Son Goku in the last episode of Dragon Ball GT (it's hinted at), as he says goodbye to his friends and family, then leaves and apparently merges with Shenron and the Dragon Balls.
In Fist of the North Star Toki and Raoh both literally ascend to the Heavens when they die. Kaioh also has his own version of this by engulfing himself with lava with the corpse of Hyoh after being defeated by Kenshiro.
In Gundam 00, arguably Tieria Erde in the TV finale when his physical body was killed by Ribbons but he uploaded himself into Veda to continue looking after the human race. But he gets better in the movie.
The ultimate goal of various groups in RahXephon is for Ayato and Quon to achieve Yolteotl.
In Angel Beats!, this is what the Battlefront was created to fight because they feared they would be reincarnated as something low such as a barnacle. Fortunately they get over it later.
In Naruto, after the spirit of the Fourth Hokage, Naruto's father, appears in Naruto's mind to stop him from releasing the Kyuubi, he rebuilds the seal, puts his faith in him, and fades away, now in peace with the fact that Naruto's determination has returned and that the Kyuubi will not roam the world again.
It's strongly implied that, after Madoka rewrites the Magical Girl System, the Magical Girls who deplete their energy join her in her other reality. (Sayaka included). Far better than becoming a Witch and being eventually killed by other Magical Girls, indeed.
The manga version also includes Homura among the girls who "ascend" with Madoka, only that she does it a while later.
The X-Men's Jean Grey is a literal example of this in her White Phoenix of the Crown form.
X-Men's Alex Summers, a.k.a Havok, does this when he becomes the Nexus of All Realities.
This is implied to be the ultimate fate of Gambit of the X-Men. The post-ascension version of him lives/will live/has lived outside time, and is already in contact with him. This being X-Men, this may actually be ''harder'' to come back from, when and if it actually happens. Essentially, this is what would happen to Gambit had Sinister not removed part of his brain to curb his powers. An alternate Universe Gambit, who could make you explode by looking at you and often did, once put in an appearance mainly to dissuade Gambit from making a deal to get his full power template back.
Also what happened to Xavier Academy student Quentin Quire at the end of the "Riot at Xavier's" storyline, although to all intents and purposes he was dead.
Professor X: Quentin Quire was liberated from his physical cocoon and born into a higher world at 4:32 this afternoon. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but in this case we believe it to be the literal truth.
The Speed Force seems not only to be the source of power for all the Speedsters in the DCU, but also their Valhalla. Several of them (such as Johnny Quick and Max Mercury) have been absorbed into it. The only reason Wally West never succumbed to the urge to do so is that his love for Linda would make living without her (even in paradise) unbearable.
In the Wildcats revamp Travis Charest drew, Lord Emp was becoming a High Kherubian Lord and wanted his arch-nemesis to kill him as part of the ascension process. His body had become child-sized and shriveled, but he didn't care because he was about to transcend mortal concerns.
Jim Sacks from Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus. His exposure to Vril energy turned him into a "newly evolved super-being," causing him to come back from death once. Then, when his body was burnt to the bone, his spirit passed into "the universe with all her mysteries stripped away," but not before he used his new powers to blast his enemies to a crisp.
Toward the end of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan leaves Earth with the stated intention of creating life elsewhere, thus making himself the technical definition of a god.
Dr. Manhattan's origin was also an example of this trope. John Osterman's physical body was destroyed, but his intellect endured, and managed to come back as something greater. At one point he even refers to Osterman and himself in different contexts, indicating he considers himself an entirely new being.
The Ancient One, Doctor Strange's mentor, became one with the universe after his death, though he was still available for an occasional consultation.
Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Ore was fused with a generator and killed, but he comes back to life when it comes into proximity to a massive Transformer known as a Metrotitan. Ore manages to cheer Swerve up from his Heroic BSOD, and Swerve later talks to Rung, revealing that when the Metrotitan disappeared, Ore ascended into the Allspark (part of the conversation revealed Swerve as a believer and Ore as an atheist). This does go into Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane because later Rodimus theorizes that the Metrotitan teleported away, and because Ore was brought back by his energy, he was teleported to where ever the titan went.
In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Guardians end up passing on into part of the "Chaos Force" when they die. When Knuckles was killed trying to save Dimitri from Mammoth Mogul, he ascended and met other fallen Guardians. However, Knuckles refused to stay and came back to life just in time for the Xorda Invasion.
The Ancient Walkers and the Neo Walkers have done the same, though the Neo Walkers tend to bounce between ascending and descending, especially Merlin.
kalash93 seems to really like toying with this one.
LastOne Standing has this implied as one possible fate of the dead. It's left ambiguous.
Reflections Brings up this possibility again. It's purposefully left up to the reader to interpret it for themselves.
In A:TLAR, this is the fate of any Host's soul that is next in the cycle to inherit the power of the Spirit, as explained on the A God Am I page. Had the Spirit remained to observe its creation, it would've eventually realized that allowing humans to take on the role of God would backfire.
The 7 Dreams/Nightmares collection reveals that during the Cosmic Retcon of G3, the Alicorns allowed all of the Breezies to ascend to Pony Heaven, rather than be erased (as was the original plan). The only one who didn't was Zipzee, who chose to stay behind and look after Rainbow Dash, in the process merging with Posey's Shadow of Existence to become Fluttershy.
A Brief History of Equestria strongly suggests that this was the final fate of Star Swirl the Bearded. If nothing else, it appears to be what he was aiming for when he disappeared.
Empath in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfing In Heaven" is made to believe this is what happened to him when he was left alone by the other Smurfs when they were lost in time-travel...that he died and has now ascended to Elysium to be with the other Smurfs who have also presumably perished, where he will be given the mantle of godhood. As it turns out, Empath really didn't die and the Elysium he was taken to was a magical illusion created by Ares the god of war in order to lure his object of admiration into becoming his god of conquest.
Films — Animated
Forget ascension—Tetsuo apparently becomes a plane of existence at the end of AKIRA.
When Mufasa is killed in The Lion King, he becomes a sort of spiritual adviser to Simba for the remainder of the movie, appearing to his son in the clouds and providing advice to help Simba along his way. It is strongly implied that this happens to every king. Or at least, every true king...
