[[quoteright:320:[[Film/{{Alien}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Precursor_2295.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:320:One relic they always leave behind is a sense of wonder.]]

->''"They left our planets long ago\\
The Elder Race still learn and grow\\
Their power grows with purpose strong\\
To claim the home where they belong."''
-->-- '''Music/{{Rush}}''', "2112"

Precursors, a.k.a. "Ancients", "Elders" or "Old Ones", are a standard of ScienceFiction (especially SpaceOpera), fantasy and occasionally {{Horror}}: an ancient race whose culture and knowledge rose to its pinnacle in ages long past but which is no longer present.

In ScienceFiction, they [[AncientAstronauts may have visited Earth]] and/or other worlds but they would remain a mystery. They are considered the ''first'' species to have technology, [[SufficientlyAdvancedAlien making them godlike]]. In fantasy, they will usually be the forerunners created by gods/God, mighty in deeds and magic. At the height of their civilisation, Precursors might have created intelligent species or reworked entire worlds with a snap of a finger. Any strange and persistent mystery in the story's [[TheVerse 'verse]] [[AWizardDidIt is usually laid at their feet]].

Predecessors now leave behind nothing but [[AdvancedAncientAcropolis tantalizing ruins]] and rare, sometimes incomprehensible [[LostTechnology artifacts]] and [[PointlessDoomsdayDevice dangerous weapons]]. Just why, no one knows. Perhaps they [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence Ascended To A Higher Plane Of Existence]], succumbed to decadence or were wiped out by [[{{Gotterdammerung}} a disaster or war]], or maybe they just relocated ''en masse'' to ''somewhere else'' where they haven't been found yet.

Whatever the reason, they set the stage for the modern world, left behind a few {{MacGuffin}}s and surprises for the heroes and villains to find, and then conveniently [[NeglectfulPrecursors got out of the way]]. And then there are the times where they themselves are the reason everything's gone to hell, [[AbusivePrecursors and they intend to keep it that way]]. If the Precursors implemented a plan that, whether they still exist or not, still influences outcomes, then they are also PowersThatBe.

Sometimes the Precursors can be rediscovered; this is often regarded as a bad move, especially by the Precursors themselves. This also applies to the audience: the romance of Precursors can be easily shattered by giving too much away.

[[ThePointsMeanNothing Bonus points]] if [[HumanitysWake Earth Humans are Precursors and their incredibly human descendants try to rediscover their heritage]], or conversely, if Earth Humans are the only descendants. If Humans are the Precursors, that's AdvancedAncientHumans. If everyone's ''scared'' of them, that's HumansAreCthulhu. If they pick on their descendants, that's AbusivePrecursors; if they couldn't care less about anyone else, it's NeglectfulPrecursors; if they help their descendants, it's BenevolentPrecursors. If there's one or more race that played {{Precursors}} to the {{Precursors}}, then they're RecursivePrecursors. Any and all of these are susceptible to AwakeningTheSleepingGiant. If they gave their tech or it's being used by another race, it's LowCultureHighTech. Very often, their most powerful technology will [[SufficientlyAdvancedBambooTechnology appear deceptively primitive and/or ceremonial]]. If everyone gets into an argument over their leftover toys, you have an ArchaeologicalArmsRace on your hands.

Very commonly used to {{justif|iedTrope}}y RubberForeheadAliens: everyone was made from a common template by the Precursors, so they look pretty similar.

Compare/contrast with SufficientlyAdvanced, SpaceElves, TheFairFolk, EldritchAbomination.

Not to be confused with the space flight sim, ''VideoGame/ThePrecursors''.

!!And now, young one, behold the legacy of those who were here before you:


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Anime/HeroicAge'', the precursors (known as the "Golden Tribe") was the source of many wonders; giving birth to stars, discovering the [[FasterThanLightTravel Star Way]] which connects all stars, as well uplifting several races. In time they eventually undertook a journey out of their home galaxy and into a new one. The story is about how the lesser races cope with the "Golden Tribe's" absence.
* In the ''Manga/SoulHunter'' manga, five aliens, The First People, came to Earth millions of years ago after their home planet self-destructed. All but [[SealedEvilInACan one]] merged with the earth and its life forms to spread their blood, leaving behind the first seven paopei (magical weapons used in the series) from which all others would be copied.
* In ''Anime/LastExile'', this turned out to be the answer to all the mysteries (and [[KudzuPlot there were plenty]]). That one gets [[TransplantedHumans full bonus points]], too.
* The ''Anime/{{Macross}}'' series has the Protoculture, who are apparently responsible for everything that happens in the Milky Way: [[spoiler:humans, Zentradi, and a multitude of other species across the galaxy were all created and seeded by them, and [[Anime/MacrossZero the Birdman]] was made by them in an attempt to mimic [[Anime/MacrossFrontier the Vajra]]. Moreover, they "created" (it's a bit more complex than that) [[Anime/{{Macross7}} the Protodeviln]], who pushed them to the brink of extinction before being defeated.]]
** About the only thing the Protoculture didn't have a hand in creating are the Vajra of ''Anime/MacrossFrontier'', and that's because [[spoiler:the Vajra are ''even older''. The Protoculture based some of their most advanced technology (such as Space Folding) after the Vajra's biological systems. The Vajra themselves seem to primarily take a "live and let live" attitude towards other intelligent species; the fact that they don't have a clear means of communication probably has a lot to do with this.]]
* In ''Franchise/LyricalNanoha'', the lost civilization of [[SpellMyNameWithAnS Al Hazard/Alhazred]], whose artifacts and technologies were considered [[LostTechnology Lost Logia]] even back in the era of [[TheEmpire Ancient Belka]].
* In ''Anime/TheMysteriousCitiesOfGold'' the Mu Empire and {{Atlantis}} developed highly advanced society and technology but were wiped out, along with [[SchizoTech (most of)]] their technology, by a nuclear war.
* In ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'', the First Ancestral Race (FAR) dropped Black and White Eggs (Adams and Liliths) on several planets. No planet was supposed to get more than one Egg, but because we got two, we got the inter-egg wars that compose the series proper (Lilith's children vs. Adam's children). The First Ancestral Race were never mentioned in the show itself, [[AllThereInTheManual but is referred to]] in the early scripts and gets a bit more fleshed out in the ''Neon Genesis Evangelion 2'' UsefulNotes/PlayStation2 game that served as supplemental material.
** A precursor race is vaguely alluded to in episode 21, where Gendo points out to Fuyutsuki that "someone, who was ''not us''" left behind the geofronts found under Antarctica and Japan.
** What allows them to escape being considered [[NeglectfulPrecursors neglectful]] is that they sent a contingency against "inter-egg wars" - the Spear of Longinus, which can best be described as some sort of control rod which deactivates the egg it is attached to. Both Eggs had a Spear but Lilith's was lost on impact; Adam was the first to find Earth, but upon Lilith's unexpected landing, his Spear activated and sealed him; so, technically, everything worked just as expected. [[NiceJobBreakingItHero It's not their fault the Lilim decided to yank Adam's Spear]].
** The reason they aren't around anymore? [[spoiler:They sacrificed themselves to provide the souls needed to create new life.]]
* In ''Manga/OutlawStar'', an ancient race is revealed to be responsible for the Galactic Leyline, yet another of the many {{Sequel Hook}}s in the last episode.
* ''Anime/TheVisionOfEscaflowne'' -- The people of Atlantis created fate-altering technology and the "zone of absolute fortune". They were responsible for the creation of the world of Gaea. In the end they were destroyed by the "zone", so it did not quite live up to its name.
* The as-of-yet unnamed Ancient Kingdom in ''Manga/OnePiece'' fits this bill. Dating back from the Void Century, they were incredibly powerful, but later fell to the alliance which later became the World Government. Nonetheless, they left their Phoneglyphs all over the world, chronicling the events of the Void Century, which has become Nico Robin's goal.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In the Franchise/MarvelUniverse, the race of giant Celestials have influenced many planets, including Earth. They wear strange suits of armor, giving the impression that they are mechanical, but that's not the case. They also test races and civilisations according to their standards to see who are worthy. In addition, there are also the Elders of the Universe, a loose associations of beings who all are The LastOfTheirKind, and who hail from the first intelligent races to develop in the universe. They are less active, though, since they are all obsessed with one narrow hobby which apparently is the only thing that keeps them from dying of sheer boredom. The Grandmaster may be interested in the gaming and gambling habits of various lesser races, for instance, but couldn't care less about any aspects of their culture that has nothing to do with his obsession with games.
** There is also the race know as the Watchers, who ''started'' to do something similar, but got cold feet when early interference with a much more primitive race led to horrible wars. They have sworn to not interfere with their nigh godlike powers, only record what happens. (The Watcher appointed to Earth is a juvenile delinquent who breaks this rule regularly, but surreptitiously, so as to not get in trouble with his kind.)
* In the Franchise/DCUniverse, the Malthusians were one of the earliest sentient races in the universe. They went on to become the Guardians of the Universe. And the Controllers, and the Zamarons, and Krona. They run the gamut of precursor subtropes.
* There's also the Old Gods, precursors of Jack Kirby's Fourth World beings. They are actually older than the DC Universe, and are said to have caused the destruction of the one before.
* The Merk in ''Nexus'' are or were a race of extremely psychically gifted and technologically advanced aliens who left the galaxy and, apparently, their bodies, behind. One of them remained behind, however, and empowered the eponymous hero.
* The High Ones of ''ComicBook/ElfQuest'' surely qualify (even though they have known descendants), because none of the protagonist elves know much about them, and their powers and origins are a great mystery when the series begins.
* It is hinted that [[PhysicalGod Dr. Manhattan]] will [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence go on to do this]] [[spoiler: after the events of ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' somewhere else in the universe, or in another one of his own creation]].
* In ''ComicBook/GoldDigger'', finding the various precursor civilizations is Gina's job. Of course, she usually ends up encountering the stuff left behind, and occasionally bringing it home.

* ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'' alludes to the Celestials as a matter of course, as well as making vaguer allusions to Atlantis before it sunk below the waves.
* It is common in MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic fanfiction to speculate about some sort of precursors. Frequent culprits are a long since destroyed dragon civilization, a civilization full of alicorns, and humans.
** [[Fanfic/TheWritingOnTheWall The Writing On The Wall]] features AdventurerArchaeologist Daring Do and a team of workers excavating an AncientTomb built with extremely advanced masonry, far in advance of even what ponies could do in the present - but the building has been dated back thousands of years before ponies first built buildings out of stone. Surrounded by metallic spikes to keep out intruders (which are, alas, easily circumvented by someone with wings) and with a room full of writing in dozens of long-lost languages, Daring Do naturally assumes that all of the rigmarole is meant to dissuade would be grave robbers. She's absolutely right. [[spoiler: Too bad that the building isn't a tomb, but a [[http://www.damninteresting.com/this-place-is-not-a-place-of-honor/ nuclear waste storage facility]] built by humans, and the attempts at dissuading future people from breaking into the place was for their own good.]]
* In the ''Fanfic/PonyPOVSeries'', there are several:
** The Centaur Empire, which was once the biggest and most advanced Empire in it's heyday [[spoiler:and predated Ponykind as a sapient species]]. Sadly, Lord Tirek is the SoleSurvivor of the Empire [[spoiler:because [[PrecursorKillers he destroyed it]]]], and he is most certainly an {{Abusive Precursor|s}}. The Empire as a whole may count as BenevolentPrecursors to a degree, as they [[spoiler:treated the then nonsapient Ponies fairly well.]]
** The Age of Myths was this to the Age of Wonders, being all of G1. The Paradise Estate Ponies in particular count as BenevolentPrecursors, as they actively defended Ponyland from any threats that may come up, including defeating Grogar every five hundred years if they couldn't keep him locked up.
** The Age of Wonders was this to the current age [[spoiler:being the My Little Pony Tales society, until it was destroyed by a Class 2 Apocalypse]]. To a degree qualifies as BenevolentPrecursors, as some of them genuinely DID try to make the future brighter for the civilization to succeed them. [[spoiler:Also count as BenevolentPrecursors to the Lost Age, which they used their wish spell to create.]]
* The Gray of [[FanFic/HiddenFrontier Star Trek: Hidden Frontier]] are [[spoiler:set up to be precursors of some kind, but it turns out they're actually artificial life forms built by actual precursors, of whom Siroc, the BigBad, is the last one left.]]
* In ''Fanfic/ShepardsRR'', when [[Franchise/MassEffect Commander Shepard]] asks [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic Princess Celestia]] about the fantastical abilities of the Equestrians, Celestia smiles and cryptically states that "their Mother shaped them that way." When Shepard learns [[spoiler: the fact that Equestrian DNA is shows almost-impossible levels of [[GeneticEngineeringIsTheNewNuke genetic engineering]]]], Shepard concludes that this "Mother" must have been one.
* ''FanFic/MegaManRecut'' has the Vannu'bi, an ancient civilization that existed on a small remote island and were apparently destroyed by a volcanic eruption. They may have been AbusivePrecursors, since they're architecture describes them as constantly warring with other civilizations and making deals with an EldritchAbomination.
* In ''FanFic/KingOfKingsRulingOverRulers'' (a Franchise/HarryPotter fanfic), the Atlantean Empire served as this to all the civilizations after the Great Cataclysm.
* In the Franchise/HarryPotter fanfic FanFic/DominusMundiTheKingOfKings (which is a reboot of the above fanfic), the Altantean Empire also serves as the precursor to all the modern civilizations.

