This is when you die, and you cease to exist. No afterlife. No feeling, no thought, no perception, no existence. Your existence — everything you were — simply disappears like a popped soap bubble.
The cessation of existence is not a lovely Fluffy Cloud Heaven or a boiling molten hell: you know nothing, you feel nothing, and you are nothing. If you cease to exist and are gone forever, you have no knowledge of anything, not even of your own death or the life you lived before. In other words, permanent and total unconsciousness. And even that is a woefully inadequate comparison, since even the unconscious can still dream.
This is fairly inconceivable to those who exist, as not-existing and existing are somewhat mutually exclusive. The idea here is that even after death you'll never know or realize you're dead and that there's no afterlife (even if you've believed in one), meaning the two examples above still don't quite give an accurate impression of what it would be like. Then again, it wouldn't be like anything. Perhaps a good way to think about it is like this: try and remember what it was like before you were born.
This may very well be a reason death is such a common Primal Fear, and seems to be a major reason for the creation of many religions; after all, many major religions teach that life exists after death in some form. Then again, some people would find cessation of existence comforting compared to the alternatives.
Not to be confused with The Nothing After Death, where you still exist, if only as a mere shade floating between nothing and nowhere.
Compare Apocalypse How: Class Z, which is where this becomes the fate of everything everywhere.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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In Death Note, Ryuk tells Light that since he's used the Death Note, he can go neither to heaven nor hell, but instead "Mu," or nothingness. At the end of the series, a flashback that shows the entirety of that scene occurs, where Light deduces (correctly) that that just means there's no afterlife for anyone. This is confirmed by Ryuk, the Rules of the Death Note shown between chapters, Word Of God, and an Eye Catch in the anime.
In D.Gray-Man, it's stated that this is what's believed to happen to the soul of an akuma who is destroyed by any means other than through the use of Innocence.
Dragon Ball: There is an afterlife, but if someone who kept their corporeal form in "Other World" gets killed again, they are permanently erased from existence. Unknown if the same holds true for disembodied spirits in Hell.
This also seems to be the fate of Android 16 in Dragon Ball Z, as the wish to restore everyone Cell killed isn't shown bringing him back and we never see him in the afterlife either.
And possibly Super Buu when Kid Buu is born, since they are implied by the former to be separate entities.
In the Monster Rancher anime, becoming a Lost Disc and Monsters fusing together are portrayed as this.
In YuYu Hakusho, this is what happens if someone who is already dead is somehow killed. In addition, certain creatures can eat a person's soul and cause them to cease to exist.
Bleach: There is a wheel of reincarnation at work in this story. Souls born into the World of the Living die and pass into the Soul Society. They live there for a period of time, then die again and are finally reincarnated back into the World of the Living as a new lifeform. There are some souls born into Soul Society. When those souls die, they also move on through the reincarnation cycle. Even if a soul is interrupted in this cycle by becoming a hollow, the hollow can still be cleansed to return to the cycle and pass on to Soul Society peacefully. And then there are Quincies. Their power does not cleanse hollows. It destroys them. The soul is not only destroyed but will never return to the reincarnation and therefore vanishes for good. In other words, the Quincies don't just destroy the current life of the soul, they're destroying all the soul's future lives as well. The story has stated that Quincies are unique in being the only ones capable of destroying the soul.
The reason Quincies hunt down Hollows so relentlessly is because the Hollows can destroy their souls by merely infecting them.
This was the primary function of the Ultimate Annihilator, the weapon created by Robotnik Prime in the End Game arc of the Archie ComicsSonic the Hedgehog series. Robotnik planned to use it to not only defeat the Freedom Fighters, but wipe them and their home from existence.
It worked so well, in fact, that when Snively sabotaged it and it annihilated Robotnik instead of Knothole the whole Universe was thrown into chaos when he was removed from it.
In Mike Carey's Lucifer, the title character makes his own cosmos with no afterlife. When he destroys the man he creates for disobeying his one command not to serve him, Lucifer says, "Did the ten thousand years before thy birth trouble thee? Well, no more will the ten thousand years after thy death."
