All cartoons that have humans interact with animals, short of tortoises and parrots, leave out that that creature is as mayflies and will most likely be dead inside of 20 years. Ratatouille? Remy won't last more than five, so Linguini better start learning how to cook himself. A Bug's Life? Yeah, they'll all be dead by that time next year most likely. Also every movie with a dog or cat.
This is even explicitly mentioned in a throwaway line in A Bug's Life:
Fly: "I only got twenty-four hours to live, and I ain't gonna waste it here!"
Not just cartoons. Mythical Creatures in Narnia will far outlive their beloved kings and queens (the ones that don't get zapped back to England, anyway) and that the kings and queens will far outlive their animal friends. Although, life-spans must be enhanced somewhat, seeing that Reepicheep appears in two books that take place three years apart, and under the best conditions mice only live about two years.
Lampshaded on Family Guy: "Wow, Brian, it's moments like this that make me sad that you're gonna die fifty years before I do."
In another Family Guy episode where Stewie travels thirty years into the future, he visits Brian's grave.
Also lampshaded in Roald Dahl's book The Witches: The protagonist not only accepts that he will remain a mouse forever, he is extremely optimistic about his short life span. He is glad that he won't outlive his grandmother.
That only applies to the book though. He gets turned back into a human by the Grand-High witch's assistant (after she made a Heel Face Turn) at the end of the movie.
Played for Black Comedy in a Citizen Dog strip where this is stated to be the reason why old people find pets comforting. "[The average life expectancy for a dog is] just 12 years? Heh heh... I feel better already!"
For some reason, kids' movies about dinosaurs tend to have the plot of an extinction scare with a happy ending. This probably means that extinction will come, but only occur at or after the deaths of the main character/s since extinction is the death of a species. And the extinction of the dinosaurs occurred over hundreds of thousands of years. It would only be considered not a happy ending if their inevitable natural deaths had the same result as well. Still, for some it makes it harder to enjoy The Land Before Time movies when the viewer remembers Fantasia and what happened to them in that, while some hope that happens if they're not a big fan of the sequels.
Your typical Zombie Apocalypse movie has this, albeit in some it's part of the underlying horror (or helps the ambiance at any rate).
Unless it specifically addresses the issue (such as Charlottes Web or Babe), any talking-animal story that takes place on a farm, and one of the characters is a pig. Why? Because unlike horses, cows, sheep, goats and poultry, you only raise a pig for one thing.
Any Adam and Eve Plot. Unless there are revealed to be survivors elsewhere, the lack of genetic diversity will mean humanity is doomed in a handful of generations.
Even those collapse-of-civilization scenarios that harp upon mass famine, plague, and mayhem will seldom think to mention the grim prospects for people with chronic medical needs — cardiac patients, diabetics, transplant recipients — who'd be doomed to succumb to their ailments as their medication runs out.
Anime and Manga
Blue Gender. A few humans have survived Gaia's Vengeance, and they can all live in harmony with mother nature, free at last of technology! Then the Fridge Logic sets in - the only survivors will be physically strong people. If you're a cripple, blind, deaf, have a curable terminal disease, etc. then you're hosed. Mother Nature hates you and you have no right to live.
Inverted in The End Of Evangelion. The world is supposed to have ended, with everyone but two people converted to protoplasmic Tang. However, it is explicitly stated that nobody died, they all just lost their individuality to the point that they ended up in one big group hug on the metaphysical level, and implied that even normal humans can regain their humanoid individuality with a decent show of willpower. Sort of an Inferred Survival for everyone on earth. Which then leads directly to this trope being played straight. Unless the threshold for coming back from the Dirac sea is so low that plants and animals start coming back as well, the survivors would perish in short order from lack of food, and if they avoided that, lack of oxygen.
3.0. then reverses this by taking the "Inferred" out of it.
Ergo Proxy, though already post-apocalyptic, just made it worse when the last known bastion of humanity fell since its patron Proxy abandoned it, as well as almost every Proxy burns to death. The only survivors are a Proxy, two cogito-infected autoreivs, and a person who is either another Proxy or sterile. However, this is considered good because the small populations of humanity who retreated from the planet a thousand years before begin to return due to the Earth finally recovering from the nuclear winter. Every character we knew that even survived will likely be slaughtered because none of them were meant to survive — Proxies were genetically altered to have a deathly reaction to UV rays and autoreivs were meant to destroy all the sterile humans and then themselves by way of the cogito virus.
The movie Spriggan ends with the destruction of the Big Bad's super weapon, the 'ARK" (yes, THAT ARK. It has Dinosaurs). We are shown the heroes emerging triumphant from underground, to be cheered and applauded by the team members on the surface of the mountain. All seems well. And then we zoom out to show the Earth which looks not a little battered, as well as completely reshaped, by the earlier destruction. Clearly the world will never be the same now.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has an inferred extinction: After humans retake the surface, they live (largely) at peace with the Beastmen. However, Beastmen can't reproduce and all of the existing ones were made in People Jars by Lordgenome. Since they're apparently not making any more Beastmen, they'll eventually all die out (except Viral, because he's immortal) unless Beastmen have access to the cloning technology that Lordgenome used in the first place.
Really, the champions at this are the Dirty Pair. Anything they get involved with has a 50% chance of causing mass collateral damage, and it's probably not healthy to dwell on the numbers of deaths that can (indirectly or directly) be laid at Kei and Yuri's feet.
Now and Then, Here and There. For all the inspirational music and pictures of the pretty archipelago the desert had become, there were inhabited villages and animals in that desert, and desert ecosystems are fragile in the best of times. The Great Flood just annihilated every living thing there, how do they expect an archipelago ecosystem to evolve from that? Even if the water seeps into the groundwater or evaporates, leaving the land water-rich but not a sea anymore, well, there's still that utter and complete destruction of everything to contend with. A possible explanation is that She only released the water to the south, since it's shown at the end of episode one (when the camera pans back while Shu's hanging from the fortress) that everything south of Hellywood is already gone.
Dragon Ball Z: Killing the Omnicidal ManiacEmperor Freeza is very much understandable, but he is still Emperor Freeza of at least 79 planets. The short term result is the absence of a dictatorial tyrant; the ugly civil war created by the power-vacuum in his sudden absence (He probably kept hundreds of warlords from starting their own private wars) would kill billions if not trillions of innocent, decent alien lives.
After the Buu Story Arc, everyone except a small handful of people were killed when Earth was destroyed, but the wish to bring them back specified that only the good people were to be brought back. A world with nothing but good people. On the one hand, there should be massive instability due to the absence of all the world's non good people. On the other hand, with nothing but good people, the world may well become a Utopia. However, Vegeta is judged "good" in spite of his recent turn to heroism being more than canceled out by the entire worlds he'd slaughtered or tried to slaughter so the definition is probably very loose. Could be a case of Rousseau Was Right.
Buu destroyed two planets full of intelligent beings. Since one of those planets was not wished back into existence, then we have the Fridge Horror that the good people and animals on the planet died again if the wish accidentally included them.
There's the time when everyone who Cell killed was resurrected. A lot of those were people living on islands that Cell destroyed. Unless the wish meant those islands were remade too, they likely drowned long before making land. Way to go, Yamcha, asking for wishes without thinking them first.
Go Lion ends with the deaths of the Big Bad and his Dragons. Cue the ensuing war to take his place, and the billions of resulting deaths.
A lot of Lolicon and ShotaconHentai can end up this way if you know how damaging incest and pedophilia is to children.
Macross: Do You Remember Love touches on this at the end. The Macross and the few Zentradi turncoats were able to beat the Boddol Zer fleet. However, Exsedol reminds Britai that there are over 1,000 fleets of the Boddol Zer and Lap Lamiz classes in the galaxy, each one numbering in the millions of ships. What is not stated is that, the power of culture notwithstanding, it would still be a long, hard, and impossibly uphill battle of attrition against possibly billions of ships. The Macross and Britai's Zentradi would have to win all of those battles. Just one of those other fleets has to win and it's game over.
Code Geass's final episode claims that since everyone in the world hates Lelouch, and with his death, the cycle of hatred is broken, and now everyone can get along. But... Why is he hated? Some of the crowd talk about killing entire families of people who speak up against him, but considering that Charles conquered the entire world, destroying many, many cities, and treated every non-Britannian like third class citizens, and his Viceroys could slaughter entire districts of those same third class citizens, and write it off as "urban renewal"... Just what the heck did Lelouch do to become more hated than Britannia has been so far? Particularly when he only had 3 months to do it.
For a couple of specific examples, one Picture Drama shows the war against Europe, with a newly made orphan blaming Suzaku, the White Reaper, for killing her father and brother, who were in the defense forces. Furthermore, Tokyo was destroyed by Schneizel. And by destroyed, I mean that the center section has been turned into a crater, killing over 20 million people, and Lelouch had nothing to do with it, and would be nearly impossible to take responsibility for. How exactly is Lelouch going to top that without massive human casualties, worldwide? Yes, Lelouch has mind control, but such a scale is unprecedented, and likely far beyond his abilities to achieve, let alone keep secret.
Halfway through ROD The TV, an extremely overzealous Self-Destruct Mechanism set off by a Nebulous Evil Organisation causes the entire city of Hong Kong to sink into the ocean. All the heroes survive, but it's hard to feel good about it when hundreds of thousands of innocent people presumably drowned. No dead bodies are shown, so maybe we're supposed to assume they all escaped somehow?
The paintings of Thomas Kinkade, Painter of LightTM, usually show homes with a bright glow coming from within. But as this blog post points out:
"All of Kinkade’s structures seem consumed from within by raging infernos. What might be laughed off as artistic excess suddenly trickles icily down your spine when you realize that Kinkade’s rustic incinerators are operating at full tilt regardless of the time of day, prevailing weather conditions, and the particular season depicted in the painting!"
Astro City has a beauty of a discussion of this trope— an aging superhero, who spent his youth as some hybrid of Golden Age Superman and Golden Age Batman, is called back into service again against a generic giant robot. Instead of MacGyvering — and he actually tells the audience the kinds of things he'd have thought of back in the day— he simply beats it to death, ploughing through six residential city blocks in the process. Afterward, he shouts at the policeman who thanks him for his help, telling him to look at the destruction and claim that he (The Hero) actually helped anything.
One 1970's Avengers story, in a clear homage to the recently released film Star Wars, had the team flying around in Quinjets cheerfully destroying an attacking spacefleet sent by Thanos. The Avengers have repeated many times that they never kill, but all those blown up spaceships had people... er, aliens on board. Oh well. It looked cool, though! This also probably counts as a What Measure Is a Non-Human? moment since many Marvel and DC heroes have this attitude toward aliens, surprisingly enough.
Lampshaded and parodied in Scott McCloud's one-shot, over-sized comic Destroy!: Two super-powerful heroes fight in New York City (and the surface of the Moon), destroying a good many buildings in the process. Until the very end, the only dialogue is Destroy! quickly met with Shut up!!; at the end, a bystander (police?) opines, 'Good thing no-one was hurt.'
Although the Incredible Hulk is ostensibly a hero, many of his Unstoppable Rage rampages have caused enormous and widespread destruction, which raises the question of exactly how many innocents have lost their lives as collateral damage. As it stands, only a single Hulk rampage (Incredible Hulk #300, which in Hulk's defense, was the result of Hulk being Mind Rapedd by Nightmare and pretty much all of Earth's heroes knowing this) led to deaths (the number varies but as of Civil War, the count is 26 dead men and women and one dog). Lampshading this is Amadeus Cho hypothesizing that the lack of carnage in every other Hulk rampage save the one from Hulk #300, is that underneath it all, the Hulk still retains Banner's super-math skills, maybe even to a greater degree than Banner, and so he's able to predict the trajectory of all the debris he sends flying and make sure it never hits anybody (Cho himself has a similar ability to instantly calculate trajectories).
However, also played straight in the same Story Arc, when The Flash saves an entire city from destruction without anyone thinking of the after-effects and homelessness of the inhabitants. Though the JLA was actually in the process of helping to rebuild the country at the end of that story. It's the reason that Plastic Man hadn't seen his son in months.
