Where rocking-horse people eat marshmallow pies...
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high..."
Improbable fauna, impossible flora, and — oh my — the sky's started melting. Yep, looks like you're in a World of Chaos.
This setting is a bizarre mixture of elements from our world thrown into a blender, with a few squirts of lemon and a pinch of LSD. Everything comes together in outlandish and unpredictable combinations. Bright colors, strange creatures, and total disregard for logic are all in play. Anything can and will happen.
It may be the result of a Mushroom Samba, or be All Just a Dream of someone with a particularly vivid imagination. But if it's real, the characters will need a lot of luck, and their intuition will be more valuable than intellect. Worlds of Chaos are places of great whimsy and danger, much of which stems from the inability to comprehend what's at work in them. In this respect, they're like The Fair Folk in the form of a place. Precisely why and how these worlds behave in this manner can vary, but they're usually dream worlds where reality is subjective and ever-shifting, realms dominated by primordial forces of chaos, or somewhere outside of the shaped and ordered universe altogether. If a God of Chaos is present in the same setting, changes are good he'll make his kip here.
Alien Geometries may be commonplace. Not to be confused with World of Weirdness (a more mundane world with some fantastic elements) or The Wonderland (which has rules, just not the ones we're used to). Worlds inhabited by Starfish Aliens may not qualify, as they may have a little more internal consistency even if they're beyond our comprehension, plus the inclusion of recognizable elements is what gives this setting much of its edge.
Related to World Gone Mad, which started out normal before going completely bananas.
There's a good possibility you'll find yourself having tea with Cthulhu — possibly literally, if someone is simultaneously homaging Alice in Wonderland and H. P. Lovecraft. Compare Eldritch Location, Cloud Cuckooland, World of Weirdness and Reality Is Out to Lunch.
Not to be confused with giant Heartless ships.
- Hieronymus Bosch was fond of this trope, seen most prominently in his infamous The Garden of Earthly Delights
- Salvador Dalí, the most famous of the Surrealist painters, depicted many of these. The most famous and most-often-referenced of all is The Persistence of Memory, which depicts a landscape strewn with melting clocks. That wasn't even half as bizarre as some of the scenes shown in some of his other lesser-known works, though.
- The fictional world in Grant Morrison's Flex Mentallo can be probably considered an example of this trope before it's revealed it actually was weirdly intermixed with the normal world. Or was it?
- Justice Society of America: When Extant makes his own universe, this is the result. As first glance, it looks like your bog-standard sword and sorcery universe, just filled with endless hordes of knights dressed like Hawk and Dove fighting forever. Closer inspection is the laws of physics don't work properly, even with the allowance for your typically wonky comic physics, and buildings are built that shouldn't be able to stand and hurt the eyes to look at. This is what happens when the Reality Warper who makes the reality is completely insane.
- The realm of Dream in The Sandman (1989), being the world where dreams happen. His sister Delirium's realm, even more so. To elaborate, the Dreaming is where your mind goes every night when you fall asleep. It has a sort of logic of its own, but the laws of physics are more like guidelines. Delirium's realm is where your mind goes when you're crazy, and what little is seen of it is pure stream-of-consciousness chaos.
- Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Jim Steranko, among many others, were highly adept at depicting these.
- Doctor Strange wandered into these frequently when battling the villains Nightmare (dream worlds) and Dormammu. Notably, Dormammu and his bizarre magical world were created by Steve Ditko.
- Several works by Lewis Carroll:
- Nonsense folk songs and rhymes in various cultures (in Russian folklore they're called nebylitsy) are often based on this trope.
- Chaos in the Elric of Melnibone series.
- The Codex Seraphinianus, Spiritual Successor to the Voynich Manuscript.
- Many of the works of Bruno Schulz.
- Ironically, the Courts of Chaos in The Chronicles of Amber are NOT this. Sure, maybe the sun and moon circle each other in the sky, casting night and day on opposite sides of a band of twilight, but that doesn't mean it's not consistent.
