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Just Before the End
It's all downhill from here.

Last one to die — please turn out the light.
Graffiti on poster in Children of Men

It's probably sometime between Next Sunday A.D. and Twenty Minutes into the Future, but it could also be another planet in a distant galaxy in an inverted universe. All that really matters is that the world, or civilization anyway, is ending... any day now. The zombie army is making its way across the continent... oh so slowly. The worldwide economic crash is in its 10-year stretch. The global powers are arming for all-out war, The Virus's death toll is rising, and the asteroid named Malthus Prime is on its way to end the human race... in exactly X.5 months, Y days and Z hours.

The world you're in probably resembles a Crapsack World verging on a Scavenger World. The trains are still running, though probably not on time. Everywhere it's ominously hinted that however bad the present is, the future will only get worse, and by the end, or at least by the next sequel, it has, and we get to see what things are like After the End. Just Before the End is usually a bleak dystopia (or alternatively, a facsimile of the modern era) that is coming apart at the seams. Expect to see people dying like animals. Graffiti and abandoned cars are usually a given. The Depopulation Bomb may have already dropped, leaving a Crapsack World or worse, but if it hasn't dropped yet, it's on its way... oh yeah, it's coming. Better get your $99 bottled water and your car batteries while they last, folks! Right here, at Joe's Apocalyptic Emporium! Alternatively, you might want to invest in a suicide kit: Thank God for State-Sponsored Euthanasia!

As many of the examples show, Just Before the End can either take place just before the impact of a Depopulation Bomb or after its impact, provided the effects of said Depopulation Bomb are not immediate: for example, if an asteroid crashed ten years ago but was only large enough to destroy a few cities at most, but it brought with it a deadly contagion which has reduced the world's population drastically in those ten years to the point that the contagion is daily news and everyone's expecting to die, then you've also got Just Before the End set in a Crapsack World.

Also known in apocalyptic literature as the Dying Earth subgenre. You can expect anyone previously chanting that The End Is Nigh to gloat about being right... but not for very long.

