A character seems to vanish off the face of the earth. Sometimes people just disappear, but this is something more. People who should know about it aren't even sure who the person was. Photos look the same, but without them in. Their loved ones either don't exist at all, or are in love with someone else. They never existed. They're not just gone, they're Ret Gone.
Of course, it's hard to write stories about people who don't exist, so there is normally at least one person who remembers the disappeared character's life. Mostly, this will be someone close to the character, such as their friends or family (and it's often just one person) who will do their best to find evidence, while convincing themselves and others that they're not crazy.
Sometimes, without this character, the world is a notably different place, but sometimes, hardly anything has changed at all.
Occasionally, it'll be the character themselves, whose continued existence is the only evidence they've ever been alive. They may be Invisible to Normals, seeing what the world is like without them. Or they may be alive and well, just really, really annoyed. Cases like this can sometimes cause a Loss of Identity if the character fears that they will start to forget themselves.
Common methods of a Ret Gone include killing them off at youth, shunting them into an Alternate History, and removing them from a metaphysical book of history, or rewriting the book itself in-story, although there are plenty of other Applied Phlebotinum tricks. If we actually see the character vanish and become Ret Gone, then that character doubles as a Ripple Effect Indicator.
Named, of course, after the Retcon.
When some shadowy but non-supernatural force erases the evidence of someone's existence in a more mundane manner, they've been Un-Personed. When the writers decide to simply "forget" a character's existence, that's Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, when a Delayed Ripple Effect is used as a story device this will often be used to perform a sort of half-hearted Story Reset which may inadvertently 'remove' some characters from creation.
Keep in mind that doing this to Hitler never works.
As this is a Death Trope, expect spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
This is the fate of Enrico Pucci at the end of Part 6 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. By using his newfound power of speeding up time, he speeds up time so much that the universe loops back on itself and reality is reset. However, as he is killed before completing the loop, the universe snaps back into a slightly altered version, and Enrico Pucci is nowhere to be seen.
In the end of the Clow Card arc of Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura is threatened with something like this should she fail: no one will actually be gone except Yukito in the anime, who disappears with Kero, Yue, and the Cards, but everyone will forget that their most beloved person ever meant anything to them.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and Xxx Ho Lic (also CLAMP series) are connected by a Ret Gone in which Real!Syaoran of Tsubasa, the son of reincarnated in the past Clone!Syaoran and Clone!Sakura (and not of Cardcaptor Sakura Sakura and Syaoran as previously thought), gave up his existence in his home world for the Sakura of the world of Clow. In order to fill the gap this left in space-time, a new son (who had not previously existed in any world) was created for C!Sakura and C!Syaoran, Watanuki Kimihiro of Holic. Watanuki's existence is therefore precarious and could be erased by R!Syaoran's death or by the Tsubasa gang correcting the space-time disturbance. The point of Holic has been for Watanuki to develop connections to other people that will anchor him to existence when the endgame comes.
Additionally, this almost happens to the "twins" described above when their parents have a Critical Existence Failure upon the death of their creator, as when he dies, their parents technically never existed once again, just as they were retconned in originally. The twins end up making a Deal with the Deviljust to continue having existed.
yes, CLAMP loves this one
, Yuuko of xxxHoLic suffers this once she re-dies. She actually died centuries ago, but a Reality Warper told reality to ignore that for a while. When she sells that "reality ignore my death" effect in a Deal with the Devil of her own, all of a sudden, to most people it is as if she had never kept on living for hundreds of years.
Shakugan no Shana has bad guys which consume people's power of existence. In order to prevent a shock to the reality fabric, placeholders ("torches") that resembles the original person are left behind. "Torches" slowly burn out, becoming increasingly lethargic while all traces of their existence begin to disappear. At the beginning of the series, Yuji desperately, but futilely, tries to keep a classmate-turned-torch alive and continuously involved with their friends, but their attention inevitably drifts, until she finally fades away.
Except nobody actually ends up forgetting her for long, because Shana then takes on her identity. She doesn't take on the vanished girl's personality, though, leading some to question, "Has she always been like this?"
The Movie of Haruhi Suzumiya — The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya — centers around about what you'd expect. Haruhi (and Itsuki, who was Demoted to Extra) turn up going to another school. The fantastic secret identities of the SOS Brigade — including Haruhi — have likewise been retroactively undone.
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The M.O. of the Big Bad of Season 4 mentally tortures his victims with the darkness and guilt in their hearts until they believe they don't deserve to exist — and then grants their wish.
The the Three Nobles of Yliaster did this to Yliater member Clark Smith after he deliberately disobeyed them, changing the past so that his birth never occured. (At least, that's what they claimed happened to him. Seeing as it did not undo any of the crimes he was responsible for, like the murder of Sherry Le Blanc's parents, there may have been more to it than it seemed.)
The end of the Revolutionary Girl Utena manga has Utena erased from the memories of the entire cast, with the exception of Touga, who mourns her passing worse because he cannot share his mourning with anyone. Only just then, Chuchu dresses up like Utena, and then Anthy walks by, now dressed in a boy's uniform like Utena had worn, so obviously some things have changed - and, as she says, Utena is not gone, but out there somewhere.
Same happens in the anime series (minus Touga remembering and Chuchu in Utena's outfit) and Anthy sets off to find Utena again, implying that she wasn't so much "erased" as "moved away" from the other characters' world, which signifies her transition from childhood to adulthood.
In Futari wa Pretty Cure, the three Seeds have this effect, but the evidence was pretty much all faked in the first place — each sprang into existence at the beginning of the same episode where his/her Ret Gone happened — so it's justified as a non-lethal case of No Ontological Inertia.
In Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart, this briefly happens to Hikari, but it's a milder form, as Nagisa and Honoka are able to snap people out of it merely by mentioning her.
In Futari Wa Pretty Cure Splash Star, when Michiru and Kaoru die, only Saki and Mai remember they ever existed, as Saki discovers when she tries to tell her sister Minori that Kaoru (who Minori was close to) is gone. When they turn out to be not so dead after all, everybody suddenly remembers them again, even realizing they've been gone lately.
Tenchi In Tokyo, Yugi apparently "Ret Hered" her shadow Sakuya into the community- everyone else is given Fake Memories of her, her name's put into the records of her apartment building, etc. Once Sakuya realizes she doesn't remember anything and Yugi decides she's served her purpose, all the illusions are undone and Sakuya is Ret Goned again- Tenchi's friends don't remember her, her name disappears from the records, and she disappears from a previously-taken photo.
This is the favored tactic of Enfant in Madlax, who can effectively manipulate all information channels on the planet and, thus, erase all traces of anyone's existence, like they did e.g. with Maclay Marini.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has this happen in Rei, since Rika getting hit by a truck sent her to a Hinamizawa where the dam project was still underway in June 1983, and a good portion of the major characters are absent.
She's only in a coma though.
Happens to ChibiUsa in both versions of Sailor Moon that she is in; in the anime it's due to Mamoru being placed in an almost permanent state of dreaming by Queen Nehellenia in the manga it's due to Mamrou being thrown into the Galaxy Cauldron and melting away, soul and all.. She also gets retgoned after Galaxia Kills Mamoru In the manga, contary to standard Grandfather Clauses, ChibiUsa is able to survive for an unusual amount of time after the point where her birth is made techincaly impossible. The future just becomes very stormy and unstable. In the anime version of this she's almost entirely retgoned however, vanishing from photos. The Sailor Senshi still seem to remember her however, they just can't tell things that are supposed to show her have changed.
Chibi-Usa survives because when Galaxia kills Mamoru, she just takes his Sailor Crystal. At that point, it's still possible for him to be revived as it happens later in that arc. However once he's thrown into the Cauldron, he's pretty much dead until Sailor Moon defeats Chaos.
There's a fanfic where Usagi gives birth to a different child in place of ChibiUsa. Said child, after over nine hundred years of living in the shadow of a sister who never existed, eventually manages to become Sailor Moon, thereby causing ChibiUsa to disappear from photos and gradually fade from memory. Interestingly, this is also one of the few fics to suggest that Usagi would be upset by this situation.
In the current story arc of Kinnikuman Nisei, set in the past, Brocken Jr. loses his right arm in a match, thus removing his trademark Red Rain of Berlin attack. In the next match, Jade attempts the move and is shocked to find he can't do it. Looking at a photo shows that Brocken Jr.'s hand is now a hook, therefore Brocken could never have taught the move to Jade. After some time for Jade's mind to adapt to his new memories, he now knows a leg-based version of the move: Brocken's Repatriation.
Fuuko in Clannad. Gradually, everyone forgets that she's been running around the school lately and becomes unable to see or remember her. Eventually, only Tomoya remembers her. The starfishes she carved stay around, a handful of characters like Sunohara and the Fukuhara's kind-of but not quite remember her. She gets better if you make the right decisions.