Not quite the same. Beings who crossed over into Lucifer's universe from Yahweh's retain their souls. The lack of a proper afterlife forces them into a large pit until Elaine comes around and fixes it.
In "Luminosity", Edward believes that this is what happens to vampires, post-death, because they lack souls. He and Bella discuss this, though it's worth noting that Edward isn't particularly good at debating in a perfectly rational field.
Last One Standing is the first time this happens. Notable because it's left ambiguous as to whether or not that is what actually befalls the dead.
Reflections is the second time it comes up. The two immortal protagonists discuss the idea of eternal nothingness. They do not agree.
I Did Not Want To Die mentions the well of souls twice as a possible afterlife. Whether or not it's real is ambiguous.
This was the threat hanging over the heads of the protagonist in Dogma. Azrael was so tortured by the absence of God and the self-imposed suffering of the damned in Hell that he would rather be wiped out of existence than suffer it any longer, consequences to the universe be damned.
It implied that this was also the fate of Bartleby and Loki rather than going to heaven (since they were eternally and infallibly banished) or to hell (since they were forgiven) God allowed them both to simply cease to exist when they died.
The banishment could easily have been lifted once God was revived, and so some viewers assume that Loki (although not Bartleby) was granted forgiveness and re-entry to Heaven.
In Dragonheart Dragon Sean Connery says that only certain dragons get to have an afterlife, branded by the stars. The others just... disappear when they die.
This is the effect of the God Killer in Drive Angry. Technically, though, those shot with it do exist in a very specific form... that being their gibbed remains painting everything close by from the explosive power of the gun. Metaphysically, it plays this trope straight.
This was the afterlife (or the lack thereof) depicted in The Invention of Lying before the main character invented religion to make people feel better.
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it's implied this is what happens to Toons who have been killed using the dip, since the weasels who laugh themselves to death become angels, while the one who falls into the dip does not.
This is what one of the two main characters in The Bucket List initially believes. It's implied that he's changed his mind by the end of the film.
Both the bad guys and the good guys(!) in RIPD use "soul-killing" bullets against their respective enemies. The two protagonists are also temporarily threatened with this after screwing up an assignment - perhaps the very ultimate in Disproportionate Retribution.
Robert Cormier's In The Middle of the Night, where the villain went Ax-Crazy after discovering this.
HP Lovecraft's Ex Oblivione, where the protagonist discovered that oblivion was the natural state of things, and that 'existence', as we know it, is merely a brief nightmare...
In The Quest of Iranon the main character is told of such oblivion in terms of similar optimism by the people in one of the towns he visits. When Iranon himself dies at the end the issue of what becomes of him is not spoken of, and the variance and flexibility of Lovecraft's contradictory cosmology and mythos leaves the question open.
In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, in which ghosts who are sundered from the gods drift blindly until they fade away completely. It's called the true death or the death of the soul. Most people go on to the afterlife, though.
In the Incarnations of Immortality series, people generally go to an afterlife, but which afterlife depends to some extent on what they believe; one incidental character is a militant atheist who believes that Cessation of Existence is what happens to everybody when they die, and although he's wrong about the "everybody", it is indeed what happens to him.
This actually makes for a very weird case, although being a book that didn't originally have a sequel planned sort of allows it. In the fourth book, it's stated that where souls go depends on what they believed and the Incarnations we follow belong to the one theology. It's even outright stated that the War in that book only became War because he doesn't really believe in his own religion strongly, so he's mutable. But this also means that Death showing up for the soul at all was useless except for showing what happens to souls that don't believe in anything.
Even if the atheist's soul couldn't be collected, it may still have been necessary for Zane to separate it from the man's body. Presumably if he hadn't done so, the man might've ended up as a ghost or something.
Since the afterlife is the dead existing as ghosts, unable to affect the real world, and always feeling that everything around them is not real, they actually wish for the cessation.
In the Deverry series, this is the ultimate punishment for the principal antagonist of the first four books. Everyone else gets to reincarnate.
In a story by Stanislaw Lem, a Ridiculously Human Robot called Automateusz ends up stranded on a Deserted Island, along with his artificial friend (called Wuch), a small, intelligent ball. After calculating that the odds of getting saved are next to nothing, Wuch advises Automateusz to commit suicide to avoid an inevitable and much more painful death, and brings up several arguments for the case that Cessation of Existence is actually the greatest thing that could happen to a person.
