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Cities are a great sign of society's achievement. They're huge metropolitan areas, filled with people, tall buildings, major civic infrastructure and hubs of business and government, which makes it narratively interesting to see them torn apart and crumbling. Fire raining from the sky, buildings and bridges collapsing on each other, overturned cars lining the freeways, and evidence of the former homes—kitchen sinks and broken furniture—jutting out from the wreckage. There may be looter gangs, zombies, or monsters roaming the streets, depending on the genre.

This trope evokes familiar elements from urban environments like the Big Applesauce with the worst elements of bleak hellscapes like Mordor, often with a Real-Place Background. This trope is very often the result of a Monumental Battle, or any urban-centered Alien Invasion.

When Apocalypse Anarchy is involved, it may also double as Vice City. If there's a subway, expect an abandoned Sinister Subway. As is to be expected, this trope often overlaps with Ghost City, because most of the inhabitants have probably been killed by the environment or invasion. Can be a result of Trash the Set, if the city in question was a major setting. Ruins of the Modern Age is closely related, but the ruins don't necessarily have to be urban, and Urban Ruins don't have to exist after society collapsed.

A Sister Trope to Urban Hellscape (may not be in ruins, but law and order is long gone), and Industrial Ghetto (also not ruins, but feels like it).


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The big anime example has to be the Old City from AKIRA, the remains of what used to be Tokyo before the Fall. The ruins are primarily roamed over by cycle gangs like the Capsules and the Clowns that like to fight each other, as well as by resistance fighters like Kei and Ryu who use the old sewers to hide from the government.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Satellite was formerly part of Domino City (now New Domino), which is a prosperous metropolis. After the Zero Reverse, which physically split the city into two and turn the Satellite area into an island, all the infrastructure is in ruins. Most buildings are ruined and abandoned, the strets are so cracked that you can see sunlight enter the subway, and the center of the island is just one huge wasteland. There's even an abandoned amusement park there. The reason there was absolutely no attempt for restoration prior to the start of the series is because they were using it as a dumping ground for trash and criminals.

    Comic Books 
  • In the wake of Batman: Cataclysm and through Batman: No Man's Land Gotham is reduced to ruins, with nearly every building and bridge suffering structural damage and most of the taller ones having fallen over or been otherwise destroyed. Even after No-Mans Land is over entire sections of the city are condemned and roped off with caution tape, Robin shows that the old opera house in in such a section even though it's only about three blocks from his parents' apartment which is in an area that's being repaired and is bustling with activity.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this MonsterVerse fanfiction, parts of the town of Higawa, Yonaguni are reduced to rubble by Godzilla, Rodan and Monster X's battle against the Many.
  • Lost Cities: Each chapter describes the abandoned ruins of a fantastical city long after its abandonment and destruction. The writing mostly focuses on themes of decaying grandeur and of the downfall of hubris, as the halls, monuments and achievements of what was once a mighty city sit lonely and abandoned, slowly succumbing to the ravages of nature.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Day After Tomorrow posits that global warming will cause the Arctic to move up to the point where cities from New York and up are turned into icy wastelands.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • During the massive battle at the end of Man of Steel, Metropolis is reduced to a smoke-filled wasteland for the survivors to straggle around while avoiding collapsing buildings.
    • In the sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the same environment is presented, but from the perspective of a desperate Batman, who sees Superman tear through buildings with his heat vision.
    • Midway City is devastated by the Enchantress in Suicide Squad (2016), and the members of Task Force X wander through the deserted city shortly after arriving.
  • Cadaver (2020): The world the movie is set in is a city that's been reduced to powerless, windowless ruins by nuclear war. The survivors spend their days just trying to live to see the next day.
  • Emil and the Detectives: The 1964 Disney version is set in the late 1945-early 1946 ruins of Berlin.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay reduces the Capitol to this by its second part, between the hundreds of traps the Gamemakers have placed all over the city and the bombings by the rebel insurgency.
  • I Am Legend depicts a post-apocalyptic version of the Big Applesauce which has been overrun by zombie-like creatures.
  • During the first wave of attacks in Independence Day, Jasmine Dubrow and her son barely manage to survive the destruction of Los Angeles. The next day, they begin seeking out survivors, and the crumbling ruins of the city are shown in full detail.
  • Like a lot of blockbusters, the Marvel Cinematic Universe employs this quite a bit.
    • The Avengers enters its climax in this environment. Loki's army of Chitauri have ravaged New York and left most of the city in ruins.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn't deviate too far from its predecessor. The capital of Sokovia is turned into a flying bomb swarming with Ultron's army of drones.
    • Avengers: Infinity War has Thanos' initial attack on Earth destroy some of Greenwich Village, New York City. Later on, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and half of the Guardians of the Galaxy fight Thanos in the ruins of his abandoned homeworld of Titan, which resembles a modern, if alien city.
  • Robot World: The ruins the astronaut encounters on the planet include a suspension bridge, a residential area, and a military bunker. This is because he's actually on Earth.
  • By the end of X-Men: Apocalypse, Cairo is reduced to rubble thanks to Apocalypse's battle with the X-Men.

