in the industrial and political centers of each nation anyway.
  • Paradox Interactive games:
    • In Crusader Kings, the basic political entities in the game are counties, which consist of a city, a castle (the capital in the prevailing government of the era), and a temple - it's possible to have more holdings built in a county, but it's expensive. There's a large number of "petty kingdoms" and independent states that consist of just a single county, and most Merchant Republics are this by default.
    • In Europa Universalis, states that only control one province are commonly referred to as "'One Province Minors." In a subversion of this trope, they aren't meant to represent just a city in the province, but also the surrounding countryside and villages.
    • In Stellaris, empires with the Life-Seeded civic start on an idyllic Gaia World, but their primary species can only colonize other Gaia worlds, the rarest planet type in the game. Such empires can go on to claim neighboring star systems and build space stations as normal, but won't be able to properly expand onto other worlds until at least the mid-game when advanced Terraforming technology lets them make their own Gaia Worlds, or advanced gene-editing lets them change their core species' planetary preference. Since by then regular empires will have settled upwards of a dozen planets, Life-Seeded empires will have a challenge keeping pace with their rivals.
  • In Ravensword: Shadowlands, the starting town is the only town on the island that the game takes place. The only thing that comes even remotely close to being another town is a small miner village consisting of 3 buildings.
  • In Spore, the Empire stage starts off with about four or five single-city nations. As you progress through the stage, smaller nations merge to form larger one, subverting this trope.
  • In Super Mario Odyssey, Mario only travels the area in and around a kingdom's most well-known location. The brochures imply there's more to the place, but as far as the game is concerned, it's basically the kingdom itself. To be fair, the regular platformers do a fine job of illustrating just how big one kingdom is, so limiting Mario's exploration range is probably to ensure he stays on task.
  • In Stars! (1995), possible race builds (known as One-World Wonders) have habitability as narrow as possible, in order to allocate points for other advantages such as production capacity and research. The result is that very few planets are colonizable, the homeworld holds much of the population, and the rest are available for strip mining from orbit.
  • Thief's The City. In fact, there are only two other cities mentioned in the series, and they're both feudal city-states as well. Civilisation of any kind outside the City certainly exists, but it is hardly ever elaborated on.
  • Tropico: You only have only one city with perhaps some outlying farms, and you can still have a thriving economy. Justified since said economy is anything but independent, the lion's share of your income is in exports and juggling diplomatic relations to maximize foreign aid. Even in Tropico 6, which allows colonizing several islands across an archipelago, these are clearly satellite districts of a main city connected by boats and bridges instead of normal roads.
  • Warcraft:
    • Dalaran is a city-state ruled by mages, giving it enough political and military clout to be treated as an equal by the other Seven Kingdoms of Lordaeron. When Lordaeron fell to the Undead Scourge, Dalaran was devastated and went into seclusion behind a magical barrier, but by World of Warcraft it has re-emerged as a flying city that positions itself to combat the latest threat to befall Azeroth.
    • Although it's not very clear in the game itself at first glance, according to lore the Kingdom of Stormwind is actually a city-state, and the adjacent regions are independent governments that just allow Stormwind to protect them with its military. Problem is, in WoW proper it's having trouble doing that: Westfall has all but fallen to the malcontents of the Defias Brotherhood, Redridge is under threat by orcs from the Burning Steppes, and Darkshire is under siege by the undead, so that Stormwind only has firm control over the adjacent province of Elwynn Forest, and even it has problems.
  • Most political states in the Dragon Quest series are limited to a single castle or town and surrounding wilderness; only on rare occasions does more than one settlement appear per region. A particularly egregious example appears in Dragon Quest XI, where Heliodor is capable of pulling off a massive worldwide manhunt and performing Gunboat Diplomacy on the city-state of Gondolia when Heliodor itself consists of a single castle, the encircling large town, and a single church on the outskirts.
  • The Last City from the Destiny series is the center of all human civilization. This is, however, justified by the game being set After the End (there really aren't any other cities or countries anymore and the only people living outside the City are tiny sporadic tribes), as well as the City itself being absolutely massive; it very believably looks like the kind of city that could be a nation unto itself.
  • The titular city in Fallout: New Vegas has become one following the nuclear apocalypse, effectively controlling the whole Mojave Desert while being the only significantly-populated city in the area; every other settlement is a comparatively puny village. Unlike many examples, the politics and realities of this trope are actually explored a lot; the central plot of the game is driven by Vegas's struggles to remain an independent power and fight off two much larger nations who seek to claim the region for themselves, as the thing that allows Vegas to assert control over the Mojave (the nearby hydroelectric dam that provides the city with steady electricity in a world where most people have none) also makes it an incredibly valuable strategic location for anybody looking to expand their borders.
