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Retro Universe

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An Alternate Universe where retro, vintage or antiquated technology, styles and aesthetics are still used, but which otherwise is or at least resembles The Present Day. Often cultural styles from different time periods are mixed and matched, usually with those that date no later than The '60s or so.

Note that this is different from an Anachronism Stew and Ambiguous Time Period in that it is not intended as a representation of any actual historical period, but rather as a complete Alternate Universe, which may or may not have any ties to the "real world". This trope may be deployed to achieve a "classic" feel while avoiding romanticizing the past or having to deal with historical problems that would be unpalatable to modern audiences. Or, conversely, it can be used to justify what would otherwise be Politically Correct History.

Retro Universes are popular settings for Steampunk and Urban Fantasy. They may contain Zeppelins from Another World, an Alternative Calendar, Schizo Tech, or a combination of the three. Can be confused with Purely Aesthetic Era, watch your step.

When it's implied or even shown that the rest of the world is Like Reality, Unless Noted outside of a zone of weirdness, this trope can be a sign that you're in Lovecraft Country, the Gothic South, Cloudcuckooland, a Quirky Town, or an Uncanny Village. Just pray it's not Stepford Suburbia.

When it's unintentional, you may get Zeerust or Two Decades Behind. Such is especially common in Long Runners and/or settings that operate on Comic-Book Time.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Last Exile:
    • The anime takes place in a steampunk-ish world where many of the airships have a streamlined 1930s-era appearance. Most of the fashions worn by the common people seem to date from the 1920s and '30s as well. Most of the military uniforms, however, seem distinctly 18th and 19th century, and the gowns worn by noble women look as though they date from the late Renaissance. In contrast to this, the costumes worn by members of the scientifically advanced Guild have more of an alien, Crystal Spires and Togas look to them.
    • The sequel series, which takes place on Earth, is shown to be in a similar situation, with added bits and pieces of World War II and the Cold War as well as Lost Technology.
  • The Big O, inspired by Batman: The Animated Series. The setting is far enough in the future to have Humongous Mecha, domed cities, genetically engineered monstrosities and other sci-fi tech; the aesthetic is pure Prohibition-era.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei:
    • The series apparently takes place in an Alternate Universe from ours; televisions and the setting, in general, are very retro, but the series is technically happening in modern times. The years are given Showa era numbering, even when referring dates after 1989— for example, 2004 (Heisei 15) is still referred as Showa 89.
    • One really odd example happens when Itoshki goes with Harumi (and his stalker) to a manga convention. Everyone else there is in Western casual clothing - jeans and t-shirts - and think that Itoshki and the stalker are cosplaying based upon their outdated outfits.
    • It's actually invoked: it's a plot to get the spirit of Kafuka, who was Dead All Along, to finally move on to the afterlife. She was an organ donor, you see, and the other girls in her class have parts of her in them — as well as her personality, which takes one of them over to play her role every time she appears in the series. All the retro touches to an otherwise modern universe are just an attempt to try and appease Kafuka.
  • Zoids: Chaotic Century is set in the far future on a distant planet with animal-like mecha used to fight wars. One of the main powers, the Republic, has a capital city with skyscrapers and cars, and telephones that are rotary dial. The other main power, the Empire, has a capital city that looks like some cross between Berlin and ancient Byzantium. The rural areas are equally strange, featuring ancient ruins that look an awful lot like a shopping mall, and a town that looks a middle eastern Bazaar.
  • Cowboy Bebop is set in the 2070s, but the clothing, hairstyles, music and general mood come straight from the 1940s, '50s, '60s, and '70s. In fact, even the DVDs are designed to look like vinyl LPs.
  • The post-apocalyptic Arc de Grand City from Genocyber looks like a combination of Steampunk with 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • Some of the UC and AU Gundam series seem to evoke this trope, most notably Mobile Suit Gundam F91, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and ∀ Gundam. Can overlap with Zeerust.
  • Sound of the Sky is very evocative of the 19th and early 20th century, if not for the whole After the End bit.
  • Naruto: Word of God is that the original series is set in one of these. They have most of the technology and culture we had in the late 20th century, but there are no guns or cars, electronic communication is extremely difficult/expensive over long distances, and video games are still in the 8-bit era. The Distant Finale shows the series starting to diverge from this trope as technology advances; for example, while computers were rare and rather primitive during Naruto's childhood, he's shown using a modern laptop as an adult when performing Hokage duties. The Boruto era, which takes place at minimum fifteen after the original series ended, goes into the other direction; publicly-available technology is now on par with our own sans cars or airplanes (though they do have bullet trains and airships), while cloning technology is now seeing greater use.
  • Hunter × Hunter seems to take place in a fantasy world blended with modern day. There are mythical creatures, powers known as Nen, peaceful villages, and people travel on wooden ships and zeppelins, but there are also cell phones, cars, guns, big cities, computers, and video game systems that transport the user to a virtual reality.
  • Maple Town appears to be set sometime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the work appears to be set in a country and village reminiscence of countrysides in the Netherlands and Germany. It gets more confusing in the sequel Palm Town, which starts immediately after Maple Town... except it's clearly in the 1980s.
  • Gintama is this trope personified. It's set in an Alternate Universe where aliens invaded Earth in the 18th century and took over everything, only to have their corrupt governments secretly seized by a sociopathic immortal living on Earth in turn, Giving Radio to the Romans but keeping most of the fragmented culture. Humans in this setting have gotten used to using early 2000s technology but keep the Yukatas and tiled rooftops and are experimenting with older traditions or sci-fi technology, with disastrous results.

    Comic Books 
  • The cars and architecture of Gotham City in the Batman franchise seem to be perpetually stuck in the 1940s. One of the city's mottos is actually "The Dark Deco City". This is very notable in Batman (1989) and in Batman: The Animated Series. In 1999, much of Gotham City was damaged in an earthquake during Batman: No Man's Land. This was used to justify an extensive architectural revamp that turned the city into a mix of the '40s, modern and retro-futuristic architecture. It's particularly notable in The Return of Bruce Wayne #5, which is supposedly set just after the Wayne murders, so probably around the 1990s, but is conceptually set a decade before Detective Comics #27, in a world of Art Deco architecture, double-breasted suits and fedoras (with the one exception being Carter Nichol's "Have a Nice Day" Smile t-shirt). The only explanation given is that "retro is in this year".
  • Superman: In the early 2000s, Metropolis was changed into a futuristic version of itself. It didn't stick.
  • Shazam!: In the 1990s, Fawcett City was said to be permanently in the 1950s due to a spell cast by the wizard Shazam. In its appearance in the later Black Adam miniseries, it still had a Malt Shop. This is actually not that surprising, as many small towns in the US have kept theirs out of nostalgia.
  • Arcadia, the setting for Ghost, seems to be this with modern technology like computers, but also airships sailing the skies.
  • Jem and the Holograms (IDW) is obviously set in the contemporary time period; however, the setting still has '80s-style stuff like absurdly brightly colored clothing and records instead of CDs or digital music. It could be seen as Truth in Television, as in the early 2010s, dyeing hair unusual colors became popular and vinyl regained popularity.
  • While Archie Comics modernized with the decades, it still held some of its vintage elements. Even well into the 2010s, the characters still go to the local Chok'lit Shoppe, and Jughead still wears his signature whoopee cap (which was outdated by the 50s). The Archie Comics (2015) reboot attempted to modernize the series more thoroughly, but the mainstays still exist.
  • IDW's Transformers comics gradually developed a visual style evocative of '80s Saturday morning cartoons and '90s science fiction anime. The coloring is usually bright and vibrant, and the technology often has Used Future/Zeerust stylings (an advanced communications device that can cross time resembles a walkie-talkie). This is especially apparent when Alex Milne or Nick Roche does the art. A cute detail about this is how flashbacks to prehistoric Cybertron switch to a different retro style; they're done in the style of '70s to '80s comic creators like Walt Simonson and Jack Kirby. The art is given a worn-out look evocative of a really old comic, there are Kirby Dots everywhere, and characters talk in a stilted, exposition-heavy manner.
