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The Wild West
aka: Wild West

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And that's just what they could fit on the poster!

"I love the West. I read a lot about the West, and I'm shocked, I'm ashamed that in pictures they have not made the true story of the winning of the West—comprising 90 percent foreigners, 100 percent laborers, nothing to do with guns. Streets, mountains, roads, bridges, streams, forests—that's the winning of the West to me. Hard! Tremendous, tremendous fight. But [instead] we have, as you know, cowboys and Indians and all that."
Samuel Fuller, director of three film Westerns

The American Old West was the land west of the Mississippi River roughly in or around the latter half of the nineteenth century; specifically we might start what we now think of as the "Wild West" era with the California Gold Rush of 1848 and end it with the U.S. Census Bureau's official recognition in 1890 of the end of the frontier. This setting is home to The Western, a definitively American genre almost as stylized and standardized as Commedia dell'Arte. The Wild West is basically the Theme Park Version or fictionalization of this setting. It has its own set of specialized subtropes, including a wide assortment of stock character types and its own specialized locations.

The Theme Park Version of the Old West is a land of Indians, grizzled prospectors, scenic bluffs, Conestoga wagons, tough, shotgun-toting pioneers and buxom, be-feathered dance-hall girls. Also home to very lucrative sugar glass and balsa-wood chair industries, judging by the number of bar brawls which occur during a single episode of a typical western series. Bad guys and anti-heroes wear black hats, good guys and sheriffs wear white hats, shootouts on Main Street occur with the frequency of at least one an hour—with the sun at high noon each time—and everyone drinks sarsaparilla or whiskey.

The real Old West was nothing like The Theme Park Version (which was originally the creation of 19th-century "dime novels"). There weren't many huge shootoutsnote , quickdraw duels were rare,note  and gun duels and violent gun-wielding criminals weren't exclusive to desert-like "western" areas. Plus, since many guns were very inaccurate in those days, they sometimes tended to happen in significantly closer quarters than they do in fiction. The average Western town had 1.5 murders per year, and most of those weren't done with guns (due to the West having a relatively small population compared to the East). Carrying guns in these towns was more likely to get you arrested than shot, and you were much more likely to die from diseases like cholera, dysentery, and tuberculosis, or in an accident like being dragged by your own horse, than to be killed in a raging gunfight or get scalped by Indians. Although, by all means, it was still a lawless and violent era, with three major 19th-century American wars taking place in the frontier (the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars) and also other range wars, bandit attacks and feuds. Not to mention that courts were almost non-existent, so settlers substituted with vigilance committees, which were more focused on lynching people than doing any law practices. And while the absolute number of murders-per-year was low, the per-capita murder rate, adjusted for the low population densities, was indeed very high by modern standards, for example around 165 per 100,000 adults per year in Dodge City in the 1880s — but again, most of those murders weren't done with guns. But overall, the Wild West was not so wild — it was actually more simple and boring, in fact.

See also The Western (the genre of works which largely take place in this setting). For tropes associated with this setting, see Wild West Tropes. A popular subject of The Parody, and surprisingly popular outside America. Frequently overlaps with The Savage South. Dawn of the Wild West is a sub-trope set during the time period just before the Wild West. Twilight of the Old West is about the dying embers of the Wild West flickering out during the early years of the New Old West. May overlap with Settling the Frontier. Largely occurs contemporaneously with The Gilded Age. Compare The Golden Age of Piracy, another historical period that has its own famous outlaws which has since become the subject of romanticization in modern pop culture.

It's become a Cyclic National Fascination since even before the States became a cultural magnet.

Works that are set in this time period include:

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    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 


    Newspaper Comics 




    Tabletop Games 
  • Deadlands
  • Dogs in the Vineyard, although its version of the time period is a lot less Wild, so to speak.
  • Werewolf: The Wild West
  • Rifts New West adds a lot of magic, monsters, and cyberpunk flavor, and in-universe is a deliberate attempt to re-create the Wild West as a way of holding on to lost history. Naturally, they get some things wrong.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: The 'Silver Gulch, 1883' environment deck takes place in a Wild West Town (Time Travel is involved). It even has a wagon full of dynamite, which always blows up at the least opportune time.