In Poul Anderson's story "The Martyr", a race of advanced aliens has been systematically steering humans away from research into psychic phenomena to spare them from the knowledge that the aliens have an afterlife but humans don't.
In His Dark Materials, Iorek insists that there is no afterlife for his people ("We live and then we die and that is all,"), but it's not clear whether this is true or simply his society's belief.
In Vonda N. McIntyre's The Exile Waiting a character learns that this is what happens after death, through being telepathically linked to someone at the time of their death.
The Ellimist, from Animorphs, describes the death of Rachel, as seen from his near-omniscient perspective, as "a small strand of space-time going dark and coiling into nothingness", implying this trope.
In the Warrior Cats series, the characters do have an afterlife - StarClan if they're good, the Dark Forest if they're bad. Either way, when the StarClan or Dark Forest cat is completely forgotten by living cats, they gradually fade away into nothing. However, if they receive an injury that in life would be fatal, they just disappear instantly.
In The Skinjacker Trilogy, cessation of existence normally does not occur - you're either living, in Everlost, or you've gone into the light - but a scar wraith can extinguish an Everlost soul by merely touching them. This is the fate of Squirrel in Everfound.
In the Dreamblood Duology, this can happen to someone if a Hetawa priest drains them of all their dreamblood. The main character of the second book deliberately destroys someone's soul in the end, but this is portrayed as a good thing, as the soul was so damaged that it would never have found rest.
In the Magic The Gathering novel Planeshift, the lich Lord Dralnu claims that this is what happened when he died. We never get to find out whether he spoke the truth, though.
Achieving this becomes the main goal of prince Evnos from Darrell Schweitzer's The White Isle after his visit to the afterlife, where everyone is tortured forever regardless of their deeds in life. He succeeds.
American Gods: After spending a while being the plaything of Jerkass Gods, the main character Shadow dies and gets to pick his afterlife. This trope is his choice.
Debated in JohnVarley's Steel Beach. Hildy says that people need to believe in an afterlife even when they know that it makes no sense.
Live Action TV
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, this doesn't appear to be the standard death experience (well, as far as we know; our only reliable witness of the afterlife died under very unusual circumstances), but it's what happens to Fred. When Illyria takes over her body, it completely devours her soul, quite explicitly ruling out any possibility that Fred could come Back from the Dead.
In Buffy's case, she knew there was something beyond because there was "no pain, no fear, no doubt, until they pulled me out..." She is even trying to sketch what is was she saw during the beginning of "Once More with Feeling." However, just like Spock, she can't readily describe what she experienced in human terms and is sketching a white light in a field of black.
Considering that Fred was meant to return in Season Six by her and Illyria splitting in two (had the show not been cancelled), this may not have actually have been what happened, and the person who claimed this may be wrong. In the 'After the Fall' comics, it seemed as though Fred HAD returned, occasionally taking over the body inhabited by Illyria - however, it was later revealed that Illyria was faking it, as she apparently wanted Fred to be back.
This, along with Ret Gone, is the fate of anyone who falls into a Time Crack in Doctor Who, during the Eleventh Doctor's first season.
A later episode of Star Trek: Voyager had Neelix discover, much to his horror, that there was nothing after death. However, he was clinically dead but successfully resuscitated with medical intervention; the question is whether or not that counts as "dead enough" that he should have seen the afterlife.
When Q spent some (involuntary) time as a human in Star Trek: The Next Generation, he seemed particularly concerned about dying, convinced that he would simply wink out of existence. This and the above example suggest that either there is no afterlife in the Star Trek universe, or that the afterlife is so mysterious even the sufficiently advanced Q don't know about it.
It's implied (and sometimes even outright stated) in the Expanded Universe that there are beings far more powerful than the Q. If there is an afterlife in the Star Trek universe, then it can be assumed the Q in general fear that something may lurk there that is far more advanced than they are. Otherwise, they may simply just fear that, despite all their god-like powers, they too may face the same fate as any other being in the universe, death without anything beyond that.
