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Anime & Manga
- One episode of Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z showed that there were analogues to the girls in the Edo period that sealed Him away in a volcano.
- In Digimon Adventure it's revealed that the heroes weren't the first group of digidestined. Digimon Adventure tri. expands on this, and reveals that the two government agents who helps the team were part of the first digidestined group themselves.
- In Digimon Frontier, Lucemon was sealed by a group of 10 ancient heroes.
- HeartCatch Pretty Cure! establishes that there were many other Cures that had their own adventures long before the four main heroines did. Only two of their forerunners were actually shown (although others appeared in the form of anonymous statues) — the heroine's grandmother, formerly known as Cure Flower, is a mentor to the team, while Cure Angie, who was active four hundred years ago and is stated to be the first Cure in history, briefly appears in the movie.
- In Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka becomes the Priestess of Suzaku and must assemble the seven Suzaku warriors. In the course of her adventure, she learns about the last girl to enter the world of the book, who became the Priestess of Genbu, several decades earlier. Also, at one point, the Suzaku seven encounter two of the Genbu warriors. The predecessors' story was later expanded in the prequel series, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden.
- Cross Ange: The original Libertus team, which failed their mission, and was mostly slaughtered by the bad guys. In the main story, one of its survivors, namely, Jill, attempts to reenact Libertus with Ange and her squad taking point in it.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid: Flashbacks reveal that the merry little gang gathering around Vivio and Einhart in the main story is not entirely dissimilar to the ragtag bunch of outcasts who banded around the two's famous ancestors: Sankt Kaiser Olivie and Hegemon Ingvalt of Shutra.
- The Board Game Heroquest gives the names of the 4 heroes who defeated the villain Zargon years ago, and specifically states that the players are trying to live up to the example.
- The 2011 Defenders series introduced a group of heroes around the beginning of the 20th century who had been the victim of a Cosmic Retcon related to storyline of the series. They were superheroes before any such concept existed in the Marvel Universe canon, and before superhero comics were published in real life. They mostly had a Steam Punk motif and corresponded to early science fiction and pulp adventure tropes.
- Few years earlier Runaways did something similar, revealing two groups of superhumans living in 1920 New York. They spent most of time fighting each other and it was impossible to tell who the real bad guys are, just like regular Marvel heroes around time the story came out.
- Having the protagonists established as LegacyCharacters in the first issue, W.I.T.C.H. has a few.
- Yan Lin, last active member of the previous generation of Guardians of Kandrakar, is the first to appear (and the one to announce the girls they've been chosen and physically deliver the Heart of Kandrakar to Will), but we later meet three of her four companions (two had died, but one was able to leave a ghost), and we see the legacy stretches far in the past and across the worlds.
- Desconstructed in Birthright: before the series' events there was a heroic coven of mages united to fight against God-King Lore and his armies before mysteriously disappearing without trace. Turns out the reason for their disappearance was that after fighting Lore for so long, they crossed the Despair Event Horizon when realizing there was no victory in sight. They decided to abandon their world to its fate, move to Earth and casting a barrier around it to prevent Lore from invading our world as well. The once noble heroes have turned into overzealous knight templars willing to commit any atrocity to preserve this world's safety.
- Watchmen has the Minutemen, a Super Team of masked crimefighters from the 1940s and predecessors of the modern Watchmen (a.k.a. the Crimebusters). At least two of them, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are Legacy Characters.
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: It was implied in the first issue that there was an earlier version of the group. Not only was that group's existence confirmed, but there were several others before that one, going back to Elizabethan times at least.
- The Powers Of Harmony
- The Order of the Zodiac, a group of knights who served Celestia during the War of the Sun and Moon. Blair's company of Royal Guards are Echoes (magical clones) of them.
- According to the folklore of the Zhevra Flatlands, there's also Hakumbele, a great warrior who long ago descended from the mountains to save the Flatlands from evil, and after a Heroic Sacrifice to defeat his foe, became the Flatlands' patron saint.
- Queen of All Oni: The Shadowbinder Sage, who used his own lifeforce to make the Oni masks, and his disciples, who used them to seal the Oni.