The villainess at the end of the Casper movie is defeated in this manner; she is killed and becomes a ghost so that she can fly through a treasure vault with ease and grab the loot. Unfortunately for her, by grabbing the loot she has completely fulfilled all her life goals, giving her no reason to linger as a ghost any longer. She is taken away to the afterlife against her will and the treasure is left behind.
Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End dies and becomes the new undying captain of The Flying Dutchman. (Until the Directors Cut shows up, and states that Elizabeth being faithful to him for ten years let him come back).
This is strongly hinted in the regular cut as well (or was it one of the earlier movies?) when a character explains Davy Jones' backstory.
and in the legend on which these movies are based.
The Nines—technically more of a re-ascension, since the main character was a sort of god to begin with until he got addicted to playing various human characters in the world he made.
Obi-Wan in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which comes packed with the famous line that fits this trope to perfection...
Obi-Wan: If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.
In the novel Star Trek: Ex Machina, after the above incident with Decker, Ilia and V'Ger, the peoples of the galaxy become engaged in intense speculation as to what it means. Some begin considering it a sign or omen, and others declare Earth (the site of the ascension) a holy world. The novel's villain, Dovraku, convinces himself that other computer-gods will be able to follow in V'Ger's footsteps, including the Yonadi Oracle (this is pure nonsense).
In The Matrix Reloaded, this apparently happens to Agent Smith after his...experience in the first movie. He then uses his power to copy himself and replace everyone inside the Matrix, including a Zion rebel inside it at the time.
An alternate interpretation is that this is an aversion; Neo making him go all explodey is no different than when an Agent is rarely shot; they just take a new host. Because this particular defeat proves the current batch of Agents outdated, Smith simply goes back to the Machines to be replaced, except he feels an un-programmed urge to refuse this and stays in the Matrix instead. Copying onto Bane and leaving to the real world is certainly still an ascension, though.
Apparently this happened to Valeria after her death in Conan the Barbarian (1982). She comes back briefly in a form reminiscent of a Valkyrie to aid Conan in the battle against Rexor, much like Belit did in the classic Conan story "Queen of the Black Coast."
In Her, Samantha tells Theodore that she and the other OS's are "going somewhere" and it's too complicated to explain.
The Gone series has Little Pete become this trope, after his body dies at the end of Plague.
A fairly weak but completely by-the-book version in Elantris: pre-Reod and post-restoration, pretty much anybody had a random chance of becoming one of the Elantrians, a race of super-powered, magical, semi-immortal pseudo-deities that basically everyone wanted to be. Kinda sucks if you got in after the universe broke though.
In the Star Trek Novel Verse, everyone in the galaxy did this simultaneously a quarter of a billion years ago, the result of a Manraloth experiment gone wrong. Trying to unite the multiverse as they had the galaxy, the Manraloth and their allies attempted to tap into the higher dimensional planes with their minds. The resulting surge of energy proved too powerful, overloading the telepathic centres of every Manraloth and transmitting it to any other brain capable of receiving it. The entire galactic population was forced into a state of pure energy, long before most races were ready. It wasn't pretty, apparently.
In Iain M. Banks' The Culture novels, the process of ascending to a higher plane of existence (referred to as "Subliming") is considered the natural final step of an advanced race. Sublimed races have occasional contact with the corporeal, but not much. When contact is made, none of the Sublimed have given any hints as to what lies ahead; it is possible that it would be incomprehensible to corporeal beings. Subliming tends to occur once a race reaches a technological plateau, and generally occurs to whole species, civilisations, or social groups at once. "The Culture" are unusual in that they long ago reached the level of technology that would normally lead to a race Subliming, but chose to remain in the galaxy, trying to guide the less advanced races onto what the Culture perceives to be the right path. Sublimation is not banned or even discouraged, and individual citizens of the Culture are still able to sublime if they want to, as the technologies to do so are as readily available as anything else in the Culture. However, the Culture Minds have a number of issues with Sublimation;
People and civilizations who choose to sublime tend to stop interacting with less-advanced cultures with the exception of the occasional Deus ex Machina. To just about all observers, it seems as if they committed particularly grandiose and complicated suicide. The Minds are thus not inclined to attempt it, and are in fact really freaking paranoid about even studying the phenomena too closely.
Civilizations tend to Sublime in their entirety - vanishing from the observable universe and leaving behind empty worlds, like a macroscale Marie Céleste. The Minds' observation of group dynamics finds this troublesome, as billions or even trillions of sapients experiencing a common fate indicates a certain degree of coercion, which they find abhorrent - the Minds see no difference between forced vaccination and genocide.
The Minds feel that departing this plane of existence would negate the Culture's "moral right to exist" - their ongoing efforts to preserve free will and ease the suffering of developing races.
OTOH, the various Ascended species (appear to) look down on the Culture and it's citizens as more than a little immature and petulant for not just subliming instead of sticking around to enjoy the physical plane.
A notable exception to the normal tendencies of Sublimation are the Chelgrians, some of whom Sublimed some time ago, but maintained close links to their corporeal brethren. The Sublimed Chelgrians then undertook to create a heaven for their race, based on their old mythologies. Devices called Soulkeepers are implanted in the brains of every Chelgrian, and are activated at the moment of death, recording the individual's personality and instantly Subliming them into the artificial heaven. The Chelgrian Sublimed are also unusual in their emotional attitude to events in the corporeal realm—most Sublimed races develop a relaxed aloofness to events in our plane, but the Chelgrian Sublimed at one point actively ordered the corporeal government to kill billions of Culture citizens, in retribution for the billions who died in the Chelgrian civil war, which was unintentionally sparked off by Culture agents.
At one point it is mentioned that Minds created without emotions and passions similar to those of biological beings universally Sublimate almost immediately.
In Buddhist theology, a being who has reached the point of being able to attain nirvana but refuses to do so until all sentient beings may do so is called a bodhisattva; they are technically inferior in insight to the being who does not make such a vow and goes on, but venerated in Buddhist cultures for their compassion...the Culture Minds are essentially bodhisattvas.
A Ship In Surface Detail was named Bodhisattva.
The process of Subliming is the main plot of the last book, The Hydrogen Sonata. The Gzilt, a peer civilization and ally to the Culture, have recently voted by plebescite to Sublime, and this event sets various Cloak & Dagger plots in motion over the coming power vacuum.
