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Skyscraper City

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Excuse me sir, do you know where I could find the ground?

"New York is vertical — all skyscrapers."

In a fictional and futuristic world, there is a certain way to show a city's prosperity and ambition: build it high. The city will contain almost or even literally nothing but buildings that dwarf the Burj Khalifa. The issue of these towers' financial cost, environmental impact or mere usefulness will never be brought up. Nor will be the question of how many people the city must have to need such huge buildings. There are freaking big towers everywhere, that means you are in an absurdly rich city, that's all you need to know.

If the issue of population is brought up, it will usually be in a dystopian setting where overpopulation plagues the planet or at least big cities, with the juxtaposition between the lower areas of town and the rich in their towers serving as a contrast between rich and poor.

A Skyscraper City may also be designed to give the viewers a "dreamy" feel by having the inhabitants evolving near or above the clouds. Or simply to give them a feeling of gigantism that disrupts their sense of proportions.

Common in Cyberpunk settings, and a Sub-Trope of Mega City. Compare City Planet, Star Scraper, Crystal Spires and Togas, and Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. Layered Metropolis is a subtrope. Not to be confused with a Hive City, which is a city comprising only one building; or for an Arcology, which is a city in one skyscraper.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Boruto: Konoha has significantly expanded into a massive metropolis of high-rises and skyscrapers, thanks to the rise of powerful enterprises after the Fourth Shinobi World War, which introduced modern technology. Kirikagure is even a more extreme example. It went from a place known as "Village of the Bloody Mist" for its spartan ways, to a modern and thriving city, even more cosmopolitan than Konoha. According to Kagura, the village is modern because it became overtime an important commercial point for different countries.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Field Spell Card "Skyscraper" builds a city made entirely of skyscrapers in the field. In a second season episode, Judai's friend Hayato (who's now a card designer for I2) gives him a new Field Spell called "Skyscraper 2 Hero City," which builds a far bigger, futuristic city of skyscrapers. Also, Edo Phoenix has an equivalent for Destiny Heroes called Dark City.

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: Mega City One. An establishing shot in an early issue shows the Empire State Building, now an abandoned historical relic, dwarfed by the skyscrapers around it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Emphasized in Ghost in the Shell (1995), albeit with many skyscrapers looking somewhat dilapidated and unpleasant to live in. One famous scene focuses on showing the claustrophobic view of the skyscrapers from street level (including many skyscrapers under construction and covered with unsightly girders) while other scenes show it from above (the ground seemingly covered with brightly lit roads and highways). Uniquely, many of these tall structures look quite bulky and mass-produced rather than slim and sleek architectural masterpieces, possibly alluding to the budding industry of mass-produced artificial people. Nevertheless, the city (namedropped as the fictional city of Niihama) is shown to have some under-developed areas (e.g., the open-air marketplace) which would seem very familiar to anyone born/living in an East Asian city during the last century.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fifth Element: Manhattan's buildings are so high that its ground is seen only once when Korben flees from the Police. Other than that, the endless rows of flying cars make it look like a bottomless city.
  • Metropolis may be the Trope Codifier for visual fiction. The city in which the film takes place consists of pretty much nothing but skyscrapers and elevated freeways on the surface, dominated by the gargantuan Tower of Babel. In contrast, the Underground City where the workers live consists of nothing but shabby mid-rise apartments.
  • Star Wars: Coruscant takes this to extreme levels. The entire planet is encrusted with giant skyscrapers... built on top of older skyscrapers... built on top of even older skyscrapers. Oh, and a few of the skyscrapers are actually the giant construction droids that build more skyscrapers. Most visits to the planet remain comfortably in the highest floors at the tip of the skyscrapers, or only dip down a ways to areas where the sunlight starts to be occluded but which are still far, far above the ground.

