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Space-Filling Empire

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What do you mean, the borders don't make sense?

When writing alternate timelines or playing around with maps, counterfactual historians sometimes don't see the point of coming up with lots of different countries, especially for regions they know little about. There may also be a need to make sure that the entire earth is PVP Balanced in more warlike stories. So what they do is just fill the map with large polities, even when there would be little plausibility to a single empire ruling these territories. This is referred to as a Space Filling Empire.

The number of empires will often be at least three, the minimum number needed for alliances and betrayals, and popularised by the pictured setup of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This trope is so prevalent that the wiki even has its own page for it.

Contrast Balkanize Me. See also "Risk"-Style Map and Spreading Disaster Map Graphic. Several types are found in United Europe, Expanded States of America, and Middle Eastern Coalition. Can lead to One-Federation Limit.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Earth of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is divided between four power blocs - Arbrau (which comprises Russia, Alaska and Canada), the Strategic Alliance Union (which comprises the rest of North America, Central America and South America), the African Union (which comprises Africa, Europe and the Middle East) and the Oceanian Federation (which comprises East Asia, South Asia, Australia and the Oceanian geographic region). Of the four, only Arbrau and the SAU play any role in the plot.
  • In Code Geass, the world is divided into three main superpowers; Europia United (all of Europe, Russia, and most of Africa) the Holy Britannian Empire (North and South America, Parts of Africa, most of the Pacific) and the Chinese Federation (East, South and Central Asia, including Indonesia and India). There is also Japan (independent, but invaded by Britannia in the opening of the first episode) and the Middle-Eastern Federation (taken by Britannia in the first season). Australia is the only one to stay uninvolved for the entire series. Predictably, almost all of the important events take place in Japan. It's entirely lampshaded near the last third of the series, when the Big Bad, the Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire, mocks the protagonists forming The Federation to stop him: in his opinion, all the protagonists have done is allow the world to easily distinguish one faction from the other on a map.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has the world largely split into three power blocs, at least in the first season: The World Economic Union (the Americas, Australasia, and Japan, dominated by the United States. Also known as The Union Of Free Nations And Solar Energy, or just Union); the Human Reform League (Russia, China, India, most of the rest of South, Southeast, and East Asia except for Japan, dominated by China. Often abbreviated to HRL in-universe); and the Advanced European Union (current-day EU plus Turkey and Israel/Palestine. Often abbreviated to AEU in-universe).
  • Heavy Object has the Legitimacy Kingdom, the Capitalist Corporation, the Information alliance and the Faith Organization. Unique in that location has no bearing on which country belongs to which group meaning there are constant skirmishes between neighbouring countries belonging to different groups.
  • Valvrave the Liberator: The militaristic neo-Prussian Dorssian Military Alliance controls Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. The nominally democratic ARUS controls the Americas. Western Europe, and the western half of Africa. They both run significant areas of the Dyson Sphere where most of humanity now lives.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, the Universe of The Four Gods is divided along the cardinal compass points into four main empires, each with its own god, Seishi, climate, Shinzaho, scrolls, and priestess. Konan is in the South and worships Suzaku, Kutou is in the East and worships Seiryuu, Hokkan is in the North and worships Genbu, and Sairou is in the West and worships Byakko.

    Comic Books 
  • In American Flagg!, the Plex represents the former governments of the USA and USSR, but (particularly since the Plex seems to be largely abandoning Earth for its Mars-based "temporary" headquarters), the world's true superpowers are now the fascist Brazilian Union of the Americas and the communist Pan-African League, which has also conquered Italy.

    Fan Works 
  • Worldfall is all over the place with this in the epilogue with the post-war power blocs — Russia, renamed the Eurasian Federation, absorbs all of its Soviet era territory (minus East Germany) plus Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran; the rest of Europe becomes United Europe; China absorbs most of mainland East Asia; India expands to absorb much of the remaining Middle East; Egypt and Sudan (except Darfur, which secedes as a free state) unite as the Nile Republic; the rest of North Africa becomes the nation of Sahara; what's left of the continent becomes the African Confederacy; and in the most egregious example, the United States expands to include pretty much the whole Western Hemisphere, becoming the United States of the Americas. No mention is made of the Pacific nations.

    Film - Live Action 
  • The film Battle Beyond the Sun, being an edited translation of the Soviet sci-fi movie Nebo Zovyot invented two of these to hide the fact that the race to Mars being depicted was really the Soviet Union and America, with the Americans naturally being painted in a bad light. The setting is moved to a post-nuclear war future (complete with obligatory Stock Footage of The Deadliest Mushroom) and has a map showing the two nations: North Hemis (present-day US, Canada, the former Soviet bloc and much of Central Europe) and South Hemis (basically everywhere else). This has the advantage of making both the Americans and Russians as the antagonists and conveniently allowing all the Russian characters to have Anglicized names (yet weirdly, American-sounding accents rather than Antipodean ones).

