[[quoteright:320:[[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_crystal_ponies_in_despair_s3e01_7324.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:320:At least [[EvilOverlord King Sombra]] had good health care.]]

->''"Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again."''
-->-- '''[[Franchise/CthulhuMythos The Necronomicon]]'''

In the beginning, when the world was first formed out of dust and ice, before mankind came to dominance, the world was ruled by [[EldritchAbomination dark forces]], [[UltimateEvil evils beyond imagination]], [[AbusivePrecursors ancient tyrants]]. Or at least that's what some horror and fantasy stories want you to believe, that before man arrived (and even sometimes after) there were creatures that ruled this world that are now gone.

Most often, this is important to the BackStory of a series, giving writers room to introduce remnants of those old evils [[SealedEvilInACan sealed in a can]]. Sometimes The Dark Times become TheTimeOfMyths and then lead to {{Gotterdammerung}}. Alternatively, the creatures that populated The Dark Times are merely waiting BeneathTheEarth until they regain their strength.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Franchise/OnePiece'', the past has been completely censored by the World Government. The ability to read the hieroglyphs that the ancients wrote is enough to make the World Government use the most powerful attack known to mankind to completely wipe an island off the map.
** Although considering how ruthlessly amoral the World Government is on so many levels, it's anybody's guess if these times were any worse than [[CrapsaccharineWorld present times]].
** An alternate fan theory is that the World Government IS the terrible enemy spoken of in the ancient texts and which potentially world-destroying weapons were created to fight.
* Manga/{{Devilman}}'s backstory involves demons returning after having been dormant since around the ice age.
* The world of ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' was besieged by the near-almighty [[spoiler: Ten-Tailed Beast]] centuries ago, until it was sealed and imprisoned by [[spoiler: The Sage of Six Paths]].
* The world of LightNovel/SukaSuka was originally a baren wasteland inhabited by strange creatures. This all changed with the arrival of the Visitors, who used their powers to change the world into something far more recognizable. [[spoiler: The trope gets subverted when itís revealed that planetís original inhabitants did not view their world as a wasteland; rather it was a paradise that the Visitors had stolen from them. These creatures, later known as the 17 Beasts, would eventually re-emerge and attempt to return the world to way it once was. This desire has unfortunately led to the current conflict between the beasts and the surviving Visitor created races.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/{{Hellboy}}'' and its spinoff ''ComicBook/{{BPRD}}'' give glimpses into such Times, with its [[Creator/HPLovecraft Lovecraftian]] overtones. One of the central plot threads is that Hellboy was supposed to make the Dark Times return, [[AntiAntiChrist but didn't want to]]. Unfortunately, it seems as if his [[RefusalOfTheCall Refusal Of The (Villainous) Call]] is [[CosmicHorrorStory merely a temporary inconvenience to the Things coming back...]]
* The Earth of the mainstream Franchise/MarvelUniverse had one of those during the time of the Elder Gods, who came into existence shortly after the planet's formation. After an unknown period of peaceful cohabitation, one of them, [[ReptilesAreAbhorrent Set]] killed and devoured one of his kin to absorb his powers; others began to imitate him, resulting in an apocalyptic orgy of cannibalistic violence that saw most Elder Gods killed or corrupted by their actions into {{eldritch abomination}}s. Only four survived - Gaea (mother of [[Characters/MCUThor Thor]]), who gave birth to an über-god to destroy her corrupted kin; Set (he of the [[ArtifactOfDoom Serpent Crown]]); [[EvilSorcerer Cthon]], who fled said über-god's onslaught to other dimensions; and Oshtur (one of the [[PowersThatBe Vishanti]], from DoctorStrange), who'd been away exploring the cosmos since before the whole thing started.
* ''ComicBook/AmericanVampire'' establishes that 13,000 years ago a beast was set loose upon the Earth. This creature also known as [[IHaveManyNames Tiamat, Kur, the First Dragon and the Worm]], had spawned several demons that for a thousand years preyed on men like fish on a stream. Until, one man known as [[TheParagon Hurin]] united the people to fight against the Beast and formed the Vassals of the Morning Star. They succeeded in destroying its monstrous spawn and defeating the Beast; however, Hurin suckled from it and became its greatest protector, [[TheParagonAlwaysRebels turning from the order he formed and becoming the very thing he swore to destroy]].

