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Take Over the City

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Perhaps it’s the only city where police officers try to fight his goons with their fists.

"It is only proper that the world be set to rights. However, if we were to unite the entire world the ignorant masses would be unable to keep pace. Therefore, we will start here. And just to be extra prudent and avoid pushing ourselves too hard, we will go one step further and focus here. Conquering one city is a reasonable plan that allows for some leeway for setbacks, don’t you think?"
Lord Il Palazzo, Excel♡Saga

Supervillains are, as a rule, ambitious. From your typical Evil Overlord to a Mad Scientist to a pair of lab mice, any bad guy worth their Spikes of Villainy will have a grand plan to Take Over the World.

Then there’s this brand of villain. Either they set their sights low out of practicality, or it just doesn’t occur to them to aim higher. Whatever the reason, they focus their plans in one specific location - usually the City of Adventure where the heroes happen to also live. Typically, there’s nothing actually special about that particular town or city. No hidden source of power, no Weirdness Magnet attracting trouble, nor any particular personal reason for the bad guy to target the place at all. In some cases, however, the city itself is large and influential enough to control the surrounding area or the country at large. In others that particular location could be Step One in an ultimate take over the world scheme.

Frequently the Evil Plan of gangster-type villains and some street or city-level supervillains, pitting them against the heroes of the same caliber.

There is nothing wrong with such a goal as a one-off scheme. However, when the action is serialized in a Monster of the Week format, the villain’s persistence in trying to take over one specific location can break the Suspension of Disbelief, although there are ways to amend that, assuming the writers care. The villain can be bound by sentimentality (the city in question is the villain's hometown), grudge (the villain specifically seeks to confront the city’s protectors) or simply inability to relocate themselves or the resources they need anywhere else.

In some cases, however, it just seems to never occur to the villain in question to simply move their operations someplace less troublesome. This situation is primarily used for comedy and children shows due to looking like a case of Poke the Poodle.

If someone succeeds in this, it may lead to them declaring "I Own This Town!"

Not to be confused with Taking Over the Town, which involves isolating a town from the outside world so you can loot it.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Numerous villains are out to take over Gotham City, or more specifically to become the dominant crime lord of its' dark and violent underbelly. Penguin, Black Mask and sometimes Two-Face are probably the villains most actually dedicated to this end, but Killer Croc, Bane and even the Joker have all either taken stabs at it or otherwise ended up running the place due to a combination of fearsome reputations and whether or not their rivals happen to be in prison / Arkham at the time.
  • Spider-Man: This was the original ambition of the Green Goblin once he first showed up on the scene, and his initial attempts to kill Spiderman were in the service of that goal- by taking out such a prominent crimefighter, he hoped to make a name for himself in the New York underworld and become the dominant crime boss of the city; however, Spidey frequently foiling his efforts caused Motive Decay and he ended up just being obsessed with tormenting and killing him as an end in itself. Nonetheless, the goblin has made several attempts over the years to become the dominant crime lord, and while he rarely achieves it he always manages to cement himself as a major power player who commands the fear and respect of even super-powered felons.
    • In the 70s, Spidey got embroiled in a gang war between Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead for control of the city, with the Jackal becoming involved as well, although the latter was really just playing the other two in order to get to Spiderman himself.
    • The plot of Spider-Island is that the obscure but powerful bug-themed villainess the Queen teams up with the Jackal to take the city over, starting with giving everybody in New York the same powers as Spiderman with a virus that eventually turns them all into spider-monsters under the Queens control. Her original appearance also consisted of this, using mind-control on a sizeable chunk of the population who happened to have latent insect DNA in their genetics.
  • Judge Dredd: There have been several villains who have tried to take over Mega-City One as their main goal. Some have succeeded, albeit temporarily. However, because the Mega Cities are so massively huge it's more Take Over The Country in practice.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Black Lagoon fanfiction Sweet Attack by unkeptsecret, Rock Okajima becomes the de facto crime lord of Roanapur at the end of the story. This is accomplished by blackmailing Mister Chang’s triads and Balalaika’s Hotel Moscow. Rock eliminates the forces suppressing the city’s free press, which threatens to bring international attention to the city.
  • A Man of Iron: Near the end of A Crack of Thunder, Doom takes control of Qarth from the Pureborn and the Guild after they weaken themselves fighting each other following the deaths of the Warlocks and the Thirteen.
  • Invader Zim: A Bad Thing Never Ends: In his introductory chapter, Aldrich Coathanger admits to Dib that he intends to get elected Mayor of The City as a step towards his larger goals.

