A story arc (a contraction of "over-arching storyline") is a sequence of series installments,TV episodes, comic issues, or a certain period of time in a Video Game
that puts characters through their paces in response to a single impetus; basically, an ongoing storyline. This can be a few episodes, an entire season
, or even the focus of the entire series
Arcs are not necessarily consecutive episodes. The story may reach a point where, although the arc is not completely resolved, it ceases to be of immediate concern to the characters, thus allowing the writers to intersperse (or insert
) non-arc episodes. This is the case whenever an episode or a series of episodes have self-contained storylines, which are then cut-off by a continuation of the arc. Usually, the filler/self-contained stories don't have any major effect on the arc itself, set up character development to be used in the arc, or show off character development displayed in an early storyline.
Writers may decide to use a stand-alone episode to lighten the mood
during a dark arc, or to feature a character not involved in the arc.
Episodes that form a story arc cannot be run out of order, or at least they shouldn't
be. Not that this always stops networks or syndicators from doing so.
While the Soap Opera
has been exclusively arc-based since the beginning of television and before, the recent popularity of arcs doesn't seem to come from soaps. Back in the 90's when half-funny Sitcom
reruns and poorly constructed Saturday morning cartoons ruled with an iron fist, the consensus among writers was that casual viewers wouldn't be able to get into the show
. Hill Street Blues
was the first American prime-time drama to rely on arcs, and is probably when the term came into the American TV vernacular. British Shows have a longer-standing tradition of arcs (See Doctor Who
According to Doctor Who
producer Russell T Davies
, the term is not used by UK TV writers. However, it is becoming increasingly well known by UK viewers
, and UK Comic Book
writers certainly use the term.
Story arcs also occur in most other serial media; Super Hero
comic series (especially online series
in the latter case) are well known for them, and since they lack the seasonal format of most Western television shows, some of them take years
For some specific types of story arcs, see War Arc
, Rescue Arc
, and Tournament Arc
See also Myth Arc
, Rotating Arcs
, Arc Welding
, Half-Arc Season
, Plot Threads
, Season Fluidity
, and Aborted Arc
Sometimes, especially in shonen, used interchangeably with Saga
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- The vast majority of anime series are built around arcs, which further distinguishes them from American cartoons, which are very often episodic (though less exclusively so as time passes on). Though the arc sorting varies from series to series, there are some general aspects that can apply to several series of a particular genre. For example, in various Shōnen series, the arcs are structured in a way such that the main characters face the minions of a Big Bad first (sometimes from the lowest rank to the highest, if there is a hierarchy), and then the Big Bad himself/herself to settle the climax of that arc. And whenever a competition approaches, the episodes covering it are encased into a Tournament Arc. Examples of series with these properties include Saint Seiya, Dragon Ball, YuYu Hakusho, Naruto, etc. In various Shōjo (Demographic) series, since they tend to follow the Monster of the Week format, the arc sorting is based on which Big Bad becomes the ultimate source of all the weekly monsters; so when that Big Bad is defeated, then the arc ends and another starts with another villain releasing their own weekly monsters. Examples of series following this style include Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura (where it's the cards that must be sealed in one arc, and in the other their powers must be enhanced by Sakura's own power), Pretty Cure, Corrector Yui, etc. For a Gaming and Sports Anime and Manga series, the arcs are usually sorted by the different competitions where the main characters are participating, so Tournament Arc stories are plentiful (a small handful of Mon series, such as Pokémon, follow this style as well). For a Mecha series, expect a War Arc and, in some cases, a Rescue Arc too.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's six-episode arc was broadcast with eight Breather Episodes that flashed forward to after the arc. It also successfully broke the rule of never showing a story arc out of order.
- Helped largely by the fact that the Arc episodes were still in order, just with the Breathers inserted in-between.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion can be divided into four arcs:
- Prologue Arc, from the beginning to the Jet Alone filler. (Episode 1-7)
- Action Arc, starting with Asuka's introduction and ending with Iruel. Focus is on humor; this part is just like any other mecha series. (Episode 8-13)
- Descent Arc, ending with Zeruel. Mind Screw kicks into high gear in this part and the viewer starts having an inkling things are not what they seem to be. (Episode 14-19)
- "The Bitter End". Even more Mind Screw with a side order of Nightmare Fuel. The part that made the franchise famous. (Episode 20-24, 25-26/End of Evangelion)
- Black Lagoon is notable for having a story arc that ended up being 33 chapters long. This wouldn't be very impressive if it weren't for the fact that it's a monthly series - so said arc lasted for nearly half the series at the time it ended.
- In Little Busters, each girls' route (except Kurugaya's, as that one heavily revolved around her going out with Riki and so was incompatible with Rin's route, the 'main' one) was adapted into a separate story arc of 4 or 5 episodes in a row. (Kud's arc is a minor exception, as it had a Rin episode in between the first and second episodes.)
- The Pony POV Series is built on interlocking story arcs — freeing Trixie from her Discording and her Enemy Within, rehabilitating Fluttercruel and Fluttershy breaking into a Nightmare, the origins of Celestia, Luna and Discord, various World Building threads, etc. — that all together tell the story of the characters moving on from what Discord did to them... as well as a Myth Arc of Discord planning his second escape.