Done deliberately in V for Vendetta; it's pointed out early on that the price of freedom in the comic's post-apocalyptic world could very well be starvation.
It was a non-issue in the movie because there never was a nuclear war, just a breakdown of several major world governments. Alan Moore admitted that was a significant plot-hole as humanity would have never been able to survive a nuclear war such as the one in the graphic novel.
In Y The Last Man, every male mammal dies, all at once. Humanity may or may not survive, but it seems to have utterly escaped the author that innumerable ecosystems would be devastated due to the sudden removal of pollinators, prey, and apex predators (granted mammals in general are not as essential to ecosystems as, for example, many insect species, so they wouldn't be outright destroyed). It is unsurprising that this very fact was remarked midway through the series, when geneticist Dr. Mann remarks that with no males, all mammal species would eventually become extinct. However, later on, he implies that this may not be the case, when a couple of women see rats long after they were supposed to have all died.
In Watchmen, even without the Awful Truth about Veidt being responsible coming to light (or even believed, considering that Rorschach is certifiably Ax Crazy), Dr. Manhattan tells Veidt that the world coming together and averting war due to New York being destroyed by what's believed to be an alien (or Dr. Manhattan himself in the movie) is a stopgap solution, at best. In the graphic novel, this implication is taken to it's logical conclusion. Veidt's entire plan is set to be exposed a year after its execution.
Dr. Manhattan: Nothing ever ends.
One possible leavening factor to this is that the source of the conspiracy's exposure is the journal of a man known to be a delusional psychopath, published by a rag known for its crude bigotry and extreme viewpoints. Plus, the world walked back from frying itself big time. Even assuming all leaders believe that Veidt duped them, would they really be anxious to slide right back? The novel had Gorbachev in power, and Nixon finally on his way out. Remove Nixon's ego and pettiness from the mix, and an agreement to keep the world away from the precipice by keeping the lie doesn't seem so bad. The means are as vile and horrid as they come, but some lies do endure - look at the Donation Of Constantine in medieval times.
This trope can be found in more or less any issue of The Authority. Sure, they always save the world in the end, but not without L.A. being destroyed. Twice.
In the fan-made Mega Man movie, when Mega Man destroys Wily's castle all is well and the city is saved... Except for the fact that giant hunks of metal are raining down on the city and are most likely striking people down where they stand.
Films — Animation
Responsible for a few changes to the end of WALL•E. During the previews, audience members expressed depression at the end of the film; they'd left with the impression that humanity was screwed on returning to the polluted Earth. The animators added on a series of images to the credits that showed the human race repairing the ecological damage and regaining the skills they'd lost aboard the Axiom, ending with a beautiful landscape and a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming (hundreds of years later, the plant that WALL•E found has become a gigantic tree).
The ending of Disney's Pocahontas is optimistic and hopeful for a peaceful future... until you remember how the battle for land and freedom between the Native American people and European Settlers REALLY turned out.
Or, even worse, how badly the natives reacted to common diseases that the European settlers had long since been immune to.
The Prince Of Egypt (based on the Bible's Book of Exodus) depicts Moses after his exile being welcomed and accepted by Midianites and even marrying one (indeed, the Bible states that Moses' first wife was a Midianite), however those who have read Numbers 31:17-18 will know of the massacre of Midianites perpetrated by the Hebrews and commanded by none other than Moses himself.
Even funnier is that the movie ends with Moses descending from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Presumably, the movie cuts out just before he reacts to that whole Golden Calf thing.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker invoked this trope twice. First was in the beginning of the movie, where Batman was trying to stop the Jokerz from making off with advanced equipment. One of the pods smashed into a building causing an explosion, as well as another one with the equipment itself exploding. Realistically, people would have been killed from the explosion. The second is nearing the end of the movie, where Joker was using his hacked into defense satellite "toy's" laser to gun down Batman and pretty much kill anyone nearby, even demolishing a theater that was implied to be full of people (in the uncut version, the edited version made the building abandoned), and later activated it (albeit accidentally) to have it target his own lair. Realistically, people would have died even before Batman managed to stop him once and for all.
The Bittersweet Ending of Toy Story 3 has the strong implication that although Woody and the gang got off lucky this time, there's no guarantee they'll be so fortunate next time their kid grows too old for them.
At the end of Hercules Herc defeats his archnemesis Hades and decides to stay a mortal with Megara. The problem is, however, that Hades like all gods, is actually immortal, and everybody goes to the Underworld after they die...
In the actual myths, Hercules/Heracles gets deified after his death, and thus ends up at Mount Olympus eventually. Also, the afterlife reserved for heroes were the Elysian Fields; the existence of those within the Disney's Herc-verse gets confirmed by an episode of the series. (In which it frustrates Hades to no end that they are not part of his realm, even though they are directly adjacent to it.)
Also, The Iron Giant only became benevolent due to having an accident that gave him amnesia. What happens if the nuke that exploded in his face ended up doing the opposite? Due to the fact he was self-repairing, he could have accidentally been restored back to his factory settings?
Films — Live-Action
In Tim Burton's Batman, Axis Chemical is blown up by Batman, destroying the source of Joker's smilex gas. While this is good, there must have been at least a hundred people, henchmen granted, inside the plant, and massive chemical fire spewing out fumes.
In Batman Begins, Gordon says that "the Narrows is lost". That's an entire section of the city, albeit isolated from the rest of Gotham, consumed by the Scarecrow's fear toxin, including most of Gotham's available police force. The path the train took before it crashed probably wasn't too pretty either while Fox was mixing up a cure. Somehow, though, Batman and the remaining police apparently brought things back from the brink in time for The Dark Knight.
Parts of The Dark Knight's viral marketing campaign focused on the aftermath of the city being exposed to the toxin in Begins. The results was a sudden increase of mental illness in city because of the contaminated drinking water; this could explain why Gotham's got so many madmen for the Joker to recruit, and why Arkham's got a revolving door. But there's no indicator that the people infected by the toxin were permanently damaged by the toxin; Rachel was a special case, as she was given a "concentrated dose" as said by Scarecrow. Odds are, most of the people infected by the fear toxin were able to recover after a time when the water vaporizer was destroyed.
In The Dark Knight Rises a city of 12 million people is taken hostage and cut off from the rest of the world. While food supplies are being brought in on the one remaining bridge, the logistics of fairly distributing them to a terrified populace without a police force almost certainly means rioting, anarchy, and mass starvation. It puts the eerily empty streets in a new light.
During the climax, Batman destroys a skyscraper that's in his way, and during the battle a lot of other buildings are hit with explosives. Either it was an act of major desperation, or he felt confident no one was alive inside. Either way, that's a lot of deaths.
Pottersville has more excitement and a superior economic infrastructure. Bedford Falls only has a moderate manufacturing economy and no obvious places to find excitement. Once the factory closes down Bedford Falls will suffer depression and unemployment. Pottersville has backup industries, such as the nightclubs, that can encourage outside investment.
George makes it clear that he wants to leave Bedford Falls, go to college, and travel the world. All of his dreams are destroyed and he feels he must commit suicide to regain hope. Potter is correct that George’s life has not resulted in personal happiness.
Soylent Green: Okay, so maybe for sake of argument, the secret does successfully get out, and the Soylent Corporation is shut down. But what are the common masses going to do? The Earth, for the most part is screwed ecologically, the only way to get a decent meal without paying for it is to steal or kill for it. The world is headed for anarchy, if it isn't already. Most likely though, the company's influence will keep the secret suppressed, only allowing it to survive in small rumors and urban legends amongst the people.
Heck, the whole reason there was a secret was that the environmental damage is far worse than the public is aware (the oceans are dead not dying). Soylent Green is the only sustainable food source left.
In the Steven Spielberg film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, David is finally reunited with his adopted mother in a simulation of their home. However, humanity has been extinct for hundreds or thousands of years, David was only given one day with his mother before she died, and David's batteries probably ran down for good in the closing shot. However, depending on your point of view, this may actually have been a happy ending..
Although not a "Holocaust" exactly, in Con Air, Garland Greene manages to survive the events of the film, and is last seen happily engaged in casino gaming. As we all know, demented, crazed serial killers, don't just "get better". Had the movie run just a bit longer, we might have gotten to see him convert Casino patrons into headgear.
Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead have the remnants of humanity holed up and later get eaten, save for a handful of survivors. At least in the case of Land of the Dead the zombies were growing smarter, so maybe they'll evolve back to a human intelligence and live happy but smelly lives themselves.
The original Night of the Living Dead is less explicit in its implication that the remainder of humanity is doomed at the hands and mouths of hoards of zombies, and more implicit that the remainder of humanity will destroy itself due to paranoia and mob rule. At the end of the film, Ben is the only survivor of his group. Upon trying to signal a posse of gun-toting zombie hunters, he's mistaken for a zombie, shot in the head and killed. The posse piles him up with other dead zombies, specifically laying him next to the first zombie seen in the movie. The implication is that this posse will shoot first, ask questions later, a rather hopeless situation for Ben and other surviving humans in his same position.
The Day After Tomorrow. The super-storm may be over, but the world's problems are just beginning. An entire hemisphere now buried under uninhabitable ice, major cities destroyed, some serious overcrowding and resources issues imminent for the refugees who fled south... The astronaut's hopeful line that "the air never looked so clear" demonstrates that the writers did not quite think this through.
In the real world, it is likely the remaining American citizens and soldiers may face violence and/or persecution in Mexico given the resource issues and the sheer flood of refugees (and soldiers who could be seen as invaders) - and the fact that the United States is now near-powerless. The film tries to hand-wave this by saying the US President had forgiven Latin American debt in return for accepting refugees: surely the present global economic system would collapse with North America, Europe and Russia uninhabitable, and how can debts be owed to a country that no longer exists?
Most of the north hemisphere is covered in ice and snow. White ice and snow. Which means huge albedo. Which means it will not warm up and melt. In case of ice or snow passes 20 degrees circle of latitude, it means one thing - whole planet will freeze, because of huge albedo effect. Guess around which latitude Mexican border (the first patch of land not covered with ice) is. And even if that won't turn Earth into a snowball, it will destroy most of life on it thanks to huge climatic changes.
At the end of the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still 2008 Klaatu sacrifices his physical form to stop the Gort nanobot cloud... by unleashing a massive EMP like pulse that covers the entire Earth. The last few minutes of the movie show entire cities shutting down... and the movie ends. Now, there are two ways to interpret this: the pulse shut down all electronics temporarily (maybe even shutting down all mechanical devices as shown by how Helen's simple mechanical watch no longer works after the blast), which would cause the death of hundreds of thousands of people (such as airplane passengers, people dependent on life support, people with pacemakers...) or it shut down all electronics on Earth permanently which would not only cause the aforementioned deaths but eventually lead to the further deaths of millions due to lack of heating, food spoilage, and the inevitable global mayhem. The implications and the actual effect of such an event are simply ignored due to the movie's abrupt end. The lack of global communications also means that those who knew what happened and why would be unable to warn everyone else why they needed to change. Thus creating the very likely possibility that Klaatu will come back and think we 'squandered' our second chance (when the warning was actually lost) and kill us all.
Even more foolish on their part if all of our higher level technology was irrevocably lost, as the end result will be humans attempting to survive and rebuild our civilisation by chopping down trees and mining for the raw materials, because thanks to our eco-loving alien benefactors, we've lost our cleaner, more efficient ways of doing so! And good luck stopping wildfires in cities and forests now!
Interestingly, the original The Day The Earth Stood Still 1951 put more thought into this - when Klaatu shuts down the Earth's machines for a half-hour, hospitals and in-flight airplanes are specifically exempt. It's not perfect, though. Hope didn't crash when your car shut down while driving the freeway, because you can't call 911 and the ambulances aren't working anyway.
In Escape From LA, Snake Plissken stops all electricity, all over the Earth. Actually, it does not seem like anyone could really consider there to be any "winners" in that movie, unless you think that cutting the power was going to stop the world from tearing itself apart. Even though the president's daughter is last seen alive in a suddenly-useless electric chair, she was also last seen in a compound of armed guards who had been about to execute her so that one bright spot seems to have faded too.
