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If you were looking for the Alternate Reality Game, see SKY//BOX (2022).

A "Skybox" is a catch-all term used to describe ways of representing a sky or background that "wraps around" a computer game world—the name coming from the traditional method of using a big literal cube to enclose the level, with a seamless texture applied across all 6 faces. Other game engines may use a large dome or sphere instead, but the name "Skybox" stuck.

Traditionally, a skybox is represented by a static image that represents the entire background of a level — including the sun, clouds, distant mountains, buildings, etc. More modern games will typically break up these elements either as separate 2D image planes or low poly objects, allowing the developers to apply animation to the textures to give the appearance of moving clouds or distant traffic, as well as allowing the player to come closer to the background elements as they progress through the level. A notable example of this is the Citadel in Half-Life 2, which appears increasingly larger as the player progresses further towards it.

Some game engines, such as the Source Engine, treat the skybox as a distinct element of the level, where the level designer creates a miniature enclosed area somewhere out of bounds on the map, which is then projected onto the playable space in some way (such as the lighthouses in Team Fortress 2's "Sunshine" map, or the Powerplant towers in CS:GO's "Nuke" map). This type of skybox design utilises what are known as "skybox models"; variants of the "to scale" models the game world otherwise uses that are really small. Other game engines, such as Unreal Engine 3 and 4, make no distinction — the skybox merely describes the background elements placed outside the level's intended playable area, and although the engine comes with a built-in "sky sphere", this is simply just a large mesh that can be optionally placed in within the level.

The Skybox equivalent in CG films and VFX is typically called a "Backplate", and is usually either a large dome or 2D image projected behind the CG elements, which can either be part of a live action shot, a matte painting, or a mixture of both. Typically however the CG elements and the background will be rendered separately and later composited together in post-production.

It can lead to Sprite/Polygon Mix, when 2D and 3D graphics are featured together. Compare Invisible Wall, invisible boundaries that keep the player in the gaming area. Contrast Motion Parallax, emulating the distance/perception of movement dichotomy (farther=slower) through layers. See also Artificial Outdoors Display, the In-Universe version of this trope.

Note: This trope is so ubiquitous among 3D videogames, that it'd be pointless listing most of them here, as the great majority of them use skyboxes. When adding a game, there needs to be a notable reason for it to be on this list, otherwise it simply doesn't need to be added.


Fan Works

Films — Animation

  • Jetsons: The Movie: In Tracking Shots of Spacely's Orbiting Ore Asteroid, it becomes obvious that the CGI artists used this technique to create the star backdrop.

Gaming Consoles & Platforms

  • Modern Game Engines come with built-in skyboxes; an example is Unreal Engine from Epic Games. It's most likely the first thing you see when you load up the development environment.
  • Roblox: What makes the skies in the majority of games. It's in the shape of a cube, so you can paste custom decals on it to your preference.

