Han Solo: It's too big to be a space station.
Luke Skywalker: I have a very bad feeling about this...
Characters traveling in an unfamiliar area choose to stop at a landmark. They discover that it's not terrain, it's something, and much bigger than that something has any right to be. Often accompanied by a Reveal Shot.
Common Subtropes of this trope include characters finding out that the giant crater is actually a giant footprint, or that the asteroid cave you're hiding in is a giant space slug, or that a mountain, hill, or island is a sleeping giant/troll/turtle/earth elemental. Sometimes, the elephant is the room, metaphorically, and entire world you're on is a giant turtle. Or maybe it's still just the kind of place you thought it was, but alive.
For ships/stations that may literally be confused with moons (or planets), see Planet Spaceship. See also Big Dumb Object and Dyson Sphere. If it's a real-world location, may overlap with Weaponized Landmark. Whatever the actual object turns out to be the discovery of it can often lead to an Oh, Crap! moment. Contrast No Mere Windmill, Genius Loci.
- Space Battleship Yamato: Gatlantis from the second series. To put it in perspective, a Death Star-sized comet with a massive, almost-invincible mobile fortress installed, covered by an artificial barrier that initially causes the fotress to be mistaken for a quasar.
- Digimon Tamers has a forest that turns out to be Xuanwumon of The Four Gods.
- Digimon Savers takes it a step further with El Doradimon, which — much as its name suggests — houses a forest and a full-functioning city on its back.
- Taken even further in Digimon Xros Wars with KingWhamon, who makes himself look like an island!
- In Dragon Ball Z:
- Freeza briefly mistakes Goku's Genki Dama for one of Namek's three suns. The second he figures out it's not, he freaks out.
- The Big Gete Star in The Return of Cooler.
- In Dragon Ball Super, the unnamed planet on which the tournament between Universes 6 and 7 took place turned out to be the final Super Dragon ball.
- GaoGaiGar FINAL features a case of That's No Sun. Upon arriving to the Trinary Solar System and the Repli-Earth, the GGG eventually discovers that the system's "Sun" is actually Pisa Sol, the 11 Masters of Sol's regeneration machine.
- Girls und Panzer: "Is that a gate, or a wall?" No, just a Panzer VIII Maus...
- The moon of Endless Illusion in GUN×SWORD is actually a monitoring station for the prison planet below. Pulling it closer is a key part of activating the Claw's "Birthday" system.
- Inuyasha has both a cave that is a giant stomach that eats miko that come in there and a yōkai that looks like a hill when it's sleeping (which he tries to always be) and had an object that prevented him from being detected.
- Kaiju Girl Caramelise: When Yuu Okada is rowing a boat at Okutama, he steers it into what looks like a cliff that hadn't been there previously. It's actually Harugon, who only appeared so abruptly because Kuroe had transformed into the monster a few second ago.
- In the dub for Martian Successor Nadesico, when Yurika is shown a Jovian colony fortress, she immediately says: "That's no space station, that's a moon!"
- Mazinger Z: Salude, The Dragon Baron Ashura's submarine fortress was simultaneously a Cool Ship and an Island Base camouflaged itself like a real island (it had two parts: the lower part was a submarine Home Base and the upper part was an artificial island. Both parts were interconected via a tube. When Salude surfaced, only the upper part was visible). The first time The Hero Kouji saw it, he exclaimed: "That is not a island!"
- The "island arc" of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water ends with the heroes discovering that the island they've spent the last five episodes on is a spaceship about nine times bigger than the submarine from which they were shipwrecked.
- Inverted: Jiraiya once made a trap that consisted of a restaurant that was really a toad. A regular-sized toad◊.
- Way later in the manga, the trope is played straight as the moon is revealed to be the container of the Ten-Tailed Beast, which was sent into space by the Sage of the Sixth Paths. Well, technically it is the moon (as in a giant rock orbiting earth), it's just that it was made artificially and contains something inside of it (not all of it).
- One Piece:
- Luffy spends much of the Skypeia arc inside of a giant snake, which he believes to be a cave.
- Also, the 12th Anime opening features a Turtle Island.
- Laboon the whale is mistaken for an iceberg when the crew first met him. The inside of his stomach is also decorated to look like the outside ocean, complete with -stomach-acid-proof island.
- Warship Island is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. An island that looks like a warship.
- Thriller Bark. It looks like a haunted island, but it's actually a ship.
- The manga version of Johji Manabe's Outlanders reveals, much like Mutineer's Moon and Gurren Lagann, that the moon is the ancient Precursor battleship "Dora".
- Both averted and played straight in The Girl Who Leapt Through Space. Averted in that, while Leopard does have a giant antimatter cannon, his body is also a perfectly fine, perfectly habitable space colony, just as it looks like. Played straight when part of the St. Artemis Rehabilitation Center, located on the Moon, turns out to be merely the tip of a segmented, mobile space colony controlled by Nerval when it emerges from the regolith (and probably megaregolith below, considering the size) to confront Leopard.
- Orguss 02: The island retreat of Prince Perion of Rivilia turns out to be the burial ground of an incredibly powerful Decimator in pristine condition.
- Used and triple-subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where the moon is used by the Anti-Spiral to exterminate humanity by letting it crash on the earth, only to be revealed to BE an operation base, only to be revealed to be in fact Lordgenome's ancient battleship, the Cathedral Terra. Once Team Dai-Gurren claim it, they tug the real moon from hyperspace back to its original place.
- Happy Heroes: In Season 8 episode 13, everyone is trying to pull a piece of wood out of a big rock, with Happy S. suspecting it's the Lightning Staff. The rock is actually a big monster who is irritated by the object lodged in the top of him.
- Cardfight!! Vanguard: Many large buildings such as castles or hospitals are actually building-shaped golems.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Island-Fish Jasconius◊. A direct reference to the Arabian Nights source.
- In the Shadowmoor expansion, many of the giants have been sleeping for so long, the earth has folded over them and grasses and trees grow on their backs. They're often mistaken for mountains... at least, until they wake up. Similarly, the Knollspine Dragon slumbers in the form of the oddly-shaped Spinerock Knoll while the plane is in its peaceful, pastoral Lorwyn phase.
- The long-running Weatherlight Saga of books eventually revealed that the Glitter Moon, one of Dominaria's two moons, was actually a giant orbital weapon charged with insane amounts of mana.
- Greater Stone Spirit is an Elemental Embodiment resembling a mountain with legs and a head, and is, seemingly, easily mistaken for a regular peak when inactive.
Having charted their way up the difficult face, the two mountaineers had to contend with the mountains decision to stand up.
- Arixmethes is an enormous Kraken that passes off easily as a landmass. Functionally, it enters the battlefield as a land, and will not act like a creature until the player puts in effort to remove its slumber counters.
- In issue #10 of The Authority, the Engineer kills a huge alien parasite. In the middle of fixing the damage it did she looks up at the sky and mentions that it looks like an eclipse of the Sun. Turns out a giant alien is the thing that's eclipsing it.
- The DCU:
- Alien malcontent Bolphunga the Unrelenting decides to take on Mogo, rumored to be the most formidable of the Green Lanterns. After years of mapping the planet Mogo is said to reside on, he realizes with great horror that Mogo is the planet by the fact that all the forests of the world form a Green Lantern Ring.
- In a Justice League of America story by Grant Morrison, Starro the Conqueror makes a big entrance. Flash sees what looks like a new land mass near Canada on the monitor, and J'onn flies off to investigate. Then the storm clears, and J'onn realises he can see Starro... from orbit. Aquaman later tries to make contact with it, and wonders why he can't see it. And then the ocean bed blinks.
- The DCU also has artificially built planet Legion World, although there is no horrified realization involved.
- When Superman and Supergirl first encounter Mongul's War World, they use their telescopic vision to examine a city on its surface. They think that there's a very high wall behind the city, so high that it extends above their field of vision, but when they "zoom out", the wall turns out to be the side of a VERY large missile.
- In Supergirl storyline Bizarrogirl, the Girl of Steel approaches a huge ship orbiting Bizarro World, and sees it isnt a ship but a moon-sized Planet Eater monster.
Supergirl: It's not a ship.
- Doctor Strange:
- When Doctor Strange goes to confront Shuma-Gorath on his home world, he sees only a large mountain. Then the "mountain" opens its eye...
- In a Marvel Fanfare one-shot, he goes into a strangely deserted city which has a warm, skinlike texture and a subtle hum in the air. Near the end, he realizes he is standing on the back of a sleeping giant... who is waking up.