Although, given that Snake's action effectively terminated the United States as a functioning political entity, it's likely that those guards would have more reason to shoot her father for getting them into their situation than her. A healthy young woman would have more value in the After the End world to come than a crackpot ex-president.
Don't forget the original film, where Snake destroys the nuclear fusion tape, sabotaging the post-war conference between the United States, the Soviet Union and China and thus damning the world to another, future war.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ends with Galactus (who in the film appears as a huge sentient cloud several times the size of Earth) exploding in a suitably impressive fashion, all while he was about halfway through munching on the Earth's core. Basically, it's the Independence Day mothership times a hundred, plus whatever damage you would expect from having huge, miles deep holes buried in the planet's crust.
The Cult ClassicFlash Gordon movie has Gordon stopping Ming from sending the moon crashing into earth. Gordon tracks how long this will take, using a Magic Countdown, device, stopping the collision Just in Time. Even if that's enough to save the world, the moon's orbit is now royally screwed, and the Earth should have already been subject to catastrophic tidal effects. Still, Flash Gordon is hardly a movie full of gritty realism.
It could be argued that the moon had not actually been moved out of orbit yet, and at the countdown ending, it would launch forward. But the opening sequence of the movie indicated Ming was playing with Earth's geological and meteorological events for fun, so that wouldn't be much of an improvement.
Flash: You'd call off the attack?
Ming: I could.
Flash: Everyone would be saved?
Ming: Just those left alive. After the earthquakes and tidal waves and the inevitable breakdown of civilization, they won't be quite the human beings you remember. They'll be more tractable, easier for you to rule in the name of Ming.
Flash: You mean slaves.
Ming: Let's say they'll be satisfied with less.
The novelization stated that time moved differently on Earth and Mongo. While Ming has been playing with Earth only quite recently, the effects had been happening for several years. This also implied that the Moon would still be safely away from Earth to maintain a stable orbit once Flash wins.
Hellboy II has the fairies forced underground by humanity's expansion into their rightful territory. With the entire royal family dead and the Golden Army unusable, their civilisation will most likely be split by rival claimants to the throne, and the BPRD has lost its heroic members, so there's nothing standing in humanity's way to continue expanding, driving the fairies to extinction. And this is without taking into account that in the films, Humans Are Bastards, to the point that when the forest god dies it creates a forest compared in the novelisation to Eden - which humans then pollute and destroy.
Averted in the comics, the whole world is slowly decaying, not because Humans Are Bastards (in fact they're one of the nicest groups), but because it's the End of an Age.
In I Am Legend, a cure is found and delivered to a walled city housing some survivors. But considering the infectees' physical capabilities, how is that city wall going to stop them? And what good will the cure be if it requires that the infectees be captured alive, restrained, and packed in ice while it's administered?
It goes without saying that significant logistical and psychological factors remain even if the creator of the cure was still alive as in the original ending. As noted above, the infected need to be restrained for hours or days before it works. The opening narration says that The Virus killed 90% of humanity, with almost every survivor instead becoming a Dark Seeker (only 12 million of 600 million not killed by the virus were straight up immune). The infected outnumber humans 50 to 1. "Curing" them is logistically impossible. Also, what's the point? I don't see the surviving pockets of humanity wanting to mount a planet-wide kidnapping war just to end up with half a billion bed-ridden invalids. After years of being a monster, what kind of lives can the cured have? They'll certainly have terrible PTSD, but with the tendency of the infected to open doors by slamming their heads into them, it's pretty likely that being infected comes with a healthy dose of brain damage.
The movie with the original (alternate, I guess) ending would've implied all that. There the Dayseekers weren't mindless creatures but trying to rescue one of their own. Even with a cure, sheer numbers would've forced a coexistence between the immune humans and the vampires, at best. The cure in itself is really beside the point. A military virologist justifies Smith's portrayal of Neville and his actions in the setting. The infected were also sentient in the original ending, which led to a peaceful resolution. According to the director's cut advertising, this was controversial idea. There are hints at this in the finished movie. You can tell the makers were going back and forth as they were filming it. This article addresses it pretty clearly.
In Independence Day, the unmitigated and total victory over the aliens is wonderfully uplifting, until you realize that the aliens blew up all the major nations' capitals and several dozen of its primary cities in the days they went unopposed. Did we mention that, thanks to industrialization, around 90% of the developed world's population now live in cities? Also, the effects of a ship 1/4 the size of the moon blowing up (due to a nuclear explosion, no less) cannot be good. Especially not if the theory that the alien weapons were powered by antimatter is correct.
Ip Man concludes the final fight with the speculators overpowering the Japanese guards to get to the wounded hero, then cuts to him being taken to safety and later to his real-life success. What happens to the Foshan townsfolk as a result of the most probable Japanese response is left unknown. The sequel shows the Japanese taking out their anger on one of Ip's allies, but the fate of the rest remains unknown.
In Logan's Run, all the people are forced to evacuate their city of Crystal Spires and Togas, when the Evil AI that ran it is defeated. Despite the evil, it was a beautiful and decadent Utopia where no one had wants or needed to know a valuable skill or trade. The downside was it killed them at 30. To put it plainly, these humans are entirely dependent on machines to provide and don't even know what the Sun is. The Sun! Saying 90% of the thousands of refugees died in the winter would be optimistic, as they knew nothing about wilderness survival and had only one senile elder human to teach them how to survive.
In The Matrix Revolutions, as pointed out in this Cracked article. Neo wins! All people can be free from the Matrix if they want to leave! Yay!...Oh wait that means billions of people finding out their life is a total lie and they can choose to keep living knowing it's a lie. Or they can go die in a post apocalyptic wasteland
Without desiring to get too Fan Wanky, the implicit suggestion is that the Machines won't object to the pre-existing freeing process - people are still offered the choice of red pill (freedom) or blue pill (this is a dream, nothing's unreal about the life you lead). The uses and abuses of this new dynamic is explored in the follow-up MMORPG, The Matrix Online.
Expanded on pretty blatantly for a series so engrossed in symbolism, actually; after the movies, there is simply no more war in the real world. Freed humans who would or previously would have lived in Zion before moving permanently to their hovercraft may choose to work for the Merovingian or the Machines themselves; the insinuation is that the real world is meaningless with the Machines' willingness to kill all the humans now gone, because the humans can't populate the surface, and the Machines still need live humans for power the processing power of their brains. In the end, nobody can use the real world, but everyone needs the Matrix to keep running as usual.
The fact that the workers and the capitalists reconcile at the end of Metropolis doesn't change the fact that the city is in ruins and all the machines it depended on were destroyed. Sure, Joh Fredersen knows how to build the city, but the man who took care of all the tech details just fell off the cathedral roof. Besides, where are all the workers supposed to live after their homes flooded out?
In Plan 9 from Outer Space the alien Eros claims that the human race must be destroyed to prevent it developing the solaronite bomb, a weapon that will explode the atoms of sunlight, thereby destroying the entire universe. Since the aliens are defeated at the end, we must assume that either a) more of the aliens will arrive to complete the destruction of the Earth, or b) humans will develop the solaronite and destroy the universe. Either way we're screwed. Alternatively, that's not so much a research and logic failure as it is Eros not actually having any better understanding of what he's talking about than the movie's writers.
Resident Evil Extinction has the last known remnants of humanity flee to Alaska in a four seater helicopter (don't worry, it managed to carry all two dozen of them. It was made out of a clown car, you see). It's worth mentioning that the T-Virus has completely killed all other plant and animal life. So really, humanity is boned with or without the zombies.
At the climax of Small Soldiers, Chip Hazard hijacks the truck containing all the toys, and unleashes several hundred Commando Elite toys on our heroes. It's probably best that the movie didn't go into what most likely happened to all the Gorgonite toys (and the other Chip Hazards) that were in that truck. Also, at the end of the film, Gil Mars plans to manufacture more of them, add a few zeroes to the price and sell them to the military. "I know some rebels in Central America who will find them quite entertaining."
A classic example is the destruction of the Death Star II in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Some fans claim the effects of a moon-sized ship being blown up in orbit around Endor's moon would have almost annihilated all life on the planet, supported by the Special Edition showing chunks of the Death Star II raining like hailstones. George Lucas stated that it didn't happen, with the result naming a trope. See this website for details.
A canonical example is the Death Star holocaust, i.e. the rank-and-file Imperial troops, contractors, etc. that died when the rebellion blew up the first Death Star. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, The New Republic put the official number of deaths as 500,000, but the real number is more like 5 million, and the lowered estimate is pure propaganda.
In the 2002 film version of The Time Machine, the leader of the Morlocks says that there are many more Morlock colonies other than the one the hero blows up in the climax. Add to this the fact that it's made clear that You Can't Fight Fate and that the hero sees a future in which the Morlocks have conquered the Eloi and the only logical conclusion is that the other Morlocks will eventually kill him and all his friends. Of course, there isn't logic anywhere else in the movie, so why start there?
28 Days Later closes with the revelation that the Rage virus didn't spread beyond Great Britain and the rest of the world is OK, but one is left wondering what effect the gruesome death of tens of millions of people, plus the full abandonment of one of the world's greatest economic and military powers (and a nuclear state to boot), would have on the global economy and political-military status quo.
The picture gets grimmer in 28 Weeks Later, which ends with the infection crossing the English Channel into France.
In X2: X-Men United, the eponymous X-Men team with the Brotherhood of Mutants to stop William Stryker from using a Doomsday Device from causing the death of every mutant in the world. Magneto, the only one outfitted with a protective helmet, stopped the device half way and turned it against humans. The film doesn't dwell on it much after the device is fully shut down, but think on this: everyone on earth suffered seizures, first a tiny minority all at once then the rest of the population all at once, within a few minutes. Commuters, pilots, swimmers, skydivers, people with heart conditions, everyone in a hospital... at least thousands of people must have died. The third movie not only ignores these events, they actually suggest that the relations between humans and mutants somehow got better! Plus, even if no one died, every mutant in the world just had painful, highly visible seizures in front of their normal human neighbors, and in turn was perfectly fine when every human had them. If Mystique's small scale Superpower Meltdown is any indication, some of them will also have very noticeably blown their cover and taken all ambiguity out of existence, and made themselves even bigger targets for hate crimes.
From the same movie, Storm calls down four tornadoes to do away with some pursuing jet fighters tailing the Blackbird. It was a cool scene, but she could have caused quite a bit of damage to the New England countryside in the event that she was not careful and did not keep them in the air.
The Star Trek reboot may suffer from this. The drilling laser Nero fires at Earth is stopped, and the wreckage conveniently lands in the water right where the beam had hit, but there is still a massive hole in the mantle beneath San Francisco bay. This may cause lots of water to rush in, it would hit the magma, it would flash-vaporize, there would be an earthquake, the earthquake would plug the hole, and that would be that or something potentially more catastrophic.
Vulcan was the voice of peace and reason in the Federation. With it gone we should expect a much more violent history. This means less hippie-talk of peace and diplomacy, and more shooting bad guys. Furthermore, with many of the Federation's current best-and-brightest gone with the Vulcan Science Academy (and many more never to be born)... it's technological future looks pretty grim. Unless Future!Spock intervenes pretty heavily and often, you have to wonder what will happen to the Federation when the Borg eventually stumble across it.
Alternatively, consider how much deference the world gave to America in general and New York in particular after 9/11: feeling bad for the few survivors of Vulcan, the Federation may allow them too much influence.
Live Free Or Die Hard. Okay, folks, imagine you had basically shut down the country's entire infrastructure, including police and firefighter communications, programmed traffic lights to give contradictory instructions, and done your best to inspire a mass panic by transmitting nationwide a (faked) video of the White House blowing up. Merely shooting the bad guy is not going to clean all this up.
Army of Darkness has this in both endings. In "I slept too long", his problem is pretty obvious, and in "Hail to the King", Deadites can still freely possess anyone, anywhere, and Ash is essentially doomed to live in a randomly zombifying world. The comics rolled with this.
In Alien: Resurrection Ripley saves the day by crashing the xenomorph-filled ship into the Earth causing an impact blast hundreds of miles wide, most likely destroying the biosphere in the process. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
In the novelization (based on the original script) you learn that Earth was mostly screwed already, which is why one of the characters says, "Earth... what a shithole." The only people still on the planet are the ones that can't afford to leave for one of the colonies which may have some Unfortunate Implications of it own.