- Natural law in the Courts is such that this could easily be implemented; it isn't - in fact, ongoing efforts are made to keep things sorted out — because people live there. (Also why the Courts and Amber are sited some distance away from what they represent.) The Pit the Courts hover over, being a well of continual creation and its antithesis, comes closer to the trope. That said, most places too close to the Courts are too influenced by entropy to get a really satisfying level and form of continual change — it's real estate about a third of the way out towards Amber the trope seems to apply best to.
- More Minds demonstrates what happens when absolutely everyone gains the power of Reality Warping. It's almost impossible to die, and you'll always have everything you want and need. This is not a good thing.
- A rare positive example of this can be found in the first installment of Ted Dekker's Circle series. Before humankind becomes corrupted by sin and Falls from Grace, God does this sort of thing frequently — switching the sky and sea in their places, changing the world's colors — when he's in a playful mood.
- In the Animorphs prequel book The Andalite Chronicles, Elfangor, Esplin 9466,note and Loren accidentally create one when they all attempt to use the Time Matrix to return home at the same time while all participants were starved of oxygen and freezing to death. Since no place in the universe matched the multiple inputs the Time Matrix was receiving, it created a new universe described as a nonsensical patchwork of the Yeerk homeworld, the Andalite homeworld, and suburban America.
- This part of the book gets substantially weirder in the next Chronicles title, The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, where it's revealed that Esplin was born and raised on a ship's Yeerk Pool and has never actually been to the Yeerk homeworld. So it's probably not a good idea to look too closely at the Yeerk parts of the mish-mash world.
- The Half-Made World series. Go too far in one direction and reality becomes unstable.
- Steven Brusts's To Reign in Hell, a Twice-Told Tale of Paradise Lost. Heaven is a bubble of order carved out of chaos by the first living creatures. They're always at the ready to beat back the chaos when it starts to encroach.
- InterWorld, by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves, has the In-between. This would fit under Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, except that stuff actually LIVES THERE.
- A few examples of stuff found in the In-Between: yellow geometric shapes that eat each other, flying knees, disembodied mouths that eat themselves, suspended pathways "with the texture of polished polyurethane", windows that open on to horrible screams, undulating noodles, vortexes of pudding... all floating randomly in a void with infinite dimensions that causes synesthesia.
- In Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World Earth has become this after the detonation of a super-weapon except for certain areas maintained by the Mega Corps' Applied Phlebotinum.
- The Infinite Improbability Drive from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy can have these effects. When Ford and Arthur are accidentally picked up by the Heart of Gold, they find themselves in what seems to be Southend, but the sea stays still and the buildings wash up and down, Arthur's limbs start drifting away, Ford starts turning into a penguin, and they ask for help from a passing man with five heads crawling up a wall.
- Sometimes seen in Discworld in the aftermath of a large magical explosion, often paired with Editorial Synaesthesia.
- The whole theme of the Gordon R. Dickson novel Time Storm, in which the eponymous storms can change a locale's time frame by thousands of years or more as they pass.
- The entire Earth experiences this in the Jack Vance story "The Men Return" after it moves into a region of non-causality.
- The Nevernever in the Dresden Files is home to nearly every mythological being there is, and even saying nothing about how dangerous the inhabitants are, the laws of physics don't necessarily apply there either.
- Many Monty Python's Flying Circus animations take place in a World Of Chaos.
- Some songs by The Beatles are set in such a world:
- Music videos by Chad van Gaalen.
- The setting of Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
- The music video to "Sledgehammer".
- A bit, the music video to "You Might Think".
- Daemon Worlds in Warhammer 40,000 are literally worlds of Chaos, where the laws of nature do not apply and everything is governed by the will of the Chaos Gods and their daemons, which is VERY bad because the moods and desires of Daemons change more often than you would think possible.
- As you might expect, the lower levels of Wonderland in JAGS Wonderland.
- Limbo in Planescape is another literal chaos world, a roiling mixture of all the elements that forms a vast primordial soup out of which emerge the strangest damn things. Order can be imposed temporarily by the willpower and imagination of sentient beings—but that just means that you really need to pay attention.
- And while on the subject of Dungeons & Dragons, the Far Realm, as expected of a Lovecraft-inspired plane, definitely qualifies.
- The Wyld of Exalted.