- There's also the Dark World Arc, which was originally just meant to give closure to the Bad Future, but grew so large that it was eventually declared its own series, subdivided into its own story arcs: the Redemption of the Elements Arc (up till the Duel of Tears and Rainbow Dash's redemption), the Storming the Castle Arc (up till Pinkie's redemption), the Off The Rails Arc (up till Odyne!Fluttercruel's defeat), the End of Days Arc (up to and including the Final Battle with Nightmare Paradox), and the Alicorn Ascension Arc (which seems to be Dark World's Grand Finale).
- The Lunaverse's first season, in addition to the overall Myth Arc of the struggle against Corona and standalone threats, is built around the manipulations of the corrupt Night Court, which comes to a head in At The Grand Galloping Gala.
- Galaxy of Fear is a book series. Each book is self-contained, but the first six have an underlying plot about the connections between the Big Bad, Hoole, and The Empire.
- The Animorphs series can neatly be divided up into a couple story arcs. The first arc concerns itself with the development of the children into soldiers and explanations about morphing, the Yeerk invasion, et cetera. The second arc concerns itself with the day-to-day missions, and is cut in half by what you could call Story Arc 2.5, which concerns itself with the seventh Animorph, David. The third story arc deals with the escalation of the war and the reorganization of the Yeerk Empire - the execution of Visser One, Visser Three's promotion, Operation 9366, et cetera. The final story arc begins when the Yeerks discover the kids' identities.
- J. K. Rowling has stated that, unlike the first five books of Harry Potter which are thematically autonomous while still carrying over the overall continuity of the universe, the last two books (Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows) are meant to be two volumes of the same arc, which is evident not only through the fully interwined link between the end of the former and the start of the latter, but also through the plot devices that both books share, as well as the fact that both books heavily reference the events of the past five books to solve any pending plot point and then settle the climax of the story.
- The Baby-Sitters Club:
- Some plotlines spread over a couple of books, such as Kristy adjusting to her stepfamily. At the end of the series Mary Anne's house burned down, which was the background for the Friends Forever spinoff.
- The Dawn-considers-moving-back-to-California plotline lasted for so many books that many fans were extremely glad when she ultimately did move back and she finally stopped agonizing about this decision.
Live Action TV
- The canonical British TV show with a Story Arc is The Prisoner, which was created from the get-go with a beginning, middle and end, and is also used as an example of the TV Novel.
- The X-Files (see Myth Arc)
- Alias — So heavily, in fact, that there was significant Continuity Lockout experienced by casual viewers.
- Babylon 5 (another Myth Arc)
- The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.. had two intertwining story arcs throughout the series (The Search for The Orb and The Capture of the John Bly Gang).
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has several, featuring battles against the Maquis, the Jem'Hadar, and finally the Dominion as a whole. The characters also grew and changed and grew over time far more than in any of the previous shows. Most of the characters are very different by the end of S7 to how they were in S1.
- Star Trek: Voyager found a middle ground between DS9's arc driven plots and characters and TNG/TOS's more episodic formats, though this was more through network pressure than creative choice. There were only a few narrative story arcs, such as th early integration of the Maquis crew with the Voyager crew and the ongoing conflicts with the Kazon. Though character growth could be inconsistent, the Doctor and Seven of Nine are regarded as being some of the most developed characters in all of Star Trek due to their arcs.
- Previously episodic in format, Star Trek: Enterprise introduced an epic story arc with the Xindi war in season three, before settling into a series of loosely-related smaller story arcs in season four.
- Each season of LOST has a main Story Arc, each with numerous subplots and mini-arcs, and each contributing to the Myth Arc (which can best be summed up by the question "Why are these people on the Island?"). Each season's Story Arc also has a central conflict and/or division:
- Season One is about the Losties learning how to survive on the Island and dividing into two camps: one on the beach and one at the caves.
- Season Two is about finding the Hatch, pushing the button and the psychological effect of it; the Tailies, another group of plane survivors, are introduced.
- Season Three reveals a lot about the Others, the Island's native inhabitants, and builds towards a confrontation between them and the Losties.
- Season Four is about the arrival of the "Freighter Folk", who are supposedly offering rescue, while flash-forwards show that some of the Losties eventually leave the Island, only for their lives to completely fall apart.
- Season Five is split between those Losties left behind on the Island, who start jumping to different points in the Island's history, and the "Oceanic 6", who set about returning to the Island.
- Season Six is about Jacob and the Man in Black recruiting the Losties for a final conflict, and finding out the true purpose of the Island.
- Two of the same writers behind LOST created Once Upon a Time, which follows the exact same structure of arcs and mini-arcs per season contributing to the overall Myth Arc.
- Season One follows Regina the Evil Queen casting the Dark Curse and sending fairy tale characters to a town called Storybrooke in the real world, where they remain trapped and without the memories of who they really are, and how it's the destiny of Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter, Emma Swan, to be "the Savior" and break the curse.