In Alien vs. Predator our human survivor is left in the middle of Antarctica. Alone. Without a coat. In real life, she would've frozen to death before the credits rolled, but I guess we can just assume it happened afterward. Unless, and this is not shown, she quickly uses the vehicle nearby and finds her way to the boat that brought them there which is still afloat with a live crew to drive it.
Spaceballs. Unless they somehow get decent leaders and some humanitarian aid, everyone on Planet Spaceball is apparently going to die of hypoxia. They're allassholes anyway.
Blindness. How people survived the movie at all is a miracle in and of itself, several weeks without food or running water for at least the majority of the populace (in the novel, the female lead is the ONLY person to retain their sight). There are... surprisingly few corpses, considering how food production must have stopped entirely.
Famously, The Sound of Music ends with the von Trapps heading off on foot to Switzerland, which they claim is "just over the mountains" from Salzburg. The problem is, it's not. Germany is though. Specifically Berchtesgaden, the closest thing Hitler had to a "home". That is of course considering whether or not they make it over the Alps in the first place, with no protection or supplies. Also, the heroic nuns who sabotaged the Nazis' vehicles...were probably treated to more than a slap on the wrist. Nazis, eh? Bastards.
Which is why the real von Trapp family escaped to Italy via train (without help from any heroic nuns), then got to Switzerland from there. But that would've been too complicated for a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.
This was parodied in the book Loads More Lies to Tell Small Kids, which has one of the lies being that there was an "alternate" ending to The Sound of Music. The accompanying stick figure picture has the family walking in on a Nazi rally while one of them says "I told you Switzerland was the other way!"
Surrogates: Somebody sets up a plot to destroy all the surrogates and kill the humans linked into them in the process. The hero manually engages the safety overrides on all the pods but at the last minute decides to have the weapon go off anyway, destroying the surrogates while leaving human beings intact. So one billion surrogates conducting business, operating machines, driving cars, etc, suddenly shut down and one billion atrophied shut-ins must now emerge to try to deal with the ensuing mayhem.
The graphic novel at least plays the ending for ambiguity — sure, all the shut-ins are back out in the real world, but it's only a matter of time until someone redevelops the Surrogate technology. And the main character's wife kills herself because she can't stand the idea of being seen as-is.
"Yes—leave your idyllic city life with its culture, lack of disease, and flush toilets. Go into the dank forest! Sharpen young ash branches, kill monkeys and eat their internal organs...learn to live without hygiene, without medicine, with no resistance to disease...enjoy you the fruits of cholera, dysentery, and as-of-yet unidentified stomach worms..."
Yeah, they'll retreat back into the city before long. However, at the least, and unlike the Logan's Run example above, their city is perfectly intact and the existing power structure is mostly in place, sans a few dozen guards and Starscreams. Add in that Aeon and by extension La Résistance and Trevor are now in an alliance, and humanity will eventually expand out of the city. The only possible clouds in this silver lining filled ending is that if the remaining humans don't do some serious breeding (or Trevor can't recreate his findings on the cure), they might die out due to there being no more cloning and natural births not being close enough to sustaining the population levels.
Predators ends with the two surviving main characters killing the final predator as the next 'game' begins. They mention how they're going to try and find another way off the planet they are on. Which is well and good, but if Crazy Laurence Fishburne is anything to go by, there will be another group of predators for that game, and they have absolutely no intention on letting them get off.
Even if they find another ship and somehow get it to fly offworld, they better hope it has a map to Earth...
Intentionally invoked in Apocalypto, the protagonist of the film manages to escape from his captors and from a grisly fate as a Human Sacrifice in a Mayan city, he is also reunited with his wife and children. The problem? The Spaniards have arrived to Yucatán, and we all know that in a few years they will overrun the entire peninsula, subjugating any people they encounter.
At the end of The China Syndrome, the television broadcast from the nuclear reactor starts getting static, stronger and stronger, before the signal is lost. Cue Silent Credits.
In Aliens in the Attic, Spark returns home after helping the kids prevent the invasion. But his two compatriots also return to their home planet. One would think that it wouldn't take long for the alien leaders to find out about Spark's betrayal, so that probably wasn't a happy reunion with his family.
The source of much controversy surrounding the end of Apocalypse Now was, appropriately, the apparent apocalyptic fate of Kurtz's compound. Although Coppola explicitly said that he didn't mean that Kilgore called in an airstrike, the opening of the movie has been taken to be exactly that.
True Grit (the 2010 version) in regards to Matt Damon's character LaBoeuf. His last appearance consists of him being left behind as Rooster rides off to get Mattie's snake bite treated. But the problem is that just a few moments ago he had suffered a horrible whack over the back of the head with a large rock, bad enough to knock him out cold, and at this point he is visibly bleeding from the mouth and his speech is slightly slurred. That, added with the length of time it takes for Rooster to get help for Mattie (it's night when they reach a doctor) it's entirely possible that LaBoeuf died of his head injuries before Rooster could get back. That's supported by Mattie's comment 25 years later that she never heard from Laboeuf again after the shootout, and the fact that this head injury did kill LaBoeuf in the original 1969 movie.
Robocop 3: During the climax of the film, a self-destruct device is set off that Robocop and two other characters narrowly escape from by flying away on a jetpack. The implications of a thermo-failsafe device obliterating OCP's headquarters (the tallest and largest building in the the city) and causing an explosion that engulfed the entire surrounding area are never discussed or elaborated upon. Apparently, the viewer is supposed to be happy that Robo and his friends successfully stopped McDaggett and OCP from bulldozing Old Detroit, while ignoring that at least dozens of OCP employees (and presumably a large chunk of Detroit's downtown core) was just destroyed.
Military-history experts agree that none of Kelly's Heroes would have had much chance to spend any of the gold they stole. Kelly's group would have been shot at and/or arrested when they tried to move back across the American lines in a German truck, and Oddball's crew would've almost certainly gotten killed, leaving the scene in a defective Tiger while the General's forces are securing the area.
Assuming that they went back to American lines. It's mentioned earlier in the film that they're only about 100 miles away from Switzerland.
Drive: The main character drives off into the sunset after getting everyone who might go after Irene and Benicio. But, he's just been stabbed in the gut by a guy who killed his last target with a single quick slash. And now that the leaders of much of the LA mob are dead there's going to be a mad power struggle and, maybe, a war with the East Coast mob at the same time.
The 1935 Errol Flynn movie Captain Blood ends with Flynn's character appointed the new governor of the English colony on Jamaica, based out Port Royal, by the new king, William III. The revolution that brought William to the throne took place in 1688. Port Royal was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1692.
Death Proof ends with the heroines beating the crazed stunt driver to death - but makes no mention of what will happen when they come back from their test drive with major damage to the seller's car. And then there's the girl they left behind as collateral for the test drive, implying that she was a porn star...
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes has a seemingly uplifting ending where Ceaser leads his fellow apes to freedom and has them form their own nation, and Ceaser even manages to keep a good relation with his adopted father...but then you realize that, in the course of Ceaser's rebellion, he unwittingly unleashed a highly contagious, human killing, and completely incurable supervirus throughout the world.
World War Z: although the book ends on a hopeful note, it's also set up in such a way that one person not being careful enough could start the whole thing over again. But it's also set up in such a way as to indicate humanity has learned much from the experiences chronicled in the book, so it might not be such a horrible fight the next time.
If you ignore the catastrophic environmental damage, collapse of many state governments, tension between those that are still around... Humanity has learned to fight off the zombies and many people have overcome their differences to work towards rebuilding, but there's the implication that it may be too little too late, Especially considering the Holy Russian Empire's freely admitted ambitions of outbreeding and conquering the west.
But its also said/implied that the Russians' methods of handling the outbreaks is not so great. Yet that in turn leaves a major area of the world with the chronic problem that nearly ruined everything, so...
L. Ron Hubbard's Typewriter In The Sky has the main character falling into a story. When the story ends, that universe collapses and everyone dies except our protagonist, who returns to the "real world". We, however, know that it's just a story, so once the book ends his universe must be destroyed too.
The Rapture, as depicted by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in Left Behind, means the sudden disappearance of every premillennial dispensationalist Christian and every child in the world (including unborn children), and causes thousands to die in plane crashes. The authors, however, seem to have no idea of how devastating a catastrophe like this would be, and life returns to normal a few days later.
The Christ Clone Trilogy is even worse. The Left Behind series has a kind of cartoonish logic to all the disasters and plagues due to the terrible writing of the twin authors. The author of the Christ Clone series can actually write, and all the disasters are lovingly detailed. You'll be having nightmares after reading it, trust me.
The Gripping Hand, the long-awaited sequel to The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, has the Moties' disastrous breeding cycle fixed by a parasite spread by air-borne cysts. "Only Moties carrying the parasite will be allowed to leave the Mote system." All it takes is one unscrupulous physician to find a way to kill the "Crazy Eddie Worm" without killing the Motie hosts and bingo, the disaster for the entire galaxy envisioned in the first book is now inevitable. Or something else happening to make the parasite no longer viable in Moties. That doesn't even count the Moties that reached the brown dwarf system.
The whole book is about the endurance of hope in the face of terrible circumstances, and the boy is repeatedly paralleled with Jesus. The ending simply implies that humanity will find a way to survive regardless. Also, there was never much implication that the South would be any better, they just needed a goal to keep them going.
By the end of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, virtually all industrial facilities have been destroyed or abandoned to ruin, and virtually all oil wells and mines in the world have been abandoned as worthless when they weren't blown up by the heroes themselves, but it's OK because the evil collectivists have been deposed (and most of them aren't actually killed). And even having one productive copper mine makes up for all the rest that were blown up, because those were subject to taxation and therefore worthless. Sure, the heroic capitalists may have their Lost World up and running fine, but it is unlikely that their egoistic powers really enough to save the country from spiralling into mayhem and civil war? Even so, they weren't necessarily going to save the world from mayhem and civil war. Utopia Justifies the Means; they were waiting until they everything was screwed and civilization would have to be rebuilt from the ground up.
If one suscribes to the theory that Anthem is the Atlas Shrugged world in the future, then there was indeed some sort of holocaust.
Additionally, historical antecedent of Utopian societies and subsequent analysis-by-analog raise the very real (although by no means certain) possibility that the heroic capitalists' society isn't particularly stable in the long term, either, raising the "time and effort to rebuild things" factor significantly.
In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, the happy ending involves the destruction of whole civilizations and the deaths of trillions upon trillions of people. Which leads one to wonder, how bad wasthe Blight anyway?
In Brigadoon, the eponymous Scottish village appears on earth for one day every hundred years. This seems fine until you realize that by the time one year has passed for the villagers, 36,500 years have passed on Earth! How many years will it be before the land the town inhabits is rolled over by an ice-age glacier, or flooded by the polar ice caps melting, or the Earth becomes uninhabitable in some other way? And this was supposed to keep the townspeople safe!
The much-discussed appendix of 1984 is an inverted example: if no one can topple Ingsoc, it is curious that an in-universe document talks about them in the past tense. On face this could mean that they imploded under their own weight. However, Orwell once said that the appendix didn't necessarily mean Ingsoc and Oceania fell. There's also the theory that Airstrip One (aka Great Britain) is a North Korea-esque state, and the rest of the world is much the same as our world.
In The Martian Chronicles, humanity is nearly completely wiped out by a nuclear war, and the last three or so stories in the anthology deal with its aftermath. In them, it is established that the number of survivors could be counted on one hand; of them, only two pairs were couples who later had children. The last story is meant to imply that the two families met up and intermarried, but even then, there is not enough genetic diversity for humanity to continue reproducing. In a few generations, the fertility of everyone will drop to zero due to genetic diseases and the negative effects of inbreeding.