  • The Girl of the Golden West, play by David Belasco and opera by Giacomo Puccini.
  • Buffalo Bill 's Wild West shows popularized cowboy stories near the end of the 19th and early 20th century.

    Theme Parks 
  • At the Disney Theme Parks:
    • Frontierland in the Disneyland parks.
    • The western sequence on the late, lamented The Great Movie Ride.
    • In the Paris and Anaheim versions of "it's a small world", the United States is shown in its Old West days.
  • The former show, The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show at the Universal Studios parks.
  • Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, North Carolina is a mix of this trope and Cool Train; its formerly-active neighbor 2 hours to the northeast in Maggie Valley, Ghost Town in the Sky, was purely this trope.

    Video Games 
  • In The Adventures of Lomax, the third world is like this, complete with cowboy enemies.
  • Stage 3 of the Animaniacs Licensed Game for the Sega Genesis takes place on the stage of a western movie. The first half of the level takes place in a western town, and the second half takes place on a train.
  • Bank Panic takes place in an Old West bank complete with robbers, customers and bombs to shoot.
  • Bastion evokes this with its old-timey narrator and most of the soundtrack, which is full of banjos and the occasional voiced song that sounds like a traditional folk song.
  • Bobby's World: When Bobby is told by Howard to clean his bookshelf, he looks through a book about cowboys, saying he bets they never have to clean their bedrooms, leading him to the fourth level, which takes place in a western town. Vultures, rattlesnakes, cowboys, and sentient cacti all serve as enemies. Bobby can also ride Webbly like a horse to bounce safely across regular cacti.
  • Call of Juarez
  • Cartoon Network Racing: "The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid" is a cowboy town, with a saloon, train cars, a post office, and gallows.
  • In Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers 2, one of the levels takes place in the Western World section of Fat Cat's Amusement Park, where one of the three keys to Fat Cat's control room is hidden. The level has a few Minecart Madness elements, and the boss is a cat magician who tosses playing cards.
  • In Conker's Pocket Tales, Vultureville, the game's second stage, is set in a western town. Early in the stage, Conker is accused of shooting the Undertaker and arrested by the Sheriff. After Conker escapes from jail and meets up with the Sheriff again, the Sheriff realizes that Honker, Conker's Evil Counterpart, is the real criminal, and makes Conker his deputy as a means of apology. He then tells Conker to go to the bank, which is being robbed by Honker, whom Conker must defeat in a shoot-out. Later on, Conker must fight Sol and Luxo, a pair of vultures.
  • In Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, this is used as the theme for the levels "Smokey and the Bandicoot", "Gold Rush", and "Ghost Town". The first is a race through a wild west town, the second a whole platforming level in one (complete with a handcar and enemies that throw dynamite at you), and the third a minecart race.
  • Desperados
  • Fallout: New Vegas takes place mainly in the Mojave, and outside of Vegas itself, mostly resides here. You can even take a perk named 'Cowboy' to make your .45-70 lever-action deadlier than a triple plasma rifle.
  • Fistful of Frags is a multiplayer first-person shooter based on the Source Engine. Its most prominent feature is the effect that period weaponry has on a typical FPS death-match arena. The weapons are slow, clunky, but very powerful, placing a greater emphasis on landing your shots.
  • Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist
  • In Goofy's Hysterical History Tour, the second stage takes place in a Wild West museum exhibit. The boss of the stage is Pete disguised as a gunslinger.
  • Gun
  • In The Itchy and Scratchy Game, the fifth level, "The Magnificent Severed" takes place in the desert, with a western town in the background. Enemies include cowboy dogs and Scratchy robots dressed like Native Americans. The boss of the level is Scratchy in a chuck wagon.
  • Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters
  • One chapter of Live A Live takes place in this setting, with its protagonist being a branded outlaw who helps a town's residents fight back against the local cowboy gang.
  • Looney Tunes games:
    • In Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Level 2.1 takes place in a saloon, with such enemies as Red Hot Ryder, Hiawatha, and root beer vendors. The boss of the stage is Nasty Canasta.