- Inner Demons: Bayonet, the original Master of Harmony, who fought and defeated Queen Midnight thousands of years ago at the cost of her own life. Apple Bloom is her reincarnation.
- Cure Dawn and Cure Dusk in Futari Wa Pretty Cure Blue Moon are this, though they only operated 25 years before the story, far from ancient. In fact, they're still around, and they eventually return to active duty.
Films — Animation
- The Power of Five: Each of the five Chosen Ones has a past self that lived centuries ago. All of the past selves teamed up to seal away the Old Ones in the first place.
- Originally, Martin the Warrior was basically this in Redwall... but then came the prequels where he's The Hero.
- Harry Potter: The Marauders (James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew) were this, as opposed to Harry and those who attended Hogwarts while he did. The Marauders, along with many others, fought in the First Wizarding War, while Harry fought in the Second Wizarding War, which is the one that happens during the course of the book and film series. Sirius once mentions that "it feels like it did before" when talking about the war that was on the doorstep between Harry's fourth and fifth years at Hogwarts.
- Played With (to the point of double or even triple subversion) in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy. To whit: The Lord Ruler is said to have vanquished The Deepness ages ago, and ushered in the Final Empire, under his care and protection. Of course, he's a villain with 0% Approval Rating, and overthrown at the end of the first book, and it is revealed he was doing his best to keep Ruin at bay. It's also revealed that the Lord Ruler isn't the prophesied Hero of Ages, but rather someone who killed that hero and took his place, all because of twisted and misrepresented prophecies corrupted by Ruin to further its attempts to escape.
- Seekers of the Sky: It takes them a while to realize, but the main cast are basically the new Twelve Apostles.
- The earlier Seekers, such as Kieran, on Legend of the Seeker. Subverted when it turns out that Kieran betrayed his quest and had to be Sealed in a Can himself... though the way in which he did it (having sex with his Confessor) just makes the parallels with Richard more obvious.
- Several Power Rangers teams turn out to not be the first like them (though they would often be the first to use Ranger powers). Details about them tend to be left pretty vague, except in a few cases.
- With the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, it's been hinted that Zordon has long been known to Recruit Teenagers with Attitude, though we never get more details than that.
- In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, the Quasar Sabers have been used by those worthy to use them for many, many generations. There was talk of using the non-white Gosei Sentai Dairanger suits to represent a previous generation, but it was not to be.
- In Power Rangers Wild Force one of the warriors from 3000 years ago turns out to have been posessed, and after exorcism, becomes the Sixth Ranger. Also, the Giraffe Zord was once the signature weapon of one of the others, and one of the later weapons is named after him. We don't get to know the previous team, but saw flashbacks: they used the Crystal Sabers and Wild Zords but did not have Ranger-like suits, resembling knights instead.
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, the original Rangers could be considered the precursors, as The Mentor was Tommy and his old team got a few mentions.
- In Power Rangers Mystic Force, most of the group from last time around are major characters, probably because in this case the seal only lasted twenty years rather than the usual thousands. One of last time's group is The Mentor, two are the Big Bad's dragons (one Brainwashed and Crazy, one a traitor), one was Sealed Badass in a Can and becomes the new Sixth Ranger, and the Sixth Ranger from last time is mentioned at least once as a Posthumous Character.
- In Power Rangers Jungle Fury, there were seven Old Masters who sealed Dai Shi away millenia ago, and for the most part they're still around to serve as The Mentors to the current guardians. One gets hit with the Mentor Occupational Hazard in the first episode but visits a few more times as Spirit Advisor, three died in the battle to seal Dai Shi but the Rangers are able to visit the Spirit World to learn from them, and the last three make recurring appearances as Retired Badasses. The original Beast War was ten thousand years ago. The fact that this means the surviving Masters are several thousand years old is completely ignored. We even meet Master Phant's teenage niece. The final battle brings all seven together to join the young 'uns in kicking major ass.
- In the intro to Power Rangers Samurai, it is shown that a group of samurai from Feudal Japan originally sealed Master Xandred and the Nighloks into Sanzu River. Also a few years prior to the main series, the Rangers' parents fought the Nighloks before their generation's Red Ranger sealed Xandred again after he broke out (which is implied to be a common occurrence; no Red Ranger has been able to make the seal permanent). This is a rare instance to show the precursors as actual Rangers using the same suits.