Compare Signs of the End Times. Not to Be Confused with Dénouement.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • A particular review of the manga Berserk said that "It shows us how the apocalypse starts" & "what happens during the apocalypse."
  • In episode 42 of the Kirby anime. The Phantom Star Geras is revealed to be coming to Dream Land and that it will bring about the end of the world. On the last day of the world, Everyone flees to King Dedede's castle. In one of the cutest scenes in the anime, King Dedede takes Kirby to the playground that he built. Kirby goes onto one of the swings and Dedede goes onto the other. Then a strong wind starts to blow sending Kirby and King Dedede into the sky.
  • Narutaru starts about a year before the End. Eventually, the protagonist and her Evil Counterpart (both of whom are pregnant and about 13 years old) are the only ones left. The last page of the series shows their children, a girl and a boy, respectively, playing on the beach where the series started, apparently about 12 years old, in an Adam and Eve Plot.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion- though in NGE the world is less bleak, more savable, and more "actively being destroyed" than in others.
  • Now and Then, Here and There manages to be set both Just Before the End and After the End. Human civilization has long collapsed, and now Earth itself is in its final death throes. Depending on how Lala Ru is interpreted, the series also contains the point of The End as well.
  • Volume 2 of Phoenix starts this way. There are plans underway to restore humanity, but nobody seems to really believe in the future.
  • Saikano begins with everything apparently peaceful, although the weather has gotten bizarre. As Chise reveals at the end, the world was actually dying from the start. She performs a Mercy Kill on all living things to spare them the pain of dying slowly with the planet.
    • The manga is more hopeful, in that the by-then transhuman Chise survives, as does her still-human boyfriend. They set off to explore the universe, hopefully to find someone they can talk to.
  • Wolf's Rain takes place in a decaying world-turned-wasteland, dotted with Adventure Towns.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Record of a Yokohama Shopping Trip), except that it paints it as a Cosy Just Before The Catastrophe that you might actually want to live in. The manga is about an android named Alpha taking care of a store in the countryside, who occasionally needs to go traveling around. Humans are starting to depopulate due to unexplained reasons; however, the "children" of humanity, the robots, are so human-like it's clear they'll carry on humanity's legacy and humans themselves seem to be pretty cool with this fate, the way an elderly person has accepted their inevitable death (even if they don't invite it).
  • Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Humans are dying out for reasons that are never really explained.
  • The events of Attack on Titan begin when the human population has been reduced to about 1.5 million due to the titular monsters. After the Time Skip shortly afterwards, that number is reduced by a fifth.
  • The final saga of Dragon Ball Z focuses on Majin Buu, a monster that makes short work of killing 80% of the population. In a focus on background characters unusual for the series, we see those left either cowering and clinging to life or going on a Last Dance. It was the latter that caused Buu to have a Heel Face Door Slam and kill the last 20% within the span of a few minutes.
  • Volume 15 of Ciel The Last Autumn Story reveals that the Sun has already died, and only the effort of the godlike Arc Dragons preserves mankind. And they don't intend to stick around forever.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen is set in a world that's teetering on the edge of a nuclear holocaust.
    • But then manages to avert and subvert it, as the holocaust is prevented, for now, but whether Ozymandias' plot works or not is left open to reader interpretation. Doctor Manhattan puts it best:
    Dr. Manhattan: In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.
  • Y: The Last Man has this atmosphere, for all that it centers on the titular last hope for natural reproduction. After all, he's one slim hope given that every male mammal in the world had died. Even if you knew he lived, it would be reasonable to assume this was the last generation of humanity.
  • Neil Gaiman's Signal to Noise features the Nested Story of a group of villagers gathering on a hillside on New Year's Eve, 999 AD, convinced that the world is about to end.
  • The Books of Magic series includes a scene where the main character goes to the very last minutes of time.
    Death:I'm sorry. I can't let either of you stay here and watch. You see, this really is it. The universe is over. Its my job to put it all in order, now, and lock the place behind me as I leave.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: The Shadowplay arc was a flashback to pre-war cybertron, a Crapsaccharine World, where one's alt-mode reflects their place in society Functionalism runs rampant and the working class has turned into a boiling pot of issues. The arc takes place on the cusp of the uprising, where the Cybertronians would engage in a war their species became infamous for. While society moves along normally, news reports show so many of the faults, rampant shootings, government mutilations, religious attacks, thugs able to assault or even kill the homeless, etc. The protagonists encounter casual murders, and government conspiracies that involve tampering with civilian minds to stop them from revolting. Even with Orion and his friends saving hundreds from a bomb, society falls apart in the Megatron Origin series, where the workers turn gladiators unite, sack Kaon, and plunge the world into war.

    Fan Fic 
  • The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum takes place at this time. Apocalypse Anarchy reigns, the Barrier has rendered more than a third of the world uninhabitable to humanity, the remaining landmasses are overpopulated, two billion humans are dead or ponified, and it's only a matter of time before humanity is doomed. Until the protagonist stumbles upon an Equestria before the Conversion War that's willing to help.

    Film 
  • Children of Men: After nearly twenty years of depopulation due to infertilitynote , human civilization has virtually crumbled to dust. It's all the protagonist can do to stay properly drunk through the last few weeks of Britain's existence.
  • The original Mad Max, although Road Warrior and Thunderdome were post-apocalyptic. In Mad Max, Max was a police officer in a collapsing dystopian Australia, after a nuclear war and environmental disasters had just started to take effect.
  • Brazil may or may not count as this.
  • Another Terry Gilliam movie, Twelve Monkeys, definitely counts as this.
  • Countdown to Looking Glass, which is a Cold War concluding in nuclear war from the perspective of newscasters.
  • Blade Runner (less clear in the book that humans are evacuating to the off-world colonies to escape the radioactive dust in Earth's atmosphere).
  • Beneath The Planet Of The Apes: Let's just say it ends with a bang.
  • Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes: Ends with the revolution of Ape against Man.
  • Dawn of the Dead was set during the outbreak of the zombies and by the end of the movie the world is overrun, as far as we know.
  • When Worlds Collide, except shocking inattention is paid to the fact that everyone on Earth but the named cast dies in the final act.
  • The Nicolas Cage film Knowing is about a list of numbers and dates predicting disasters. Only 3 are left when the protagonist finds it, the last one predicting a solar flare that will kill everyone else alive in the planet.
  • The protagonist in The Film of the Book of The Time Machine stops by at a time where the Moon is about to fall. He then fast forwards to After the End.
  • In The Paul Newman film Quintet, a new ice age has covered the earth. It is established that Earth will continue get colder till man cannot survive, so there is no real future. Some people have decided to pass the time playing Quintet, a kind of five-man Russian roulette game.
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes place in America after it has been announced that an asteroid is going to end the world in 3 weeks.