- The mini-arcs are Emma accepting her role as mother to her newfound son Henry and her place in Storybrooke, ultimately becoming sheriff after the old one is killed (episodes 1-9); an amnesiac Snow and Charming having an affair that creates trouble with the wife Charming has in Storybrooke, who then goes missing leaving Snow the prime suspect (episodes 10-18); and Emma being made to believe in her true identity and destiny by both a mysterious writer named August and Rumpelstiltskin, the mastermind behind everything (episodes 19-22).
- Season Two follows how all the people of Storybrooke cope with the curse being broken and their memories restored but still being trapped in the real world, which now has magic in it thanks to the machinations of Rumpelstiltskin. And magic always comes at a price.
- The mini-arcs are Emma and Snow being transported to the Enchanted Forest and teaming up with Sleeping Beauty and Mulan to find a way back to Storybrooke, which Charming is now in charge of (episodes 23-31); Emma helping Rumpelstiltskin finally find his long-lost son Baelfire while Regina's even wickeder mother Cora plots to obtain ultimate power (episodes 32-38); and two anti-magic zealots from the real world infiltrating Storybrooke in order to destroy it (episodes 39-44).
- The first half of Season Three follows Emma, Snow, Charming, Regina, Rumpelstiltskin, and Captain Hook traveling to Neverland to save Henry from Peter Pan, who enacts dark and twisted schemes on all of them that forces a character study of who they really are inside.
- Doctor Who has a few, used for combo DVD sets, when a clear follow-on is present.
- Season 8's arc introduced the Master, who was a common villain in each serial and was captured by UNIT in the Season Finale.
- The Key To Time arc (all of Season 16) - the search for pieces of a Cosmic Keystone.
- The E-Space Trilogy (Full Circle, State of Decay and Warriors' Gate)
- Following directly on from this was the season-crossing Return of the Master trilogy, comprising The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis and Castrovalva, released as New Beginnings on DVD as it also took in the Fourth Doctor's regeneration into the Fifth.
- The Black Guardian Trilogy (Mawdryn Undead, Terminus and Enlightenment) - involving Turlough's relationship with the Black Guardian.
- The Trial of a Time Lord (Season 23 — the first 12 episodes consisted of three distinct stories with a common Framing Device, which took over as the main story for the two-part Season Finale)
- In addition, thematic arcs showed up in the classic series: season 18 concerned the theme of entropy and decay, in preparation for the regeneration in the final episode; each serial of season 20 involved the return of a classic enemy, building up to the movie-length special "The Five Doctors".
- Seasons 25 and 26 had a story arc of "The Cartmel Masterplan", implying the Doctor had some great secret. The series was cancelled before this could conclude, but some elements made it into the Virgin New Adventures. Here it was claimed the Doctor might be the reincarnation of a mysterious figure from the Dark Times of Gallifrey. However there was also a story arc of Fenric, in "Silver Nemesis" the Doctor seems to be playing chess with an unknown opponent, leading to "The Curse of Fenric", where it is revealed an evil being from the Dawn of Time had been manipulating the 7th Doctor's adventures. This involved Arc Welding with "Dragonfire" in Season 24, revealing the time storm that sent Ace to Iceworld was caused by Fenric so she would travel with the Doctor.
- There was a loose story arc from "Destiny of the Daleks" to "Remembrance of the Daleks" involving the Dalek/Movellan War and Davros attempting to regain power over the Daleks.
- Since the revival, the series has opted for season-long loose arcs, mostly linked together through recurring phrases and motifs, though usually unnoticed and not really interfering with the episode's main plots. Series 6 adopted a tighter arc format, though the episodic format remained.
- Series 1: 'Bad Wolf' was either mentioned or written in the background in every episode apart from "Rose", "World War Three", and "The Empty Child". It was discovered that this was a link between the Doctor and Rose, written through time and space; by the time vortex itself.
- Series 2: 'Torchwood', like Bad Wolf, was incorporated into the Christmas special, and nine of the 13 regular episodes, unbeknown to the main characters. It was discovered in the finale that Torchwood was in fact an organisation devoted to anything alien, but fuelled by their eagerness to catch the Doctor.
- Series 3: Mr Saxon was mentioned in the episodes set in the present, plus "42", once again, not to the attention of the main characters. Mr Saxon was the new, present prime minister; who is also one of the Doctor's greatest enemies - The Master
- Series 4: Missing planets, bees disappearing, memory loss, Doctor Donna, building up to a Human Time Lord metacrisis between Donna and the Doctor, Donna being Mind Raped by the Doctor, and Davros and the Daleks building a reality bomb out of 27 planets.
- Series 5: Based around the phrase 'The Pandorica will open'/'Silence will fall' from the very beginning, which was spoken as a warning from many of his foes/friends. The Pandorica was revealed to be a giant box designed by 'the Alliance' to contain the Eleventh Doctor..
- Series 6: The Doctor's (ultimately faked) death, the identity of River Song, Amy's pregnancy, the Silence, and The Question: Doctor Who?
- Series 7: The identity of the Doctor's new companion, Clara Oswald, who he met in different identities twice before, and The Question (which is none other than "Doctor Who?").
- Surprisingly, The Beverly Hillbillies used story arcs in a Network Sitcom all the way back in the early 1960s.