- On the Super Sentai side of things, the core 5 of Gosei Sentai Dairanger are distant descendants or, in the case of Ryo, not quite so distant of the five Dai Tribe warriors who originally fought the Gorma thousands of years ago. These original Dairangers were destroyed when the red one was seduced over to the Gorma side and led the others into a trap. The traitor red ventured into the human world for a while in the modern era and sired the boy who would become the red of his time, and eventually redeemed himself.
- The previous 34 teams became precursor heroes in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. They drove the Zangyack away from Earth by sacrificing their powers to create a huge explosion. The powers were eventually collected by AkaRed, Basco, and Marvelous, before being used by the Gokaiger team.
- A rather unusual example of this occurs in Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: the precursor team for the series isn't the Kyoryugers themselves. Rather, it's their mecha who were the original team in the time of the dinosaurs and now choose humans to ally with, though a number of them had recruited their choices in ages past. These prior heroes include three ancient warriors (one of which became the Sixth Ranger), a now-elderly scientist, the team's alien mentor who has been the group's ally since the start, and KyoryuRed's dad. A post-series spinoff DVD puts the current team as precursors to their descendants 100 years in the future.
- Smallville: As the mythology/world building grows there are many superheroes in the world: Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, etc. Chloe gets them to join forces as a proto-Justice League. Then they discover that in the past there was an actual Justice Society which sported Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Doctor Fate, the Star Spangled Kid, and Ma Hunkel as members.
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark: The Shadowbinders in "The Shadow Rune" campaign were a party of adventurers who sealed away the king of the Shadow Dragons many decades ago. In the campaign, the current Player Party retraces some of their steps and rescues as many of the surviving Shadowbinders as they can.
- Dragon Age:
- Dragon Age: Origins: It is strongly implied that the Player Character is not the first Grey Warden to have started off with nothing, assembled a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, and led them to victory over a Blight. Of particular note is Garahel, who defeated the previous Blight four centuries ago, by assembling as many unlikely allies as he could.
- Dragon Age II: The protagonist's father, Malcolm Hawke, whose heroism is explored in the game's Legacy Downloadable Content. He's dead before the start of the game, but due to his use of magic, we get to hear his Badass Baritone.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition: The main game and particularly Jaws of Hakkon DLC reveal that the original Inquisition was formed pretty much like the modern one—in the middle of a crisis, bringing together such diverse individuals as Dalish mages and the future Emperor of Orlais (who was more of their patron than a member).
- The Cooper family in Sly Cooper, who have been stealing from other thieves since prehistoric times.
- Most Fire Emblem games have them. Summarized on this fan site.
- Anri in Fire Emblem Akaneia was the first person to wield Falchion and defeat Medeus and his Doluna Empire. Other heroes like Iote(The first Wyvern Rider), Ordwin, Cartas, and Marlon are actually mentioned.
- Fire Emblem Jugdral has the Twelve Crusaders who originally defeated the Lopt Empire by blood bonding with manaketes of the Divine Dragon tribe, including Naga.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening has the First Exalt, a nameless man who originally sealed new character Grima for 1,000 years beneath the Dragon's Table after making a pact with Naga to unleash the Falchion's true power. The First Exalt is infamous in the fandom for having a history that exactly matches Marth without being the Lord himself.
- In Overlord it's given a twist; they're the antagonists who defeated your predecessor and you were part of the group.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's Hero of Time (the main character of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).
- And The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, where the Shade is also implied to have been a previous hero (again, confirmed to be Ocarina's).
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, "The Hero of Men" is mentioned in the legend at the beginning of the game.
- The hero of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the precursor hero, having been the one who claimed the Triforce and passed his Heroic Lineage through to the others who came later. The manga says there may have been one more before him (a hero who volunteered to fight for the goddess Hylia and she blessed him with the heroic spirit that carried onwards, otherwise it's the protagonist of Skyward Sword)
- The distant back story of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild tells that 10,000 years ago a Hero of Hyrule and its Princess used the Divine Beasts and Guardians to defeat an incarnation of Ganon, before sealing the Sheikah machines away out of fear for their potential. The more recent back story shows that 100 years ago, in an attempt to defeat the Calamity Ganon, Hyrule dug up the machines to repeat the plan and it all goes to hell when Ganon turned the Guardians against them.