- In Doom Patrol Danny the Street is a cross-dressing street. Some people are surprised by this.
- Marvel Comics:
- Ego The Living Planet sometimes disguises itself as a paradise world to lure space travelers to its surface and devour them.
- On a smaller scale, Krakoa is "The Island that Walks Like a Man."
- Smaller than that, Spragg the Living Hill.
- In Lanfeust of Troy, the gang at one point explores a huge island. Later, they reveal that it is not an island, but a huge creature. And not just any creature, the Magohamoth itself!
- The Sandman features the duel between Morpheus and Doctor Destiny, where Doctor Destiny believes he's finally destroyed the Dream-King because he's found himself on a featureless white plane. Pull back to reveal he's actually in the palm of Morpheus's hand...
- In the American Gothic arc of Swamp Thing, various mystical characters faced off against the Great Evil Beast, which appeared to manifest as an immense, slug-like dark form, covered by what was described as "a cowl of bone as thick as a continent". It's later revealed that what they were attempting to fight was the tip of one of its fingers, complete with the fingernail.
- In Sonic the Comic story "The Return of Chaotix", Charmy think's that a massive rain storm is soon to happen, judging by the large cloud moving their way. Sonic is terrified, noticing that the "cloud" is actually "thousands of Metallixes, blotting out the sun"!
- Tom Strong:
- Tom Strong meeting the Pangaean for the second time. "Ah. I see. You are the landscape."
- Similarly, the Modular Man is now Venus. The planet.
- Played straight in an issue of Astonishing X-Men, where what is previously thought to be a moon turns out to be a station. Lampshaded by Beast, who says "You know, I thought I'd have a lot more fun if I ever got to say this... That's no moon..."
- And then again, when the giant missile they went there to stop turns out to actually be a giant bullet.
- A two-issue story in Quasar had the eponymous hero sent to investigate strange energy readings. When he gets there all he and his companions see is a trinary star system, unremarkable besides the stars all being implausibly close to each other. It's only until he investigates further that they all realize it's not three stars but a singular, utterly massive Energy Being.
- Calvin and Hobbes features "Spaceman Spiff" exploring an alien landscape that turns out to be alive. The last shot reveals that Calvin, in classic six-years-old fashion, is crawling over his father's sleeping body. This happens twice. On another occasion, Spiff is flying over some canyons that turn out to be part of giant footprints.
- In a throwaway gag for a Sunday strip, Calvin and Hobbes are playing baseball, but Hobbes protests that Calvin's run doesn't count since he didn't touch third base. Calvin then picks up a turtle explaining that "third base" crawled into outfield.
- A Crown of Stars: In chapter 16 Asuka found out that one of the moons orbiting the planet in reality was a humongous space-ship:
Daniel had taken their rescuee off to the clinic, and Ching had told her shed made arrangements to give her a ride in the trainer variant of her usual battle mecha. Asuka had asked where, and Ching had pointed at the faintly visible glow of one of the half-moons overhead. That was no moon, it turned out. It was a ship, part of the Imperial Navy squadron in orbit. A ship big enough to have looked like a smooth bronze-colored moon from the ground.
- In the Inuyasha fic Darkness (ankh-ascendant), Sesshoumaru thinks he's in a cave that smells of Naraku because Naraku has been using it as a lair. He realizes too late that the mountain is Naraku.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged, right around when Freeza notices the giant spirit bomb Goku's forming.
Freeza: What is that? That's not a sun, not a moon, and certainly not a space station!
- Second Wind: Chapter 14.
Sanji: Hey, there's a mountain in the way! I don't think that's supposed to be there!
Luffy: That's no mountain. It's a whale.
Nami: It's too big to be a whale!
- The Tears of Gaia: The... thing in the dimensional rift containing the Tears is so large that Twilight and the others mistake one of its eyes for a moon. Needless to say, when they realize what it really is, they get the hell out of there.
- In Tiberium Wars, a Nod soldier manning a checkpoint gets out his goggles and notices a lot of heat signatures on the road, and wonders where all those buildings came from. Seconds later, a squadron of Mammoth Tanks absolutely flattens his position. Pants are crapped, then obliterated by railguns.
- Parodied and subverted in an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series.
Bakura: That's no toon, it's a space station!... Oh wait, you're right, it's a toon.
- In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, this is the reaction of the Chaotix when they detect into the reactivated Galaxy Crusher, a Demon battlestation the size of a red giant.
Vector: I thought stars were supposed to be, you know, bright.
Espio: That's not a star.
- Torterras never stop growing, and eventually cease to eat or move much, becoming covered by soil and plants and being often mistaken for hills or islands, only revealed when a part of the landscape stands up and walks away. The largest Torterra known so far is the region of Sinnoh itself.
- Hibernating Avaluggs are often mistaken for inert glaciers, and have even been used as part of walls and fortifications by nearby humans, their identity revealed when an attack caused them to awake and go on a rampage.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Sharing the Night, dragons are immortal and never stop growing, eventually become titanic things of earth and rock, enter permanent hibernations and become part of the landscape; most of the world is made up of unimaginably ancient dragons sleeping on top of and around each other, something most people don't realize unless something wakes the dragon up. The ones described in the story include Whiskers Whitetail, better known to the ponies as the Whitetail Woods; Emberstoke the Eternal, who in his sleep forms a large volcanic caldera; and Tartarus, who when awake decided that the best way to contain powerful, evil creatures was to devour them and imprison them in his cavernous gut.
- The MLP Loops: Inverted. In a Fused Loop with Star Wars, the Imperials notice a space station intercepting them. Darth Vader, who Awoke just moments before, finds it amusing to reverse the line.
Darth Vader: That's no space station. That's a moon.
Imperial Officer: Impossible. It's maneuvering... [trails off as the moon turns to face them with its very distinctive and angry set of craters]
- The protagonist of With This Ring is puzzled at first when he sees Star Conquerors firing a mining laser at Pluto, since he can't see anything living on the surface. Eventually it becomes clear that the entire planet is a containment unit for a dormant Mother Star.
- In Antz, Bala walks up on a plant that is, in fact, a praying mantis.
- In the Fantasia segment Night on Bald Mountain, the peak of the mountain itself is if formed by the demonic Chernabog's enormous folded wings.
- Young dinos mistaking a sharptooth's leg for a tree seems to be required content for any film in The Land Before Time series.
- A hippo and a rhino disguise themselves as rocks during the song "Following the Leader" from Peter Pan. An elephant actually did the exact same thing in an animated short starring Goofy.
- From The Princess and the Frog, when Tiana and Naveen meet the alligators, we get this:
Naveen: I made that promise to a beautiful princess, not a cranky waitre— why are those logs moving?
Tiana: Those aren't logs...
- In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, the crew of the ship ends up on an island. They discover it's a living creature when the Team Pet begins licking its exposed eyeball.
- Subverted in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White falls in a pod and the logs look like actually snapping alligators who tries to bite her. However it's all just a surreal nightmare.
- In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, SpongeBob visits what at first looks to be an ice cream stand surrounded by skulls and bones, but is actually a giant fish and the little old lady who runs it is the fish's tongue. One of its organs looks like a skinless cat that meows.
- Toy Story 3: After escaping a shredder in a landfill, Rex assumes that there is sunlight at the end of the conveyor belt he and the other toys are on, only for him and the others to realize that the light is actually fire from an incinerator they must avoid.
- The Transformers: The Movie: "That's no giant, mechanical moon... it's a Transformer!!"
Unicron: You underestimate me, Galvatron. For a time I considered sparing your wretched little planet... But now you shall witness its dismemberment!
- In Treasure Planet, a crescent moon turns out to be a crescent-shaped spaceport. Likewise, the title planet is actually a giant machine, complete with the obligatory Self-Destruct Mechanism.
- In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, an island out in the sea turns out to be a big fish with an equally large appetite.
- Four astronauts that are highly trained scientists in The Angry Red Planet somehow mistake the forty-foot bat-rat-spider-monkey creature legs for trees while exploring Mars.
- In the movie Behemoth, the title monster's head and neck are as big as a mountain. The rest of its body, or at least its tentacles, is/are so huge it/they caused seismic activity all over the world.
- A similar nonverbal example occurs in the Dutch film Beyond Sleep. Alfred has a dream in which he's climbing a mountain, the ambient sound of breathing and heartbeats all around him. He comes to a spot where he hears running water and starts digging, each strike from his pickax making an audible slosh. Then the mountain sits up and looks at him, revealing itself to be a several-stories-high naked woman. Alfred was digging into her gurgling stomach.
