Zorion: I am a time traveler from five centuries ago! I used a device to bring myself forward in time to see the wonders of your epoch! What progress has come to pass? Nodwick: Virtually none... Magic has supplanted technology, and the secretive nature of its practitioners has resulted in most knowledge becoming lost. We're a feudal society, wars are common, and there's the monster problem. Plus, constant conflicts between the gods ensure that little philosophical progress is ever made. Zorion: You people must drink a lot. Nodwick: It helps ease the downward spiral, yeah.
Götterdämmerung - German for "Twilight of the Gods"
The term was popularized by Richard Wagner in his Der Ring des Nibelungen opera cycle. This is a German translation of the Old Norse "Ragnarökkr" ("twilight of the gods"), which was itself a poetic alternate name for the Norse term Ragnarök: The "ragna" part (nominative: regin) means "gods" or "the powers" while "rök" has several meanings like "fate", "development", "relation", "cause" and suprisingly "origin".
Ragnarok was the story of how most of the Aesirnote a tribe of the Norse gods, the other being the Vanir and the greatest Jotuns died in a battle against each other. Similarly, this trope refers to when the gods or sufficiently advancedPrecursors of a story (and possibly their enemies) either die (if they are mortal) or are Sealed In A Can (if they are immortal), usually in a large battle or some other sudden event.
Contrast Death of the Old Gods, where the gods are either slowly disappearing or losing popularity / being replaced over a period of time, essentially going out with a whisper instead of a bang. Also, compare The Magic Goes Away. See also End of an Age / Dawn of an Era, which this trope may end up leading to.
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In the backstory of the Macross series, the entire galaxy was part of a Golden Age under the Protoculture Stellar Republic before a civil war destroyed them, leaving only their giant humanoid armies to roam the galaxy and continue fighting.
Wanted shows the superhero version of this; once, superheroes walked the Earth, but a great battle between them and the supervillains destroyed them, allowing the villains to rewrite the world into their image and turn it into a bleaker, more cynical place closer to our world.
Harmony Theory: Celestia and Luna are now sealed in their respective celestial bodies.
The galaxy of Niven's Known Space was once ruled by a foolish, simpleminded race of creatures whose only notable attribute was the ability to utterly dominate the minds of others. When the inevitable rebellion happened after thousands of years, their final, technologically amplified command was for everything advanced enough to receive their commands to commit suicide.
In the Deep Space Nine novel Fallen Heroes, Dax, the member of a species comprising a small symbiote inside a standard humanoid, thinks of the Trill version of Ragnarok where a race of dumb giants and a race of smaller intelligent beings fought a war that ended with a single member of each surviving and mating to create the Trill race. There is endless speculation as to which was which gender.
Whilst it hasn't actually happened yet, the Discworld name for this is "The Teatime of The Gods".
This is in some sense the plot of The Lord of the Rings, which is not surprising since, while Tolkien was not inspired by Wagner's Ring Cycle, he was drawing on much the same source material. In any case, the story of the War of the Ring is that of the destruction or self-imposed exile of the supernatural beings who had dominated Middle-Earth for millennia, leaving mortal men in control.
The theme of John Hodgman's book "That is All" is centered on the end days, the return of the elder gods, and ultimately the total destruction of the earth. It gets rather meta. The end of the book is a page-a-day calender outlining the events of Ragnarok ("it will happen today in Ragnarok!").
Live Action TV
Between the old and new series of Doctor Who, an offscreen conflict called the Last Great Time War occurred between the Time Lords and the Daleks, with a horde of various Eldritch Abominations emerging from the crossfire. It ended with the Doctor somehow erasing both sides from the universe. It later turned out that several million Daleks survived in a prison ship called the Genesis Ark, but that's still a fraction of the ten million ship fleet that fought the Time Lords. Later, Rassilon and the Time Lords attempt to escape - in a way that would unleash the aforementioned abominations and eventually destroy the universe, forcing the Doctor to stop them all over again. The few surviving Daleks built mini-empires that were defeated one by one, until one small group actually won an encounter with The Doctor and rebuilt into a galactic power.
The Time Lords being wiped out had already been used multiple times.The Ancestor Cell has Gallifrey being destroyed by the Doctor. Death Comes To Time, a probably non-canon web-animation shows both a Death of the Old Gods and Gotterdammerung. Various Time Lords, who are here Reality WarperGods of the Fourth die through the story, the Doctor pulling a Heroic Sacrifice to kill rogue Time Lord General Tannis. Though the Time Lords haven't been wiped out, apparently their era has passed as the Doctor is the last of the friendly Time Lords.
In Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Old Gods were overthrown long ago and supplanted by humanity. It's really driven home when an Old God returns in Angel only to find her armies long dead and crumbling to dust while her own replacement body can't withstand her own power. The sight of a Lovecraftian horror beaten down by time, trapped in a human shell with only a fraction of her former power, and utterly alone without a purpose in life is rather sad.