- In Tales of Symphonia, you have Mithos' party: Mithos, Martel, Yuan, and Kratos. By the time the game actually takes place though, only Mithos is remembered at all, and not for what he actually did (probably because he twisted the truth to fit his made-up religion). Well, technically people remember "the goddess" Martel, too...
- In Tales of Phantasia, there's the original party that defeated Dhaos in the past: You end up going back in time and replacing these people.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a group of heroes sealed the Shadow Queen behind the titular door a thousand years before the events of the game. They are implied to be cursed into the beings that are trapped in blacks chests, and who curse you with new abilities using a loophole to help you.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy V has 12 heroes who defeated an ancient evil that was after the same power as the game's Big Bad.
- Then the Four Warriors of Dawn, who sealed away the Big Bad after discovering he was immortal.
- The Reveal of Final Fantasy I subverts this trope: the protagonists you have been playing as were the precursor heroes via the Timey-Wimey Ball.
- Auron, Braska and Jecht in Final Fantasy X were Summoner Braska's party, which defeated but failed to destroy Sin for good in the previous generation, so Yuna's new party has to pick up the fight.
- Final Fantasy III reveals that legendary warriors tend to appear whenever the balance of light and darkness go too far out of alignment. Last time around it was the warriors of darkness out to stop the forces of light from going out of control and destroying the world.
- In Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, you begin the game actually playing as the Precursor Heroes, as they defeat the evil Sinistrals; after that battle, you start playing as Maxim and Selan's descendant, who has to stop them from being resurrected. And then there's the prequel, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, which tells the entire story of the Precursor Heroes from the first game.
- Terra, Aqua and Ven from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep are the precursors to Sora and Riku in the Kingdom Hearts series. They were who Xigbar was referring when he told Sora that "he wasn't half the hero the others were."
- Lunar: The Silver Star has the Four Heroes — Dragonmaster Dyne, Hell Mel, Lemia and Ghaleon, four warriors who fought to protect the goddess Althena against the Vile Tribe's hordes. During the course of the game, it is eventually discovered that one of them is Not Quite Dead, and a second is the game's main villain.
- The Fable I game references plenty, particularly the Archon, who was the player character's uber-heroic ancestor. In turn, the player character serves as a Precursor Hero to his descendant, who is the main character of Fable II. In turn, the PC is the parent of Fable III's player character.
- The Council of the Nine in Lusternia. They were the Vernal Gods who originally sealed away the five great Soulless Gods. They stand sentinel today as Avechna the Avenger, and are periodically reawoken if a Soulless manages to seep out of its prison.
- Played With in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: While you play as an Army of One, flashbacks reveal that originally, the Big Bad Alduin was defeated by a trio of plucky Nord heroes, Gormlaith, Hakon, and Felldir. All of them fight Alduin at your side once more in Sovngarde, and allow you to summon their spirits back to the Mundus afterwards.
- Red essentially counts as this in Pokémon Gold and Silver and the remakes. There's several references to another trainer who defeated Giovanni and Team Rocket three years before.
- Pops up briefly in Pokémon Black and White too; Bonus Boss Cynthia says you remind her a lot of the trainer who took on Giratina.
- In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, there are a lot of references to the player character from the first Black and White games.
- The Six Heroes of BlazBlue sealed the apocalypse-bringing Black Beast 100 years ago, and have mostly become the stuff of legends. That said, a disturbingly large number of them keep popping up in some way, shape, or form. "Bloodedge" a time displaced Ragna fought the Black Beast and rendered it dormant at the cost of his own life, thus buying the Six Heroes the time they needed to create the Nox Nyctores that sealed the Black Beast. Unlike the Six Heroes, Bloodedge's role was unknown to all but his closest friends.
- Neptunia (well, at least in the first game/remake) has the Legendary Heroes, a group of four that combated an evil goddess of the past with their Quartet Arms, which later on would serve as the keys for the gateway to Celestia and allow Neptune and the gang to fight Arfoire for the last time.