- Changeling: The Lost:
- Arcadia is so defined by chaos that the True Fae stake their existence on constant conflict with one another for more glories and titles; if they don't, they fade away into the background and are eventually undone. The game book describes it something like this (paraphrasing): "Arcadia is a place where your wishes come true. In other words, it greatly resembles Hell."
- The actual Hell may or may not qualify. Being composed of all the collected vice and depravity in the history of the world, it's described as being so hideous that looking at it causes insanity, and even then human minds cannot fully grasp it, instead turning the images into something they can understand. It's basically a Fire and Brimstone Hell Up to Eleven.
- Perhaps even more fitting to this trope is the Umbral Realm known as Flux from Mage: The Ascension and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. It's a sub-dimension of uncontrolled, chaotic creation.
- The Realm of Discord from Sentinels of the Multiverse is another dimension where the laws of physics can change on a whim. One moment you're fast, the next you're slow, and remember to watch out for exploding bubbles.
- The Actuality, the magical setting for Invisible Sun is an extreme World of Chaos. For example, physics don't have much meaning in the Actuality, because it implies a single set of inflexible rules governing all of reality, which doesn't exist in the Actuality. Change and variation are as much a part of the Actuality as structure or reliability, if not more so. Gravity pulls you down, unless it doesn't, typically for a reason, but sometimes that reason isn't obvious, or even knowable.
- While the later Super Mario Bros. games tried to establish a viable, somewhat consistent Wonderland, the first one just plunged you right into a world where you were a plumber of Italian descent who must rescue a "princess Toadstool" by defeating a turtle-dragon while killing evil walking mushrooms with eyes, turtles with wings, carnivore plants growing out of green pipes and other similar enemies. Oh, and if you eat a mushroom which comes out of a shining floating block with a question sign, you grow bigger, and if you pick a flower, you can shoot bouncing fireballs. Jumping stars, climbable beanstalks, walking on clouds and jumping several times your height ensue.
- In fact, one could say that the series has used this as a "spring off point", so to speak. Because it makes little sense, anyway, Mario can go anywhere and let the developers worry more about gameplay concerns than whether the setting makes sense: space (Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel), inside other characters (Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story), and the past (Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time) are some examples.
- Chaosrealm in Mortal Kombat.
- Inverted with Seido, which still has bizarre alien geometry. (It's torus-shaped and made of floating rectangles connected by bridges which make perfect lines.)
- In an old Macintosh children's game called The Manhole, you could climb a beanstalk growing out of the titular manhole: at the very top, you find a forest at night, in the middle of which is a tower that's actually a chess piece sitting in the corner of a vast network of underground canals—which you only realise when you reach the top of the tower. With the aid of a gondola-rowing elephant, you can use the canals to pay a visit to a walrus captain who operates an elevator that somehow arrives in a sunken ship, or you can carry on rowing and find yourself in the teacup of a talking rabbit who lives inside a fire hydrant just across from the Manhole.
- Said sunken ship can also be reached by climbing down the beanstalk, thereby making the whole thing circular. And there's a door on the sunken ship that takes you into a room full of flowers. Plus if you go inside the fire hydrant house, you can use a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to go back up to the tower.
- Cosmic Osmo, by the same developers, is built on the same trope (but IN SPACE). Said developers were later responsible for the Myst series. This explains a lot.
- Possibly the Wario Land series, as a spinoff of Super Mario Bros. For example, the Big Board level, where every single thing that happens relies on the dice blocks found in the level, and getting certain numbers can result in anything from being struck by lightning to enemies appearing to being set on fire.
- Speaking of Alice in Wonderland, there also was an eponymous Commodore 64 game which featured a world which was a mix of all the nonsense from both original books plus some extra nonsense added, like a house inside a chess board inside a house inside a bath machine inside a house inside another house which is located underground. You may read a Let's Play of this game here.
- And American McGee's Alice, which is a darker version of this.
- Endermen in Minecraft, given enough time, will inevitably turn the world into something along these lines with their block moving abilities. See this video for the damage endermen can cause over a period of 3 years on a server.