Babylon 5'sMyth Arc involved a cyclic conflict between the two oldest and greatest powers in the galaxy, the Vorlons and the Shadows, along with their younger proxies. Partway into the fourth season, this conflict is resolved, with the Vorlons and Shadows traveling Beyond the Rim to live with the First Ones, most of whom had previously done the same millions of years earlier. The remaining two seasons of the show center on the younger races' efforts to grow on their own and deal with their own issues. The producer, J. Michael Straczynski, likened it to a family having Parental Issues on a galactic level.
The Trope Namer is of course Götterdämmerung, the final installment of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas. With Wotan's spear, upon which was inscribed all the bargains he had made for power, broken by his grandson Siegfried, and with Wotan's plot to get hold of the titular ring without invoking its curse having failed, Wotan orders the branches cut from the World-Tree Yggdrasil and piled around Valhalla. Then the gods retire to Valhalla and are consumed in flames at the end.
The Flaming Lips have the song Pompeii am Götterdämmerung, which actually refers to the destruction of Pompeii by the volcano Vesuvius, but nevertheless uses the term.
The song Prime Mover by the Swedish punk band The Leather Nun is about this, the second verse refering directly to events of Ragnarök.
In Norse Mythology, two people, Líf and Lífþrasir, will survive Ragnarök (the Norse version of the apocalypse, the final climactic battle of the gods with the giants and monsters which will end the world as we know it) and will presumably live on to create the next generation of humans after the fall of the gods.
Ironically, some researcher suggests that Ragnarök is a much later introduction to the mythology under Christian influence, and may not have been part of the original cosmology at all. Others belive it to be a sign of the cyclical time-view of the germanic pagans. As far as we know, both can be true. The return of Nidhögg could be a paralell to Satan's supposed return but could also represnt the notion that evil will never disapper. The old german poem Muspilli is theorised to be a straight Christianized version of Ragnarök with Surtr replaced by the Antichrist whom Elias – replacing Thor – fights, Loki by the old fiend. Since the end of that poem has been lost and the last remaining part is kind of a Gainax Ending, it is hard to tell if it is indeed a Christianized or a straight Christian poem, but as the battle in the poem is decribed as a "battle without victory" one can assume it does not end well.
Grandia II had a great war thought between Good and Evil. Evil eventually won but need a couple thousand years of rest. The remains of humanity thought good had won and built a whole religion around its technology and brain-washing control.
The Halo universe, of course, had the highly advanced Forerunners, who were forced to activate their Halos and destroy themselves and all sentient life in the galaxy to starve out the Flood. There's a great quote in Halo 2 from one of the Halo AIs that demonstrates the amount of time that passed:
2401 Penitent Tangent: This installation has a successful utilization record of 1.2 trillion simulated and 1 actual.
Assassin's Creed has Those Who Came Before, a shadowy group mentioned in the first game that the Knights Templar claim all human technology is reverse-engineered from. The second game reveals that they are a powerful race that once existed on Earth and created humans in their own image. They were defeated however, when humans revolted against them and won because of their sheer advantage in numbers. Both factions were devastated, however in an apocalyptic event. Gods and goddesses in world religions are distorted memories of these people.
This is a cornerstone of the most fundamentalist elven religions in The Elder Scrolls. In The fundie basis of elven religion, it holds that reality is a prison that souls are trapped in by the trickster Lorkhan when he bound his fellow greater gods to form the Mundus, but was tricked in turn and killed. In more Man-based religions, it's held that the pre-creation divinity state was the prison, and the mundus is a proving ground in which to transcend beyond the original gods, with Lorkhan (or "Shor" as he's known to the most manliest race of men, the Nords) deliberately failing to do so himself in order for all else to "know how not to fail". In Skyrim, the Thalmor, a Nazi analogue that seized power in Summerset Isle (the ancestral home of all elves), is attempting to unravel all of reality in some mad scheme to return to pre-creation divinity. How? Throughout all the previous games, several pillars holding reality together were destroyed or otherwise depowered (Numidium, Red Mountain, White-Gold Tower), and reality was basically being held together by reverence and worship in the first known person to have undergone such apotheosis: Talos. The Thalmor have banned worship of Talos to undo reality.
All highly advanced technology in the Panzer Dragoon universe was created long ago in the Ancient Age, and the war-wracked world left in its wake is only alive thanks to climate control systems which are finally disabled in Saga in "The Great Fall". In a variation, the Ancients, themselves, realized that what they were doing was wrong, and so they created a fail-safe that was programmed to undo what they had wrought.
Dark Souls has a unique spin on this: The age of the Lords (gods) is ending. The remaining gods are either dead, insane, or have been drained of their power (or a combination of the three). The closest thing to a true god still remaining is a humanoid abomination that has everyone worship a false god instead of letting them see the real him. Your job is hastening the twilight of the gods, so that a new age of the gods can begin or ending the age of the gods forever so that an age of man can begin.
Immortal Defense has this and Death of the Old Gods as a main theme of the game, although it's debatable if pathspace defenders can be actually considered gods. Fittingly enough, Götterdämmerung is actually a title of a level in one of the final campaigns, showcased at the peak of your insanity.
Referenced, though not actually depicted, in Girl Genius, where Klaus Wulfenbach uses "Göterdämmerung" as an expletive.