  • The best-known example is Nineteen Eighty-Four: The world consists of just three super-states — Oceania (the Americas, the British Isles, Australia, and Southern Africa), Eurasia and Eastasia — and the 'disputed territories'. The latter (Africa from the Congo to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, the polar regions, and the Pacific islands) is a permanent buffer zone with control of various regions constantly shifting between the nearest pair of super-states, and where the three powers wage endless war against each other so as to divert resources and attention away from domestic problems. Alliances constantly shift so no side gains an advantage, but officially Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. The "three massive nations" setup may be an Unbuilt Trope; it's unclear, both in-universe to the protagonists and to readers of the book itself, whether all this is fact or propaganda. Oceania might truly control the entire world but frequently attack itself to keep its citizens miserable, Oceania might be a horribly-repressive-but-externally-weak state that frequently attacks itself to keep its citizens cowed, or 'Oceania' might have control of much less territory than it claims.
  • The United States of Africa from the Star Trek Expanded Universe.
  • The Draka series: OK, the Draka empire's insane growth is sort of the whole point, but areas like South America seem to randomly agglomerate for no real reason except to cut down the number of polities in the final wars. This is mentioned in one book. Someone from the Draka universe comes over to an Earth like ours and is astounded at how many countries the modern world has. It's taken for granted due to their world's experience that as the world develops an inevitable result is the reduction in individual states as they all merge.
  • Jennifer Government has the Corporate States of America spanning several continents.
  • In John Birmingham's Wave trilogy a South American Federation controls an unknown number of formerly independent nations including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay. By the third book, Angels of Vengeance there are hints of a grand alliance of the Anglosphere (Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the remnants of the US and Canada) coming together to replace NATO.
  • German sci-fi series Mark Brandis has just two blocks left: The EAAU (European-American-African Union), with Australia as an associated member; and the UOR (United Oriental Republics), Asia except for the Asian parts of the former Soviet Union.
  • The eponymous Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith is a subversion as it's only an empire in the eyes of the humans it's displaced. Yes it occupies much of the northern hemisphere including all of Europe, Russia, China, Japan and most of North America but in reality it's composed of clans who rarely cooperate. Played straight however with Equatoria, descended from the Victorian British Empire which occupies India, the Middle East and the British Empire's African holdings, also with the American Republic which controls Central America, the Caribbean, the Yucatan and parts of South America and the Japanese Empire, relocated to Singapore and controlling Asia east of India and south of China.
  • Half Crown in Jo Walton's Small Changes series involves a conference set in London in which Britain, Japan and Nazi Germany are negotiating spheres of influence, specifically the dividing up of the former Soviet Union and the potential divvying up of the US.
  • In Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series the Grik Empire controls, at least (the exact extent is unknown) India, southern Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Persian Gulf and most of the eastern coast of Africa. Meanwhile the Dominion controls Mexico, Central America and an as yet undisclosed portion of South America. The Alliance is heading in this direction, controlling the Philippines, parts of Indonesia and Australia and most recently, Japan and the Hawaiian Islands voluntarily and Sri Lanka by conquest.
    • It now looks like North America has at lest two more countries one of which pushed the Dominion out of Mexico for a time and their rivals on their other border, plus there's another mystery faction with radio that may side with the Grik.
    • And one led by some Czechen guy that's north of Girk controlled India.
  • In The Martian General's Daughter by Theodore Judson the Trans-Polarian Empire controls North and Central America, Eastern Asia, Western Europe, the Baltic nations, North Africa and Turkey as well as Mars, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and several asteroids. It's in a state of decay however. It used to control the entire northern hemisphere of Earth and by the end of the book the other world colonies have died due to a metal eating plague and both North Africa and Central America have fallen out of it's sphere.
  • Harry Turtledove's Colonization trilogy (the sequel to the Worldwar series) starts in 1962 with Earth divided between only a few states.
    • The Race's Empire controls mainland Latin America, Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Poland, Australia, and all of mainland Asia aside from Indochina and the USSR.
    • The Soviet Union, the US and Canada remain unchanged from 1939.
    • The Greater German Reich rules continental Europe, either directly or through allies such as Romania and Finland.
    • Imperial Japan controls Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines and most of the Pacific islands.
    • The British Empire is a recent memory, reduced now only to the United Kingdom itself.
    • A few other countries such as New Zealand and "Free France" (French Polynesia) are still independent from these main players but they don't really factor into the world's politics.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology takes place in an Alternate History where Jesus was killed as a baby and was replaced by a different Messiah. Thanks to the Redeemer's efforts, the Roman Empire never fell and remains stronger than ever to this day, now known only as the State with its ruler, the Possessor, having his capital in Lutetia (alternate Paris). The State controls most of Europe and has colonies in Africa and the Americas. Several vassal nations serve as the buffer zone between the State and its on-and-off enemy the Russian Khanate (Russia never threw off the Mongol yoke and becomes a mix of both cultures). The Chinese Empire is the most advanced nation in the world and controls most of Asia. The Ottoman Empire is the weakest of the major powers. Smaller nations are mentioned, such as the Aztec Empire that constantly clashes with the State's colonies in America, and Judea, which is a tiny vassal nation of the Ottomans.