* [[Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos In the Slender Man fic]] ''Fanfic/ByTheFiresLight'' this is where it is implied the Slender Man hails from [[spoiler: and what it is attempting to bring back.]]
* ''Fanfic/ThousandShinji'': In the backstory, ancient alien races (the Ancient Ones, the Angels...) and powerful deities fought over the galaxy long before the birth of the mankind. The [[EldritchAbomination Angels]] met by the main characters are the last survivors of their wars.
* In ''Fanfic/ChildrenOfAnElderGod'', [[Franchise/CthulhuMythos cosmic horrors]] ruled the Earth in the far past. The story happens because they're returning... and they don't particularly care about the ape-like creatures infesting their ancestral homeworld.
* In ''Fanfic/TheElementsOfHarmonyAndTheSaviorOfWorlds'', the 20 years between Queen Majesty's death and [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyTVSpecials Megan's first arrival]].

* ''Franchise/StarWars'' frequently referred to the war between the Jedi and Sith, which led to the dominance of the Jedi, and the threat of the prequel trilogy is solely the return of the Sith.
** The gap between ''Episode III'' and ''Episode IV'' are referred to as "The Dark Times", in-universe. Specifically by Obi-Wan in ''Film/ANewHope'' when giving Luke the short version of the Jedi Purge and [[JediTruth his father's death]].
* In ''Film/ThorTheDarkWorld'', the Dark World of the title is the home of the Dark Elves, a race from before the current universe who wish to return all that exists to this state of non-existence.
* ''Film/TheCabinInTheWoods'' is set in a universe that was once ruled by the "Old Gods", a race of godlike monsters who have since retreated into a slumber, content with the sacrifices humanity offers to entertain them. Little detail is given about this mysterious past, other than being specifically refered to as the "dark times", and that as bad the horrors the main characters encountered in the movie, those days were infinitely worse.

* Midkemia of ''Literature/TheRiftwarCycle'' was ruled for an untold amount of time by the Valheru, beings who arose long before the coming of the younger races and even the gods. They were enormously powerful and, at the time, not so much consciously evil as totally amoral. They lived out their time by sporadically killing one another, enslaving entire races, and periodically riding out to slaughter and sack entire worlds. Their conflict with the newly created gods and their expulsion after their defeat is a vital {{backstory}} point.
* Most Creator/HPLovecraft stories, where {{Eldritch Abomination}}s are just waiting [[WhenThePlanetsAlign until the right stars align]] to return. [[CosmicHorrorStory There is nothing humans can do about it beyond slightly delaying the inevitable]].
** The world has actually undergone several Dark Times that most of humanity has no idea ever occured. Due to the TimeAbyss of Earth's age, many civilizations have risen and fallen throughout the eons after facing their own Dark Time, and will again in the future, even after mankinds extinction. Among others there are the Elder Things, the Great Race of Yith and the unnamed intelligent beetle species that will be the next dominant species after mankind.
* ''Franchise/TolkiensLegendarium'': Middle-Earth has cycled through various dark times when Morgoth and/or Sauron were the dominant forces in the world (perhaps the most notable being in ''Literature/TheSilmarillion'' when Melkor/Morgoth ruled the all of the world except for Valinor completely unchallenged- it was only the coming of the elves that inspired the Valar to act against him). The plot of ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' basically consists of Sauron trying to start up ''new'' dark times.
* The ''Literature/CalLeandros'' series includes as part of its distant past a time when the world was ruled by various monsters like the Auphe.
* A Franchise/StarTrek crossover event, ''Invasion!'' introduced the Furies, a coalition of species that once ruled Federation-and-neighboring space. All the local cultures remember at least one Fury species as their "demons". The Furies were overthrown by the [[EldritchAbomination Unclean]], who require three things from other species: power cores, DNA, and BRAINS! Unfortunately, [[ContinuitySnarl each novel's author had]] [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation a slightly different take on the Furies]].
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' has the Long Night, occurring 8000+ years before the main storyline begins, with the emergence of the Others and their legions of wights.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* This idea actually evolved through ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' and ''Series/{{Angel}}'' - in early ''Buffy'', the [[EldritchAbomination Old Ones]] were implied to be merely waiting for a chance to come back and continue their reign, but by the time we came to late ''Angel'' and actually met one (Illyria), they were shown to have mostly killed one another and now are sealed away in specially-designed sarcophagi.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' has the "Dark Times," in the beginning of the universe, a time of "blood and magic" with the [[WitchSpecies Carrionites]], the [[GiantSpider Racnoss]], and the [[OurVampiresAreDifferent Great Vampires]]. The [[LivingStatue Weeping Angels]] are also implied to have originated during this era.
** There are "the Dark Times" of Gallifreyan history when Gallifrey was ruled by the Pythia before she was overthrown by the triumvirate of Rassilon, Omega, and the Other.
* Many of the races on ''[[Series/BabylonFive Babylon 5]]'' had legends concerning the last war with the [[AbusivePrecursors Shadows]] 1,000 years ago: most of the Narn telepaths followed G'Quan to war and never returned; the Minbari almost lost the war until the timely arrival of Valen and a replacement base of operations; the Markab spoke of the "great darkness" defeated long ago [[spoiler:several episodes before they were conveniently wiped out by a plague]].