* One of the most widely known Precursor stories is ''Film/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey'', where they are also (presumably) EnergyBeings who guided human evolution.
* In ''Film/AVPAlienVsPredator'', the Franchise/{{Predator}}s are {{retcon}}ned to being responsible for teaching humans how to build, farm and write, all so they could have people to sacrifice as part of their barbaric rites of passage.
* ''Film/{{Contact}}''. The alien says that the PortalNetwork used by the protagonist was not built by them, but by a long-disappeared race.
* The Mondoshawans in ''Film/TheFifthElement'' based on their representation apply to this trope aswell, at least to a certain degree.
* ''Film/{{Alien}}'' has the barely-featured Space Jockey's species, which the ExpandedUniverse claims is responsible for the creation of both humanity and the Xenomorphs. ''Film/{{Prometheus}}'' clears this up a bit: the "Engineers", as they are called, apparently seeded life on Earth in prehistoric times. Whether this was done by just one Engineer or a collective is not clarified; the characters think it was all of them. They also intervened in some [[AncientAstronauts ancient cultures]], leaving clues in bas-relief and cave-painting form, pointing to a planet in a certain star system, about 34 LY from Earth. [[spoiler: The movie makes it clear that about 2000 years ago, they changed their mind about us for some reason and decided to exterminate humanity; the planet in question was one of their outposts, from where ships carrying biological weapons (much like the Xenomorphs) were to be [[AbusivePrecursors sent to cleanse the Earth of life]]. The only thing that saved us was the fact that the monsters escaped captivity and killed the Engineers at the outpost. All except one...]]
** The implication is there that they did indeed create the Xenomorphs as the perfect biological nuke.
* The Krell of ''Film/ForbiddenPlanet'', who created the huge machine powered by near limitless energy beneath the planet's surface. The machine was meant to read their conscious thoughts and create or manipulate everything they wished so that they could be free from dependence upon instrumentality. They were all killed in a single night by their own primitive subconscious thoughts which they'd unknowingly let loose with the machine's completion.
* ''Film/AIArtificialIntelligence'' has a twist on this in its final act, in that [[spoiler: humans have become extinct and are now viewed as an ancient and wise precursor race by the robots who have inherited the planet]].