  • In the "An Orison of Sonmi-451" segment of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas Nea So Copros controls East and Central Asia and whatever is still inhabitable of Oceania (the Philipines and Indonesia are specifically mentioned). Colonies in Africa are also mentioned.
  • In the Venus Prime series, most of Earth's nations have become part of either the North Continental Treaty Alliance (basically North America, Europe, and Russia) or the Azure Dragon Mutual Prosperity Sphere (China, Japan, and some of the Middle East). There's also apparently an alliance between South America and Africa, and a bloc made up of India and various countries in Southeast Asia.
  • Although it's downplayed because its not the main focus of the book, in the Alternate History classic For Want of a Nail, the German Empire takes over most of continental Europe and absorbs much of the Middle East in a like manner.
  • Greater Brazil in Paul McAuley's The Quiet War controls South America and, in theory North America as well, although most of North America is, at best a frontier, at worst complete wilderness. The European Union and Pacific Community are also mentioned as major powers but not how big they are.
  • The geopolitics of Dante Valentine are a little hazy, but the Hegemony seems to control most if not all of the Americas, while the other major nation, Putchkin, is implied to control Asia.
  • In the future of The Lunar Chronicles, there are only six nations in the world, each of them spanning continents, and together they form the Earthen Union. Emperor Kai rules over the Eastern Commonwealth, which is composed of all of Asia and many of the surrounding islands.
  • In The Compleat Discworld Atlas, many of the countries named in the chronicles are much larger than the descriptions in the books might suggest, to reduce the number of new countries that might otherwise be needed to fill the gaps. The Welsh Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Llamados, for example, is about five times the area of its real world counterpart, and longer than the entire UK. Inverted with a large empty area on the previous map which could have been parts of various countries, but is now known as The Great Outdoors, and apparently consists of several independent cultures who get by without much in the way of government. (According to Bernard Pearson of the Discworld Emporium, he suggested that this area, being of a suitable size and close to Genua, could be Discworld America, to which Sir Terry replied "I don't know if I want it to be Discworld America." There are still some suggestions of this, like the strict Omnian sect who settled on a salt plain.)
  • In the Red Stars trilogy, the alternate Earth is pretty much split between the US and the USSR, the latter of which occupies most of the world, while the former is barely holding on.
  • The prologue of Blind Punch has the world divided into four superpowers: US, Russia, European Union, and New Asia. The four powers are based in megacities that cover pretty much their entire territories. Africa and Australia aren't mentioned at all, although the Antarctic is stated to be the last unsettled continent on Earth, which is about to change with the construction of the Antarctic Megacity. However, the prologue ends with the four largest corporations conspiring to cripple the militaries of the superpowers in order to force the creation of the World Government (to be fair, the superpowers were on the brink of World War III).
  • In Oleg Makushkin's Crystal Lattice, the world is divided into two opposing superpowers: the Cyberempire (also frequently called the Cybercity), largely located on the American continents, and the Gaiian Republic in Eurasia. The rest of the world is composed of city-states that are being quickly gobbled up by the superpowers in an attempt to increase the sides' advantage for the coming war.
  • Inverted in The Wheel of Time: In the 3000 years since The Time of Myths ended, the Westlands were covered by ten nations which fragmented into 30, were briefly reunified into The Empire, and fragmented again. The modern-day nations have contracted to the point that half of the continent is unclaimed, which some characters fear presages the slow decline of civilization into oblivion.
  • In We Are Legion (We Are Bob), Bob is awakened 117 years in the future to learn that the US has been taken over by religious fanatics, who have turned the country into FAITH (Free American Independent Theocratic Hegemony). FAITH now dominates North America. South and Central Americas are, for the most part, in the hands of the Brazilian Empire. The United States of Eurasia controls most of Europe, with China dominating Asia. There's also Australia, but it's a smaller player. There is an African republic, but it's not likely to play a significant part in global politics.
  • The Years of Rice and Salt is an Alternate History novel taking place in a universe where the Black Plague killed around 90% of Europe's population, leading China and the Islamic nations to become the world's two dominant superpowers. By the time the plot gets to the 20th century, virtually all of Africa and Eurasia is ruled by either China or Dar al Islam, while virtually all of America is ruled by the Haudenosaunee League (the Iroquois).
  • Separated at Birth: America and Drakia: Drakia. By the 20th century, they've conquered all of Africa plus the Middle East as in the original series by S. M. Stirling. The US too owns most of the North American continent.