  • The setting of Tim Turner's adaptation of The Spider is described as "The 1990s according to the 1930s". Among other things, The League of Nations persisted until the present day.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Frankenweenie seems to take place in the '50s but has references like Pluto not being a planet anymore. Word of God is it's not as retro as it seems but not exactly current day either.
  • The Incredibles takes place in the early '70s — Edna Mode mentions several of Mr. Incredible's contemporaries dying in the late '50s — but in the streamlined future envisioned by the '50s and '60s, not our world's '70s.
  • Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is apparently set in 2005 (judging by the date written on a card at one point in the story), but everyone wears 1970s fashions.
  • Metropolis (2001) definitely evokes the feel of a Retro Universe, with much of its style reminiscent of the 1930s and '40s.
  • The Brooklyn seen in The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a mishmash of New Twenties (when the film was released) and 1980s (when the Mario series debuted) culture. While the Punch-Out Pizzeria has a widescreen TV on the wall and the Mario Bros. use modern-day flat-screen cell phones, most of the architecture is rooted in 1980s America — particularly the apartment Mario and Luigi visit on their first job with its boxy white minimalism — and Mario owns an old-fashioned cathode-ray TV and a Nintendo Entertainment System. Also, One World Trade Center can be briefly seen in Manhattan's skyline at one point in their commercial, meaning that 9/11 did occur at one point.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Borrowers (1997) is set in an era in which Zeppelins from Another World, streets full of 1950s-styled cars, and cell phones all exist alongside each other.
  • Sin City is a perfect example of this, being set in the present day but with fashions, cars and the occasional lingo from the 1950s. Here, it makes sense because it is a pastiche of classic film noir.
  • Director Wes Anderson likes to use this. In particular, The Royal Tenenbaums has such a distinctly 1970s style that the "2001" date on Royal's tombstone was quite jarring. Rushmore, which has 1997 inscribed on the Swiss Army knife Dirk gives Max but includes manual typewriters, tape machines, and a general aesthetic (clothes, buildings) skewed towards a late '60s/'70s feel.
  • Terry Gilliam's Brazil fits this neatly. Technology and culture are an odd mix of contemporary and early 20th century (computer monitors resemble 1950s television sets, for example), and clothing and architecture are mostly pre-1960s. The opening title even describes the film as "Somewhere in the 20th Century".
  • Dark City (1998): The titular city looks like a mixture of everything between 1920 and the present day (1998). Justified in that the human inhabitants were abducted throughout the 20th century, and that the city was constructed from the recombining of their memories of different eras.
  • Keep an Eye Out!: It's hard to tell when the plot is supposed to happen. Some things are clearly from 2018, but the police station looks super old and Buron uses an old typewriter instead of a computer.
  • Napoleon Dynamite took place in the present day, but the fashion trends were somewhere in the 1970s or 1980s, the technology was '80s or '90s, and the music was an eclectic mixture of the '80s and '90s as well. Though this may be unintentional, as that's kind of how Preston, Idaho actually is.
  • Streets of Fire is a self-described "Rock & Roll Fable" in a setting of retro-1950s and modern day, or at least what passed for modern in 1984.
  • In the movie version of The Cat in the Hat, people still use rotary dial phones, but Sally (played here by Dakota Fanning) owns a Palm Pilot.
  • Edward Scissorhands seems to be set in some kind of an eerie cross between the 1970s and the 1980s because the Framing Device is an old woman telling about her life as a teenager in the '70s to her grandchild in the '80s. How she aged so fast, however, is anyone's guess.
  • Hot Rod: Though taking place in the present, the whole movie is done in the style of a 1980s comedy, right down to the costumes and set designs.
  • Pulp Fiction contains quite a few callbacks to previous time periods. Jules wears a Jheri curl hairstyle, popular in the 1970s and '80s. The soundtrack is filled with a lot of surf rock from the '60s. Clutch Cargo plays on television in Butch's childhood flashback. A 1950s theme diner plays a big part in the plot. The film takes its name from "pulp fiction," a style of fiction popular in the first half of the 20th century. The film poster apes the style of a pulp fiction magazine cover from around the 40s and 50s.
  • Rian Johnson is a bit of a fan of this trope, having employed it in two of his films.
    • Brick is a Film Noir, complete with hard-boiled dialogue and '30s/'40s slang, set in a modern high school.
    • Looper is set in 2044, but has a very retro, '30s-'50s aesthetic like you'd expect in an old-school Film Noir. A few scenes flash-forward to 2074 and, fittingly, use a different retro style: a '60s-'80s inspired Used Future resembling Noir films of that era.
    • Knives Out is set more or less around the same time it came out (2019), with characters engaging in timely conversations about Hamilton and the Donald Trump presidency, but the costumes and even the font choices all suggest the 1970s, as befits a Genre Throwback to classic Mystery Fiction. Its sequel Glass Onion averts it, with the main setting being a private island owned by a flamboyant tech CEO who's covered it in all manner of bleeding-edge 2010s technology and the setting explicitly dated to the earliest days of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Director Andrew Niccol is another fan who likes to use this in his Fantastic Noir sci-fi films:
    • Gattaca may be the trope codifier. It is set in a future with highly advanced genetic engineering and space travel, but clothing and social manners are those of the 1950s or early 1960s, and the vehicles are "futuristic" ones from that era (mainly Studebaker Avantis and Rover P6's) with the engine sounds replaced by an electric hum.
    • In Time has no cellphones let alone smartphones; all calls are taken over old-school payphones or landlines. The vast majority of cars, too, are based on sleek models from the late 1960s to early 1980s at best; as with Gattaca their futuristic upgrades are mostly limited to engines with an electric hum or whine, doors opening with a pneumatic hiss, and new all-white flashing lights for police cars. A lot of this likely goes to show that culture and innovation has stagnated due to the wealthy ruling class living forever.
  • The film version of The Spirit takes place in a world where technology marched on, but the fashion and sensibility remained '40s noir. Dames dressed to the nines snap pictures of the Spirit's adventures with digital cameras.
  • At first glance the Nathan Lane movie MouseHunt seems to be set in the 30s or 40s, but then you notice a coin that says 1973, more or less modern cars, video cameras and to top that, there's a Victorian sweatshop that is kinda justified since it was founded by the protagonists' father.
  • Blade Runner has synthetic humans, skyscraper-spanning ads, intergalactic colonies, etc., in the year 2019, yet some of the characters still wear 30s-era clothing, while others have fixated on 70s punk.
  • Daybreakers technically takes place Twenty Years In The Future. Yet if not for the near-future tech, people generally have reverted to a 1930s-40s atmosphere.
  • Mars Attacks! (made in 1996) combined '50s/'60s military technology (including Jeeps and M14 rifles), a Rat Pack-era portrayal of Las Vegas, cars and clothes from the '70s and '80s, giant "brick" cell phones, and contemporary video games. And that was just the humans. The Martians were given deliberately anachronistic Raygun Gothic technology. Justified, given that the movie is a parody of classic Alien Invasion movies from The '50s through The '80s. Of course, cell phones were just going mainstream when the movie was made, so the brick phones seen could have just been an example of Two Decades Behind.
  • Penelope (2006) has modern technology and (mostly) modern costumes, but the architecture and interior design look like the early 20th century with a fairy-tale twist.
  • Alan Rudolph's Trouble in Mind (from 1985) is set in some indeterminate near-future/alternate age where Seattle is under martial law, people act and dress like a 1940s noir drama, and the newest car is ca. 1972.