There was also another thing in the Star Trek universe that seems to negate the afterlife. In the original Star Trek episode "Return to Tomorrow", Sargon says "Thalassa and I must now also depart into oblivion" before he dies.
"Departing into oblivion" wouldn't necessarily mean "ceasing to be," though it could. It could just refer to leaving behind the known and entering the unknown.
This trope is actually subverted at several points throughout the series' of Star Trek, the most notable subversion is the Voyager episode "Barge of the Dead", where B'Elanna is nearly killed in a shuttle accident (similar to how Neelix temporarily dies) and in her near death experience, she learns that her mother is on the road to Klingon Hell, so she re-creates the conditions of the accident to go back to the "barge of the dead" and tries to get her mother into Klingon Heaven. She succeeds.
Voyager 3/15 episode "Coda", Janeway dies on a random planet and she is walking around the ship basically as a ghost, her father comes to her and leads her to a tunnel of white light, however she realizes this is not her father but a non-corporeal alien who says that this is how his race feeds, they lead the dead into their matrix and feed on their psychic energy. Before she is revived the alien tells her it doesn't matter because she will die someday, and when she does they will then have her. When Janeway is revived she speculates that perhaps there is no after-life, just these aliens who feed on the psychic energy of the dead.
Don't forget, though, that in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Spock makes it clear that something happened to him after he died, but it was something that only those with a "common frame of reference" could possibly discuss with each other. Both the wording and the implications make it unmistakable that we're not talking about Cessation of Existence.
Then again, a fairly plausible case could be made that the "Spock" talking here was simply a part of him that, by virtue of already co-occupying McCoy's headspace at the time, never died in the first place.
A subplot in the first series of Torchwood, as the unwillingly-immortal Captain Jack Harkness questions people temporarily revived from the dead if they experienced any kind of afterlife. So far, the answer has been "No."
She's probably not the most reliable witness but, in "They Keep Killing Suzie", the eponymous character posits a different afterlife.
Gwen: So when you die, it's just—
Gwen: And you're all alone, there's no one else?
Suzie: I didn't say that.
Gwen: What d'you mean?
Suzie: Why do you think I'm so desperate to come back? There's something out there... in the dark. And it's moving.
Surprisingly, however, the episode "Random Shoes" has a (slightly) kinder take on this trope (or maybe not. It's the Whoniverse, just go with it.). After the main character for that episode completes his unfinished business, the audience is given the image of a incredibly fast zooming out from the Earth, with us suddenly having the main character's speech falter and we see nothing but silent nothingness.
As of the conclusion of Season 6, it's strongly implied (though not spelled out in so many words) that this is the fate of angels and demons who die in Supernatural. (Unless God, or presumably Lucifer, takes a personal interest and brings them Back from the Dead.)
House is utterly convinced that there is nothing after death. At one point, he is told that there is no way he can know for sure that that's true. He then induces clinical death on himself and does not have a near-death experience. That's all the proof he needs that he was right all along.
Well, maybe. Or maybe that's just House's hereafter.
Imagine there's no Heaven It's easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky
Apparently, this image is supposed to be comforting: no judgment, no discrimination, no after-death torment. To someone who's been raised with a belief in Heaven, however, it's nothing less than horrific.
A particular cover, done by A Perfect Circle, makes this part sound slightly more ominous than Lennon probably intended.
According to songwriter David Byrne, this trope is what he intended "Road to Nowhere" to be about. "Well we know where we're goin' but we don't know where we've been...We're on a road to nowhere; come on inside. Takin' that ride to nowhere; we'll take that ride. Maybe you wonder where you are: I don't care! Here is where time is on our side...."
The Gothic Archies' song "The Dead Only Quickly" is about this trope.
The Bright Eyes song "At the Bottom of Everything" implies this, if briefly.
And in the ear of every anarchist Who sleeps but doesn't dream, We must sing, we must sing, We must sing
Expanded in another song by them, "Down in a Rabbit Hole," which is explicitly about death.
