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"Somebody turn on the lights! I can't see shit!"
Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii, No More Heroes

Lighting can add to the atmosphere of a game. Unfortunately, what looks dark and atmospheric on the developer's $2000 custom-built monitor just looks black on your average John Hancock's $75 store-bought monitor. That goes double when playing during daylight, especially if the sun shines into the room.

Other causes include poor lighting code, bad shaders, not using enough light sources or not making the light sources bright enough.

Regardless of the cause, the game ends up too dark, forcing the user to adjust the brightness controls of the game or their monitor. Sometimes this kills the atmosphere once the view is bright enough to see what they are doing.

Note that this does not refer to games with the occasional dark area such as the flashlight-intensive sequence in Half-Life 2: Episode 1. That would be Blackout Basement. This trope is when the whole game is too dark. For the sister trope dealing with a shortage of color saturation, see Real Is Brown.

See also Back That Light Up. Invert this trope and apply it to music and you get Loudness War. Not to be confused with Blackout Basement. Contrast Hollywood Darkness.

Examples of Who Forgot the Lights? include:
  • The original design of the Game Boy Advance had a very dark screen. The problem was made worse, at the initial release of the system, because early development units had a brighter screen than retail units, so the colors were calibrated to be darker than intended. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and the port of Doom are commonly-held examples of games that are noticeably more playable on a backlit GBA SP or DS. Doom had the option to turn off dynamic lighting (no darkness and shadows), which was pretty much like having a permanent Light Amplification Goggles powerup -- which was removed from the GBA edition for being redundant.
  • Doom 3, made much worse by the fact that you can't use a gun and a flashlight at the same time [1]. The PC version has mods to fix this.
    • The game had actually been purposely designed with this trope in mind and unlike most previous games the engine is actually capable of rendering dark areas as completely pitch black, meaning that fiddling with your brightness settings is not going to help you.
  • Quake, especially the GL version. Some areas are rendered pitch black until you activate the lights, this being one of the first games to do it. Quake II to a slightly lesser extent.
  • Bioshock (The sequel gives you a set of automatic flash lights.)
  • Deus Ex. Perhaps it is because J.C is wearing Sunglasses At Night. Then again, his vision is augmented.
  • Tomb Raider 3 does it, though it's worse on some monitors than on others. Thankfully, this game came with a gamma adjustment control, which when increased improved visibility but made the moody lighting almost impossible to see. No such luck for players on thePlaystation, however. Even though you do have flares, they do not last very long.
    • It got so bad that on Tomb Raider Forums, someone posted screenshots of a hoax nighttime version of the Croft Manor level. In reality, this was just the regular Croft Manor with the gamma turned to the bottom.
  • Twisted Metal: Black. The darkness was intentional -- it is intended to convey a Crapsack World, but some players can't see their hand front of thier face except on the highest brightness settings.
  • Riven has an install screen which specifically explains that if they go making everything bright, it blows out some of the detail. So the game has you adjust your monitor to a sensible curve.
  • F.E.A.R. and its sequel do this. Both games even have you calibrate your settings at the start of the game to ensure that you have just the right level of darkness.
  • Devil May Cry
  • Metal Gear Solid Series
  • Jak and Daxter, despite having a bright, kid-friendly color palette during the game's "day", becomes a world of black during the night cycles.
  • Soul Reaver 2, especially in the Bad Future parts and when you're underwater in a cave can be so dark that literally all you can see is Raziel himself. Cranking up the brightness is the only way to see where you're going.
  • Parodied in Earthworm Jim with its secret level, "Who Turned Out The Lights?" The level is completely dark except for a few spotlights (stand in front of them to see a silhouette of Jim) -- and you spend most of the level looking at Jim's googly eyes and shooting at other menacing eyes. At the end of the level A set of huge eyes appears and chases Jim around until he gets back to the main game.
  • The Suffering is kind enough to let you set the brightness yourself. But since it's a horror game, it shows you a static image and tells you to make it just barely visible. The end result is dim, eerie lighting, perfect for a fright.
  • Limbo of the Lost infamously demonstrated why adventure games should never do this. (The poor lighting would seem to have been caused by the game's backgrounds being ripped off from other games that were poorly lit.)
  • The Thief series, to a ridiculous level.
    • A bit of gamma adjustment can go a long way - besides, it's sort of the whole premise of the series. In any event, the developers were thoughtful enough to include flares in The Metal Age.