  • Legend Series: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have all united into single countries each. Since most of Europe has been submerged and the United States is divided in two, Africa is one of the world's new three superpowers, alongside China and Antarctica (whose ice has melted, promoting settlement).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Played straight with the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, which used to be composed of seven independent monarchies. When Aegon I Targaryen arrived 298 years ago, he subjugated six of the seven and crowned himself the King of the Seven Kingdoms, beginning a united monarchy. The seventh monarchy, Dorne, remained stubbornly independent, however, and was only integrated by the Targaryens through Altar Diplomacy 189 years later.
    • For hundreds of years, the continent of Essos used to be dominated by an empire called the Valyrian Freehold, which was said to be the greatest state in the Known World. Like the Targaryens after them, the Valyrians achieved superiority through liberal use of dragonfire, an advantage that no other nation possessed. However, since the Doom of Valyria, Essos is back to being fragmented to multiple states fighting for supremacy.
  • Subverted in Terra Ignota. By the year 2454, the world's nations have been superseded and replaced by the seven Hives, but the Hives are "non-geographical" nations that claim no sovereign territory apart from their capital cities. In other words, the entire Earth is a commons where citizens from any number of Hives bump shoulders and sleep under the same roof. There are places where the population is more one Hive than another, but that's about it. Citizenship to a Hive is optional, voluntary, and can be renounced at will, meaning it's possible to be a citizen of no Hive and still live a normal life. The one exception is the United Nations of the Great African Reservation, a pan-African federation of the world's last true nation-states, which the seven Hives have long dismissed as irrelevant to global politics. Book 4 proves this to be a mistake, as while their power is limited, they play a crucial role in bringing World War III to a close.
  • In The Year 2889 extrapolates the imperialism of the late 19th century to the point where the United States controls all of the Americas (and Britain), France controls western Europe and all of Africa, while Russia controls eastern Europe and India.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Very early in its existence, the Sci Fi Channel produced a daily short series called FTL Newsfeed in which the Earth of 150 years in the future has consolidated into six super-states:
    • North American Union: union of US and Canada. Capital: Chicago.
    • European Community: stretches from Ireland to Russia. Capital: Brussels.
    • New Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere: all Pacific Rim and East Asia nations except for Australia. Capital: Singapore.
    • Holy Islamic Federation: formed by Middle Eastern Islamic nations and exerts loose control over all of Africa. Capital: Cairo.
    • Hispanic Commonwealth: Central and South America. Capital: Bogota.
    • Fortress Israel: pretty much the same as today, except surrounded by a unified Islamic state. Capital: Jerusalem.
    • There's also India, but no super-state wants it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk RPG NeoTech combines this with Balkanize Me, some regions balkanizing (eg. North America) and some consolidating (eg. Europe). In Africa countries have been split and joined apparently at random.
  • Done with the first map ever printed of the planet Mystara, which depicted a major hunk of continent as "the Empire of Dorfin IV", and showed the Empire of Thyatis (whose actual boundaries were much less) encompassing the entire "Known World" region. Averted and Lampshaded by Bruce Heard's Voyages of the Princess Ark article series, which revealed this map to be a complete fraud, perpetuated by a Deadpan Snarker who'd named its various Space Filling Empires after his wife, his mistress, and his dog.
  • Averted in the majority of the timelines of GURPS. Even Reich-5, which was conquered by the Axis powers, is still full of minor nations that were too insignificant to directly take over and/or voluntarily joined the Axis.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Special Edition Risk game, the 1-on-1 Black-and-White Morality set up has roughly 1/3 of the territories (most of the unaligned ones) occupied by 2 neutral troops each. This is to help balance the game at the outset, creating enough of a hindrance that neither player can simply sweep across the board on the first turn, but also giving the players a chance to use their strategic defensive positions without having to conquer half the map first.
    • The main Risk series also has this mechanic for two-player games, likely for similar reasons. The difference is that the two Powers choose their 14 territories, rather than going from a list.
  • In BattleTech, the majority of the Inner Sphere is ruled by a grand total of five Feudal Houses.
  • In 2300 AD, Mexico has absorbed all the other Central American countries with the exception of Panama (they also have large parts of California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and for a while they held onto Texas as well).
  • Inverted in Anima: Beyond Fantasy: For several centuries, the (known by humans) world has been under the control of a single empire. After things get messed up, several nations go from declaring independence and opposing the Empire (Azur Alliance) to independize and watch what happens waiting to act with one band or another, or simply ignore all the fuss and go in their own. By far the three major not in the shadows powers are the already mentioned Empire of Abel (much larger and powerful than any other, but with its forces scattered over its entire area) and Azur Alliance (considerably smaller than Abel, but looking for ways to offset that difference of power and with its armies much more concentrated), plus the Holy Church of Abel (very small in geographical terms, but having significant political and especially religious power).