- Occurs at the end of The Deadly Spawn, when the authorities think that they have tracked down all of the monsters, only to have it revealed that somehow the large hill behind the house has been hollowed out by a massive creature.
- Galaxy Quest. Gigantic stack of boulders. Carnivore midgets running away from it. It lives.
- In a possible homage to this, Godzilla (1998) features a character climbing into what he thinks is a digsite but is actually a Zilla print.
- Subtle nonverbal example in Godzilla (2014), achieved by means of clever cinematography. Ford and some other soldiers are doing a HALO jump into San Francisco, which Godzilla has recently ravaged. As they get into visual range of the city, we see Ford's point of view as he scans over the numerous burnt and ruined skyscrapers. Then he catches on to one "structure" that is moving, and sees several of his guys diving right past it...
- In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Methuselah resembles a mountain when slumbering outside Munich, Germany.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: This is no graveyard... it's a chess board!
- In the first of Steve Reeves' Hercules movies, Argo captain Jason steps onto a giant mound of earth to reach a Plot Coupon... but the mound reveals itself to be a dinosaur.
- In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the mountain pass that Bilbo and the Dwarves had to travel on was already precarious but it gets even worse when it turns out they're actually walking along the shins of one of the Stone Giants.
- In the 1970s remake of King Kong, one character falls into a large hole in the ground, which turns out to be a giant ape's footprint.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Merry and Pippin climb a tree to escape a pursuing orc when it grabs Merry's foot and wrenches him to the ground. Pippin lets out a panicked scream... and the tree he's clinging to opens a pair of eyes.
- In Pacific Rim, the men on a fishing boat start heading for the nearest island for shelter when a kaiju alert goes out on the radio. Then their sonar reveals that the island is so near because it's moving toward them...
- Star Wars:
- The trope's name comes from the above quote about the Death Star in A New Hope.
- In the radio adaptation of A New Hope, the dialogue is tweaked a bit:
Obi-Wan: That's no moon, that's a space station.
Han: You're crazy, old man. (approaches Death Star) That's way too big to be... a... space... station... ohboy.
- Darths & Droids has inverted this:
Obi-Wan: That's no space station. It's... the Peace Moon!
- Later, in The Empire Strikes Back, an apparent cave turns out to be an enormous slug creature large enough to swallow spaceships whole. "This is no cave".
- Rogue One outdoes the original, in which the Death Star has a low enough orbit that it eclipses the sun.
- Time Bandits. A ship ends up being a hat worn by a giant.
- In Twister (1996), Beltzer , one of the Members of the Storm Chasing Crew, States while looking at the radar, During a F-3 Tornado, "That's No moon, It's A Space Station! Woohoo!"
- In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, after escaping a group of angry Greninja, the heroes find themselves in a place called the Torterra Garden. Then the mountains start to move. The entire valley is made of Torterra that have been mutated to an enormous size. The whole scene is a reference to Torterra's Pokédex entry, which states that herds of Torterra are often mistaken for entire moving forests.
- In Independence Day, the alien mothership is mistaken for a meteor until it's discovered that it is slowing down as it approaches Earth.
- Happens in Lone Wolf book 20, The Curse of Naar, while the hero is venturing into the Plane of Darkness (the setting's equivalent of Hell). While lost at sea on a small raft, Lone Wolf spots a distant island and heads toward it — until it starts moving and is revealed to be a nondescript giant monster. If the player hadn't picked a magic amulet earlier, Lone Wolf gets eaten by the monster.
- In the second book of Clive Barker's Abarat, there is a "double island" — a friendly creature which head and back look like two rocky islands. It even has a tree on its back.
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen features the baron finding an island that turns out to be a giant fish.
- China Miéville's Bas-Lag Cycle: The Scar, Bellis finds out what it is Armada is looking for by means of a drawing in a book:
She still did not take her gaze from the picture she held: a little man in a little ship on a sea of frozen waves that overlapped in perfect sequence-like fish scales, and below them deeps rendered in crosshatched and tightly spiraled ink, and at the bottom, easily eclipsing the vessel above, a circle in a circle in a circle, vast no matter how vague the perspective, unthinkably big, with darkness at its center. Looking up, looking up at the fisherman hunting his prey.
Sclera, iris, and pupil.
- In Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, the volcano is actually a secret base for the corporation.
- Harlan Ellison wrote one of his better known works, The Chocolate Alphabet, in the window of a Los Angeles bookstore. It is actually a collection of 26 mini-stories, one of which is (approximately): "The Midgard Serpent (from Norse mythology) is not dead, only sleeping. One day, the moon will writhe."
- The Chronicles of Narnia:
- The novel (and the BBC adaptation) of The Silver Chair has Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum stop to look at the far-off gigantic statues lying in a field. Jill remarks on how lifelike they look. Then they stand up and start throwing rocks the size of cars. Fortunately, the giants were throwing at each other as a game; unfortunately, they have lousy aim.
- In the same book, they explore a series of strangely cut chasms. Later, they find out that the chasms were actually letters carved into the rocky landscape.
- In Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, one planet has what are moon-sized alien cabbages orbiting it.
- Frank Herbert's ConSentiency: Whipping Star. Stars are really the visible manifestations of a species of extradimensional beings of unfathomable power. To be more precise, stars are more or less mouths to these beings.
- In Jackie French's short story Dancing Dinosaurs, dinosaurs (and, it is implied, other prehistoric animals) have survived to the present day by disguising themselves as hills around Canberra and only coming out at night. Another That's No Moon moment occurs when a mountain turns out to be an Allosaurus.
- Destroyermen: the crew of the USS Walker end up passing by an island that turns out to be one of those "mountain-fish" they've heard about but didn't quite believe in (think a whale on steroids, capable of swallowing a ship whole). Luckily, a few depth charges, fired from the Walker's Y gun, end up killing it. They later learn that blasting sonar tends to chase away any mountain-fish in the area, so it becomes SOP for all ships traversing seas and oceans.
- The literal nightmare world of Zarathan in the Diadem: Worlds of Magic series is first thought to be a giant dreaming creature, but when a character forces it to wake up, it's actually discovered to be an giant egg.
- The Discworld itself sits atop the back of four gigantic elephants, who themselves stand upon the back of an even larger turtle. Thus, the trope is inverted in The Science of Discworld, when Ridcully dismisses the idea that Earth has turtles of its own because "you don't get giant turtles that small".
- In Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic, a team of thieves find a cave full of diamond stalactites and stalagmites high up on a mountain and think they've hit the jackpot. But the diamond structures turn out to be troll teeth — and still in the huge, ancient troll's mouth...
- This was said to be the root of all the animosity between Trolls and Dwarves. The Dwarves go about innocently mining for diamonds, only to be severely beaten by a Troll who was woken up from his nap by someone trying to steal his teeth.
- In Reaper Man, Death and the Auditors are standing on a flat, whorled plain that turns out to be the fingertip of Azrael, the spirit of Death for the entire universe.
- Earthsea: In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged once goes to an island to fight off dragons. The first dragons are relatively small and easy to defeat... then the castle on the island moves and it's the main dragon...
- The BBC Audio adaption even gives Ged the line "you are right, my friend, that is no tower..."
- The Elric Saga: In The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Elric and a bunch of other incarnations of the Eternal Champion are tasked with destroying two malevolent alien beings. They enter one of what they believe to be the towers of these creatures, but in the end it turns out the "buildings" are rather the creatures themselves. The mooks the protagonists have been fighting inside are the immune system of the creature.
- David Weber's Mutineers' Moon, the first Empire from the Ashes novel: The Moon is no moon. It's a light picket cruiser with enough firepower to make the Death Stars seem weak in comparison, that threw the original Moon into the Sun and secretly replaced it 50,000 years ago. Oddly enough, this is the least outrageous plot point.
- Children's poet Shel Silverstein wrote about "Hungry Kid Island" in his book Falling Up, and drew an illustration showing why it's called that.
- Good Omens: Anathema can't see Adam's aura. A footnote explains that this is for the same reason that people standing next to Nelson's Column can't see England.
- The Goosebumps novel "Ghost Camp" has the campers tell a story about people who hear a strange thumping noise while out in the woods. Turns out the noise is the heartbeat of the giant monster they're standing on. The ghosts who inhabit the camp later create an illusion of said monster to scare the heroes.
- The title planet of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is composed largely of trillions of Sentinels, and there's a Forerunner facility inside, which, among other things, produces said trillions of Sentinels.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hagrid's giant half-brother Grawp is, at first, believed to be some anomalous hillock.