    Literature 
  • Forbidden Flats: Hope's group comes across a number of these on their trip to Heaven's Reach. Since in the book's world, all iron was rendered too soft to use for construction after the dropping of the Green Bombs, several buildings are either fallen over, or they've curled downwards from their own weight. Hope's group spends a night with a group of people living under a topped building. Said people were who Hope's birth family lived with.
  • The Last Human (2019): Every day, XR_935 and its assigned parent-bots walk through the crumbling remains of a human city to get to and from work. Parent_1 and Parent_2 state to XR that the reason the ruins were left as they are is as a reminder of humanity's flaws.
    • The ruins get torn down when peace is achieved between humans and robots.
  • In The War of the Worlds (1898), portions of London are reduced to empty abandoned ruins, partially destroyed buildings, and an infestation of the extraterrestrial red weed. Other sections are noted instead to be pristine, but eerily empty.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • The Flash (2014) turns Central City into this in "Out of Time", thanks to the Weather Wizard's tidal wave. However, we don't actually see the ruins thanks to Barry reversing time.
    • Played straight in Legends of Tomorrow, where the Legends visit a future Star City, left in ruins by Deathstroke's attacks and defended only by the new Green Arrow. The Legends do manage to end Deathstroke's reign of terror, but there are plenty of criminals in the city to the help fill the vacuum.
  • Doctor Who: "The Day of the Doctor" depicts the capital of Gallifrey as the Daleks begin to destroy the planet. This destruction is what pushes the War Doctor past the Godzilla Threshold and leads him to use the Moment to end the Time War.
  • Supernatural dabbles into this in "The End" when Dean enters a Zombie Apocalypse-ravaged Bad Future where Lucifer is victorious, with Kansas City largely reduced to grim ruins.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • "Time Enough at Last" ends in this setting, since the world was destroyed by nuclear war.
    • In "Two", the man and woman are the first people to set foot in the ruined city since the war that devastated the world five years earlier. They discover the skeletal remains of several people and two birds that someone kept as pets.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Voices in the Earth", Professor Donald Knowles, Jacinda Carlyle, Archer and Bledsoe explore the 1,000-year-old decaying ruins of a city on the dead Earth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • CY_BORG (2022) has G0 or Ground Zero, an area where some nukes went off. It is walled off from the rest of the city of Cy, and heading down there is still lethally dangerous — if the Nanophreaks that roam the sector, the pockets of nerve-gas or the radioactive space rocks don't do for you, then whatever makes that noise at night will. Most of the place is waterlogged scrap and warped steel, but some of the oldest structures of Cy can still be found here, with scavengers, smugglers, cultists and opportunistic scientists being the only humans you'll find.
  • Cyberpunk Red: Much of central Night City has been devastated by the nuke that Johnny Silverhand set off at Arasaka Tower in 2023. The area around the tower, which is known as the Hot Zone, is in ruins, and much of the area immediately surrounding it is in the midst of rebuilding.
  • Flying Circus: Most of Himmilgard's surviving inhabitants live outside of the cities, which are still decimated from the war and are filled with supernatural poison gas. Some of the illustrations show off the Scenery Gorn of the toxic ruins.
  • Summerland: The game is largely assumed to take place in or close by the ruins of pre-Event towns, cities and suburbs. Consequently, the ruins of civilization are a major feature within the Sea of Leaves. Most have been severely damaged by burgeoning trees and often heavily covered by plant growth and leaf litter, but the remnants of walls, roads and entire buildings are common sights, the tunnels of former subways and sewers are important travel routes, and several survivor communities exist within the hulks of more intact buildings.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • Batman: Arkham City's titular city is a rotting, sequestered part of Gotham that has been fractured by flooding, earthquakes and bombings from the various gangs imprisoned in the City. The entire place is littered with starving criminals fighting over limited food drops. This is especially prominent after Protocol 10 removes a fifth of the population and sets some of the city's landmarks aflame.
    • Batman: Arkham Knight sees the entirety of Gotham City evacuated after a terrorist threat from the Scarecrow, leaving Batman's Rogues Gallery to burn the fire stations, prey on remaining civilians and tear apart Gotham's banks. Not to mention the army of tanks and drones the Arkham Knight sets loose. This is especially prominent after the Scarecrow releases the Cloudburst, blanketing the city streets in Fear gas.
  • The Bad Future of Chrono Trigger is first seen when the heroes have to go through ruins populated with robots, mutants, and giant rats. There is a stretch of abandoned highway clear of debris used as a racetrack by the local gang of robot delinquents.
  • The first level of Contra III: The Alien Wars takes place in a human city which is in the midst of being destroyed by an alien invasion.