Video Games

  • 1080° Snowboarding: Very noticeable in the training level.
  • Ace Of Spades: The skybox can be set to a number of hues by server command; including Red Sky, Take Warning, Ominous Fog, Alien Sky, and even "Disco Mode", which cycled between every colour of the rainbow at high speed.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • English Country Tune: Since the world/level select screens are composed of interconnected orbs floating around a center point and selecting one orb zooms the camera into it, the orb now serves as a background for the puzzle.
  • Garry's Mod: Most decent maps will have one of these. The really good maps will have a detailed, 3D skybox. You can even put props and ragdolls inside them to make them appear massive. The only drawback is that they do get confusing on maps like the new flatgrass, nothing is more startling then crashing into the Invisible Wall in your helicopter, plane, car or whatever vehicle you built.
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force: In the final scene, the skybox was cleverly used to present a teleportation event without breaking the flow with a loading screen. Since the player has a very limited view of "outside" through the open door of an Osprey, giving each side of the skybox a different texture was sufficient to create the illusion of seeing Earth one moment and Xen the next. An unseen side of the skybox contains a hidden message which alludes to this "hack".
  • Hardwar: Subverted in that the game has no real visible sky. Apparently Titan has a very dense atmosphere, so everything beyond a few hundred meters is hidden in a sort of pinkish mist. Looking up merely lets you see a few low-hanging clouds, then more mist.
  • Kerbal Space Program: Some especially enterprising modder came up with a utility for replacing the default skybox, among other features.
  • Mabinogi: Fantasy Life: The skybox moves as time flows; since time is sped up in the game compared to real life, you can actually watch the clouds/moon/sun move across the sky.
  • Mass Effect: Rather than using dedicated skyboxes staying at a fixed distance from the camera, the sky throughout the series is rendered at a fixed position.
  • Meadow: The skybox is cylindrical, which fits the Flat World architecture of the game world.
  • Meridian 59: Notable in that, despite being the first graphical MMO, Meridian 59 took great care to create a coherent artistic style. The sky was therefore very detailed, changing slowly from day to night and back again, complete with a functional and moving sun and moon that could even naturally eclipse at various points. Lampshaded after a graphics engine upgrade changed the skybox, where right-clicking on the moon would give you some lore information about it, including the line '... legend says that the moon was once a lot larger.'
  • Metroid: Other M: The skyboxes in the ship's artificial biomes are holograms of some sort, so this trope is invoked by whomever built them In-Universe.
  • Myst: The Age of Anhonay is an Eldritch Location in part of clever use of this trope—you can't swim toward the cities on the horizon because they don't exist, they are just backdrops on a textured wall.
  • Paper Mario: The only objects that are actually 2D are the items and the sky, the rest are rendered on flat polygons.
  • Runescape: This is a toggelable option. Used most notably in the Clan Citadels.
  • Second Life: It features a traditional skybox as part of the game world, but its inherently customizable nature allows for a great deal of variation: skyboxes can be concealed within structures, attached to specific parts of a sim, or even equipped to avatars. Among the Second Life community, the term Skybox refers to a structure placed far enough above the ground to be outside of rendering distance, commonly used to create the illusion a structure is Bigger on the Inside. While these are often fully enclosed structures, some of these Skyboxes have traditional skyboxes placed around them to create the illusion of being at ground level. By combining these effects, you create some truly otherworldy examples of Bizarchitecture.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE
  • Sonic Adventure 2: The levels look like they occur in the real world, but there are glitches that allow the user to jump out of a level. Doing so reveals that the levels are hallways built in one large skybox.
  • Spyro The Dragon 1998: Flying outside the bounds of the flight levels reveals that you are inside a skybox.
  • Superman 64: In a Funny Background Event during a cutscene, Superman crashes into the textured wall that depicts the skyline after flying out of a window.
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2: The level Shiverburn Galaxy is known for its skybox. If you look at the right spot, you can see a trio of ghostly figures standing on top of the cliff, seemingly watching you. Even stranger is that, in the game's files, the image including these entities is named "HellValleySkyTree," kicking off a lot of speculation about why it was included and what the name means.
  • Team Fortress 2: One of the maps is a train yard called "Well" and uses the skybox to conceal the interiors of the teams' bases, which are Bigger on the Inside. The top half of the buildings' façades are 3D miniatures projected onto the skybox. Generally, this is not feasible in the game's engine, since the technique requires that there not be a direct line of sight to any part of the area being hidden.
  • TrackMania: The sky is shaped like a bubble. You can build outside of it in the Level Editor.
  • Universe Sandbox: Spacebox would be a more fitting term. The game allows the player to customize what skybox they want to use, such as the Milky Way, multicolored nebulae, and stars.
  • Unreal: It contains the Ur-Example of the miniature enclosed out-of-bounds area and sometimes employs it to multiple levels i.e. skybox in a skybox.
  • Vigil Blood Bitterness: Here, it is composed of a solid wall with a texture on it. No parallax.
  • Virtua Racing: The skybox and the rest of the environment scroll at 60 frames per second.
  • Windom XP: A circular and static skybox, noticeable if you fall off the map (especially in the Skyland map) or fly too high without the map boundaries (by deleting the "Hit" files from their folders).



  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1165, titled "Minus Level", is a physical Minus World. There's a recreation of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, but it turns out to be part of the world's equivalent of a skybox; if one tries to reach it, they'll just notice the tower remaining at the same distance from them no matter how far they go. One survey team sent to investigate it had to call off their journey because lethal things would happen to them if they went beyond 100 km of their starting point within the strange world.