- In the Ray Bradbury short-story "Here There Be Tygers", a group of astronauts exploring space discover that the planet they are on is alive, and able to read their thoughts and grant their desires. It's pretty cool.
- Humanx Commonwealth: In Reunion, Alan Dean Foster appears to play this straight from the Star Wars example, with an artificial object orbiting an otherwise uninteresting gas giant. A bit larger than Earth's moon, it appears to be a colossal space station, or even possibly a warship. However, it one-ups the Trope Namer when it turns out the "moon" is a lifeboat. You know, those tiny things that carry only a small fraction of the parent ship's passengers and crew. Turns out the real warship is the Gas Giant. Said "gas giant" being slightly larger than Jupiter, which is itself 1320 times larger than Earth by volume.
- In H. P. Lovecraft's short story "Imprisoned With the Pharaohs," this serves as the kicker, when the hero encounters a huge "five-headed beast" emerging from the shadows of an Egyptian tomb. This turns out to be only the paw of the gigantic monster that the Sphinx originally portrayed.
- In the Paradox Trilogy, the first time Devi sees a xith'cal tribe ship, she mistakes it for a moon.
- In The Polity novels, the Delta-class are the largest Polity spaceships that can orbit an inhabited planet. The bigger ones aren't allowed as they will disrupt the tides.
- In the first Revelation Space novel, a planet orbiting a neutron star turns out to be a beacon that alerts the Inhibitors, a race of Omnicidal Maniac aliens. The neutron star turns out to be an immense computer. In the sequel, Redemption Ark, the Inhibitors break down three worlds to create an enormous weapon, which is used to turn a star into a flamethrower. The third book in the trilogy, Absolution Gap, a gas giant is revealed to be a transport mechanism for creatures from another dimension. Alastair Reynolds really likes this trope.
- Larry Niven's Ringworld has a super-sized example where the sun that Ringworld orbits can be manipulated to emit photon bursts through solar flares. That's right, a sun-sized laser! The Great Ocean of Ringworld has some surprises of its own. Not only does it contain real "island-fish" that sailors can accidentally land on (see "Mythology", below), but also archipelagos which are precise maps of various populated Known Space planets: Earth, Kzin, Jinx, etc. Precise, one-to-one scale maps.
- The Seventh Tower: Cavernmouths are giant, lightning-fast ambush predators that lurk in caves and open their mouths to fill the cave entrance. Tal narrowly avoids falling victim to one when he realizes that the cave they're about to enter has tonsils.
- A variation in The Shunned House by H. P. Lovecraft: The protagonist digs under the eponymous house and finds a strange, two-foot-thick folded translucent tube. Which, once he gets past his confusion from the scale and seeing it independent of the rest of the owner's anatomy, he realizes is an elbow.
- A "true" story in an English book called The Sleeping Giant that is about an island off the Irish coast coming to life some day in the future.
- One of the Star Trek: Titan novels has the characters notice two odd moons. Too even to be regular planetary bodies; they were computers.
- Star Wars Legends: At one point in Galaxy of Fear our heroes come out of hyperspace and nearly collide with what they first think is a ship, but turns out to be an absolutely vast space station, Nespis 8.
- A Symphony of Eternity has Galiana, which is basically an Up to Eleven Death Star with two beams of energy, a liquid outer hull and a remote controlled mist engulfing it to help confuse the enemy.
- In Black Powder War, we see a mild version when Laurence is asked to evacuate the Prussian Royal Family from the front on Temeraire. Queen Louise waves off concern over this mode of transportation (citing her experience being shuttled about on couriers maybe twice the size of a horse), then asks Laurence "Is that your dragon on the hill over there?"... before the "hill" lifts his head to look at her.
Laurence saw no hill, and then realized she was pointing at the middling-sized Berghexe sleeping on Temeraire's back. Before Laurence could correct her, Temeraire himself lifted up his head and looked in their direction. "Oh," she said, a little faintly.
- In M. Suddain's 2014 novel Theatre of the Gods, the crew of the Necronaut find their ship in a dark, swampy world. It turns out that they were inside a "Sweetie" which is a giant slug-like monster with tentacles and extendable arms. The "Sweetie" they were in was over 10 kilometres long and that was just a pupa. Later on in the book, there's an adult "Sweetie" and it's bigger than many superplanets and easily wipes out a religiously fanatical starship battlefleet. It also easily breaks out of the gravitational pull of a nearby black hole.
- In Venus Prime, Amalthea (one of Jupiter's moons) turns out to be have a huge starship inside it belonging to a race of Starfish Aliens, who had originally come to colonize Venus but failed.
- A Wizard in Rhyme: In Her Majesty's Wizard, there are three hills overlooking the Plain of Grellig. Two of them are the giants Colmain and Ballspear, turned to stone during their last battle. Matthew accidentally resurrects both of them while trying to re-awaken Colmain.
- The Neverending Story: Morla. Atreyu thinks she lives on Tortoise Shell Mountain so he climbs it to find her - only to find out that Morla is the Tortoise Shell Mountain.
- 12 Monkeys: The heroes spend half of Season 2 trying to track down Titan, the facility that the Witness uses as a base, and presumably where his own time machine is located. When they raid it in the season finale, they discover to their shock that the city-sized Titan does not contain a time machine, but that it is a time machine.
- In Andromeda the ship approaches what appears to be a star system. Only it's not, it's a Dyson Sphere. Only it's not just a Dyson Sphere, it's also mobile and equipped with black hole-firing guns.
- The Babylon 5 station orbits a planet called Epsilon 3. Only it's not a planet — it's a planet-sized machine.
- Battlestar Galactica (1978): the Colonials encounter a small ship with a human family. They bring the ship aboard the Galactica. When the father wakes up, he runs out of the ship and assumes that the Colonials are the Eastern Alliance, a fascist nation on the planet Terra (no, it's not Earth). When they tell him that they're aboard a ship, he doesn't believe them, as no ship could be that large.
- Doctor Who:
- "42" has a good take on this trope. That's no Sun. Oh wait, it is a Sun. Oh wait, the Sun is alive...
- "The Beast Below": The Doctor describes Starship UK as "that's not just a ship, that's an idea, that's a whole country". Skyscrapers have neon signs bearing the names of counties. Then it turns out Starship UK's engines are dummies because the whole structure is built on the back of a star whale!
- "The Big Bang": All the stars in the universe have been wiped out so why does Earth still have a sun? Because that's no sun, it's the exploding TARDIS!
- Finally, the most faithful take on this trope possible comes in "Kill the Moon": that Moon really is no moon. It's an egg.
- In the Farscape episode "Green Eyed Monster", the line "That's no moon!" is used word for word by Crichton. It's not a space station however, it's a "budong".
- The Lexx — a city-sized wingless dragonfly — was once mistaken by a low-tech planet for a new comet in the sky.
- In the series finale of M*A*S*H, Klinger points out to Col. Potter the beautiful sunset over the hills. Col. Potter then says it would be a beautiful sunset... if they were actually facing west. He quickly realizes that a fire is approaching, and the 4077th better bug out and fast.
- Quark. The High Gorgon is demanding the surrender of a Proud Warrior Race. They're not impressed until...
High Gorgon: I suggest you take a closer look at my space ship.
Leader of the Spartans: A ship? We see no ship. All I see is a large maroon planet.
High Gorgon: That is my space ship!
Leader of the Spartans: [beat] Just give us a few minutes to move our things out of the palace.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Stargate Atlantis:
- An episode of the original Star Trek ("For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky") had a giant asteroid turn out to be a worldship for an almost-long dead civilization. In a twist, none of the inhabitants knew they were on a worldship until the Enterprise crew told them.
- Star Trek: Voyager
- "Darkling" with a grizzled old explorer in a spacedock talking about a forest-covered planetoid he claims to have once discovered: during an "earthquake", it turned out to really be a gigantic alien creature with its own ecosystem growing on it. However another explorer who visited the same place reckons it's a tall tale.
- In "Basics", the crew are in a cave and decide to follow a breeze to what they think is the outside world. Turns out they're walking into the lair of a large and hungry lizard, and are following its breath.
- Super Sentai: In the finale of Dengeki Sentai Changeman, the Changemen land the ChangeRobo on the Gozma Star where they believe Star King Bazoo is on, only to shortly learn that Bazoo isn't hiding anywhere, his true form is the Gozma Star itself.
- In Arabian Nights, Sinbad the Sailor stops on an island on his first voyage and discovered the hard way that it was a whale. Then he found a huge dome and found out the hard way it was a roc's egg. This same beast, the zaratan, appeared in other Middle Eastern tales. Strangely, it was sometimes a whale, sometimes a crab, and sometimes a turtle, despite the name remaining constant.