- The Mystery Vortex in Sam & Max Hit the Road. The overall setting of the game is faintly surreal, but inside the Mystery Vortex, Reality Is Out to Lunch and won't be returning in any foreseeable future: warped perspectives, M. C. Escher furniture, doors that make you too small or too tall to open them, inverted gravity, booths that contain chaos dimensions, control rooms hidden inside mirrors, forests of shoe trees, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
- In the Telltale games, the whole world could qualify. Sam & Max's neighborhood is in-canon placed somewhere between the subway line of purgatory and hell.
- A Roguelike named Ragnarok (not to be confused with the manhwa or the MMORPG of the manhwa), while purportedly based on Norse mythology (but with plenty of other stuff thrown in for no particular reason), has a plane called Chaos that you can travel or be banished to. Every step you take, the entire terrain re-randomizes.
- Final Fantasy IX has "Memoria", a mindscape created above the Iifa tree where Zidane and his party face off against Kuja in the final disc; it's a jumble of scenes and buildings gathered from the collective memory of the entire planet, where it's possible to walk through a giant, city-destroying eyeball into the ruins of a town it just attacked, walk up a staircase leading into space, pass through a waterfall and find yourself swimming through an ancient coral reef, or climb a ladder that overlooks the birth of the planet itself. Thankfully, Garland's around to explain what's happening.
- The final world of Kingdom Hearts follows this trope. The world is made of bits and pieces of destroyed worlds mixed in with lots of darkness to hold things together.
- Additionally, the final boss is actually called "World of Chaos," but this is not that trope.
- I Wanna Be the Guy is visually an amalgamation of multiple video games, so it's no wonder that there's wildly different areas with often no logical connection between them.
- Yume Nikki, more specifically Madotsuki's dream world. Somewhat justified in that it's a dream, but even as far as dreams go it's weird.
- OMORI: Headspace... doesn't make any sense. Justified when it turns out that it's the delusion of a suicidal child trying to run away from his problems.
- This is the schtick of Mira, the 'continent of illusions' from Baten Kaitos.
- The "End of the World" stage in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Every stage features a different character to play as, and different levels altogether, there are giant wormholes that warp the colors while simultaneously vacuuming you into them, monsters made of lava and purple stuff attack you at any given moment, the environment changes from lava to forest to temple to desert at a moment's notice, and it is more or less designed to freak you out and confuse you.
- In Thief: The Dark Project, any place messed with by the Trickster tends to be like this. A forest inside the house? Doors that lead nowhere? Rooms that look like they came straight out of an Escher painting? Windows that open to the void of space? One level of his very prominently features a river that flows uphill (including reverse-waterfalls), and at one point flows along the ceiling.
- In a puzzle game Back to Bed you are a subconscious of a narcoleptic sleepwalker creating safe paths through his dreams for him. The dream landscape is inspired by Escher and Dali.
- Weird Dreams takes place inside the mind of a dying man under daemonic influence. Expect lethal candy floss machine, flying desert fishes, giant insects, bloodthirsty toys, bloodthirsty vegetation, bloodthirsty little girl and what some fans refer to as embodiment of MS Windows 3.x.
- LSD: Dream Emulator is made entirely of this.
- One interpretation of the very, very disjointed level design in Dark Souls II hinges on this aspect. It's nearly impossible to explain how one can fall into a giant whirlpool in the middle of a lake, end up in a dark underground sanctuary with titanic pillars and an enormous glowing crack in the sky, emerge from said cavern into a beautiful seaside town, travel dozens of miles to a drowned city by walking for five minutes through an underground passageway, descend below sea level into a cavern which happens to be AT sea level, and most mind boggling of all, ascend through an unseen elevator behind a giant windmill-laden tower in order to reach a sinking iron fortress...in the middle of a vast sea of lava which, if it's any indication, happens to be above cloud level.
- Dragon Age features the Fade, a parallel realm to the mundane world where minds go when they dream. It is the realm of abstract entities; Spirits and Demons, and is shaped entirely by will, unbound by rules of physics like the mundane world. Mages are specially attuned to it, able to essentially have lucid dreams when they sleep normally, and can also enter the fade consciously through magical means. They are also especially prone to demonic possession, which is one of the main reasons mages are feared. Physical entry into the fade is impossible without extraordinary means (and the last time that happened, the transgressors screwed things up real bad.)