Bleach The first movie, Memories of Nobody, ends with Senna fading from existence. It's a bit of a subversion for two reasons: Originally she never really existed in the first place being a collection of random memories given a soul, and Ichigo walks right by her in the movie's ending. Still, she's essentially Ret Gone. Because she's a movie character she's probably never going to be brought up in canon again, meaning she's never going to be re-introduced to the cast.
Also, in Movie 3, Rukia gets an incomplete dose of Ret-gone. The force behind this isn't powerful enough to completely erase her; Zanpakutou spirits and artificial souls such as Kon are immune to the effect, and physical evidence such as written notes remain. Ichigo also regains his memories with a bit of nudging, as the force couldn't Ret Gone the fact that Rukia was the original source of his powers.
This is essentially the power of Ukoku Sanzo's Muten Sutra in Saiyuki, as he shows Sanzo first-hand: literally, 'the power of nothingness'. It also extends to things, though, not just people, but the effect it has on people is what makes it fit the trope.
In an episode of Kirby Right Back At Ya!, no one was able to recognize Escargoon when the monster Erasem entered his body, although he never actually disappeared.
In Nabari No Ou, this is Yoite's main goal. He doesn't succeed in either the manga or anime.
In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this happens to Madoka in the final episode, after she uses her newly obtained powers to rewrite all of reality so that witches are not born from the corruption of Puella Magi. Homura's upset (seeing as the whole reason she became a Magical Girl and went through her Groundhog Day Loop ordeal in the first place was to keep Madoka alive), but Madoka herself is pretty cool about it. Madoka's little brother also remembers her, but everybody else just thinks he has an Imaginary Friend.
Time Stranger Kyoko has this happen to the titular character. After giving Ui her body back, Kyoko returns to earth to see her friends one last time. She's invisible, can't be heard. Her father explains that her friends didn't forget about her. It's that she never existed in their hearts to begin with. She gets better.
The Visual NovelOne: To the Radiant Season has this as the major plot. You are disappearing from everyone's mind and vanishing from the Earth. The only thing that can bring you back is if you've made a connection with a girl enough for her to remember you.
The manga Miki Falls, they effectively do this to Miki's Deliverer boyfriend. It doesn't work on her, even though everyone else forgets.
Happens to Shun Aonuma in From The New World. Shortly afterward the main characters cannot remember him and continue to refer to him as "X." In one of the last episodes, Saki appears to hallucinate and calls out "Shun!"
In Devilman Lady this happened to an entire nation of demon worshipers and the events of Devilman .
In Magic: The Gathering, the card Door to Nothingness does this, according to its flavor text (see page quote above).
So does the card Aether Snap: "May you wake to find you were only ever a dream"
You can actually do this to yourself with the Pact cycle, flavor-wise. These involve borrowing mana from the future. When it's time to send mana into the past, if you can't, you erase yourself from existence.
Apparently it happened to Zhalfir. Teferi "phased it out" (transported it to the future) to prepare for the Phyrexian invasion, and when it was time for it to "phase in", it couldn't.
In Chrononauts, this is done with the aptly-named card "Your Parents Never Met". The chosen player's Secret Identity is revealed, and they must trade it in for a new one.
Towards the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, several universes have been subjected to this. Survivors find that in the new universe, nobody remembers that they ever existed. Those characters are then killed off in the remainder of the book, and promptly forgotten by those few who still remembered them. Ouch.
There was a truly heartbreaking Christmas special a couple years after the Crisis where the ghostly superhero Deadman is wondering why he bothers going on when a young woman, who can see him, tells him: "We don't do it for the glory. We don't do it for the recognition... We do it because it needs to be done. Because if we don't, no one else will. And we do it even if no one knows what we've done. Even if no one knows we exist. Even if no one remembers we ever existed." Then she disappears into the night, but not before Deadman asks her name. "My name is Kara. Though I doubt that'll mean anything to you."
An issue of Captain Marvel by Peter David had Genis-Vell travel into the future to face his evil son. The son is ultimately defeated when Genis makes the decision to kill him as an infant. Once the decision is made, he fades away and is Ret-Gonned.
The immortal Hamed Ali was literally erased from existence in Animal Man. His lines became sketchier, he lost his color, he became nothing more than rough pencil lines and design notes, and disappeared into nothing at all.
The events of Crisis on Infinite Earths come into play in the final issues as it's revealed that Psycho-Pirate remembers all the characters who went missing, and he's releasing them from his mind, so they may live again and break through the fourth wall and kill the readers and writers who made them disappear.
The subject of "The Nearness of You," a bittersweet issue of Astro City in which a man keeps dreaming of a woman he's never met and all her intimate details. It turns out that she was his wife and they were deeply in love, but a supervillain has just made an attempt to control all reality. He was thwarted (it's strongly implied that a Crisis Crossover took place while nobody was watching), but the heroes couldn't restore time exactly how it was before. Her grandparents never met in this new history, and so the man's wife never existed. The man has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory thanks to their strong love. The Hanged Man (a very powerful Astro City hero) appears to the man, explains the situation, and then gives him a choice: he can either have all his memories of her erased so that he'll no longer be haunted, or he can continue to remember the perfect, pure love of his life — knowing full well that he'll never get to experience it. The man chooses to remember. When the Hanged Man excuses himself and says that he has others to visit, the man asks:
Michael: Wait! Others? What — Uh — What do most people choose? Do they forget, or— (For a moment, he thinks that he sees a twitch of a smile under that burlap hood.) Hanged Man: No one forgets. No one. Good night, Michael Tenicek. Sleep well.
Also in Astro City, one of Samaritan's powers (as well as his nemesis Infidel) is immunity to becoming Ret Gone. Samaritan has already averted the grim future from which he came, and as a result he was never born (an automated taco stand was built where his house was supposed to be.) Once, Infidel accidentally wrote everything out of continuity except for him and Samaritan, at which point they realized that it was pointless for them to keep trying to kill each other.
In fact, two of the stories featuring Samaritan strongly hint that the reason why he's been obsessively doing good acts ever since the success of his first mission is to make up for deleting the loved ones of his original timeline. Talk about Survivor's Guilt!
This was the origin of Waverider. In a dark future ruled by a tyrant named Monarch, scientist Matthew Ryder time-traveled to the past to defeat him, suffering an accident that turned him into the time-travelling superhero. Waverider ultimately prevented Monarch from conquering the world, but in doing so history was altered, so that Matt Ryder never went to the past and never became Waverider. However Waverider still existed, and eventually joined forces with the Matt Ryder of the new timeline to form the Linear Men.
Linda Park, the wife of the third Flash, was Ret Goned by a supervillain at her wedding, just before vows were exchanged. The groom found himself at home, confused and vaguely aware that something was missing, but unable to figure out what it was. Eventually (a year and a half later) she was restored to her proper place and the ceremony resumed.
Although Bart Allen (Impulse) could still see and remember her. Of course, his grasp on reality is a littleoff.
In the She-Hulk story "Time of Her Life", the Time Variance Authority's method of execution is the Retroactive Cannon, AKA the RetCan, which does this to anyone shot with it. Including, in that very story, Knight Man and Dr. Rocket. Who, you ask? Well, isn't that the point...
Spider-Man example: "retcon bombs" are the preferred weapon of Hobgoblin 2211, the daughter of that era's Spider-Man. Their first victim is her boyfriend, who helped her escape from her VR prison in the first place. She herself is erased when Spidey catches one with a webline and swings it back at her, assuming it was just a pumpkin bomb.
A one-shot 1970's Spidey enemy was Drom the Backwards Man, who was continually growing younger. When Drom gets killed, Spidey realizes that by the nature of Drom's affliction, all memory that he ever existed will probably vanish as well. So Peter narrates a record of the incident on a tape recorder for himself. Just as he finishes the recording, he forgets what he had been talking about.
In the Marvel Universe this is the stated purpose of the Ultimate Nullifier - a piece of KirbyTech which will erase the chosen target from history, completely. With the unfortunate side-effect that if the target is imperfectly visualized in the user's mind, the user is the one who's erased. Of course how you can determine if a firing succeeded or failed...
Marvel Adventures changes the effect of the weapon completely: it only nullifies differences in power, so that anyone can beat anyone, which is why it can be used to defeat Galactus.
Donna Troy's (again) Retcon-ed origin involved her being cursed by a character called the Dark Angel to live a life full of pain and suffering, with her life being restarted and erased from the world's memory —again— when Donna was at her lowest. (In the most recent case, the death of her ex-husband and son, coupled with the loss of her powers). Hippolyta (the Wonder Woman at the time) & her Teen Titans teammate Wally West (The Flash) remembered her due to being outside the timestream when it was rewritten, and Donna was restored to her previous form, complete with powers (because they used Wally's memories to restore her, and he remembered her best with her Wonder Girl powers).
The tragic part turned out to be that Wally didn't have much memory or knowledge of the (well-written and positive for both of them)relationship she had had with Green Lantern Kyle Rayner before her latest Ret Gone - and so of course she came back with only the vaguest memories of her time with him. Then again, that could just be the writers playing with the readers, like the Magnificent/not-so-Magnificent Bastards they tend to be...