    Gamebooks 
  • Heart of Ice is set in a world where an insane weather control AI has turned the Sahara into an icy wasteland and is otherwise wrecking the global ecosystem (except when she's terraforming new ecosystems for her own creations). While there has been no specific world-ending event, almost all of the world's governments (except for the United States) above the city-state level have collapsed, and humanity is not expected to last another century. This is part of what tempts people to try to destroy the world and make a better one with the power of the Heart of Volent.

    Literature 
  • Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Fahrenheit 451 has The Fall take place at the end of the book, with the beginning of Nuclear War between superpowers.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz is an interesting case: it begins After the End, humanity spends a few centuries rebuilding, and by the end of the book it's just before the second end.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality novel Wielding a Red Sword, the Incarnation of War deliberately brings the world to this state.
  • Peter Watts' Rifters Trilogy reads basically like the trope description. The West Coast (well, the part that isn't a four-thousand-mile-long, one-mile-deep refugee camp) is run by the power company. The East Coast is an enourmous urban sprawl run by street gangs. The bit in between is run by Kudzu-4. The currency is the Quebuck, a new drug-resistant disease breaks out every 24 hours on average, and the vestigal remains of the North American government has been reduced to sporadically napalming the whole mess just to keep things down. This is the status quo. It gets worse.
  • The Elric of Melniboné saga begins just before the end, continues through the end itself, and concludes with the beginning of a new world.
  • Literature/Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.
  • Atlas Shrugged. The trains are literally running on time at the beginning, but by the end are not running at all.
  • Millenium by John Varley. The plot involves time travellers from a future where humanity is dying out stealing replacements from the present. Towards the end , as things get worse, the surviving humans get homicidal and suicidal.
  • The War of the Worlds dips into this before the Deus ex Machina pulls us back from it; it's not for nothing that the second half of the book is called "The Earth Under the Martians".
  • Jack Vance's Dying Earth series. The sun is big, red, and going out any minute now.
  • Gene Wolfe's New Sun trilogy of novels take place a looong way in the future (the techno-fantasy "post-historical" era where Stone-Age Man, the Modern Era, and the Galaxy-Spanning Imperial Era are all lumped together as the "Age of Myth"). But it's Just Before The End - the Old Sun is dying, reduced to a naked-eye object at high noon, and the world will either enter the Ragnarok of Eternal Winter or become the Garden-World of Ushas when the New Sun is ignited. The book follows the life of Severian, the poor bastard who's the one who actually gets to decide which future will dominate.
  • The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is set in a reality where the worlds are winding down. Civilization is crashing, people are getting weird diseases, and reality itself threatens to crash together as the titular Dark Tower verges on collapse. Even once-immortal creatures—the Guardians—are all either long dead or on the verge of a madness-tinged death.
  • The Last Days, the sequel to Peeps by Scott Westerfeld subverts this. Peeps, or parasite positives, or vampires, are biting everyone. People are afraid to leave their house because there might be feral cats or worse outside. The Internet and phones are failing. Basically, it's an apocalyptic world. But, it is revealed that there is a worm under the earth that comes out every thousand years. Only music from parasite positive singers can bring the worms to the surface so they can be killed. The band involving the main characters, The Last Days, saves the day because their lead singer, Minerva, is a peep. It is never revealed how long it took for the world to be saved, though.
  • Olaf Stapleton's 1930 The First and Last Men. With its cyclic view of history and two-billion-year timespan, this happens all the time. We get details of the insoluble coal crisis that first destroyed civilization, and of the eighteenth human race as they try to seed other solar systems and wait for the sun to explode, having chosen to appreciate this tragedy as an appropriate part of the beauty of the universe. And then there's the afterword, where they're blowing each other up and eating their dead while the system is being scorched clean. Seeding work, such as it is, is done to provide any sort of purpose, and the consensus is that the species should have died in peace before it started to putrefy. Still, in their lucid moments, it is very good to have been Man.
  • The second to last segment of The Last Question takes place just before the heat death of the universe. The last segment is After the End. It gets recreated, though.
    • The Last Question is "How do you reverse entropy?" The answer: "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" And there was light-
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer. In this book, an asteroid has hit the moon, causing mass climate change. Infrastructure is failing, and there is a horrible flu going around.
  • On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Set in a world where a nuclear war has contaminated the entire northern hemisphere with radioactive fallout slowly being spread around the world by stratospheric winds, the book narrates the Australian population's attempts to live out their last days in joy. The book ends with most Australians taking their suicide-pills once radiation levels reach lethal levels.
  • The Arcia Chronicles are not set before The End of the World as We Know It per se but rather before the Final Battle. However, in that series, said battle can very well turn into the apocalypse. Although Normal People are still not aware of their impending doom, the knowledgeable characters all comment that their chances of victory are very slim. At one point, some characters visit another world that has lost its Final Battle and was devastated. They actually get to see its end in a vision. Let's just say that the local Physical God of War was nearly driven insane by said vision.
    • This motif is even more omnipresent in the author's next project, Reflections of Eterna, where the end of the world is already set in stone, and there's no escape, since it's already been postponed once. The bad news is that nobody (except a couple of aliens who are forbidden to communicate with anyone) on that world knows about the impending catastrophe and everyone happily contributes to its end. That Eterna is Low Fantasy, as opposed to Arcia's High Fantasy, probably contributes.