    Films — Animation 
  • Tekkonkinkreet: The central district of "Treasure Town" is controlled by the Cats, orphans with attitude. They are locked in a tug-of-war with the Yakuza, and later a mob-funded developer who has an eye on converting TT into a gaudy theme park.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Double Dragon (1994) film has Big Bad Koga Shuko stating this during a rant.
  • Casanova Frankenstein from Mystery Men built a Doomsday Device with which he planned to ... do something really evil to the city, it’s not entirely clear what his plans are, he is after all insane.
  • The Dark Knight Rises holds all of Gotham City, blowing all but one bridge, and warning that any one that leaves or comes will detonate an improvised nuclear bomb. (Continuity Nod to "Batman: No Man's Land".) Bane and cohorts don't really want anything than the eventual and total destruction of Gotham—but not before torturing a crippled Bruce Wayne by letting him watch his city fall apart. Bruce gets better.
  • Professional nogoodnik Simon Phonix managed to take over Los Angeles in Demolition Man. Upon awakening in a peaceful future, he decides the city-state of San Angeles will be easy pickings.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Griffin allies himself with Dredd's Evil Twin Rico to depose the ruling Chief Judge Fargo and dismantle the Council of Five so he can rule Mega-City One alone. Until Rico betrays Griffin and plots to replace all the Judges with his own clone stock.
  • In Dead in Tombstone, Red's plan shifts from stealing the gold being held in the bank to taking over the town so he controls the gold mine. After killing The Sheriff, he appoints himself the new sheriff and the mayor.
  • Discussed in the 1960s Batman: The Movie where, upon learning that four different rogues have teamed up to "take over...", Chief O'Hara wonders if that means Gotham City, and Batman impatiently says that any two of them would try that. "the whole country" would supposedly account for three. Four: The entire world. At least. (Though in practice, their goal ends up being holding the oblivious world leaders for a straight cash ransom.)
  • In BloodRayne II: Deliverance, Billy the Kid takes over the town of Deliverance and ensconces himself in the mayor's house. However, ruling the town is just one step in his larger plan.
  • In The Car: Road to Revenge, the Big Bad Talen is an Evilutionary Biologist seeking to create an army from the gangs of the city: cybernetically enhancing them and arming them to seize control of the city.
  • In John Wick: Chapter 2, the mafia boss who forces Wick back into the assassination business makes a play to get into the seat at the international "High Table", and the projected next step is that he wants to take over New York City — enough so that it stands to contradict an existing powerful figure in the underworld who surreptitiously helps Wick bring him down before his plan can really get traction.