- Another huge example from Arabic Mythology is our world resting on the shoulders of Kujata, a colossal bull, who is then standing on the back of Bahamut, an even MORE colossal fish!
- In the Finnish national epic The Kalevala, the mighty giant sage and sorcerer, Antero Vipunen, who lies in the earth dead but dreaming, is often mistaken for a huge cliff, as even trees grow off his body.
- Krakens were supposedly so huge that sailors frequently mistook them for islands, camped on them for the night, and were then drowned as they submerged.
- Norse Mythology:
- In one myth, Thor encountered a strange house while on a journey to recover his stolen hammer: five small rooms letting off a single much larger room. It turned out to be a giant's glove.
- The Earth itself was said to be crafted from the corpse of Ymir, the first frost giant.
- The deceptive whale island is a pretty common theme in medieval literature. There's an Anglo-Saxon poem in which it's a metaphor for the devil.
- Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen sometimes depicted trolls so large that trees grow on them.
- The "Seven Giant Teeth Monster" from Sesame Street.
- In The Devil of Denge Marsh, the second adventure of The Scarifyers, Inspector Lionheart is flying in a small plane towards some listening dishes on the South Coast of England. He exclaims "That's no dish... That's Shub-Niggurath, the Great Old One!"
- At one point in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (original radio show version), the ship's Improbability Drive causes it to rematerialise in what seems to be a strange cylindrical cave on the planet of Brontitall. The cave is a mile deep, ice-cold and apparently carved out of marble. It's also hovering thirteen miles above the planet surface, and eventually revealed to be part of a massive statue of "Arthur Dent Throwing The Nutrimatic Cup" and held up by artistic imperative. Oh, and a society of birds now live in Arthur's right ear.
- The Finnish RPG Astra includes a creature called Parmaelosthu, a giant floating blob that looks exactly like a small island until you try to climb onto it and discover it's made of slime. The book leaves it an open question whether it is intelligent or not.
- Cthulhu Mythos:
- One of the Outer Gods is Ghroth, a moon-shaped planetoid that travels through the universe. Whenever it gets close enough to a planet, it sings a song that brings about the end of the world. The roleplaying game Delta Green has fun with this in a mission where the player characters end up on a Mi-Go space station as Ghroth approaches: "The continents move back, revealing a vast ocean. On a successful Idea roll, the character realizes that the planet is actually opening its eyes. Roll 1d10/1d100 SAN [roll to see how many Sanity Points you lose], and thank you for playing."
- Call of Cthulhu also has an adventure called "Crack'd and Crook'd Manse," where the investigators are called in to figure out why a renowned explorer seemingly vanished from his own home. One of the first things they tend to notice is that the walls are badly damaged by excess moisture... because there's a fricking shoggoth living between them.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Zaratans appear in the Arabian Nights-themed Al-Qadim setting, and have since become a D&D staple.
- Mountain landwyrms are immense dragons with craggy, rock-like scales that blend in very well with their mountainous homes, and it's entirely possible for someone to walk past a sleeping or otherwise still specimen and never realize that the barn-sized dragons is anything other than a rocky outcrop.
- The Immortals expansion of the CD&D rules includes a race of rocky space-dwelling intelligent beings who are commonly mistaken for planets.
- The Elder Evils supplement describes Atropus, an Undead Abomination that is the rotting, undead and moon-sized head of the progenitor of the gods.
- Both the sun and the moon are gigantic eons-old artifacts attuned to the sun god and moon god of the setting, respectively. The Silver Chair of Night is a vast reality engine, drawing in forces from other realms to bring both dynamism and stability to Creation, and the Dirigible Engine Daystar is, aside from serving all of the functions of our sun and fueling Holy effects, the mightiest weapons system Creation has ever known, surpassing even the Realm Defense Grid. The Daystar can also fold itself into a giant robot. And it knows Kung Fu.
- In Shards of the Exalted Dream, two of the new settings have their own additions. In Heaven's Reach, Primordials are known as "Stellar Intelligences" — basically sentient stars, which were created by the Exalted. In Gunstar Autochtonia, the eponymous "Gunstar" is the Primordial Autochton, who has spent the last four thousand years being transformed for war; he's essentially a battle-armed Dyson Sphere with Multiple Personality Disorder. Likewise, Heaven's Reach has Ishiika, the Cosmic Scorpion, a massive space-borne terror resembling a cross between an arthropod and a whirling maelstrom larger than solar system.
- Genius: The Transgression lists this trope as the highest possible size category of Wonders the game's Mad Scientist PCs can produce. It takes one million years for one man with no empowerments to create. With a solid — really solid — gang of igors, a good lab, and help from plenty of other Geniuses, you can cut it down to ten years pretty easily.
- Legend of the Five Rings features the Kusatte Iru, a sleeping demon so large that humans can navigate its blood vessels like tunnels.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- This crops up occasionally, usually as a Necron construct. Usually these are the tombs on Necron Tomb Worlds, the entrances into the interiors of which often can be mistaken to be simple, abandoned tombs on worlds. But then those tombs turn out to be bigger...much bigger...and their builders are still at home, simply waiting for the proper stimulus to wake up. And ninety-nine percent of the time, the arrival of intruders in their tombs qualifies as the proper stimulus.
- There is also mention of two planet-sized Necron creations. The first of which was a Death Star ersatz, and the other was a time-messer-upper.
- There are also the Eldar Craftworlds, which serve as a moon-sized space-city for a planet's worth of a population.
- Rogue Trader: Name-dropped in a quote describing the Void Kraken, where a starship captain has dismissed the creature as simply a moonlet but a crewman is very much convinced that the giant monster isn't any sort of moon.
"The cap't, he said it was just a moon at first and to think no more on it, but I's knew better. I told him I did, I says to him that there is no moon..."
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: In the Revised edition, the intro story, told by a werewolf prophet, has him relating one of his dreams, talking about how massive the Wyrm is. How massive? Well, a small mountain range slides back, and something black and wet and glistening can be seen, if you're high enough... a pupil.
- Major spoiler: It turns out that the entire Matoran "universe" is inside Mata Nui, who's a Humongous Mecha that crash-landed on a planet. The island that bears his name is (was) actually a covering on his face. Since it was a lava island, one can only assume he had allergies.
- Likewise, the Red Star that orbited that planet was revealed to be a planet-sized Space Station where the dead characters were recreated, and also served as a booster rocket that attached to Mata Nui when he flew through the cosmos.
- Over on another planet, Bara Magna, villages had settled around various structures; the rock tribe's looking like a head with a Cave Mouth but the rest unidentifiable. When the people united they moved the structures together, and... they're parts to a broken Humongous Mecha - Mata Nui's prototype, in fact.
- Hero Factory's 6th podcast has a planet's moon vanish because it was eaten by a villain, who left a moon-sized poop behind. Accompanied by the line "That's no moon."
- In Alien Legacy the asteroid Gamma 1 turns out to be the "sporeship" that brought life to the system.
- Armored Core 2. It's revealed that the Martian moon of Phobos is actually a massive hunk of Lost Technology left behind by a long dead alien race which the Big Bad intends to smash into the planet. The final mission has the player infiltrate the asteroid to prevent this from happening.
- Battlestar Galactica Online has Defence Platforms disguised as asteroids.
- In Binary Boy, the second level is essentially the same grassy area as first, but at dusk-time, and so a moon appears on the screen. It will move relative to your own movements much like a real-life moon appears to and so doesn't arouse any suspicion... until it lands and turns out to be an alien ship crewed by a hostile robot.
- In Bugsnax, Snaktooth Island as a whole is actually a massive amalgamation of Bugsnax born from those that continuously ate the Bugsnax. The geological activity that was occurring is the Bugsnax growing increasingly desperate to claim more victims.
- One of the bigger secrets in City of Villains...At the epicentre of all kinds of dangerous magical phenomena is the Leviathan... an Eldritch Abomination sleeping underneath Sharkhead Island, and possible all of the Rogue Isles!
- In the somewhat-forgotten The ClueFinders games, the "living island" the kids land on in 5th Grade Adventures is not an island, but a spaceship.
- Dead Space 3 has the moon itself. It's actually a moon-sized Necromorph called a Brethren Moon or Brother Moon that was forced into sleep mode, but if awakened would go around eating the biospheres off of planets. Isaac manages to destroy it, but for a little bit of Paranoia Fuel, the first letter of each chapter in Dead Space spells out BROTHER MOONS ARE AWAKE. Plural. Oh crap. This is confirmed in the Awakened DLC, and the Brethren Moons are already feasting on Earth.