  • The Enemies Foreign and Domestic series by Matt Bracken.
  • The Robert A. Heinlein short story "Year of the Jackpot" takes place in 1952 when a confluence of the cycles of human civilization are causing humanity to go crazy. There is horrible weather, a nuclear war, and just when things are looking up, the sun goes nova.
  • Children Of Men by PD James (later filmed) starts with the world where there hasn't been a birth for eighteen years, and everyone knows this is the end. It's mentioned that examples of human culture and knowledge are being sealed in vaults to preserve them, if there's ever anything else to find them.
  • The Word and the Void trilogy by Terry Brooks takes place Just Before the End, about 50 years before the impending fall of civilization; the follow-up, Genesis of Shannara, takes place during The End of the World as We Know It. His Shannara series takes place After the End, in a new habitable world.
  • The looming specter of The Others in A Song of Ice and Fire seems to indicate that the entire plot so far amounts to mere squabbles in the face of a truly cataclysmic future The Magic Comes Back scenario. “Winter is coming” indeed.
  • Sunshine has the protagonist facing a very bleak future for humanity in the face of the oncoming vampire and other paranormal creatures' onslaught.
  • Reckless Sleep is set in a future where a nuclear detonation on the floor of the ocean has torn the tectonic plates to pieces. By the start of the novel, the west coast of the United States is underwater with the east not far behind. The people that are left struggle through a miserable existence of constant earthquakes and volcanic ash clouds, seeking escape from the tiny living spaces, reprocessed food and rampant crime with the use of drugs and VR simulators. The whole of society has crossed the Despair Event Horizon because the world is eventually doomed to total collapse, and two missions to colonise a distant planet have ended in disaster.
  • Spin starts with Earth becoming covered by a bubble that blocks all light, except for the Sun. It's later discovered that time inside the bubble passes much slower than outside. For every second inside, roughly 3 years pass outside. The people quickly realize that this means that, in 50 years' time, billions of years will pass in the universe, and the Sun will expand to consume the Earth. Amazingly, the fact that nobody can really see the Sun expand (except for NASA, who keep sending probes outside the bubble) means that most people just get on with their lives, although many turn to religion to find comfort.
  • The 2012 novel The Last Policeman takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future, with the title protagonist investigating a suicide that he thinks is a murder ... only no one really cares because an asteroid will hit the earth in six months, and everybody will be dead.
  • In the short story Last Contact by Stephen Baxter the Big Rip is coming to destroy the universe, we know when the last particle of matter will be destroyed by the trillionth second and we can't do anything about it.
  • Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card originally portrays a world Twenty Minutes into the Future, where humanity is recovering from an ecological catastrophe brought on by pollution and wars. The rainforest is being restored, farms are producing food, and the atmosphere of hope is in the air. Later, it's revealed that it's all propaganda. The efforts are failing, the rainforest is still dying off, and all available farmland is being used but the governments are already dipping into the reserves. To top it off, global cooling has been detected, which will result in a new Ice Age. Humans will survive, and nature will recover, but attempts to rebuild civilization will fail, as all easily-reachable resources necessary for progress have already been mined out. Long story short, humanity is destined to be thrown back to the Stone Age and stay there. Facing these prospects, the protagonists decide that Time Travel may be the only solution. However, the insist on world-wide referendum in an aversion of The Time Traveller's Dilemma (scientists have determined that as soon as the time travelers go into the past, the current timeline will be replaced with everyone in it never having existed).
    • Worse, with their past-viewing machine, they determine that theirs is not the original timeline. Apparently, an ever worse history led to the same bleak future and required temporal intervention, resulting in the current state of the world. According to the epilogue, this change appears to have succeeded in averting the disaster.
  • The Laundry Series is rapidly approaching Case Nightmare Green, the point at which a great many Eldritch Abominations will be dropping by to eat everyone's brains.
  • Nightfall by Isaac Asimov is a rare non-dystopian example. The world of Kalgash (Lagash in the original short story) is a pretty decent place to live, with a technology level about equal to Mid 20th Century America. The main difference between it and Earth is that there are 6 suns in the sky, and darkness is all but unknown on the world. Then an Apocalypse Cult gains power, claiming that "nightfall" is coming, and it will signal The End of the World as We Know It. Later, astronomers from a major University confirm this, citing the discovery of a previously unknown planet which will eclipse the main sun at a time when it is the only one visible from that hemisphere. The short story ends with night falling for the first time in over 2000 years, and people going mad all over the planet. The novel continues past that point, going a few months into After the End.
  • The first section of The Stand (which is long enough to be a book in itself, at least in the uncut version) describes the spread of the devastating Captain Trips virus, and the U.S. government's ultimately futile attempt to contain it. When the book starts, the world is doing fine. By the end of the first section, 99.4% of people in the United States (and probably the world) have been wiped out.
  • In The True Meaning of Smekday, the earth has been invaded by aliens called the Boov who have put all humans on reservations. Then the Bigger Bad, the Gorg arrive and are even more ruthless than the Boov. The story is about Gratuity Tucci, who is trying to find her mother during this. The trope ends up being averted, since the Gorg takeover is thwarted by the end of the book.
  • Jane Gaskell's Atlan series takes place in the final days of Atlantis, though this is not made explicit until the last book, Some Summer Lands. Thus, the world is simultaneously an elder Earth and a dying Earth.