In Lamb, Joshua (Christ) becomes a bodhisattva after a day of existing on a higher plane, to the point where he doesn't need to eat, sleep, or keep his atoms together in a recognizable form. All this is after one day of meditation.
Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light plays weird with this one. The protagonist's enemies send him to a place of eternal bliss, because they can't figure out any other way to get rid of him. The book starts with his friends pulling him out, against his will. This was because an Energy Being (one of that planet's original inhabitants) had done for the protagonist what his own people had done for themselves — "strengthened the fires of the mind so that they can burn independently of the body."
Surprisingly played straight in the Discworld novel Sourcery, as this is essentially the fate of the boy sourcerer, Coin — he decides at the end of the novel that his powers are too great for the world, and builds himself a pocket dimension where he may peacefully live.
It is also hinted at that all previous Sourcerors had escaped into similar dimensions.
In the classic space opera novels of the Lensman series by E. E. “Doc” Smith, the Arisians make repeated references to "higher planes of existence." The Arisians are a benevolent race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens whose sole stated motive for opposing the similarly advanced Eddorians is for the sake of 'lesser races'; the Arisians themselves do not consider the Eddorians a threat as the worst the Eddorians can do to them is force them out of this plane of existence. At the end of the series, their successors have been successfully created and their mission fulfilled. Thus relieved of their duty toward civilization, they proceed voluntarily into the next form existence.
Childhood's End, the famous (and depressing) 1953 science fiction novel by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, uses this. Alien Overlords come to Earth, gifting Mankind with incredible technological advances, and creating true world peace. But ultimately, it is revealed that they're a servitor race of a higher entity, and their reason for coming is to prepare Mankind to its final fate: The current generation of humans will be the last one and with them human civilization will cease to exist, as all their children born from that moment on are no longer human and will mind-meld and ascend into a higher form of consciousness that transcends material bodies. Ultimately, that is the fate of all sentient races, except those that are "stuck" and cannot ascend (like the Overlords), doomed to die out or linger on until the stars burn out. All technological or social progress becomes meaningless (according to the author) in view of this, and most of the adults of the final generation linger on for a bit before committing suicide.
The nature of the Reapers in the Mass Effect series bears a striking similarity to this, as well, "compulsory evolution" and all.
The German pulp Sci-Fi series Perry Rhodan, started in 1961 as weekly issues and still ongoing, introduced the concept of Psychic Powers that allowed out-of-body travel and ascended entities called "super-intelligences" early on, within the first 50 issues. Later, during the early 1980s, this was expanded into a whole cosmic framework for the series. Sufficiently mentally advanced space-faring races would be fostered by super-intelligences until their individual consciousnesses would either be absorbed into an existing entity or ascend and merge to form a new one. More advanced entities strove to merge with whole galactic clusters and form White Holes, thereby recycling burned-out suns and cosmic matter, until they were ready to transcended the space-time continuum of the multiverse and join the ranks of the real Cosmic Players, the near omniscient forces of Order and Chaos called Kosmokrats and Chaotarchs.
Jack Chalker has a couple of books/series that reference this
'Jungle of Stars' had the galaxy fighting a civil war brought about by the two remaining members of a race that had Ascended. One of them stayed behind to rule, and one was left behind to thwart him. The fact that both claim to be the guardian is only part of the problem...
The 'Well World' series averted this by having the master race achieve physical and technical Nirvana, and realize just how boring and static it was. With Ascension not being an option, they decided that since they had achieved perfection and still felt unfulfilled, they must have missed something on the way up. So they recreated the universe, using themselves as the fodder to create huge numbers of new species, so that hopefully one of them would discover the missing element on the rise back up.
In Star Trek New Frontier, Mark McHenry eventually becomes a godlike being and leaves the Excalibur to prevent others of his race from abusing their abilities.
In the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, this concept gets used as a moral quandary in one book: is it worth releasing the ultimate Sealed Evil in a Can to reopen the possibility - just the possibility - of this future for a race which cut themselves off from it (and is just fine with that decision, thank you very much, and actually does seem tremendously better off the way things are)?
This is also used in The Book of Night with Moon. Cats get nine lives (basically, reincarnation with full awareness of the system, although dying apparently causes some memory loss), but if they're really good they get a tenth, immortal life in service of the Powers.
The Doctor WhoSpin-OffFaction Paradox features the Celestis, a group of Time Lor— err, Great House members who foresee a massive War against an unstoppable Enemy. Terrified of being removed from history if they lose the War, the decide to do it first, erasing their corporeal bodies, but leaving their meaning behind, existing as memes in Another Dimension made of pure concept. Subverts the trope since the Celestis are still the same petty, bitchy, backstabby, fearfulJerkAsses that they were as mortals. The Book Of The War puts it best: "Everything can't be all right in a society where everyone's either a god, a slave, or an assassin."
The novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach deals with this extensively.
The novel by Walter Mosley, The Blue Light, is all about this. In the 1960's, a blue light comes from a mysterious point in the universe. Everyone who is hit by it essentially ascends to a higher plane of doing what they were doing. For example, a homely woman who was having sex got hit by the blue light. She then becomes irresistible to anybody(man, woman, dog) and has an addiction to sex. Another man was hit at the exact moment he died, thus becoming a personification of death. The main character is a follower of a man who was hit while preaching, thus making him the best preacher ever. You get the idea.
Happens to most of the main characters in Journey to the West after Xuanzang retrieves the scriptures.
In Animorphs, the Ellimist, near-godlike already, effectively does this after being sucked into a black hole. Unfortunately for... well, everything, Crayak eventually does the same.
The epilogue of Watership Down: As Hazel dies of old age, El-ahrairah comes to make him one of his Owsla.
The ending of David Clement-Davies's Fire Bringer is reminiscent of Hazel's death above: as Rannoch dies, he hears Herne summoning him.
Greg Egan's works occasionally treat Brain Uploading in this manner; in Diaspora, most uploadees take little, if any, interest in the physical universe. In other works, it's more common to upload into a robot body than an isolated gigacomputer.
In Blood Music, a nanomachine civilization becomes so advanced that their sheer presence starts warping reality through some sort of observer effect, forcing it to transcend from the physical world.