[[folder:Mythology and Religion]]
* A fairly common trope in European mythologies:
** the Norse have the frost-giants ruling over a frigid, misty world in the time before Odin and his brothers slew Ymir.
** In Myth/GreekMythology, we have a more ambiguous and double-edged example depending on the source; there are the first generation of Gaia's offspring- the titans and the altogether stranger Giants, Hekatonkhires, and Cyclopes but some claim that time was a Golden Age (this is where the term originated, in fact) and it is hard to say whether things were worse for mankind than when the Olympians took over. If one chooses to interpret the intermediate period as the point where humanity stopped living in caves and started getting organised in communities, then at first they had simpler lives where they had to deal with an often unfriendly and everchanging environment while they later exchanged that for having much more complicated lives safer from nature's whims but just as vulnerable to the order imposed both by the men who became their rulers and by the new management of Gods.
** Myth/IrishMythology has the island originally inhabited by the monstrous Fomorians, before they're ousted during an extremely complicated series of invasions.
* In Literature/TheBible, it's implied that during the time when the Earth was formless in the first chapter of Genesis, {{Satan}}'s Rebellion was in progress. While Adam and Eve were initially spared from experiencing this conflict, it all went to pot when they were tempted to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, kicking off a period when humans became increasingly more wicked and started producing giant offspring with angels. Things got so bad that {{God}} had to destroy the old world in TheGreatFlood minus everyone and everything in the Ark.

* In the ''TabletopGame/{{Continuum}}'' RPG, the time before 14,000 BC was/is ruled by the civilization of Antedesertium, whose Narcissistic experiments and attacks on the timestream led to their Scorpion Kings becoming {{Eldritch Abomination}}s, before finally destroying their civilization, triggering more or less a millennium of temporal chaos that led to the creation of the Sahara Desert.
* The second age of the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' setting ''TabletopGame/{{Eberron}}'' was the Age of Demons. And they are, in fact, SealedEvilInACan BeneathTheEarth...
** In the default setting, [[EldritchAbomination the Aboleths, intelligent beings that look like crosses between great fish and cthonic monstrosities]], once ruled all the world. How do they know? They have photographic genetic memory. ''[[TimeAbyss They remember.]]''
* The world of ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'' under Primordial rule may have been this. That's the official story, anyway, but the sourcebooks encourage readers to [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation consider the possibility that]] [[UnreliableNarrator the gods may be lying about that part.]]
* TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}} has several Dark Times: the aftermath of "The War in Heaven" stands out when all life was enslaved under the rule of the [[PhysicalGod C'tan]], until a ''plague of {{Eldritch Abomination}}s killed 99% of all living things.''
** By most series' standards, Warhammer 40k is entirely made up of Dark Times.
** 40k subverts this trope by having the present be the Dark Times with the past for the Imperium and the Eldar being depicted as glorious golden ages undone by [[AndManGrewProud their own pride]]. Since then [[FromBadToWorse it just keeps getting worse]].
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}} Fantasy'' had a fairly brief Dark Times, the period between the Old Ones' fall unleashing the Chaos gods, and the High elves succeeding in mostly closing the Warp Gate that let Chaos in. Of course, [[CrapsackWorld everything still sucks]], but Chaos doesn't dominate the majority of the world anymore.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Microscope}}'': Being a game of emerging history, this comes up a lot. Every Period and Event has a Dark or Light cast to it.

* ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}'' had its own Dark Time, and it was called just that, but it wasn't ancient. That is, it wasn't for most people, save for the tribes on the Mata Nui island, whose memories had been wiped. The era started with the Great Cataclysm 1000 years ago and ended directly before the main plot began -- but it only lasted for 999 years on the island of Mata Nui, because the BigBad agreed to give the islanders one spare year to build their villages that he later wanted to besiege. The rest of the Universe wasn't as lucky.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/SeikenDensetsu3'', mention is made of a dark time when the God-Beasts roamed the land.
* ''VideoGame/SwordOfTheStars'' has ''two'' species who have a long, ''long'' list of grievances against an ancient, completely meglomanical empire of AbusivePrecursors. By the time the game takes place, they've suffered a KarmicDeath at the hand-[[SapientCetaceans flippers]] of the Liir, but it turns out that they left around a [[AlwaysChaoticEvil sentient bioweapon]] as a sort of personalized [[TakingYouWithMe "fuck you"]] to the universe.
** Then in the second game, turns out they were NotQuiteDead after all...
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'': The lore behind Azeroth is that there was once a time when [[EldritchAbomination the Old Gods]] ruled and had chaotic elemental lords as their lieutenants to strike terror in the hearts of many. The titans came and put a boot in their behinds, killed one or two of them and put the rest in solitary confinement.
** It should be noted that the Titans are pretty much PhysicalGods / {{Precursors}} in the Warcraft Universe. They created most of the life on Azeroth, and where PISSED when the Old Gods started screwing with their creations, namely the Curse of Flesh which made all of their metallic creatures "Squishy". In fact, this scared them so badly, they left Azeroth with [[DoomsdayDevice a self-destruct mechanism]] on the off chance their influence spreads. Better to lose one world then all of them.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'', as it builds upon Myth/JapaneseMythology, mention an era where terrible {{Youkai}} ruled the land of Gensokyo until they were pacified by the ancestors of the humans. In a subversion, the majority of those youkai still exists today, content to be left alone [[spoiler:[[DeathOfTheOldGods because the humans Outside refuse to believe in their existence anymore]]]].
** [[UnreliableNarrator Well, this is all coming from]] [[{{Reincarnation}} Hieda-no-Akyu]]...
* ''VideoGame/{{Dark Souls}}''. In the Age of Ancients the world was unformed, shrouded by fog. A land of gray crags, arch trees, and everlasting dragons.
* The time of [[AbusivePrecursors the Ancients]] in ''VideoGame/EternalDarkness''.
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' had a time before the founding of the Kingdom of Hyrule when monsters were rampant across the land and people were constantly killing each other in order to get the Triforce. Among those people were a tribe of powerful sorcerers who came closer than anyone else to getting the Triforce. Eventually, the Triforce was sealed away in the Sacred Realm (cf. ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast''), the monsters were [[SealedEvilInACan trapped in a magic chest]] (cf. ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheMinishCap''), and the evil sorcerers were cast into the [[EldritchLocation Twilight Realm]] (cf. ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess''). ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'' is the first game confirmed to take place during these times, with the only safe human settlement being in [[FloatingContinent Skyloft]]; the land below is ruled over by Ghirahim. And ''Skyward Sword'' still manages to have a ''previous'' Dark Time when an even greater evil (namely, [[spoiler:the series' SatanicArchetype]]) ruled and which Ghirahim is trying to [[SealedEvilInACan unleash once again]].
* In ''VideoGame/BrutalLegend'', the First Ones lived in darkness because they could not bear the sight of their own hideousness. When Ormagoden brought light and fire to the world, they trapped and killed him. The Titans rose from his blood and made them into servants, but when the Titans disappeared, they used remnants of the Titans (like nail clippings) in a ritual to remake them, and only got a pale imitation: humanity. The First Ones used humanity as slaves until the beginning of the game proper, when Eddie Riggs arrives in the World of Metal to help the leader of the human resistance get his movement going.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* The backstory of ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'' is about how mankind was nearly killed by evil creatures called Grimm, whom they managed to drive back by harnessing an energy source called Dust and channeling their Auras for fight capacity. The inhabitants of that world are at least smart enough to prepare for the Grimm's inevitable return.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Hinted at in the CreepyPasta "Genetic Memory".
-->What happened, deep in the hidden eras before history began, that could affect the entire human race so evenly as to give the entire species a deep, instinctual, and lasting fear of pale beings with dark, sunken eyes, razor sharp teeth, and elongated faces?