    Live Action TV 
  • A few episodes of Sliders dealt with alternate Earths that were about to end. The Sliders sometimes found ways to save them, sometimes not.
  • From The Twilight Zone, "The Midnight Sun" is the story of a young woman and her elderly neighbor trying to survive in their apartment building as the Earth slowly drifts closer to the Sun, causing extreme climate change. She has to deal with day to day life in the increasingly deserted city, extreme thirst and heat, and crazed, murderous people just desperate to survive. It's actually just a fever-dream. In the real world, the Earth is slowly drifting away from the Sun, causing it grow colder and darker...
    • Which is actually better, because it's a lot easier to keep a shelter warm in a cold environment than vice versa. At least a few thousand people could survive on an Earth with no solar energy at all from geothermal and nuclear power.
    • The episode "Third from the Sun" takes place just before a nuclear war. A scientist and a test pilot steal an experimental spacecraft an use it to get themselves and their families off the doomed planet. The episode ends with them escaping and heading to their destination, a planet called Earth.
  • The first couple scenes of the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries and the TV Movie The Plan.
    • Caprica counts as well, although it's 58 years before the Fall and the characters have absolutely no idea of what's about to happen to them.
  • The Day After; which at its end shows the horrors of life the titular day After the End. Threads went further to 10 years after the end.
  • For most of the fifth season Supernatural appears to be doing this: Lucifer is unrolling his apocalypse across the globe, at a very slow pace, the humans are starting to notice something's going on, and Sam and Dean have no foreseeable way to prevent the end of the world. Then they do, of course.
  • The Speculative Documentary Supervolcano starts out After the End (the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera), then flashes back to five years before the end, and eventually catches up to the present story.
  • The Doctor Who three-parter beginning with "Utopia" has this: in "Utopia", humans are the last alive in a dying universe, and things are going to Hell pretty quickly. There only hope is a rocket to a place called Utopia. they wind up adrift in space. In the next episode, it's revealed that the Master's "little friends" the Toclafane are actually sadistic and evolved, or perhaps devolved, humans. "The skies are made of diamonds" indeed.
  • Now officially averted Bad Future from Fringe episode "The Day We Died". Parallel universe is destroyed and now primary world is slowly consumed by fringe events. Special opening had "Hope" and "Water" in its usual Mad Science topics list.
  • In the Dollhouse episode "Epitaph One" we're firmly in After the End territory, but through flash-back we get to see what it was like just before it all went to Hell. We have a scene up in DeWitt's office, the roar of panicked mobs and sirens in the background, while Dominique relates how random imprints are spreading like wild-fire, possibly as a form of suicide.
    • Then in season 2 the viewer is treated to seeing just how it all led up to it...