  • In The Hyborian Campaign, Vendhya (which was originally a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of India in Conan the Barbarian) could definitely be considered this by the time the campaign ended. It began conquering minor NPCs, before going on to conquer one of the player empires and then proceeded to subjugate everything between Khitai in the east to Shem to the west. Note that Shem is the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Egypt.
  • Warhammer has several located on the eastern edge of the world map, such as Cathay, Nippon, and Ind (each of which is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to, respectively, Imperial China, Feudal Japan, and Ancient India). Cathay would end up being Unseen No More almost thirty years after the game launched, being given Adaptation Expansion in Total War: Warhammer III (with GW confirming most of this content would be backported into Warhammer: The Old World).

    Video Games 
  • Done in the online game The Spectrum Wars, dividing the earth up into major regional power blocs in order to lessen the disparity in power between major superpowers and the third world. For similar reasons, the United States and its military was usually split in half by a civil war in the backstory.
  • Space-filling empires are the typical result of a game of Civilization or Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Justified in the case of the latter, as there are only seven groups of human settlers, and a few of them usually get eaten up. Civilization will sometimes have "Barbarians", who may have cities, but they are always hostile, exist to get swallowed by larger civs and never appear beyond the early game.
    • The "minor civilization" mechanic originated in the Rhye's and Fall of Civilization mod, using them in place of pre-unification civilizations (such as with China), for people native to the Americas and Africa that don't fall into one of the base game's civilizations and the remainders of larger civs that fall apart from civil war.
    • The Civilization IV expansion Beyond the Sword comes with a mod called "Next War". There are four states: the Pan-Asiatic People Co-Operative, America Inc., The Great Southern Empire, and Europa.
    • Civilization V tries to avoid this with the concept of "city-states" - smaller one-city landholders that cannot win the game, but which can provide resources and other benefits if appeased. Nothing stops you from conquering them (in fact, the Mongols get bonuses when attacking them), but this is considered very bad form by AI civs.
  • The Strangereal Earth of Ace Combat is less exaggerated than other examples, but still has considerably fewer nations than our Earth. Notably, superpowers Osea and Yuktobania are approximately the size of South America, while the continent of Anea is divided into only three countries.
  • The world of Earth 2150 is dominated by only two nations: the United Civilized States in the West and the Eurasian Dynasty in the East, with the Lunar Corporation controlling all of the Moon. Granted, this is the aftermath of World War III, but there's no reason why there should not have been more smaller empires.
    • There are still independent tribes. It just that they are not of real importance.
  • DEFCON has the entire world split between roughly comparable atomic superpowers, even Africa and South America! The only land that sits out the war is Australia and New Zealand.
  • Paradox Interactive go to great lengths to try and avert this one, typically releasing numerous patches to rebalance nations to stop, for example, France or Ming China devouring all of their neighbours as far as the Caspian Sea in Europa Universalis III.
    • Not that this stops anyone from trying... or succeeding. One player managed to take over the entire world as the Xhosa, a one-province pagan minor country with a built-in technological handicap.
    • In one PVP Balanced designed-for-multiplayer scenario in Hearts of Iron II: Armageddon, the world is divided equally between 18 great powers that each control an equal share of the globe. Due to the certain surrealism of the scenario backstory, variations of the events of the campaign itself can be quite different. For example, it is possible that Russian Empire will oppose the Cossack Union or the CSA will fight against Red Japan (People's Republic of the Rising Sun).
  • To historical sticklers, Total War is considered to be playing this trope despite the above-average number of factions it offers (in some games, upwards of 20). Prior to Empire: Total War, "Independent" regions did exist, but were controlled by the "rebel" faction where each city/region was completely independent from all other "rebel" regions, was incapable of expanding (or even defending its territory properly), any diplomacy with the greater factions (or other rebel cities), and would generally be eaten up by the first empire to send a sufficient number of troops its way. By around 50-100 turns of game-start, there would normally be no remaining rebel territories - the world would be divided between all major factions.
    • Also, smaller countries and/or city-states that in history were quite independent though sharing cultural resemblance to one another were often merged into single centrally-controlled empires. This happened to the Greek City States in Rome: Total War, and most Muslim factions in Medieval: Total War, among others.
    • Empire: Total War changed this a little by introducing lots of "minor" nations that could be engaged diplomatically and would generally behave like the larger factions (with some caveats to prevent them from expanding). Of course, the number of Major factions (empires) vying for power was considerably smaller than in previous games as a result.
    • Inverted in Rome: Total War with the Romans of all factions: Instead of one unified empire, it was split into three houses with agendas in somewhat different areas of the map. Of course, all factions had to stay mindful of the wishes of the senate, but this was more of a guideline.