Breaking Dawn ends with the Volturi admitting defeat and leaving the Cullens alone and Bella and Edward being left to have a happy marriage for eternity, with no one else wanting to shanghai members of the family or kill their daughter. They all apparently have forgotten that Aro touched Edward's hand during the climax, thus giving him access to all of Edward's thoughts and thus now has knowledge of all of the powers of the gathered vampires, including Bella, who was supposed to be the secret ace-in-the-hole. That, coupled with the book's insistence that the Volturi would never give up trying to have their way, has led a number of people to comment that Bella and Edward's happily ever after will probably be interrupted when the Volturi come back to kill them. This fic illustrates one of those arguments.
Very few vampires are "vegetarian." There are probably millions of them in the world, feeding every night. But none of our "heroes" seem particularly bothered by this.
It is implied that at least some Muggle-borns were subjected to the Dementor's Kiss at the orders of the Muggle-born Registration Commission. Which means that the already small wizarding population just got that much smaller, and if everyone doesn't start having Weasley sized families immediately, the wizards are in big trouble.
It should be noted that everything that happened in the Harry Potter books only happened in the UK. The rest of the world's wizard population was barely affected by what happened throughout the course of the books.
The original Battlestar Galactica was essentially a show about some 50,000 people surviving after their home planets were wiped out. Despite this, by the end of The Pilot, the cast essentially ignored the genocide.
In the Darker And Grittier (and how!) re-imagined series, the realisation that there's no one left is brought crashing down on the survivors in all subsequent seasons (though the losses they all would have suffered in the initial attack are continually ignored), the one glimmer of hope being when the Battlestar Pegasus showed up. And that turned out to be commanded by a loony, power-mad admiral.
And then there's the ending of the series, where the survivors (humans and friendly Cylons) end up on our Earth in the past and throw away all available technology and start over on a peaceful world free of war where man can live in harmony with nature. The idea that this means plowing fields by hand, building houses by chopping down trees with stone axes, dying in childbirth, being killed by starvation and disease and wild animals, and losing all of their culture, while being completely unable to warn anyone about the cycle of history seems not to occur to anyone. Given that the finale implies the Colonials will be introducing language (presumably with writing) and farming but such things didn't show up for another 100,000 years, there is even more support for the idea that things didn't go very well. The fossils found in the Distant Finale indicate that even Hera died young.
Every episode of Power Rangers becomes disturbing to watch when you see how many buildings are toppled by megazords and giant monsters. To be fair, the writers sometimes Hand Wave this by putting in abandoned places or quarries. Also, one has to wonder what the casualties were in such episodes like "Countdown to Destruction", where all of the Big Bads from the first six seasons decided to conquer Earth and some other planets. The whole city gets raided. Even a megazord gets toppled by a bunch of Mooks.
Space: 1999 starts with the Moon being blasted out of Earth's orbit, and follows the inhabitants of the moonbase. How badly did Earth suffer from this? We find out via Negative Space WedgieSubspace Ansible that humanity survives for several thousand years... but the planet did not. All that is left of Earth life are recordings. While there existed the possibility of transporting to Earth... no one complained much that the window was missed.
In one second season episode the Alphans make contact with Earth and discover that everybody is now living in domed cities because the planet's natural environment has been totally destroyed. The funny thing is, nobody on Earth seems to bothered about that. "Who needs nature?" they laugh. Maybe they're all just in denial. Then again, it was something like 200 years past the accident, long enough that nobody alive actually remembered what nature was like first-hand.
In Burn Notice, Chaotic Good Michael Westen and his crew save people's lives from Drug Cartels, Street Gangs and many other kinds of nasty people, but he usually does this by scamming government employees, security guards and many innocent bystanders into giving him the information he needs, usually in the form of documents. Though rarely shown, one can assume that when their employers notice the documents missing this people will be fired and their lives possibly ruined. This was lampshaded in a season 3 episode where his own mother Calls him out on this after she witnessed firsthand what her son has to do every day in order to save lives. It's heavily implied that Michael makes up for it in some way but it's impossible for him to make up for it all every time.
Seems to be a B-plot point in Season 4, with several characters (notably Fiona) questioning Michael's adherence to his own principles. An example being an episode in which Fiona tells Michael off for being someone that only cares about the idea of people, but is increasingly disturbingly casual about not caring about actual, specific people he meets and even relies on.
In the pilot, Michael heads off a bad guy by hijacking a stranger's car and crashing it into the bad guy's, with no air bags and with the stranger still inside. He walks away afterward and leaves the stranger to deal with the damage and possible serious injuries. Seriously, was there no other way to protect the kid?
In Stargate SG-1, every time a System Lord is killed they are killing a sapient, innocent human being who never asked to be taken over by a slimy body-controlling snake. This is addressed a few times throughout the show, and eventually the Tok'ra find a way to extract the Go'auld without killing the host, but it is rarely used. However, said humans are usually quite insane after having been a meat puppet for centuries/millennia, and such unnaturally long life often leaves them incapable of surviving without the symbiote anyway. Apophis' host, when captured by the Tau'ri, would have died within days and even begged for death after all the suffering he had been through; chances are, most long time hosts would feel similarly.
The original Stargate concludes with a bunch of innocent children (Ra's servants) getting nuked. (That part was averted in the novelization: the eldest of the kids gathers them all and they get off the ship in time.)
Nearly every Borg that dies on Star Trek is an unwitting victim of The Virus. This is demonstrated in-universe as a very necessary evil.
The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" ends with Scotty revealing that he beamed all the tribbles on the Enterprise into the engine room of the Klingons who served as the villains of the episode, "where they'll be no tribble at all." Knowing Klingons and their attitude towards tribbles, it might have been more humane if he had just beamed them into space ...
When Deep Space Nine revisited the episode Worf reveals that the tribbles escaped and ecologically devastated several planets. The Klingons eventually completely eradicated the species out of sheer necessity. This leads to another example, as the crew ends up bringing them back at the end of the episode.
In a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, the Enterprise happens upon a planet in the grips of a pandemic. Another planet produces a cure for them, but Picard discovers that the "cure" is actually a highly-addictive drug. The episode ends with Picard refusing to help the aliens secure more of the drug, citing the Prime Directive as an excuse. His intention is to resolve the problem by having the aliens discover that they don't actually need the drug. The Fridge Logic sets in when you wonder how many people in the throes of an excruciating withdrawal period committed suicide because they thought they were dying of plague and what would happen to the economy and infrastructure of the world as all of its citizens start undergoing detox against their will simultaneously. Likewise they gloss over the fact that the supplying planet's entire economy was devoted to producing the drug, so they would undergo severe economic collapse as well. Real humanitarian effort, there, Picard.
In Star Trek: Enterprise, the infamous episode "Dear Doctor" where Phlox and Archer commit genocide, by letting the Valakian race die so that the Menk can evolve. Despite Phlox's assertion that the Menk are on the edge of an evolutionary breakthrough, it's only a theory he has and there is no certainty that it will actually occur. Since the Valakians take care of the Menk, it's possible they all starved to death.
It also doesn't help that this theory is based on an absurd misunderstanding of evolution, stating that the universe has a sentient plan for everything and sometimes that involves species going extinct, when actually the whole point of evolution is to avoid extinction. So anyone who's actually able to grasp that quite simple fact sees the story as a species condemned to death for no good reason at all.
In Star Trek: Voyager, the entire Ocampa are completely reliant on the Caretaker's technology, who gives them 5 years of power for their city, upon realising he's dying. Given how in "Fury", set 5 years later, an older Kes shows up and she's incredibly pissed off, it's likely she returned home only to discover her race either died out or were enslaved by the Kazon.
The demons in Supernatural most of the time inhabit innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Winchesters pretty much always kill the person when fighting the demon (especially in the later seasons) even though using exorcism is a way (granted, a slower way) to extract the demon without hurting the person. This issue is brought up a few times in the show but with the demons being the show's disposable Mooks, they never dwell on it for long.
Somewhat lessened in that on some occasions, when the demons smoke out of their hosts to escape, the hosts drop lifelessly to the ground, implying that they were already dead.
And then there's the Angels, who in the fifth and sixth seasons also start becoming disposable Mooks. Like the demons, when Angels die, they also generally take their human hosts with them. However, this is arguably easier to accept since the human hosts gave the Angels their consent to inhabit their bodies in the first place.
The BBC's Robin Hood ends with both Robin Hood and Maid Marian (and a couple of Merry Men) dead, and the remaining outlaws promising to fight on in his name and defeat Prince John. The show was cancelled after this, but since history tells us that in a few years time the prince becomes King John, they obviously failed utterly (and may well have been killed in the attempt).
In the Doctor Who serial "The Dominators", the Dominators' plan to explode the planet into a radioactive mess as a fuel source is foiled. But the Dominators have been repeatedly sending messages to the main fleet to come that way. When the fleet arrives, will it sit back and take it? Especially against a Perfect Pacifist People?
The episode "The Lodger", made and set in 2010, mentions that the population of Earth is several hundred million less than the real life 2010 population. This leaves the conclusion that all the alien invasions the Whoniverse Earth has experienced have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.
Another possible conclusion is that these people have been erased by the cracks, meaning that they're back at the end of the season. Still an inferred holocaust, albeit a temporary one.
Multiple episodes end with it being very unclear whether things won't just go back to normal after the Doctor leaves, or if he has actually improved anything at all. Became Ascended Fridge Horror in "Bad Wolf", which explicitly states the Doctor's actions in "The Long Game" made things many times worse.
Space Precinct is about Police IN SPACE!; on the planet Demeter, there are 3 races, Humans, Crocs and Blues, there are police from all 3 races and each criminal gang includes people from all 3 races. In that one episode, the Crime Of The Week was racism, so the Writers had to invent a 4th race of Space Jews for the criminals to be racist at. Police arrest the criminals, Happy Ending, but we never, ever see any Space Jews in any subsequent episodes.
Not simply averted, but outright inverted by the Red Dwarf "Back To Earth" miniseries: though the heroes had spent the second part fearing that they, as fictional characters, would cease to exist when their series was cancelled in the "real" world, the very end explains that, though that "real world" had just been a hallucination, quantum mechanics caused it to have a real existence that would persist even once the gang woke, and, more, every world ever hallucinated, dreamt or imagined becomes entirely real as an alternate dimension, and goes on existing forever.
At the end of War of the Worlds, the Blackwood team manages to make peace with the Morthren, after the last-second Retcon that the entire war had been orchestrated by a single madman. Everyone walks off optimistically into the sunset. However, civilization has mostly collapsed, crime and decay are rampant, the world is a polluted cesspit and the heroes are still homeless. The Morthren are in even worse shape, as their population numbers something near 20, and they've had extremely limited success at reproduction on Earth. Better yet, if you factor in the unresolved plot points from the first season, there's an entire Morthren invasion force that's set to arrive at the planet in three years. "Nice morning," indeed.
One of Mystery Science Theater 3000's host segments for the episode Monster A-Go Go involves Joel and the Bots analyzing the Rupert Holmes song "Escape", better known as "The Piña Colada Song". The song revolves around a married man answering a personals ad for a date, only to find that his own wife is the date. The finale of the debate (in which they give the song's protagonists the names of Rick and Julie for the sake of argument) is Tom's interpretation of the finale.
Tom Servo: And although the song tries to paint a rosy picture of a relationship reborn, it is human nature that either Rick or Julie - maybe both, I don't know - would harbor at least a fragment of resentment that the other set out to cheat on him or her, which would unleash itself in fits of passive-aggressive behavior and bitter incrimination!
Played with in *Hello, Planet, by Hatsune Miku. The song starts out with the world coming to an end. All vegetation (or, at least, most of it) has been eliminated, the sky is red, the rain is acid, and Miku is the only one left on Earth. She goes all around the world, searching for her master, until she finally finds him. Or, at least, his grave. Upon finding it, she bursts into tears and her tears fall onto the little plant, which hasn't sprouted since the song started (she points that out a few times), and the plant suddenly bursts out of its pot, lifting her up into space and then Heaven, where she finds her master waiting for her. The song then cuts back to Earth, where a grayed Miku is laying on the ground, smiling and lying with her plant. This trope is played with when you realize that she died, and had imagined the plant sprouting the way it did, but that her plant also reseeded the whole Earth.