    Music 
  • Musical example: David Bowie, "Five Years" (from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars).
  • "Here Comes the Flood" by Divine Comedy.
  • Most of Jethro Tull's album, "Stormwatch". In particular, the songs "Dark Ages" & "Something's On The Move".
  • "Tomorrow Never Comes" by VNV Nation.
  • "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" by The Mountain Goats, in which the world is being slowly overrun by Eldritch Abominations but civilization is still halfway functional, and the narrator is waiting for the day when they strike their final blow.
  • The album "Year Zero" by Nine Inch Nails, particularly the final song Zero Sum.
  • In "Just The Flu" by NOFX the human race is about to become extinct in two weeks time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Old World of Darkness was taking place just before five or so ends, depending on which specific game you were playing.
  • Exalted and Warhammer40k are also prime examples.
    • Albeit with most races having tiny light at the end of the tunnel, and many of them are aware of this slim chance. The Emperor's possible revival for mankind, the slumbering Eldar god's awakening, the full force of the Tyranid hive fleets. Of course, any one of those happening means all the other races get After The Ended.
    • Exalted has at least four possible Ends coming up: the Yozis breaking out of hell (which would resemble a cross between a nuclear war and a planet-sized child jumping on human ants), Oblivion swallowing everything, the world being unmade into the Wyld, or - quite possibly worst of all - the Solars regaining their ancient power and hubris. Over in Autochthonia, at the current pace it's only a matter of time before the Great Maker dies and consigns most of his people to horrible death.
  • Magic: The Gathering's Fallen Empires expansion, which takes place after the Brothers' War but before the Ice Age.
    • For M:TG's many planes (but particularly Dominaria) this is a horrific, cyclic trope.
    • New Phyrexia was originally slated to be the first set in it's block, showing After the End of the Phyrexian invasion of Mirrodin. Instead, the devs decided to shift it to the last set of the block, allowing players to live through the struggle (going as far as to make another, fake set titled "Mirrodin Pure" to psych people out).
  • The Dying Earth RPG by Pelgrane Press, based on the Jack Vance novels.
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Fearful Passages, adventure "Slow Boat". The far future setting where the PCs end up, complete with a large orange dying sun and a population made up of necromancers and zombies.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Mayfair Games' Role Aids supplement Lizardmen. When the Meraska Empire fell some of its lizardmen escaped into an alternate dimension which entirely consists of a vast plain dotted with the ruins of ancient cities under a a dim sun dying of old age.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: An alternate 3rd edition Krynn has a universe where Raistlin wins, and players pass through a world which is gradually being destroyed by magically-enhanced storms.