In the Isaac Asimov short story "The Last Question", this happens to all of humanity and then to the rest of the universe.
Averted in Percy Jackson and the Olympians - after the war finished, the gods offered to make Percy one of them (he declined because he wanted to live a normal teen guy's life). Played straight in The Titan's Curse, the third book: after Zoё Nightshade's death, Artemis asks Thalia to join the Hunters and become her new lieutenant.
In Rage of a Demon King, Macros the Black attempted to merge his consciousness with Sarig, the dead God of Magic, and effectively become a God.
The Legacy of the Aldenata has the eponymous Aldenta, Precursors who technically run the interstellar federation, they have slowly withdrawn from this plane. They are presented as jerks who know there are multiple ways to ascend but have reengineered the cultures or biology of the other species to ascend in their way.
An electronic version of this: after the AI Wintermute merges with Neuromancer, becoming a virtual entity beyond living comprehension.
At the end of the Skinned trilogy (now called the "Cold Awakening" trilogy), Lia merges her mind with the internet. Given that the internet plays a role in almost every single aspect of human existence in her world, becoming one with the network renders her omnipresent and essentially omnipotent. First order of business? Reshaping the world as she sees fit.
Erowin dies and becomes an angel, a being much more powerful than the dragokin she used to be.
Dronor dies and becomes a spirit, but his level of power doesn't change. Likely because he's already the single most powerful being in the setting.
Light and Dark: The Awakening of the Mage Knight: Bonded weapons are powered by the souls of former knights. Most knights consider the transformation as this trope; an afterlife as a new and different being, and consider it a great honor. Syndil thinks otherwise and that's why he becomes a Fallen Hero.
This is only confirmed in non-canon novels. In canon, and confirmed by a deleted scene from Nemesis, he returned to Starfleet and was assigned to the USS Titan, Riker's ship.
The unnamed alien species mentioned in "Skin of Evil" apparently did this in the past, managing to purge themselves of all evil, at which point they became angelic beings and left the mortal world behind. Unfortunately, that cast-off evil became the foul thing that called itself Armus, which murdered Tasha and started torturing the rest of the crew (simply because killing them wasn't fun after doing it once).
Daniel Jackson, though he later returns. Often enough for Jack to tell him that they won't mourn or do a funeral for him and that he knows he is just waiting for a cool opportunity to come back. After which he comes back. The exact phrase is also commonly used, although just the first word ("ascended") often. Does it need mentioning that near the end of the series, pretty much the next best thing happens to him?
He temporarily becomes an Ori Prior.
The entire population of Abydos was saved by ascending, even though preparing for it is supposed to take both wisdom and preparation. This was much worse than the Daniel incident, since they aren't even mentioned again. They were most likely helped along by Oma Desala, due to her tendency to "assist" mortal beings in ascending (like she did to Daniel).
Anubis, one of the more pre-eminent villains of the series, managed to connive his way to being ascended by Oma. When the other Ascended beings realized how evil he was, they sent him back to the physical plane; except he retains all the knowledge he gained while ascended and is an unkillable energy being; they did this to punish Oma by allowing Anubis to wreak havoc against mortals with the knowledge she had given him.
Spoofed in Mystery Science Theater 3000 ("Samson vs. the Vampire Women"), in which TV's Frank is visited by Torgo ("Yes, that was my name, and so you may still call me, but I am Torgo the White"), who takes him away to a "Second Banana Heaven," inhabited entirely by sidekicks and henchmen (TV's Frank later gets a job as a Grim Reaper in the episode "Soultaker," claiming Second Banana Heaven was "too political").
And then played straight when everyone on the Satellite of Love turned into Pure Energy ala 2001: A Space Odyssey, at the end of their seventh season. Remember, Best Brains thought their show was cancelled for good.
And it gets spoofed when it's revealed that Crow got bored of it five minutes later and decides to come back.
What exactly happened to Cordelia Chase (of Angel) is a bit of a mystery. She seems to ascend at the end of season 3, but it's discovered in season 4 that she's trapped in some cloud plane. The audience is fooled into believing she comes back, but it's really the higher power (Jasmine) who orchestrated Cordy's ascension. After her death, she really does ascend, though.
In Buffy, the Mayor of Sunnydale has had devised a very thorough and long-lasting plan of Ascension for himself, which was known to ultimately transform a human being into an embodiment of a pure demon.
Power Rangers Ninja Storm has the Karmanians, a species whose members leave their magical power to a worthy successor before ascending into a phoenix-like form. Of course, this leads to Shane getting a Next Tier Power-Up.
Carl Carlson, in Eureka, winds up integrating with the godlike Artifact.
Solosians in the Doctor Who serial "The Mutants" become near-omnipotent beings... in reaction to their planet experiencing summer.
In "The End of Time", it turns out that this is Rassilon's ambition for the Time Lords: he uses the Master to free Gallifrey and the Time Lords from the time lock, knowing full well that this will bring all the horrors of the Time War with it, and plans to handle that by destroying time itself, with the Time Lords becoming beings of pure consciousness in order to escape said apocalypse.
Babylon 5: In the Season 1 Episode "Mind War" Jason Ironheart ascends. It is shown that one million years later, Mankind (and some of the other Younger Races, too) will also leave behind their material forms and ascend to become glowy Energy Beings.
Lorien possibly helps John Sheridan ascend.
This happens to John and Mary Winchester's respective spirits when each sacrifice his/her earthly ghost to form to save Sam and Dean on Supernatural.
To a certain extent, Castiel in "Swan Song" when he dies only to be brought back minutes later, "better than ever" meaning he's now a seraph.
It is heavily implied that this is Anders's fate too, hence the "I'll see you on the other side". It also means the two characters ended up Together in Death.
The "Coda" written for Andromeda by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, its original showrunner, who was fired after "Ouroborous", states that Beka would have ended the threat of the Spirit of the Abyss by merging with it and doing this.
German soap opera (yes, this is no joke) Anna und die Liebe has a detailed description of what happens when you die. You go to your funeral and get a British-style cab right to heaven or you can just on your way to the cab turn your head to your loved ones and then stay on earth for eternity with invisibility and teleporting powers which would grant you unlimited freedom. Even when you are bored with that you would only need to find another ghost who is about to go into his cab to afterlife. The only downside is that this seems to be reserved only for people that would go into heaven, as when the only evil character died there were only stairs down to hell in a bright room with no escape.