      • This was done so that 1) The Roman faction wouldn't have to divert it's attention in three different directions at the same time (the Romans are supposed to expand into Gaul/Germania, Spain/Northwest Africa, and Greece/Asia Minor/Egypt/Near East), and the make the Civil war actually work.
    • When the first expansion for the first game came out it had a bug which made the rebels into an organized faction. Since they started with more than half the map but didn't count as a faction when calculating victory it was possible to win by digging in in your capital with your starting units while all the other factions were overrun in the first few turns.
    • Also subverted in the first Total War: Warhammer game. There, races could were limited to certain areas to prevent them from blobbing and keep them more realistic (as in, certain factions wouldn't go certain places because they found it uncomfortable to live in). Imperial Humans, for example, wouldn't move beyond the Grey Mountains or past the borders of Kislev. The Dwarves wouldn't move beyond the mountains, and the Wood Elves of Athel Loren wouldn't leave their magical forests. To facilitate more widespread gameplay in Total War: Warhammer II, this was done away with in favour of a climate system.
  • The second XCOM game, Terror From The Deep, has a multitude of countries creating empires. Notable examples include the United States apparently comprising all of North America, The European Union, Southeast Asia, and the Oceanic Alliance (Japan and Australia being the major participants). Notably, there's also a lot of empty space in the Geoscape, representing countries or alliances that aren't funding the X-Com project, and are therefore not particularly important or worth protecting. According to the backstory, the global consolidation results in 16 recognized nations. Only once is this trend inverted, when Alaska secedes from the US to form the People's Republic of Alaska.
  • In the backstory for the Fallout series, the USA had already annexed Canada and was invading Mexico with the goal of annexing it when the nukes started flying.
  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade uses a "Risk"-Style Map to represent the twenty or so territories being fought over by seven different factions, occupying a single continent. Frankly ridiculous in Soulstorm, where the number of territories is roughly the same... but now spread over four planets. Any given faction could conquer two territories and be ruling over half the planet.
  • In Evil Genius, the world is divided up between several NATO-like alliances with varying degrees of logic. The United States and Japan form P.A.T.R.I.O.T., Europe and her former colonies form S.A.B.R.E., Russia and Cuba are H.A.M.M.E.R., what's left of Asia forms A.N.V.I.L., and the oddest is S.M.A.S.H., an alliance of Africa, South America, and Antarctica.
  • Homefront has North Korea steamrolling right over all of Southeast Asia just like Japan did in World War II, despite there being several very strong armed forces in the area. (It makes a bit more sense when you know the original antagonist was China.)
  • Starsiege, Dynamix's Humongous Mecha Robot War simulator, featured Meta-Nations, nations created from a fusion of countries and corporations in the aftermath of the first unspecified apocalypse. These "Meta-Nats" effectively ended up being entire continents with some sparse subdivisions. Canada, Greenland, the United States, and Mexico merged to form the North American Prefecture, while the rest of Central and South America formed the Inca-Brazil Axis. Everything West of the Ural Mountains became the European Alliance, because China had spread down to India and up to Russia to become Greater China. The response to this was Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and a slew of other oceanic countries (including a chunk of Alaska) uniting to form the Pacific Rim (no, not that one). Not to be left out, almost all of Africa formed United Africa. Finally, the entire Arabian Peninsula and its nearby countries like Egypt, Iran, and parts of both Afghanistan and Pakistan were claimed by the Great Human Empire as their Imperial Protectorate. Remarkably, there is fairly little of the expected squabbling or corporate warfare with seven such powerful groups on the planet, as they do have to worry about a homicidal supercomputer AI somewhere in space plotting total extinction of all biological life on Earth.
  • Rise of Nations has the world conquest mode, which due to its effects on history, typically ends with 3-5 major empires dominating the map. For hilarity, there is nothing forcing these to be the ones that dominated in real life, nor are major monuments limited to where they're supposed to go, which can result in the Lakota invading Britain as a prelude to capturing the Great Pyramid of France.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III has most of the world split up between two mutual defence treaties that intentionally mirror NATO and the Warsaw Pact— the Winslow Accord and the Common Defence Pact. The WA is made up of the US and UK, most of the former EU/NATO nations (since both organisations have collapsed by the 2060s), and various Western-allied countries like Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia etc., while the CDP is led by Russia and comprises most of Eastern Europe, big chunks of Africa (who have their own smaller superstate, the Nile River Coalition), and numerous traditional "bad guy" countries like Iran and Cuba.
  • March of War could be described as Space-Filling Empire: The Game. An Alternate History, Diesel Punk, Weird Historical War game where World War II is a literal world war being fought by six superpowers:
    • The Shogun Empire, the Tokugawa Shogunate turned expansionist conqueror in the 17th Century; rules Southeast Asia from Japan to India.
    • The Soviet Union, founded by the collapse of the Russian Empire in the late 19th Century, secretly backed by meddling European nations. Occupies mostly the same Central Asian territory as the real world Soviet Union.