  • Hilariously spoofed in one Gamepro Magazine April Fools edition. They claimed to have first-look screens of the new Daredevil console game, but just showed black screens (and the multiplayer had a black screen divided into four!). The joke being that Daredevil is a blind superhero.
    • It was actually in the "Lamepro" section, which appeared in every issue prior to April 2007. The Lamepro section included other greats such as President Evil, among other spoofed games.
  • According to Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!, this is a common problem for Mac ports of PC games due to different gamma values. The Unreal Engine in particular is subject to this, due to a gamma-correction feature that only works properly on PCs.
  • The first Riddick game, Escape from Butcher Bay, throws you into some very dark situations before Riddick receives his Super Senses. The worst of these occurs in Pope Joe's den, where you're asked to retrieve a radio in a pitch black sewer while armed with a dying flashlight. Also the sewer is populated with howling mutants.
  • Developers wanted to make sure that you'd play Limbo at night due to brightness levels being low.
  • Descent Maximum, as shown in a Let's Play.
  • This happens for a little while in the Silent Hill games, before you locate your flashlight, and during this point, your best bet with enemies is to simply run your fool ass off.
    • Silent Hill Homecoming is the worst culprit for this, having areas of the game so dark, that even with the flashlight you can barely see where you're going.
  • Dark areas in the first Soldier of Fortune. You were running blind, even with night vision goggles, while the enemies could still see you.*
  • Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. The game actually looks pretty good. Too bad it's so dark that you'll almost always be playing it through the black-and-white night vision. Somewhat justified, it being a stealth game.
  • Fallout 3 is an offender as its very many dark areas are almost pitch black even at the highest brightness setting. Turning on the Pip-boy lamp makes everything, such as rocks, shiny and causes lots of bloom. It also only brightens a tiny area.
  • Golden Eye Wii
  • You Are Empty goes above and beyond the call of duty by having no lighting effects to speak of.
  • Many areas of Resident Evil: Code Veronica are pitch-black or close to it, requiring to equip the Lighter to find your way around. For about a third of the game, you won't even have that luxury.
  • Night missions in flight simulators such as F/A-18 Hornet. If you turn the brightness up, it becomes Hollywood Darkness.
  • Conflict: Vietnam has a level where you're in a bunker that takes place in the evening with napalm smoke in the sky. The next level, 'Bad Moon' takes place full-on at night... And is easier to see.
  • Dracula 2: the Last Sanctuary. Solving puzzles when you can't find the components because it's soooo dark? Not very entertaining.
  • Bullet Witch. The ubiquitous dark areas are so black the only way you can realistically spot enemies is from their muzzle flashes. And the protagonist is not Made of Iron or anything so waiting to get shot is a poor way of finding them. Made all the more insulting by including a "brightness adjustment screen" in the options...that can't adjust the brightness. What are they expecting, that you change your TV brightness every time you play this game?
  • Runescape's high detail graphical updates have added this to the game. In dungeons, it can become very difficult to see if both lighting detail, textures and ground detail are turned on. Fortunately, turning one or all of these off makes the game much brighter.
  • Minecraft does this intentionally. As monsters spawn at lower light levels, the creator (Notch) wanted to encourage players not to simply blindly wander through the night or through dark tunnels, and to place torches as often as possible. A side effect of this is a generally scary atmosphere, especially outside Peaceful mode.
    • Though there are instances where the lighting for various covered blocks fail to take full effect and make the space within at a light level of 0. Usually fixed by deleting one block adjacent to the darkened area.
  • Kingdom Hearts can have this sort of effect. Some players have complained that the Main game and the second need the brightness at max to be able to see in dark places like the secret place from the first game. With the brightness at normal it is a black room. With the brightness at max you can see the detail.
  • Owing to the Darker and Edgier factor, Epic Mickey can often be too dark to see properly.
  • The original Marathon was very dark unless you turned up the brightness, which killed the atmosphere.
  • Some areas in Mirror's Edge are really dark, especially the parts where you have to move through air vents. If you turn the brightness to maximum, you can see fine there, but other parts become too bright.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess always asks you to adjust your TV brightness before you start playing because of how dark the game is. It kinda makes sense since it's supposed to be a Darker and Edgier Zelda.


  1. There is no duct tape on Mars
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