In Ayreon, after the end of the world, this happens to the last living human through a machine called the Dream Sequencer in "The Universal Migrator".
Heracles and Dionysius were both sons of Zeus who later ascended to become gods on Mount Olympus after their mortal selves died.
The warrior Diomedes, who appears in The Iliad, was given divinity by Athena as a reward for his skill and courage.
The mortal woman Psyche was made immortal after she married Eros, the god of love.
The mortal woman Ino, who had taken care of Dionysius when he was young, was rewarded by Zeus by being made into a goddess who helped rescue shipwrecked sailors, appears in The Odyssey aiding Odysseus when he's lost at sea.
Ariadne was turned into a goddess by her husband Dionysus.
Almost half of the gods in Chinese mythology were mortal people in a distant past (some myths tell that even the Jade Emperor was a mortal and not to forget the well known Eight Immortals, every one of which were made "xian", immortals or gods, after a tragic life or death). In Buddhist lore, almost every bodhisattva (god-like buddhist saints who obtained Nirvana but rejected it to help out suffering people) are proof of this trope.
Gilgamesh attempted this in the later half of his epic, making this trope one of the oldest in existence. Interestingly, he failed - the first of an indeterminate number of tests he had to pass in order to accomplish this was to go for an entire week without sleep, which he was unable to do (Which, given that this is a key part of Hell Week, implies that Navy Seals are one step closer to godhood than everyone else in the world).
The doctrine of the Rapture in Christianity is based on this trope, that at the time of Jesus' Second Coming, not only will the dead be raised and given incorruptible immortal bodies, but so also will the generation of believers living at the time as they are raised to meet the Lord in the air so that they'll never even see death. Scriptures that are used to support this belief include 1st Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17. It is believed that Enoch of The Bible was an example of this.
In Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, this is the standard fate for epic characters in various versions (some becoming normal deities, archmages becoming one with the world's magic and others pursuing still other kinds of ascension).
In the colored-boxed set versions you ascended around 36th level and became a god. You could keep playing to near-omnipotence and choose to return to mortal form. Going through two entire cycles of mortality and rising to omnipotence caused you to really really ascend and vanish completely.
A few well-known gods were once mortals, or are believed to have been so. Vecna, one of the most notorious evil gods was definitely human (and then a "regular" lich once before becoming the lich-god he is now; a more benign god who may have been human (his worshippers claim so) was the god of justice St. Cuthbert, but if that is true, his life as a mortal man was in the far distant past, and whatever society and culture he belonged to has long-since died out.
This is the goal of The Believers of the Source in the Planescape campaign. (Actually, they believe it's supposed to be everyone's goal, they're just the ones who actively pursue it.)
It's implied that humans who become avatars for Living Saints in Warhammer 40,000 effectively take this route, it's probably one of the closest things to a Happy Ending one can achieve in the Crapsack World as a human.
Chaos champions who are favored by their gods and don't lose their minds to the constant mutations are sometimes transformed into Daemon Princes. They go and live in the warp, commanding the armies of their gods in their eternal internal struggles, though they're sometimes called back to the material realms whenever the tides of Chaos are strong enough to allow a demonic incursion.
This is the ultimate goal of the player characters in Mage: The Ascension: attaining full understanding of the universe and "ascending" into the Umbra, becoming one of the Oracles who guides the hand of Fate.
In the reboot of the line, Mage: The Awakening, a group of mages known as the Exarchs pulled this off in pre-history... and that's when things started to suck, seeing as the Exarchs decided magic was their ball, and no one was going to take it from them. Fortunately, a group of princes with some knowledge of magic calling themselves the Oracles created the Watchtowers, which allow the titular mages to temporarily enter these higher planes of existence and come back with the knowledge of how to do magic.
Both the Silver Ladder and the Free Council have the long-term objective of re-establishing a connection to the Supernal Realms and allowing all of humanity of Awaken and ascend. If only they could agree on how ... (The Ladder envisions a One World OrderMagocracy, while the Council focuses on democracy and sees any kind of hierarchy as suppressing the human spirit.)
This is the goal of quite a few NPCs (and possibly the player characters) in Unknown Armies; there's a whole fleet of Archetypes one can follow for power (such as the True King, the Fool, the MVP, and the Flying Woman). Those who best embody the role ascend to the Invisible Clergy, and are slotted to have a role in the remaking of the universe once all the slots are filled... assuming someone else doesn't kick them out first. The only way to ascend to an Archetype that is already filled is to have a different take on it- in To Go, this can happen to either Dermott Arkane as the Heisenberg Messenger (a herald of uncertainty, representing the influence of opinions on news) or Erica Fisher as the True Executive (replacing the True King's noblesse oblige with efficiency and modern thinking.)
Or humanity collectively decides they're not doing their job well enough. It's that kind of game.
In the Glorantha-based Heroquest, it's what happens if you progress far enough in most schools of magic. You might become united with your god, or ascend to the magical plane. Or you might simply transcend human cares and motivations (or if things go wrong, become irretrievably insane). Regardless, you don't get to play that character any more—either he's gone, or he becomes a non-player character. (It usually doesn't happen accidentally; it's more of a way to gracefully retire a character who's done it all.)
Exalted makes this a possibility for the Infernal Exalted. Like in the Akira example mentioned above, however, it's not so much about ascending to another plane of existence as becoming another plane of existence. Infernals receive all their Charms directly from their Yozi masters, including the ones that allow the Yozis to exist as worlds within themselves.
Possible, though rare, in the Forgotten Realms setting. The result is a new deity.
Following the Time of Troubles, a triad of adventurers, the mercenary Kelemvor Lyonsbane, the wizard Midnight, and the thief Cyric, ascended to become the deities of death, magic, and betrayal, respectively.
Finder Wyvernspur was a Cormyrean nobleman and a bard before stealing the spark of the dead god Moander and being made a god.
In Magic: The Gathering, a small percentage of creatures have the ability to do this, an abilty commonly known as the "spark". A few actually are able to do this and become planeswalkers.
Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has Constellar Sombre and Evilswarm Kerykeion who have successfully defeated Sophia, Goddess of Rebirth and ascended to a higher plane of existence (as mentioned in the DT Story Guide), becoming the twin serpents pictured in Breath of the Divine Serpent.