A later version of The Dark Angel tried to do this to Post CrisisSupergirl by trapping her in a horrifying illusion without her knowledge. If Supergirl had mentally, physically, or spiritually broken, Dark Angel would have had the authority to erase her. Supergirl survived the test, but Dark Angel decided to erase her anyway, only to be stopped by her boss, The Monitor.
In Legion Of Super-Heroes, the need to get Mon-El out — because he was written out of Superman's existence — resulted in a confrontation between the Time Trapper and Mon-El. The Time Trapper explained he was behind Mon-El's origin and Mon-El would retroactively cease to exist if he killed him. Mon-El declares that other heroes will arise in his place, and kills him. Fade to white.
DC's second Chronos removed himself from history, since this was the only way to prevent his adoptive mother being killed in a car crash. Due to the nature of his powers, he continues to exist, but no one remembers him except his biological father, who remembers him being born and then vanishing.
In Marvel Comics, The Sentry's entire backstory is that he got Ret Gone'd, which is why nobody remembers the character from Silver Age comics, even though he was active and present then.
Rayek in ElfQuest: Kings of the Broken Wheel wants to take the Palace forward in time and merge it with its former self before it went back in time. This, he claims, will erase the entire history of the elves, trolls and preservers, except for those who happen to be in the Palace when the paradox doesn't happen. Confused? In the event, he does take the Palace forward, leaving behind a whole bunch of elves and trolls who are afraid they'll suddenly cease to exist at some point. Surprise - it doesn't happen. Rayek fails. And then Cutter gets to beat the crap out of him.
This is one of the higher-end abilities of Darkseid's Omega Beams in New Gods.
This would have happened to Chase in Runaways had he sacrificed himself to the Gibborim to save Gertrude. There would be no trace or memory that he ever existed.
In the conclusion of the original Spider-Woman comic series, this was supposed to happen to Spider Woman. After being unable to return her soul to her body, she requested that her friend Magnus casts a spell that makes everyone forget that she ever existed. In the end... the spell was faulty, and she's Back from the Dead.
Animal Man gave us Comic Book Limbo - a space where all forgotten comics characters goes. As long as they are there, no one will remember them, and everybody will regain their memories abouth them, when writers will drag them from this terrible place and put in their stories.
In the final issues of Shade, the Changing Man, Shade (and Milligan) attempted to invert this, and remove Kathy's tragic backstory and murder. It made for an anticlimactic ending, as Shade's personality had come full circle to the socially awkward idealist he was at the beginning, the final page left hanging on his clumsy attempts to reconcile with a woman who no longer had a history with him.
As revealed in Justice League Dark, it didn't work. Shade's creation isn't really Kathy, and Shade has gotten so screwed-up as a result, he's no longer sure if there was ever a real Kathy.
In What If #9, a hero team calling themselves the Avengers formed in the 50s, rather than the 60s as is canon in the main Marvel Universe. In Avengers Forever, Wasp and Captain Marvel (from the present and future Avengers teams, respectively) meet these Avengers, much to their confusion, as they know damn well the team never existed in their timeline, and this is supposed to still be their timeline. The discrepancy is explained by the arrival of Immortus, who wipes out the standing section of time (nearly taking Marvel and Wasp with it) in order to prevent a confrontation between Earth and the Skrull Empire, who had one of its agents impersonating Not-Yet-President Nixon. The now nonexistent Avengers team was later resurrected and reinstated in their place in the 50s as a different team, known as the G-Men, who later became the Agents Of Atlas. Phew.
In an unknown comic (appeared in the Swedish edition of The Phantom): a teenage time traveler is hiding in the present day, trying to avoid futuristic robots that want to kidnap him (because he knows of their existence). When the robots find out where (or rather, when) he is, they try to zap him into their time, but they keep getting the wrong kid... and every time, everyone forgets the victim's existence, as though they never existed. The only ones who remember is the time traveler, and the normal kid protagonist (due to some Phlebotinum).
Implied in Fables. The Jack of Fables and Fables crossover even has the villain doing this to Little Black Sambo; after Revise had more or less done this to him by censoring his myth.
Invoked once by Doctor Strange — to clear his schedule so that he could chase down and defeat a mystical enemy, he cast a spell which made the entire world believe that he had died years ago, and that the physical man they saw was a harmless occult expert named "Stephen Sanders."
When Superman and Wonder Woman kissed, it had the side-effect of erasing Booster Gold from existence. People still remember, but they only think he has disappeared. As a man from the future, Booster Gold disappearing is quite ominous...
Lyra Heartstrings suffers a certain variant of this in Background Pony, constantly fading out of perception while technically still existing. Other ponies notice her and can hold conversations with her, but as soon as they walk away, they forget who she is and what they just did. Anything written about her turns blank, and pictures of her fade out while leaving everything else intact. (Twilight has a photo of herself and her classmate Moondancer, and Lyra mentions that it used to hold three ponies...)
She's even capable of erasing the other Elders, just they're capable of willing themselves back into existence due to being on the same plain as her. She does this to her husband Havoc, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Mass Hysteria, on a regular basis to the point it's described as being equal to one member of a bickering couple shoving the other one.
The Wolf from Shining Armor's Arc, a mysterious entity that's been chasing Shining Armor, seems intent on doing this to him. Made all the more frightening by its Implacable Man status.
The movie The Forgotten: Telly holds on to memories of her young son who died in a plane crash, and goes through therapy to help her cope. Only shortly after the story begins, her therapist tells her that her son never existed, but was made up by her after a miscarriage. Telly frantically tries to prove that she's not crazy, but every single person who ought to know her son has forgotten him, and every scrap of evidence is missing or destroyed. Turns out aliens took her son, along with several other children, and tried to see how much it would take for the parents to forget them. Everybody else who clued in, including several non-parents who knew the children, gets randomly flung into the sky and disappears. Telly is not; instead, the alien wipes her memory since the birth of her son. Upon realizing that she (obviously) has memories from before that birth, i.e. her pregnancy, the alien is hurled into the sky.
It's implied that this happens in the Back to the Future movies when history is changed. The first features a photograph which gradually loses photographees.
In Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, Freddy's most recent victims are erased from existence and from most people's collective memories, apparently a side effect of his growing power.
The Butterfly Effect: The director's cut ending has Evan Ret Gonehimself by going back in time and committing suicide by strangulation in the womb.
Along with the implication that he may have had several brothers and/or sisters who chose the same fate for themselves ultimately.
The indie sci-fi film Ghosts of Hamilton Street has this happening to an everyday man. The people in his life are vanishing in reverse chronological order — first his recent acquaintances, then co-workers and finally his oldest friends — and he's the only one who notices the difference.
In the French film La moustache, a man decides to shave off his mustache of many years, only to be disappointed when no one notices. The thing is, when he points it out, everyone - including his wife - is adamant that he's never had any facial hair. His quest to find the truth - whether he's crazy or at the centre of a conspiracy - endangers his marriage.
At the end of Donnie Darko, Donnie travels back in time to eliminate the tangent universe by dying. His very existence is forgotten by several main characters he's met since, though all of them remember him in their dreams.
Happens in Meet the Robinsons when Lewis wipes Doris from existence by vowing to never invent her.
The German film Reconstruction does this with the protagonist. After certain point in the narrative, he is erased not only from the memory of his friends and family, but also is left with no home (the house where he lived doesn't properly exist). Obviously, the story becomes highly symbolical after that happens, with the possibility of some, most or all events in his story not being real. One of the most radical possible scenarios is that he doesn't even exist, and is merely a character in a story being written by the husband of the woman he loves. The movie plays with the idea of love itself being an ilusion.
Invoked in the Terminator movies, with SkyNet attempting to do this to John Connor, then the rebels attempting to do this to SkyNet. It doesn't actually happen, though, ever. Even Terminator 2 subverts it in the next movie.
In the Apocalypse film series movie Tribulation, Eileen Canboro (Margot Kidder) is mysteriously erased from Calvin Canboro's picture of his siblings, though Tom Canboro clearly remembers her. Of course, Eileen is only erased because she was Caught Up In The Rapture and Calvin has accepted the Mark of the Beast, causing him to forget her existence.
Earlier in the movie, Tom Canboro finds out that a fellow police officer who he knows is a Christian, Kenny Rice, is not listed in the police department's records after the Rapture.
The entire premise of Forget Me Not. Whenever the ghost kills one of the protagonist's friends, they not only die but also get completely erased from reality, so none of their other friends or family remember them (also they become retro-killing ghosts themselves). By the end of the movie, the protagonist's family has her committed because of her constant rantings about witnessing the horrible deaths of those closest to her — people that, as far as the family knows, have never existed.
A version of this is in the movie Flightplan. The main character is made to think she's the only one who remembers her daughter's existence, but it's actually an elaborate set-up.