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' episode "[[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E1TheReturnOfHarmonyPart1 The Return of Harmony, Part 1]]" has [[GodEmperor Princess]] [[BigGood Celestia]] refer to [[RealityIsOutToLunch a time]] [[WorldGoneMad of disharmony]] ruled by the [[GodOfEvil God of Chaos]] [[RealityWarper Discord]], when ponies endlessly suffered under his rule. A stained-glass depiction of the era features him [[ManipulativeBastard using puppet crosses and strings]] to [[ColdBloodedTorture suspend three screaming ponies over a pit of fire]]. His reign was finally brought to a screeching halt when she and Luna [[SealedEvilInACan imprisoned him]] [[TakenForGranite in a stone statue]] using [[EmpathicWeapon the Elements Of Harmony]]. The two-parter deals with Discord escaping to try and begin his reign anew.
** The reign of [[SorcerousOverlord King Sombra]] was this for the Crystal Empire, as revealed in the Season 3 premiere. The crystal pony that Twilight interviews admits that while part of [[LaserGuidedAmnesia her amnesia]] [[MindRape is due to Sombra's curse]], the other part may be [[NothingIsScarier suppressed based on how awful his rule over them was]]. Which would make perfect sense considering that the brief flashback earlier in the episode prominently displayed the ''[[SlaveRace enslavement]]'' [[SugarApocalypse of the entire population of the Empire]] by the height of [[TheDreaded Sombra]]'s power.
** In "Hearth's Warming Eve", the ponies of the past nearly faced extinction as the Windigoes fed on their hatred to turn the entire landscape into a frozen wasteland. What makes this example worse than the others is that the ponies ultimately only had themselves to blame for the situation instead of an EvilOverlord.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'' midseason two-parter "Beginnings", before the time of the first [[GodOfGood Avatar]], the physical world was overrun by spirits, many of them hostile to humans, forcing them to live in cities on lion turtles. Although the lion turtles were able to give their citizens the power of [[ElementalPowers element bending]], it wasn't much help against the power of the spirits, especially when corrupted by [[GodOfEvil Vaatu]]. These times came to an end when the first Avatar, Wan, decided to let the vast majority of spirits return to their place of origin, the spirit world, and let them be unable to return by sealing the portals between the physical and spirit worlds.
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'': [[spoiler:The Lich]] is heavily implied in "Gold Stars" to be a LivingRelic of a group of monsters that predated not only everything in the Universe, but ''the void before the Universe formed'' as well.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Until around 65 million years ago the Earth was ruled by [[UsefulNotes/{{Dinosaurs}} enormous, scaly beasts]]. It's pretty unlikely that they'll ever come back, but their {{avian|Tropes}} descendants are still with us.
* Also, according to the RNA World hypothesis, before DNA based life appeared, the world was once dominated by things which were basically viruses, although modern viruses may not have any connection to them. [[note]]This is at best a gross oversimplification. RNA is a means of storing genes that happens to be a bit less stable than DNA but a bit easier to make self-replicating enzymes out of, so naturally evolution went with DNA for storing genes. Many viruses today have DNA, and many others have RNA. All known bacteria and eukaryotes (complex cells) from fungi to plants to animals (this includes you, dear reader) contain both DNA and RNA in every cell. In the dim past, during RNA world, these primitive semi-living things would have been self-replicating their way towards greater and greater efficiency and complexity, but they'd be nothing like us. They couldn't even be called viruses, because viruses are generally more complex and more elegantly structured and their defining characteristic is that viruses hijack cells for their own reproduction. These were bands of RNA with amino-acids attached that formed RNA-enzymes to self-replicate. In RNA World, it was biological GreyGoo.[[/note]]
* Prior to the emergence and spread of cyanobacteria, Earth's atmosphere was anaerobic, and deadly to nearly everything alive today. Earlier still, it was so hot that the surface was molten, and ''vaporized rock'' was a component of the air.
* The Universe had ''real'' [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe#Dark_Ages dark times]] relatively early on its history, when everything was a hot, opaque, plasma. Once atoms began to form the Universe became transparent to radiation but the veil would not be lifted until the first stars were formed millions of years later.
* And, well, the nature of whatever space the universe would eventually occupy right before the Big Bang is totally unknown to us.