If your thoughts should turn to death better stomp them out like a cigarette
Dumbledore starts in. 'Don't you want some cocoa or soup, Harry? Come away from the light of Heaven's easy life. We need such a valiant, beautiful warrior as yourself here to live and to hack the serpents of evil in two, hell, into twos, into threes and fours! Your life will be the very envy of Heaven and its slobbery inhabitants. No, Harry. You were meant to stride with us, the living! To course with us and our blood. You are meant to end when your share of that blood turns brown upon the rocks of glory! You and I shall drink to-night, Harry. We shall drink to life's confines, to life's pearly end, which is the nothingness of death, not the perpetual pansiness of Heaven!'
Mark Twain allegedly said, "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."
Philip Larkin's poem "Aubade" is about the fear of ceasing to exist, and how there's really no relief from it.
This is a special way of being afraid No trick dispels. Religion used to try, That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade Created to pretend we never die, And specious stuff that says No rational being Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound, No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with, Nothing to love or link with, The anasthetic from which none come round.
Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem, "The Garden of Proserpine" describes it as a positive thing that finally brings peace.
Then star nor sun shall waken, Nor any change of light: Nor sound of waters shaken, Nor any sound or sight: Nor wintry leaves nor vernal, Nor days nor things diurnal; Only the sleep eternal In an eternal night.
While the majority of Christians believe that you go to either Heaven or Hell (and occasionally Purgatory), a growing number of Christians believe in Conditional Immortality, also called Conditionalism or Annihilationism. Conditionalists hold that everlasting life is a gift from God, and therefore the final punishment of the unrighteous will be death. The Bible distinguishes between two states of death: Sheol or Hades, the common grave of mankind, and Gehenna, a "second death" from which there is no hope of coming back, though some translations conflate both concepts as "hell". The Bible repeatedly mentions how the consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23), humans will naturally return to dust (Genesis 3:19), God can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28), and everlasting life is God's gift to the righteous through his son Jesus (John 3:16). Conditionalists also tend to reference Genesis in how we were banned from everlasting life as a result of sin, but God offered it back (He never offered Fluffy Cloud Heaven) through Jesus, so, if we were immortal in the first place there would never be a necessity for such an elaborate scheme to reacquire everlasting life. The idea of conditional immortality is also helpful in Christian Apologetics, since so many are repulsed by the Disproportionate Retribution inherent in the Eternal Conscious Torment view of Hell.
Conditionalists include some evangelical Christians, as well as certain denominations (sometimes called sects or cults by other Christians) such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. They reason from these and other scriptures that there is no Hell or afterlife. They believe that when you die, you cease to exist until you are resurrected. Those who died saved will be resurrected soon after the second coming, while those who were lost when they died come back to life in the Second Resurrection where they face probation for their sins; if they fail, they die again, but without hope of further resurrection. They argue that the idea of God imposing eternal torture without parole for a little doubt means that God Is Evil, and that the idea of the permanent and immortal soul is Platonic and influenced by Paganism, not Biblical, in origin.
For more information on the different views within and variations of Conditionalism, helpful sites would include Rethinking Hell and Hell Know.
A common misunderstanding of Purgatory (in Catholic teaching) is that it is another place other than Heaven or Hell. In truth, Catholics believe it as a state, more than a place, where those who die in a state of God's kindness (that is, on their way to to Heaven) are "decontaminated" of the effects of forgiven sins before they can enter Heaven. It's like if you purposefully spilled a drink but later asked your parent to forgive you. You're forgiven for sure—but the Collateral Damage of the spilled drink won't clean up itself. Most Protestants don't find sufficient evidence in their versions of the Bible to support this idea; apart from 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, most evidence is in the book of 2 Maccabees, which appears only in the Catholic Old Testament.
While there are different interpretations and viewpoints, the state of Nirvana in Buddhism can be regarded as either the Cessation of Existence or the ability to chose to not be reincarnated after one dies.
This is the common Western misinterpretation of Buddhism, and completely averted in Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Buddha compares the cessation as immersing a glowing hot iron ball in water. That which remains is the true essence of iron (buddha-dhatu); the other skandhas, like heat and glow, have dispersed away.