* Creator/HPLovecraft loved this trope and his works arguably served as an early TropeCodifier. See for example "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Shadow Out of Time" and "At the Mountains of Madness". In "At the Mountains of Madness" [[spoiler:Old Ones colonized the Earth two billion years ago and sowed the seeds of all advanced life on the planet]]. The Mi-Go of "The Whisperer in Darkness" may precede the existence of the universe itself. Lovecraft usually concentrated more on the ''lore'' of his Precursors rather than their physical objects. In his work, the Precursors sometimes remain on Earth, hidden, in outer space or in a space adjacent to our cosmos, ready to return at any time. The "Franchise/CthulhuMythos" codified by his friend and admirer Creator/AugustDerleth builds on this. (Lovecraft himself did not use the term "Cthulhu mythos".)
* Andy [=McDermott=]'s action-adventure novels. The first is called ''The Hunt for Atlantis'' and is centered around, oddly enough, a hunt for Atlantis. As the series goes on, other mythical items are 'explained' as advanced technology stemming from the Atlanteans. [[spoiler:As the series goes on even further, the characters stumble across the Garden of Eden, which is the final resting place of a pre-human civilisztion which was driven to extinction by their human slaves, who stole certain technologies and fled. The Atlanteans are then revealed to have been the result of cross-breeding between those prehumans and the humans, causing the reader to re-evaluate the "it came from Atlantis" explanation.]]
* The Ancients of Piers Anthony's Literature/{{Cluster}} series and the demons of the Literature/{{Xanth}} novels, amongst them, of course, Xanth himself.
* There was a (unfortunately) short-lived collection of short stories, branded with the name Creator/IsaacAsimov and entitled Asimov's Universe, which was notable for featuring space-faring humans alongside five other non-humanoid races. (One was something like sentient bacon.) A recurring motif were the ruins and remnants left behind of an earlier, seventh space-faring species that had since vanished.
* The Elderlings in Creator/RobinHobb's ''Literature/RealmoftheElderlings''.
* The Martians in the Literature/TakeshiKovacs books. Note: not actually from Mars; it just happened to be the first planet on which humans found their stuff.
* In David Brin's ''Literature/{{Uplift}}'' universe, every intelligent race in the galaxy was Uplifted (engineered to sentience and given access to the Great Library) by a previous one, save the first. The Progenitors (self-evolved, now extinct) are [[GodGuise considered the next thing to gods]]. A race's clout in the galactic hierarchy is in part determined by how close they are to having been created directly by the Progenitors. Then along come the Humans, who have reached the stars alone, with no patron race and a complete fossil record that indicates they evolved naturally. It's practically heretical! It doesn't help matters (from the galactic standpoint) that humans have already Uplifted chimps and dolphins, too.\\
In the second novel set in the Uplift Universe, ''Startide Rising,'' [[spoiler:the first dolphin-captained Earth ship discovers what is assumed to be a fleet of the fabled Progenitors, and must try to return to Earth while being hounded by bickering alien battle fleets after the transmission of their findings is intercepted; the most active (and warlike) of the alien races/alliances are not happy that the wolfling Humans might have the key to the fate of the Progenitors (which could prove most or all of their belief systems wrong]]. The idea that [[spoiler:humans may be the descendants or direct product of the Progenitors]] is also examined.
* In Creator/CJCherryh's ''Literature/MorgaineCycle'' the Qhal left behind a PortalNetwork of {{Cool Gate}}s, which they themselves copied from [[RecursivePrecursors a still older alien species]]. The humans who discovered this, rather than copying it like the Qhal did, are systematically ''destroying'' the network left behind by the Qhal. That's because the Gates can be used for TimeTravel, and any TemporalParadox caused by the Gates will trigger a TimeCrash which will destroy civilization on each planet with a Gate. Such a TimeCrash is precisely what wiped out the Qhal, leaving behind their Gates for humans to discover.
* Creator/AlanDeanFoster's ''Literature/HumanxCommonwealth'' series has humanity and its allies expanding into a significantly used universe, with a wide variety of species at various stages of development from primitive to superadvanced to completely extinct. Several of these, most notably the Xunca, the Tar-Aiym, and the Hur'rikku, had a profound impact on the earlier history of the galaxy and left numerous [[{{Phlebotinum}} artifacts]] [[NeglectfulPrecursors lying around]] after they variously departed. The Xunca are actually still around, but they packed up and moved to a different galaxy to avoid an encroaching EldritchAbomination that the modern day protagonists now have to deal with.
* In Creator/LarryNiven and Jerry Pournelle's novel ''Literature/{{Footfall}}'', the aliens who invade Earth are actually at a caveman level of social development; the Forerunners left carved blocks on their planet which detail everything from simple metallurgy through advanced laser weapons and Bussard ramscoops. As a result, there are many technological paths they never even thought of.
* In Creator/LarryNiven's ''Literature/KnownSpace'' universe, there are ''two'' sets of precursors. First there were the Thrintun (AKA "Slavers"), who seeded the galaxy with the ingredients of life so it would grow and evolve into unique delicacies for them to eat (being hypnotic slavers, they were defeated by the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tnuctip Tnuctipun]] in the inevitable TurnedAgainstTheirMasters, and they [[OmnicidalManiac took all sentient life with them]]. Talk about [[AbusivePrecursors bad parenting]]). Then there were the Pak, a race of more recent aliens with three life stages (child, breeder, Protector) only sentient in the third stage, and programmed to be homicidal to anything that could conceivably threaten their descendants (mutations were not recognized). Earth was a LostColony of them who couldn't advance to Protector stage when their supply of tree-of-life root ran out due to a lack of thallium in Earth's soil. They left behind lost colonies and random apelike animals all over, including [[spoiler:the Literature/{{Ringworld}}, which they had built and abandoned]].
* Creator/AndreNorton worked with this trope in both her science fiction and fantasy novels. She wrote a lot of space opera novels featuring relics of various lost civilizations, collectively called "Forerunners". She was one of the early developers of the abandoned-gateway-between-worlds idea that the ''[[Franchise/StargateVerse Stargate]]'' films and TV series are based on; one of her Forerunner cultures left behind such a network, which younger species, including humans, have started to explore.\\
In her ''Literature/WitchWorld'' fantasy novels, humans migrated to High Hallack centuries ago only to find that the Old Ones had been there before them; these NeglectfulPrecursors left behind quite a few ruins and dangerous artifacts.
* Frederik Pohl's ''Literature/HeecheeSaga'' set many of the standards for this trope. Humanity has stumbled on an space station abandoned by the local Precursors, the Heechee, and try to use the FasterThanLightTravel spacecraft left behind to search for alien artifacts to reverse-engineer. The destinations are pre-programmed and can only be accessed randomly, making exploration a dangerous crapshoot. Some of the survivors return rich; many return dead, if they return at all.
* In the Carl Sagan novel ''Literature/{{Contact}}'' and the movie based on it, an unknown ancient race of aliens built the "cosmic subway system" of wormhole transportation used to bring a single human to meet the successor aliens who inherited the system.
* In Creator/CharlesSheffield's Heritage Universe novels, the Builders left behind artifacts the size of ''planets'' -- e.g. Cocoon, the first such artifact discovered by humans, was so named because that's what it looks like if you're far enough away from the planet it surrounds. A whole discipline of {{Adventurer Archaeologist}}s exists to study Builder artifacts.
* In the Strugatsky Brothers' ''Literature/NoonUniverse'' series, the Wanderers may or may not be still active, but they fit this trope closely enough because the humans only ever find the traces of their continued and enigmatic work. They seem to be "progressing" the other civilisations, but their activities often enough utterly screw over local civilisations, though it [[OmniscientMoralityLicense might be for their ultimate good in some way anyway]].
* Creator/JRRTolkien's ''Literature/TheHobbit'' and ''Literature/LordOfTheRings'' has several.
** Some elven kingdoms are precursors to the people of Middle-Earth.
** Númenor and Arnor. Even though Gondor still exists and so Númenórean civilization is not completely gone.However, it is [[VestigialEmpire much reduced]], occupying only a small southern corner of Middle-earth. Its northern counterpart Arnor is almost entirely gone, existing only as the Shire and Bree.
** From the perspective of the modern day, the Elves of Tolkien's [[Literature/TheLordOfTheRings Middle-Earth]] are a Precursor race. Humans did not descend from them, but they've been in the world longer than anyone and have ''really'' long-lasting artifacts. Gandalf, Thorin, and Bilbo's swords in ''Literature/TheHobbit'' are all artifacts from Gondolin, a city that was destroyed roughly 6,000 years before the events of the book. Not only are they unrusted and sharp, their [[PowerGlows orc proximity alert]] is still active.
** And then there are the Woses, who are implied to be the original humans who built the first civilisations in middle earth.
* In David R. Witanowski's [[Literature/TheReynardCycle Reynard Circle]] three major civilizations have come and gone by the time period of the novels. (Possibly more than three if the fan theory that the series is set long AfterTheEnd is ever confirmed.)
** The golden skinned Telchines, a matriarchal culture that coexisted with [[OurGiantsAreBigger Giants]]. The castle of Maleperduys was built by them. Their rule came to an end rather abruptly due to...
** ...the Demons, who enslaved the world in seven days. They created the Chimera, built functional ''robots'', and would have ruled for an eternity were it not for their apparent inability to get along with each other. A civil war (implied to be nuclear) weakened them to the point that the last of them was slain by the founder of the Kingdom of...
** Aquilia, a kingdom that eventually splintered into several dozen countries after the last member of the royal family drowned at sea a thousand years prior to the beginning of the saga. They built some truly impressive structures using the technology of the Demons, but seemingly forgot how to use it as the years went by (either that, or the technology stopped working and they had no idea how to fix it.) Duke Nobel claims to be a direct descendant of the royal family, but it's unclear if this is just part of his [[VillainWithGoodPublicity public relations policy]].
* The Valheru in Creator/RaymondEFeist's ''[[Literature/TheRiftwarCycle Riftwar]]'' series.
* [[Creator/IainBanks Iain M. Banks]]'s [[Literature/TheCulture Culture]] novels are practically littered with Precursors, numerous advanced civilizations that existed in aeons past until they variously died off, [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence Sublimed]], or just plain mysteriously disappeared. These Precursors are the SufficientlyAdvancedAliens ''of'' SufficientlyAdvancedAliens, since most of Banks' protagonists themselves belong to a civilization that can casually travel across the galaxy, build gigantic habitats in space, and ''use the fabric of the Universe itself as a weapon'' -- and ''they'' are occasionally awed by the Precursors.
* In Creator/TerryPratchett's novel ''Literature/{{Strata}}'', the {{Precursors}} built the titular strata machines reverse-engineered by humans for building planets, and other techology that humans didn't already develop themselves. These planet-building (and terraforming) precursors, called "Spindles" due to their great height, had their own set, called "Rollers" who didn't make celestial bodies, but megastructures (their ship is 500,000 miles long). These guys were preceeded by "Paleotechs", whom destroyed stars to make heavy elements (and pretty nebuli). These, in turn, had "[=ChThons=]", {{Space Whale}}s who exhaled hydrogen and kindled suns. Every precursor race had some kind of celestial artwork, which they made for no other reason than a hobby, and then they went extinct, all the way back to [[spoiler: the universe being created by a multiverse-spanning MegaCorp]].
* In ''Literature/TheDarkSideOfTheSun'', the {{Precursors}} called "Jokers" were known only for the mark they made on the universe of building [[AGodAmI blatantly impossible things]] for no known reason but [[GreatGazoo the lulz]].
* Every known non-human race in Andrey Livadny's ''Literature/TheHistoryOfTheGalaxy'' series can be considered a precursor, as four of them are at least 3 millions of years old, while several others are ''billions'' of years old. Humanity is the youngest known race, even though their technology level means they are strong enough to kick everyone else's backsides should the need arise. It helps that most of those races have long ago passed the peak of the civilization. In fact, two of them spent several million years as slaves, degrading their technology to the point where they forgot about their former greatness.\\
Ironically, the race that is actually known as the Precursors (or Forerunners, as there is no official translation to English) are non-sentient proto-lifeforms which have been created by an [[EnergyBeings energy being]] (supposedly, the first being to ever gain sentience in the universe) to serve as seeds for its copies. The Precursors contained within themselves the first ever DNA molecule. The unintended side effect of this was the creation of all known organic life in the galaxy.
* Sergey Lukyanenko's ''Literature/ALordFromPlanetEarth'' series features the Seeders, mysterious ancient beings who have left highly-advanced artifacts, some of which are {{Black Box}}es, while others are understood and adapted fairly well. They have also left mysterious spherical temples on every inhabited world (except Earth). It is eventually revealed that the Seeders are [[spoiler:humans from the future, who have seeded their past with humanoid races and advanced technology to create an army to fight an extragalactic enemy (Earth was left undisturbed to avoid messing with history)]].
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's Literature/ConanTheBarbarian story "Literature/ShadowsInTheMoonlight" Olivia thinks a god had been there in [[DreamingOfTimesGoneBy times she dreamed of]], even though absent now.
-->''"The nameless, forgotten ones. Who knows? They have gone back into the still waters of the lakes, the quiet hearts of the hills, the gulfs beyond the stars. Gods are no more stable than men."''
* The Arisians feature predominantly in the ''Literature/{{Lensman}}'' series. As well being the ancestors of all species (save [[BigBad one]]), they devise a multi-eon spanning plan leading to the birth of the Children of the Lens. These five psychic superpeople will not only be able to help vanquish the enemy (a race of malevolent being hailing from another space-time continuum), but will grow in power to become greater then the Arisians themselves.
* Subverted in many of the books and stories by Creator/UrsulaKLeguin. The "Hain" are precursors who created humanoid life forms on many worlds (including earth), but they are still around and still a dominant species in interstellar society.
* The ancient race that created the warp drive in ''Literature/IntoTheLookingGlass'' by Creator/JohnRingo and Creator/TravisSTaylor after the first book. They also created a space station that can control the output of an entire star. Why? [[MundaneMadeAwesome A systemwide concert venue!]]
* In Creator/MichaelFlynn's ''[[Literature/SpiralArm The January Dancer]]'', "the folk of sand and iron."
* Steve Perry's ''Literature/MatadorSeries'' had the Zonn, a race that died out thousands of years before humanity achieved FTL. They didn't leave behind much other than interesting ruins on a number of worlds.
* The ''Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse'' has several features that are attributed to Precursor-like races. The two most prominent are the Rakata and the Celestials:
** The Rakata, who debut in ''Videogame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'', created the first modern hyperdrives, built a vast empire (though it had relatively few planets since their dark side-powered hyperdrives could only travel to worlds with a large Force presence) and created a massive orbital factory called the Star Forge which could build enough materiel to supply their entire empire.
** The Celestials lived much further in the past, circa 200,000-50,000 BBY. They created Centerpoint Station (a giant repulsor beam that created the Corellian system and is so advanced that a 25,000-year-old Galactic civilization cannot replicate or even understand how it works!) as well as the Hyperspace Triangle that bisects the galaxy (which makes galactic civilization possible), the Maw Cluster of black holes, the hyperspace anomaly that seals off the Unkown Regions and much more. The Rakata and most of the other "younger" precursor races started out as vassals of the Celestials. The Celestials were created by the EU's then-head writer Troy Denning in his novel ''The Joiner King'', and they play a key role in the backstory of Denning's MythArc that stretched from the ''Literature/DarkNestTrilogy'' to ''Literature/FateOfTheJedi''; Denning also [[ArcWelding arc welded]] them to existing elements of TheVerse such as the aforementioned Centerpoint, which debuted in ''Literature/TheCorellianTrilogy'' a decade earlier. Only in the very last book of ''Fate of the Jedi'' is their true identity revealed as [[spoiler: [[AnthropomorphicPersonification the Family of Mortis]], as seen in ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsTheCloneWars'']].
* ''The Psalms of Isaak'' has three levels of this, each filling a different precursor niche. Earliest were the [[SpaceElves Younger Gods]], who were so far in the past little of their works remain, but generally come off as BenevolentPrecursors. They were followed by the Weeping Czars, NeglectfulPrecursors who are mainly remembered for bringing the ''third'' group down on the world. That would be the [[SorcerousOverlord Wizard Kings]], very much AbusivePrecursors, though they still have worshippers in the present day of the series. The last Wizard King, Xhum Y'Zir, used a spell called the [[UnholyNuke Seven Cacaphonic Deaths]] to devastate most of the world to avenge [[DisproportionateRetribution his dead sons]], giving rise to the contemporary civilizations. The Younger Gods themselves were descended from the Elder Gods, who are hardly ever mentioned and so far into the past that they're little more than a mythical footnote, but are implied to be modern humans, or maybe our direct descendants (though EarthAllAlong is averted- the books are set in what is eventually revealed to be a LostColony, not Earth).
* In Creator/RobertAHeinlein's ''Literature/BetweenPlanets'' we have the First Empire which originated on the Fifth Planet and which became the asteroid belt. Its ruins could be found on Mars and Venus and beneath the oceans of Earth. Don Harvey's parents were doing archaeological work in ruins on Mars while Don was at BoardingSchool on Earth. While its technology was not immediately viable, records left behind contained hints to a new physics that through difficult research led to 20 g spaceships and artificial gravity. The story gave the example of reading a treatise on modern electronics being written in Sanskrit poetry being lucid in comparison.
* The Dolbrians In SA Swann's Literature/TerranConfederacy universe terraformed an unknown but large number of worlds, several of which still have star maps and/or megalithic artifacts on them. The [[ScienceMarchesOn Face on Mars]] is one such artifact. They vanished from the galaxy millions of years ago, for unknown reasons.
* The Quyans from ''Literature/TheStoneDanceOfTheChameleon'', whose civilization preceded that of the Chosen. [[spoiler:They are later revealed to actually be still around, as the Chosen's slaves called "sartlar".]]
* In ''Literature/CommonwealthSaga'', the Planters are an apparently long gone race who seeded a planet with "plants" strange combinations of organic and machine which come in ground, aquatic and orbital varieties. The humans who discovered the planet are secretly studying them - non-invasively, in case the Planters come back and are displeased that the humans have damaged their creation.
* Played with in the world of ''Literature/ThePrinceOfThorns'', with the beings referred to as "the builders", who created incredible works of technology and then disappeared. It becomes increasingly apparent that the world is ''not'' your average MedievalEuropeanFantasy, but is actually AfterTheEnd - "the builders" were us, before we nuked each other and lost most of our knowledge.
* ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'' has several in the form of the four founding races: the [[OurOrcsAreDifferent Jaghut]], [[AbusivePrecursors Forkrul Assail]], [[TheUndead T'lan Imass]], [[EverythingsBetterWithDinosaurs K'Chain Che'Malle]]; as well as the dimensional immigrants, the three [[OurElvesAreDifferent Tiste]] races.
* The ''Literature/{{Eldraeverse}}'' is littered with Precursor artifacts; there's considerable evidence that the eldrae homeworld itself - a BigDumbObject rather than a planet - is one. There's not much indication of what happened to them, and some eldrae are a bit disturbed that they're apparently the oldest of the extant young sophont species.
* The first ''Literature/{{Noob}}'' novel mentions that another sentient race, the Keosamas, existed before the Olydrians, the race that all {{Player Character}}s incarnate. Keosamas reached a high level of progress in terms of magic due to the fact that Olydri was much more hostile at the time, so they HadToBeSharp. Suriving Keosamas can be found in a legendary underwater settlement near Piratas Island.
* ''Literature/TheShatteredSea'' takes place in a Norse FantasyCounterpartCulture within a Medieval fantasy setting, which has been built on the ashes of a previous Elven civilization, which built with materials that cannot be replicated and had strange magical devices. However, it's heavily implied throughout and more or less revealed that the setting is EarthAllAlong (it's actually not a FantasyCounterpartCulture- it's actually ''in'' Scandinavia), the Elves are modern/slightly futuristic humans, and Elf Magic is just technology.
* In "[[http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/colderwar.htm A Colder War]]" by Creator/CharlesStross, Stephen Jay Gould is presenting some recent paleozoic fossils and artifacts to members of a top-secret government agency that, unknown to him, deals in [[spoiler:{{Eldritch Abomination}}s straight out of Creator/HPLovecraft]], and has been trying to keep this stuff secret from the public. When he shows them a fossil of [[spoiler: one of the "Old Ones" from ''Literature/AtTheMountainsOfMadness'']], the protagonist thinks "he's found a Predecessor, god help him."
* In ''{{Literature/Kane}}'' the last of "elder races" like the Scylredi and the Krelran, still live in degenerate forms, having forgotten their former greatness. Kane also meets Dwassllir, the last king of giants, in "Two Suns Setting".
* ''Literature/TheGam3'': The Game was created by the Predecessors and the Lords of Life as the culmination of their galaxy-spanning genocidal war. The Predecessors are still around, and are the strongest individual players in the game. The Lords of Life have barely been mentioned beyond their name.
* In the ''Literature/GentlemanBastard'' series, the Eldren dotted the continent with vast constructions of [[MadeOfIndestructium utterly indestructible]] Elderglass, far beyond the capabilities of human alchemy or magic to duplicate or alter. The entire species disappeared millennia before the beginning of the series for no known reason. [[spoiler:The Bondsmagi of Karthain believe that Eldren magic drew the attention of something terrible from beyond the stars, and take great pains to disperse their own magic to keep it from happening again.]]
* In ''Literature/TheExpanse'', [[spoiler:a precursor race once had a huge empire, and tried to colonize earth by sending a thing which can change living beings to build a portal.]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/BabylonFive'':
** The "First Ones", who have all mostly emigrated "beyond the rim of the galaxy," although some remain lurking about in known space. Lorien, ''the'' "First One," is literally the first sentient being in the galaxy.
** [[spoiler:the Vorlons and the Shadows]], which drive the main plots of the entire series, [[spoiler:have meddled extensively in the affairs of younger races.]]
** In an homage to ''Film/ForbiddenPlanet'', Epsilon 3 (the planet which Babylon 5 orbits) houses many super-advanced artifacts of a long-dead alien race.
** [[spoiler:the humans and the Minbari, who will become precursors to the future races]], as shown at the end of Season 4.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' sometimes paints the Time Lords like this. At the dawn of their civilisation, they sent a star supernova, and caged the resulting black hole to fuel their time travel. They fought several wars against other primordial races (notably the [[OurVampiresAreDifferent Great Vampires]]), driving them to virtual extinction. In at least one instance, they're suggested to have actually driven magic from the universe and the Doctor's TARDIS is frequently described as the most powerful and/or advanced ship in the universe with the Heart of the TARDIS, when harnessed by Rose Tyler, being a full on RealityWarper capable of wiping out an entire Dalek battle fleet with the wave of hand, accidentally granting someone ResurrectiveImmortality and scattering a message through time and space. If it hadn't started to burn Rose out, she'd probably have gone further. Later, [[spoiler: the Master]] jury rigged it into a machine powerful enough to hold together a paradox connecting Earth and the very end of the Universe. Furthermore, that TARDIS? By Time Lord standards, it's ''obsolete''. It was old when the Doctor found it, and other Time Lords frequently making disparaging remarks about its quality/patched together nature. They were even worshipped as gods on at least one planet, until their technological gifts [[YouAreNotReady backfired]], and they instituted a policy of non-interference. The ExpandedUniverse attributes the widespread presence of HumanAliens in the setting to them (offering multiple versions of the reasons why).
** The unseen race (otherwise known as the Disciples of the Light) who caged [[{{Satan}} the Beast]] also qualify. Bonus points for having done this before the beginning of time. Extra bonus points for the Doctor pointing out that this is both stupid and impossible. [[spoiler:But that doesn't stop it from still being true.]]
* The Eidolons from ''Series/{{Farscape}}'', who once controlled an entire galaxy through their power to induce "rationality and tranquility" in others before their near-extinction several millennia ago. For good measure, they are actually responsible for the creation of [[spoiler: the Peacekeepers and the Sebacean race as a whole, having abducted primitive humans from Earth and altered them to act as bodyguards.]]
** Subverted in the case of ''Series/{{Farscape}}'s'' Ancients, who, despite the name and their status as a DyingRace, aren't precursors at all. In fact, in spite of their impressive technology, they've actually gone out of the way to make sure that nobody knows about them unless absolutely necessary: [[spoiler: this is because they were sent from another dimension to monitor the development of wormhole technology.]]
* ''Series/RedDwarf'' postulates that all life originated on Earth; after three million years, there are many variations on sentient life -- creatures descended from genetic experiments, animals that evolved into sentient humanoids, self-sustaining races of androids, "pan-dimensional liquid beasts," etc. etc. etc.
* The ''Franchise/StargateVerse'' has no less than five different precursor races. The gate network itself was created by one such race, named (creatively) the Ancients, though they later are discovered to have called themselves the Anquietas (formerly the Alterans, later the Lanteans after the planet on which Atlantis resided). They eventually [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence ascended]] and adopted a strict [[AlienNonInterferenceClause non-interference policy]] on the lower planes. The other side of that coin is the Ori, also ascended beings but [[AGodAmI with a very different policy]]; they are eventually revealed to have driven the Ancients from their home galaxy to the Milky Way. Also in the precursors category are the Asgard, Goa'uld, and Wraith. The Goa'uld use humans as hosts and founded Egyptian civilisation, and the Wraith farm humans as food (though the Wraith themselves are the result of a life-sucking creature called the Iratus Bug being mutated by human DNA), while the Asgard placed several worlds in the Milky Way under military protection from the Goa'uld.
* ''Franchise/StarTrek''
** The Preservers and the Iconians, amongst others:
** Some [[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries TOS]] examples would be the Fabrini, and (from "Return to Tomorrow") the race from which Sargon, Henoch and Thalassa are the only survivors.
** The Ancient Humanoids in ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'', though it seems to be a given in the ExpandedUniverse that the Ancient Humanoids are the Preservers.
* Slight subversion: the inconceivably ancient Morphin Masters of ''PowerRangers'' themselves worshipped their "Ancient Ancestors" who watched down on them... [[WildMassGuessing Apparently from Rita's similarly super-ancient lunar palace]].
* ''Series/{{Andromeda}}'''s lead character Dylan Hunt was a ([[HalfHumanHybrid half]]-HeavyWorlder-half-) member of a highly developed culture which was at the heart of the old Commonwealth. In later seasons, the series begins to pursue those "lost people" because of their amazing advancements which have since been lost, only to learn they intentionally closed themselves off from the outside barbarism.
* The "First People" from ''{{Series/Fringe}}''.
** [[spoiler:They're actually Walter and Peter (mostly Walter) in a StableTimeLoop sending the artifacts to the different universes.]]
* In ''Series/BattlestarGalactica1978'', the Cylons were originally a race of lizard people. They built robots to act as their servants, but the robots rebelled and wiped the lizard people out. Eventually, these robots ran into humanity. Humans have already been at war with these robots for a thousand yahrens when the series opens.