  • In the Bounders series, the Youli live in crystal towers miles above the surface of their homeworld. Instead of using elevators or walkways, they get from room to room by bounding. The surface of their planet was rendered uninhabitable during the war a millennium ago. It will be another millennium before they can live outside their skyscrapers again.
  • The Fourth Realm: The eponymous city from The Golden City is actually just three gigantic, terraced towers.
  • Honor Harrington: The combination of super-durable construction materials and counter-gravity tech means most cities built by advanced cultures are built this way. It's noted in Cauldron of Ghosts that in Mendel on Mesa, residential towers intended for "seccies" (second-class citizens) are limited to a mere 300 stories tall so they'll always see the full-citizen towers looming over them. Austin City, the capital of Grayson, is notable for its pre-counter-grav architecture in-universe.
  • Updraft has a fantasy version; the city consists of a cluster of living towers made of bone, high above the clouds (and slowly rising as the towers "grow"). Some are connected with bridges, but the fastest way to travel is by strapping on wings. People don't go down to the ground at all, and barely even acknowledge that there might be a ground.
  • The World Inside: Much of the world is covered in vertical cities called Urban Monads, where people are born, live, and die without ever having to leave.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eberron: Sharn is one of the few fantasy (well, Dungeon Punk) versions. It's built on an area where flight magic is enhanced so the architects incorporated levitation spells into the structural supports. It's even a Layered Metropolis.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Hive Cities are more accurately described as kilometers-tall skyscrapers the size of cities. They're said to be built in layers, with new levels being built on top of older ones, with the oldest even becoming buried by the weight of the buildings being added to the whole. In the hive cities, these buried layers are generally where the outcasts live; mutants, psykers, heretics, xenos, and possibly even genestealer cults.
    • Commorragh, the home of Dark Eldar, is an impossibly large city composed largely of enormous scyscrapers, many of which are tall enough to serve as docking spars for starships.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Skopp and Noctis City consist of conglomerate superstructures that are interconnected with passerby commuter trains, and fully displayed adverts on most compositions.
  • Bayonetta: Isla del Sol in the late chapters is hundreds of huge towers with a gigantic tower in the middle. When you get on top of that tower, Scenery Porn ensues.
  • BioShock: Rapture is like this (at least from the outside; none of the actual levels look like they could be the actual inside of a skyscraper; either there are too many windows or too few floors or both). It sort of makes sense since it was mostly a planned city in which "ground level" is the rocky ocean floor, useless for building roads on. It's a little trickier to explain how people did get from one building to the next; supposedly they used radio-guided bathyspheres, and a railway system before that, but no rails are ever seen from the outside and each metro station contains docking room for only one tiny sphere.
  • Dark Souls: The city of Anor Londo has several occasions in which you must cross over deep chasms in between buildings. The whole level takes place on the city's rooftops with the ground nowhere in sight.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Hengsha is on the way to becoming this. It's a giant two-tiered city split into Upper and Lower Hengsha. However, despite expectations, Lower Hengsha is not all-slums. It's where people tend to live and go out, while Upper Hengsha is where big businesses are located.
  • Dex: Harbor Prime has a population of 13.8 million people and its architecture is consequently dominated by skyscrapers and other tall buildings.
  • Forza: Thrill City in Horizon 3's "Hot Wheels Expansion". While the ground is perfectly accessible, much of the racing is done on tracks high in the air.
  • Ghostrunner has Darma Tower, a city-sized skyscraper and the last refuge of humanity.
  • Kingdom Hearts has at least four of these:
    • The World That Never Was, an artificial world created by Xemnas from where he can slowly nurture his own Kingdom Hearts. While the Organization is nested in their floating castle, the rest of the world is littered in dark, hollow buildings and skyscrapers. The world's most iconic location is even called "Memory's Skyscraper".
    • San Fransokyo, which is... basically just a combination of Tokyo and San Francisco. As expected, lots and lots of skyscrapers to be found here.
    • Scala ad Caelum, while not technically covered in skyscrapers, has endless mountain towns that build upon each other like legos, ultimately becoming quite huge, earning its name of "Stairway to Heaven."
    • Quadratum, a city that is almost an exact replica of Shibuya, if not for the fact that its a world on the other side of reality (fiction, if you will).
  • Mass Effect 2: Most cities on the asari colony world of Illium are built close to the poles to escape the heat nearer to the equator. Higher levels of the cities are reserved for residential and commercial property and lower levels are used for industrial greenhouses and factories.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo is set in such a city, especially visible in the chase scene and finally levels where there are hardly any short buildings.
  • Ninja Gaiden II (2008): The opening level, Sky City Tokyo, is exactly this. Your destination on the level is one of two twin towers... both built on top of an even bigger tower. Itself built several hundred meters above the ground. In the Updated Re-release Sigma 2, you fight a Buddha statue the size of the Statue of Liberty (which you also fight afterwards) at the end of the level: it looks puny compared to the building it climbs.
  • Ratchet & Clank takes this and pretty much makes it its own setting! Nearly every game in the series has one, and amazingly they all manage to feel different from each other, even the ones that appear in multiple games. In all examples, the ground is never seen and is treated as a Bottomless Pit. Said levels include: Metropolis from Ratchet & Clank, Up Your Arsenal, Tools of Destruction, Full Frontal Assault via DLC and the 2016 game/movie as Aleero City. It's easily the most well-known and iconic example in the series, and not just through repetition.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog is absolutely full of these, beginning with Star Light Zone in the original game. As far as this trope goes, this series is notable for not needing to look futuristic, with plenty of examples using architecture from the past. Apparently, in the Sonic universe, even ancient people knew how to make extremely tall, sprawling cities.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog CD: Stardust Speedway is a bottomless city in all time periods Sonic is present in, even when it resembles Ancient Grome. The exception is the absolute bottom-most parts of the Ancient Grome time period, where water can be seen at ground level. All of these traits are kept in Sonic Mania.
    • Sonic Adventure and Sonic Generations: The district of Station Square near Speed Highway contains solely of buildings hundreds of stories tall and has no visible ground.
    • Sonic Advance Trilogy: Ice Paradise Zone in Sonic Advance 2 combines this setting with Slippy-Slidey Ice World; it appears to be set in such a metropolis during a snowy winter. Sonic Advance 3 opens with Route 99 Zone, which is the setting applied to a city with architecture resembling that of the mid-20th century United States.
    • Sonic Heroes: Grand Metropolis, Casino Park, and BINGO Highway are set ridiculously far up. Oddly, Power Plant and Grand Metropolis always has a visible floor not far below. Hang Castle manages to give this feel to a Transylvanian castle. As Cryptic Castle in Shadow the Hedgehog uses most of the same assets from Hang Castle, it gives off this feel too.
    • Sonic and the Secret Rings: Night Palace applies this feel to an Arabian palace, with its extremely tall and abundant spires, numerous ramparts, a large number of buildings and hallways visible from the outside, and no visible bottom.
    • Sonic Rush Series: Night Carnival applies this theme to a city whose appearance is somewhere between Las Vegas and New Orleans.
    • Sonic Riders: Future City has a ground floor far beneath but is generally not visible.
    • With the exception of the hub stage, Skyscraper Scamper in Sonic Unleashed is like this. A dense fog envelops the lower levels. Some areas of Savannah Citadel and Rooftop Run also have this appearance, despite the former resembling a Saharan mosque constructed of mud and wood and the latter resembling a centuries-old northern Italian town.
    • Sonic Forces has the appropriately named Metropolis location (which appears to be unrelated to Metropolis Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2), one of the few cases where the city actually has a futuristic appearance. In this case, it's a very clean, bright place with flying cars and a white-and-cyan theme.
  • Super Mario Odyssey has New Donk City, capital of the Metro Kingdom, resembles 1930s New York City but with a greater emphasis on tall skyscrapers, among which Mario ends up doing primarily vertical instead of horizontal platforming. At the tops of the buildings, the ground level becomes difficult to see due to distance fog largely obscuring it. The city itself appears to be on top of an even larger skyscraper.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Invoked in the last episode with "the Majestic Witch of Theatergoing, Drama and Spectating's Grand City of Carefully Selected Books" (or "City of Books" to make it short). It's a library so gigantic that the shelves are compared to skyscrapers — it's not called "city" for nothing.