    • The Latin Junta, a military dictatorship backed by the Soviets to undermine Europe. Controls Central and South America and fights the Soviets to promote its own flavor of communism.
    • The African Warlords, who were inspired by the Latin Junta to depose their colonial overlords as well. Controls Africa though prone to in-fighting and coups.
    • The European Alliance, Europe unites under England, France, and Germany after losing all of their colonies and having half of the world hate them.
    • The United Republic, Canada being annexed by the United States.
  • Mercs of Boom has the world split into the North Atlantic Defense Alliance and the Red Dragon Union. While there are neutral territories, the majority of the surviving population is in either Alliance or Union megacities.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: The Commander's Challenge has a variation where the three world powers (Allies, Soviet Union, and Empire of the Rising Sun) are fought all over the world with little regard for geographic or historical sense (the in-story justification is that the borders are completely messed up after the wars). Thus you fight the Japanese mostly in Asia but also the Caribbean, California or the Atlantic, the Soviet Union in Russia, India, or Australia, the Allies in South America, Europe, Africa...
  • Terra Invicta: The player can enforce this through national unification policies. You can create a Expanded States of America to include Canada and Mexico, create a United Europe with only a little push (and expand it to include the UK, Norway, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia), form the African Union, or either the Arab League or the Caliphate, or do something even crazier like folding Europe into a Russia-dominated Eurasian Union, or uniting Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand into Greater Indonesia. The game also pragmatically incorporates smaller nations into a larger geographic area (for example, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are one "Baltic States" nation; the various Balkan states are similarly two larger nations of that same name, Northern Balkan States and Southern Balkan States, though you can optionally reform Yugoslavia too) because it would be a pain in the ass to manage over two hundred smaller countries.

  • Leif & Thorn: Some regions of the World Map have lots of small (and mostly-nameless) countries, but the whole polar region is simply labeled "Sønheim." In addition, the southeastern part of the continent is mostly covered by a space-filling desert.

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded in Look to the West: much of West Africa becomes officially known as the Space-Filling Empire after its main architects, a Mr. Space and a Mr. Filling.
  • Yakutia in Superpower Empire: China 1912.
  • Decades of Darkness has this with the US which conquered most of the Americas, the Russian Federation which includes most of Eurasia and various member of the Restored Empire like Central Africa.
  • The Chaos Timeline has the New Roman Empire, the Russias and the German technocracy. However, the trope is mostly avoided by introducing "Chaos" - wide areas of the world, esp. in Africa, where the governments change every few months and the borders every few years.
  • The Agglutination and the Americans subdivides the world into 11 supercountries. The titular Agglutination (yes, the bolding is important) was the first to be created and, through various methods, conquered most of South America, southern Africa and parts of Australia, and others (including Hockey Stick!, SuperMexico, *Ia and others) united so they would be better-equipped to fight the nation, once it was clear that the nation meant serious business. In addition, two countries, Russia and North Korea (which now renamed itself to simply Korea) avoided being conjoined into these supernational groups, and a small part of South Africa remains separate from the Agglutination. Their world map looks like this.
  • RWBY takes place on the planet of Remnant. There are four kingdoms - Vale, Vacuo, Atlas, and Mistral - on three continents. There are also a few other landmasses, such as the continent of Menagerie and the island of Vytal.
    • Justified due to the ever-present threat of Grimm, who will invariably attack any settlement without extensive and expensive protections. Even just building new cities requires several times the amount of resources than normal, and still fails ninety percent of the time.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra take place in a universe where there are four nations spread about the planet: Fire Nation, Air Nomads, Earth Nation, and Water Tribe. The Water Tribe occupates two different regions, the North and South Poles, as well as the small Foggy Swamp Tribe in the Earth Nation. The all-but-extinct Air Nomads were traditionally nomadic, though they had four temples that acted as their central bases.

    Real Life 
  • In real life this is often a side effect of the longstanding desire to Take Over the World. Since most political governments want to be as powerful as possible and somewhat understandably conclude the ability to control more territory, resources, and people as making them powerful, many rulers would focus on conquering or obtaining the submission of as many places and their people as possible. This is particularly evident in antiquity, where the idea of universal rulership was much stronger and diplomacy generally weaker, not helped by a fair few people aspiring to be God-Emperor. And a lot of times this works.... until the empire in question reaches the limits of what its politics, technology, and infrastructure can allow, at which point it usually starts to struggle to keep itself together. Precisely because it turns out that there are more things to power than simply "painting the map."
  • The World a few years before World War I. Not only had large parts of the World been conquered by a small number of colonial empires, but also for the Austro-Hungarian, the Chinese, the German, the Ottoman and the Russian Empires, all much larger than each of their corresponding modern successor states and each including territories, which today are separate independent states. The Chinese Empire, however, had already disintegrated before the start of the war in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, and many others would follow after it.