* In the The Sword song, "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians", the Precursors are [[spoiler:humans from roughly the current era. After a presumably nuclear war screws up the planet, the survivors idiotically decide that they need to find and launch ''more'' of our missiles.]]
* The Music/JimiHendrix song "Up From the Skies" has an alien revisiting Earth after a long hiatus: "I have lived here before/ in days of ice/ and of course this is why I'm so concerned/ and I come back to find/ the stars misplaced/ and the smell of a world/ that's burning." [[Administrivia/TropesAreFlexible Maybe a precursor,]] [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation maybe not]], but he'd been here a long, long time ago.
* Some of ''Music/DoctorSteel'''s music and videos, most notably his song "Planet X Marks the Spot", deal with the AncientAstronaut theories of Zechariah Sitchin.

* According to ''VideoGame/LoonyLabyrinth,'' the ancient Minos were masters of time travel, genetic engineering, and other amazing feats.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/MutantsAndMasterminds'' have this in the form of the "Preservers" in Freedom City.
* ''TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms'':
** In the campaign setting for ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'', a saurian race ruled the world in the days when the world was warm. They are not entirely gone, though. The reptilian creator race, the sarrukh, was only one of several races that dominated the pre-human Realms. Others included the dragons, the amphibian batrachians, the birdlike aeree, and [[TheFairFolk the fey]].
** The Creator Race term. The exact listing is sometimes discussed, but the rule seem to be 'Precursor, and native to Abeir-Toril'. This means humans are a Creator Race (because at least ''some'' of them developed on Toril, and built mighty civilizations now gone), but elves aren't (they built mighty civilizations now gone before the humans did, but they immigrated from elsewhere first).
** After the arrival of humans, the empires of Netheril, Imaskar, and Illefarn flourished before they disintegrated in nasty ways.
** In the ''TabletopGame/{{Planescape}}'' setting and later (3rd edition) sources, it's heavily stated that the [[LawfulEvil baatezu (devils)]], [[NeutralEvil yugoloths (daemons)]], and [[ChaoticEvil tanar'ri (demons)]] were each predated by three primordial races of fiends: the ancient Baatorians, the baernaloths, and the obyriths, respectively.
** The rhulisti, or ancient halflings, were the first civilized race in the ''TabletopGame/DarkSun'' campaign setting; all other humanoid races are descended from them (including humans and giants), while those who retained their original form are now mostly cannibalistic savages.
** ''TabletopGame/{{Mystara}}'s'' past history is chock full of this trope, including the [[AbusivePrecursors Carnifex]], the [[NeglectfulPrecursors Blackmoorians]], and the [[AncientEgypt Nithians]].
** Subverted in the ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'' setting: while many societies have legends about Precursors, it's all false history imposed upon the memories of natives, as their world's only a little more than four centuries old.
* ''[[TabletopGame/{{GURPS}} GURPS Space]]'', includes Precursors as a potential element a Game Master might want to weave into his game world.
* The Ancients of ''TabletopGame/{{Traveller}}''.
* The Mnoren of ''TabletopGame/TheFantasyTrip''. Actually, the Mnoren are probably precursors of Precursors for the above two examples, given that TFT was published first and involved a lot of the same people.
* The Old Ones in ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'' (both fantasy and [[TabletopGame/{{Warhammer40000}} 40k]]) created most sentient races. In Fantasy they just left, never to return, but in 40k their backstory is given out in more detail. Apparently they had a massive, galaxy-shaking war with another old race, the Necrontyr (which later became the robotic Necrons), and created many races to help them fight. They (as well as most life in the galaxy) were nearly wiped out in the aftermath of the war, when the psychic disturbance caused by the massive amount of warp-fueled power used by them and the races they created caused the reality to tear apart and horrible creatures to spill through.\\
These may or may not be the same race, and the two collapses may be parts of the same event. The 7th edition Warhammer core book and Lizardman book hint heavily at this, and the 40k Necron book suggests using Lizardman models to represent the last refuges of the Old Ones.\\
The ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'' world (un)officially used to be an isolated world in the [[NegativeSpaceWedgie Eye of Terror]] of [[TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}} 40k]], but had been drifting from that idea for a while before WordOfGod revealed them to be separate but parallel 'verses (similar to the split between Warhammer Fantasy and Blood Bowl), sometime around '98. Of course, the references noted above are not the only hints: the Amazons of Warhammer have weapons left over from the Old Ones which bear a startling resemblance to wargear from 40k, not to mention Chaos champions with chainswords, and the second half of each volume of the in-universe ''Liber Chaotica''
* The Thran in ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering''.
* Iron Crown Enterprise's ''Spacemaster'' has the Sianetic Harbingers, a long dead (?) race of beings that seeded the Galaxy with humanoid life. They were powerful telepaths and had a level of technology that dwarfs modern Terran equipment. Their artifacts and ruins are both desired and feared.
** ''Privateers'' campaign setting. The Architects seeded life on many planets 4 billion years ago and guided the evolution of the seven major races until quite recently, then disappeared. Very little is known about them in-universe.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'' does this several times with its [[CrystalSpiresAndTogas First Age]], [[AdventureTowns Second Age]], and [[EarthAllAlong possibly]] the [[CrapsackWorld Sixth]] [[TabletopGame/OldWorldofDarkness Age]]. It even has [[DinosaursAreDragons 0th Age]] and [[EldritchAbomination 1st Age]] civilizations that few inhabitants are aware of.
* The history of The Realm from the game ''TabletopGame/TheSplinter'' stretches back 100,000,000,000 years and includes potentially ''thousands'' of precursor species/civilizations. This results in a tremendous range of (some very bizarre) SchizoTech that can be scavenged by players.
* The entire premise of ''TabletopGame/{{Numenera}}'' involves discovering the unfathomably advanced technology of eight previous civilizations, some of which were capable of moving stars and bending the fabric of reality to their whim. One civilization was responsible for extending the lifespan of our Sun, which would have become a red giant and scorched all life from existence on Earth, a fate completely unknown to all the inhabitants of the present day.
* The world of ''TabletopGame/AtlantisTheSecondAge'' is destined to be dominated by seven different races throughout its entire existence. Humans are the fifth of these races, making the Jinn, Ophidians, Lemurians, and Atlanteans all Precursor races. Somewhat unusually, none of these have gone extinct yet, but their numbers and powers have been greatly diminished. The Atlanteans are still trying to cling on to their power, but humans are already in the process of taking over.
* The Alien Overlords in ''Race for the Galaxy''. They were apparently a very advanced race of aliens who were the dominant civilization in the Milky Way at some point in the past, but who have now vanished. They did leave behind many artifacts, including some very advanced technology. They also seem to have uplifted and genetically engineered several servitor races. Since the backstory in ''Race for the Galaxy'' is told only in the sketchiest fashion, however, very little is known about the Overlords.

* ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}'' toyed with this idea a lot, but eventually subverted it with the Great Beings: hailed in the story's early years as powerful, mythological figures responsible for creating the Matoran Universe and its creatures, but then [[NeglectfulPrecursors moved to other projects, and chaos ensued]]. Later it was revealed that these Beings were a highly eccentric group of scientist governors, and can only be seen as the precursors to the Matoran Universe's inhabitants -- whom they themselves viewed as expandable machines. Otherwise, they were just one of Spherus Magna's (the planet which they once ruled over) several species. They are also still around someplace, but are hiding, as the inhabitants of ''their'' world hated their guts.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The Remnant system in ''VideoGame/{{Achron}}'' (where the game largely takes place) has ancient alien ruins scattered throughout. The technology found in these ruins has become them basis of humankinds most advanced tech, most notably [[TeleportersAndTransporters teleportation]]. [[spoiler: The system is then invaded by aliens that use the exact same tech as those found in the ruins. And that technology includes TimeTravel. Hmmm...]]
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed'': The premise of the series' MetaPlot is that an advanced CrystalSpiresAndTogas civilization preceded our own, but was devastated by an apocalyptic event 75,000 years ago. This civilization was ruled by The Ones Who Came Before, a long-lived, hyperintelligent species that regarded humans as inferiors at best and slaves at worst, enforcing their rule with MindControl technology. AfterTheEnd, dying of underpopulation, they seeded the world with artifacts programmed to FlingALightIntoTheFuture so that humans in the 21st century could save themselves from a recurrence of the same catastrophe. They also created HalfHumanHybrids in an attempt to pass on their "sixth sense" of "knowledge", which was only partially successful, but resulted in a line of humans who were able to interact with their artifacts and use their powers. Our concepts of gods, in this world, are distorted remembrances of The Ones Who Came Before.
* In ''VideoGame/EVEOnline,'' ''we'' are the precursors. We used the EVE wormhole to travel to the Galaxy of New Eden, but when the wormhole collapsed, so to did civilization in New Eden, and as new civilizations formed, their origins faded into myth and legend.\\
The Apocrypha expansion has given us a glimpse of some of the old technology which the precursor humans left behind: the sleepers. Ancient drone ships guarding long forgotten structures packed with technology that makes the most advanced player ships and weaponry look like we're using BB guns to fight enemies with nukes. The technology that has been scavenged so far has allowed the playerbase to build relatively small cruisers with the firepower and defenses equal to and even beyond battleships. It will be a terrifying day when we can finally build new kinds of battleships with sleeper tech.
* The Sky People were the once powerful ancestors of the Lufenian race of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyI''. After mastering the power of the Wind Crystal, they constructed many ancient wonders such as the Airship, the Mirage Tower and the Flying Fortress. Their civilization was eventually destroyed by the Fiend of Wind, Tiamat.
* The Zilart of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXI''. A few of them still remain but most of them are relatively insane and/or genocidal. [[spoiler:Only two Zilart favor the current civilizations at all, and one of them Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence]].
* The "Ancients" from ''VideoGame/FreeSpace'' fit this trope, although for once we actually get a [[ApocalypticLog detailed history of their annihilation]] at the hands of the Shivans. (They recorded this so that later races would be warned not to piss the Shivans off... or, having failed that, would have some insight into the Shivans' [[FlingALightIntoTheFuture weaknesses]]). The [[BigBad Shivans]] themselves qualify as Precursors in some respects: while not extinct, their technology is far more advanced than humans' and they've been that advanced for at least 8,000 years. There are EpilepticTrees both in-game and out about the origins of the Shivans (whether they were created as weapons by an even older race), and exactly how long they've been at their xenocidal mission (one character muses that there might be multiple Precursors extending far back in time, each annihilated by the Shivans when they grew too powerful and the later ones founding empires on the ruins of those that came before). [[ShrugOfGod None of this has been confirmed nor denied by the authors.]]
* Bungie is fond of this. In most likely the earliest first-person shooter example of this trope, the Jjaro from ''VideoGame/{{Marathon}}'' were an advanced species that created the [[{{Cyborg}} S'pht]] and left a host of technological artifacts on many worlds. They are considered by many to be mythical beings, but since AllMythsAreTrue, [[spoiler:[[MagnificentBastard Durandal]] does everything that he does in ''Marathon 2'' to find them.]] In ''Marathon Infinity'', their technology might be what's for responsible sending the player through different points in time and space to find a way to stop an EldritchAbomination (which they had previously sealed) from destroying the entire universe.
* In the ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' universe, the Forerunners are very much a precursor race, who believed that they held the "Mantle of Responsibility" for all life in the galaxy. All that's left of them are artifacts such as the titular "Halo" rings. [[spoiler:They purposely destroyed themselves activating the rings as a last resort to prevent a traveling parasite called "The Flood" from consuming all life in the galaxy, but not before leaving measures for the reseeding of life afterwards.]] Oddly, humans seem to have a unique connection to them -- much of Forerunner technology, including the Halos, can only be utilized by humans, and the major Forerunner installation on Earth is located in East Africa, right next to the area where modern humans are believed to have first evolved (since Forerunners were contemporaries of OriginalMan).
** In fact, the ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'' terminals reveal that this connection was because [[spoiler:the high-ranking Forerunner known as "The Librarian" felt that humans would be the rightful "reclaimers" of the Forerunners' legacy.]] Later, ''Literature/TheForerunnerSaga'' books add a twist to this by revealing that [[spoiler:most Forerunners felt otherwise, due to a long and bloody war they fought with prehistoric humanity's own highly advanced interstellar empire, which was invading Forerunner space in order to flee the Flood and cleanse infected planets; it ended with the victorious Forerunners completely dismantling all traces of human technology they could find, devolving the survivors into a primitive state (who would quickly (re?)evolve into many of the various hominid species we know about today, including modern humans), and shoving them back to their homeworld of Earth.]]
** In ''VideoGame/{{Halo 4}}'', we find out that [[spoiler:at least one Forerunner still survives; "The Ur-Didact", the former supreme commander of the Forerunner military, who also happens to be the BigBad]]. The game also provide evidence, namely a speech given by [[spoiler:the Ur-Didact in TheStinger, that there are many more Forerunners living outside of the galaxy]], which was confirmed by [[spoiler:the audio epilogue to ''Literature/HaloSilentium''.]]
** The Forerunners believed that they inherited the Mantle from a long-gone race of even more advanced beings they called "The Precursors", who are revealed in the Forerunner Saga [[spoiler:to have played a major role in the creation of both the Forerunners and humanity, among many other species. They ended up being almost completely annihilated when they tried to wipe out the Forerunners for being unworthy of the Mantle. Most of the survivors turned themselves into powder with the plan of eventually re-constituting their original forms, but they all CameBackWrong and became the ''Flood''. They then apparently decided to eliminate the Forerunners, "unite" all life in the galaxy, and test whether humanity was worthy of the Mantle... or maybe they just wanted their creations to suffer for all eternity. Either way, their technology (which seems to have been made of ''thought'') was completely destroyed when the Halos (the only things capable of destroying Precursor relics) were fired. The prisoner of Charum Hakkor, a scorpion-like creature with 4 arms and an impossibly ugly face, was a Precursor-turned-Flood-Gravemind, while the Forerunner Domain, an immaterial and self-aware galaxy-wide information network older than the ''actual universe'', is revealed to be one of their many creations.]]
* In the ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights'' community module series ''VideoGame/TheBastardOfKosigan'', the precursor race were early humans who lived on Atlantis, but after the natural disaster that resulted in its sinking split into the 'control' faction and the 'free will' faction. The 'control' faction, led by Gabriel, eventually won the ensuing war with the 'free will' faction, led by Elisa Than (read Satan, though she wasn't actually that bad). Their war was primarily fought by using their advanced technology to mimic deities and create religions among lesser humans, so the 'control' faction are the 'angels' of modern Catholicism (the game is set in approximately 1300, but with magic and monsters and such (the King of France has standing pacts with several red dragons)) while the 'freedom' faction became the 'demons'. Ironically, Jesus was actually manipulated by the 'demons' (and you even get to meet the 'demon' commonly known as St. John), and the 'angels' created the Catholic church to subvert his message.
* ''VideoGame/{{Homeworld}} 2'' featured the aptly-named Progenitors, who left behind various relics including several {{Wave Motion Gun}}s which the player and the enemy fight for control of. One of the WaveMotionGun ships gave its name to [[spoiler:a deity that the current races have been worshipping for several thousand years]].
* In ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'', the Komato are the ancestors of the Tasen, and, although it's not clear how close they are to humans, first evolved on Earth, leaving without a trace some time before the halocene period.
* The ''Franchise/JakAndDaxter'' franchise has an ancient race called "The Precursors". They leave deep-voiced oracular statues and various giant robots scattered about, and depict themselves as glowing EnergyBeings, [[spoiler:but that's just a Wizard of Oz act; they're really ottsels, otter-weasel hybrids like Jak's sidekick Daxter. In fact, he becomes one because all eco contains their essence.]]
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'':
** In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'', the Oocca are suggested to be the Precursors of the Hylians -- as one AdventurerArchaeologist tells us, the goddesses may have made the Oocca first, then the Oocca made the Hylians before retreating to the City in the Sky. This is a slightly inaccurate interpretation in the English version: The Japanese text states they helped the Hylians create a society, rather than literally creating them.
** In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'', a race of [[CuteMachines Ancient Robots]] can be found in the Lanayru Desert. They are all old and worn away. [[spoiler: Once you strike a nearby Timeshift Crystal however, it is revealed they are part of a civilization that takes place 100 years before the present. Their joints, and almost every single device within the premises is powered by electricity.]] This could justify where all of the SchizoTech in the Zelda series originates from.
** ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild'' has the Sheikah Tribe, who had extremely advanced technology 10,000 years before the game's date. Remnants of it include what appear to be computers (including a handheld tablet with networking capabilities and apps ("runes") that can affect the material world around it), autonomous laser-spewing {{Spider Mech}}s, melee weapons made of HardLight, and four HumongousMecha known as the "Divine Beasts". This LostTechnology is crucial to defeating the latest version of Ganon that's attacked Hyrule. It isn't explained in detail why or how the Sheikah lost all their technological know-how, as they are now on the same roughly medieval level of tech as everyone else in the ''Zelda'' games.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'':
** The Protheans are said to be this until [[HotScientist Dr. Liara T'Soni]] joins your party and suggests that they probably weren't the actual precursors. It's revealed later that [[spoiler:she's right: the ''real'' precursors are the [[AbusivePrecursors Reapers]], which are robotic {{Eldritch Abomination}}s that are out for everyone's blood.]] Though the Protheans must have been interested in early humanity, since [[spoiler:as the big silver unexplained ball explains; the Prothean research station on Mars would routinely abduct and mess with early humans.]] ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' eventually reveals that [[spoiler: the Collectors are genetically and cybernetically-modified Protheans]]. In ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'', there is [[spoiler: one Prothean still alive, named Javik, in suspended animation]].
** It's also revealed that the Protheans themselves had their own Precursor race to learn from. And so on, and so forth. Each cycle leaves something behind for the next one to find. The ultimate artifact appears to be the [[spoiler:Crucible]], whose construction started millions of years ago and was continued each cycle by a new race culminating in [[spoiler:humanity and their contemporaries in its cycle ([[MultipleEndings possibly]]) finishing the Crucible and using it to wipe out the Reapers]].
** The "Leviathan" DLC shows that [[spoiler:the Leviathans (true name unknown) are the first species, the original intelligent life that preceded the Reapers. The Reapers were made in their image, and they have mental domination abilities that the Reapers used to create their indoctrination ability. They were the ones responsible for creating the Catalyst, and therefore are indirectly responsible for the Reapers. Their kind was harvested and used to create Harbinger, the first Reaper. A few of them are still alive, deep under the ocean on an aquatic world, where they have been hiding from the Reapers ever since the cycles began. Shepard can find them and convince them to give their aid in the current war against the Reapers.]]
** [[spoiler:In the Refusal ending, the contemporary major races fill this role - Shepard and everyone s/he cares about get killed or worse, but the records you leave behind prove vital in a future cycle, allowing ''them'' to defeat the Reapers.]]
* ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'':
** Although they raised Samus to adulthood and had extensive contact with faraway races like the Luminoth, the Bryyonians, the Elysians, and even the Federation, the Chozo have vanished from all known space. Their entire legacy consists of decayed ruins, cryptic messages for Samus, and the odd upgrade module for her Power Suit. And, of course, the Metroids themselves.
** The Alimbic race in ''VideoGame/MetroidPrimeHunters'' went extinct long before the events of the game [[spoiler:containing the EldritchAbomination Gorea in [[TailorMadePrison the appropriately named Oubliette]]]]. They are said to have created incredibly advanced technologies, including an "ultimate weapon".
* The Ancients from the ''VideoGame/MightAndMagic'' universe (at least when it was in the hands of New World Computing) were creating various worlds out of the four elements and seeding them with life as part of a great experiment. Their true agenda is never entirely revealed but there are hints that they had a specific outcome in mind for most of their worlds, before the Creators and the Kreegan interfered. And between ''VI'', ''VII'' and ''VIII'', it was established that whatever their original agenda was, their ''current'' goal is 'Stop the Kreegans'. The settings of the games (and the novels) just happen to be in the galactic arm that was cut off from the [[PortalNetwork Gateweb]], and the Ancients are a bit too busy with the Kreegan to bother restoring it (especially as the cause of the breach was Kreegan infiltration of the gate network).
* The ''VideoGame/{{Myst}}'' series of games gradually reveals that the long-lost civilization of D'ni was actually located on Earth; its founders originally ''came from'' an alternate universe, but they founded a city BeneathTheEarth. However, the D'ni are not the ancestors of humans; the existence of a nearly identical race on the surface appears to be pure coincidence (although the Earth was specifically chosen because it was known to be hospitable to our kind of life).
* ''[[PacMan Pac Man World 3]]'' features the Ancients (possibly members or ancestors of Pac-Man's spherical race), about whose lives little is known, although their deaths comprise a well-known story 'of greed, of tampering with unknown forces, and of running and screaming and dying', to quote an in-game archaeologist. As it turns out, the Ancients were wiped out when they tried to siphon energy from the Spectral Realm (the Pac-Man universe's afterlife), [[HistoryRepeats which is exactly what the game's villain is trying to do in the present]].
* Appropriately for a series where ancient ruins are one of the most populous level types, the ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' series is jam-packed with different precursors, most notably the ''Echidnas'' whose ancient weapons/relics/monsters set the stage for most of the world-threatening terror of the games. Interestingly enough, although absolutely all of them are shown to have possessed and/or utilized the [[{{MacGuffin}} Chaos Emeralds]] at some point, none of them claim responsibility for creating any of the Emeralds.\\
In ''Chronicles'' one of a races trapped inside the [[AnotherDimension Twilight Cage]] is referred to as the Precursors.
* In the ''VideoGame/StarControl'' games, there is a race explicitly called "The Precursors" which vanished but left behind many artifacts and installations across the galaxy. The second one is notable for containing artifacts and mysteries which are ''not'' [[AWizardDidIt explained away]] with the Precursors. The third one attributes everything to them to the point of {{retcon}}ning previous reveals. The Precursors are heavily hinted to having created at least one of the major alien races in the game, namely the [[spoiler:Mycon, genetically engineered fungus who were apparently designed to (or malfunctioned into a state where they) do the opposite: return lush planets to a molten and unstable state]]. The third game posits that they also left a race of robotic caretakers to make sure things stay orderly while [[spoiler:they're gone]], although yeah, fans [[FanonDiscontinuity really really don't much care]].
* In ''VideoGame/StarCraft'' the Xel'Naga, who created the Protoss and Zerg, take this role, although the reason for their disappearance is [[TurnedAgainstTheirMasters less mysterious]] than most, or so it seems at first. In the sequel and its associated books it is hinted that [[spoiler:they aren't really gone, and they might well make a return before the end of Starcraft 2]]. Oh, and there's an [[spoiler:EldritchAbomination out there that hates their guts, wants to KillEmAll and destroy the Universe]].
* The ''StarOcean'' series plays with this trope. The games are filled with Out of Place Artifacts, mystical technologies such as the time gate on the apparently sentient planet Styx, and near the middle of the third game, there's even a precursor-like group of beings called the Executioners who rain havoc upon ALL the races of the galaxy. It turns out [[spoiler:that the universe is actually a video game called the Eternal Sphere, and all the Precursor like artifacts, including the Executioners, were planted by the programmer. They're basically debugging tools and easter eggs, Styx basically works like the mother of all hearthstones.]] The series also has more traditional precursors such as the [[SpaceElves Nedians]] and [[AdvancedAncientHumans Muah]].
* ''Videogame/SwordOfTheStars'' Morrigi are actually still around -- [[CulturalPosturing and very smug about it]] -- but until the last expansion, they had to quietly limp into hiding thanks to the efforts of the [[AbusivePrecursors rather less nice variety of Precusors]]. And then the [[SpaceWhale Liir]] had to go and kill off the bad kind of Precursors, allowing the Morrigi to return. Still worse, the pre-release information for the sequel suggests strongly that the Liir didn't finish the job.
* The dragons, giants, and elves from ''TearsToTiara'' and ''VideoGame/TearsToTiara2'', whose civilizations were destroyed by the heavens, but evidently a not insignificant population of each remains. The more powerful lineages of these races are worshiped as gods by humans.
* The ''VideoGames/{{Thief}}'' series has the long-gone civilization from the ancient ruined city of Karath Din (a.k.a. "The Lost City"), which is known only under the colloquial moniker "[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin The Precursors]]". The environments of their ruins and various readables imply that at least part of The City's society and technology has very early roots in the survivors of this bygone civilization. Most of the details on the reasons behind the Precursors' demise [[RiddleForTheAges are deliberately left open to speculation]], given the series' [[ShowDontTell elliptical approach]] to revealing the history and inner workings of its setting. One of the more notable facts revealed is that the Precursors had [[spoiler:much more sophisticated technology than does the present-day civilization, [[PunkPunk in a way]].]] To quote the Keeper faction's opinion on the Precursors :
-->When we looked at the relics of the Precursors, we saw the height civilization can attain.
-->When we looked at their ruins, we marked the danger of that height.
-->-- from the ''Keeper Annals''
* ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}}'':
** The lore features the Titans, who ordered all the worlds in the universe and seeded them with life, then left to go pursue their unimaginable goals, leaving all kinds of stuff behind. One of them, Sargeras, is also the BigBad of the mythology. There are strong hints throughout the lore that they may be coming back some day (possibly in a future expansion).
** Also fitting this, yet to a less extent, are the ancient Night Elves: They were ruling the whole supercontinent, fought off any competing race and had access to unlimited magic - until they attracted the Burning Legion, which resulted in the Sundering, destroying most of their race, a huge part of the continent, and all of their magic-based civilization. Their ruins are still everywhere to be found and, of course, contain most powerful artifacts.
** Even before the Night Elves were the trolls who, while being less advanced than most other races, built gigantic cities and temples that were abandoned after the Night Elf takeover. Modern trolls live in these ruins today, worshipping their ancientry, but unable to achieve their greatness - the ancient trolls are their own race's Precursors.
* On Filgaia, the world from ''VideoGame/WildArms,'' a race of {{Precursors}} left behind a vast array of LostTechnology. [[spoiler:In the anime series ''Twilight Venom'' it was revealed that the precursors were from Earth, but left due to the annoyance of RandomEncounters]].
* The Steltek, from ''VideoGame/WingCommanderPrivateer'', were Precursors of the [[NeglectfulPrecursors neglectful]] variety, though they did make an effort to clean up after themselves once made aware of the problem.
* The as-of-yet unnamed race from ''VideoGame/SinsOfASolarEmpire'' who built the Phase Jump Inhibitors and, presumably, the other obtainable artifacts.
* The Ancients from ''VideoGame/PanzerDragoon'' qualify, having made many, many technological breakthroughs, most notably [[spoiler:the many, many Towers, the drones to control them, the dragons to protect them, the monsters the Towers create to sustain the environment (or so Craymen claims), and Sestren to tie it all together]]. And then they conveniently vanished, leaving virtually nobody who understands any of the crap they left lying around, just that it's powerful and needs to be reclaimed. Of course, [[spoiler:the Towers keeping the environment in its status quo means removing any factor that could be a detriment. Including humans, should they overpopulate. Thus, the Ancients are ''kind of'' the reason the series takes place in a CrapsackWorld]]. It's never really stated what the true nature of all of the above is, really, just that it's bad and you have to stop it ([[spoiler:which you ultimately do in ''Saga'', leaving it on a somewhat triumphant note - and then in ''Orta'', it's implied that the consequences to the environment afterwards [[NiceJobBreakingItHero were hardly worth the effort]]]]).
* The ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' series mention several names. ''VideoGame/ShinSuperRobotWars'' had the Mu, who are aliens in this game. The ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsAlpha'' setting has the "First People", ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsW'' has the "E's" and ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsK'' has the "Crusians". Some titles like ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsDestiny'' or ''Scramble Commander 2'' have relics left by a nameless race. This is a source of EpilepticTrees in the mythos.
* ''VideoGame/LaMulana'' has several iterations of Precursors, although you only ever learn much about one of them. And then there's [[SufficientlyAdvancedAlien The Mother]]...
* The Chodak from ''[[VideoGame/AFinalUnity Star Trek: The Next Generation -- A Final Unity]]''.
* ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'':
** It's quite likely the Iconians are being built up as the precursor race; the scant few times they are seen, they disable your ship completely to demonstrate their godlike power, and later they obliterate Borg cubes effortlessly. Demons of air and darkness, indeed.
** At the end of the Deferi/Breen story arc, the Ancient Humanoids/Preservers are revived and decide to once again explore the galaxy and meet their descendants, making it one of the few cases where the Precursors come back.
* In ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'':
** There are both the Dwemer in ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]'', and the Ayleids in ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]'', as well as many others in lore. The Dwemer were technically advanced (enchanted steampunk-style tech) whose reasons for disappearance can be put succinctly as being a race of atheists in a universe where godlike beings are very much real (that and they had a penchant for futzing around with the inner workings of Existence). The Ayleids were wiped out in a much more mundane way: a combination of societal hubris, heavy political infighting, a belligerent neighboring nation to the north, and a slave revolt supported by said belligerent northward neighbors (which possibly had divine backing as well). This did not entirely wipe out the Ayleids, as the political infighting led several Ayleid lords to ''join'' the slave rebellion and keep their authority under the new human empire, but later anti-elven pogroms led the remaining Ayleids to flee, with the ultimate result seeming to be that there weren't enough Ayleids around in the same place to maintain their distinct culture into the Second Era.
** The Dunmer, a.k.a. dark elves, were formerly the Chimer, enemies of the Dwemer. They were transformed either as a curse from the Daedric Prince Azura for the Tribunal's betrayal and murder of their leader Nerevar, or as a result of his generals' use of the heart of a dead god to become {{physical god}}s.[[note]]The lore is [[UnreliableNarrator intentionally conflicted]] on this point, so we'll likely never know the real reason.[[/note]] The only remaining images of Chimer are the aforementioned Tribunal of Morrowind, who appear as Chimer (well, two of them).
** The Snow Elves, who originally ruled Skyrim. After the arrival of the Nords, they were driven deep underground and sought refuge with the Dwemer, only to be betrayed and enslaved, leading to their devolution in the mindless and feral Falmer. The ''Dawnguard DLC'' for ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' reveals that some of the Snow Elves survived this and took refuge in hidden sanctuaries, only to be later massacred by their feral cousins, leaving [[LastOfHisKind only one survivor]]. The only hope for the Falmer is that they are gradually regaining their lost intelligence, and may one day become a true sentient race again.
** For all the mortal races, save for possibly the [[LizardFolk Argonians]] (the lore is unclear), there is the Ehlnofey. They are the lesser et'Ada from the creation of Mundus who remained in the mortal realm and populated it, becoming the progenitors of the modern races.
*** After the Ehlnofey, there are the Aldmer for the races of elves and the Atmorans/Nedes for the races of men (except the Redguard). The Aldmer came to Tamriel during the Dawn era from the now-lost continent of Aldmeris (though other sources say that Aldmeris was another name for Tamriel prior to the emergence of the races of men). Whatever the case, the Altmer are their closest living relatives. For the Nedes, Septim propaganda claims that they came from the now frozen-over continent of Atmora, though this may have been a lie meant to appeal to the mighty Nords to make them supportive of the Cyrodiilic empire. Other sources state that they were among the many human tribes native to Tamriel. In either case, they are definitely the precursors of the Imperials and Bretons, with the Nibenese Imperials as their closest living relatives.
* ''VideoGame/ValkyriaChronicles'' has the Valkyrur, a now extinct ([[spoiler:mostly]]) race who learned to weaponize [[AppliedPhlebotinum Ragnite]] and who possessed weapons with [[MagicFromTechnology seemingly magical]] abilities that can't be replicated by modern science. Although not the first humans, all non-[[FantasyCounterpartCulture Darcsen]] inhabitants of Europa are descended from them and they are credited with starting the proto-civilization from which all others on the continent grew. Many people even worship them as gods. [[spoiler:It turns out they were [[WrittenByTheWinners kind of dicks]].]]
* ''LuminousArc2'' has the Navillian race, who had advanced knowledge in magic and were the ancestors of humans and witches/wizards. 4,000 years ago, a catastrophe ended their civilization and it is believed that the modern world rose from their demise.
* In the space stage of ''{{Spore}}'':
** You can purchase "Monoliths" which, when placed upon a planet with life at any stage of development, will cause that planet to develop quickly to the space stage, and gives you a relationship bonus with the resulting empire. Of course, after that you're free to do whatever you like to the poor guys, including conquering their cities by force and enslaving them to extract the planet's resources for your own empire's benefit.
** Your planet can be visited by spaceships earlier in your own development, although they rarely do more than abduct a member of your pack or a livestock animal.
** The Grox empire, which is violently opposed to your existence by default. They occupy 2400 systems around the centre of the galaxy, guarding the Galactic Core itself, which [[spoiler:contains a robotic member of an unknown race (possibly from Earth). His name is Steve, and he gives you the most powerful terraforming tool in the game, although it is limited to 42 uses.]]
* The Orions and Antarans in the ''VideoGame/MasterOfOrion'' series fought a hugely destructive war which led to the Antarans becoming SealedEvilInACan, and the Orion homeworld abandoned and protected by the enormous Guardian of Orion. Also, some planets have Artifacts property -- contain ruins of ancient civilizations, which boosts local scientists' performance; races with "Artifacts World" have one of these as the homeworld.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands}}'', the Eridians fill this role. They had created an incredibly advanced civilization on the wasteland planet Pandora, but it all mysteriously vanished millenia before the game's events. Remnants of their civilization are all over the place, and simple artifacts of their technology hold immense power. But by far the most legendary aspect of their legacy is The Vault, a container for...something, no one really knows what, that is the most sought after power on Pandora. The Vault is revealed to be [[spoiler:the TailorMadePrison for [[SealedEvilInACan The Destroyer]], an EldritchAbomination which nearly wiped out the Eridians. They sacrificed everything to contain The Destroyer within The Vault, leaving "Guardians" to ensure that no idiot would open the vault and cause the apocalypse. It doesn't work...[[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu but the player(s) handle the Destroyer just fine]], and the [[{{VideoGame/Borderlands2}} sequel]] shows them being set to keep doing that to the other nasties in any others of the Eridians' vaults.]] It's noted that the various corporations' interest in Pandora is due to alien relics being found on a different planet nearby, so either the Eridians were space-faring, or there is more than one Precursor civilization. ''VideoGame/TalesFromTheBorderlands'' has [[spoiler:its protagonists open an Eridian vault that houses a chest within it, [[AmbiguousEnding but them opening the chest is only shown to have made them suddenly disappear]].]]
* According to ''VideoGame/{{Journey}}''[='=]s confluences, the White Robes are implied to be this to the Red Robes.
* The world of ''VideoGame/MegaManLegends'' features robot-human creatures similar to the Reploids of earlier series. Too bad they're (mostly) under the KillEmAll directive of the vast computer system that controls them.
* The ''VideoGame/MegaManStarForce'' series also has the lost civilization of Mu.
* In ''VideoGame/GalacticCivilizations II'':
** The unimaginatively named Precursors and their enemies the Dread Lords (who have become SealedEvilInACan). The campaign in the original revolves around you fighting the latter, and if the player is unlucky enough to encounter them in a standard game...
** According to the game's expansions, the "Precursors" mentioned above were called the Arnor, and were the same species as the Dread Lords, but were ideologically opposed: the Arnor wanted to guide and look after new intelligent life, while the Dread Lords wanted to exterminate it. It isn't clear what happened to the Arnor after they defeated the Dread Lords, although one survivor is found in the ''Twilight of the Arnor'' campaign.
** There are also the mysterious [[spoiler:Mithrilar, a group of five immortal beings that were precursors to the Arnor and Dread Lords (indeed, they ''created'' the Arnor and Dread Lords). What happened to them is unknown, although it is known that one of them, Draginol, was a time-travelling ascended human.]]
* ''VideoGame/VegaStrike'' BackStory has [[http://wiki.vega-strike.org/Species:Ancients the Ancients]], "Those Who Have Only Names" (species Ancients' records mentioned) and later "Alphan and Betan". They left lots of ruins, their "lab monkeys" who now rob blind everyone else for access to the best of said ruins, and... the nano-plague that breaks {{nanomachines}}, but ignores most lifeforms and non-construction nano scale devices.
* The "Ancients" and their adversaries in ''VideoGame/LegacyOfKain''.
* The Eldeen in the ''VideoGame/{{Ys}}'' series.
* The Remnants of ''VideoGame/StarRuler'', leftovers of a now-fallen space empire. At the start, their artificially intelligent [[HigherTechSpecies ships are better than anything you'll have]], and even if you can blow through those, they have even better (and bigger) ones. Fortunately, Remnants are content to guard systems without acting aggressively. The ''Galactic Armory'' [[GameMod mod]] makes the Remnants ''much'' more aggressive, making them send out routine missions to [[AbusivePrecursors cull the lesser races]], using even more powerful ships than in the base game, and the Remnant will keep pace with the player, causing them to eventually start sending [[PlanetSpaceship planet-sized ships]] to cull systems.
* Ultimately subverted in ''VideoGame/GalaxyAngel'' at no surprise to the viewer but the Precursors who created all the lost technology used in the games come from Eden, another name for Earth. Which makes us the Precursors and the people in the game merely our descendents.
* The Kingdom of Zeal in ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'' which in 12,000 BC (during the Ice Age) built floating cities in the sky and an "Ocean Palace" under the sea. Their civilization was powered originally by the Sun Stone (which harnessed solar energy) and then by the more abundant (but of course, more dangerous) Mammon Machine which extracted energy from Lavos the BigBad [[CosmicHorrorStory from outer space]].
* In ''VideoGame/EscapeVelocity Nova'', the precursors are known as [[http://evn.wikia.com/wiki/Those_Who_Came_Before Those Who Came Before]] ([[NamesTheSame no relation to]] ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed's'' precursors). Very little is known about them, since they [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence merged with the universe]] ''en masse'' centuries (if not millennia) before humans achieved space travel. They left behind {{bizarrchitecture}} like artificial rings around the planets Kont and Kel'ar Iy, and a ringworld called Tre'ar Helonis. And in four of the six mission strings, [[spoiler:humanity ascends and becomes precursors in turn to an unnamed alien race]].
* There are the Solon in ''VideoGame/HaegemoniaLegionsOfIron''. You only really find their starbases protected by advanced defenses, which can blow up any ship you have. Presumably, they're meant to hold off their ancient enemies. Once you manage to get past the defenses, though, you get some nifty technology, which helps in your own war against a powerful enemy [[spoiler:who turns out to be working for those who have wiped out the Solon]]. Despite the name, the ExpansionPack ''The Solon Heritage'' doesn't explain anything, since it lacks a campaign mode.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Ascendancy}}'' Xenoarchiological Ruins pop up all the time, sometimes giving access to a technology far up the TechTree, though these are [[AwesomeButImpractical not always useful]] without adequate advancements in production capability and/or power sources.
* The Ancients in the ''[[VideoGame/{{X}} X-Universe]]'' series built the games jumpgate network and currently exist as [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence a gestalt consciousness who have surrendered their individuality to become in effect a single entity]]. They use another precursor race, the [[MechanicalLifeform Sohnen]], as an intermediary to the young races. Their objectives are to preserve intelligent life throughout the universe, retard the heat death of the universe, and to become [[AbusingTheKardashevScaleForFunAndProfit Type VI on the Kardashev scale]], a civilization one that uses the energy of several universes and can alter the physical laws of universes. Basically, gods.
* Subverted in the first ''VideoGame/StarFlight''. "The Ancients" were thought to be a race that left behind several artifacts and ruins. However, it's later revealed that they are unlike any other form of life, in that they are in fact sapient crystals. Modern civilization has been using these crystals as the fuel Endurium, and in self-defense "The Ancients" began causing stars to flare, setting the game's events in motion.
* The Azran from the ''Franchise/ProfessorLayton'' series, most notably as the focus of ''VideoGame/ProfessorLaytonAndTheAzranLegacy''.
* The Endless of ''Videogame/EndlessSpace''. Unlike most precursors, the denizens of the galaxy know exactly what happened to them; they ended up fracturing into factions (the Concrete and the [[BrainUploading Virtual]]) and wiped themselves out in a [[GuiltFreeExterminationWar massive interstellar pogrom]] millenia ago; the [[HumanPopsicle frozen survivors]] can be counted on one hand. Before that happened, though, they [[UpliftedAnimal nurtured species into sapience]] (including the Drakken of ''Videogame/EndlessLegend''), [[TerraForm terraformed worlds]] with their artificially intelligent robots ([[AndThenWhat who are still around after completing their mission]]), and built [[BigDumbObject vast megastructures]]; planetary core taps, orbital shipyards, et cetera. The Pilgrims, a human nation of scientists and mystics, seek out the Endless's lost homeworld, Tor.
* ''VideoGame/{{Warframe}}'' features the Orokin, who created the Tenno to fight a race known as the Sentients in the GreatOffscreenWar. The Grineer pursue Orokin technology in their quest to conquer the solar system, while the Corpus are more interested in selling the tech for profit; the Tenno don't particularly want either side finding anything. [[spoiler:If the Stalker's Codex entry is to be believed, [[TurnedAgainstTheirMasters the Tenno]] were the ones who killed off the Orokin in the first place]]. Some of the Orokin's towers escaped into the Void, where their technology was preserved, but others were left behind to become filled with the Infested.
* ''VideoGame/PillarsOfEternity'' has the Engwithans, a civilization that existed thousands of years before the time in which the game is set. Their understanding of how souls function was leagues ahead of what modern animancers have learned and their ruins still dot the lands, most prominently in Eir Glanfath (amusingly the ruins imply -- and WordOfGod confirms -- that the Engwithans were ''inferior'' in many aspects of science and technology to the modern day Eora. It's just that soul science is a very flexible science with lots of applications in the setting). The Glanfathan culture is based around protecting these ancient sites, a task supposedly given to their ancestors by the ancient Engwithans, [[spoiler: presumably to prevent anyone from discovering the origin of the [[PowersThatBe gods]].]]
* ''Franchise/DragonAge'': The ancient elves serve as this setting's precursors, despite the fact that their descendents are still alive and kicking. Much of the magic that made ancient Tevinter so powerful is implied to have been stolen and reverse engineered from elven artifacts, and modern Dalish elves spend most of their time combing through ruins for scraps of history left behind by their ancestors. Interestingly enough, even though they were once immortal and capable of incredible feats of magic (such as creating entirely new species, physically walking in the Fade, and [[spoiler:constructing the Veil between the waking and dreaming worlds]]), [[FantasticRacism ancient elves don't inspire any of the awe that usually accompanies this trope from their human successors]] - [[EnslavedElves probably because their descendants are now scrubbing floors]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Stellaris}}'' has five separate event chains where the player can discover the ruins of a precursor civilization and choose to pursue their remains across the galaxy, investigating how they were wiped out (the precursors were active in different time-periods, hence why more than one can happen and be pursued in the same game). While Fallen Empires are remnants of Precursor civilizations that are still alive and present in the galaxy, but stagnated and turned inward on themselves. The player can also become either a [[BenevolentPrecursors benevolent]] or [[AbusivePrecursors malevolent]] precursor themselves, if they find a pre-sentient race or pre-FTL sentient race on a planet and uplift them to either equal citizens in their galactic empire or a slave race.
* ''VideoGame/XenobladeChroniclesX'': The resident Precursor race was known as Samaar, who are said to have come into this universe from someplace else soon after its creation. The civilization they founded, the Samaar Federation, still exists in the present day, and is stated to control a radius of over 6 million light-years (which means it spans many galaxies, including the Milky Way and Andromeda). The game is rather ambiguous on whether the original Samaarians are still around, they're never directly said to have died out or disappeared, but everyone speaks of them in the past tense, and [[spoiler:humanity is revealed to be their direct biological descendants]].
* In the Upcoming game HorizonZeroDawn, ''We of the 21st century'' are the Precursors (or simply "The Ancients," as is the title we are remembered by), as the game is set in a far-off PostApocalyptic future where humanity has been reduced to a hunter-gatherer society comparable to the stone age. What exactly happened to us is one of the two great mysteries the game's story will be centered around (the other being why half the planet's wildlife now consists of entirely cybernetic dinosaur-like creatures.)