Also done to the Avenger, and why he decides to form Justice Inc, and hunt criminals.
A popular Urban Legend, usually referred to as "The Vanishing Lady" or "The Vanishing Hotel Room", tells of a woman who stayed at a hotel with her ill mother. The daughter goes out to get medicine for her mother, but returns to find her mother and the room she was staying in no longer exist. She asks the hotel workers for help, but they claim to have no memory of her mother. There are two endings to the story. In the first, the frantic daughter is thrown out of the hotel, never to see her mother again. In some versions, this is followed by her going insane and being committed to an insane asylum. In the second ending, it's revealed the mother had died of the Black Plague while the daughter was out and that her death had been covered up to avoid a city-wide panic. Of course, there's a Plot Hole in this ending. If the authorities had wanted to avoid a plague outbreak, why didn't they quarantine the daughter and everyone else who had come into contact with the mother? A particularly cruel variation is to use both endings, so that the daughter ends up committed and only the audience learns what happened to the mother. The story is frequently set during the 1889 Paris Exposition with the mother and daughter portrayed as British tourists. The legend is the basis for the following fictional works:
The 1950 film So Long at the Fair, which replaces the mother with a brother and uses the second ending. Jean Simmons plays the woman and Dirk Bogarde plays the obligatory male hero who helps her solve the mystery.
This is the set up for Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, where the main character wakes up one day to find no one remembers him and many can't even see him, unless he makes direct physical contact with them. This is taken to the extreme when someone literally rents his apartment out while he's standing in it.
In the Thursday Next series, starting in Lost In A Good Book, Thursday's husband Landen Parke-Laine gets erased from history through time travel, despite attempts to stop this. The Chronoguard then hold his existence hostage unless Thursday does a task for them.
This has already happened to Thursday's father, although because he's an experienced Chronoguard himself, this doesn't prevent him popping up on occasion to give Thursday advice. They've wiped him from history, but they haven't actually stopped him existing yet (although he now has no first name). Don't think about this too hard, and especially don't wonder how Thursday can exist.
At one point, there is a support group for people with family members who have been Ret Gone. Then some of the Ret Gone are retroactively de-RetGoned. The former support group members go to the remaining support group to thank them for their support during the Ret Gone period, but because the de-RetGoning was retroactive, the support group don't recognize them and think they're being mocked.
Balefire, in The Wheel of Time series. When it hits you, it kills you in the (recent) past, with the amount of "backburn" being based on the power of the spell. Everything you did in the past few seconds or minutes never actually happened. This affects physical reality but not the memory of those still around to witness the events, leading to much confusion as people remember dying but are clearly not dead.
Note that it's said that excessive use of balefire could destroy the fabric of reality, in the War of Power in the series Back Story, both sides eventually stopped using it for this reason.
In Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space books, this is a risk of messing around with Faster-than-Light Travel. One alien hints that entire civilizations have been erased this way, and that's only the ones who left evidence behind.
Redemption Arc shows a variation of this. In both cases, the only person who remembers the missing person being there at the time of the event was there in the room with them. However, these people didn't vanish from time. A look in the records showed that they did exist, but died years earlier and if they hadn't died, they very likely would have ended up working on the project that they are claimed to have vanished during. This implies that the witness, or at least their memories of the person, was transplanted into an alternate universe where that person was already dead.
In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Summer Flame, those who die while fighting the forces of All-Father Chaos are eliminated completely from existence, including the memories of the entire world. The only evidence they were ever there at all is the empty clothing and suits of armor left behind. Their method of doing so? All they need is for you to see them, and listen to them for a few seconds, so their words can steal your will to exist away. Or touching them will do that too. Chaos The All-Father was not a nice person, and his creations express this very well.
In a later book, a group of shadow-wights survive by feeding off the memories of a small village, rather then wiping the villager from existence, allowing the wights to survive indefinitely with their victims none the wiser.
A short story titled, appropriately, Gone, describes the fate of a group of treasure hunters who go to an island populated only by shadow wights hoping to find loot. The story is told by way of a diary, with the author repeatedly getting confused (at one point IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING AN ENTRY, as the person he was writing about gets erased at that very moment) because his past entries mention people who were never there. The final entry is made by the last survivor, who thinks that the entire diary is actually a work of fiction someone wrote as a present for him.
All Travelers in The Pendragon Adventure are Ret Gone from their specific worlds after they take their first trip to another territory. They have no histories, no traces of evidence, no sign they ever existed. The people they knew still remember them, but there are no physical records of them and their journals serve as the only other proof of existence. Bobby Pendragon gets this in full, including having his house and family vanishing. Though the fact that Travelers are Ret Gone has helped the Travelers a few times in discovering that someone is Saint Dane.
This happens in the anthology book connected to the Black Jewels trilogy. The character Saetan wipes out an entire people in response to his son's death. However, an incredibly minor character, an inn owner, remembers that a merchant from that island was there, but him and everything the man had brought with simply weren't there anymore. Also, his wife, Heketeah, the one actually responsible for the death, remembers them and is utterly terrified at the power it takes to simply erase a whole people. Saetan's friend goes to find the island only to find it's completely gone.
Happens to the protagonists in the book Superstition. They and their circle of associates test the power of belief by willing a spirit into existence; that spirit then proceeds to wipe that entire circle out of existence, and succeeds at it.
In the Discworld novel Mort, after the title character refuses to collect the soul of a princess who should have died, the universe attempts to carry on as if she had died, causing much confusion as the citizen begin mourning the loss of someone though they don't know who or why. Said princess has to constantly remind people in the same room that she's present.
Later, an 'interface' forms, a bubble on the world (which only the magically gifted or Death can see) centred on the princess, where the inside is the changed timeline and the outside is 'correct' history in which the princess is dead. The pressure of history causes the bubble to shrink and shrink until the changed timeline would never have existed.
This is the main power possessed by the shadow-men in John Dies at the End, though the erasure isn't perfect:
"But one night, me and John got really drunk and we sat around telling Todd Brinkmeyer stories, real stories, stories that happened but didn't happen. I think of his face and sometimes I can see it, and it's like a dream you can't quite remember the next morning. And I go back and go over the chain of events and there's places, holes where I know Todd should be."
And it's not limited to entire people. In the sequel This Book Is Full Of Spiders, Amy's hand, which was amputated after the car accident in which her parents were killed, had not been amputated until the point Amy touched a Shadow Man during the climax of the novel. Which actually raises a lot of questions, the most obvious being how they opened the Ghost Door earlier in the novel...
The Goosebumps book "The Cuckoo Clock of Doom" involves the protagonist being forcibly transported back through his own life by the clock. He manages to find it again and return to the present before ceasing to exist, but realises that his Annoying Younger Sibling was now never born due to a flaw in the clock. He considers going back and attempting to fix things, but it's left ambiguous.
In the short story "The Edge of the World" by Michael Swannick, three high school kids, one girl, two boys, full of hormones and teenage angst, blow off school one day and decide to go look at the edge of the world, which is not far from the American military base where they live. While there they look at caverns carved into the cliffs by ancient monks. They each make a wish - and one boy wishes he had never been born. They get their wishes. They only trace left by the boy is a quickly fading dream-like memory in the mind of the girl.
A variant in the Young Wizards series: If a wizard breaks the Wizards' Oath, he loses his wizardry and everyone in the world forgets he was ever a wizard.
In "The Time Of Yore" by Michail Uspensky the main hero, a slapdash bloke named Jihar, runs up to his neck in debts and finally pawns his very fame to a greedy merchant. Due to interference of dark magic, the due-bill has this power: nobody in the whole world recognises him anymore, all his heroic achievements are attributed to the merchant, and even the books written about Jihar are changed.
Sweet wee Cassie from Animorphs considers preventing a person from being born to be more humane than killing them. It wouldn't normally have been a problem for the poor host who would have been infested against his will, but she happened to have a time machine at the time she came to this revelation. Sorry John.
In Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, it is eventually revealed that our timeline is NOT the original one; there was a whole other history wherein Europe never sailed west to the Americas but the successors of the Aztecs sailed east and laid waste to most of the "Old World" with a religion based on conquest and human sacrifice. The people of this timeline eventually Ret Gone'd themselves to try to create a better world (wherein Columbus sailed west first). By the end of the book, the people of our timeline have little choice but to make a similar sacrifice, this time with a more detailed plan that provides a chance for a peaceful and mutually beneficial meeting of Europe and the Americas.
This happens to Kahlan in the last three novels in the Sword of Truth series. Richard is the only one who remembers her, including herself; Kahlan, in an interesting twist, is rendered amnesiac and is kept as a scullery maid by those who Ret Goned her.
This is done in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy so as to destroy Arthur's happy ending in Mostly Harmless and allow a fifth book to be written. Arthur and Fenchurch are travelling around the galaxy, and make a "perfectly ordinary hyperspace jump." Once they get out of hyperspace, Fenchurch has disappeared, the seat next to Arthur is empty, and records show that Arthur boarded the flight alone. In the radio series, the flight attendant points out that Arthur has his feet on the empty seat.