  • Blue Velvet (1986) is meant to be a satire of Reagan era 1950s nostalgia, so everything from the clothes to the buildings to the cars make the film look as though it was filmed thirty years earlier or more. Only villain Frank Booth is ever shown using modern technology (a Roy Orbison cassette).
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera takes place in a world that's halfway between 19th Century Steampunk and 21st Century Cyberpunk. Black and white holograms, for example.
  • It Follows takes place in a time period that is left vague and undefined. Yara has an e-reader, and modern cars are seen, but nobody has a Cell Phone (other than the one used in the opening sequence by the girl on the beach to call home), the televisions are all tube screens and not flat screens, the main characters drive cars from the '70s and '80s, and an old-fashioned cinema with an organist is seen playing Charade, a golden oldie of a film. This also extends to its '80s-inspired synthwave soundtrack by Disasterpeace.
  • found. is similar to It Follows in this regard, albeit drawing more from The '90s. Marty watches old slasher movies from the '70s and '80s on VHS with his friends, and the comic book that he and Steve draw is an exaggerated '90s Anti-Hero archetype. While it's set in the present day, the internet and cell phones never come into play.
  • Frankenstein (1931) and its sequels seem to take place in a vague time period which combines the early 1800s era of Mary Shelley with the contemporary 1930s.
  • The '90s version of The Little Rascals looks like it takes place in the same time as the original shorts until the ending reveals it that it takes place in contemporary times.
  • High School Musical has contemporary '00s phones, tech, and pop music, '50s high school tropes, '70s fashions to a certain extent (flares, hair, corduroy, neck scarves, the font on The Wildcats' practice uniforms), and '90s high school archetype characters (the geeks, the Alpha Bitch, etc).
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is largely set in an advanced spacefaring society, but the tech and environments frequently have a boxy, Used Future aesthetic and the general visual style was designed to evoke pulp Science Fantasy comics like the works of Jack Kirby. Star-Lord is also totally trapped in the '80s, using an old Walkman and playing classic rock/funk music from the '60s and '70s. In his case it's a plot point, as he was taken from Earth when he was ten back in the late '80s, and as far as he knows Earth is still like it was back then. The Two Decades Behind aesthetics get amusingly lampshaded at the end of the second film; Kraglin gives Peter a new music playing device, claiming it's the hot new thing back on Earth. It's a laughably outdated Zune that looks like it was bought cheap at a yard sale, and the pair of them are flabbergasted at the gargantuan 300 songs that can be stored on it.
  • The Love Witch seems to take place in the late 1960s, but actually takes place in the present day.
  • Paradise Hills is set at least a few decades into the future, in a world where holograms and flying cars are a fact of life. The flying cars, however, look like they came out of The '40s save for having hoverpads instead of wheels, and the rich hold parties that look like early 20th century debutante's balls, the overall effect being an aesthetic that wouldn't feel out of place in BioShock.

  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events intentionally contains anachronisms. As The Miserable Mill mentions the 1920s as being in the past, we know the earliest possible time the series could take place is in the 1930s. In The Slippery Slope, Violet is suggested to like Yma Sumac, who was popular in the 1950s. In The Hostile Hospital, the Volunteers Fighting Disease have an attitude resembling hippies or beatniks. In the 2017 adaptation Count Olaf even mentions using the internet, and the books themselves mentioned computers. It should be noted, though, that the text never makes explicit references to the Baudelaire children wearing Victorian clothing — even though they are typically illustrated as wearing such and adaptations portray them wearing Victorian attire.
  • The Franklin stories (and the animated TV shows) take place in a universe where certain old-fashioned things co-exist alongside modern ones. The kids attend an old-style one-room school house that they get to and from on a contemporary-looking school bus, the adults drive cars and trucks straight out of The '40s, rotary phones are used alongside contemporary desktop computers, and more.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Despite being set in the 1990s, the wizarding world in the series never seems to advance beyond the 1930s in style. The third film adaptation goes so far as to feature a good deal of big band music, although the fourth movie portrays the Weird Sisters as a decently contemporary rock band. This is probably in keeping with the Death Eaters and such - the whole series' story is very similar to the muggle world's 1930s (and what happened from 1939 to 1945, except with magic.)
    • Considering the total lack of interest for the Muggle technology and culture the wizards display (except Mr Weasley, maybe); this could also be seen as a form of Medieval Stasis.
    • Clothing is a complicated issue in Harry Potter. In the books, magical characters are usually described wearing "robes" or "cloaks" with not much more description. In Goblet of Fire, it's mentioned that the Weasley kids wear "Muggle clothes" during the summer, implying robes are worn most if not all the time at Hogwarts. However, Mrs. Weasley makes the kids "jumpers" ("sweaters" to American readers) for Christmas and these are apparently not considered Muggle clothes and they are presumably being worn with some kind of trousers. In the movies, the kids seem to wear Muggle clothes whenever they are not in their school uniforms (Alfonso Cuarón is often blamed for starting this, but Chris Columbus did it too) while the adults' clothing is a mix between stereotypical wizardry outfits (Dumbledore, McGonagall, etc.) and outdated fashions (Rita Skeeter, for example, seems to think it's still the 1950s).
  • Robert Rankin's version of Brentford. Frequent references are made suggesting a contemporary setting (most notably The Brentford Chainsaw Massacre, which involves getting a Lottery grant for Millennium celebrations), but it's decidedly 1950s-1960s in other ways, and they still use pre-decimal currency.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci series, in which the main world has reached a stage roughly equivalent to the early 1900s. Women wear long dresses, men dress formally and there are servants, but there is electric lighting, telephones and cars, though the cars aren't very widespread. But it is set in our present; in Charmed Life (published 1977) a girl from our own world remarks how old-fashioned everything is, and remarks that she always wears trousers at home and feels like "an Edwardian child" in a frilly dress and stockings. As the final book in the series, The Pinhoe Egg, is set only a year or so after Charmed Life, presumably the year is still somewhere in the late seventies. The prequel The Lives of Christopher Chant is set about twenty-five years earlier; the feel is Victorian, with governesses, gas light, women in crinolines and men with side-whiskers and top hats. The visitor in Charmed Life suggests a justification for this in that the prevalence of magic has held back mechanical science. It might also be suggested that magic traditionally looks to ancient sources (though there are magical researchers in DWJ's world), thus encouraging social conservatism.
  • In a similar vein, The Bartimaeus Trilogy is set in an Alternate History version of London. The year is never stated, but historical clues place it in the early 21st century. It has cars, planes, electric lights and computers, but sailing ships still seem to be the dominant form of sea travel, with "ironclads" being the most advanced naval technology.
  • In Stephen Fry's novel Making History, 1990s America in the Hitler-never-born universe is socially very similar to the 1950s. Everybody Smokes, there's racial segregation and serious McCarthyite paranoia, and homosexuality is both illegal and highly taboo.
  • Fitzpatrick's War and The Martian General's Daughter by sci-fi writer Theodore Judson combine this with Schizo Tech and some mild Punk Punk, taking place on Earth a few centuries into the future when previous high technology and modern political systems have all but collapsed. Each is a Roman à Clef from Ancient Grome; one is the life of Commodus, the Roman emperor who was featured in Gladiator, and the other is the life of Alexander the Great.
    • It's also revealed in Fitzpatrick's War that the whole affair was the result of a shadow government enforcing Medieval Stasis through the last bit of high technology on the planet.
  • Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age has a neo-Victorian society in the near future. They combine nanotechnology with Victorian clothing, Victorian and Georgian architecture, and a pub that deliberately looks like a London pub during the Blitz of World War Two (tape on the windows, "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters). All this reflects and expresses their value system.
  • In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, while electric power (they call it anbaric) is available, places in Jordan College (in Lyra's Oxford) are still lit by oil lamps (what they call naphtha). Cars are only seen in the cities and the only aircraft used are zeppelins.