Depending on which school of Buddhism you subscribe to, the nature of nirvana is left pretty ambiguous. To give only two examples, it has been described as "the utter extinction of aging and dying" (so, eternal life and eternal youth) and "the bliss beyond all reckoning" (some sort of metaphysical "super-existence").
Also in the Egyptian Mythology you are judged after your dead by a council of deities and if you fail they throw your Ib (that is one of the components of the spirit for the Egyptians and represent the existence and immortality of the being) to Ammit, a soul-eater chimera ceasing the existence of the judged.
Then again, some do. That sort tends to make up the majority of the various Transhumanist movements.
This is the viewpoint of the Classical Epicureans, who did not fear death, as they would not be around to experience their own, and knew that others would not suffer in an afterlife.
Same goes for the Stoics.
There was an influential Jewish sect around the time of Jesus, the Sadducees, who did not believe in an afterlife for mortals, and rejected the idea of a resurrection. The New Testament depicts several disputes between them and the growing Christian movement.
The Talmud does not handle the Sadducees exactly with silk gloves. The Pharisees and Sadducees were on each others' throats, and the Pharisees eventually won. The Talmud was written by the descendants of Pharisees.
This appears to be what happens to gods in Norse Mythology when they die. The exception is Balder who is sent to Hel, like humans are, but he only stay there because Hel herself won't allow him to leave, not because he is metaphysically confined there.
Ironically enough, this appears in the game Wraith The Oblivion. As in most Role Playing Games, the threat of death is ever present, even though in Wraith, you're already dead when the game starts. The unstated goal of Wraith is to move on from the Shadowlands, and there are two ways to do this (well, two basic ways... anyhow, moving on). The first is the ultimate enlightenment, Transcendence. This is where the ghost accepts its death and moves on. To what, who knows? Transcended ghosts aren't around to tell. That's why it's called moving on. The second way to move on is the titular Oblivion. Ignoring for the moment the fact that Oblivion is also a force of nature and essentially the big bad of the whole metaplot, for the sake of this explanation it is a phenomenon: a very rare form of death after death. When the ghost is damaged enough it goes into a manic/psychotic episode called a Harrowing, and if this happens bad/often enough, the soul obliviates and ceases to exist. And the horror of it all? Transcendence and Oblivion look exactly the same to the onlooker.
This is the fate of anything that falls into the void of Oblivion that lies beneath the Underworld in Exalted. There are also certain powers that confine the victim (or, eventually and in exchange for great benefits, the user) to Oblivion. The Neverborn ultimately want to fall into Oblivion, because they regard it as preferable to their torturous and impotent unlives.
In the New World of Darkness, it's somewhat implied that this is what the true Afterlife is — there's no obvious difference between when a ghost "moves on" and when it's destroyed — but no-one's actually certain. The Underworld (where ghosts go if their anchors are destroyed but they still aren't ready to let go of existence) is somewhere between Hell and The Nothing After Death, instead. Directly destroying a ghost definitely causes this, though.
The state of "True Death" for the Dustmen in the Planescape D&D setting.
Peer Gynt - not exactly the cessation of existence but complete loss of individuality. The souls of those who were neither righteous nor sinful (including Peer's) are "remelted" into new souls. Peer is so scared by this fate that he tries to get into Hell.
In Assassins Creed I, the Templar Sibrand believes that there is nothing waiting for him after death, and this fact terrifies him so deeply that when he learns that the Assassins are coming for him, he begins executing random priests out of sheer blind paranoia because they wear vaguely similar robes to those of the Assassins.
His beliefs may very well be justified, since all religions on Earth, including Christianity, are constructed from fragmented memory of human contact with Precursors.
Judging by the codex he left behind in the sequel, Altair appears to believe in this as well. At the very least he suspects it.
According to Ray in Ghost Trick, this is what happens to ghosts at sunrise. He's lying to make sure Sissel is properly motivated.
This is what happens to Magypsies in Mother 3 after the needle they exist to guard is pulled out of the ground. They seem to completely accept this fate.
In The World Ends with You, if you are "erased" (aka killed post death), your soul disappears. Players have to escape this fate for a week, and then MAY have the option of returning to life. If not, they play again, become a Reaper (who try to "erase" souls and keep themselves from being "erased"), and a few become angels. Basically, if you play the game you're probably going to cease to exist.