    Video Games 
  • NieR is set in a world that is slowly dying despite everyone's best efforts to hang on. Then at the end of the game, the main character inadvertently destroys the last thread of hope.
  • The Deus Ex series take place before, during, and after a cataclysm that all but wipes out the human race.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Life was still going on, though the people were aware of the impending Colony Drop and many had plans of evacuation (as if anywhere would be safe) and others were in denial. No Dystopia or Crapsack World yet, but the world of Termina is very much aware that it has three days to live.
  • Gears of War: The locust have destroyed all human goverment presence on the planet Sera except the Jacinto Plateau, which they break into before the first game starts.
  • Half-Life 2: Thanks to the Combine's suppression field, the youngest people on Earth are twentysomethings, and the Combine are slowly but surely intent on turning everyone into either a soldier for them, or the horrifying creatures known as Stalkers. But that's not all! Cut content from the game showed (and hints can still be found) that the Combine is also draining Earth's oceans and replacing its air with a toxic gas.
  • Final Fantasy VII hits this once Meteor gets summoned and the WEAPONs start showing up.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. After 500 years of the world being filled with Chaos, Lightning wakes up to find out that the world only has 13 days left before it is destroyed and the new world is created for people to live in. Lightning has to guide souls to this new world while she still can, but she can extend the time by doing certain quests. But eventually the world will still end.
  • The later games in the Command & Conquer Tiberium series start heading in this direction, with GDI gradually losing the war to contain the spreading Tiberium.
    • By the time Tiberium Wars takes place, GDI has actually made some progress in removing Tiberium thanks to its new sonic weaponry. Then the aliens show up. The sonic weaponry turns out to be very effective against them, which is pretty appropriate given that it subsequently turns out that they were the ones who created the stuff to soften us up pre-invasion, and it's under control as of Command and Conquer 4. And then the spread of Tiberium is halted, and Nod is gone as of the end of that game. They're going to be alright.
  • The colony mission to eponymous star system in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is sent exactly because even despite there's enough goodwill to build and man the ship, this is quite possibly the last coherent effort at international cooperation, people are already aware things aren't going to end well, and the environment is coming apart at the seams.
    • Also, by communicating with Planet, you eventually find out that the next great extinction cycle that periodically sweeps clean all the life on the world is about to come. It is possible to avoid it, however, and in fact end the cycle permanently, creating a paradise world.
    • The intro to Alpha Centauri shows large flashes visible on the surface of Earth, implying a nuclear exchange of some kind.
      • Confirmed in the novels that flash wars were breaking out across the planet with liberal use of high-yield explosive devices.
    • Mentions that Earth actually crossed into After the End territory are the complete failure to communicate with it over the following centuries, and the hypothesis raised in one of the epilogues that all Earth humans died out.
  • Earth 2150 is an RTS with the goal of gathering enough resources to get off the planet before it blows. Mission environments and shots of the globe start with winter, slowly moving on to spring, summer, Sahara and Venus. It's quite effective since the game's non-linear enough that keeping up with the schedule is your concern.
    • The mostly-unknown predecessor Earth 2140 also qualifies, as the two main factions are fighting over the dwindling resources of the planet.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines takes place just before Gehenna, i.e. the end of the Old World of Darkness.
  • Pathologic : The mysterious town the game takes place in evokes this everywhere you tread. But the real truth behind it is actually far more complicated.
  • Fate Of The World charges you with stopping - or maybe trying to stop - catastrophic Global Warming.
  • Though most Shin Megami Tensei games are set After the End, Devil Survivor is all about the lead-up; whether said End happens or not is dependent on the player's choices.
  • The first two Resistance games (as well as the Gaiden Game).
  • A political version of this occurs in Oblivion. It's hinted at the end of the game that the loss of the Septim dynasty is going to seriously alter the geopolitical state of the world, because the Empire won't have a leader. As revealed inSkyrim, the hints were correct.
    • Also hinted at in Morrowind with regard to the effects of the Tribunal dying off and the effect it would have on the Ministry of Truth. Sure enough, between Oblivion and Skyrim the magic holding the Ministry aloft failed and Vivec was wiped off the map.
  • Phantasy Star II. While giving many of the details would be highly spoileriffic, there's a reason that it's subtitled The End of the Lost Age. Even in the beginning, it's clear that the people in the cities are blissfully goofing off while bandits and accidental releases from the Biosystems Lab rule the wilderness, the planetary weather control systems are breaking down, and the Motavia government has a grand total of one agent (and a few volunteers who hear about his efforts and offer their assistance) to send to deal with the problems of an entire planet. It gets worse.
  • Wild ARMs 2. Irving Vold Valeria and Vinsfeld Rhadamanthys conspire to forcibly unite the world's people either through being conquered via by a terrorist army or by bringing the world together to defeat said terrorist army, so that they could be ready to face an entire Eldritch Abomination universe, "Kuiper Belt", that consumes entire other universes. And it's also no wonder that playing with so many highly dangerous toys actually awakens more Eldritch Abominations they hadn't yet planned on facing, including the actual Body Snatcher Big Bad, Lord Blazer.
  • Super Mario Galaxy. At the end of the game, the universe is actually destroyed in a supermassive black hole. It is reborn again as a new universe, but never exactly the same way it was before. Word of God is that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is in the reborn universe.
  • There is a very apocalyptic gloom throughout the final act of Dragon Age II, so much that even the resident Cloudcuckoolander Merrill lampshades it, saying "It feels like something is ending". Aveline tries to reassure her that it's gonna be alright, but neither of them is right: it's not alright but the world didn't end... yet.
  • Mass Effect 3 takes place during the opening stages of the Reaper invasion. Things are still running, but planets all over the galaxy are under siege. The entire game is a desperate struggle to find a way to stop the Reapers before they break the back of galactic resistance, and the Reapers are winning for most of the game.
  • Dark Souls: If it isn't After the End, it's this. The First Flame is dying, and when it goes out, nobody knows exactly what will happen. The world suffers through long, cold nights. All throughout the world, humans are being turned into mindless undead called Hollows, and many kingdoms (including Lordran, the setting for the game) have either collapsed or are holding on by a thread. And that's before we get into the monsters, demons, and other nasties roaming the earth.
  • Like the page quote, Team Fortress 2 has the Soldier's quote: "Last one alive, lock the door!"
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron focuses on the Autobots and Decepticons attempts to gather enough energon to escape Cybertron before the planet shuts down.
  • X3: Albion Prelude takes place during the final months of the X-Universe, as the jump gate network begins to shut itself down to slow the spread of the Xenon fleets and to stop the apocalyptic war between the Argon Federation and Terran State.