Since the chorus of the Carrie Underwood song 'Before He Cheats' mentions that among the various things that the singer did to her allegedly cheating boyfriend's car was to carve her name into the seats, said boyfriend knows exactly who trashed the car and has enough evidence to prove it to the police. The singer's revenge for being cheated on will undoubtedly get her jail time.
The Dungeons & Dragons supplement "Elder Evils" is basically designed around this concept. Yes, all of the Big Bads can be defeated (or at least can be temporarily driven off), but their appearance irrevocably changes the world. Take Atropus, the World Born Dead, as an example: even if you manage to repel him, his presence has unleashed hordes of undead upon your world and killed off most of the living inhabitants. The awakening of Leviathan, a serpent so large it encircles the planet, has caused earthquakes and tsunamis that have decimated civilization. Yeah, you defeated the monster... but at what cost?
Some of them, such as Father Narmic Llymic, specifically bring up the resultant epic-scale disaster.
Even the best endings in the "Time of Judgement" supplements for the Old World of Darkness are usually a little horrifying. Only Wormwood, the canonical ending of Vampire The Masquerade, is limited in its scope, and even then it would have a significant impact— with all those ancient, powerful, influential vampires ashes in the wind, what happens when, say, the creature that had turned the CEO of Kellog Brown and Root Pentex into little more than a hand puppet abruptly vanishes? Still, Wormwood was clear that despite all the rationalizations, Vampires ARE A BAD THING. If nothing else, in the Crapsack World that is the Old World of Darkness, the loss of all Homo Nocturnis is only a benefit.
One sourcebook (or perhaps the original rulebook?) stated that the primary issue with mortals was their desire to stamp their mark on history, something that immortals are rather more relaxed about. Humans created nuclear weapons, but it is the work of the immortals that ensured they weren't being used... Since, all World of Darkness sourcebooks are written from the point of view of the relevant faction, it's likely that this is Camarilla material — which makes it an ironic statement, seeing as the Camarilla are the ones who are most aggressive about influencing mortal affairs.
In just about every other possible ending for the other gamelines humanity is almost wiped out, and much of the planet lies in ruins. These can be considered happy endings since the alternative is that all life on Earth is completely wiped out.
For all the apocalyptic doom and gloom, one of the endings to Mage DID imply the end of life as we know it... but only because all of humanity had transcended mortality, awakened as mages, and combined once more into the One and recreated the universe from the beginning.
RENT may have ended with a resurrected Mimi thanks to The Power of Rock, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the prognosis isn't good for the large HIV+ portion of the cast.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The whole game is a dream, and you know this by the end, but you have to wake up, essentially killing all the lovable characters you've met along the way. Except possibly Marin, but that's only in the secret ending in which she ends up being a seagull. Plus, in the end, the hero is still stranded adrift at sea with little realistic hope of rescue, and possibly still in the area where the original storm occurred. Since you are told that those lovable characters would still live on within your own dreams and every time you still talk about them the impact of this ending is lessened somewhat, and make a bit stranger since your hero usually doesn't speak or sleep.
The war between the demons and the goddess from before the game even starts. This winds up killing all but a dozen hylians and most of the Gorons.
Whatever caused the ancient robots to deactivate and turn Lanayru into a desert.
The Parella (jellyfish creatures) and the Mogma (mole creatures) are new in this game. Meaning that literally every single one of them dies before the next game in the timeline, Minish Cap.
The Legend Of Zelda and Zelda II The Adventure Of Link both fit chronologically last in one of the three timelines. The diverse cities seen in other games, including their unique cultural development, history, lineage, and anything else they might have contributed is either lost or replaced by a barren wasteland filled with Moblins and Octorocks, hermits hiding away in caves, and a small number of remote towns with a handful of people. The Goron race is nowhere to be seen, and the graceful, civilized Zoras have devolved into thuggish monsters. Hyrule Historia officially places these games last in the timeline where the Hero of Time fell during the final battle, leaving the united Triforce in Ganondorf's hands; hypotheses relating to the kind of destruction he went on to create are entirely justified.
The Mega Man and Mega Man X series play with this: the original glosses over all the implied death and destruction caused by Wily's attacks, with 7 being real bad as the robots that busted Wily out of prison must have killed a number of guards and inmates in the process. The X series averts this, by admitting the heroes are killing sentient robots. X4 onward was specific about this, with the heroes telling certain bosses that their actions could cause significant destruction if they didn't stop. X4 is especially notable, as the prologue stage has you fighting on a floating city called Sky Lagoon in the first half, and when it falls onto the city below, part two picks up in that decimated city that your character knows was inhabited by millions.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village has the plot twist that 90% of the village's population is robots. The 10% of the population that's human includes is Bruno, Flora (who leaves), Pavel (who's only there accidentally), and Stachenscarfen (who also leaves). Whenever the robots run out of power, the elderly Bruno fixes them up in the dead of night. If Flora lays a hand on her fortune, the robots will be deactivated for good; she decides to leave her fortune, as well as the village, happy ending for all - but what happens when Bruno dies?
Curious Village has nothing on sequel Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, where a giant mecha bursts through the roof of the cavern in which "future London" exists, right into London, one of the largest, densely populated cities on Earth, which must instantly kill thousands of people. It then proceeds to shoot cannons across the city, presumably killing hundreds if not thousands more. Ouch.
Invoked but ultimately averted in Metal Gear Solid 4, the main characters are actually concerned about this happening because the Patriots are so deeply entrenched in the workings of the world that destroying them will cripple vital services like water and power worldwide. A clearly-resigned Campbell warns Snake early-on that the absolute best outcome they can hope for is to stop Liquid from taking over the system, and then the plan is to let the Patriots continue to exist unmolested so as not to plunge the world into a new dark age. Unfortunately, they fail this terribly and Liquid takes over the system, gaining control of every military resource, nearly every gun and piece of equipment, in the world, so they decide to nuke the Patriots anyway because the dark age is simply preferable to Emperor Liquid. Fortunately, Sunny is a much better coder than Naomi and finishes the virus so that it only lobotomizes the AIs, leaving basic services untouched.
However, as Drebin implies in the ending that even with the basic resources being kept intact with the Patriots gone, there is not only still going to be war, but in fact its most likely going to increase as a result due to "not everyone being too happy with rainbows and lollipops". That's not even getting into Drebin's drunken implication that the United Nations will most likely end up becoming the spiritual successor of the Patriots in terms of strict control, or that the entire world is completely broke to the extent that not even creating PMC regulatory laws will get them out of the debt.
At the end of Sonic Adventure, the main cast treats things as having gone "back to normal"... while standing in the ruins of a city flooded out by a vengeful god.
In Sonic Unleashed Eggman cracks open the planet, leaving entire continents in pieces. Another No Endor Holocaust situation: the goal of the game is to put the world back together, and the cities and towns you visit in the meantime are having more trouble with Eggman's robots and Dark Gaia's monsters than the structural damage to the Earth.
City of Heroes features a bit of this towards the end of the Warden Resistance arc, in which you end up destroying the water-treatment facility of Praetoria... Removing the mind-control drugs the government puts into the water, but also (explicitly) destroying the only source of drinkable water in a way that would take months to repair. The number of deaths that would result from this is obviously quite large (if not exactly earth-destroying) but the interesting point is that this is the most "good" of the Praetorian arcs... And yet it ends with the largest (inferred) amount of civilian casualties.
However, the entire point of doing so was so Vanguard could help defeat Tyrant, because they couldn't fight a PR campaign as well as actually fighting in another dimension. This is definitely a Shoot the Dog moment for the Wardens; as even though Vanguard would bring supplies in ASAP to minimize the ill effects, the months said above would also be how long it'd take for the supplies to get in, and they apparently couldn't clear the supplies without first disabling the plant.
In addition, the Responsibility Loyalists end their campaign by slowing down Tyrant's invasion of (Primal) Earth... specifically to avoid civilian casualties from both riots in the streets for not using the army to help protect the Crapsack World as they recover, and to minimize the blood on our side.
Arguably Diablo II. Although you've defeated the three prime evils, the world is still basically overrun by possessed critters that have wiped out most of the world's population. This is confirmed by the information that's out about Diablo III. Necromancers running amuck, cursed forests, crazy cultists and the Kingdom and probably the entire world have been smashed down to rubble basically. Oh, and Tyrael is apparently now crazy and all the Prime Evils, plus Lilith, are back. There is some good news though! Now that the Worldstone is gone, all humans will apparently now become super strong half angel, half demons like they originally were. I'm sure that will go just swimmingly, don't you? Talk about a Crapsack World. Still, if everyone is a super-strong half-angel-half-demon demigod, and all it took to kill the Prime Evils the first time around was a Badass Normal or two, maybe there is hope that the new not-so-mortals can mercilessly steamroll the forces of Hell (and, if necessary, Heaven) and rebuild their world? If you've played Diablo II you know how pathetically weak both Heaven and Hell are.
In part of the backstory to the Warcraft series, the Well of Eternity imploded after too much magical strain and the supercontinent Kalimdor was shattered into what we know today. This event is even seen in The War Of The Ancients, where it was depicted as happening so quickly that the heroes riding on dragons couldn't even stop to pick up other groups of fleeing parties that they saw. Given the absolutely massive amount of land that became sea, it's safe to say that hundreds of thousands died.
Gears of War seems perfectly happy allowing its hero to screw the world up in an attempt to save it. The "Lightmass bomb" deployed in Gears 1 evaporated tons of immulsion and gave birth to a disease called "rust lung" in the sequel. Gears 3 follows suit; the locust and lambent have been wiped out, but so has the fuel source used by all human tech, and the last collective human force has also dissolved. The remnants of the COG can look forward to many more years of battling various stranded camps for basic necessities such as food, water, and ammo.
In Age Of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties expansion, The Indian campaign set ends on a triumphant note, as the sadistic British general in charge of one of the main branches of the East India Company has been killed, along with the branch itself... until you realize how in real life the Indian Mutiny was ultimately a failure. It did however lead to the East India Company being dissolved and replaced by the British Rajj. While the latter was no picnic for the natives, it was an undeniable improvement over the former, the Ur Example of Corrupt Corporate Executive and Mega Corp.
Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance ends on an optimistic note regardless of which side you play as the pivotal force in stopping the Seraphim and the epilogue is narrated, but it's clear that a significant percentage of the human race is dead and Earth itself may be uninhabitable due to radiation. The Aeon are still mopping up a civil war and have lost their true leader, what's left of the UEF is struggling to find its feet after the Seraphim tore out its heart and soul (along with almost all of its military personnel), and the always-fractious Cybrans have lost one of the few commanders they could rally around, in addition to their own civil war. The Seraphim still have a great deal of military power and resources in the material world, and from the teaser at the end... it's not over by a long shot.
The teaser of Supreme Commander 2 seems to show that in a few decades things are A OK.
Odin Sphere. Hoo boy, Odin Sphere. Don't get too attached to the beautiful land of Erion, because it's gone at the end of the game, along with nearly everyone in it. Only four people are left alive, with the faint glimmer of hope that Gwendolyn and Oswald can at least re-populate the world. Might be a subversion though. We do get confirmation that they succeeded and the world was repopulated, during a secret scene in which Cornelius and Velvet likewise finally become free of the Pooka Curse.
Dragon Quest II lets you visit Alefgard from the first game. Only the first castle is on the map. The other towns are replaced with a patch of desert.
Dragon Quest III's World of Darkness is covered in constant night, and happens to have another world directly above it. When the hero uses the Ball of Light, the source of the darkness is destroyed so it is always daytime. Either the ball is providing the source of light, or the world above was destroyed to let the light in.
Final Fantasy II is very guilty of this. There are a grand total of three populated cities on the entire planet still standing at the end of the game (down from ~10 at the beginning). It's almost impossible to think that a vibrant or even viable humanity could still be left to rebuild by the end of the game. The town of Salamond, one of the three survivors, was explicitly founded to sell mythril to the rest of the world, but without any significant trading partners and with transportation almost cut, the town would starve. Fynn shows no signs of abilities to support itself, either.
Square-Enix's Ivalice games imply this. Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, though published first, are the last two games in the timeline. They take place centuries or millenia after the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance games and Final Fantasy XII and its sequel. The latter four games feature a setting filled with other intelligent humanoid races all living intermingled with each other. The former two games feature no races other than humans.