In Those That Wake, this trope happens to places; forgetting about them makes them fade from existence where they are turned into pocket dimensions by Man In Suit.
Hermione disappears from her family photos when, at the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she erases herself from her parents' memories for their safety. An interesting example in that she Retconsherself out.
Live Action TV
In Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Remember Me", this happened to the entire crew of the Enterprise; only Dr. Crusher remembered the missing people. This leads to a rather odd scene in which only Picard and Crusher were left on the ship, and he insisted that it made sense that they could run the ship with only two people - then the computer insists after Picard vanishes that she has always run the entire Enterprise alone. Only after everyone was gone did Dr Crusher figure out that she was trapped in a pocket universe based on her own thoughts. And it's shrinking.
And, of course, this is also Q's main threat to Picard in the first (and last) episode: To wipe humanity itself out so completely that it will never have existed.
Yesterday's Enterprise, Tasha Yar finds out she shouldn't exist because she died in the "real" timeline. The episode causes a Time Paradox when Yar "sacrifices" her life to restore the timeline - but later it's learned she was taken prisoner and gave birth to Sela.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Children of Time": The crew find out they started a colony 200 years in the past, and to prevent the non-existence of several thousand people, they agree to go back and strand themselves. However, Odo, having lived those 200 years, was distressed that Kira was going to die in this timeline from some severe injury. So he fixes the Defiant and causes the non-existence of those thousands of people, including himself.
The same plot, with a research facility substituted for the ship and virtual reality goggles substituted for a Negative Space Wedgie, appeared in the Eureka episode "Games People Play." Much like the TNG episode, it comes down to the ludicrous yet creepy statement that the population of Eureka is "two."
An episode of Stargate SG-1 did it again with a community of people living under a shield dome on an otherwise hellish planet: they all had devices on their heads which wired them into a central mainframe to retrieve knowledge from it. However, the shield was losing power, so the computer slowly shrank it over the years, controlling the excess population in their sleep and sending them out to die in the boiling atmosphere outside, and then editing the remaining people's memories so they thought the town had always been that size and didn't remember the dead ones.
Similar to the Torchwood and Buffy examples below, SG-1 also inverts this in an episode where a new character who the audience doesn't remember appears.
In Continuum, Cameron Mitchell didn't exist because the man Ba'al killed to stop the Stargate from reaching North America was his grandfather.
Alice: What Mel fears has happened to him in the 1983 episode, "Sweet, Erasable Mel" (after Vera accidentally erases his financial records from his new computer). Things temporarily get worse for Mel when he and Alice go to the bank and try to resolve the issue – the banker accidentally presses the "delete" key, not only double-erasing Mel but the banker's information as well! (The banker famously sings, mournfully, "I don't exist!")
Twilight Zone: "And When the Sky Was Opened". Three astronauts return from a trip into space and disappear one at a time. As each disappears, only one of the astronauts remembers that the others existed, until he disappears too, then the spacecraft they returned in vanishes as well. Every time someone disappears, the audience sees that day's newspaper, saying something along these lines each time: "Three men return from space", "Two men return from space", "Lone man returns from space", And something about a "miracle birth".
One of the episodes of the 2002 Twilight Zone called "Upgrade" was about a woman who wished for a perfect family. She gets her wish, and her children are replaced by more perfect children. However, eventually she is replaced.
Nowhere Man has this as the series premise. In the end Veil discovers he really did never exist. He's a brainwashed federal agent.
While passing through pockets of "unreality" where things change at random, the Red Dwarf crew of four pass through one and then start wondering what happened. They're in an unreality pocket but nothing has changed, the ship is normal and all three of them are normal. Meanwhile the Cat is sitting in the front seat, invisible and inaudible, constantly trying to correct them. Luckily for him this doesn't last long; once they exit the pocket he becomes "real" again and the others forget that they ever forgot him.
Kryten: I don't understand. The three of us are here as normal.
Cat: The four of us! The four of us! Can't you see me? Can't you feel me?
He shakes Lister's shoulder.
Lister: Look out, we're getting some buffeting!
The Inquisitor from the eponymous episode does this to people he deems unworthy. He mostly completes this with Lister and Kryten but is stopped by a Stable Time Loop. According to Lister, he programs the Inquisitor's gauntlet to backfire and do this to the Inquisitor himself.
In Timeslides Lister uses time travel to prevent himself from joining the Space Corps and thus ending up in deep space three million years in the future. While he disappears from Red Dwarf, he technically isn't really Ret Gone because he just changed his past and lived a different life. Kryten also disappears, but only because he would still be on the Nova 5. The Cat, however, isRet Gone, because without Lister the Cat race never existed.
In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane gets eradicated, with Maria the only person with any memory of her. And later, Maria gets eradicated, with only her father remembering her. It nearly goes one step further.
At the start of the second series of Primeval, Claudia Brown has never existed, though this was foreshadowed. There were other differences, such as that they had a new base, and the identical Jenny Lewis existed.
This is a standard side effect of entering Neverwhere.
In The Lost Room, this happens to room 10 of the Sunshine motel, as well as everything in it, in the same event that gave all of the objects inside it extraordinary powers. After the event, the room was never built and the motel owners don't remember it ever existing. It can only be accessed by using one of the objects, the key to it, to open a door (any door). One of the objects is a man who was occupying the room at the time of the event. Afterwards, he came home to find that his wife no longer remembered him.
The 4400 once did this to its title characters (all 4400 of them). In one episode, appeared to do it (again) to all but one of them, but it turned out that it was really a dream world created by said character.
On Angel, Angel has memories of his son Connor removed from all of his friends minds, so that only he remembers Connor ever existed. The difference here is that Connor still exists, just not in the minds of the supporting cast. Their modified memories of what happened the previous seasons are never fully explained, even after certain characters get their memories back.
From that same season, every mention and memory of The Beast was erased from our dimension by the Svea priestesses. Of course, mentions in another dimension's book and memories of someone who wasn't around when the erasures took place were unaltered.
Inverted on Buffy. Dawn popped into existence, leaving the viewers scratching their heads for a while since all the characters acted as if Dawn had always been with them. It turns out that Dawn is fabricated and all the characters have false memories. Just what their memories of the first four seasons were changed to is never specified, but they all remember Dawn being there alongside them the entire time.
A number of the official comics set during the first four seasons have Dawn as a character, with notes attached saying, in effect, "Yeah, she didn't exist back then, but everyone remembers her being there, so..."
In the Star Trek: Voyager two-parter "Year of Hell", the episode's villain, Annorax, has a weapon ship that can erase entire civilizations from history. The plot is resolved when Janeway's kamikaze attack on the weapon ship causes the weapon ship itself to be erased from history, ironically bringing about the very goal that Annorax had been trying to accomplish: the restoration of his wife, whom he had carelessly erased in the episode's backstory.
The irony being that the original firing of the weapon caused the villain's Necromantic quest: by completely annihilating his people's enemies, they lost a vital immunity they had gained due to contact with them, causing huge numbers of deaths by disease, and altering the timeline dramatically. Just firing the weapon ONCE caused horrible changes in the timeline and basically removed all of his crew, and a huge amount of their civilization, from existence. How does he decide to fix it? BY FIRING IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
He also tries to tell Chakotay that temporal changes must be done carefuly, such as when Chakotay suggests erasing a comet that resulted in the Voyager being redirected to this area. Apparently, this comet is responsible for all life in this part of space via Panspermia. Erasing it would be bad.
In one episode of Quantum Leap, Sam's actions accidentally cause Al to be convicted of murder and executed in the 1960s. Al is immediately replaced by another character (played by Roddy MacDowell) who in the new time line has always been Sam's connection to the Project. When Sam fixes things, Al comes back, with no idea that he had ever stopped being there.
The Torchwood episode "Adam" both inverts this (Adam inserts himself into the memories of the other team members to be able to exist) and plays it straight as a means to get rid of him Jack gives everyone a memory pill and erases the record of Adam from their database
There's also Caitlin. Peter utterly ruins her life just by crossing paths with her and for all her trouble she gets left behind in a Bad Future that's subsequently erased from existence, again thanks to Peter.
In one episode of Smallville, Clark casually says life would be so much easier to everyone if he had never existed. Only he's holding the octagonal key, which then goes on to Retcon the world without him. At first everybody is indeed happier, until he finds out that President Luthor is about to destroy the world. Luckily, as Brainiac kills him with a kryptonite bullet, he says farewell with Jor-El's voice, and then it all fades away. It was an illusion created by the disc, to move Clark into saving himself in the past.