    Webcomics 
  • A world like this is briefly shown in the Sluggy Freelance mini-arc "The Fall," where we see what the Dimension of Pain was like just before the demons conquered it.
  • Homestuck starts in a peaceful Earth... but it's not long before we find out that there's at least one meteor en route. The Earth does not survive.
  • The prologue for Stand Still Stay Silent starts just as a highly infective but otherwise harmless illness is breaking out. The rest of the comic takes place ninety years later.
    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Generator Rex takes place five years after a nanite plague exploded across the world and began to mutate the ecosystem. By the start of the series, the human population's gradually dwindling away as people randomly transform into monstrous evos (since everyone's been infected, sooner or later everyone changes) and much of the world has been overrun and lost to normal humans. The situation has grown so desperate that Providence, a borderline Knight Templar organization devoted to fighting the evos and finding a cure for the plague, has the authority to nuke major cities (such as New York) if necessary.
    • To put this into perspective, consider that the population of Beijing, China, in Generator Rex, is around 15 million. Present day Beijing has a population of approximately 18 Million
  • When the Wind Blows was about a naive elderly couple preparing for, then attempting to survive a nuclear attack.

    Real Life 
  • For all of recorded history, basically every generation has been positive that The End is upon them, generally due to current events that, at the time, seemed nigh-certain to lead to the collapse of society at best, and the destruction of life on earth at worst. The Great War and the following Plague, the Great Depression, World War II, the spectre of nuclear war that hovered over the Cold War, and now the twin terrors of religious extremism/terrorism and environmental destruction/degradation.
  • The Roman Empire did not end with a bang in 476. The empire had been decaying at least since the mid-third century, and possibly even earlier than that. There was one last attempt to prevent utter collapse under Constantine, but those citizens of the Empire who lived after him (especially after 410) must have been aware that the Roman Empire was doomed. Unless they heeded the Latin motto "carpe diem" - evil emperors and invading barbarians don't harass you 24/7.
    • The eastern part of the empire (usually called the Byzantine Empire today, but still known as the Roman Empire to its inhabitants) survived the cataclysms that brought down the western Roman Empire in the fifth century, though it too had a protracted Just Before the End period. For the last two centuries of its existence, it barely held on after being fatally weakened by the Fourth Crusade, falling to the Turks in 1453.
  • Neither did the Soviet Union in 1991. The entire decade of the 1980s was USSR running on momentum of years past, its shortcomings accumulating into a rolling snowball. Its rump, the Russian Federation, was barely functional from its very beginning.
  • This can be the personal case for people with terminal diseases who have been given an estimate of how long is left before their death.

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