  • Many villains of Discworld set their sights on ruling Ankh-Morpork
  • The protagonists of The Secret History develop an effective plan to take over Hampden town, the bucolic locale of Hampden College — but it’s all just a chilling intellectual exercise.
  • Despite the fact that God created the entire Universe, Satan only ever seems to concentrate his efforts on the Planet Earth.
    • This is a major plot point in C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy. The reason God focuses so much on earth is because none of the other planets fell; all the others are still aligned with God and it's explicitly stated that if Satan attempts to go further than the moon's orbit, the other unfallen angels would force him back in. The second book in the trilogy revolves around Satan's attempt to spread his influence to another planet by piggybacking on a space traveler. In the third book, it turns out that Satan got Hoist by His Own Petard by doing that. The unfallen angels are forbidden to interfere directly in Earth's affairs... unless the demons were to provoke them, in which case they are allowed to respond.
  • None of the villains in Septimus Heap seems to have ambitions that go past the Castle walls.
  • In The Girl Who Would Be King, Lola declares herself King of Los Angeles.
  • Coil from Worm has this as his midterm goal—he intends to take over the city of Brockton Bay, not only the underworld but also every aspect of the local government from the police to the mayor himself. To do this, he bankrolls two teams of supervillains to do jobs and eventually openly take parts of the city, all the while using his control of the media to run a smear campaign against the local heroes for their apparent inability to stop his proxies. Then, he fakes his own death in an attempted coup that discredits the heroes and their local government superior, before replacing said superior with his own secret identity. At that point, he was effectively Running Both Sides and could control the conflict at his leisure, and if Skitter hadn’t shot him in the head, he would have steadily phased out the supervillain control over the city in order to spread his influence through them to other nearby cities, leaving him in total control with none the wiser. Coil does admit his real goal is to try to Take Over the World... but he's aware that such an undertaking will take a very long time, so he's just focusing on the city for right now.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Los Angeles was the first to fall following Jasmine’s birth on Angel. Since anyone who gazes upon her immediately becomes her devoted servant, it didn’t take long for her to realize the enormous potential of live television. L.A. is later declared the "First Citadel of Jasmine". This particular example is an Inverted Trope, since life under Jasmine’s iron fist isn’t so bad. (Angelinos are seen wearing pink, listening to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys, and even rich pricks in BMWs are happily giving pedestrians the right of way.)
  • While after world domination and despite the fact they were on a moonbase capable of transporting their monsters anyplace they wanted, the first Big Bads of the Power Rangers series always and without exception attacked Angel Grove. At one point, when the Rangers were going to Australia, Lord Zedd (before beginning a recharge process) lamented missing the chance to attack Angel Grove without Ranger interference, even though there's no real reason to prioritize that one city. Later series give reasons:
    • Divatox of Turbo and Astronema of Space were after the Rangers to begin with.
    • In Lost Galaxy, Scorpius wanted the Lights of Orion hidden on Terra Venture, Trakeena wanted to take out the Rangers for taking out Scorpius, and Captain Mutiny enslaves the population of any ship or station that ends up in his territory and the Terra Venture just happened to be unlucky enough to find itself in his path.
    • In Lightspeed Rescue, the demons can only regain their full power if their palace is recreated upon their sacred ground. That means the human city that now resides there is out of luck!
    • In Time Force, the prison was teleported back in time by a device suffering from It Only Works Once. It's not mobile like past villain bases, so they're limited to the city they landed nearest.
    • In Wild Force, everything's not limited to one city. Orgs can arise from pollution anywhere, but the Rangers have a flying island. However, the city of Turtle Cove is an important recurring location (that turtle-shaped lake is where the turtle-shaped flying "island" was separated from the Earth, and was the site of the last battle between Animaria and the Orgs, meaning it's a good place for hidden zords, sealed villains, etc.
    • Ninja Storm is another series where getting rid of the Rangers is a main goal from the start. Lothor wants to wipe out all the secret ninja academies, so the city closest to the last one is in for a rough year.
    • Dino Thunder has a formerly-human villain whose minions teleport via portals that have to be established in a certain place ("invisiportals" are only visible when someone's actively entering/exiting one so it can look like the usual teleportation, but it's not.) It's a long walk to anyplace beyond the Portal Network.
    • SPD: ...Good question. However, battles have taken place outside the main city a time or two.
    • Mystic Force: The rift between dimensions is in a forest outside the city, making it ground zero for a battle for three worlds. We do see several locations in the mystic dimension, though.
    • Operation Overdrive: Explicitly not limited to one city, with a lot of globetrotting from beginning to end. It's not until mid-season that we find out the name of the city the Rangers are based in. If it gets targeted, it's usually for the explicit purpose of drawing the Rangers out.
    • Jungle Fury: Another situation where the villains don't have the means to target any place on Earth whenever they want.
    • RPM: In this Darker and Edgier Alternate Universe series about protecting the last humans of a Post Apocalyptic Earth, the reason Venjix only attacks the city of Corinth is that it's the only one, after all else was razed to the ground. It's also established that in the rest of the Venjix-occupied world, he's got lieutenants other than the usual villains. He does have the rest of the world covered. At the least, we know there are facilities that use human slave labor, and we know mid-season addition Kilobyte and team-up villain Professor Cog were doing something before their onscreen debuts.
    • Samurai: Another with little justification. The lack of transportation for the Rangers (who don't have anything like teleporters or super-vehicles, though presumably the Samurai Battlewing Mecha Expansion Pack makes them much more mobile) means that attacking a city not within walking distance from the Shiba house should give Master Xandred a blank check to wreak as much havoc as he likes.
    • Megaforce: No reason here; maybe it's the MMPR homage. Villains who've overrun the galaxy won't try to overrun the next city over.
    • Dino Charge: This is another one where the Rangers are the objective. They're powered by six of the ten Energems, the bad guys want the Energems. When it comes to looking for the remaining four, though, that can take place away from the main city.
    • Ninja Steel: The Rangers are again powered by the artifacts the villains have come seeking. No point in attacking some random town that doesn't have the Ninja Power Stars, the Ninja Nexus Prism, or Ninja Steel (the substance.) Unfortunately, that means you keep running into Ninja Steel (the team.)
  • As for the other Saban Toku series, Crossworld City is the location of the dimensional rift in VR Troopers. Dregon's got no good reason to focus on Leawood but the Masked Rider would follow him anywhere so it doesn't matter what city he strikes first; he's also got the secondary goal of getting his hands on the Rider powers. The first Beetleborgs villains, the Magnavors, had no reason to focus on one city but the second batch, the Crustaceans, had the 'no real ability to attack the rest of the world' issue.
  • Justified: This is the objective of Villain Protagonist Boyd Crowder, and of a succession of antagonists, all of whom wish to bring Harlan County under their own control.
  • In season 3 of Arrow, Brick does this to The Glades. He forces the mayor to remove all police presence from the district, allowing him and his thugs to rule it as their personal fiefdom.
    • In the back half of Season 6, Ricardo Diaz effectively assumes control of Star City by paying off or blackmailing most key officials, and killing those he's unable to do either to. By the last quarter of the season, it appears as though Oliver and Quentin, in their roles as Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectfully, are the only major government figures not under Diaz's control, and the SCPD is staffed solely by Dirty Cops on Diaz's payroll (the corrupt Police Commissioner having fired all the good ones).
  • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk wants to do this to Hell's Kitchen in particular and all of New York City in general; justified in that he is from Hell's Kitchen himself and honestly believes his brand of organized crime and corruption is better than the Wretched Hive he perceives his old 'hood to have become.
  • On LazyTown, Robbie Rotten has no interest in meddling in affairs anywhere beyond the titular burgh of LazyTown. In one installment, he even briefly manages to install himself as mayor by dressing up as the town's real mayor, Mayor Meanswell, and hiding him away.
  • Black Saddle: In "Client: Travers", rancher Hannibal Pardee is either buying out or driving out everyone in the town of Latigo, so he can kill the town which he blames for the death of his son.