- In Descent II, your mercenary pilot has the job of flying from planet to planet, clearing out the mines on those planets of berserker robots. Only when you have finished clearing out the last 'mine' on the last 'planet' does the player find out that that was no planet, it's a space station, with a drive and everything.
MD 1032: The readings on this base aren't consistent with any of the others I've destroyed. It's actually moving! Maintaining speed and heading just like a starship! Well, whatever it is, it's about to blow itself to pieces. Good.
- In The Dig, the asteroid that nearly hits Earth turns out to be an alien starship sent to find sentient life and bring it back to its builders' homeworld. Unfortunately, when the astronauts get there, they find an empty planet.
- In Disgaea 4, the Tera Star animation shows the planets of the solar system, starting with Earth and going through Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, U- wait a minute...
- Double Dragon Neon's second stage ends with you entering Skullmageddon's temple, only to find out it's actually a rocketship, which launches into space.
- In Endless Frontier, the heroes note that the location in which they go to confront the invaders attacking their worlds seems to be a giant fossilized monster. It is in fact the corpse of Stern Regisseur, the final boss of Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2.
- Event Horizon has Colossus, the capital ship of Zumbalari, disguised as a giant asteroid.
- In Final Fantasy III you start out on a continent that appears to be world. Turns out it's a floating continent above a MUCH bigger planet
- In Final Fantasy IV, it turns out the moon is a spaceship for a race of Precursors. In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years a new moon appears which is a spaceship for a completely different set of Precursors.
- In Final Fantasy VII, the characters only slowly realize that the entire Temple of the Ancients is the black materia to summon Meteor.
- Dalamud in Final Fantasy XIV is actually not a moon, but an ancient superweapon that served as a prison for Bahamut.
- In Final Fantasy XV, the Adamantoise was so ginormous that it was mistaken for a mountain called Longwythe Peak until it got out of its shell.
- In the mission "The Place of Chariots" in the game FreeSpace 2, an unusually large asteroid is discovered in an asteroid field near the rebel cargo depot the player's squadron is attacking. As the player approaches, the asteroid is revealed to be a huge space station, and it is soon destroyed only to reveal a completed warship, the Iceni, with the rebel leader Admiral Aken Bosch as her captain, on the inside. The Iceni immediately escapes.
- God of War III demonstrates this in one trailer.
- Golden Axe:
- A giant turtle appears after you beat the "Fiend's Path" stage.
- That game also has a level on a giant eagle's back. This revelation is foreshadowed when giant feathers periodically fly across the screen.
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age reveals that the moon of Weyard is actually the ancient city of Anemos lifted above the ground by a wind-affinite tribe. Induces some Fridge Logic in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn when a solar eclipse is extremely significant to the plot, and it's indicated that a similar one happened during the Golden Age of Man, before Anemos took off.
- Guild Wars: In the Charr Homelands there is a ridge in the middle of a lake with a peculiar appearance, almost as though it were a scaled hide. Come the sequel this "ridge" is revealed to be the back of the hibernating Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik.
- Jade Empire has a sidequest involving the search for a corrupting demon of hunger called the Cannibal Mother... which ends in a giant cavern with a strange rock formation in the middle of it. Needless to say, it's not a rock formation.
- Played straight in one of the levels in Kid Icarus: Uprising. The level begins with Pit singing. Then, after Palutena asks about the moon, Pit responds that it looks beautiful, the screen pans over to a second one, which is actually a giant base you have to invade, and Palutena asks for his opinion on that one. It then proceeds to shoot at you.
- The Legend of Dragoon: The Moon That Never Sets is actually the dormant embryo of the God of Destruction, intended by Soa to cleanse the world.
- Inversion: In Marathon, the titular vessel is actually Mars' moon Deimos, hollowed out and turned into a spaceship. Also, the sequel revolves around the search for a clan of the S'pht race which were supposed to live on a mythical extra moon of their planet that vanished because it had been equipped with an enormous hyperdrive. This is based on some nutbar theory in Real Life that Deimos is really a giant spaceship.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The moon, which turns out not to be a moon, but a different world used only by the Mask itself, to destroy all of Termina. Inside the moon is a lush field and a big tree.
- The giant boulder which turns out to be the biggest Goron you'll ever meet?
- In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, this is true of the second and third giant Luigi opponents. For the first one, Mario and Luigi realise the hard way that the dream version of Mount Pajamaja is actually alive (when it wakes up right behind them), then manage to make it annoyed by slamming blocks into its face (cue chase to bottom and Boss Battle). They later encounter the Bedsmith's Nightmare chunk (which has his spirit trapped inside) in a building in Dreamy Wakeport, and get warned about a "terrible guardian" that will attack if they try to release it. Turns out the head of said guardian (Earthwake) just happens to be the building with the nightmare chunk, the one they're standing on. And that it happens to be a Humongous Mecha made up of the buildings in the background. Cue another Boss Battle.
- Mass Effect:
- It turns out that Pluto's moon Charon isn't a moon — it's the mass effect relay for the solar system, allowing humanity to enter the galactic community.
- Sovereign, Spectre Saren Arterius' ship (Who is allied with the reapers) is one of the most powerful ships in the galaxy. It becomes more apparent when the ship decides to talk to you, and in turn reveal its status as a Reaper itself!
- Mass Effect 3: The Reaper base on Rannoch is revealed to be an actual Reaper-Destroyer. Cue panicked chase scene, until Shepard decides "screw running" and links the targeting laser to the entire orbiting quarian fleet. Cue dead Reaper.
- Happens in Game Boy Mega Man 5, leading to an Unexpected Gameplay Change: "What's that star?..." "Star" shoots its Big Fraggin' Laser at Mega Man. It's even called the "Wily Star".
- Metal Black: The "Moon" you see in the background of Stage 2 turns out to be an egg containing the stage boss. You learn this as you approach the real Moon, and the egg rapidly approaches the foreground...
- Monster Hunter:
- In 4 Ultimate, the intro cutscene for the Flying Wyvern, Basarios, has the Hunter drop from a ledge onto an unassuming pile of rocks, only for it to stand up and try to fling the player off.
- The prologue of Monster Hunter: World features your ship running aground on a strange volcanic outcropping just off the coast of the New World. Said outcropping turns out to be part of the body of a huge Elder Dragon, Zorah Magdaros, and you and the Handler have to scale the monster's body in order to escape.
- Pathways into Darkness: The introduction explains that the Chicxulub impactor was in fact the unconscious body of god-like Eldritch Abomination.
- In Persona 3, the moon really turns out to be a huge Eldritch Abomination called by collective humanity so that everyone would die.
- In Phantasy Star Online Episode I, Red Ring Rico finds and notes in her logs that you find along the way the supposed expansive ruins of Ragol are not ruins at all, but a giant spaceship.
- Pikmin 3 has the Quaggled Mireclops: the protagonists encounter a breakable rock on an island in a large muddy pit. After partially breaking it open, a plantlike eye is exposed. The eye opens and the creature wakes up, revealing that not only is it alive, but the island you were standing on was part of its body.
- In Portal2, one of Cave Johnson's "alternate universe" recordings ends with the revelation that the planet you're on is, in fact, Cave Johnson. Cave Johnson is really big in that universe. Spoiler tags really aren't necessary for that, because he couldn't hold in the secret very well either.
- Bydo Lab profile in R-Type Final mention how they once encounter planet-size Gomander.
- In Reunion the homeworld of the most advanced aliens — Syonians — and its 3 moons look artificial. Even if the planets aren't artificial, their whole surface is covered with sheet metal.
- In Shadow of the Colossus, at first you think that you're going to have to climb a tower to get to the final colossus. Then you realize that the tower is PART OF the final colossus.
- In Shin Megami Tensei II, player will found pointy mountains in undergound and Makai demon world. The mountains eventually moving, it turn out that these mountains is actually the dragon Kuzuryu.
- In The Simpsons Game, Comic Book Guy gives this exchange in the level "Around the World in 80 Bites":
Comic Book Guy: That's no moon! It's Homer Simpson!
- Besides the obvious Star Wars reference in the Death Egg, the Sonic the Hedgehog series features the Space Colony ARK, which makes its first appearance in Sonic Adventure 2 disguised as a very large asteroid/meteor, half of which disintegrates to show the Eggman-like facade.
- In Strider, the Big Bad's base is a Death Star-like planetoid called the Third Moon. Minus the earth-shattering super laser.