- Mrs. Driesdale's multi-episode psychotic breakdown after living next to the Clampets, combined with the Clampets' attempts to "help" her.
- The Clampets' acquisition of an English Manor and their subsequent "War of the Roses" with their alcoholic neighbor. This was spread over several seasons.
- Ellie May's engagement to a "Naval Frogman" and Granny's belief that this means he turns into a frog from the bellybutton down when he gets wet. Lasted most of a season.
- Barney Miller had several subplot story arcs running over several years. The most memorable is Ron Harris' development as a published author, which lasted most of the series.
- Probably the oldest one in television is I Love Lucy, which featured several long-running arcs. The most famous is Lucy's pregnancy, which took up a full season from her first learning of it to giving birth and bringing Little Ricky home. Subsequent seasons followed the Ricardos and Mertzes on long trips through Europe, the US, and a stay in Hollywood.
- The re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica had plenty of story arcs, particularly in the first and second seasons, which led to Executive Meddling in the third season for more standalone episodes so that new viewers were not alienated. As a result, the third season is generally not as well liked, and the fourth and final season has resumed a more arc-based approach. The main arcs throughout the series are:
- Finding Earth.
- Roslin's Cancer.
- Baltar's Treachery.
- Starbuck's Destiny.
- The Identity and Origins of the Humanoid Cylons.
- Brit Com 'Allo 'Allo! might be the most humorously convoluted example of this and certainly for a Sit Com, being a comedy gave the writers numerous excuses to resolve them in absurdist manners.
- Supernatural has one every season so far, generally building on the previous arc and moving toward the series' overall Myth Arc.
- Season One has the boys' search for their father, and the demon that killed their mother by extension.
- Season Two is essentially the same as the first season, save for the fact that they Brothers Winchester are now searching solely for the Yellow-Eyed Demon, who has now killed John as well.
- Season Three deals with the repercussions of Dean's deal with the Crossroads Demon, Sam's attempts to get Dean out of this deal, and the rise of Lilith later in the season.
- Season Four begins to really wrestle with the Myth Arc, with the boys trying to prevent Lilith from breaking the 66 Seals and the rise of Lucifer, and introducing angels, Dean's own destiny and Sam's growing demon powers.
- Season Five is, so far, all about preventing the Apocalypse now that Lucifer has risen, Sam and Dean's destinies as the true vessels for Lucifer and Michael, and to a smaller extent, rebuilding the brothers' relationship.
- Season Six has multiple interconnected plot lines: the loss and return of Sam's soul (and in turn, the potential return of his memories of Hell), the civil war in Heaven, Crowley's search for Purgatory, and the coming of the Mother of All to Earth.
- Season Seven deals with the fallout from Castiel opening Purgatory at the end of the previous season, primarily the release of the Leviathans and their plans to Take Over the World.
- Season Eight deals with an attempt at closing the gates of Hell forever.
- Season Nine has multiple plot lines dealing with the fallout from the previous season — Dean trying to save Sam's life and the consequences, Castiel dealing with the loss (and eventual regaining) of his grace, the civil war among the angels cast out of Heaven, Metatron acting to secure his place as new ruler of Heaven, and the power struggle between Crowley and Abbadon for control of Hell.
- In any given season, The Wire tends to have half-a-dozen story arcs at one time. At least. And they are all awesome.
- Disney's Zorro, which ran in the late 1950s was organized into arc stories, rather than simply being episodic. Each episode set up a new set of troubles that Zorro would have to deal with in the next episode in logical, linear fashion.
- Each season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has an arc spanning half its run.
- Season 1: The Master's attempts to escape his can and open the Hellmouth.
- Season 2: Technically the fights between Buffy and Spike count as an arc, but the real arc doesn't start until Angel loses his soul and becomes Angelus again.
- Season 3: The Mayor's plans to become a pure demon, and Faith's fall from good and her eventual Face-Heel Turn.
- Season 4: Buffy adjusting to college life and dealing with The Initiative, whose experiments ultimately lead to the rise of Adam.
- Season 5: Buffy dealing with Dawn's arrival, Joyce's death, and Glory's plans.
- Season 6: Willow dealing with her addiction to magic, and Buffy trying to provide for Dawn while also getting tormented by the Trio.
- Season 7: The First Evil attempts to open the Hellmouth, while Buffy builds an army of Potential Slayers to fight it.
- Spinoff Angel also had several storyarcs per season:
- Season 1 focused on Angel's first attempts of going against the law-firm Wolfram & Hart while also growing accustomed to his new "family" of Cordelia, Doyle, and later Wesley.
- Season 2 featured Wolfram & Hart using Angel's old flame Darla in a plan to cause him to cross the Despair Event Horizon, with a shorter sub-arc at the end featuring the Angel Investigations team having to travel to Lorne's home dimension to rescue Cordelia.
- Season 3 had Angel becoming a father while an enemy from his past arrived in the present Day to try and get his final revenge on the vampire.
- Season 4 focuses on the now broken Angel Investigations team joining up again to ultimately go against a threat has ties with Angel's son.