  • In Criminal Case: The Conspiracy, a sizable portion of Grimsborough is left destroyed after an earthquake strikes the city and leaves a bunch of districts in complete ruin for most of the game. Examples include the financial and historical centers having rivers of magma flowing through the streets and the neighborhood of Maple Heights being sunk underwater.
  • Decision: Every game takes place in a different city ruined by the Zombie Apocalypse, with broken walls, crashed trucks and dead bodies everywhere. Fortunately, humans manage to fight back by creating fortified enclaves and clearing the zombies out one area at a time.
  • Dishonored. The Steampunk combined with Diesel Punk city of Dunwall is plagued by a rat plague which kills hundreds of people and leaves Technically Living Zombies in its wake. Many buildings are locked down, ruined, or even completely destroyed. This trope is especially apparent in the Flooded District, which the authorities just gave up on, and so there is not even any order left to be found there.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry's Limbo City is this in general due to its generally crumbing appearance, but it's even more so in its alternate dimension mode, which has demons running around everywhere.
  • The Fallout series has its protagonists visiting the ruins of cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C, Las Vegas and Boston.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn has several ruined cities of the Old Ones scattered throughout the game world, including Colorado Springs and Denver among the recognizable ones.
  • HAAK: The first area of the game is the Sanho Ruins, which appear to be some abandoned inner-city area devoid of many people and made up of empty buildings.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes place in the abandoned ruins of an entire urban civilization that has been Reclaimed by Nature.
  • The Last of Us takes place in the U.S. after a fungal pandemic wipes out civilization. It takes place in the ruins of several cities, including Boston, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City.
  • The last half of Lone Survivor takes place in this after the protagonist finally finds his way out of his apartment. What exactly happened to this City with No Name to start the Zombie Apocalypse is a Riddle for the Ages.
  • Mega: The game is set in a mostly empty city that's been ravaged by a Kaiju (the only other being in the city besides James Ward). While the buildings are still standing, there's noticeable holes in them, and rubble smattered about.
  • Thanks to the rise of the Mavericks, Mega Man X contains a few examples:
    • The intro level for Megaman X 1 takes place in a city under attack by Mavericks.
    • Wheel Gator's stage in Megaman X 2 takes place in a ship travelling through a half-demolished city.
  • Rebuild takes place in a randomized city of the player's choice (the default is Canadian) overrun by zombies, where buildings can be looted, reclaimed, and converted as needed (into labs, bars, churches, housing, etc.).
  • Miscreated is set in a world destroyed by The Final War and mutated by the mutant plague by the fallout.
  • The first post-tutorial levels of NieR: Automata take place in the urban ruins of the human civilization on Earth, centuries after it had been overrun by robotic alien invaders.
  • No More Heroes has Speed City, a whole abandoned city where you fight Speed Buster, a homeless old lady with a shopping cart... That turns into a giant Wave-Motion Gun. To defeat her, you gotta run towards her, all the while hiding in the ruined, empty buildings to avoid the giant bursts of energy from her cannon, which both deal ridiculous damage AND push you back, making you have to try and run up to her all over again.
  • The Ultra Ruins in Pok√©mon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are implied to be an alternate version of Hau'oli City ravaged by Guzzlord.
  • Primal Rage has Chaos' home stage, the Ruins. In the game's story, a massive meteor swarm has sent Earth back to the Stone Age, sending out tidal waves that ravaged the landscape while awakening ancient gods from underground who wage war for dominance in the aftermath; while nature has reclaimed much of the planet, the Ruins persist as a decrepit cityscape.
  • Raccoon City of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Even before the zombie apocalypse hit, it provided unwilling 'test subjects' for the local Evil, Inc., which practically owned the city and could easily 'disappear' any one of Raccoon's inhabitants. Post-outbreak, it is a grimy bloodstained tangle of streets and buildings that's horrific safety code violations will kill you almost as much as the actual zombies. Thankfully, the ending involves Raccoon City being nuked to high heaven.
  • Sheltered is set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, meaning the landscape has plenty of ruined buildings in it.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series frequently employs this trope:
  • Shin Megami Tensei uses this trope often. Most of the time it happens because the city is going through Hell on Earth:
  • StarCraft II: Some campaign missions return to Tarsonis, a city deliberately overrun by the Zerg in the first game. Ruined buildings, feral Zerg, and creep are everywhere.
  • Chapter 5 of Super Meat Boy, "Rapture", takes place in one, probably destroyed by the nuclear explosion at the end of chapter 4.
  • Watch_Dogs has the Rossi-Fremont tenement where Iraq and his Viceroys gang have set up shop. At least one building is collapsed and the others are extremely run down. One look makes you surprised that someone actually lives there.
  • XCOM 2's War of the Chosen DLC adds missions set in cities that were abandoned and never rebuilt after the war. They're usually uninhabited, apart from hordes of The Lost.