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In the FurryWebcomic ''Webcomic/{{Jack|DavidHopkins}}'', the furries that currently live on Earth are the descendants of furries created in a lab by humans, making humans the Precursors. They were wiped out in a war started by the first furry, Jack. The furry version of the United States government knows about furrykind's origins, and is (probably wisely) [[GovernmentConspiracy keeping it a secret]].
* In ''Webcomic/{{Unity}}'', the creatures living in the ship are all distant descendants of Earth life. Humans built the ship, but disappeared long ago.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', [[spoiler: universes are created by sessions of Sburb. And the trolls created ''ours''.]]
* In ''Webcomic/ImpureBlood'', they are the Ancients. Roan is a HalfHumanHybrid descendent. [[http://www.impurebloodwebcomic.com/Pages/Issue3/ib069.html The Watchers think they are evil.]]
* ''Webcomic/TheCyantianChronicles'' have at least two species, the Rumuah who created the Cyantians as servants and heirs, than died out from a genetic disease. And the "Squids" who came along centuries later and [[AbusivePrecursors enslaved]] the Cyantians, until Alpha Akaelae led a successful rebellion and wiped them out.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Iothera}}'', the ancient Seb attained spaceflight, then apparently vanished.
-->'''Cassandra:''' We still don't really know who the Seb were or how they built the Red Towers or why they were on the moons or even what all the stuff they left behind ''does''.
* ''Webcomic/{{Harbourmaster}}'' has the Qohathoth, who were tormented by the loneliness of being the only sapient lifeform in the galaxy. Although their quest to find other species to befriend (the [[TheSocialDarwinist Yogzarthu]] didn't want friendship) led them to journey into other dimensions before humans could become spacefarers, they terraformed many other planets to be Earth-like in hopes of sparing humanity that same pain. Ironically, they made the terraformed planets ''too'' paradisial; nothing was subjected to the kind of pressures that would select for sapience, until a comet strike altered Tethys's climate, allowing the entomorphs to evolve to sapience.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''OpenBlue'' has the Iormunean Imperium, a once glorious empire that prospered thanks to their goddess. When a new religion started encroaching on the fringes of the empire and the local ChurchMilitant did nothing to stop its growth, aforementioned goddess turned her back on them while they were in the middle of a war with invading [[TheHorde barbarian hordes]]. Suffice to say, it led to their [[CataclysmBackstory destruction]], and their [[ReligionIsMagic blessed weapons]] and [[ArtifactOfDoom artifacts]] being scattered across the world for the present nations to search for.
* In ''OrionsArm'' abandoned ruins with highly advanced technology are considerably more common than living aliens with technology even close to the level of Terragen civilization. Many find this somewhat disturbing.
* The ''WhateleyUniverse'' appears to have at least two Precursor races - the Telemap, whale-like beings that explored the Universe through AstralProjection, followed by the humanoid Isokist, who did so in person and colonized several galaxies before they began [[ThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow experimenting with the dimensions outside our Universe]], which quickly led to them being nearly annihilated by [[EldritchAbomination Eldritch Abominations]]. Somewhere along the way, one Isokist MadScientist created the Scourge - a sentient [[ApocalypseHow Ultimate Weapon]] in the form of a female Isokist - as a last-ditch defense against the invaders. The rest is hidden in the mists of time, but it is known that the Scourge survived, until eight billion years later it merged with a human teenager, becoming the character of Tennyo.
* The Drylon from ''Literature/BeyondTheImpossible''. They disappeared five billion years ago but they left behind technology so powerful that the gods will do anything to put their hands on it.
--> Five billion years ago, the Drylon disappeared. The legend goes that the Drylon waged war against the universe and lost. They lost so bad that hardly anybody remembers them.