    • Taz in Escape from Mars has Mexico, which serves as the fourth world, and the first one that deviates from the game's Space Zone theme. The first act has Taz jumping across a cattle drive, and the boss of the world is Toro the Bull, whom Taz fights as a Bull Fight Boss.
    • In Daffy Duck in Hollywood, the first world, "Scalp Trouble", takes place on the set of a Western movie.
    • In Desert Demolition Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, the "Buttes and Ladders" level takes place in a western town.
    • Level Two of Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday takes place in Dry Gulch Town. Hazards include tumbleweeds, and speeding trains, and enemies include caged hooligans and moose trophies with rifle barrels showing from their mouths. The boss of the stage is Yosemite Sam.
  • Mega Man 6: Tomahawk Man makes his lair in this type of environment. A cowboy robot named Colton can be found here.
  • A couple of Mount & Blade Game Mods, especially 1866: A Mount & Blade Western.
  • An early version of Nexus Clash had Nifleheim, a wild-west-themed land of the dead filled with vampire gunslingers and literal Ghost Towns.
  • Outlaws
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time: One of the time periods takes place in the wild west, featuring minecart rails that help the player move their plants around, as well as western-themed zombies—cowboys, prospectors, saloon pianists, poncho wearers with grates, rodeo bulls, and... chicken wranglers.
  • Red Dead Revolver
  • Red Dead Redemption: While the game itself is set during 1911, it fits many of the tropes associated with the Wild West. The game even has three distinct acts, with the first being the Standard Western (good guys, bad guys, etc), the second taking the form of the Spaghetti Western (moral ambiguity), and the third and final act set in the Dying West.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: A prequel to its predecessor set in 1899. It very much straddles the line between the Old West and the Twilight of the Old West, with several characters commenting on the changing world and their place in it (or lack thereof).
  • Repton: The "America" scenario in Around the World in 40 Screens.
  • In Sesame Street: Countdown, the sixth level takes place in a western town.
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has the Cotton Mouth Bluff world, complete with coyote/jackalope/steer guards, a huge train moving through the world, a Small Name, Big Ego armadillo sheriff, sarsparilla bars, and the guncane-toting "Tennessee Kid" Cooper. The Caper of the world is even a train robbery.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series uses this setting every now and then:
    • Crystal Egg Zone from the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is vaguely themed on this setting, with cacti, patterns in the terrain inspired by Native American artwork, and the familiar deep blue sky of the desert.
    • Sonic Shuffle:
      • The fourth board, Riot Train, has several Wild West elements. The enemy monsters are a gunman who shoots, a cowgirl who whips, and a horse and open wagon who charges at you, should you lose to any of them in battle. Also, the "Ring Lasso" mini-game that takes place on that board involves Sonic and his friends lassoing bags of rings and forcejewels from passing freight cars by pressing specific buttons. The mini-game even has a western Leitmotif as the background music.
      • In the same game, there's also the "Sonic Gun Slinger" mini-game, which takes place at a saloon, and has the same western leitmotif as the background music. Sonic and his friends, who are all dressed in cowboy hats, must shoot the gunslinger targets, whilst avoiding shooting the lady targets. There's also an Eggman target, which takes more than one hit to kill and can shoot back.
    • Rail Canyon Zone and Bullet Station Zone in Sonic Heroes are massive railroad networks within an extremely large canyon. As it was built and operated by Mad Scientist Dr. Eggman, it has a metallic, industrial look to it, but Eggman fully embraced the western setting in his decor and unusually (for him anyway) large amounts of wooden structures.
    • The Rocky Ridge racetrack in Sonic Free Riders is set in a gold rush town in a mountainous area. It's at odds with the rest of the game, which adopts a futuristic theme. Rocky Ridge's start/finish line even has the word "WESTERN" painted on it in huge letters!
    • Frontier Canyon Zone, the fifth Zone in Sonic Rivals 2, as its name suggests, is a Ghost Town in a canyon.
    • Mirage Saloon Zone from Sonic Mania. Sonic and Tails' story has Act 1 start with Sonic and Tails riding the Tornado, which leads them to a train driven by Dr. Eggman; or, as Knuckles, exploring a canyon in the outskirts of the area. All three characters venture into the desert itself in Act 2, which is dotted here and there by saloons and other buildings.