  • Who Censored Roger Rabbit? is a Film Noir deconstructive parody that reads like it takes place in The '40s and has several references to '40s pop culture, however it takes place in The '80s. Its film adaptation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, on the other hand does actually take place in the '40s (1947 to be more precise).
  • Jasper Fforde is fond of this, with many of his works set in a weird-alternate present day which in some respects seems a bit like the fifties-to-seventies, and in others is just bizarre. Thursday Next believes jet liners are simply impossible; the only sensible way to travel long-distance is Gravitube. In the Nursery Crime series, the Worshipful Guild of Detectives attempts, with varying success, to keep crime-fighting technology at Genteel Interbellum Setting levels to prevent the narrative logic of their cases moving from Fair-Play Whodunnit to CSI, and there's a Ruritania which had a socalist revolution in the 1990s. And in The Last Dragonslayer, Britain is still a collection of petty kingdoms, the technology level is all over the place, and you can hire wizards to do your wiring.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Although the first two series take place in 1989, the whole Twin Peaks location has a very '50s-'60s feel in decor and fashion sense. The one exception is the character of Ben Horne, who dresses in a loud '80s style, and embodies a more '80s ethos of greed and materialism.
  • The BBC production of Gormenghast juxtaposes elements of different time periods to emphasize that it takes place in its own, timeless, ahistorical reality.
  • Justified in Lost. The Dharma Initiative built research stations all over the island in the 1970s. The modern day islanders find and use these stations which lead to this.
  • The ABC Dramedy Pushing Daisies seems to take place in a lavish 1950s universe where people have modern-day sensibilities and things like the Internet exist. The female characters wear fashions that have a '50s look and the show regularly includes street scenes with both '50s and present-day cars, although the '50s cars always seem to have dominance. In one episode, it is stated that the year is 2007 (the same year it aired). Exactly the same 1950s aesthetic also dominates the intro sequences, which take place when Ned was a child roughly two decades earlier (the late '80s, but who's counting), suggesting either that design sensibilities have been completely stagnant since the 1950s or that Bryan Fuller was just really committed to maintaining the show's signature look.
  • Some of the Alternate Universes shown in Sliders fit this trope. In one case, the team ends up in a world where almost all the world's oil is under California and nearby states; that world never moved past the mid-1950s in automobile and clothing styles.
  • Caprica is set sixty years before Battlestar Galactica and the level of technology is much higher (with total-immersion virtual reality and robot butlers), but the producers remind viewers that this is "the past" by adding certain cultural touches which are reminiscent of The '50s: smoking is prevalent and allowed everywhere, professional men wear fedoras to work, then-futuristically-styled British and European vehicles from the fifties and sixties are on the roads, and there are shades of Fantastic McCarthyism.
  • Doctor Who
    • The series has had some retro sensibilities in the Doctor's own fashion sense, from the very start, combining what felt like outdated fashion (already in the 1960s !) with things that felt futuristic in a particular decade. Rather than remain relegated to Zeerust, even the modern series, particularly during Steven Moffat's showrunning era in the 2010s, displays a lot of retro universe sensibilities, even in the mundane present day world, despite everyone also having contemporary tech and social attitudes.
    • The eleventh and twelfth Doctor inhabit a very retro esthetic TARDIS (the console itself has LCD screens, but also an obsolete-looking throttle lever, nixie tube control lights and switches) - despite the TARDIS being far more advanced than anything available to 21st cetury humanity - and wear clothing that's always at least a few decades out of step with the 2010s, with few people commenting on this.
    • The Doctor's early years with Amy and Rory also frame Amy's childhood from the perspective of an imaginative child living in a rural house, a house which might be out of the 1950s, 1980s or 2000s, for all the viewer knows. "Starship UK" explored early on by the eleventh Doctor, is a pastiche of old-timey and stereotypically British things, just aboard a huge generation ship with a dark secret. The series' overall retro sensibilities, even in the mundane world, are meant to underline the eleventh Doctor's era as more child-like, more imagination-prone (and coming across as more old-fashioned on the side), and the retro elements in the twelfth Doctor's era (even the cinematography of episodes) are an intentional homage to 1970s episodes with Pertwee's and Baker's Doctor.
    • The basic design of the Daleks has largelly remained the same since their debut in 1963, including the low-budget egg whisk-derived blaster and plunger arm. The series didn't get rid of the designs, but added tongue-in-cheek retcons of these being incredibly advanced stuff, far beyond most human tech. A two-parter from 2015 depicts the Alien Geometries city of the Daleks on Skaro with the same mid-20th century "futuristic architecture" ideas used to depict a Dalek city in their introductory story from 1963. All of this despite the fact the events of these stories are meant to be happening in the far future. A revisiting of some of the Cybermen's origins in the twelfth Doctor's penultimate episode also portrays the early, very retro-looking (1960s) design of the Cybermen, as still incredibly advanced and just as deadly as the latest and far more sleek version. In Doctor Who, an affectionate adherence to Zeerust as well as the latest trends is simply tradition.
  • Kamen Rider Double is technically set in the present day, but the world is styled after hard-boiled Film Noir.
  • An episode of Fringe is entirely about a story told by Walter to children. This story is set in a noir-like world with Internet and cell phones but old-fashioned clothing. It also includes a musical number. Of course, given that Walter was high when he told this story, this can be expected. Before telling the story he mentions his mother and father's favorite genres of film: musicals and noir detective films.
  • Present in a more mild way in Midsomer Murders, a series which generally combines this trope with a Genre Throwback to the golden age of English detective literature during the inter-war period.
  • The X-Files: The episode "Post-Modern Prometheus" takes place in such a universe, a retro-nineties filled with fifties cars and diners and other hints of a retro aesthetic, and eighties/nineties technology; it was filmed in Deliberate Monochrome, and delved into the wealth of "Frankenstein" tropes. Justified somewhat because it's a backwater town (whose inhabitants are obsessed with Jerry Springer), but the fifties cars took it into this territory.
  • Father Ted is full of this, presumably due to the island's inhabitants being so isolated from the rest of the world. The layout of the parochial house is extremely 1970s, and they often play board games for entertainment. They are shown listening to records (e.g. the Eurovision track they almost used for the tune of My Lovely Horse), and are actually able to buy new ones (The BBC Sound Effects records) in John And Mary's shop in 1996, at a time when most other places would have stopped selling them. Also, when a Cuban priest visits them, he brings them a VHS player, which they are astonished by as they think it must have been really expensive. The joke here is that he is obviously regifting them his old one. Ted uses a mobile phone on occasion but also uses a rotary telephone in the parochial house. The one time the Irish Army makes an appearance, they are armed with Cold War-era British army weaponry.
  • Camden in My Name Is Earl falls into this category. Although the series is set at the Turn of the Millennium, the clothing and technology is that of the late '80s or early '90s. May be somewhat justified, as Camden is implied to be largely an impoverished hick-town. And there are mentions (mostly in the cities surrounding Camden, like Nathanville) of technology more appropriate to the time period. For example, Earl is in a bookstore and is amazed that not only are there books on tape, but books available as CDs and MP3s...and he doesn't know what either of those things are. A later episode subverts the trope; most of Camden suddenly has computers and the Internet out of nowhere, and they're all on a Facebook Expy called "BuddyBook." Darnell stays up all night creating fake "friends" for Joy, so she can feel validated.
  • Toast of London is set firmly in 2014 and features hipsters and the Internet, but the fashions are based on the 1970s, as is its version of the British actor lifestyle. Note the Colonial Club where Toast drinks, a parody of legendary 1970s actor's drinking pit The Colony Room. There are also 1970s celebrities that are still young and doing their thing, including Francis Bacon and Tom Baker (who can be seen in the Colonial Club in his Doctor outfit). And you can still smoke indoors.