The cracks in time throughout series 5 of the revived Doctor Who can do this, starting in "Flesh and Stone". Time travellers can still remember the victims - unless they were part of the traveller's own history, as we learn in "Cold Blood" when Rory is erased. Things get worse in "The Pandorica Opens", where the TARDIS blows up, triggering the explosion that caused/will cause/is causing the cracks and threatening to Ret Gone the universe. In "The Big Bang, both Rory and the universe get better.
And Stephen Moffat has reportedly said that, as a result of what was necessary to fix this crisis, a number of major events of the preceding seasons (most notably, the several alien invasions and other incidents that attracted widespread public notice) have been erased from history, leaving an Earth that is once again (almost) entirely ignorant of the existence of alien beings. What this means for the past Companions whose travels with the Doctor hinged on those events is anybody's guess.
In the orignal series episode "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", the Well Intentioned Extremists would have Ret Goned everyone outside the protection field. This would have included nearly all Humanity, as well as the entire Silurian species.
In the Big FinishDoctor Who audio drama Neverland, the Time Lords are revealed to have a device called "The Oubliette of Eternity", which is a dispersal chamber combined with an erase-from-history device. The really horrifying thing that is that until they look at the Ripple Effect Proof records, even a person who has authorized its use many times over is under the impression that it has never been used.
Who can forget the Big Bad Omega from The Three Doctors? Slightly inverted in that he never existed to begin with, and was in this reality only through his power. He was able to go so far as to take off his Mouth-of-Sauron-esque helmet and show the nothingness underneath.
During the Sontaran invasion of Gallifrey, the De-Mat Gun worked like this. Expanded Universe implies the Eighth Doctor used a massively magnified version of the Gun to create the Time Lock to imprison everyone in the Last Great Time War.
Considering that there were apparently entire armies of Neverwere in the Time War, it is reasonable to assume that this happened rather a lot.
In the series 7 finale, The Great Intelligence attempts a massive Ret Gone on The Doctor himself. It almost works.
In one episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this very nearly happens to the entire holiday of Christmas. According to Salem, it has already happened to another holiday, called Bobunk.
Salem: Ah, the days of Bobunk...
In the season 3 finale of Fringe, this happens to Peter Bishop. He eventually gets better. The trope is apparently played to full effect regarding Peter's infant son Henry, though.
Although Henry will have an equivalent in the new timeline, Henrietta, if the future, Observer-controlled world episode is anything to go by.
In an homage to It's a Wonderful Life in Dallas a demon shows JR Ewing what everyone's life would be like had he not existed. After seeing how well off everyone would be it convinces JR to shoot himself which concludes the series.
In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the Greatest Treasure in the Universe has the power to do this to Zangyack, which would retroactively undo all the damage they've done to the universe. However, using it would also erase the history and legacy of the Super Sentai, so the Gokaiger ultimately decide not to use it.
In the Haven episode "Silent Night", this happens one-by-one to everyone in Haven, with only Audrey Parker and the Troubled person causing it being able to remember them. Although no one else can remember them, they do notice something is wrong if they think about it, like Duke asking Nathan, "Why are there only two people in your class photo?" One guy who's wife was erased realizes that he must have a wife, even if he can't remember her, because his daughter must have a mother. When Audrey saves the day, everyone reappears with no memory of that day.
In Infinity Game this happens when a player is in the alternative world when it's destroyed. The only people who remember are the players who weren't in the world at the time, aka. the RPG Society. They intend to do this to Long Wei and his group as erasing his world and returning their world would un-erase their friends. Instead Long Wei fights back and due to time being frozen in the alternative world, he's forced to erase himself from his friends' memories as he won't be able to return to the real world for fifty years and if they remain with him, they won't have anywhere to return to.
In Feng Shui, individuals on the losing side of the "Secret War" often suffer this fate. They don't cease to exist, but rather find that the world as they know it has suddenly changed all around them, no one other than themselves (and other time travelers) remembers their version of reality, and they themselves have no past in this new version of reality - no family, no home, no friends, no identity - because they never existed in it to begin with.
In Exalted, this is one of the things the penultimate technique of the Charcoal March of Spiders style can do.
In addition, one of the Yozis, She Who Lives In Her Name, did this to huge portions of Creation before being sealed away. It's still debated amongst the fandom whether she "merely" destroyed things and erased them from living memory, or whether she rewrote the laws of Creation so that the things she scythed away could never come into existence again.
In Mage The Awakening, the Red Word cult (who worship an alternate timeline so abhorrent that it was aborted from reality into the Abyss, where it attained sentience and got really pissed off), devour people in order to symbolically wipe them from this history. If the do it in their sacred temple, it actually happens with all evidence that the person existed gradually fading away.
In the same game, the Cult of the Doomsday Clock are attempting to destroy the Fallen World (i.e., this one) in order to free themselves to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. (Needless to say, the heads of the cult are all Abyssal beings.) Their key weapon for this is a Doomsday Clock, which not only erases everything around it, but goes back through time and erases it there, eventually leaving a gaping hole in both the world and history.
Mage The Ascension - the Arcane background is a sort of "cloaking" from the Universe. Records, memories and evidence for the existence of an Arcane character slip away from the world, slowly at low levels ("You're easy to forget.") while at high levels people start forgetting you as soon as you leave the room (the five dot version's description is "In other people's minds, you don't even exist."). Oh, and the stat potentially goes up to ten for NPCs (and really powerful or unlucky PCs). Not bad for mages, who really want to hide from the world, but it may become a hindrance for other people. Think The Net. The Virtual Adepts can do that. Don't piss them off.
Online fan-created material suggests that the Syndicate and New World Order factions could do this by way ofUn-Person, due to their paradigms of magic.
In a book on magic for Vampire The Masquerade, there is a spell that erases the memeories of a person or object from existence completely. However, a character's connections can help them resist, on the principle that it gets harder to make everyone and everything "forget". Also, trying to remove important or big things won't work completely, as the universe will try to fit something else in the hole. For example, if a building in the middle of town is erased from existence, you won't end up with an empty lot; something has to go there, so some other building will appear.
The Excrucians in Nobilis aim to do this to all of creation, one aspect at a time. Nobles can, themselves, to a more limited extent make retroactive changes to physical existence and history. A minor element of the game Backstory speaks of the five hundred years of human progress which got unmade, changing history considerably.
In GURPS the disadvantage Unique makes one vulnerable to this and the advantage Temporal Inertia makes one invulnerable to it.
3rd Edition GURPS was a massive rewrite from 2nd Ed, but 2nd Ed is shown on their book list. fnord.
The D20 setting Infernum incorporates Ret Gone into its background; get swallowed by a Hellgout (a kind of naturally occuring portal that links Hell and Earth, which usually ends up acting like a black hole) and Earth will basically rewrite itself to wipe out your existence, with any remaining hints that you ever existed being subtle ones, a process referred to in-universe as "The Twisting". For example, the Knights of the Harrowing are the descendents of an order of overzealous Christian Crusaders called the Knights of the Sepulchre, an order dedicated to the reclaimation of the tomb where Jesus Christ resided for three days after being crucified, who deliberately invoked a Hellgout to swallow their fortress so they could lead a crusade against Hell. The vast majority of the deeds they accomplished have either been erased from history, or attributed to other orders. A rare few examples of their symbol, a charging crusader on horseback, are occasionally found on crumbling ruins in either the Holy Land or south France.
Inverted in the Mystara D&D setting's Alphatia, which was destroyed in the Wrath of the Immortals campaign-arc and recreated in the Hollow World by the Immortals. To recreate the population, they first resurrected the Empress, then everyone the Empress remembered, then everyone they remembered, and so on. Many isolated villages and antisocial individuals were omitted from the restored Alphatia, as none of the Alphatians who did get restored had missed their presence. For them, being forgotten became the cause of non-existence, rather than the effect.
Speaking of Dungeons and Dragons, the Dragonlance setting has rules for fighting the minions of Chaos (also mentioned under Literature.) Die to them, and all you'll leave behind is empty armor and any books that were written about you (the latter of which will be assumed to be fiction.)
The very highest level spells of the Destruction Path in the Anima: Beyond Fantasy RPG allows a mage to erase anything from existance. From a single person to an entire species or continent the Uncreation spell completly stops it from ever having existed at all, with the timeline changing to match. Only people with a very high Gnosis (basically how important they are in reality) can even notice that something is different.
Rifts had a limited-run Sourcebook written as an April Fool's joke called The Rifter 9 1/2. One of the gag articles was written as a Take That against power gaming and Power Creep, Power Seep known as "Giga-Damage." It was described as a new game mechanic, weapons that literally do 1 million times the damage of regular weapons in the game. The writer suggested that one way to handle this is to have any normal item hit by a Giga-Damage weapon is not only vaporized, but never existed at all. He goes on to explain how he used a Giga-Damage weapon in his game to destroy a piece "of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria"*
No, that wasn't written wrong. The writer himself seemed to think that Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria was the name of one ship. Of course, the fact that said writer is something of a Book Dumb idiot was a running gag throughout the book
and that is how he was able to become the Overlord of Illinois.