However, the secret reports reveal that erasure doesn't actually destroy someones soul entirely, but it reduces it to whatever souls are made of. It's nearly the same thing. One character is actually erased early in the game, but eventually comes back, because the energy their soul became was reconstituted into it's previous form.
Persona 2 had something similar to Shakugan no Shana, and did it first. Someone who loses their "Ideal Energy", the will and energy to pursue their dreams, becomes drained and lethargic, unwilling and unable to do anything, as Muggles forget about them and can no longer see or hear them. After a while, they simply cease to exist entirely.
In the Nasuverse there exist such things as "life after death," "the soul," "ghosts," "spirits," "higher planes that exist independent of time," and things like that. That means death is not the end and for some few characters, death may even be cheap. That is unless you are killed by the Eyes of Death Perception. When killed by these eyes, you simply cease to exist and the only way you can see the light of day again is to turn back the hands of time.
On the other hand, no character in the Nasuverse is truly immortal; that concept may not even exist, though there are many that pine after it. Those who have achieved something close to it are only hiding or not yet aware of their continued weakness. Wallachia only has to be restored to his original form. Those in the Throne of Souls cease to exist when the Earth dies prior to Angel Notes, and they spent the rest of their existence trolled by the Counter Force and Grail Wars. For the otherwise almighty Aristoteles, there is Black Barrel and Slash Emperor.
From what can be gathered from the games, believe in an afterlife does not appear to be common among humans in Mass Effect. When Ashley mentions the idea of her father watching her from Heaven, it's treated as slightly odd and even faced with the very possible chance that the Reapers will succeed with their stated plan to whipe out all sentient life and displaced survivors scattered everywhere, the subject is never mentioned. Shepard even dies by any definition of the word, but is basically reconstructed from the remains that could be recovered over the span of two years. While scientifically a sensation, it's not treated as significant on a psychological or spiritual level, and there are even mentions of the possibility that the new Shepard might merely be an organic robot built to have Shepards memory and think like Shepard. But again, it's not treated as something significant or something to lose any sleep on.
The major exception are the Asari, but being a species with natural semi-magical abilities that even reproduces through telepathic contact, they are very unique to begin with. Though the third game hints that massive genetic engineering might have been involved thousands of years ago. Turians, Salarians, and Krogans all seem to have dispasionate attitudes towards such issues.
Ending D of NieR is all about this. Having accepted to sacrifice himself to bring back Kaine from her Shade corruption, the price is for the main protagonist to be wiped from existence entirely, even from everyone's memory. As a final testament to the permanence of this fate, your entire save file is deleted.
Not only is the save data deleted, you can't even use that character name again. You are not permitted to even "reincarnate" the same character all over again for another shot that doesn't result in oblivion. The creators wanted to include an "Ending E" where you could pull your original character out of oblivion, at least letting you re-use the name, but never had the opportunity to implement it in any kind of satisfactory manner. The love Cavia held for their games' players is very hard to distinguish from hate.
In Remember11, when either "Satoru" or Kokoro transfer into a time in which the other is dead, as soon as they realize that they should be dead, they simply cease to exist.
In Kingdom Hearts this is a major focus. When the Heartless "eat" a person, they convert that person into a heartless themselves. Their Heart is eaten as food and the original person is usually lost forever. Sora escapes this at the end of KH 1.
This is also the entire concept of Nobodies. They are born when a person with a strong Heart is eaten by the Heartless. Their "Body" starts to walk around as a Nobody. The Nobody does not have a Heart so it cannot have emotions and when it dies it fragments into pieces. This is shown with the deaths of the Organization XIII. This is mentioned in a discussion between Axel and Roxas:
Axel: Let's meet again, in the next life. Roxas: Yeah; I'll be waiting. Axel: Silly, Just because you have a next life…
Both were Ret Conned later. Kingdom Hearts 2 reveals that killing a Heartless with a Keyblade actually releases the heart(s) that have been eaten and returns them to Kingdom Hearts. Meanwhile, when a Nobody dies, their Nobody identity is permanently lost but their original Somebody reconstitutes itself once the Heart is freed by a Keyblade. Good news for the millions of innocent bystanders who now actually have a chance... and the not-so-innocent Xehanort.