There is vague reference to The Cataclysm in FFT, but no explanation of its nature has been given save that humanity was spared from it by the actions of the Hero-King Mesa. Nor is there an explanation for why or how he failed to save any other races.
Final Fantasy XIII has this. In the wake of Orphan's death, Cocoon falls quite a distance, which would have killed thousands, if not millions of people. Carbuncle, the fal'Cie which grew most of Cocoon's food, died. While Gran Pulse itself is not a wasteland, how quickly can a formally city dwelling people learn to live off the land without knowing what is safe to eat while fending off the many monsters than inhabit the surface? However, Final Fantasy XIII-2 turns it into No Endor Holocaust.
There's an interesting example in the novelization of the LucasArts game The Dig, albeit part of the Back Story rather than the main plot. The Cocytans, a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, decided to share their technological wonders with the rest of the galaxy, so they sent off a bunch of probes disguised as asteroids. These probes were programmed to "show up" in close proximity to likely planets and (apparently) threaten to crash into them unless the inhabitants of said planet came to take a look, at which point they would be kidnapped and whisked off back to Cocytus to meet the friendly aliens. (Meanwhile, the Cocytans Ascended To A Higher Plane Of Existence and got stuck there, leaving rather a cold reception back at home.) The Fridge Logic comes in when you ask yourself the question: would the asteroid ships have crashed into the planets they targeted if they didn't happen to have a native society that was sufficiently developed to stop them? This is, perhaps mercifully, left unanswered.
All the Fallout games (barring 3) usually discuss aspects of this trope in each town/person's ending. You killed the rampant raiders? Good now people won't be dragged off and killed. You didn't teach the lowly village about crop rotation? Half the village dies of starvation during a drought later and the rest disbands, scattering into the wasteland.
Particularily Fallout New Vegas, with its focus on political warmongering and no clearly "good" side in the conflict. No matter what side you take in the endgame, the other sides will suffer, your side will carry a burden for a long time, and many minor factions will get the short stick no matter what. The Brotherhood will either take up banditry or get blown up in their bunker. The Great Khans may evacuate en masse, or they get killed off, go out in a suicide blaze of glory, or assimilated by the Legion. The Followers of the Apocalypse, arguably the beat and brightest and most idealistic in the whole Fallout universe, have one ending where they don't get exterminated, kicked out or saddled with impossible workloads. And if you persuade the Remnants and Arcade Gannon to pull a Big Damn Heroes and aid the battle while you side with the NCR, guess who ends up arrested as a war criminal?
If Lonesome Road is canon, all this may be moot anyway, thanks to the new species introduced (by the Courier) to the Divide - Tunnelers.
Ulysses: "They'll start emerging throughout the Mojave in time, might be years. Probably less. They breed fast, hunt in groups, more than enough to bring down the strongest in the Mojave. Once they draw blood... Seen them tear apart deathclaws... Deathclaw might get some, but the rest will swarm it, tear it apart, like Denver hounds."
However you do kill their queen dooming their race.
In The Pitt, no matter which side you take, it is unlikely a cure for the plague will be realized, dooming the residents to slow extinction via mutation.
Also, if you infect the water supply with the Modified FEV, it is implied that it will kill everyone on the planet, not just the mutants and corrupt humans in the Wasteland.
Tales Of Vesperia goes to great lengths to address this. The party realise that they have to permanently deactivate all of the world's Blastia in order to power the Wave Motion Gun that will save the world, including the Barrier Blastia that keeps the major centres of population safe. First, they go to the world's leaders and get permission. Then they discuss ways to prepare for the ensuing blackout, such as creating a new military force to guard the cities. The end result is that the world will be harder to live in, but it's not without hope.
The game's ending kind of glossed over the question of whether Hiigara had an existing population, and what might have happened to them after the Exiles took possession. The fluff for Cataclysm also establishes that a large percentage of the surviving Hiigarans are very very bitter, and that Hiigara is still very sparsely populated. The best-case scenario is that a whole lot of people got forcibly displaced from their homes for the sake of a much smaller group of refugees, whose actual claim to the planet after a four thousand year absence is frankly somewhat shaky, note Make what you will of the original Homeworld containing a lot of allusions to Exodus and the worst-case scenario is a literal Holocaust.
In World of Warcraft it's explained that the reason the Titans who created Azeroth didn't just kill the "old gods" who had infested and corrupted it was that the old gods were already so deeply rooted that doing so would have caused the planet more harm than good. So now after giving them a few more millennia to take root, the players are running around killing them anyway.
While most people interpret the speech you get at Tribunal of Ages in Halls of Stone as if the Old Gods are destroyed, the world will blow up, another interpretation that is just as valid and even makes much more sense exists - there's simply no way to destroy the Old Gods without tearing the planet apart in the process, thus whatever players do is irrelevant to that point, even if they kill a physical manifestation of an Old God or two - nothing short of blowing the planet up FIRST will kill off the Old Gods. It's not that doing A causes B. It's simply that you can't do A without doing B first. If a patient's limb is amputated to save the rest of the body from an infection, it's wrong to say that "treating the infection caused loss of limb" when the loss of limb actually WAS THE TREATMENT.
A powerful being exists on the planet whose job is to wipe out everyone if it decides that the planet is "corrupted". It is convinced not to, but states that it has done its job countless times on other planets before.
Said Titans view their machine androids being corrupted into fleshy organics by said old gods as a grave threat. Fridge Logic mixes with Fridge Brilliance in that killing the old gods' corruption would require disinfecting the planet of all biological components, but our heroes being fleshy beings don't require such drastic measures.
In EVE Online, the player character cannot be killed even if the ship he is on is destroyed, but it is made explicit in the supplementary materials supplied by CCP that the ship has a largely-full conventional crew (the player character, a "capsuleer", replaces all command and control crew, but maintenance, etc. is still needed, and on large ships, that's a lot of people). A ship being destroyed is an inconvenience for the player, who in the worst case scenario is transferred to a clone and can start again in a new ship. The rest of his crew (who may number one or two in the smallest of the frigates all the way to tens of thousands in the city sized titans), it's better to just not think about.
Then there are the NPC ships you can fight, most of which are not capsuleer-controlled, so even the smallest involve full crews being killed off for (virtual) real. See the Refuge in Audacity entry for Eve.
When you think about it, all 4X games, from Civilization to Total War to Heroes of Might and Magic end this way, win or lose. Yay! You've won! What's the death toll of your supreme greatness? Bummer, you lost. Not only did your plans suck and got your ass conquered, but you took most of your population down with you in that desperate last stand. Even games which, like Civilization, allow for peaceful victories, it's often necessary to butcher quite a lot of people on the way, especially when your victory is at hand and everyone freaks out and dogpiles you, crab bucket-style.
The main plotline of The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion ends with Emperor Martin sacrificing himself in order to stop the daedric invasion. Unfortunately, this left Tamriel without an Emperor, and with massive casualties in Cyrodiil and beyond courtesy of Mehrunes Dagon's armies. Eventually, in Skyrim, the "inferred" became explicitly stated: the Empire is a shadow of its former self, and the Aldmeri Dominion is the main superpower.
A rather sad example in the Shivering Isles expansion — So the Player Character succeeded in putting Sheogorath's curse to an end, freeing Jyggalag to be himself again, protecting the Realm of Madness from destruction and becoming a Deadric Lord themselves. A God Is You! But Jyggalag, by nature, hates madness utterly and violently. You are now the god of madness. The two of you used to depend and like each other... once.Skyrim leaves things ambiguous, but this much is clear: there are only a few hints to prove that the being now called Sheogorath was ever the Champion of Cyrodiil, and Jyggalag is nowhere to be found.
This was one of the biggest problems which caused the uproar of the original Mass Effect 3 ending, in which no matter which choice you made the mass relays, which made intra-galactic travel possible and were the backbone for the galactic community, are all destroyed; because of this the great majority of players felt that, even barring the devastating physical effects of such explosions, the galaxy would be plunged into another dark age and that billions of people would be cut off and starve to death. So, because of a massive and unprecedented player demand, in June 26th 2012 Bioware released the "Extended Cut" free Downloadable Content, which gave players an expanded scenario showing the mass relays being damaged instead being destroyed, the Citadel no longer exploding over Earth in the "Destroy" or "Synthesis" endings and images of the galactic civilizations rebuilding.
Half-Life 2 and its subsequent Episodes manage to avert this trope and play it straight simultaneously. On the one hand the horrors suffered by humans due to the years of Combine rule and the various alien species now populating Earth is heavily shown, not the least being the hundreds of corpses Freeman finds (and the less said about Ravenholm, the better), and the devastation to City 17 and its populace during and after the destruction of the Citadel. On the other hand, it seems to ignore how completely and utterly screwed the entire planet is, considering things like the Combine draining the oceans, the extinction of most of Earth species and how bloody numerous all those aliens are (a single Antlion hive contains hundreds of the damn things). Otherwise, Earth's inhabitants will have to adapt to how the destruction of Earth's biosphere is being replaced by an alien one from Xen. They might be okay so as long as humans can stomach antlion burgers, and it is mentioned by the fisherman in Lost Coast that Leeches are eaten due to the absence of native fish, so they are off to a good start.
Between EarthBound and Mother 3. Because of the "End of the World" revealed by Leder, everyone from MOTHER 1 and EarthBound died, excepting a select few. This includes the lovable Tendas, Ness's Mom, Teddy, Ana, Loid, Dr. Andonuts, Poo, and possibly the innocent Mr. Saturns, although it's possible that the Mr. Saturns came on their own "White Ship", or that the Tendas hid in the Lost Underworld. Because of the purposely ambiguous ending, it's left to the player to decide whether all these people come back to life or not. Of course, this all depends how long after EarthBound Mother 3 takes place. So we KNOW about the Holocaust, it's just the inferred part is who died because of it.
God Of War: Well, Kratos, you've successfully killed most of the gods. Hooray! Now we have to deal with the fact that the underworld has no guardian, meaning that all the demons will probably find a way to break out and roam the earth, which might not even exist anymore because there's no ocean god alive to make sure that the sea doesn't engulf the entire land masses which are dead anyway since there's no one to pull the sun around and keep life alive. All because Ares tricked you into killing your family.
If you haven't played the other Dept Heaven games, the A ending of Yggdra Union seems unambiguously happy. If you have played the other games, however, you realize that the entity that Nessiah did all his horrible deeds in order to kill was none other than Hector, the Big Bad of Riviera (and arguably the entire series). So basically, while Yggdra did save her world by defeating Nessiah, she also unwittingly made it so that no one will interfere with Hector's plans until Ein comes along in Riviera.
During Resident Evil The Darkside Chronicles, Leon and Krauser encounter piranha infected with the T-Virus...in the river. Given that this river is a tributary of the Amazon, that dam they visit had better be upstream from the piranha, because otherwise there's nothing stopping those fish from reaching the main river and biting everything they run into, creating an outbreak so big it'll wipe out the entire Amazon rain forest.
Oh, it goes back further than that. The original T-Virus outbreak is in the middle of a massive forest in midwestern North America, and about halfway through Dead Aim, you sink an ocean liner full of zombies in the middle of the Pacific. The T-Virus is loose in the RE universe's biosphere and has been for quite a while, which means they're really just marking time until some kind of apocalypse scenario.
In the "good" ending of Myst III, the player sends Saavedro back to his home to reunite with his family. Well, there is also a small detail, that after 10 years spent in solitude he became homicidally insane and his people don't know that... Let's just hope, that he won't go on a murdering rampage when he learns that his wife married someone else while he was considered dead.
During the ending in the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, your character was about to return to the real world after destroying the meteor. After a few heart-wrenching scenes, your character has made it back to the Pokemon world, and is reunited with his or her friends. This is great and all, but have you ever wondered how the character's real world family is responding to our hero's disappearance?
Portal 2 contains loads of this for the discerning player.
The failure of the Relaxation Center condemning tens of thousands of test subjects to death or a persistent vegetative state. Wheatley, of course, comes right out and says this during the opening sequence, so it's less inferred than outright stated. The Fridge Horror comes in below, though.