  • Homestuck: Dave lives in a city seemingly consisting only of tall, spindly grey apartment buildings with no visible ground. He canonically lives in Houston, Texas, which really does have a lot of tall buildings (it has the third highest skyline in the US, after New York City and Chicago), though not quite as many as suggested by the comic.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Gotham has grown even more massive, to the point where it seems to be nothing but superstructures. Rooftop parks, vertical commuter trains, and elevated neighborhoods are common. The opening shows Gotham's old skyline, which is positively dwarfed by the new skyline behind it. One episode, "Golem", centers around a robot called the G.L.M. (Galvanic Lifter Machine, a.k.a. GOLEM) a fifty-foot-tall monstrosity that is used to build these structures.
  • The Jetsons: You rarely see the ground throughout the whole series, with the only exception being the seventh episode, "The Flying Suit", in which George flies down to the surface. It is bright, grassy, and populated by birds who took to the ground now that the humans are in the sky, though there is a hobo or two walking around as well. On the flip side, the theatrical film implies that most people live in the sky because the Earth had become dangerously polluted: the clouds below these elevated buildings are mostly smog.
  • Kong: King of the Apes: When Kong is being given a medal by the UN, New York is shown as almost entirely mile-high glass skyscrapers. As a Mythology Gag, when Kong is swinging through the buildings, his friends point out the relatively small Empire State Building, far below them.
  • Samurai Jack: Jack frequently finds himself in cities like this. It's most apparent in "Jack and the Hunters", when hunters chase Jack up the buildings to the rooftops. Aku seems to put his lairs only in these super-tall cities too, which may be why Jack seems to be in these megalopolises half the time he's wandering the planet.