- Season 5 features the team now taking control over of Wolfram & Hart while Angel suffers an internal Heroic BSOD that makes him question what he's fighting for that's brought upon thanks to the arrival of Spike.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation did one with the "Miniature Killer", so called because they would leave a perfect scale model of the crime scene there, and which served as the set up at the end to put one of the regulars on a bus.
- Dexter has naturally fallen into this, as its entire first season was an adaptation of one novel. Subsequent seasons have each carried their own story arc.
- Season 1 focuses on the hunt for the ruthless Ice Truck Killer, who is revealed in the end to be Dexter's lost brother Brian Moser.
- Season 2 revolves around Dexter's victims' bodies being discovered. Miami Metro Homicide names the mysterious serial killer the Bay Harbor Butcher and, with the help of the FBI, begins their hunt for him. This means Dexter needs to be a step ahead of his team at all times, particularly Doakes, who already suspects him. Paralleling the story is Dexter's relationship with Lila, his sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous.
- Season 3 introduces Miguel Prado, who ends up discovering Dexter's secret. The next few episodes explore the consequences of this discovery.
- Season 4 centers around Dexter's life as a family man; fathering Harrison, living with Rita and the kids, etcetera, while in the meantime Miami is visited by a serial killer called "Trinity". Dexter ends up befriending him while secretly investigating him.
- Season 5 pits Dexter and his new partner Lumen against a gang of serial rapists led by motivational speaker Jordan Chase.
- Season 6 opts for a religion-centric plot, where a mysterious force dubbed the Doomsday Killer strikes in Miami and uses his victims' bodies to enact tableaus from the Book of Revelations. It also sees the promotion of Debra Morgan to the position of Lieutenant, and further explores her relationship with her brother.
- Season 7 opens with Deb having walked in on Dexter having killed Travis Marshall. The rest of the season deals with Deb's loyalty to Dexter being tested. Especially when her Captain LaGuerta comes across a blood slide on the crime scene and starts trying to look into the Bay Harbor Butcher again, believing Doakes to be innocent.
- Weeds contains over-arcing storylines, although they aren't necessarily clearly-defined between seasons, and they sometimes aren't so much resolved as they are escaped from. This gives it a quality of drifting from situation to situation that fits its stoner subject matter, while characters from unresolved plotlines sometimes resurface later.
- iCarly has an arc that started from the final episode of Season 4, titled iOMG and continues in the first four episodes of Season 5, dealing with Sam's feelings for Freddie. Notable in being one of the only examples of a Kid Com having a Story Arc, especially for the big two of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
- Seinfeld, despite being a "show about nothing", did have a few plotlines that ran in the background of several seasons: Kramer writing and publishing a coffee table book (about coffee tables), Jerry and George writing a TV pilot, George's engagement to Susan, etc.
- Wizards of Waverly Place is known for its many story arcs. Each season had quite a few of them, most of them running concurrently.
- Season 2: The "Wizards vs. Vampires" arc, which dealt with Justin's relationship with Juliet and her parents.
- Season 3: The "Chronicles of Moises" arc, which dealt with Justin becoming a monster hunter, and Max releasing his conscience. This arc ended with Juliet being captured by the mummy. The next arc in Season 3 was the "Wizards vs. Werewolves" saga, which detailed Alex's growing relationship with Mason, and eventually tied itself with the "Chronicles of Moises" arc. The "Stevie" arc followed, and dealt with Stevie's arrival in New York and her wizard revolution. The "Wizards Exposed" arc came next, where the Russo's are captured and taken to a government facility.
- Season 4: The beginning of Season 4 continued the "Wizards Exposed" arc, which ended with Alex and Justin having to start over in the wizard competition, and Alex deciding to get back in so she could be with Mason. The next arc was the "Maxine" arc, where Max was transformed into a little girl named Maxine. It began with "Three Maxes and a Little Lady", and concluded with "Back To Max". The "Maxine" arc ran concurrently with the next major arc, the "Wizards vs. Angels" saga, which dealt with the Angels of Darkness. The last major arc was the "Apartment 13B" arc, starting with "Wizards of Apartment 13B" and ending with "Wizards vs. Everything". The last arc merges the "Wizards vs. Angels" arc with the "Wizards vs. Werewolves" arc.
- Each season of Round the Twist has a different arc. The first two seasons contained different ghost stories, for Season 3 it was a Viking Love Book, and Season five concerned a mysterious knight from Atlantis.
- Each of season White Collar revolve around a specific overarching storyline that continues from the previous one
- Season 1: Neal's search for Kate and the music box that would lead to her.
- Season 2: The mystery of Kate's music box, and its connection to Vincent Adler.
- Season 3: Vincent Adler's U-boat treasure that the box hid, Matthew Keller's return, and Neal's commutation.
- The West Wing had plenty of story arcs, though they didn't always break down along the lines of a season (for example, the arc about Bartlet being investigated by Congress for hiding his multiple sclerosis began late in season 2 and carried on into the first half of season 3, and the re-election arc stretched from late season 3 to early season 4). Even the Democratic party's primary (for more on what that is, see here) to nominate their candidate to succeed Bartlet was an arc stretching across the second half of the penultimate season. The final season was mostly one long arc about the election of the next president, though that season did have a few other arcs as well.