  • Imperial Japan did this in Asia. Before World War II, it already had Korea and a chunk of China. During the war, it gobbled up the rest of China and most of Southeast Asia (Thailand was part of the Axis, so it didn't get conquered). Unsurprisingly, after the war, it lost everything sans the homeland.
  • Europe after World War II. Most countries were allied with (or Puppet States of) either The United States or Soviet Russia, Ukraine, and So On.
    • Josip Broz Tito attempted to create something similar to this in the Balkans during the Greek civil war by making a Yugoslav, Bulgarian, Greek and Albanian Communist union. Stalin, already in charge of the world's largest space filling empire, could not tolerate such a threat even from another communist nation. This led to the Tito-Stalin split.
  • Although they've lost some of their Imperial and Cold War influence, China, Russia and the USA may still be these depending on who you ask. Size aside, the fact that the autonomous regions and states of Russia, USA and China can act as if they were a nation at times supports this.
  • Several nations today are composed of many disparate parts, often unified more for the convenience of colonizers or past empires than any strong shared history. This is basically the norm for the Americas, Africa, and a large chunk of Asia. Not only were large sections carved out by the colonizers, as mentioned above, a lot of them have then gone on to gobble up more territory after gaining independence and nearly all have tried to.
    • Indonesia. It is as large and diverse as the entire continent of Europe, but it's just a single country, and it's an archipelago instead of a continent. There is a historical precolonial precedent for its size, but most historians agree that, outside of Java, the territories' inclusion to the state amounted to nothing more than nominal tributes and it's basically thanks to The Netherlands that it was de facto unified. Even today, the country is still host to more than 600 ethnic groups who have little in common with each other and is why unity (in the face of unimaginable diversity) is emphasized multiple times in the country's constitution.
    • The Philippines is pretty much only one nation because the Spanish grouped it under one name (which itself only referred to the Samar and Leyte Island groups). No one polity had unified a significant fraction of it before, and some southern islands in particular have sustained agitation for separation from the rest of the archipelago for centuries on the basis of religion.
    • British India itself was kinda this (even without the obvious fact that it was part of the British Empire). Barring the fact that it got partitioned into five different countries after independence, the Indian subcontinent is a very diverse place, with hundreds of ethnic groups abounding. Although Indian unity is an old concept,note  the country is not nearly as homogeneous as, say, China.
    • Large nations in the Americas like Brazil, the US, Mexico, and Canada were previously dozens or hundreds of languages, cultures, and nations before colonial powers arrived and filled it all in. In the US in particular, the status of many federally recognized tribes as dependent nation on non contiguous reservations lends itself to an impression of the US as what fills in all the space between the reservations Native Americans were forced on to. Hell, the United States itself takes up a third of North America.
  • In a very dark example, this was the ultimate goal of Nazi Germany during Operation Barbarossa as driven by the ultranationalist Drang nach Osten (Drive to the East) ideal: to conquer all the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe plus Western Russia, and in doing so create a Greater Germanic Reich full of Lebensraum (living space) for the German people. You can see the proposed boundaries for such a Reich here. Naturally, the Slavic peoples already living in those territories would have to be... disposed of.
  • From about 50 AD through about 200 AD, it would've been possible to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean while basically only crossing through four empires. From west to east, you would start in The Roman Empire and make your way through the Parthian Empire to the Kushan Empire before ending up in Han Dynasty China.
  • An Older Than Feudalism example: in its largest extent, The Achaemenid Empire spanned from Northern Greece in the northwest, Crimea in the north, Egypt in the southwest, Transoxiana in the northeast, and the Indus River in the southeast and incorporated an extremely diverse population for its time, including Persians, Bactrians, Indians, Babylonians, Arameans, Jews, Arabs, Egyptians, Lydians, and Greeks. As one historian put it, it was a Roman Empire before there was even a Roman Empire.
  • Most steppe-based nomadic empires were this.
    • The Xiongnu confederation is an Older Than Feudalism example, ruling the Eurasian Steppe in the 2nd century BCE. Until the era of the Caliphates, it was the largest state in history.
    • The 13th century-era Mongol Empire stretched from the Danube in the west all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the east. With the exception of India, Japan, and parts of Southeast Asia, all Asians were subject to it. It's the second-largest empire and the largest contiguous empire in history. However, like its nomadic predecessors and successors, it didn't last very long.
  • The earliest Muslim caliphates were some of the largest empires in history. The Umayyad Caliphate, for instance, stretched from present-day Pakistan to Spain, a distance of about 7,500 km, mostly land area. None of its successors were able to equal (let alone surpass) it in terms of area.
  • And depending on how you define an "empire", the Cold War and the resulting hegemony of the United States basically counts. Prior to 1991 the entire world was basically split between two distinct power blocs, and after the fall of the Soviet Union there was now only one power left on Earth.