aka: Epic Fantasy
Fantasy, a collection of tropes, often boiled down from The Lord of the Rings, which has been the foundation for many a series of doorstoppers. Basically, the Dark Lord, thought defeated millennia past, has returned to his Dark Tower in the Dark Land, gathering around him Dark Forces. The free lands have only one hope, a small band of lost heirs, princes, and simple village folk gathered together by a mysterious wandering wizard. However, it's not essential to stick so closely to the model. Most core elements of high fantasy can be found in seminal literature from the 19th and early 20th century, but it was Tolkien that codified the genre. Often flanderized as Medieval European Fantasy, though alternatives exist. The core elements of High Fantasy are:
- Setting - A world other than ours. It may have a nominal connection with present day Earth, such as being our remote past or future, but this plays no role in the plot. Mythopoeia is often put into play to define the very metaphysics of the world. Nevertheless it often resembles medieval Europe, and is often peopled by People of Hair Color.
- Scale - Epic. Power politics, wars, the death of nations, gods walking the earth, and the real threat of The End of the World as We Know It. This is what distinguishes High Fantasy from Heroic Fantasy.
- Great evil - An enemy which is near enough Evil incarnate or fundamentally abhorrent
- Methods - Victory is not achieved through force of arms, the main feature distinguishing High Fantasy from Heroic Fantasy. If Aragorn had killed Sauron in hand-to-hand combat, that would have been Heroic Fantasy. In short, a Supporting Leader or the Reluctant Hero will be offered up instead of the rough-hewn barbarian of, say, Conan the Barbarian or Beowulf.
- Artifacts of Doom
- Cool Horse
- Cool Sword
- Emerging from the Shadows
- Functional Magic
- Lost heirs to kings
- The Chosen One
- Medieval Stasis
- The Quest
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Anime & Manga
- Magi – Labyrinth of Magic
- One Piece
- Fairy Tail
- Rave Master
- Record of Lodoss War
- The Seven Deadly Sins which mixes a Medieval European Fantasy and King Arthur inspired setting with various high fantasy tropes.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has some of the features above, such as the world-spanning epic scale and the detailed fantasy world, but doesn't have purely evil villains and the After the End setting is very important to the plot.
- Berserk is interesting in that it started closer to Low Fantasy (what little magic there was could only be reached by the strongest-willed), but after a major event, it's turning into one of these.
- Bone, though with a sense of humor throughout.
- Many Franco-Belgian Comics belong to High Fantasy, with a twist: the plot seems classical at the beginning, but at the end, the Big Bad is never the one we believed: Légendes des Contrées Oubliées, La Quête de l'Oiseau du Temps, L'épée de cristal, Les brumes d'Asceltis. Others are Low Fantasy or Heroic Fantasy with some elements of High Fantasy: Thorgal, Le Roi Cyclope, Lanfeust, Les Lumieres De L Amalou, Black Moon Chronicles, Complainte des landes perdues, ...
- The Mighty Thor.
- The Dark Crystal
- Unsurprisingly, the live-action adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
- Your Highness is set in a parody High Fantasy world.
- In The Name Of The King features a lost heir, orc knock-offs, an evil wizard, and other conventional high fantasy tropes.
- In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds transports a special forces soldier into a high fantasy world, or at least as high fantasy as the budget will allow.
- In the Name of the King 3: Last Mission transports an assassin into a high fantasy world that's really just a few castles around Bulgaria.
- The Belgariad - takes every single trope in the genre, laughs at them, then builds around ten books (and two epics) with them.
- Bran Hambric, which has the feeling of Urban Fantasy in a fictional world.
- "Chronicle Of The Unhewn Throne" by Brian Staveley
- Chronicles of the Kencyrath fits most of the elements, though it's very tightly focused on the heroine and her immediate friends and family despite the world-shaking events going on, and at least as far as supernatural forces are concerned it's more Black and Grey Morality than Black and White Morality.
- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
- The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper is set in our world, but tied into a distant, mythological and Celtic past, and otherwise fits the trope to a tee. The hero's mentor is even suggested to be Merlin.
- The Dark Tower by Stephen King borders the line between High Fantasy and Urban Fantasy in a Western setting.
- Deltora Quest
- Laurence Yep's Dragon Series, which has an eastern dragon as the protagonist, trying to restore her former home.
- Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends
- The Duel of Sorcery Trilogy fits on some details, but is more Low Fantasy in other respects.