  • The nation of Kryta in Guild Wars 2 has been reduced to the city of Divinity's Reach, some surrounding farmlands and a few villages by the time the game's story begins. Likewise, all that's left of Ascalon is the fortress-city of Ebonhawke.
  • Hollow Knight: Though there are several villages around the kingdom, it seems Hallownest proper only had one city: the one currently known as the City of Tears.

    Visual Novels 
  • The kingdom of Overture in An Octave Higher is a technologically advanced nation with colonies all over the world, yet the nation itself is just one city.
  • The eponymous village of The Questport Chronicles.
  • Metamor Keep consists of the titular keep and a few outlying villages. By the time of Metamor City the keep has developed into an arcology covering most of its original territory and is the capital of an empire spanning most of the continent.
  • Gha'alia in Ebon Light. It's a walled city on an island with limited space and resources, and dangerous beast-like harpies living in the surrounding forest, all of which makes one city a preferable choice over several smaller ones.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Most of the kingdoms are named after their central, most well-defended city, with surrounding towns, villages, and smaller cities scattered throughout their range. However, the northern continent, Solitas, is a tundra wasteland with few natural resources. As a result, its kingdom consisted of a single city, Mantle until after the Great War ended. A new city, Atlas, was built around its brand-new Huntsman Academy and R&D facilities, raised off the ground to hang in the sky over Mantle, and gaining the nickname 'the City of Dreams'. The government and administration centres relocated to Atlas and the kingdom was renamed Atlas-Mantle, although everyone just calls it 'Atlas'. Now, Atlas is home to the wealthy and privileged, while Mantle does all the work of keeping them in wealth in privilege without reaping any reward. The kingdom is therefore a city-state composed of two cities that are tethered to each other and which function as one half of the whole — one trying to pretend it doesn't need the other while the other becomes increasingly resentful of being taken for granted and treated like second-class citizens.

    Web Original 
  • On the Dream SMP, L'Manburg (and to an extent, Manburg)'s territory primarily consisted of the territory encompassed within the walls of the faction. Even after the annexation of Rutabagville (a small, enclosed snowy mountain, which was basically abandoned after the Manburg-Pogtopia War) during the Manburg era and of Pogtopia (an isolated underground ravine where La Résistance against Manburg was based in) during the Tubbo administration, the lands are rarely accessed and are essentially L'Manburgian territory In Name Only, to the point that they are completely ignored during the Doomsday War and thus stand to this day.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The north and south poles are inhabited by the Water Tribes. The Northern tribe has one huge city/fortress, while the Southern tribe started out similarly before being decimated by the Fire Nation and scattering into dispersed hamlets.
  • Phantom 2040: Following the Resource Wars, the United States no longer exists as an entity but as a bunch of independently-ruled city-states.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! gives us a Planet of one City; Shuggazoom City is the only one on the planet of the same name, with the rest of the planet being a vast wasteland.
  • Spoofed in the Family Guy episode "E. Peterbus Unum", where due to Peter discovering that his house resides in an anomalous spot that isn't technically in American soil, he turns it into the nation of Petoria. Hijinx ensue surrounding their legitimate development on the international stage as a "four-bedroom republic".

    Real Life 
  • Monaco and Singapore are Real Life examples, while the Vatican is an enclave within the city of Rome (making it what, a Land of Less Than One City? Land of One City Block?). That makes this trope Truth in Television.
  • Nauru. Unlike other Pacific countries, it's literally just one tiny island, with a size of 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi), a population of 11,000, and a dead phosphate industry that it almost entirely relied on. Technically, it's less of a city and more of a collection of villages, but consider this: you can get around the country on foot in less than four hours!
  • While it may look big, Mongolia is actually almost entirely devoid of human settlement, being one of the most sparsely-populated countries on earth. The exception is the capital, Ulaanbaatar, which holds about 50% of the country's population and nearly 70% of its GDP and by extension pretty much everything of relevance. This includes the government, the sole military academy, almost all of the universities, most of the airport capacity, some 90% of its power plant production, and the central node of the country's sparse rail and road networks. Needless to say, Mongolia is a de facto city-state.
    • To put this in perspective, according to the other wiki, Ulaanbaatar had a population of approximately 1.15 million people as of the 2010 census. The second-largest city, Erdenet, reported a population of just over 83,000 people at that time.