  • On The Flash (2014), Earth-2 is at about the same level of technology as Earth-1, or slightly more advanced, but with a prevalent Art Deco aesthetic. Though some things are just different for the sake of being different, like televisions being vertical instead of horizontal.
  • Gotham deliberately incorporates technology from decades from the late 1960s through the 2000s, especially electronics and automobiles, to give the show a time-out-of-time feel.
  • The Monster of the Week in one episode of Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger had the ability to turn the world into a retro universe. By increasing the intensity of its power even further it could cause people to be overwhelmed with nostalgia and just sit down and wait to die. It even caused the show's aspect ratio to change. In a later episode the heroes briefly visit the world that gave that monster its power.
  • Mike Hammer: The TV version with Stacy Keach is clearly set in the 1990s (the Cold War is over, and Mike makes use of personal computers), but fashions and societal mores are still in the 1940s.
  • This is how Riverdale adapts the perpetual '50s-seeming setting of the Archie Comics characters it's based on. While the characters have smartphones and social media, they also hang out at a Malt Shop and a Drive-In Theater (though the latter closes down after a few episodes) and drive cars that come from various time periods stretching from The '50s through The New '10s. As for the characters, Archie and Betty look like they stepped out of The '50s, the former being the archetypal cool athlete like in the comics and the latter reimagined as a Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl, but Jughead dresses like and is characterized as an Emo Teen out of the 2000s, while Veronica and Cheryl would feel right at home on a 2010s Teen Drama like Pretty Little Liars. The South Side Serpents, given a Darker and Edgier makeover compared to their harmless comic book iteration, dress like a mix of Greaser Delinquents and a more modern biker gang (only minus the bikes).
    • Its spinoff Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does something similar, albeit more overtly. While the comic it's based on is explicitly set in The '60s, the TV adaptation keeps the time period vague, featuring classic cars, fashions, and movies but having characters who use computers and have more modern sensibilities. The show starts with the characters watching Night of the Living Dead (1968) and discussing it as an "older" film, especially with its depiction of slow zombies versus the faster-moving incarnations of modern zombie films. Laptop and smartphones are also present, but are relatively rare, with corded, landline, telephones also seeing regular use, (though that one could be the Spellman Sisters taking their sweet time to modernize).
  • I Am Not Okay With This isn't explicitly set in The '80s like its Netflix stablemate Stranger Things; modern cars are sprinkled amidst older ones, the characters use smartphones, HDTVs, and modern computers with flash drives, and The '90s are referred to as being in the past. However, the setting and aesthetic of the show are still heavily evocative of the time period, from the color palette to the music to the downplaying of modern technology to Sophia Lillis playing the protagonist. Justified by it being set in a small, rural, working-class town that is behind the times, while Stanley's collections of VHS tapes and vinyl records are due to him being a retro enthusiast.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The World Next Door", Barney Schlessinger's counterpart is from an Alternate Universe which has an early 20th Century level of technology. For instance, automobiles exist but horse-drawn carriages are still the primary method of transportation for most people. The alternate Barney's "wonder substances" such as Trimbeline 3 have allowed this universe to make significant technological progress in recent years.
  • Hello Tomorrow!: The setting, as shown off in the trailer is a world filled with futuristic technology like hovering cars, jet packs, space travel, and roombas… but it’s all with a distinctly 1950s aesthetic.
  • Westworld:
    • As a television reboot/reimagining of the original films and short-lived TV series, this is done in more subtle ways. While the robot theme parks obviously have period-inspired or historical fiction inspired clothing and anachronisms, the series' real, outside world of the mid-to-late 21st century, also seems to have taken a turn for some retro elements in its fashions, arcitecture, vehicles, especially among the richest people. Older William and his household wouldn't look out of place a century earlier, and Bill also owned a very retro-styled luxury car that looks mid-20th century on the outside. Given what we learn of society in the outside world, there's a hint that looking back towards the past, via retro fashions or theme parks evoking older eras, is as a sign of ennui among people, especially the idle rich. Then there's the anachronistic music covers in each of the robot theme parks, reframing various modern songs as if they were period music. Not just a fun, self-indulgent bit of Anachronism Stew, but a hint that the future seems meaningless and uncertain to people, and past and present have jumbled together in a slurry of Creative Sterility. Richer people want escape and an illussion of choice by playing cowboys or other characters in a robot theme park, to leave behind boredom and certain authoritarian measures adopted by the future society.
    • In a certain sense, the series seems to bring together the esthetics of a more contemporary, sleek, post-cyberpunk esthetic with older 1970s ideas of what seems "futuristic" (tellingly, the original Westworld film series originated in the 1970s). Some of the science fiction and dystopian themes explored in the new series also saw their first expressions in 1960s and 1970s SF (including in works like John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar). Some of the in-uhniverse SF elements, e.g. how the newest semi-organic "hosts" are built, very much call back to the original vision of robots in Karel Čapek's play Rossum Universal Robots from the early 1920s (just reimagined with 21st century assembly line tech instead of 1920s labs and assembly lines). The implied-in-series divergences in technology breakthroughs during the early 21st century also place the series' setting firmly in an Alternate Timeline or "alternate future" version of our own world. Seems to be entirely intentional, to create a more timeless SF cautionary tale that very deliberately brings together the esthetics of multiple eras.

  • 2007's Get Up! By Global Deejays and Technotronic is an example of a song from the 2000s that draws heavily from 1980s and 1990s electronica, both in its sound and in the fashion and imagery in its video.

  • Dialed In has an art style, fashion, and architectural/urban planning feel to the city reminiscent of the 1980s or early 1990s but is full of smartphones. However, the technology for these smartphones are derived from the breed of Weird Science popular in fiction from the '80s, while the company that develops that science is apparently atomic- or nuclear-powered, a concept popular in the '40s and '50s. This is best exemplified with the artwork on the side of the machine, which depicts a young man with a jacket-Tshirt-jeans combo not unlike Marty McFly, with a hand-drawn style using airbrushed shading typical of video game box art in the '80s, holding up a smartphone that's getting struck by lightning giving it strange powers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889. The complete slogan for the game goes: “Role-Playing In A More Civilized Time. Everything Jules Verne should have written. Everything H. G. Wells could have written. Everything A. Conan Doyle thought of, but never published because it was too fantastic.” Thus the game is obviously retro science fiction: a game about science fiction the way science fiction was a hundred years ago. The Space 1889 universe, however, is not retro from the perspective of people in that world since it takes place in an alternative 1889 with 1889-current technology (plus some extra), fashion, politics, ideology, etc.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • The Fallout series is a classic example. Despite being set long after a nuclear war that erupts in the later 21st century, everything has old school art deco stylings, every computer has a monochromatic green screen, and the music consists of golden oldies from the early-mid 20th century. Note that all of this exists alongside Energy Weapons, Powered Armor, and androids indistinguishable from humans. Fallout America is an amalgam of all the decades of the Cold War, as well as the science fiction produced during those decades. The '40s give the setting its wartime propaganda, urging you to buy Victory Bonds. The '50s give it their Pre-War fashions, car designs, and hysterical anti-communist propaganda; Fifties sci-fi gives it nuclear cars and the styling of its robots. The '60s give it the use of the word "hippies" (in Fallout 3) and anti-war graffiti (all over Hidden Valley in New Vegas). The '70s give it the punk fashion of the Raiders and the pre-war oil crisis. The '80s give it computers that look like Commodore 64s. The post-war civilizations also show elements of The Great Depression and The Wild West, showing how society reverted to a less technologically advanced time after the war disrupted human society.