The Noodle Incident of "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day", which is implied to have coincided with GLaDOS deciding to murder everyone in the Enrichment Center. So, she slaughtered a bunch of kids with neurotoxin, they became test subjects and died in her Death Course test chambers, or they became vegetables when the Relaxation Center failed — you pick. An Easter Egg reveals Chell to have been one of the girls in question.
Cave Johnson's pre-recorded messages in Old Aperture all but explicitly state that a vast majority, if not all, of the test subjects the company recruited over the decades died or suffered horrific injuries or mutations. Yes, this means that a whole generation of "astronauts, Olympians, and war heroes" were slaughtered by Mad Science, and Aperture's own scientists once they started testing on themselves. Think of the sheer human potential lost here and you wonder if Aperture didn't help Earth fall to the Combine by murdering its best and brightest.
Several of the alternate Caves from the Perpetual Testing Initiative implied that many more of this happened in alternate universes, usually involving alternate versions of the pre-recorded messages in the main game, such as Mantis-men overrunning Aperature, a sentient cloud siphoning off people's skins and a space prison escape. Lampshaded with the Sick Boy, who Cave Prime specifically mentioned had died to eliminate any ambiguity on your end. Most of these end up saving Cave Prime's universe by solving his money problem and scaring him out of building Gla DOS.
Being a prequel to Tales of Phantasia, where the world was torn apart by war, Tales Of Symphonia becomes this. Made even worse by the fact that the Big Bad actually predicted this and stated this as a reason for continuing his evil plan.
The X Universe falls to this after the events of X3: Albion Prelude. The Precursors shut down the entire Portal Network to contain the incredibly aggressive Xenon terraformer AI. Doing so on a small scale in the past has actually been a good solution to bad problems, but this means not only will the younger species be incapable of travelling or communicating with each other or their own colony planets, they won't even know where the other sectors actually are to try and contact each other for years. Many sectors have nothing but manned manufacturing plants, most of which aren't self-sustaining, and even many planetary sectors rely heavily on trade.
The shutdown is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you have the above. On the other hand, it also had the byproduct of stopping the Argon/Terran war in its tracks, which at this rate was going to end in one of the two sides being completely wiped out. Speaking of which, the faction that comes off best would be the Terrans. A, over two thirds of their sectors are in the Solar System, and they've got non-jumpgate technology for intrasystem travel. B, they do know where their other main sector is in space, and can reach it using jumpdrives.
Although the perfect ending provides a hope spot where a researcher is investigating a promising lead to reverse the desertification.
In Dragon Age: Origins the Dalish Warden can request to have the Hinterlands set aside to become the new Dalish homeland, as their boon for ending the Blight and slaying the Archdemon. Its vague what actually happened, but Dragon Age II hints that this didn't go exactly that well;
Merrill: We... we heard the Dalish were given land in Ferelden. Is it true?
Alistair: Yes. I wish I could say that went better.
Merrill: Why? What happened?
Alistair: It's... a long story. I intend to make it up to your people, however. I owe an old friend of mine too much to do otherwise.
Dragon's Dogma has you defeat the Seneschal, whose job is to will the world to continue to exist, and take his place. He then asks you to kill him, as he's tired from eons of sitting alone beyond the Rift. Unfortunately, the only way to end the game at this point is to turn the Godsbane on yourself, killing the being responsible for the cohesion of the world before a new replacement comes along. The New Game Plus makes it clear the world didn't end, and perhaps even that stabbing yourself didn't work, as you'll eventually come face to face with your old Arisen as the new Seneschal when you again reach the final boss. It doesn't make it clear exactly what stabbing yourself did if it didn't kill you the first time around, though.
Over the course of The Matrix Online's storyline not only do large numbers of humans in the real world take up permanent residence in large hover barges, some choose to work for the Machines. As the storyline progressed Zion and the Machines were embroiled in a cold war where the Machines worked to suppress Zion's recruitment efforts in secret and Zion was preparing for another war. It's very likely had the game not been shutdown that future story arcs would have explored a second war between the Machines in Zion, one where Zion now has a way of causing real harm to the Matrix and the Machines who are dependant on it for survival.
From This Very Wiki 's Guilt-Based Gaming page, just when was the last time you've seen someone with or even mention a Tamagotchi? You know, the virtual pets known for dying if you leave them unattended? That's right. The fad's long over, so just about every tamagotchi is dead.
Although Dead Island wasn't quite the emotional rollercoaster that the heartbreaking trailer promised, it does explore this in several ways. One is by making it very clear that each and every one of the zombies you're cheerfully dismembering was a human being, either by interaction with NPCs, discovery of supplemental materials, or the subsequent trailer showing holidaymakers alive and well, and being recognisable from the game as being the same zombies you fight. The second is that a decent amount of the fetch quests aren't just to keep people happy, but are for medical supplies for the wounded and prescription medicine such as insulin and asthma inhalers, without which the patients would die.
Ignored in most Transformers series, bar Transformers Animated. In one episode of Transformers Generation 1 they actually blow up Paradron, a planet recently populated by a pacifist race (who may or may not have completely evacuated everybody) just to keep the Decepticons from getting at its plentiful energon supplies. Aside from the Paradronian Sandstorm being sad, nobody seems to care.
This is also used in Transformers Armada, where for some magical reason all the discovered Mini-Con panels seem to be in deserted areas. None of them ever pop up under, say, an apartment building in the Bronx.*
To be fair, in the original japanese series, one probably did pop up in the city, but was edited out for taste reasons.
Subverted in Transformers Animated, and used as a source of major angst for the well-meaning but clumsy Bulkhead every time somebody needs a cheap excuse for him to get depressed. The humans of Detroit seem to actually waver between welcoming the Autobots as heroes and fearing them for all the property damage they cause, and one episode actually shows the Autobots helping to rebuild a bridge they destroyed though they did destroy it by having Megatron smack them around.
Lampshaded in a G1 parody in Robot Chicken, where Optimus proudly states that only fifty humans were killed in the crossfire of their latest engagement, a new record.
Beast Machines ends with the planet being reformatted into a techno-organic paradise, with everyone having an animal alt mode. One problem: not everyone would be happy with having an animal mode. Well, that and the massive upheaval that would occur now that Cybertron's covered with plantlife, among other things
A brilliant fan comic, Obsidian's Lament, actually deals with the fallout of the series and the discontent many feel about their new predicament.
And some people actually think that Megatron should wave won the battle. He was actually trying to protect Cybertron!
Ben 10 Alien Force. In "Grounded" they intentionally scuttle a ship full of refined nuclear bat guano right next to the pier.
Ben 10 Omniverse has an even bigger one in Hot Stretch, where a bunch of aliens, the Krahoo, use a nuclear device in an attempt to make Earth's climate raise so they can live here. By the end of the episode they are stopped, but the machine still was activated and caused a volcanic eruption in the middle of Bellwood; it's really hard to swallow that nobody died in this, seeing how entire buildings were seen being consumed. To make it worst, the Krahoo aren't even punished for that.
We actually see a driving car being engulfed by magma, so at least one person died for sure.
In a minor case, in Storm Hawks they show people being thrown out of airships constantly. Of course, they have parachutes, and are careful to show this... but they hardly ever show them being rescued. There are three given alternatives; either be unlucky enough to descend into the wastelands (a volcanic, monster filled floor to the Atmos), go into one of the deep gorges where atmospheric pressure grows great enough to crush ships, or drift on air currents until reaching a Terra (which has thus far only happened once to a main good guy).
In Real Life, many of the actual class of engines on which the characters are based are completely extinct.
Some stories (particularly in the books) take place a good deal later than the 1950s. Some are even in this century. Sodor had a great degree of operating independence, and lacked the labor clashes that cemented Dieselisation on the British mainland. It is, in-universe, the one place to avoid it due to the Fat Controller having the authority to opt out as well as Sodor's economic prosperity.
Superman The Animated Series: Between the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear missile in the skies above Metropolis in "Bizzaro's World" and the meltdown of an offshore nuclear power plant in "Apokolips...Now!" a few months later, business for oncologists in that town is about to be very good, indeed.
On The Boondocks, the world believes that a deadly fried chicken ingredient has been released on the masses everywhere that has the fast food chain responsible. It is stated that the world economy has been halted, and it is believed that everyone except prepared survivalists will die. It turns out the disease isn't fatal, and everything is back to normal by the next episode. The world economy shutting down for weeks should have had a much more lasting effect, even if we assume every character is cynical enough to just ignore the inevitable riot deaths during the believed pandemic.
Also, one episode involves an EVO who puts everything in the world to sleep, Holiday mentions they don't have much time before people start dropping dead from dehydration, but it never brings up people who were in the middle of doing potentially dangerous tasks such as driving (which is a bit jarring, considering the show doesn't shy away from the implications of civilian casualties).
In one episode of Gargoyles, Oberon puts almost everyone in Manhattan to sleep for several minutes, during which he also conjures a freezing rain storm. Yes, a couple of traffic accidents are shown when everyone falls asleep, but nobody calls him on it when he claims everyone will wake up just fine. Unless he put far more thought into his spell than it looked like (and judging by what he seems to think of the rights of anyone aside from his own kind, he probably didn't), then it's likely that between traffic accidents, interrupting dangerous tasks, or simply falling from precarious places, thousands of people died. And everything is back to normal by the next episode, as though nobody outside Manhattan even noticed.
In City of Stone, Demone turns all the New Yorkers into statues, and goes about smashing them (obviously killing them). We only get to see her kill a few people on screen, but she was strolling down the street, no doubt smashing more.
We know people flying helicopters or working heavy machinery aren't immune, because Fox was also turned to stone, and only the timely action of Xanatos prevented their chopper from crashing into the ground. What about all the other aircraft that didn't have a guy who intentionally avoided watching the television?
Greg Weisman is well aware of this and confirms that many people died off-screen.
Like in the Generator Rex episode mentioned above, the time where all of Human life on Earth was rendered unable to move for several days. Part of the initial problem was shown, where Octus walks down a street and passes a few crashed planes and helicopters.
The The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode "Koop-zilla" apparently takes place in a fictional Japanese city called Sayonara. Because of a lab experiment gone wrong, Bowser actually transforms into the titular Koop-zilla and starts destroying the city, and as a result Mario also becomes a giant just so he can stop Bowser, causing the city to be destroyed even more. Also, a later episode called "Karate Koopa" also takes place in Sayonara, except that instead of a large, technologically-advanced metropolis, it's now a small Japanese fishing village, and Bowser is now a samurai. And by the way, Sayonara means "goodbye" in Japanese.
The two first episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic begin with Twilight Sparkle reading the story of the two princesses. The book merely says that the younger sister rebelled and threatened to bring eternal night, so the older sister banished her to the moon a thousand years ago. When Nightmare Moon returns, the ponies need to find the "Elements of Harmony" to defeat her. The last known location of the Elements is the castle of the Royal Pony Sisters - now a ruin - in middle of the Everfree Forest - where many strange creatures live, some of them gigantic, and nature follows different rules than in the rest of Equestria. To add to it, Word Of God says that yes, Nightmare Moon's The Night That Never Ends would have the exact same effect in that world as ours.
The Hearths Warming Eve play, which suggests the ponies fled their original home for Equestria due to monsters making it unlivable. There remains the question what if some ponies stayed or got left behind?
Discord, villain of the "Return of Harmony" two-parter, was said to rule Equestria before Celestia and Lunasealed him in stone. As shown in the two-parter, within hours of his escape he plunges Equestria into a World of Chaos in which time, gravity, causality and sanity are entirely optional. Speculating about what he did to the ponies when he ruled unopposed for who knows how long is rarely pleasant, and is the subject of much Dark Fic. Interestingly, the show doesn't shy away from implying this was indeed the case, as a stained glass window depicts him holding ponies over a pit of fire with puppet strings while agonized screams are audible in the background.
The Young Justice episode "Misplaced" has every single adult on the planet dissappear (which isn't actually what happens, but the effect is the same). Even ignoring all those who were driving or flying or doing something else dangerous at the time, the situation is only fixed two or three days later, meaning millions of young children at the very least were left helpless for days.