  • Wily in the works of The Protomen doesn’t even start out looking to conquer a city - it’s basically a glorified mining camp at first, and only becomes a city when his robots rebuild it. Everyone treats his rule over "the city" as being synonymous with total conquest of the entire world.
  • Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died" tells a story as if one night, Al Capone simply tried to take over the town of Chicago with his gang and was defeated in a great gun-battle with police.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Final Fight is one of the earliest arcade examples. The Mad Gear gang has the stones to kidnap the Mayor’s daughter. When they give Mike Haggar the "I have your daughter" speech, they mention that the last mayor was satisfied with the "little bonus to [his] paycheck", indicating that they intend to take over the city via the more realistic means of having the mayor's office in their back pocket.
  • Ditto with the Genesis counterpart, Streets of Rage, where the criminal mastermind Mr. X repeatedly tries to take over the same city, even when he gets reduced to being a Brain in a Jar in the 3rd game. By the time of the 4th game, he's Killed Off for Real, but his children continue his legacy of overtaking Wood Oak City.
  • Solidus Snake tried to seize Manhattan island in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, pulling it "offline" with a high-altitude nuclear strike and frying its electrical grid. This is another of ‘‘Metal Gear’’’s homages to Escape from New York.
  • In the prologue of Nightshade (1992), the costumed gangs of Metro City descend into all-out warfare when the city’s superhero is murdered. Out of the chaos arises Sutekh, an Egyptian-themed supervillain, who unites the gangs into a single, powerful force.
  • Many Wide-Open Sandbox games feature this when you’re limited to a single city.
    • The Grand Theft Auto series had you conquering either Liberty City or Vice City. Though Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas upped the ante and gave you three cities to conquer. Interestingly, this is only true of the PS2 trilogy; earlier titles (and the ones to follow) focus on just scraping by in the criminal underworld, usually resulting in fleeing town altogether.
    • The first two Saints Row games has you taking over Stillwater not once, but twice. Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV focuses on a new city, Steelport.
    • Although predating Third-Person Sandbox Games. Gangsters for many PC gamers in the late 90's get to play as mobsters in the The Roaring '20s. The very whole game and concept is to Take Over the City by any means necessary.
  • Fed up with Kirkwall’s corruption, the qunari attempt this trope during Act 2 of Dragon Age II.

