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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Allow Me to explain. About 50 years ago the foolish practices of the humans combined with natural disasters to destroy most of the world except for this terrible desert...

...Not that a little global holocaust discouraged the humans from pursuing their foolish wars. Then when we thought everything had calmed down, the single river that sustained this world, the life of our desert, suddenly stopped...

...With absolutely no chance of rain, as usual, more deaths are predicted.

The term "Wagon Train to the Stars" had more relevance than we thought. Much of humanity has gone to outer space, but apparently all the planets they could settle on were dry, desert-covered worlds.

A big advantage to setting a sci-fi world in a desert is that it's easy to conceptualize, compared to a geographically and culturally diverse world like Earth. The author doesn't have to spend time explaining the history or nuance of the world because there is none.

When life becomes hard, and on such a world, it usually is, morals are the first thing you throw away. Law and order are swift to break down, and suddenly we have The Wild West on another planet.

Alternate version: deserted lands After the End (usually nuclear wars).

Not to be confused with the manga and anime Desert Punk, although it is an example.

See also Cattle Punk.

Desert Planet Examples

Anime And Manga

  • Orgos from Desert Coral.
  • Trigun was probably the first big one, at least as far as anime goes, though it's also a very good trope example, and justifies the setting very well. Long story short: They were going to terraform the planet (or even just find a better one), but the Big Bad tried to kill everyone and screwed it up.
  • Gun X Sword
  • Desert Punk, natch.
  • Zoids has a considerable amount of this, seeing that the planet Zi is mostly desert.



Live Action Television

  • In Firefly many border worlds and moons, as well as those on the Rim are only marginally terraformed, generally resulting in them being deserts or borderline. More affluent or Alliance worlds in the Core are more idyllic in terms of atmosphere.
  • Any story set on Vulcan
  • Reversed on Terra Nova. The general feel of desert punk is there, especially with the Sixers but it's set in the jungles of the Mezozoic. This promises to become even more so if there's a second season now that they're cut off from the 22nd century and on their own.


  • The video for Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" takes place in an After the End version, loosely implied to be after an alien invasion.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • Many of the Wild Arms games have elements of this, as did the anime, with Wild Arms 3 being the straightest example (the others all have prominent oceans and forests). Crosses over with the Burned-Out Earth, though, since Filgaia as a planet is slowly dying.
  • The "Under the Burning Suns" campaign in The Battle for Wesnoth takes place in the distant future of the main setting of the game, centuries after Mages raised a second sun into the sky. Funnily enough, there's a solid gameplay reason for that: Lawful creatures (including mages) are stronger during the day. One way or another, having two suns led to the whole planet going desert. (The campaign features "Desert Elves".)
  • Pandora in Borderlands.
  • Motavia in Phantasy Star IV. It's naturally a desert planet, but in between Phantasy Star I and Phantasy Star II, it was fully terraformed into a Ghibli Hills world that borders on Crystal Spires and Togas. However, Climatrol was destroyed in II, and since then, the world has been slowly desertifying and monsters have been taking over the wilds, with only the Hunter's Guild to fight them back. Thus, this crosses over with the Burned-Out Earth variant. Obviously, it was a desert planet in the original Phantasy Star, but it was far less "punk" back then.

Western Animation

Burned-out Earth Examples

Anime And Manga


Tabletop Games

  • Deadlands is set in a very strange version of the wild west that qualifies as this with a bit of magic thrown in for kicks.

Video Games

  • Fallout. The video game's universe as a whole is designed around the popular conceptions of future technology and the effects of nuclear war that the American public had in the 1950's. Many aspects of it are intentionally unrealistic.
    • Justified in the first two games, which took place in post-apocalyptic California, and some parts of Nevada and Oregon.
    • Playing straight or truly justified in the third game, that even though it's set in Washington D.C., it was hit hard by nuclear weapons (the White House is gone), burning it even worse than the rest of the country. The exception is Point Lookout, which is mostly radioactive swampland.
    • Justified again in the fourth (or not) canonical main game, as the game takes place in the post-apocalyptic Mojave Desert. The exception is Zion Valley which is lush with life, clean flowing water, and a rain cycle.
    • It's actually mostly averted in the fourth (or technically fifth canonical) game, as since Boston was not hit as hard as the rest of the country. However, the southern areas are still dangerous, mainly due to the presence of the Gunners, mercenaries who in practice are little better than raiders, as well as bands of Super Mutants. There's also the Glowing Sea in the southwestern corner, a radioactive wasteland (even by Fallout standards) created by the only nuke to hit the Boston area, which is filled with various types of Demonic Spiders that occasionally wander into the Commonwealth.
    • Completely averted (or optionally semi-double subverted in regards, since either before or after the Wastelanders DLC update) in its the second canonically (or fourth/fifth by-release date) spinoff game, Fallout 76, that due of the game time period takes place in a nuclear war-less bombed, but was formerly West Virginia (or Appalachia), that despite of by the time (as based on pre-Wastelanders era) of Western Virginian society was collapsed by the Great War, 25 years ago; with after it, as revealed that the predominantly WV survivors were eventually killing off, one-by-one (or turned if not all of them, into essentially technically living zombies with some lime colored crystal shards) by the Scorched plague during those 25 years, before the game begins. Put besides that, the whole region itself is mostly living life (through some were mutated, from outside environment or artificially), with each one varieties from purely non-radiated living ecology (i.e., The Forest) to lifeless ecological environments (i.e., Toxic Valley and Ash Heap, through those regions were mostly made by Pre-War pollution, instead of the Great War's radiation).
      • Except if your player character(s) can used the unused couple nukes left, by using the three separated and abandoned US military missile silos. To either destroying the original antagonistic threat, The Scorchbeasts, or destroy your rivals camp/territories. Which could making this punk, truly effective... if wasn't a multiplayer game, to see this happen.
  • Rage (soon to be released)
  • Pokémon Colosseum. The protagonist is not a plucky 10-year old, but an ex-Pokemon thief that rescues the female protagonist, who looks like a cheap, under-age hooker in the Japanese version. Together they fight their way through the post-apocalyptic badlands of Orre, driving a rusty hover-cycle with an engine presumably stolen from a Top Fuel dragster. Reinforced by the near-total lack of Pokemon (read: organic life) in the desert areas. The only real exceptions are Agate Village (a lovely green village built high in the mountains) and Phenac City, a veritable oasis city whose mayor is secretly the Big Bad.
  • Half-Life 2 was originally planned to be have this setting, dubbed "The Wasteland", surrounding City 17; but also implying to being downplayed (as well, being a straightforward Cyberpunk, than the final version). Due, of based on cut ideas, is that the Combine did it deliberately for their Empire's resources. In the final game, it was briefly referenced and implied to still being the case of used the cut idea, during a teleportation failure early in the game, where Gordon and Lamarr were accidentally send into an deserted-like area, somewhere on Earth, before Gordon teleports again.


  • One of the subplots of Homestuck involves four survivors of the ravaging of Skaia exiled on earth, doing... something. That's a pretty good question, what were they doing there?
    • Turns out their job is to both advise the players and restore life on Earth.
  • Weapon Brown

Western Animation

  • Parodied in Futurama. Turns out that’s just what the 3003's Los Angeles looks like normally.