- The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin is considered a classic of the subgenre, though it famously avoids many of the associated cliches. Earthsea is a sprawling chain of islands populated mostly by brown-skinned peoples as opposed to the usual Medieval European-eqsue setting, and magic is a fine art, studied intensely and used sparingly, rather than a solution to all of life's problems. The series hits full High Fantasy status during the third book, which introduces a villain whose plan threatens to destroy the world, and a suitably epic quest by a young heir and his aging wizard mentor to prevent this.
- The novels of the Essailyan Empire by Michelle West firmly fit here, forming an intricate Myth Arc dealing with returning gods, the fate of nations, and humanity's final stand against Allasakar, consisting of in order The Sacred Hunt duology, The Sun Sword sextet, The House War septology, and to be concluded in the forthcoming End of Days arc.
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov has some elements of high fantasy, like Star Wars. Also C. J. Cherryh's Morgaine, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern and Catherine Asaro's Skolian Saga. Some Sci-Fi may also feature a VR high fantasy world e.g. Enders Game, The Diamond Age.
- Forging Divinity
- Greenwater and the world setting for Zodiacs by Thrythlind are aimed at this.
- Inheritance Cycle
- King of the Water Roads
- The Lord of the Rings - Inspired a slew of imitators and created the genre as we know it.
- The Malazan Book of the Fallen
- Memory Sorrow And Thorn
- The Mirror of Her Dreams
- Mistborn: The Original Trilogy , and many other works by Brandon Sanderson, especially The Stormlight Archive, which Sanderson has described as his love letter to the genre.
- The Old Kingdom series is somewhat unusual, as its premise revolves around necromancy and the undead. The first book also starts out more in Heroic Fantasy territory but moves into High by the endnote , while books two and three are firmly High Fantasy from the get go. The prequel Clariel, however, tends more towards the Low Fantasy end of the scale.
- The Chroniclesof Prydain are High Fantasy for children.
- The Riftwar Cycle
- The Seventh Tower
- A Song of Ice and Fire begins on the Low Fantasy side of the line, but because The Magic Comes Back slowly over the course of the series, it gets progressively closer to High Fantasy with each novel in the series.
- Sword of Truth possesses all the core elements, although the author would rather not have his work lumped into the fantasy section, thank you very much.
- Tales of the Sundered Lands
- The Wayfarer Redemption
- The Wheel of Time
- The Witcher
- A Wizard in Rhyme
- Gnome Saga by Kenny Soward and published by Ragnarok Publications is a Dungeons and Dragons-esque trilogy highlighting that often-overlooked race of mad inventors.
- The Blood War Trilogy by Tim Marquitz is about a series of kingdoms under siege by no less than THREE examples of The Horde, one of which is a race of orc-werewolves.
- ElvenQuest parodies the High Fantasy setting. The Chosen One (a dog in our world but a human in his) must band together with an Elf, Warrior Princess and Dwarf to find the mystical Sword of Asnagar and defeat the cunning and oddly genre-savvy Lord Darkness.
- Negativland once created a hysterical parody of trailers for High Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy films, using dozens of snippets from Don LaFontaine narrations. It's on Moribund Music of the 70s.
- Final Fantasy IV, VI and XII.
- XII is a borderline case. It meets most of the requirements except the scale. There's some power politics and the looming threat of a war between two great powers, but it's limited to threatening one small kingdom/city-state caught between them rather than any serious threat to the world at large regardless of who wins. The over-arching quest is more about preventing the city of Dalmasca from being turned into a battleground of two rival empires, neither of which represent the Good Guys, than attempting to defeat the Evil Overlord (who turns out to be a Knight Templar Anti-Villain). At no point is The End of the World as We Know It even on the table in the main plot.
- There are, however, side-quests where the player can go looking for trouble and pick fights with some very powerful demigods that tried to take over Heaven itself in ages past.
- Fire Emblem is this mixed in with Low Fantasy elements (e.g the worlds are mostly populated by humans, most of the battles are fought between humans though Dragons may be involved somehow), several characters that can you recruit may even be Punch Clock Heroes, and the series seems to lean towards the cynical side on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, though some of the games can also lean towards the idealistic side as well). Plus, it must be noted that the Jugdral Series is very dark in tone.
- Kingdom Hearts is divided into many small worlds, mostly imaginary, or based on Disney films.