It's implied that the Emperor did this to the Second and Eleventh Legions prior to the Horus Heresy, by ripping out the heart of each Legion's Primarch and using a psychic ritual to kill off their Legions and wipe their existence from memory. Certainly only the other Primarchs seem to remember their forgotten brothers ever existed, and the Emperor has forbidden them to speak of it.
Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City. The game replays events from the past and you can eliminate any or all of the characters, and it'll effectively change the Resident Evil timeline and depict it. Unfortunately, in the final game you only have the choice of sparing or killing Leon, and the game doesn't even reveal the aftermath of making the choices.
This is a fairly standard tactic in Achron, due to the time travel game mechanics. Not only do you have to defend your base in the present, you have to defend it in the past lest another player decides to retroactively attack you and retcon your army away.
This is also the fate of Serge in Chrono Cross if your party is wiped out.
Your party also encounters the "Dead Sea": an area containing the Ret Gone items from the bleak future of Chrono Trigger that was prevented due to the original destruction of Lavos.
In Chrono Cross's ending, Serge does this to Lavos, which permanently destroys the Time Devourer and frees Schala once and for all.
Chrono Trigger even gives us the victim's thoughts after she comes back: "Crono! It was awful...I can't recall it all...I was somewhere cold, dark...and lonely. Is that what it's like to...die?"
S(h)innosuke's bad ending in Giga Wing has his name "mysteriously vanish from existence, never to be recorded in history."
The defeat of Chaos (aka Garland) in Final Fantasy I brings about the end of the Stable Time Loop; as a result, nobody remembers him or his defeat at the hands of the Light Warriors.
Nobody remembers the Light Warriors, either, nor any of their exploits. Including the Light Warriors themselves.
Keine from Touhou has the ability to eat history. What exactly this entails is never made entirely clear, but is generally believed to involve this, though there are indications that she only erases people's memory of elements of history.
Keine made an entire village disappear when you first face her. The other characters notice that there should be a village in front of them, though Yukari Yakumo can apparently still see the village.
Subverted in 358/2 Days. In the game's climax, Xion is absorbed by Roxas. As she was created from the memories of main character Sora, there was nothing left for anyone to remember her with after she was gone. The Ret Gone appears to be played straight, but in the cell phone game Coded, it is revealed through a conversation between Data Sora and Data Roxas that the real Roxas still feels the pain of losing Xion, even if he doesn't remember her. Interestingly, this pain is also felt by Data Sora, who states that even if he doesn't know the source of his turmoil, he's still resolved to do his best to fix it. Of course, it is also possible that the database entry where Xion learned about her past is still intact.
In Kingdom Hearts 3D, we learn Xion isn't entirely gone yet. She appears (and Ventus and Roxas too) when Riku enters Sora's heart.
And of course a straight example of the trope occurs with Sora during the year between Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II: while Sora is sleeping and Namine is reconstructing his memories, everyone who knew him forgets that he existed until he awakens again.
A minor variation on the trope occurs when all the photos owned by the residents of Twilight Town are stolen. Everyone remembers the photos, but the theft is so complete that even the word "photo" is stolen, and is blanked out of the characters' dialogues when they try to say it. And then later, on the final day, Roxas finds that not only has time stopped again, but all those same photos no longer have him in them.
The Roxas situation has an even odder example of how the trope works, as the real Twilight Town serves as a 'world without Roxas' look at the Twilight Town inside the simulation - even though we know that the TT Roxas was in wasn't real, it feels to the players like Roxas has been Ret Gone'd. It gets even more Mind Screwy when it appears as though data!TT has affected the real world - the Usual Spot gang coming to see Sora off for almost no reason - and Sora experiences Roxas' pain at being Ret Gone'd, without actually knowing why, seeming to play this trope straight, though in a non-standard way.
In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness, this is what will happen to all the Pokémon from the future once the world is saved. This includes both Grovyle and the main character, though in the latter's case, Dialga comes to the rescue. This is also, presumably, why Dusknoir and Primal Dialga try to stop the heroes from changing the past.
In the Updated RereleaseExplorers of the Sky, the same charity extended to the main character is granted to everyone in the future. Including a Heel Face Turned Dusknoir.
In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 the Soviets travel backwards in time to remove Albert Einstein from history, since it was his Chronosphere technology responsible for the Allies victory in Red Alert 2. When they return to the present, the war was never lost, Einstein never existed, and there is no nuclear technology. Only the three Soviets who travelled back are aware of the change. The events of Red Alert 2 were completely erased. Of course Hitler, having previously been retgonned by Einstein, stayed retgonned.
In Silent Hill 2, over the course of the game, Mary's letter turns blank, then disappears from the envelope, and finally the envelope disappears as well; it was a creation of his mind. Or was it?
Used for a non-evil or horrible effect in Siren 2: As a side effect of defeating the Big Bad, Ryuko Tagawa never existed, therefore Abe Soji is no longer wanted for her murder. (He was innocent anyway.) The picture of Abe and Ryuko now shows only Abe, and the newspaper clipping of the murder has changed and now reports Ikuko's mother killing her father.
Bea is dead. In an alternate future she would've borne your son. In the future past of Space Quest 4, your son would've saved your life. But she didn't so he couldn't - therefore you aren't.
One of the many ways to die in The Journeyman Project is to be "uncreated" by the reality distortion wave, which happens if you go to the wrong place in the Global Transporter, or wait too long at the TSA.
This is a choice in the final ending of Nier where the titular main character can sacrifice himself to save Kaine. The downside? He completely erases himself and all memories of himself from existence. Kinda a downer ending considering Kaine was willing to sacrifice herself and Nier's daughter (who's cure/rescue was the driving focus of the game) is now fatherless, but at least she doesn't know it... of course the game takes this choice one step further by forcing the deletion of all your save games. Hope you backed them up to a flash drive! At least the game gives you ample warning...
Not as much a matter of planning, he mostly did this as a last-ditch desperate attempt to stop Saiki, head of Those From the Past and his TimeTravelling ancestor, from going back in time and retry to steal the Sacred Treasures that kept Orochi's seal in place after hijacking Ash's body. It was his last shred of freewill that kept Saiki stuck in the present and thus, prevented Ash himself from even being born, erasing both from the KOF continuity.
Happens with the Guardians/Celestrians of Dragon Quest IX after Celestia ascends them all for accomplishing the purpose they were created for. All the Guardian statues in the world lose their inscriptions, and everyone (except the ghosts) treat their presence as a minor mystery.
At first, Suikoden Tierkreis appears to be about things coming into existence rather than vanishing from it—but when they appear, the things that were previously there stop being there. This becomes rather important when the entire country of Janam is replaced by an uninhabited desert.
In Alan Wake, Thomas Zane did this to himself using the magic of Cauldron Lake, which brings the creations of artists to life. He was previously a very famous author, but when he unintentionally gave the Dark Presence an avatar in the form of his lover Barbara Jagger by resurrecting her with his writing without explaining how (allowing it to take over her body), he then wrote himself and everything he'd ever done out of existence, to keep the Presence contained.
With enough mods and hacks, you can do this in The Sims 2. However, if you do it the wrong way, it backfires horribly and ruins your game.
Moving sims into different neighbourhoods then back can appear to have this effect as family and friends don't remember them.
This almost happens to Mario/Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and the Lumas at the end of Super Mario Galaxy, thanks to the universe being destroyed (and recreated) by Bowser's black hole.
Naturally as a time travel story, this sort of thing was bound to happen in Steins;Gate. In the True End route, Suzuha, her mission complete, ends up with a timeline where Daru theoretically never has her, therefore Ret Gone-ing her out of existence. And there's only a vague inference that anyone will ever remember she existed aside from Kyouma. Naturally, her fans like to state her ending as the best end.
In Tales Of Destiny 2, the party's goal is to erase the goddess Fortuna and her priestess Elraine from time itself. Reala and Judas, who exist because of Fortuna, are fully aware that doing this will cause the same thing to happen to them (Judas, in fact, wants it to happen for most of the game). Reala's bond with Kyle later saves her from unexisting, while Judas's ultimate fate is left ambiguous.
In Infinite Space, this is the fate of anyone who wanders into The Flux (more formally, phenomenon fluctuation sectors), though it is unclear how people figured this out. It's used for a Non Standard Game Over. Also the Overseers' retaliation for Kira hacking their computer, though Yuri manages to reverse it in the ending.
In Corpse Party, this is what happens to anyone who dies while trapped in Heavenly Host Elementry. This includes four of the nine main characters, and presumably all the side characters who died. The five survivors are the only ones who remember that they ever existed once they return to the real world.
In Tales of Maj'Eyal, "Cease to Exist", one of the Chronomancy spells, allows you to do this to a monster. You have to push it outside of time and kill it there first, but if you manage that, everything that you used outside of time gets restored to you.