- Sunless Sea: Bound to happen with Lifebergs. As the name tells, they look rather like particularly filthy icebergs, until you realize they're moving a little too fast for a chunk of ice. And then they charge you, and things get painful. And then there's Mt. Nomad. It looks like one of the usual deserted rocks you often find near coastlines. She's not.
- Sword of the Stars:
- Asteroid Monitors are giant hollowed-out rocks with huge numbers of gun turrets on them that have been left in orbit for hundreds (or thousands) of years. And they're still running on full automatic. You can hack unowned Monitors to gain control of their weapons platforms, and later in the game you can research the technology to build your own with even bigger guns.
- Another type of Random Encounter is the Alien Derelict, a fragment of some unspeakably large spaceship floating in space. The last patch added a game mode which required the factions to find and collect multiple derelicts to reassemble them, upon which it's revealed that that's no spaceship, it's a space suit! And it's signalling its owners. Cue the arrival of the Suul'ka.
- In Super Mario Galaxy 2, in the Freezy Flake Galaxy, Mario lands on a suspicious ice planetoid covered in what seem to be spikes at the end of the level. Until he takes the nearby Sling Star and lands on the next planet, causing said first planetoid to crash down and be revealed to be Sorbetti, the level boss.
- In Super Robot Wars Judgment, The moon turns out to be the the space ship of the Fury's after they had seeded the formerly lifeless earth and went to sleep waiting for the earth to terraform in the process it collected space debris to form a sort of shell and became the moon in the final battle you are trying to prevent the final boss from reactivating the ship which would cause it to shed off the said debris shell and cause the parts of shell to rain down on earth as well has obvious tidal disruptions.
- Celland in Tales of Hearts has two moons, neither of which is real. The black one is Gardenia, the progenitor of all The Heartless Zerom, and the white one is the dead world of the Precursors, Quartzia, drained of all life by Gardenia. One character points this out - "Wait, so the black moon destroyed the white moon?".
- In Tales of Vesperia, there's a mountain on the northeastern part of the world map not even the airship can fly over. The in-game description explicitly states it's the tallest mountain in the world. It is. And it isn't. Because it's the ancient tower Tarqaron, the Final Dungeon
- The (Armada-based) Transformers game had you fly out to an aircraft carrier to clear it of Decepticons. Then it begins to transform, and becomes Tidal Wave, the end of level Boss.
- In Wild ARMs 1, the moon Malduke (Marduk) is a Metal Demon Base.
- World of Warcraft:
- Teldrassil: this single tree is bigger than some mountain ranges and has a city and two smaller towns in its branches, plus a seaport village in its root structure. No doubt it was very surprising for someone who created a Night Elf character without watching the opening narration when they finally left it and looked back.
- Malygos, himself a massive dragon, mistook the Titan Norgannon's torso for a wall.
- The Apexis civilization on reaching Arak was shocked to discover that many of the hills on the new continent weren't natural but rather the corpses of the all but extinct sporemounds.
- At the start of the main plot of X3 Terran Conflict, a group of Terran fighters patrolling Uranus (among which there's the player) detects some small signals on the gravity radar. Lieutenant Plinter believes them to be pieces of a micrometeor destroyed during the transit in a Trans-Orbital Accelerator. Turns out they're Xenon scouts raiding Neptune.
- Near the end of Xenoblade, as the Mechonis begins to awaken, Kallian has to remind everyone that they're fighting on its sword.
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2 did this at the end of the reveal trailer, when a large protruding spike or rock at the edge of the landmass slowly turned around to look at the characters. Not so much of a surprise In-Universe, where all of the world's ecology and civilization being on the back of/suspended from enormous, benevolent Titans is a fact of life.
- In Rewrite in the Moon route the oddly large white sphere in the sky is the Earth after it has run out of life energy. The events of the route take place on the real moon.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja #8 parodies the Star Wars line in the Alt Text of one page, and inverts it in the same issue: The moon at Dracula's place (yes, Dracula) really is a moon, it just happens to be Dracula's actual base, and it just so happens that it can fire orbital lasers.
- Parodied in Darths & Droids, where the Death Star was originally designed as a "Peace Moon" to replace Naboo's moon that was destroyed in Episode I's war. The name stuck even as the plans were altered to make it a weapon, leading to this exchange:
Han Solo: He's headed for that big space station.
Obi-wan: That's no space station. It's... the Peace Moon!
- Girl Genius: That's not a cloud.
- The Order of the Stick:
- The members of the Order of the Stick learned a while back that their planet is actually a prison for an Eldritch Abomination, and are trying to keep it locked away. This is both to prevent its escape, and to ensure the gods don't tear down their old prison to replace it with a stronger one.
- Minrah and Durkon, when reaching the afterlife, believe at first to be walking on some Fluffy Cloud Heaven with a dark sky, and spot a tower in the distance. Except said tower is actually the god Thor's leg, the fluffy ground is the fur of his boot, and the sky background is his cape. Yes, the Stickverse gods are huge compared to mortals. (And then Thor shrinks down to talk to them, and it turns out the location they're in is still on a cloud with a darkish sky, just slightly differently drawn.)
- In this strip of Gone with the Blastwave, couple of soldiers invoke this trope when one of them can't believe they are on the surface of the moon after walking there from inside a Space Station that was nowhere near the moon. Also this moon suspiciously has a ceiling.
- In a strip from Ryotiras, two characters find out that the "Moon" they're looking at is actually Earth, which means... they're standing on a giant rubber duck.
- In Schlock Mercenary:
Cikitsaka: We've found a wandering planet that appears to have an ancient artifact inside it. Before you ask how old "ancient" is, let me paint a clearer picture: We suspect that what we actually found is a wandering ancient artifact that has accumulated enough debris to make it look like a planet.
- The Oafan space station Eina-Afa - a cylinder big enough to contain Mars, with room to spare - has Tagon quoting the trope outright.
Tagon: I thought a thing orbiting a thing orbiting a star was called a moon, but in this case[,] that's no moon.
Tagon: It's a space station.
- Also, Oisri from the previous arc counts.
- The Oafan space station Eina-Afa - a cylinder big enough to contain Mars, with room to spare - has Tagon quoting the trope outright.
- The line is parodied in Sequential Art.
- Sluggy Freelance parodies this in a Star Wars Shout-Out in this strip. Basically, Torg refers to a "moon-sized thing with teeth" but someone corrects him anyway that it's no moon, it's a thing with teeth.
- In this strip of Starslip a character wants to land on a "moon" when another points out that it has a seam running down the middle.
- Speaking of seams, see Iapetus, below.
- In Tower of God, the characters travelling on the Hell Train arrive on the Floor of Death, the only floor of the Tower not ruled by one of the nearly all-powerful creatures known as Administrators (or Guardians), because it was killed by an even more powerful being. After they have stared at the hostile landscape of thorny cliffs and red water for a while, their guide tells them that they're looking at the hide and blood of the Administrator's body, which covers the actual floor.
- The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom) demonstrates the worst-case scenario: landing on an "island" that's actually a napping Eldritch Abomination.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: In "Wielder of Names", Juggernaught Star takes White Chain (both are angels) to a place with a backdrop that appears to be a cliff or something. It's not shown in focus in the comic, and White Chain surely doesn't suspect it's anything special. Soon, though, it's revealed to be the giant wing of Metatron, the greatest of angels, who was thought to be long dead but is in fact still marginally clinging to life.
- /m/ wrote a Science Fantasy universe where the local solar system's sun was surrounded by a giant Dyson Ring that was actually a large dragon that bit itself in the tail. This was the largest example of this trope at the time of writing. /m/ does not think small.
- In Orion's Arm the brains of the ruling transhuman intelligences start at the size of the moon and go all the way up to being the size of the star Betelgeuse, which is larger than the orbit of Jupiter.
- SCP Foundation:
- SCP-507 (who randomly teleports to alternate universes) once found himself at the mouth of a cave, looking at a desert planet baked by its two large suns. Then the "suns" blinked and looked away...
- The Foundation is also suppressing knowledge of SCP-169, a sea serpent so large that its protrusions above the waterline were mistaken for an archipelago of islands.
- SCP--2362. It used to be Pluto... until a moon sized jellyfish hatched out of it.
- In Adventure Time, the Ice King washes up on a random island only to discover that it's a giant island woman named Senorita. She turns out to be a lot nicer than most of the examples on this page.