- The Legend of Zelda mixes this with Heroic Fantasy (although it's been getting more Steam Punk as of late).
- Oracle Of Tao is a Rpg Maker game with heavy fantasy elements. Oddly enough, it has some modern objects, like cellphones and ATMs, but it is assumed they run on magic.
- Overlord takes all the tropes of this genre and runs away with them.
- The first game subverts pretty much everything that gets in its grubby little paws. The Heroes aren't particularly heroic, the Minions don't exactly project an intimidating facade and, depending on the player's decisions, the Evil Overlord...well, isn't.
- The second game even more so. Whatever trope it manages to play straight, it does so for parody's sake.
- Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song thrusts you into the world of Mardias, where the inhabitants struggle against the return of evil lord Saruin, his army of monsters and his evil cults. Due to the game's open-ended nature, the world and its nations are rather detailed with lores about multiple fairytales, lords and heroes, many of which you end up interacting with. The player runs on a Karma Meter, but it merely determines a path that eventually leads to the same endgame, an epic Lord of the Ring style war against Saruin where ally nations help you party sneak into Big Bad;s lair and defeat him. Even Saruin's own siblings don't like him, which is saying something.
- Baldur's Gate and its related Bioware games are all about this.
- Consequences of Choice.
- Goblins Of Razard. contains a lost prince and a band of followers on a quest.
- The Order of the Stick is an affectionate parody of the genre.
- Our Little Adventure, if you factor all of its parts.
- Overlordof Ravenfell parodies and subverts the High Fantasy setting, from the perspective of the villain.
- Wayfarers Moon.
- RWBY checks off most of the high fantasy boxes and adds a sci-fi slant to things. It takes place in the world of Remnant, where humanity is in constant danger from the endless swarms of Always Chaotic Evil creatures known as Grimm. All humans (and Faunus, a race that closely resembles humans but with animals traits like cat ears or monkey tails) have unique, magical abilities called Semblances, which help even the odds against the Grimm. Humanity has incredible Magitek such as sentient androids and Humongous Mecha, all of it is powered by a magical crystalline substance called Dust. The heroes are four teenage girls from vastly different strata of society training to become Huntresses, warriors who protect others from Grimm, when a mysterious criminal organization suddenly begins using Grimm as weapons, setting up what will presumably be an epic, global conflict in later seasons.
- Tales of the Big Bad Wolf appears to be a fairy tale based series but incorporates elements of high fantasy including elves, bards, at least one system of magic, and magical objects and beasts.
- True Tail combines this trope with World of Funny Animals. In the medieval world of Splitpaw, a group of furry mercenaries go on an epic quest to battle an evil wizard and his undead army.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: A rare Urban Fantasy version but fits nonetheless.
- The first two episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: A long time ago, the land of Equestria was ruled by two godlike alicorn sisters who controlled the cycle of day and night. But the younger sister, responsible for the night, became jealous and resentful and turned into the evil Nightmare Moon, refusing to lower the moon to make way for the day. The elder sister was forced to banish her into the moon, where she has remained ever since. But a thousand years later, When the Planets Align, she escapes and threatens to shroud the land in eternal darkness once more. Now it's up to a group of cute but surprisingly badass ponies to travel through the ancient Everfree Forest to find the Elements of Harmony, the only thing that can stop Nightmare Moon.
- While the majority of the series is an Aesop-driven ensemble comedy in a fantasy setting, the two-part season premieres and finales are consistently driven by High Fantasy tropes. Attempted takeovers of Equestria by Evil Overlords sealed away for a minimum of one thousand years alongside armies of Evil Minions run rampant, only to be undone each time by the forces of love and friendship. This has started to creep into the "normal" episodes as well; "Hearth's Warming Eve," for instance, deals with the nation's founding amidst prejudice-driven political struggles and ethereal winter spirits feeding on their hatred, and "It's About Time" offhandedly establishes that Ponyville is located within walking distance of the gates of Tartarus.
- The Pirates of Dark Water.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra are high fantasy with an Eastern motif rather than the usual Western one. The shows are set in a fictional world divided into four nations which are primarily based on the style and philosophy of various Asian cultures (imperial Japan, Shaolin monks, etc.), and feature an extremely detailed and versatile magic system known as Bending, all manner of strange creatures, and multiple villains who easily qualify as evil incarnate, along with some well-meaning but misguided ones for good measure.