- The obstacle course created for the entrance exam to WIT in Quest for Glory II strongly resembles the trope picture. Only there's no city and the road is more flat.
- The flash games Samorost and Samorost 2.
- Possibly, the Grow series of flash games.
- Fallen London plays this one for nightmares with the Iron Republic, Hell's colony in the Neath. The only law here is that there are no laws, no tyrants. This includes the laws of chance and physics, and the tyrannies of nature and logic. The lunatics who actually enjoy the place can change what little order is there by protesting it. No one enters and leaves this place unscathed, but that doesn't stop people from coming and going anyways. Your possible stint in this literally hellish place is one of the scarier parts of the whole game.
- Hyrule is turned into this after Cia opens the Gate of Souls in Hyrule Warriors. Legends takes it Up to Eleven with Forsaken Fortress, which is several locations from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker that were nowhere near each other unceremoniously mashed together, with the ocean in the background abruptly cutting off in random places.
- Several locations in the story mode of LEGO Dimensions have become Worlds of Chaos thanks to Lord Vortech. Among other things, Metropolis now houses The Eye of Sauron, Minas Tirith has been outfitted with technology from Aperture Science, and Mr. Burns' office has been demolished by The Joker.
- Paradiso in the first Bayonetta game. Floating rocks to step on are commonplace, one area is littered with pieces of buildings seen earlier in the game, gravity points to random directions depending on where you are with some mobile platform even having their own gravity, the background is either an endless expanse of golden clouds or starry night sky... it's a really weird place.
- Parodies on the Nightmare City flash movies made by a guy called Nch from 4chan transform the setting from a furry sci-fi one into a World Of Chaos composed of various Imageboard memes. Links for those of you who haven't seen 4Chan City. Also note that Nightmare City was itself based on characters from the japanese board 2ch.
- The "Sweet Cuppin' Cakes" Show Within a Show of Homestar Runner, first introduced in crazy cartoon as Strong Bad responding to a request to make a supreme example of Deranged Animation, is rather surreal, even compared to the weird setting of the main Homestar Runner universe.
- This trope is a major part of the appeal of Axe Cop, where everything that happens is driven by whatever seems cool to its six-year-old writer.
- Someone in the cast of Dominic Deegan Oracle For Hire has found themselves in one of these at least once per story-arc.
- Problem Sleuth is set mostly in one. There's the imaginary world, only accessible through the forts the main characters make from their desks, but the real world isn't 100% coherent either.
- While the world of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is more of a World of Weirdness, The Radical Lands is a world that seems to abide primarily by a combination of Rule of Cool and Totally Radical. As it turns out, the radicalness of the Radical Lands is so powerful that some of its energy bled into another universe. Specifically, the world of Dr. McNinja, which lies right between the Radical Lands and our universe, thus explaining the mix of mundane and weirdness of the world.
- Zebra Girl: The Subfusc, especially because of its inhabitants. When you have anthropomorphic psycho rabbits, nonsensical talking spiders from the moon and a flying doggy-snake thingy who is literally attracted to crucial moments, marriage proposals and other life-altering decisions, you begin to get the idea that this place is just downright bizarre. As for the location in itself, it quite obviously doesn't follow the usual laws of physic, and people there are able to float (not fly) if they let go of their concerns. There is also a place dedicated for people who feel at their lowest, adequately named "The Pit", and an healing river made by the flow of time... You get the idea.
- Earthworm Jim lives in such a
- Several cartoons by Aleksandr Tatarskiy, including:
- The Last Year's Snow Was Falling, which gained a cult status in the USSR. About half of it is the protagonist's daydream, about as much is the protagonist irresponsibly playing with a magic wand of transformation. The rest includes horse becoming a turnip, fir trees pretending to be deciduous (so that they wouldn't be cut for the New Year) and the protagonist drowning the (fake) end credits so that "no one will be any the wiser" (or "FINs sleep with the fishes" in another translation).
- Plasticine Crow, specifically the third segment Or maybe... Or maybe.... The narrators are trying to recall the story as they are telling it, the visuals reflect that. A crow keeps becoming a dog, then a cow, then a crow again. A temperate forest becomes tropical. A pound of cheese fits in an airmail envelope. And a janitor hatches out of an ostrich egg.