Partway through Terminator 3: The Redemption, the T-850 (the Terminator Arnie played) gets thrown into a prototype time machine in the present and thrown into the future, where, without his help, John Conner and Katherine Brewster are dead, thus, the human resistance is never formed to fight against Skynet, ergo, humanity is extinct.
At the end of Bio Shock Infinite, Booker DeWitt commits interdimensional suicide to ensure that his evil alternate self, Father Comstock, never exists to threaten the multiverse. Because its creation was masterminded by Comstock, Colombia also ceases to exist and the events of the game never take place. However, The Stinger reveals that Booker and Elizabeth live on in some universe, now freed from the cycle of events that had made the lives of their other selves so hellish.
Final Fantasy XIII 2: Lightning's survival at the end of the original game undergoes this treatment (everyone except Serah thinks she died with Vanille and Fang). It also happens to several people affected by paradoxes up and down the timeline.
This includes Alyssa Zaidelle, who should have died in the Purge, but is Ret-Gonned as a result of the protagonists fixing the paradoxes.
It is eventually revealed by Lightning and Yeul that Etro's intervention at the end of the previous game (i.e. freeing everyone from crystal stasis) caused the paradoxes, and hence, all of the anomalies and disappearances.
In Scary Go Round, Erin Winters disappears through a portal to Hell as an unintended result of her sister Shelley saving the universe. She's confident that Shelley will rescue her, but Bob Crowley tells her that now she's "no longer part of the universe we knew" everyone will soon forget her. Sadly, this seems to be true so far...
After insistence from John Allison for over two years that she would never return, Erin had a print minicomic, "Erin Winters and the Bone Throne (of Bones)" and has now popped up in his new comic Bad Machinery as a rookie journalist. She's yet to interact with anyone she knew in her old existence, though!
The titular Misfile in the webcomic of that name Ret Gones Ash's male life and identity to everyone except him/herself and the stoner angel that did it to him/her. Emily's last two years (and acceptance into Harvard) were also wiped.
Part of the concern for our heroes is some of the positive changes that this change has wrought. Ash has a better relationship with both parents, and Emily barely avoided being in a severe car accident that could very well have killed her (and this is before getting into their attraction to each other).
In TRU Life Adventures, Scarlett places Jack in a coma-like stasis so he won't exist in the new timeline she's constructing''. It works.
In an arc of Gaming Guardians, two new recruits are visiting the Guardians' facilities when one is snatched away by an enemy... and no one remembers him being there in the first place. Except for the other recruit, who has hazy memories but don't know why the other person isn't there. The others thinks it's cute that he has an imaginary friend...
In Narbonic this happens to Dave Davenport's smoking habit. In the Director's Cut re-run of the strip, the comments section ran with this as a joke for a while, insisting that 'Dave Davenport has never smoked'!
Cheer! Four bullying jerk jocks get turned into cheerleaders. Nobody much notices or cares. The few who do know all decide not to rock the boat since everyone seems happier.
In Sluggy Freelance, in the Torg Potter parodies of Harry Potter, it is eventually revealed that the reason everyone keeps talking about "You-probably-don't-know-who" and such is because the character in question accidentally erased himself from history and everyone's memories, so that no-one really did know who even though they knew there had been someone.
In Goblins the Psionic Minmax intends to do this to every version of his party that has entered the maze, creating holes that Retgone anything that falls into them. It quickly turns out that while people will have no memory of the object thus removed, they can notice something's going on. As "our" Minmax starts throwing his clothes into the hole, Kin considers the unlikelihood of someone going on an adventure without shoes or pants, and realizes what it must be doing.
In Homestuck, the whole point of the Scratch is to reset the entire universe and modify the lives of the players- by switching them with their ancestors- to better prepare them for the game. However, in both canonical instances of the Scratch, the players who initiated it managed to escape its Ret Gone-ing influence.
The SCP series of online Microfiction has SCP-268, which is half this trope, half Un-Person. Instead of only erasing records or removing people from history, the wearer is erased from all memories after prolonged use AND becomes practically invisible to everyone, but paper and digital records remain.
The writer Fishmonger was banned from the site, and he demanded that all of his content (which included some of the more iconic SCPs and stories) purged from the site, to the point where none of them are even mentioned anymore.
SCP-343 may have done this to a researcher who resisted its psychic properties.
In the Paradise setting, humans are randomly, permanently changed into Funny Animals by causes unknown—and some are gender-switched at the same time. As the "Reality Distortion Field" that keeps these changes Invisible to Normals begins to wind down, gender-bent Changed discover all extant documentation about themselves is retconned as reality itself is edited to reflect their new gender. Their driver's licenses and other identification have newly-feminine names, and all photos all the way back to when they were babies will show a girl instead of a boy (or vice versa). Hence, as far as the world is concerned, the character's original gender is "Ret Gone"—records will show that the former "he" has always been a "she" (or vice versa). (Memories of those who knew them before are not affected, however. Also, while people who already know them will continue to see them as their original gender, strangers they meet will see them as the new one.)
According to Yatzhee of Zero Punctuation, Duke Nukem Forever, DNF was such a massively transcendental work of awesomeness that reality itself couldn't handle it and the timeline it was in collapsed. Sadly, the DNF of our reality was far worse.
One of the extradimensional artifacts that appears in Anachronauts is Oblivion, a large and ornately-decorated revolver which never runs out of bullets and does this to anything it shoots. It's lampshaded several times in the text that its "edits" are relatively clumsy, as these things go; it's a freakin' Hand Cannon, it doesn't do "subtle". The full Nightmare Fuel potential of such a weapon comes up a couple of times, such as when Carrie realizes why the current owner has no parents (an accident; it's implied the thing is more than a little cursed), and when he brings it to school and opens fire in an empty library.
Eventually disposed of by having Carrie literally invoke "faster than a speeding bullet" to make it shoot itself, undoing all of its previous edits in a spectacular (and again, very unsubtle) flurry of people and things appearing out of thin air.
Happens to everyone in Demo Reel, as it turns out none of them are real and their tragic backstories, whether it's rape, sending your father to jail, maternal suicide, war crimes and so on, were just ways of teaching The Nostalgia Critic an Aesop Amnesia lesson. As one might imagine, it was a Downer Ending.
In one episode of Danny Phantom, Sam gets in a fight with Danny and wishes they had never met. In the presence of a wish-granting ghost. Take a wild guess what happens. Sam herself is unaffected, thanks to a Fenton Device. It's revealed that she's directly responsible for his powers (and his snazzy new shirt logo). The fading-photograph trope (resulting in awkward gaps that wouldn't've actually happened) features heavily (although why the warded copies were on her person in the first place... just go with it). While in the presence of the wish-granter again, she managed to wish everything back to normal (relatively speaking), except for the outfit.
Although it is the relationship that is retgonned, not any person. In contrast, when Danny stops his parents from meeting, Jazz was retgonned.
Taken Up to Eleven on Family Guy, when Stewie learns that his time machine accidentally created the universe, but Bertram kills Stewie's ancestor. Stewie sets everything right, though, since Status Quo Is God and they've already done the Gainax Ending to death.
Subverted in the Futurama episode "Roswell that Ends Well". Fry travels back to the 40's, meets his grandfather Enis, and becomes convinced that any harm that befalls Enis will result in his own non-existence. (Fry even claims at one point "I could feel myself beginning to fade away!") Then Fry's meddling accidentally results in Enis' death, and Fry is surprised to find himself still in existence. He concludes that Enis wasn't his grandfather after all. As it turns out, a Stable Time Loop is in effect, and Fry is his own grandfather.
Another time travel episode has another subversion: In this episode, you can only travel forward in time, albeit at any speed you desire. You can travel backward by going through one Big Crunch and another Big Bang, and as a result there's a universe out there with no Nazis.
The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: In the episode "Te Xuan Me", Juniper prevented a thief from stealing dragon eggs. The thief then tried to get back in time to change this by using a secret time portal guarded at a clocktower where Juniper and her classmates went for a field trip. The portal was kept by time wraiths who captured Juniper and her classmates and reformed Earth without them. In the alternative timeline, Ray Ray was the Te Xuan Ze; Dennis behaved like the mainstream Ray Ray; and Monroe said Ray Ray accepted the Te Xuan Ze role better than anybody else he ever met. Ray Ray and the thief were the only people to remember the original timeline. Despite Monroe's protests, Ray Ray rescued everyone.
One episode of the Men In BlackAnimated Adaptation dealt with a crazed alien enthusiast finding a way to time-travel and going back to send the founding members of the eponymous organization to a dimensional limbo. A photo displaying the meeting between the founders and a group of aliens has each human disappearing one by one, and everyone instantly forgets them except Jay, who's gained Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory via some Alien Phlebotinum which is also slowly killing him. Jay manages to undo everything, including his own Phlebotinum exposure.
In Tripping the Rift, Chode and Gus travel to the beginning of time to witness the creation of the universe, and accidentally kill God, Retgonning his influence from the universe. Upon returning to their own time, Hilarity Ensues.