- Wasteland 2: Thanks to the Time Skip, the new Player Party of Desert Rangers finds themselves following in the footsteps of the (in)famous Ranger party from the first game. In fact, the main plot is triggered by one of said team members' death, and its former leader is now the commander of all rangers and thus, your boss.
- Homestuck has a whole chain of these. The pre-Scratch trolls reset reality, thereby becoming Precursor Heroes to the post-scratch trolls both in and out of Paradox Space. The trolls themselves become Precursor Heroes to the kids by creating their reality... who they then team up with, because Paradox Space is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The kids then reset reality, becoming precursor heroes to a new set of kids.
- As of the 2013-2014 Gigapause, all four sets are ... well, not alive, technically, in some cases ... but at least around and active. And there's a new set, kind of, though one of them has been around for a while, and the exact relationship between them and the others is even more complicated.
- The Order of the Stick: The eponymous ragtag bunch was preceded several decades ago by the Order of the Scribble—a similarly ragtag bunch who managed to seal away the Eldritch Abomination Snarl that the new Player Party is out to contain in the story.
- Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana: The Player Party eventually learns that they are all descended from a group of ancient heroes led by Arnon Reed and his wife Liesel who sealed away Prophet Dwang and ended the Chaos Wars a thousand years ago. The last survivor of Reed's party, Alvin Voss, becomes the PCs' Mysterious Employer and directs them to finish what he and his friends started.
- The Powerpuff Girls
- One episode began in prehistoric times, depicting a trio of Powerpuff Cavegirls who accidentally sealed the bad guy and his mammoth in ice until he was thawed out in the present day. There was a prehistoric Mayor as well.
- The Steampuff Girls, who battled the Mojo Kid in the Old West?
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated reveals that another group of teens called Mystery Inc. existed before Scooby and the gang, until they mysteriously vanished. Fred likes the name enough to adopt it, and the main plot of the series is finding out what happened to them. As of this writing, we only know what happened to their Team Pet, Professor Pericles. He's...changed.
- We now know Pericles and Fred Jones Senior ran them out of town by threatening their parents. Now Ricky (Shaggy counterpart) is the somewhat sinister Mr. E; Cassidy (Velma counterpart) is the current team's secretive associate Angel Dynamite; and Brad and Judy (Fred and Daphne counterparts) are Fred's real parents.
- "This has all happened before" is one of the Arc Words of this series, and it doesn't just mean the previous Mystery Inc.. There were at least six precursor groups, all composed of four humans and a Team Pet, and the ur-example to date is "The Hunters of Secrets" from "ancient" South-America. This is all the doing of an ancient Sealed Evil in a Can that repeats the pattern to create the pawns, who will set it free. Seems like it repeated the plan one times too many, though.
- Some versions of the Masters of the Universe canon have He-Ro, a guy very similar to He-Man, running around and defeating things.
- An even bigger example is Lord Greyskull from the 2002 cartoon, creator of Castle Greyskull and Eternia's first legendary hero. Who looks exactly like an even more buff He-Man - when Prince Adam yells By the power of Greyskull! he isn't referring to the castle.
- Princesses Celestia and Luna defeated Discord and King Sombra over a thousand years before My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic starts.
- In The Legend of Korra, we learn that the first Avatar, Wan, is this: He battled Vaatu the spirit of darkness after accidentaly freeing him from his counterpart Raava the spirit of light. Wan and Raava permanently fused during the Harmonic Convergence to create the Avatar state. And because he could reincarnate every Avatar counts as this, including Aang.
- Billy in Adventure Time. In his youth, he was Oo's greatest hero, slaying an evil ocean and casting down the Lich, among other things. He's since retired, and the mantle has been taken up by the main character, Finn.
- An episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold shows us that there has been versions of Batman in every time period including Ancient Rome, the Golden Age of Piracy and, of course, a Caveman Batman in Prehistory. A villain is trying to kill every Batman using time travel and that, somehow, causes all versions to cease existence.
- Batman Beyond is about an old Bruce Wayne trainning a new Batman.