- Star Trek: The Animated Series:
- "The Magicks of Megas-Tu''. The planet Megas-Tu is totally chaotic, and the only order is that imposed by its residents, the Magicks. Because of the time they spent on Earth, the things they create resemble those from Earth's past.
- The so-called "Mad Planet" in "The Jihad" may not technically violate any physical laws, but it undergoes constant radical geophysical changes combined with unpredictable weather.
- Adventure Time:
- The main setting crosses over into this often, leaving the established D&D-inspired setting for places like Lumpy Space and the Crystal Dimension, often with little warning. Even while staying in the Land of Ooo proper, random weirdness is often the order of the day — kingdoms of living candy, slime people, fire elementals and people made out of breakfast foods, flying rainbow unicorns that only speak Korean, wizards and princesses for every random concept, robots that throw never-ending pies, giants that wear barns, two-headed psychic war elephants...
- The Nightosphere, a hellish world over which Marceline's demon father rules, is explicitly stated to thrive off chaos. Most of Hunson Abadeer's job (which also became Marceline's job when she briefly wore his evil amulet) involved ruling over their realm like an Obstructive Bureaucrat, dishing out pointless rules and cruel tricks on apathetic and confused demons.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Discord attempted to turn Equestria into a World Gone Mad on several occasions, and the Pocket Dimension where he's made his home is an even more extreme variant of that. The Alien Sky is a mix of constantly shifting blue and purple, the few pieces of land are floating in chunks and come in colors and patters that soil and grass have no business coming in, the gravity is largely optional and inconsistent, and some very weird fauna is seen flying around or lurking on the floating islands.
- Discord's actual house is rather tame in comparison, though it still has some weirdness, like furniture on the ceiling and upside-down stairs that lead to nowhere. It's also in the little details, like the window cleaner leaving wetness behind rather than removing it, or bunny-shaped dust bunnies sitting under the couch. When Discord washes dishes, he does it in reverse — the dishes go into the sink clean and come out dirty.
- Discord's house reappears in Season 7, when he invites Fluttershy over for tea. Its weirdness has visibly grown, with the house now including features like an upside-down volcano on the ceiling and swirling purple portal to... somewhere in the center of the floor. In his rush to make everything more normal for her, he organizes the realm of chaos, and this starts to make him disappear, because a being and realm of chaos cannot survive with too much harmony. It takes Fluttershy re-disorganizing everything again to save him from vanishing out of existence.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes: Every individual in Miseryville is a Cartoon Creature and the sky and water are red for no apparent reason despite being blue elsewhere. Those are among the least conspicuous aspects. Completely justified though as Miseryville is strongly implied to be Hell (or something akin to a cartoon version of it) with the Cartoon Creatures being demons and monsters, and the "water" is really just a case of Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid. Word of God even says that all the one-off bizarreness in the show is created by Lucius Heinous VII's immense reality warping powers.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: Elmore. Its population consists mostly of Animate Inanimate Objects and Cartoon Creatures with the occasional Funny Animal thrown in here and there, despite every other city shown being dominated by humans, and even the non-anthropomorphic objects and animals are still sentient and talk. Furthermore, even the tiniest things can cause massive disasters, the most extreme example being "The Job", which shows that anyone can destroy the Universe just by behaving in a very unusual manner.
- Dreams. You could be in the strangest, oddest, most bizarre circumstances of your entire life, and yet you just accept it all as completely normal. This can be played around with in lucid dreaming, where you're aware that you're in a dream, and shape it to your will. It's still a World Of Chaos, but now you're in control.
- Hallucinations, especially drug-induced.
- Any story and/or larger-scale art created by small children, as they understand some things (things fall, the sky is up, people meet, etc.) but not larger-scale connections. If they attempt to create something big, they will inadvertently just throw in elements they know randomly... even if the world, stories, animals etc. don't work that way. This explains for example Axe Cop.
- While still adhering to the rules of physics, NASA and other agencies have found planets that are as close to this trope in Real Life as possible. One of them for example is so hot that its atmosphere contains liquid silicates and also has winds raging at over 500 kilometers per hour. In other words, on that planet it rains molten glass sideways.