  • Dead Rising explicitly states that its events begin the night of "September 18, 2006", and demonstrates this by introducing us to Brad Garrison and Jessica McCarney, agents of the Department of Homeland Security (established in 2002 in response to 9/11), after which you're handed a small yellow walkie-talkie by Otis to carry. However, it clearly deviates from some modern tones by the severe lack of cell phones, next-to-no mention of the internet, and the somewhat backwards sense of general fashion/aesthetic in both the mall and its inhabitants, producing an environment reminiscent of the '70s and '80s as seen in the original Dawn of the Dead (1978). (Frank West also uses an old-fashioned film-reel camera, though this can be justified by him being a professional photojournalist; while digital cameras were taking over the consumer market by 2006, film still had niches in high-end photography.) This can be seen as an aesthetic choice like that of Napoleon Dynamite, in that the game's setting of Willamette, Colorado is a small Midwestern town that's "behind the pulse of society" in some ways. Upon retrospect, it is a seemingly perfect place for a terrorist attack to happen.
  • The style of Deceive Inc. screams 1970's Tuxedo and Martini fiction with its sense of fashion and technology, but is still ostensibly set in the present day; the target of "Diamond Spire" is a self-described influencer who is developing an extra-addictive energy drink for example.
  • Mass Effect is another example, although it takes its inspiration from the 1970s/80s science fiction renaissance rather than the Golden Age science fiction often popular with this trope. The art style and trappings are, according to Word of God, deliberately evocative of films like Blade Runner, Alien, and The Wrath of Khan.
  • Grim Fandango is ostensibly set sometime around The '90s (the game was released in 1998), as there are office computers in the Land of the Dead. However, the style of architecture and clothing is firmly based in the '30s, '40s, and '50s, and even said computers consist of low-res, monochrome displays that resemble large, circular versions of 1950s TV sets attached to what look like typewriters. Justified, considering much of the population was probably alive during those decades, and would likely want to replicate them.
  • Stubbs the Zombie takes place in the '50s, but the technology is much more advanced, similar to the Fallout series.
  • The Thief series takes place in a fantasy world very reminiscent of The Late Middle Ages. Yet, it also shows many Victorian influences in things like architecture, furniture, art, technology, and attitudes. What's most intriguing is how both of these very different eras are combined nearly seamlessly (it helps that they're united by the whole City Noir atmosphere and Steampunk aesthetic of the series).
  • Story of Seasons:
    • Although ostensibly set in something resembling the present day, everyone gets around on horse-drawn carriages, the fashion resembles the mid-to-late 2000s at oldest, and other technology is deliberately retro. Word of God is the lack of modern day farming technology is because you feel closer to everything when doing it by hand.
    • Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life could pass for taking place in the early 20th century at first glance, however at other times it looks decidedly modern. Characters like Nami, Rock, and Gustafa have a 1960s/1970s aesthetic and the technology levels matches that period, but it's set at the same time as Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town (which is noticeably more modern looking) and a Show Within a Show features cellphones. According to Tim, the Fictional Country that the game takes place in is so behind technologically that they don't even understand what airplanes are.
  • Super Mario Bros. has many modern conveniences, but the world itself appears to be somewhere around medieval, or perhaps Renaissance times. This varies from country to country. Super Mario Odyssey has the modern looking regions alongside futuristic looking regions.
  • An odd example in Dead Space 3. While the other two games are pretty much straight examples of a Science Fiction setting, the third takes place on, or in orbit of, a planet filled with ruins left behind by the Sovereign Colonies Armed Forces (a political entity that apparently no longer exists as of the time of Dead Space 3) 200 years earlier. The Sovereign Colonies technology and designs seem rather more primitive than the more "modern" examples seen in the earlier games. Their computer technology seems to be rather dated, many of their doors need to be opened manually, they use a lot more paper than is common in later time periods, they have black and white photographs on the walls (possibly due to aging, or the low light levels), the advertisements for the fictional drink called "Peng" which appear in Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are done in a cyber punk style, showing an attractive woman dressed in futuristic clothes, where as the advertisements for Peng from the Sovereign Colonies era however show women in a more 1950s pin-up style, similar to old school Coke ads.
  • The universe that Skullgirls takes place in is reminiscent of the 1930-40s, though both weapons and telecommunication technology seems to be at least a decade or two ahead; and it's implied that things like cell phones and video games (albeit in primitive forms) exist, too. Though non-canon, there is official art of two of the characters playing in a circa-2015 fighting game tournament, both of them using arcade fight-sticks.
  • The fashion, technology, and general styling of Psychonauts makes it seem like it's set in The '60s or The '70s, however there's an official site similar to Friendster, setting it in the early to mid 2000s (the website dates it as 2003 but the game wasn't released until 2005).
  • XCOM Apocalypse reeks of this - it's a mid-high sci-fi setting with handheld energy weapons, personal anti-gravity jet packs, hover cars in every driveway, you name it. What's the catch? The city council has ordered that everything from handguns to heat-seeking missiles, no exceptions (well, okay, maybe a few), must maintain a very 50s-style aesthetic. Cars look straight out of the 50s and 60s, televisions (and television-analogues) have the classic slightly-rounded, slightly-bulging screen, and so on.
  • According to Word of God, Bully was intended as an homage to teen movies past and present, which led them to throw in a lot of Schizo Tech and anachronistic fashion, especially from The '80s, to create the game world. It's firmly set in the mid '00s time period in which it was developed — mention is made of MP3 players being banned at Bullworth Academy, for instance, while the old-looking computers could be handwaved as the school being too cheap to buy new ones (especially since the Nerds seem to have a more modern computer with a flat-panel screen at their hideout). On the other hand, the vehicle designs are pulled from the '50s through the early '90s, the Preppies look, dress, and speak like the villains of an '80s teen comedy, the Nerds' geeky fixation is an expy of Dungeons & Dragons rather than something more modern, and the Greasers seem like they stepped out of the '50s.
  • The universe of Jazzpunk could be best be described as, "What if Cyberpunk had been invented in the 1950s — punch-card tape-drive computers and all — and then represented in a pop art style?"
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 is set in the near-future of 2013, but is mostly inspired by the dystopian science fiction of the '70s and '80s, with a mix of modern and futuristic weaponry (most notably the electric gun), a sheen of cyberpunk-lite aesthetics, and vehicle designs ranging from the '30s through the '60s ("as if Havana got transported to the 21st Century", as the game's website describes it), with a few cars even based on real-life models from that period.
  • The Driver series is mostly set in the present day, but feels very much like a '70s Cop Show thanks to the fashion, car designs and cinematography. Parallel Lines is partially set in 1978, and so averts this with the 2006 portion of the game feeling far more modern compared to the rest of the series. San Francisco is a lesser example thanks to the inclusion of modern cars, but it still keeps the retro feel through a large assortment of classic vehicles and a pseudo-retro soundtrack.
  • Alien: Isolation: To mimic the aesthetic of the first film, the game features a thoroughly '70s sci-fi look, complete with monochrome cathode ray computers, Saul Bass-style advertisements, and even a special filter that mimics the film grain of '70s film stock.
  • Future Imperfect caused this in Job Simulator. The office job recreation looks like something out of The '80s. It's supposed to be in The New '10s.
  • The first Metal Gear vaguely resembles the 1940s, with a sepia palette, WWII-looking tech, WWII-era weapons (other than the science fiction ones), and the overall look of a 1940s prison camp (barbed wire, attack dogs, etc). Gray Fox has 1940s fighter pilot facial hair. This is probably because the primary influence on the game was The Great Escape, set in the 40s. The manual gives the date of Operation Intrude N131 as "19XX", meaning it could take place in the past as well; although it's worth pointing out that Diane has a Patrick Nagel-type 80s look, and the presence of Dr. Pettrovich and Ellen suggest we're some point in the Cold War. Not until Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake came out, with a strong futuristic aesthetic, was Metal Gear placed in 1995.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 has a very '80s/'90s vision of what the year 2077 would look like, in keeping with the original pen-and-paper RPG; everything has a boxy and angular Cassette Futurism aesthetic, a lot of the tech has Zeerust stylings, the soundtrack is synthesizer-heavy, and many concepts from '80s Cyberpunk like Japan Takes Over the World are played completely straight.