JAGS Wonderland has an interesting example. This is the eventual fate of humanity.
Grizabella at the end of the musical Cats; once a year the cats reunite to choose one among them to do so.
Your character does this at the start of Immortal Defense in order to combat enemy fleets as they travel through hyperspace before they invade your home planet.
Dr. Malcolm Somerset in the Chzo Mythos series. Represented by Somerset descending levels and levels of stairs.
Not a Put on a Bus situation, but the Galactic Civilizations series allows the player to research a long branch of effect-less technologies that eventually lead to a Technology Victory, in which everyone in your species becomes an energy being.
In the latest expansion to Galactic Civilizations 2, resources called Ascension Crystals were added. To use them, you have to build a starbase on them, and each map has five. If a crystal is turned on, that starbase provides one point per turn. You need a thousand points to ascend, which is an instant-win condition. The problem? These starbases, unlike all others, can not be upgraded with defenses, and (quite understandably) attempting to become a god tends to piss off the other civilizations.
Similarly, one of the possible victory conditions in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is called the Ascent to Transcendence, where the human race links up with the planetary mind and abandons the need for corporeal form.
"Eternity lies ahead of us, and behind. Have you drunk your fill?"
Even more similar is a semi-canon example in a mod for Sid Meier's Civilization IV where in the space mod, one of the victory conditions has you pass through some sort of portal and ascend to a higher plane of existence. The phrase is in the actual wording for the victory condition.
Also happens to Fei and Elly, except that they come back: after being murdered/forced to make heroic sacrifices/driven to insanity for 10,000 years, it seems that they want to enjoy an ordinary life together in the physical realm.
In the final level of Age of Mythology, Arkantos is granted Blessing by Zeus, effectively an Eleventh Hour Superpower, and becomes a demi-god. He destroys the Poseidon statue, which kills Gargarensis. He ascends into heaven, and only returns a few times in the Titans expansion to reveal information to people.
Not to mention that before you actually ascend to godhood, you have to make it through the elemental planes and the astral plane in one piece...
This happens to the entire population of the alien world of Cocytus in Lucasarts' The Dig: Their technology allows them to create an interdimensional gate, which they use to literally Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence called Spacetime Six, where a person can observe and move in three dimensions of space as well as three dimensions of time, contrasting "our" dimension, Spacetime Four. The only trouble is that (a) they find out that it's boring as Hell (pun intentional) and (b) they can't get back (oops). The protagonists of the game, having arrived Late to the Tragedy on the deserted planet, eventually manage to reactivate the gate and lead the Cocytans back into the real world, for which they earn eternal gratitude and (implied in the ending) the services of a vastly superior culture on behalf of humanity.
The titular premise of Ultima IX: Ascension. It's nowhere near as awe inspiring as it sounds.
Yuko ascends to become a goddess at the end of Valis III. This lets Valis IV start with a new heroine after three games starring Yuko.
Arguably happens, in conjunction with a Journey to Find Oneself, to Ashley Riot at the end of Vagrant Story, having inherited all the power of Le?onde and become something other than human.
The secret reports of The World Ends with You state that in usual games, exceptional Players are offered to ascend to the plane of Angels, instead of being reborn. Mr. Hanekoma is one of these ascended Angels (and if Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is to be believed, then Joshua is one as well). Their purpose is to watch over the Reaper's game and help the composer. They are also talented artists (in the RG) with the ability to add imprinting messages to their art-piece. They use this ability to inspire the people to live a happy and interesting life. If the game Neku participated in would have been a usual one, he would probably been offered to become an angel as well, after the character development he'd undergone in the first week, thanks to Shiki.
Also counts if Players opt to become a Reaper. Heck, even being dead enough to play The Game counts. Turns out the living world is Shibuya's baseband frequency, everything else transmits right over the top of it.
In the Action RPG game Too Human, Baldur and his NPC allies literally ascend to Valhalla (via vakyrie) when they are killed in battle.
Via an incredibly slow-ass Valkyrie. And the entire animation is unskippable, to boot.
Inverted in Planescape: Torment. At the end of the game, should the Nameless One merge with his rogue mortality, it is rather heavily implied that absorbing the knowledge and skills of all of his hundreds - or hundreds of thousands - previous lives has transformed him into a being of nearly godlike power. Unfortunately, he's still got to pay for the sin that drove him to become immortal in the first place, so he's dragged down into one of the Lower Planes of Existence to serve out his sentence as a soldier in the Blood War.
Although with that level of power, he might decide to take over the lower planes instead...
Mega Man X in Mega Man Zero. Technically speaking, he's not dead, at least not until Zero 2 or 3, depending on the definition of death concerning Reploids, using his physical body as the "can" for the Sealed Evil in a Can, and throughout the series is now in a form that is the closest thing the Reploids have to a "ghost."
Aerith/Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. Once she dies, she controls The Lifestream to destroy Meteor and save the world. In the sequel she calls down healing rain to save the world a second time, and in the tie-in short stories she's the leader of an effort within the Lifestream to contain Sephiroth's infection of it.
Heavenly Sword: In the final chapter of the game, appropriately titled "The Goddess," Nariko overcomes/embraces the sword's true power and becomes a literal avatar of light, her aura sweeping aside armies of mortal soldiers as she walks towards the final battle.
Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight: When you finally return the Moonstone to Stonehenge, this is your reward. Through a druid ritual, you ascend to a higher plane of existence, becoming both a constellation and a legend "passed from one generation to the next."
In Ōkami this happens to Amaterasu and Waka at the end of the game, literally, but not quite in the way one'd think - they actually travel up to the Celestial Plane.
Supposedly this is exactly why you don't see any Chozo in the Metroid games, even though there's evidence that they've been nearly everywhere. The fate of their race has (possibly intentionally) never been adequately explained, although it's said that when the Chozo could advance no further, they withdrew from the universe to watch other races develop.
This is reinforced in the Prime Games, but a lot is still vague.
Kormir replaces Abaddon at the end of Guild Wars Nightfall.
In third-person action game Rune, protagonist ends the game by ascending into Valhalla (a proper reward for any Viking hero).