- In another episode, Finn has a dramatic musical moment on top of a grassy mountain. The mountain then gets up & turns out to be the cyclops Finn was looking for at the beginning of the episode so he could use his tears to heal his broken leg. Finn no longer cares about that but the cyclops tries to kill him anyway because he doesn't believe him.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- On the eve of the climax, Aang leaves his friends' camp and wanders to the shore, where he sees an island. When he visits it, true to form, the island isn't there in the morning. The island is a giant Lionturtle, that actually turns out to be pretty important to the plot.
- The Foggy Swamp is located on the roots of an enormous, sentient banyan tree.
- In Code Lyoko Season 4, episode "Maiden Voyage", the heroes' virtual ship is lost in the Digital Sea, where it is attracted by a Replika which they think to be Lyoko at first. The scene is a direct Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, with the Replika looking like a giant metallic sphere and Aelita saying "That's not Lyoko!"
- Played with in Codename: Kids Next Door in "Operation C.A.K.E.D.-F.I.V.E" as part of a Star Wars shout-out. Numbuh 86 and 19th Century are heading to the Moon Base when an alarm alerted them of approaching the base. 86 mentions that they shouldn't be there yet and looks up, sees Father's giant ice cream cake and says, "That's no moon!"
- In an early episode of Dora the Explorer, Dora and Boots go to search for the Big Red Chicken. According to legend, the chicken lives on the Big Red Hill. No points for guessing what the Big Red Hill really is.
- One episode of Dragon Tales had the gang lose the ball that they were playing with to the depths of a cave that was nearby. All of them went in to search for it, but Cassie nervously hung back when she noticed that the floor of the cave was oddly squishy. Turned out to be the mouth of a giant sleeping dinosaur thing, which soon woke up and swallowed everyone....
- A somewhat smaller example than the rest, but quite large for its scale - in one episode of Family Guy, Peter is in a sauna with Chris, when Peter notices... "Hey, that's not your leg!" The rest of the episode is about Peter trying to deal with penis envy (or something more like "penis shame").
- The Gravity Falls: Dipper's Guide to the Unexplained short "The Tooth" deals with Dipper trying to find the source of a giant tooth on a lake shore. A cashier tells them to run if they see bubbles on the lake. They see bubbles near an island, at which point Mabel proceeds to paddle away. Turns out the giant tooth came from the island, which is monster that rises out of the water and tries to eat you if you get too close.
- In the Justice League episode "The Savage Time", John Stewart (who'd lost his ring) noted to the soldiers he was attached to that the hill they were standing on did not exist in the map they have. It turned out to be Vandal Savage's hanger for his advanced jet bombers that would be used to invade the USA.
- In Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, the Ice Bug is an asteroid-sized space creature that hibernates for interstellar travel. One of the movies had a "Godbug" which could supposedly devour a planet.
- Sort of a Lampshade Hanging in an episode of The Simpsons: a runaway Sacagawea (Lisa) stops to weep on a rock, saying "O warm, fuzzy rock, you're my only friend!" The warm fuzzy rock is actually a wildcat.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- "Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm" has Sandy arrogantly going after a local worm-monster. She attacks and ties a knot in what she thinks is the worm before SpongeBob can tell her that it's actually the worm's tongue. What she assumed was a cave was the rest of it.
- ("Nature Pants"). SpongeBob runs away from Bikini Bottom and Patrick starts chasing him. SpongeBob runs behind a supposedly big rock to hide from him, but the "rock" turns out to be a gigantic snail.
- Played with in "Plankton's Army". Plankton's family comes to help steal the Krabby Patty formula. They surround the Krusty Krab and Mr. Krabs asks "You planted grass?" Then the grass started laughing and reshaping itself into limbs and ears...
- The first season finale of Transformers: Beast Wars uses this. Turns out, when they are finally rid of the giant scary orbital weapon that wasn't a moon, the planet starts to look suspiciously familiar...
Megatron: Idiot! It was never a moon, and it is far from gone!
- In Transformers Animated, the ship that the Autobots use to come to Earth is revealed to be Omega Supreme, one of the most powerful Autobots ever. Ratchet is aware of this. The other Autobots are shocked, and the Decepticons have a big Oh, Crap! moment.
- In Transformers: Prime, Earth is actually Unicron in disguise!
- The first season finale of Transformers: Beast Wars uses this. Turns out, when they are finally rid of the giant scary orbital weapon that wasn't a moon, the planet starts to look suspiciously familiar...
- In Shadow Raiders, the planet Remora turns out to be a giant battle station created by the Beast.
- Spoofed in Celebrity Deathmatch, when Bam Margera goes into orbit around the massively fat Don Vito.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Three's a Crowd", Twilight and Cadance search for a rare flower on a mountaintop around what they think is a large tree... before realizing that the flower is the tree. They couldn't realize this while climbing up since the top was covered by a cloud.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Chronicles of Meap":
Phineas: He's headed towards that small cloud!
Ferb: That's no cloud, that's a space station.
Phineas: I've got a good feeling about this!
- In an episode of The Flintstones, Fred and Barney go fishing on a boat in open sea, and they stop on a weird white, seemingly deserted island to eat their lunch. The "island" is actually a giant white whale named Adobe Dick that promptly gets mad and chases them. When they try to escape, it goes underwater and re-emerges to fool them into believing his mouth is a cave to swallow them whole when they try to hide inside.
- Geologists knew, from certain terrain features such as geysers and hot springs, that there was an inactive volcano somewhere in Yellowstone Park. They searched for the caldera but were unable to find it — until aerial photos revealed that the entire park was the caldera.
- Also, it turns out the Yellowstone supervolcano isn't so inactive after all. It has a major eruption about every million years, give or take a few hundred thousand. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, and was about 24,000 times stronger than the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated. Another such eruption would likely kill everything within a hundred miles, and even a thousand miles downwind the land would be buried in two meters of ash. This was explored in excruciating detail in the docudrama Supervolcano.
- Another is Siberia. Not in Siberia, Siberia. The last eruption corresponds with the Permian extinction that wiped out most of the species on Earth. And "most of the species on Earth", in this case, means roughly 90%. Among other things, this was the only time in all of Earth's history that insects suffered a mass extinction. That's right, if Siberia erupts again, even the cockroaches wouldn't survive.
- In another park, biologists were finding tendrils (mushrooms' underground part) all over the place, but no mushrooms nearby, so they wondered where they all were. It turned out all those tendrils (kilometer-wide!) belonged to one single mushroom colony, growing inconspicuously near one tree.
- Technically, the mycelium (the network of tendrils) is the main body of the fungus organism. The visible mushrooms are just temporary fruiting bodies.
- A nice inversion: Three years after A New Hope came out, space probe flybys revealed this◊ closeup picture of Mimas, one of Saturn's moons. Kind of Hilarious in Hindsight.
- It's also Pac-Man, apparently. That's no moon, it's a 1980s pop-cultural icon!
- Iapetus, another moon of Saturn, has a light-colored side, a dark-colored side, a straight mountainous seam running along its equator, and a large crater in certain part of it. You gotta wonder. Then again, most just compare it to a walnut, and call it a day.
- A somewhat apocryphal story tells of Hashima, an island off the coast of Nagasaki that is often called Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because the sea wall and the buildings on the island make it look like a battleship. Supposedly, during the Second World War, an American submarine mistook the island for a Japanese battleship and attacked it.
- There's a forest in Utah that covers 107 acres, with about 47,000 trees.... Correction: there's a giant tree in Utah named Pando with about 47,000 stems. Pando is a male tree. This is apparently not as unusual for Quaking Aspen as we'd have suspected — we just never looked all that close at forests before. Pando is also probably 80,000 years old.
- Inverted by a stretch of land off the Gower Peninsula in Wales called the Worm's Head, which bears a striking resemblance to a colossal sea serpent in silhouette◊. Cannae remember whether it's true or not, but apparently it scared off a shipful of Viking raiders, who later got shipwrecked in Swansea Bay.
- David Icke theorized that Earth's Moon is not a moon at all but is rather some sort of organic, hollowed-out planetoid or possibly an ancient spaceship built by Ancient Astronauts.
- A fun exercise for people who live near the shores of the Great Lakes (places like Toronto, Milwaukee, or Chicago) who have friends who live overseas and aren't overly familiar with maps of North America: tell them to look up your town on Google Maps. Their first reaction will be, "Wow, you live really close to the sea." Then they realize that isn't the sea...!
- In 1978, on the flight where he mysteriously disappeared, Australian pilot Frederick Valentich sent a series of radio messages saying that he was being pursued by an unidentified aircraft. His last words?
"It is hovering and it's not an aircraft"
- The enormous Christmas tree pictured here. Oh look, somebody set up a model of a city underneath of it! Wait a minute... what do you mean that's not a model?!