  • Shakedown: Hawaii's universe includes many modern inventions like tablets, video streaming (which the Player Character always tries to dismiss as merely being a fad), Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality, but visually it leans on a late-80s/early 90s aesthetic with, diskettes, CRT television, and boxy cellphones still being commonplace.
  • Animal Crossing has some elements that are deliberately dated alongside feature contemporary technology. For example, characters only deliver physical mail, though NPCs mention e-mail in their dialogue. Even the phone items were purely cosmetic until 2020's New Horizons introduced smartphones as a core feature.
  • Prey (2017) takes place in an alternate universe where JFK survived the assassination and used his administration (in the 1960s) to build an alien research facility in space, but after they fucked up and a containment breach killed an entire research team, the whole station was quarantined, extra-locked, and generally abandonednote  until TranStar bought the whole station at a discount. As a result, most of the aesthetics and core hardware is still 1960s, though there are some shades of Cassette Futurism with 1980s music and D&D sessions.
  • The Outer Worlds, as a Spiritual Successor to the Black Isle and Obsidian Fallout games, has this aesthetic, particularly on the billboard ads, the magazines, and the large city of Byzantium, which didn't look out of place on BioShock.
  • Disco Elysium:
    • The city of Revachol mixes 1970s aesthetics and technology (plus a few technologies that never were) with an early 19th-century French aesthetic. For instance, the police wear highwayman-style cloaks instead of raincoats on patrol, Kim's sports car looks more like a stagecoach, and the streetlights are styled after hurricane lamps.
    • The setting has this internally, as well. We're informed the 1970s aesthetic was intensely stylish 20 years ago and is now a complete embarrassment, as happened after the 70s in our world, yet the decor (particularly in the Whirling-in-Rags) and most other characters' fashion choices, even ones stated to be stylish (such as Klaasje's silver flared catsuit and the punk look of the SKULLs and the anodic music kids), are all still planted in the late 70s. This stagnation is implied to be because of the economic and cultural devastation inflicted upon Revachol, meaning no new aesthetic ideas are happening. Note also that characters who intentionally dress in vintage styles, like Kim and Cindy, dress like they're from the 1940s.
  • The original Wasteland was not an example, but from the second game onwards, the series gleefully embraces this; rather than updating the setting to look more modern, everything has a permanent stuck-in-the-'80s vibe. Cassette Futurist aesthetics, '80s pop culture paraphernalia everywhere, and a general feel similar to that '80s sci-fi movies like Mad Max.
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake looks like a combination of cities in the modern day, 90s fashion and Cyberpunk futuristic technology, and a lot of 1950s-style cars and consumer items.
  • The Five Nights at Freddy's universe doesn't start in one, but it becomes it as the series goes on. By Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach, the series appears to be a world where the styles of The '80s and The '90s never went out of fashion, holding onto bright neon, shopping malls, arcade games, laser tag, and other trappings of the era into (roughly) the 2030s - these still being popular and treated as modern are what suggests it's not a deliberate retro choice on the part of the management. It's possible that the unbridled capitalistic spirit of the times being alive is the only thing allowing the cartoonishly greedy and lethally incompetent Fazbear Entertainment to survive.
  • The Tex Murphy games are set in post-apocalyptic 2040s, but are full to the brim with 1940s Film Noir tropes and aesthetic touches, with the addition of flying cars and holograms, and the disenfranchised are nuclear mutants rather than ethnic and religious minorities.

  • Annyseed Many characters wear Victorian clothing, yet some are a little more 1980s in style. Victorian machinery is often used alongside modern day mobile/cell phones. Ninjas go around with katana blades, and our heroine is dropped off at school by the latest Rolls Royce. - It's all good fun.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: although apparently set in the present day, Generictown has a lot of elements of this, probably to make it seem more "quaint." Old-style TV aerials are visible on many houses, the town has a malt shop, some of the neighbors wear fedoras. This is lampshaded with a few characters to show how out-of-touch they are: the Dean having a TRS-80, Biff the art teacher being an aging hippy, about half of everything Mr. Bystander ever says — and most noticeably with Bob himself, who wears bellbottoms, drives a sedan that's got to be at least 30 years old, owns a rotary phone, a working Atari 2600, and a basement full of videotapes. The videotape collection is important because much of Molly's speech patterns derive from it, so she peppers her speech with references that date back to well before she was born.
  • Light and Dark: has a setting that is similar to modern day Earth, but with a minor 80s aesthetic to it.
  • Tis Tree: takes place at the North Pole, in Christmas Villiage, and modern culture and technology seems not to have really made it there yet. Everything is stuck in the '90s, to the extent that the characters are all represented as GeoCities gifs, and they've even got brick and mortar stores that are run by Yahoo! Yet, they also have podcasts and twitter.

    Web Original 
  • Justified in 1983: Doomsday. By that timeline's present, the most developed and powerful countries have only just recovered to 1980s or early '90s standards of living and technology; even those places that escaped World War III largely unscathed still had to weather a second Great Depression due to the collapse in trade. Meanwhile, the less fortunate parts of the world run the gamut from Mad Max-style wastelands to Schizo Tech survivor-nations ranging in tech level from early 20th century to pre-industrial, where swords coexist with helicopters and old-school radios.
  • Jokingly invoked by The Onion: "Nation Gathers Around Radio Set To Listen To Big Ball Game"
  • Used in the roleplaying forum Pacific Lock Up, it technically takes place in modern times but everything has an 80s feel to it and there's still a Reagan in the White House.

    Western Animation 
  • Late 80s/early 90s Disney cartoons like DuckTales (1987), Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, and Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers invoke this to varying extents, usually with episode-specific themes (e.g. 50s style mobs, swashbuckling pirates, and historical-period towns all appearing in early 90s Earth). With DuckTales (1987), at least, it was justified, since the Carl Barks comics on which the show was largely based had been produced in the mid-20th century. (And remember, Scrooge McDuck had been a gold prospector in the Klondike in the 1890s!)
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius takes place in the city of Retroville, which follows the trope. Cell phones and the internet exist, but the cars and fashions evoke the late 1950s. Jimmy's inventions have a Raygun Gothic aesthetic to them.
  • Several Rankin/Bass Productions Christmas specials invoke this. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is shown to take place in the 1960s, Rudolph's Shiny New Year is shown to take place after 1965, but Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July seems to take place at the turn of the century judging by clothing and the dialogue.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Most of the appliances have a very '70s/'80s/'90s aesthetic (and have a lot of inventions from that time, like VHS tapes and video rental stores), but there are a lot of late 20th/early 21st century inventions, like DVD players, social media websites (Elmore Plus, which is a mix between Google Plus and Facebook), a YouTube equivalent website (Stream It), and some episode date the year as 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
  • Batman: The Animated Series. Architecture, clothes, and cars in Gotham mostly resemble the 40s and 50s, but on the rare occasion that real dates are given the show is ostensibly set in The Present Day.
    • The most jarring, yet awesome, part is the rare glimpses of Dick and Babs as civilians at Gotham University. They couldn't be dressed more for The '50s if they tried. Case in point, Dick's red sweater vest ensemble.
    • One episode featured the Joker robbing an electronics convention. A giant "DVD" logo can be seen in the background.
    • The episode with the Grey Ghost showed a young Bruce Wayne watching the series as a child on a black and white TV in what seemed to be the 60s. At the end of the episode, the episode is shown to have taken place in late 1992.
    • "Joker's Favor" shows someone's driver's license, where it shows he was born in 1946 and appears middle-aged, while his license was issued in 1991 and expires in 1995.