  • Djibouti is another modern example: 70% of the population lives in the capital (which shares the name of the country, natch), with the rest scattered in the sparse countryside. The second-largest city is Ali Sabieh with 40,000 inhabitants; Djibouti [the city] has 600,000.
  • Qatar. 80% of the population lives in the capital city of Doha.
  • Kuwait is pretty much just Kuwait City and some empty desert.
  • The Italian peninsula also has San Marinonote , made notable by being the last survivor of Italy's ancient city-states and the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world (as the continuation of a monastic community traditionally founded on September 3, 301), with the oldest republican constitution still in effect (ratified in 1600, beating the runner-up, the US Constitution, by 189 years)
  • Similarly, Hong Kong and Macau are not exactly states, but they're self-governed enough to be considered as such.
  • City-states were the default form of government in Ancient Greece, though many were small enough that it'd be more accurate to call them "town-states." They incorporated numerous surrounding settlements and townships, minimally the number of farmsteads needed to feed the urban dwellers. They were much smaller than medieval and renaissance Italian city-states like Florence and Venice, which tended to integrate a lot more territory and settlements (the largest, Athens/Attica, had less than half of the population of the medieval Republic of Florence - and Florence was smaller than Milan or Venice). Most of these places started out genuine city-states with little-to-no influence beyond sight of the city walls; but the more famous ones over time either conquered/puppeted/bought out their less successful neighbors, sent out fleets to establish control over maritime trade routes/rivals, or both.
  • Also many of the smaller states that made up the Holy Roman Empire. Fully 51 were officially deemed Freie und Reichsstädte (Free and Imperial Cities) as of 1792; while a number of the monarchies, prince-bishoprics, and abbeys sharing representation in the Imperial Diet were often even smaller than most of said cities. There were even five Reichsdörfer directly under the emperor's authoritynote  on record as of 1803.
    • The Italian city-states mentioned above were also part of these, as the vast majority of them lay in what was officially Imperial territory (the Holy Roman Empire technically controlled the northern part of the Italian peninsula ending at the borders of the Papal States and the Byzantine Empire), the only exceptions being Venice (nominally Byzantine territory) and those south or inside the Papal States. The amount of control the Emperor actually exerted, of course, varied wildly across history and was frequently a volatile point of contention, as in the conflicts between the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
    • This also applies to some of the states that made and make up the successors of the Holy Roman Empire. For instance, one of the cantons of the Swiss Federation is the self-explanatory one of Basel-Stadt (Basel city, as opposed to the canton of Basel-Land (Basel countryside)). The Federal Republic of Germany contains three city-states, of which Berlin and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg consist only of one city, and the third, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen consists of two (Bremen proper and Bremerhaven). This is also reflected in the fact that these three states do not have a Ministerpräsident (prime minister), but a Bürgermeister (burgomaster or mayor). Modern-day Germany nearly got another city state with Lübeck, but the Nazis rescinded its sovereignty (Hitler reportedly hated the place) and the German constitutional court was unwilling to give it back in the 1950s or grant a petition to have a vote on Lübeck becoming a city-state. Lübeck today has about 250 000 inhabitants, and that is rounding up.
  • The Byzantine Empire once controlled roughly half of Europe, but by its fall in the fifteenth century, it was little more than one, depopulated city and a few enclaves within the Ottoman Empire.
  • The Nahua altepeme of pre-Columbian North America, which could vary from a single tribe inhabiting a small town surrounded by farms to a large metropolis with a six-figure population that also ruled hundreds of smaller villages and towns in its surroundings. The so-called Aztec Empire was, in actuality, an alliance of three such city-states (Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan), with their allies and tributaries. The Aztecs were not the only collection of altepeme to build a confederation this way; their chief rivals, the Tlaxcala, were similar.
  • The Republic of Ragusa on the Balkan side of the Adriatic, like Venice, started out under East Roman suzerainty and unlike them had little luck expanding beyond the neighboring coastline and offshore islands. However despite paying tribute (read: protection money) to the Venetian lagoon, Buda, Kostantiniyye, and Wien in turn; its Romance dialect being slowly supplanted by the language of the Slavic hinterlands; and being all but leveled by a powerful earthquake in 1667 it retained it's internal oligarchic self-government and an at least semi-respectable fleet for almost 1000 years until the coming of Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century.