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck has The Land of Tombs and Krypton, a whole planet covered in green skyscrapers. Problem is, LOTAK is exclusively inhabited by hordes of undead skeletons, who were killed thanks to the fact that the Land's atmosphere consists of obscene levels of toxic krypton.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent, post-apocalyptic as it is, has the main characters pass through quite a few on their journey; particular attention is paid to what used to be Copenhagen, and Real Place Backgrounds abound.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In the episode "Simon and Marcy," viewers are treated to a flashback of Marceline and Simon Petrikov attempting to survive in the aftermath of a fairly recent apocalypse. Besides the titular two, no humans are seen - only hostile slime creatures, implied to have formed from the same radiation that would later shape the Land of Ooo.
  • In the episode "Come The Conqueror", The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes shows a post-apocalyptic version of New York from the forty-first century, thanks to some catastrophe from ten years in the Avengers' future.
  • Justice League invokes this trope twice thanks to fights with Superman.
    • In "Clash", Superman and Captain Marvel's fight leaves Luxor City as nothing but dust and rubble after they fight each other,
    • In the finale, the center of Metropolis gets reduced to this after Darkseid lands there and is on the receiving end of Superman's unrestrained power.
  • Over the course of The Legend of Korra's third season following the murder of the Earth Queen by Zaheer, Ba Sing Se collapses into this. The city suffers severe Monumental Damage, the government is torn down, looters immediately start prowling the streets, and fires begin to consume the lower class neighborhoods.


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