- 24 has one constant ongoing storyarc per season, each of which can also be broken up into 3-4 sub-arcs.
- The major story arc for the first four seasons of JAG was Harm’s search for his long lost father, although it was latent in most episodes not directly addressing it.
- Only Fools And Horses: First done due to Real Life Writes the Plot in series 4, the first three episodes of which saw Grandad's death and Uncle Albert's introduction to the family. The show started doing full story arcs after the the Re Tool, with series 6 encompassing Rodney and Cassandra's relationship and marriage, series 7 featuring the troubles of the same relationship alongside Raquel's re-introduction and subsequent pregnancy, and the 1996 and 2001-2003 trilogies both containing their own Story Arcs.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a storyline that cleverly evolves over the course of the season: Initially, it's about Coulson's team investigating and combating the machinations of Project Centipede, but about halfway through, the group is all captured, save for their mysterious leader, The Clairvoyant. The series then becomes increasingly about the hunt for the Clairvoyant, until near the end of the season, when he's revealed to be one of HYDRA's moles in SHIELD. After this, the remainder of the season is dedicated to the Civil War between the loyal SHIELD agents and their HYDRA counterparts.
- Arrow, due to essentially running two shows simultaneously (the present day and flashbacks to Oliver's time on the island), manages to have two distinct, but usually connected, story arcs per season:
- Season 1: The flashbacks are about Oliver first arriving on the island and becoming caught in a fight against Edward Fryers' mercenary forces; the present day storyline is about Oliver returning to Starling City, first becoming a vigilante, and uncovering the truth of Malcolm Merlyn's conspiracy to destroy the Glades.
- Season 2: The flashbacks are about Oliver and his allies facing off against Dr. Ivo for the Mirakuru and Slade's Face-Heel Turn; the present is about Oliver trying to become a true hero, while dealing with the schemes of Brother Blood and Slade.
- Beetle Bailey doesn't usually have much continuity, but over the decades, there have been a handful of arcs connecting the strips (actual longer stories for albums notwithstanding), including at least "Beetle arrives at college," "Beetle joins the army," "Beetle goes home on holiday alone," "Beetle goes home on holiday with Sarge," "Beetle goes on holiday at home with Sarge and Otto," "Zero goes on holiday home with Beetle and Sarge," and "Sarge briefly tries to leave the army but comes back."
- Calvin and Hobbes has several, some of them connecting into larger arcs, like the ones involving different uses of the same invention (all of which inventions tend to be the same cardboard box in different positions anyway).
- Several games with multiple playable characters provide a complete campaign for each of them, in which not only there might be unique storylines, but also aspects that are benefitial to the gameplay (i.e. the character has special abilities or weapons that have to be exploited to tackle their corresponding levels or chapters). Examples of games like this are Jet Force Gemini, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Resident Evil 2 and 6, etc. Also, regarding Resident Evil 4, there are two characters and each has a campaign as well, but the second character's (Ada) is more of an Another Side, Another Story variation, available after beating Leon's campaign (itself divided into three arcs based on the major locales of the setting: Village, castle and military island, in that order).
- The Sonic the Hedgehog series has had a three-game Story Arc dealing with Shadow. It started in Sonic Adventure 2, continued in Sonic Heroes and resolved in Shadow the Hedgehog.
- Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles were also part of a Story Arc called the "Death Egg Saga", as the games deal with Sonic's attempts to stop Dr. Eggman from launching the Death Egg. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 could be considered a continuation of the "Death Egg Saga", since Eggman launches the Death Egg mk II in Episode II.
- In City of Heroes series of missions are actually referred to as story arcs, another way to capture the feel of comic books.
- Each of the original games in the When They Cry series are their own arc. Later remakes tend to have multiple arcs in one game though.
- The King of Fighters splits up its ongoing, sometimes confusing plot into arcs, each with rotating protagonist duties. '94 was a stand-alone title meant to kick off this Mascot Fighter, but is now commonly referred to as "The Rugal Saga." '95 simultaneously ends this story with Rugal's Karmic Death via Superpower Meltdown and begins "The Orochi Saga", which climaxes in '97 when Kyo Kusanagi literally punches out Orochi with help from Iori Yagami and Chizuru Kagura. '99-2001 was "The NESTS Chronicles", chronicling an evil cartel's plans for world domination using the DNA of a captured Kyo to create human bioweapons. One of these "Kyo clones" note is K', a stoic Knight in Sour Armor who ends NESTS' ambitions by defeating their top-ranked executives. 2003 started "The Tales of Ash", detailing Ash Crimson, a enigmatic man who uses others for his own purposes, and Those From the Past, a mysterious cult intent on unsealing Orochi. XIII seems to be the conclusion of this part of the story, as Ash, really a Guile Hero, enacts a time-rewriting Heroic Sacrifice to stop Those From the Past and their leader Saiki. Fans can generally expect a new arc to pick up if the last title was a Dream Match Game (XII notwithstanding).