    • This changed back and forth throughout the series. Sub Zero has computers in hospitals and color TV, while Mask Of The Phantasm has little trace of the present day. The best explanation is that BTAS Gotham is a city that lives in the past. By the time the series was revamped into The New Batman Adventures it was completely in the nineties, however.
    • When Batman: The Animated Series segued into Batman Beyond, Gotham had become a Zeerust version of Cyberpunk. Lampshaded in one episode where Commissioner Barbara Gordon chides Bruce and Terry, saying their style of Justice "went out with the Tommy Gun"(which was indeed used heavily in BTAS).
  • By contrast, Superman: The Animated Series went for a '30s/'40s Art Deco look, but mostly as a veneer over a more clearly modern setting. This faded by the time of Justice League, so one can assume that America in the DCAU went though a major Retro style resurgence in the early 1990s.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold continues this trend by making it a bit of an Anachronism Stew. Modern innovations like cell phones, video games, and the internet are around, but a lot of the buildings, cars, and characters have decidedly retro vibes. There's very little consistency in this regard, as one episode will have modern clothing and tech, while the next will have fedora-clad gangsters shooting at Batman with Tommy-guns. Though despite this retro vibe, the show definitely has modern social values. Nobody ever comments on the races of minority heroes like Firestorm, Blue Beetle and The Atom, nor the genders of characters like Vixen and Black Canary.
  • Justice League: In the episode "Legends", half the team gets blown into an alternate 50s-style universe that invokes The Silver Age of Comic Books, and team up (after the obligatory Let's You and Him Fight, of course) with the Justice Guild of America, a team full of Captains Ersatz for the Justice Society of America. And oddly enough, all those characters are characters from comic books from Green Lantern's youth. Hawkgirl gets pissed at the gender standards, Green Lantern is happy to meet his idols (casually letting a You Are a Credit to Your Race comment slide), Flash is already so corny that he fits right in, and Martian Manhunter receives intense mental images of nuclear holocaust. Wait, what? Turns out in this universe the Cold War led to mutually assured destruction, but the Justice Guild sacrificed themselves to save as many as they could. A kid gained mental powers from the fallout, and basically became a purple, warty Reality Warper, recreating the Justice Guild and placing himself as their kid sidekick, and forcing the townspeople to live out their roles as extras (one man was trapped in an ice cream truck for forty years). Basically, it was a weird episode, and the phrase "Nuns and Dynamite" was important in The Reveal.
  • The style of Camp Lazlo was made to evoke the 1950s and 1960s summer camps, using brochures of that time as a main source to the art department.
  • The Simpsons, at least in the 1990s episodes:
    • Springfield is often shown as still selling contemporary music on LP and 45s, and (for the Simpsons family at least) televisions with dial tuners.
    • Parodied in the newer seasons where the HDTV has rabbit ears, if not a comment on the popularity of cutting cable nowadays.
    • They had a Betamax VCR well into the '90s at least.
    • Krusty is a major celebrity due to hosting a live afternoon kids' show on TV, a notion that was already decades out of date when the show started.
    • Much of this is because Matt Groening based the characters on members of his own family when he was growing up in the 1960s. He even explained that Marge has a three-feet-tall blue beehive hairdo because that is what his own mother's hair looked like (from his point of view) when he was much shorter than her.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • Hey Arnold obviously takes place in the 1990s, but the boarding house gives off a retro feel, as does the rest of the neighborhood. Justified in the fact it's a historical area, the boarding house is over 100 years old, and he lives with his grandparents. Most of the vehicles, such as police cars and city buses seem to be from the 1950s though. The show also uses a jazz soundtrack, kind of like Peanuts and a recurring character is a Frank Sinatra Expy.
    • The Movie Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie has this in a different way from the original series. Thanks to a Sequel Gap, the film went with Comic-Book Time instead of being stuck in the 1990s. The film is set in contemporary 2017 but the only real sign of this is the usage of smartphones. Everything else still looks straight out of the '90s, from the fashion to Arnold's walkman. Bob just recently started feeling the effects of beepers being outdated yet the kids are so young that they weren't even born in 1999.
  • Archer has fashions from the 60s, cars from the 70s, computers from the 80s, and cell phones from the 21st century. Lampshaded in the episode 'Lo Scandalo'.
    Archer: The what?! Wait, doesn't Italy use a king?
    Lana: No, they don't "use a king!"
    Malory: What year do you think this is?!
    Archer: I... yeah, exactly. Good question.
  • Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot takes place in a world with complex robot AI and holographic recording devices, but there's retro-futuristic styling to the computers and microphones (pic; and another). The cars tend towards "classic," and the military seems to be structured as it was before the Air Force split off from the Army.
  • Ready Jet Go!: The show takes place in the mid-to-late 2010s, most likely somewhere between 2015 and 2019. However, the show's architecture and design are clearly '50s-60s inspired. The show also includes songs inspired by '50s rock and roll music, including the show's theme song.
  • Regular Show explicitly takes place in the modern day (in one episode time travel TO the 80s is involved), but things generally have an 80s-to-early-90s atmosphere. All video games are Atari 2600-level, VHS is still a commonly-used video format alongside DVDs and Blu-Ray, cassette tapes are still in use alongside CDs, and computers have boxy CRT monitors and multiple peripherals. Most characters lack smartphones, but some do own HD televisions. Alternative history may also be involved, with the episode "The Real Thomas" implying that the USSR may not have collapsed (dialogue only mentions "Russia", but "CCCP" appears in a number of background texts). In the episode "Format Wars II", the gang even goes in a battle with VCR, DVD, and other old videos formats, against the internet.
  • Thomas & Friends is ambiguous in its setting - the fashions suggest 1940s/50s, but locomotives from the 1820s through to the 1970s appear. Modern architecture exists, but at the same time there seem to be steam locomotives working the railways of wherever-the-Mainland-is. A flashback to Duck's younger days depicts people in Victorian costume standing in front of a building from the 1940s and one to Hiro's past puts him in Tokugawa-era Japan, even though his class of locomotive was built during the Second World War.
  • Fat Albert is supposed to be based on Bill Cosby's childhood and thus should be set around the early to mid 1950s. This is reinforced by one of the Junkyard gang actually being the young Bill himself. However, the show has aspects of The '70s and The '80s (color television, video games) and also occasionally handles issues that weren't around, or prominent during Cosby's youth.
  • Invoked heavily in Ed, Edd n Eddy, with Word of God saying this was done to make the series seem timeless. Technology-wise, it doesn't go that further than the 1970s, but is heavily implied to take place in the 2000s.
  • The world of My Life as a Teenage Robot, which appears to be set somewhere late in the 21st century, is a mix of modern and what people thought the future would be like in the 50s and 60s: Fashion and architecture readily mix Art Deco and contemporary design elements. Technology has advanced to the point that other planets have been visited or even colonized by humans, and Ridiculously Human Robots are not widespread, but aren't considered especially notable. Despite this, everyday suburban life is mostly indistinguishable the modern day. The show itself has a somewhat retraux style, including Thick-Line Animation and Pie-Eyed characters.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is set in the 2010s, but everything has a retro aesthetic. It's common in modern day Scooby-Doo series for the Mystery Inc gang to be the only characters dressed in 60s fashion, but everyone here dresses as if The '60s never ended. This even extends to their technology. Computers and the internet exist, but they use older style monitors and the cellphones are 'brick' looking.
  • The home of The Berenstain Bears doesn't even look like it's from the 20th century, never mind the 21st, though the cubs are somewhat more modern looking than their parents. The rest of the town looks considerably more modern. This becomes obvious when you compare most cubs to Sister and Brother. Some things are still perpetually retro though, such as the trains.
  • Max and Ruby originally took place 20 Minutes into the Past however the cartoon adaptation places it here. For example, video games exist despite everything else looking more like they're in the mid-1900s