[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'', the First Race, while never directly referred to in the show, has been revealed by Greg Weisman to have preceded the Three Races.
* In ''ShadowRaiders'', a mysterious race created world engines (if not the planets themselves). This allowed the natives to not get consumed by the Beast Planet. One has to wonder who they were and why they did it.
* The French series ''Once Upon a Time... Space'' (the sci-fi and prevalently entertaining installment of the ''WesternAnimation/IlEtaitUneFois'' educational series) has ''at least'' two of these races. The two confirmed races were at war with each other, with one composed by [[HumanAliens human lookalikes]] (some of which landed on a primitive planet inhabitated by other HumanAliens and [[ETGaveUsWiFi taught them better science]] before [[NukeEm nuking them]] [[DisproportionateRetribution for attacking them in order to steal their technology]]) and the other implied to have normal-sized starships capable to [[PlanetShatteringKaboom blow up a planet]] (the asteroid belt is believed having been one such planet, where this race believed some of their enemies had taken refuge). The inhabitants of {{Atlantis}} are a subgroup of another race of HumanAliens, known for having interbred with Earth humans (with Psi's PsychicPowers implied to be the result of descending from them) and who are possibly connected to the first group, and a fourth, who actually appear, is a SufficientlyAdvancedSpecies that may be the same who sent the Atlanteans on Earth and have some connection to Psi. The protagonist themselves become this from time to time, acting as teachers to less developed species.