- The Kirby series had a Story Arc nicknamed the "Dark Matter Trilogy" consisting of Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards because all three deal with Kirby and his animal friends dealing with the threat of Dark Matter on Pop Star and its solar system. These games were not produced by Masahiro Sakurai but Shinichi Shimomura. This is noticeable because all three share a puzzle-solving structure instead of the more combat-oriented structure of the other games.
- Xenoblade has five story arcs. The first one is the Xord arc, where the heroes first leave their attacked hometown and have their first encounter with a talking Face Mechon. The second arc, the Prison Island arc, continues their search for Metal Face, the Mechon that destroyed their hometown, climaxing with a battle at the titular Prison Island. The third is the Mumkhar arc, in which Metal Face's true nature and intents are discovered and he is stopped once and for all. The fourth arc is the Egil arc, when the heroes infiltrate Mechonis to fight against Egil, the leader of Mechonis. After the Mechonis Core event, the final arc is the Zanza arc, where the Monado/Zanza takes over Bionis and threatens to destroy everything.
- The Castlevania series is often organized into two-part arcs which take place during one generation of Belmont. For example, Castlevania I/its remakes and Castlevania II Simons Quest consist the story of Simon's attacks on Dracula, and the Sorrow duology is an arc that deals with Soma Cruz and his attempts to escape his supposed destiny as the reincarnation of Dracula.
- The Silent Hill series has the Harry Mason / Alessa Gillespie story arc in Silent Hill 1, 3, and Origins (a prequel).
- In Earthbound, the game has two main goals: Enhance Ness's power by finding eight melodies and shattering a "nightmare rock," then defeat Giygas. However, Giygas causes many sub-plots that break into two major story arcs. The first is the Eagleland arc, which has four sub-arcs and mainly deals with the illusion device known as the Mani Mani Statue and the growing threat of one of its victims, Pokey/Porky Minch. After destroying the Mani Mani Statue and the Clumsy Robot, the bodyguard of the Statue's last victim Geldegarde Monotoli, there is a small interlude involving obtaining the fourth melody which leads to the Summers-Scaraba-Deep Darkness arc, involving the mysteries presented about a pyramid in Scaraba and a swamp called Deep Darkness, which is revealed to guard the last two melodies. After all eight melodies are gathered, one small, last story arc begins: the completion of the original two goals given, which is accomplished by defeating Ness's Nightmare inside his mind and then defeating Giygas and Porky after travelling to the past.
- In Ōkami, the game is neatly divided into three story arcs: The Orochi story arc regarding the release of Orochi and the terror he tries to release upon the world, the Capital Arc regarding a strange mist covering the capital of and the threats of the Water Dragon terrorizing the seas and the Dark Lord that seems to be the mastermind behind everything, and the Kamui Arc, which takes place on the northern, frozen mountains of Nippon and several mini-arcs take place as different plot points are solved so there's nothing undisclosed by the end of the story: The backstory of Issun and his hometown, the threat of two twin demons in the shape of mechanical owls that plan to freeze the land of Kamui over, the true backstory of the first arc and, finally, the appearance of The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and every aspect related to it (its origin, the fate of its former inhabitants, and the nature of the True Final Boss in the form of Yami, the Lord of Darkness).
- Some The Legend of Zelda titles start with a story arc that involves exploring a trio of dungeons to find Plot Coupon tools that may help Link defeat Ganon, or another villain, the easy way. When plans don't work as intended or something unexpected happens, then Link has to reconsider his plans and then it's when he tries to do what it takes to defeat the Big Bad the hard, but more effective way. The games that follow this pattern are A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, The Wind Wakernote , Twilight Princess, and Phantom Hourglass. Skyward Sword follows a similar pattern, except the unexpected twist comes before he even attempts to get rid of the villain (during the first third of the game, his only objective is to find Zelda; in the second, he seeks to create the Master Sword just to manage to reunite with Zelda again); only after six dungeons, eight boss battles and lots of adventuring, it's when he finally starts a new quest (long on its own) to get rid of the Big Bad once and for all.
- Kingdom Hearts has 8 whole games, from the original to the long-anticipated Kingdom Hearts III, forming what Tetsuya Nomura refers to as the "Xehanort Saga" or "Seeker of Darkness Chronicle".
- Kid Icarus: Uprising is split into multiple arcs. It starts with the Medusa arc, which spans the first nine chapters. But then the game pulls a Your Princess Is in Another Castle and Hades shows up, and Viridi a chapter later. Those four chapters deal with the three-way war of the gods. Then we get three chapters of an alien invasion. Then the Chaos Kin throws the story off the rails, and that arc lasts for five chapters. After a one chapter arc of getting Pit back into shape, it takes one more three chapter arc for him to get the necessary equipment to take down Hades once and for all.
- You'd be hard pressed to find a Sluggy Freelance strip that doesn't lead up to or follow up on another strip. Most of them do both. Even if you counted sub-chapters (technically called stories, so calling them arcs as well is a bit redundant) or even chapters for "episodes", there are still storylines arcing over those, up to Myth Arc level. Even the Filler Strips often come in series (of stories, not just strips): The Return of Stick-Figure Week!