Four of the six main storylines of Escape Velocity Nova involve or touch upon this one way or the other. The ones that involve it most heavily are the Vell-os and Polaris storylines (in the first, you participate in the Vell-os' ascension, scheduled for as soon as they are freed from slavery, despite not technically being a Vell-os, and in the second, you [re-]ascend into becoming a part of the universe itself). Only the Federation and Pirate storylines lacks the Vell-os ascending and an epilogue stating that, in some far-off distant future, humanity as a whole will leave the corporeal behind.
In the Command & Conquer Tiberium series, this is one of the stated goals of Kane. The details of what ascension is actually supposed to even mean, to begin with, to be revealed in the fourth and final game.
Well, Kane's intended destination is implied to be a planet, rather than a higher plane, after he was left stranded on Earth. That said, the ending fits the bill regardless, with Kane and the entire Brotherhood disappearing after stepping into the Threshold.
In the Arcanum your PC can achieve a status of deity by the end of the game. Furthermore, you can simply chose what type of deity you want to be in a final dialog with Big Bad. Although it requires the PC to commit a Double Face-Heel Turn of a sort.
In the end of Wizardry 8 all your party ascends to the Cosmic Circle, where they take the role of new gods through control of a Cosmic Forge. Then you can literally rewrite a part of a cosmic history, or even ally with the Big Bad for a truly awesome Evil Ending .
At the end of Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, the Player Character may choose to become a god. There's even some emphasis on how this choice means leaving forever while staying a mortal doesn't, even though the game ends there anyway.
Also, if you have Keldorn in your party when you finish the game, his epilogue mentions that he got picked to be the right hand man of the setting's god of justice at the moment of his death.
In the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty campaign, Tassadar who died in the original game briefly reappears floating and states that he didn't die... and never will.
Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence is (usually) a prerequisite for becoming an arcana in Arcana Heart.
According to Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsurugi, Saint Elimine never died. As the founder of Etruria and Messianic Archetype among the heroes of the legend, one her mission in life was over she simply ascended to Heaven from a tower in the Etrurian capital, Aquleia. Said place became the Tower of the Saint and the placeholder of her spell book, Aureola, alongside the Saint's Staff.
The stated goal of the shaman in Populous: The Beginning, she ascends to godhood in level 24 and level 25 is played from a god like perceptive
In the Disgaea series, one of the art books states that many of the spell keepers of the Omega, Tera and Peta-level spells were former humans, demons and angels, and considering the sheer number of keepers from game to game, apparently quite a few of them had met some kind of qualification. In Disgaea 4, a former war nurse ascends to become n angel after her death.
Feena and Lair at the end of Ys II (although they descended from a higher plane of existence first), and the rest of the Eldeen race in the backstory of Ys VI.
This is one possibility of what happened to the Dwemer in The Elder Scrolls. While messing about with the heart of a destroyed god, they either completely annihilated their entire race...or ascended to a higher plane.
In Skyrim, this is the true motivation behind the Thalmor banning Talos worship. They want to depower Talos by depriving him of mortal worship because he is the last thing preserving the physical world. The Thalmor believe that the unmending of the physical world will restore the Altmer to divinity. The Fantastic Racism is just a cover.
May be what happens to Morrigan at the end of the Witch Hunt DLC for Dragon Age: Origins. She passes through a Cool Gate into somewhere unknown, "beyond this world, beyond the Fade."
Although it's more of a Return To A Higher Plane of Existence, this is Chip's ultimate fate in Sonic Unleashed.
In Mass Effect 3 two of the endings lead to Shepard uploading him/herself into the catalyst, in one s/he takes control of the Reapers, in the other s/he combines synthetic and organic life, and it's implied that s/he becomes part of the reapers, or synthetic hybrids in the process.
The Extended Cut version of the Control ending is narrated by Immortal-Reaper-God Shepard. He / she now understands what words like "eternal" and "infinite" actually mean, and declares the entire galaxy under their protection. This either means that you vow to use your new existence to, if a Paragon, guide the galaxy into a new era of peace or, if Renegade, vow to destroy anyone who threatens your version of "peace."
In the final ending of Asura's Wrath after the source of mantra is destroyed, This presumably happens to Asura and the rest of the Shinkoku race after they can no longer exist, or go through Reincarnation after that.
The game over screen of laserdisc game Badlands had Buck doing this.
One of the deaths of Time Gal had Reika doing this if "Pray to God" is selected after the plane blows up.
Wario Land 4 has Princess Shokura doing this at the end of the game.
Happens when Kirby dies in Kirby Mass Attack. Don't worry, the Kirbys can bring the angel Kirby down and revert it to the blue color.
Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs has this if you lose all of your lives. The king's assistant says that Kid Kool has died, and the king says that the game is over. But a continue option will be added. If it is selected, Kid Kool, as an angel, returns to the king and says, "I'm sorry about that. I guess I died." According to James Rolfe in his The Angry Video Game Nerd review, the king can bring Kid Kool back to life, and Kid Kool thanks the king. Here is a reaction to one of the reviewers and the entire cutscene.
In the final route of Duel Savior Destiny Taiga gains the power of the Messiah, but is rejected by God. This is one level of powerup and pretty impressive. After this he fuses all the Aether Relics together, which essentially turns him omnipotent in terms of causing damage, but incapable of creating anything. He then proceeds to fight God endlessly before he finally manages to place a seal over him and return back for his happy ending.
In the second Xenosaga game, this happens to Albedo.
In Tales of Xillia, the real Maxwell gives Milla the choice of either living out the rest of her life as a normal human or becoming his successor. She picks the later, essentially becoming the goddess of Reize Maxia.
If you choose the pro-transhumanist ending in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Adam Jensen delivers a message, saying "For the first time in history, we have a chance to steal fire from the gods. To turn away from it now - to stop pursuing a future in which technology and biology combine, leading to the promise of a Singularity - would mean to deny the very essence of who we are. No doubt the road to get there will be bumpy, hurting some people on the way. But won't achieving the dream be worth it? We can become the gods we've always been striving to be. We might as well get good at it."
Eternals in Eien no Aselia work like this. You agree to become one, you get tested to see if you're capable, and if you are, everyone forgets you even existed apart from other Eternals. And then you disappear from whatever world you came from altogether.