    Web Animation 

  • The Order of the Stick has Daimyo Kubota, a card-carrying evil aristocrat who schemes to take over Azure City, and still plots to assassinate its lawful ruler even after its entire population has been displaced. His main mistake is severely underestimating Vaarsuvius’ ruthlessness and sociopathy. Azure City is a city-state (ie. a city and a loyal surrounding countryside to supply it with food and raw materials.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Played for laughs in a background gag. The fellow who desires to wrest Paris from its Master has a poster on his wall: "Today Paris! Tomorrow Paris! Don't get greedy!"
    • Tiktoffen got it into his head to replace the Heterodyne in Mechanicsburg, even building a special armband that allowed him to control the Castle, and preventing it from harming him even after he harmed Agatha. Der Kastle was not entirely pleased, and once Agatha brought a wrench to a knife fight, DK let its displeasure be known -but quickly, since it did kind of like him.

    Web Original 
  • Ink City has to deal with this, primarily from Trevor Goodchild, who wishes to turn it into New Bregna. Several other villains have also planned to do so, while many of the regular residents respond to any public threats of this with eye rolling and sarcastic commentary.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In Professor Finbarr Calamitous's first appearance, Jimmy assumes he's planning to take over the world, but he says he's going for something smaller. Jimmy scales his thoughts back to the city and its surroundings, and Calamitous agrees.
  • In Aladdin: The Series, most villains really only want to take over (or destroy) Agrabah. Even Jafar in the first movie, though he definitely cared about having a lot of magical power, never seemed to extend his political reach beyond Agrabah. Lampshaded by Hades in the Hercules: The Animated Series crossover who points out how Jafar is going on about being a sultan when he has the chance to rule the heavens.
  • ReBoot: Megabyte's primary goal is to simple conquer the city of Mainframe and convert it into Megaframe. He'd prefer to take over the Super Computer, but until he gets access, he'll take what he can get.
  • The Legend of Korra: In a change of pace from usual Avatar-verse villains, Book 1's Big Bad, Amon, is primarily focused on just Republic City. Justified in that said city is the economic and technological center of the Avatar world.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Doofenshmirtz's primary goal is to TAKE OVER THE ENTIRE TRI-STATE AREA! (Secondary goals: Get his daughter's approval, humiliate his popular brother.)
  • Teen Titans: The conquest or destruction of Jump City is the goal of several villains, most notably Slade whose motives for wanting such are never explained, putting them at odds with the titular heroes who are based there.
  • Cedric the Sorcerer's goal in Sofia the First is to take over Enchancia, mostly with the magic of the Amulet of Avalor which Sofia currently possesses.
  • The limited geographic scope of the series meant that this was the limit of the ambition of SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron villains. Aside from Mutilor who came from space and therefore introduced a larger scale of action. Even Turmoil who was from some unnamed other country limited her sights to Megakat City.
  • In the Trolls: TrollsTopia episode "Smooth Operator", Chaz tries to take over Trollstopia so that it's solely dedicated to his music. It backfires on him when he finds out that the child Trolls aren't affected by his music.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Night Out," a disguised Lord Dominator fleetingly altered her usual goal of total galactic destruction to simply taking over an urban planet where she and an unwitting Sylvia had been painting the town red. She quickly reverted to type after Sylvia refused her offer.
  • In the episode of Xiaolin Showdown that introduced Panda Bubba, he reveals that his plan to use the Shen Gon Wu is simply to take over the criminal underworld of Hong Kong.

    Real Life 
  • A group calling itself the United Nuwabian Nation of Moors sought to do this when it moved from New York City to the tiny town of Eatonton, GA. Their plan was to buy a big section of cheap land for their compound, integrate themselves into the area, and have their members run for local elections in order to control the city government. Their plan failed; their leader Dwight "Malachi" York was arrested on numerous child molestation charges and the compound was sold, then demolished.