  • There are numerous first-order administrative divisions worldwide (states, provinces, counties, or what have you) that are made up of a single city. They all qualify for this trope to whatever extent the central government permits them to handle their own affairs. Berlin and St. Petersburg are good examples, while others might be in doubt.
    • Capitals are often "city-states" or non-state entities of their country, due to fears that if the federal capital were within a state/province, that state would be given preferential treatment. Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is perhaps the most famous exception to this rule, due to it being located explicitly within Ontario note .
    • Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is this trope but has a complicated history. Formed in the border region between the North and South, the District of Columbia used to be composed of two counties—Washington (land from the state of Maryland) and Alexandria (land from Virginia)—that both contained several towns, but Alexandria was eventually given back to Virginia, while the remaining county of Washington was consolidated into a single city, meaning Washington, DC is at once a city, county, and federal district. Most Americans just think of it as a city and call it a day. However, there have been numerous votes over the years for DC to become a full-fledged state due to its limited representation in Congress, especially since it's more populous than two actual states. The White House and National Mall area would remain a federal district, while the rest of DC would become "New Columbia", and the only state in the US to be composed of a single city. Despite Washingtonians voting overwhelmingly for this change every time it appears on the ballot, Congress has final approval of admitting new states, and the current political impediments (DC is 90% Democrat, but thanks to the filibuster admitting a new state effectively requires 60 votes in the Senate, and there's little chance of a 60-vote Democratic Senate majority...basically ever) makes this unlikely in the foreseeable future.
      • Nearby is a non-capitol city example of Useful Notes/Baltimore, which is not part of any County in the State of Maryland, and has county like government authority unto itself, unlike every other city within the State. There is a Baltimore County which borders Baltimore City to the north. More confusing the County Seat (a capitol of the county) for Baltimore County is Towson, which is right on the boarder with Baltimore City and is a suburb of the city proper.
    • Brasilia is another notable example. It was purpose-built to be a city independent of regional politics because it became clear that would just not be possible if the government stayed in Rio De Janeiro.
    • Seoul is an explicit example, as it is the only "Special City" while other major cities are just called metropolitan cities. In fact, Koreans make fun of this by using a self-deprecating meme like "Republic of Seoul" which criticizes capital-centric behavior.
  • "Free cities" Gdansk (Danzig), Fiume, Memel (Klaipėda) created after WW1 and Triest after WW2. Only Gdansk/Danzig stayed independent more than a few years, though. West Berlin wasn't officially called that, but it probably qualifies too.
    • West Berlin is a special case. Officially, the city was a free and independent entity jointly ruled by the Mayor of (West) Berlin and the Western Allies (US, UK, France), and West German laws had no legal effect inside West Berlin. Practically, the city was de facto part of the Bundesrepublik Deutschlands, as the citizens of West Berlin held West German citizenship note , West German currency was the official legal tender of West Berlin, when Bonn passed a law, West Berlin would enact the same law to keep legal parity, and West Berlin sent non-voting observer delegates to the Bundestag and Bundesrat in Bonn. Still, the Allies blocked official incorporation of West Berlin into the BRD in 1950 to avoid a serious flare-up in east-west tensions (the relevant law in the Berlin Constitution passed then didn't kick in until 1990, at the time of reunification). Additionally, West Berliners were not subject to the West German compulsory military service for young men, which was a major reason why West Berlin was famously full of anti-establishment punks. The fact that West Berliners were West German citizens but not in West Germany led to the bizarre situation where a West Berliner could not vote in West German elections, but could run and even be elected to office in them (as happened with former West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt, who would eventually be elected Chancellor of West Germany in the '70s.) East Berlin was claimed to be under the same status by the Western Allies, but apart from regular protest notes, this had less and less of an effect on daily life in East Berlin as years went on.
  • Yogyakarta Sultanate, a monarchy within Indonesia, only has one city, Yogyakarta, which also serves as the administrative capital of Special Region of Yogyakarta, the only region in Indonesia that is still governed by a pre-colonial monarch, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, who serves as the hereditary leader of the region. To top it off, there's also one Principality/Duchy (Pakualaman) within the Sultanate itself that rules a municipality within the city of Yogyakarta.note 
  • This was the intention for Jerusalem as part of the original Israel-Palestine plan. Needless to say, it didn't happen.
  • Iceland has one designated city (the capital Reykjavík), which alone holds a third of the country's population. Together with the neighboring towns, which mostly form a continuous area of settlement, the Capital Region accounts for over two thirds of the population. Much of Iceland is entirely devoid of permanent habitation and effectively inaccessible during the winter.

Alternative Title(s): The City State