  • Stay Tooned! has the Wild West room, which has two mini-games you can play. In the "The Quick and the Tooned" mini-game, you play as Dr. Pickles, and you have to shoot gun-wielding enemies in a saloon whilst avoiding getting shot by them and avoiding shooting characters without guns. In the "Let's Shave Fiddle" mini-game, you can shave Fiddle in the barber shop and earn a door key in the process.
  • Sunset Riders
  • Settings inspired in the Wild West are rare in Super Mario Bros. games, since many of them have desert world inspired by the Middle East (or, in one case, pre-Columbian Mexico), but they exist:
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time has "Bury My Shell At Wounded Knee", which takes place on a western-themed train.
  • Tequila & Boom Boom is an Adventure Game with a Funny Animal cast set somewhere in the American Southwest.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures games:
    • The second level of Buster Busts Loose takes place in a western town, featuring The Coyote Kid (from the TV series episode, "High Toon") and his henchmen as enemies. Here, Montana Max is in the progress of robbing a safe, and the second half of the level takes place on a runaway train to chase after him.
    • In Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Montana's Movie Madness for the Game Boy, the first stage takes place in a western movie. Enemies include Roderick Rat clones dressed like cowboys and buzzards. The boss of the stage is Montana Max dressed as a cowboy.
    • In the Game Boy version of Wacky Sports, in Carnival Mode, Fifi La Fume's mini-game is a water-squirting challenge that takes place in a western town, where the player must hit as many Roderick Rat targets as they can, whilst avoiding Sweetie Bird, Concord Condor, and Little Beeper.
    • In Acme All-Stars for the Sega Genesis, one of the five arenas is the Western, which takes place in Prairie Junction from the TV series episode, "High Toon". When playing basketball or soccer, the players must beware of barrels that sometimes roll onto the field and flatten them, and getting kicked by the horses in the field if they get too close to them.
  • In the Toy Story 2 Licensed Game, the eleventh level, "Al's Penthouse", has shades of this. The level is filled with Woody's Roundup merchandise, and has a western Leitmotif as the background music. The mini-boss of the level is Gunslinger.
  • Trouble in Terrorist Town: Technically if you go on the Mogz server hosted in the UK on the maps de_westwood and cs_desperados the modern guns have been replaced by western ones. However they do not have auto reload which means once your clip is dry (Shotgun 7 shells, Double Barrel 2 shells, Lever Rifle 5 bullets and 1 bullet for the sharps and six for either the colt or peacemaker) you have to pistol whip your opponent or get out of range and reload.
  • In Wacky Races (1991), the first half of Stage C-3 takes place in a western town. Enemies include raccoons, desperados, and tapirs.
  • The Wild ARMs series combines western tropes with a Standard Fantasy Setting. How Western the series is varies per game.
  • Wild Gunman pits the player in shoot-outs with various stereotypes of Western outlaws to collect reward money.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • This is one of the eras visited in Chrono Hustle, especially seen in the third story.

    Western Animation 
  • Quick Draw McGraw
  • The Histeria!! episode "The Wild West"
  • The Lone Ranger (1966)
  • Several Looney Tunes episodes, usually the ones starring Yosemite Sam. Examples include "Drip-Along Daffy."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a Cowboy Episode where the girls visit Appleloosa; there you can find horse-drawn carriages (they switch), among other things.
  • The Van Beuren Studios cartoon shorts "Hot Tamale", The Gay Gaucho", "In the Bag" and "Redskin Blues" are all set in this time period.
  • "Borrowed Time", a melancholy short about a boy and his father who are traveling by wagon, only to be attacked by bandits.
  • Touché Turtle and Dum Dum:
    • In "Billy the Cad," Touché and Dum Dum are summoned to capture the title Old West gunslinger.
    • Western baddie Loco Weed Willie vows to get revenge on the swashbuckling turtle and sheepdog once he gets out of jail in "High Goon."
    • In "Touché's Last Stand," General George Custard enlists help from the two heroes when he finds himself surrounded by hostile savages.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Wild West


"Oregon Trail II" Intro

The opening cinematic in the 1995 edition of "Oregon Trail"

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Main / TheWildWest

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