[[folder:Real Life and Mythology]]
* An OlderThanFeudalism topic is {{Atlantis}}:
** It was first recorded by Plato, and may be an allegory he dreamed up to serve his conception of a utopian society by providing it with an enemy. Another possibility is that the legend of Atlantis grew out of stories about the civilization on Bronze-Age Crete, long before classical AncientGreece. Another candidate is [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santorini Santorini,]] which was once Thera, an island city-state in the Aegean Sea, very advanced compared to its neighbors, even possessing indoor plumbing, but erased (along with the middle of the island) by a volcanic explosion about 36 centuries ago.
** Theories on the origins of Atlantis are far ranging and include everything from islands in the Mediterranean to the continents of North and South America. Proponents of the latter theories, however, are not taken seriously because no such civilisation could have existed and left zero trace or record of its existence whatsoever.
** The story includes a second set of precursors in the ancient predecessor of Athens (in another location in Greece which no longer exists), which embodied all of the traits of Plato's ideal state. After the war between the two ended in victory for Athens, it was also destroyed in the same calamity as Atlantis. Oddly enough no-one ever seems to believe that this culture was real, even though it gets much more focus in the story and the claims about it are much more modest.
* Medieval and Renaissance Europeans often thought of the Roman Empire this way. [[AdventurerArchaeologist Adventurer Archaeologists]] in Central Asia often thought of the various Silk Road Civilizations this way, too. Similarly, the early Iron Age civilizations of Greece, Anatolia and Mesopotamia which emerged after the Bronze Age collapse and subsequent "Dark Ages" viewed their predecessors as such, most notably the awe in which the Hellenic Greeks held the Mycenaeans.
* One serious solution proposed for the UsefulNotes/FermiParadox[[note]]in brief: The universe is at the very least not hostile to life, and it's big enough and old enough that we humans shouldn't be alone, so why haven't we encountered any other intelligent species in some way?[[/note]] is that ''we humans'' are the Precursors -- we are the first intelligent race. Or at the very least, our elders are [[SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale too recently emerged to have expanded universe-wide yet]]. If this is true, uncounted billions of civilisations are depending on us not nuking ourselves or sinking to pre-industrial levels via climate change and resource exhaustion. No pressure.
* This is also a favorite theme with ConspiracyTheories, where the role of the Precursors is filled by ancient, vanished technological empires like Atlantis or Lemuria, or [[AncientAstronauts by alien visitors who founded humanity's ancient civilisations]].
* The mysterious Indus civilization (Bronze Age) reached levels of technology, health and urbanism not reached again until the Middle Ages (in India) or later. For just a bit of perspective, the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro had a better sewage system than nearby Karachi does today.
* Ancient Phoenician-influenced Sardinia could count. They had iron weapons, conquered Italy and southern France, and had huge stone fortresses long before the middle ages. The end of the Sardinian civilization also coincides with an eruption of Vesuvius, plus the geography and political state of the island could match the description.
* Any ancient state ended up either as this or a VestigialEmpire. The best examples would be the six "cradles of civilization" where writing, urbanization and features of modern society first developed independently of older civilizations: [[{{Mayincatec}} Mesoamerica]], the central Andes, AncientEgypt, Mesopotamia, [[SimSimSalabim the Indus River Valley]] and China.
* Homo Erectus. They inhabited Africa and most of Eurasia for over 2 million years, and are believed to be the first species of human, and the first in Earth's history, to make complex hunting tools, control fire, and cook their food. They were so widespread that they gave rise to many different subspecies of humans, including Homo Heidelbergensis, the ancestor of both modern humans and Neanderthals. There are ongoing debates about whether some known groups of early humans are actually Homo Erectus or a subspecies descended from them.