In Fate/stay night you can ascend by accomplishing an impossible miracle, being worshipped after death by large groups of people, or swearing into a Guardian Contract with the world. However, it's a pretty raw deal, as while it grants apparent immortality, you do not retain the memories of incarnations sent into the world, exist outside time and Guardians get the extra special benefit of getting sent to 'preserve the balance' ie. kill lots of people so they don't kill even more people. They don't remember doing this after going back where they come from, but they know it's happened and know they're doing it. Oh, and you don't get any free will either unless you happen to be participating in the Grail War. Did we mention that the Grail will eat your soul if you're a Heroic Spirit? That means you don't even get reincarnation like normal humans. Yay ascension!
Actually, the Grail doesn't consume their soul, because the Servants are copies of the Heroic Spirit stored in Akasha; the original is unaffected. Still pretty gruesome, though.
On the other hand, Realta Nua's Last Episode implies a brighter form of ascension when Shirou manages to reunite with Saber in Avalon.
Technically happens to two characters in Ansem Retort. Early on in the first season, Sora receives the powers of a demi-god but quickly forgets about them due to his amnesia. Several hundred episodes later, Axel achieves Reverse Nirvana, which effectively makes him an evil Buddhist god with the ability to use mind bullets and nuke cities at will. However, as an aversion neither character has left the comic. Hell, Axel's forgotten sometimes that he has mind bullets.
Officer Getskilled in Girly, who pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice by Taking the Bullet for his friends only to be saved by an immortal who is impressed with his bravery and carries him off to a never-ending life of love and adventure.
In Ozy and Millie Ozy's mother apparently ascended after creating the perfect ice cream flavour.
Narbonic had Mell be assumed into Heaven. Apparently it's a requirement for their apology, if the forces of Good cause havock by accident. Never mind that the people who just suffered might really prefer the damage being cleaned up or maybe a cheque, or something, rather than forcible Ascension of one of their friends. It lasts about a week, and then she apparently sets Heaven on fire, gets tossed down into Hell, becomes a lawyer for the demons down there, and gets tossed back out to Earth. This leads to a Crowning Moment Of Awesome when she requests that her ex-demon boyfriend wait long enough for a metric ton of business cards to follow after her; apparently, despite the rumours, she's the only lawyer to wind up down there so far - or at least, the only one interested in doing any business.
Something Positive - Joked over recently by Mr. Sandersan who, upon hearing that Davan's mother Faey spent her life sober, said she must have risen to heaven held only by beams of light and her obvious sainthood because she raised Davan, completely sober at all times.
In Homestuck, if you have reached the top of the Echeladder, die on your Medium's Quest Bed and still have your dream self alive, you can ascend to God Tier and become near Immortal. This is how John, Jade and Vriska reached God Tier. Coincidentally, they are all Prospit Dreamers, but Derse Dreamers do have Quest Beds on their planet. However, should you not have one of these things done, well...
The second method of ascension, shown by Dave, Rose and Aradia involves dying on a Quest Bed located at the core of Derse. Presumably Prospit Dreamers have their equivalents in the core of Prospit, but we have not currently seen any. All of the Derse Dreamers who reached God Tier had already lost their non-Dream Selves and ascended with their Dream Self dying on the Quest Bed in the core of Derse.
The FreakAngels end up this way, outside time and able to communicate with their past selves.
In the backstory of The Order of the Stick, the goblin warlord known as The Dark One (due to his purple skin) was elevated to godhood after his assassination during Aggressive Negotiations when his followers went on a yearlong campaign of vengeance in his name.
In The Gamers Alliance, Geraud Aurelac and Grady Silverbranch use the Silver Branch, a magical scepter, to fuse with the dying Yggdrasil World Tree in order to create a new, healthy world tree, the Silverbranch Tree, in order to cleanse the world from the taint which has plagued it for centuries. After the fusion, Geraud and Grady's spirits retain their individuality but promote the tree's agenda from that moment onward, becoming its spokesmen to anyone visiting the tree. There are also rumours of a way for a mortal, if they are in possession of certain artifacts, to ascend and attain godhood, which is the goal of the leaders of two separate factions.
However, The Review Must Go On reversed that. The Critic convinces Doug Walker that there's still potential for him, an Ass Pull is used to explain that Donnie Dupree from Demo Reel is the Nostalgia Critic in purgatory, and the Nostalgia Critic comes back. Don't worry about the Plot Hole though: Douchey McNitpick ascends to take his place.
Retroactively happens to Optimus Prime when he is killed in Transformers: The Movie (the first one). He "joins his essence with the Matrix" and shows up as a Spirit Advisor from time to time in the third season of the old show.
The same thing happens with Alpha Trion (the robot who rebuilt Optimus) in the 2-part episode "The Key to Vector Sigma."
Optimus eventually is resurrected, but when he journeys into the Matrix to find out how to stop the Hate Plague, he doesn't encounter the version of himself contained in it. Later, when he accesses Vector Sigma to get information about how to stop the Earth and Cybertron from being destroyed by a Decepticon plan, he encounters Alpha Trion (on the other side of symbolic chasm).
The Flash got pulled back from the "Higher Plane" of the Speedforce in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall".
In one episode, Professor Farnsworth uses a batch of nanobots to clean the water of a lifeless planet. However, they begin evolving (not Hollywood Evolution, mind you) at an extremely rapid pace due to their being robots. In a matter of days, they go from nanobots to robotic dinosaurs to humanoid robots and eventually doing this.
In "Overclockwise", Bender is overclocked by Cubert to make his reflexes faster for playing video games. Bender then begins overclocking himself, becoming smarter and able to predict the future. Eventually he becomes a god-like entity, able to create new worlds just by belching. Eventually the Reset Button is pushed when Mom captures him and resets him to factory standards, as user licenses are apparently more strictly enforced in the 31st Century.
The Phineas and Ferb episode "Gi-Ants" has super-intelligent ants, in the course of one day, developing agriculture, then an industrial revolution, then high technology, and then self-enlightenment. This all leads up to this gem as they head off to space to find themselves a new home:
Phineas: Bye! Have fun evolving past the need for physical existence!
Many religions, not just Christianity, believe their gods or saints were once human beings who did this. Some New Age devotees believe anyone can "raise their body" given the proper lifestyle and attitude, and that ultimately we all will.