In Super Paper Mario, The Void threatens this to all sentient beings. The Void appears simultaneously in all dimensions, and when it reaches maturity, will annihilate that dimension, leaving a blank nothing behind as if that dimension never existed. It turns out the afterlife exists in Mario and is a different dimension. Sure enough, the Void is present there too.
The one dimension shown to suffer this fate onscreen did however leave behind a small amount of debris, including the world's Pure Heart, and everyone who died as a result of its destruction was also revived once the dimension was restored.
Possibly implied in King's Quest VI when Alexander is touched by Death himself. Whenever you die, even if you're already in the Land of the Dead, you are treated to a cinematic of Alexander entering the gate to the Underworld. When Death touches Alexander though, he withers away to a skeleton, and then... nothing.
In Final Fantasy VII, when anything dies (be it a person, a bird or a flower), its life energy is absorbed into the lifestream. The lifestream then recycles that energy to make new living things. But then there's the whole mess with Shinra sucking up that life energy and converting it into electricity, which means that this trope may have been the ultimate fate of millions of souls during the game's timeline.
In Receiver, the player is a survivor of the Mindkill, which causes this.
In 1/0, you can become a ghost. However, it is possible to commit true suicide by "pulling a Ribby" by getting lost in your own imagination. A character can also be deanthropomophised, or turned back into whatever they were created from.
In The Order of the Stick, this is what happens to "immortal" creatures like imps and elementals if somebody manages to kill them, because they have no soul that can continue on into the afterlife. It's noted at one point that this means "mortal" creatures like humans are actually less afraid of death than "immortal" creatures, because they know they'll continue on in some form and may even get resurrected at some point. Celia mentions that she'd just become one with the Plane of Air.
It's also stated to be the fate of anyone destroyed by the Snarl, though there's evidence that this may not be true.
As the characters live in an RPG Mechanics Verse (and know it), it's been noted that this isn't always the case, that the rules of what happens to Outsiders (the immortal creatures of the Outer Planes) if they're killed keeps getting changed.
Offhandedly mentioned in Misfile. Oddly enough, it's not a universal rule.
Ramael: When a human dies, it's like getting an eternal vacation. A dead angel is just dead.
In Slightly Damned, while Medians keep their bodies in the afterlife, Sakido informs Rhea (and the audience) that Angels and Demons have no afterlife. She dies 15 pages later.
In Homestuck, if you die, you can still continue on existing as a ghost appearing in dream bubbles. Unless, that is, the dream bubble is destroyed while you're inside it, in which case you, too, cease to exist forever.
It's hinted this is also what happens if you're still alive when the session is Scratched. Meenah didn't want that to happen so she blew herself and all her teammates up, going so far as to time it so that the Scratch would happen before the God Tiers would resurrect. All without knowing whether or not it would work (it did).
It should be noted that the above only applies to Sburb players. Non-players who die in the Homestuck universe (the guardians, for instance) don't get to join the dream bubble party and simply cease to exist.
In Fine Structure, there's supposed to be an afterlife, with dead souls ascending to a higher dimension. The presence of the Imprisoning God causes all souls to be obliviated against the edge of 3+1 space.
Paul Klick used the Klick Device to open a hole in reality, intending to take a shortcut to be with his dead wife. A little over 900,000 people - the population of central Berlin - went through the hole. Word Of God is that the plan failed utterly - no one gets past the Imprisoning God. Ever.
Before Klick used his Klick Device though, and after the Imprisoning God has no need to block the universe, this no longer applies. Word Of God states he initially intended for Klick's plan to have accidentally ascended the population of Berlin, but changed it to them having died when it was pointed out that they would've been able to escape the Imprisoning God.
Though this may be more a case of literal Comic Book Limbo, as Ambush Bug mentions the possibility of the characters being used again—though Bat-Mite is probably going to have to stay there for a while.
Adventure Time: Disturbingly implied to be the case if BMO ever stopped working in "BMO Lost"; after having his batteries removed then replaced hours later, BMO cheerfully replies "I didn't have any dreams!"