- In the tradition of old-style Newspaper Comics serials (the author/narrator has mentioned a fondness for Lee Falk's catchphrase, "Next—New Adventure!"), the story arcs in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! each have a clear beginning and ending, usually with a couple of stand-alone strips in between arcs. These arcs run for months, although they usually only cover a day or two in-universe.
- Everything except filler in El Goonish Shive. Also has a Myth Arc, though it has spent the past few years lurking in the background.
- Living with Insanity used to be a comic strip with the occasional story arc, but now is mostly story arcs.
- Both Dragon City and Jix both started off as a gag-a-day strips, despite having an ongoing story, but both became arc based. This is because the writer has a hard time writing jokes without having a story in place to joke about.
- The Packrat had only one Story Arc so far, and that was the time travel story from January 2011 to February 2012.
- The web fiction serial Dimension Heroes has an ongoing story arc, broken up into several smaller books.
- The Epic Tales series Shadow Hawk has an ongoing arc about Shadow Hawk wanting to get revenge on the Shapeshifter, who killed his father. It also has a subplot arc about how he got a girl pregnant in the first story.
- Each 'chapter' of The Mad Scientist Wars is usually a self contained storyline- but as the gae has been going on, more and more storylines will run somewhat through other chapter. For instance, 'Chic's Family' has been going on since the Mad Sci Con chapter.
- Atop the Fourth Wall has had these ever since Mechakara's introduction.
- The Nostalgia Critic's had a long-running, slightly Yo Yo Plot Point one about his love/hate relationship with his job.
- The Nostalgia Chick's had a few, the most obvious being the Dark Nella Saga.
- Demo Reel had Donnie's Dark and Troubled Past, a SWAG leader wanting to destroy the production team and general learning-from-your-mistakes.
- Although the setting in We Are Our Avatars is easily changed with some effective roleplaying, some longer arcs have been implemented. After the move to Role-playing, there's always been one.
- Also, an Alternate Universe resolution to the final conflict of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S tied in to Mapi's Mega Crossover fanfic.
- A truly epic arc concerning vampires, which began with the introduction of an Alternate Universe Future Badass version of Flandre Scarlet and came to its conclusion with the defeat of none other than The Lord of Evil, Dracula himself. The more over-arcing Are machines sentient? arc, began with the freeing of Dee and her sister Bit.
- One of the largest involved Father's attemps to remake the multiverse, and destroy the Fourth Wall.
- Anyone who wants to can usually kick off an arc, and several plots sometimes run at once. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to have become too confusing.
- Pokemon Digimon Mon Wars is divided into three arcs so far;
- Orange Islands Arc: Based on the Filler Arc and Pokemon2000 from the Pokémon anime
- Myotismon Arc: A variation of Myotismon's invasion of Tokyo, but instead on a large chunk of kanto
- Dark Masters Arc: Current arc, with the Dark Masters merging the digital world with Johto and Orre into Spiral Mountain
- In Family Guy, Peter's cut-away-battles with the giant chicken eventually form an arc, of sorts.
- The first season of the Dilbert animated series had a story arc regarding the company's new flagship product: The Gruntmaster 3000. It covered things such as producing, marketing, and site-testing. The story was frequently broken up with non-arc episodes.
- Exo Squad had not only the primary story arc (the struggle between the Terrans and the Neo Sapiens), but it was also broken into smaller four or five episode long mini arcs, with the action typically focusing on a particular theater of the war. On the DVD release, each mini-arc gets its own name in addition to the episode titles.
- Justice League Unlimited had one in the second season, dealing with the fight between the League and Project Cadmus, and another in the third season focusing on the Secret Society/Legion of Doom.
- Transformers: Beast Wars had arcs a-plenty. The first season often leaving a viewer wondering What Happened to the Mouse?, until, several episodes later, just when they'd almost forgotten, it was revealed. The second and third seasons, however, are more serialized. Skip an episode, and you'll miss at least one thing that's worth knowing later. You won't be left completely hanging, but you won't get what's going on as well as a more devoted viewer, either.
- The Sequel Series, Beast Machines, has some of the strongest continuity of any cartoon ever aired. The whole thing is a series of Arcs.
- Transformers Animated follows arc structure as well, with Season 1 focusing on Megatron's attempts to rebuild his body (with his eventual success covered in the finale), and Season 2 dealing with the Decepticons' plot to build a space bridge to Cybertron. Season 3 is a bit more fluid, possibly because a lot of loose ends are getting tied up.
- Though his higher-ups demanded a strictly Merchandise-Driven series, story editor John Semper managed to "sneak in" overarching storylines and development into Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Naming each season and referring to episodes as "chapters" probably didn't hurt. By the time they realized what he had done, and despite limited animation and extremely restrictive censorship, the show had become the number 1 cartoon in America. Nonetheless, they still didn't let him join in on the Spider-Man Unlimited spinoff, which was primarily stand-alone format and petered out after barely reaching 13 episodes.
- The X-Men cartoon of the 90s did this as well, going through a number of arcs that were featured in the comic books, including the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix sagas.
- The 1981 Spider-Man cartoon (the solo one, before Amazing Friends) had a story arc, stretched across five episodes, surrounding Doctor Doom's attempts to conquer the world and the developing situation in his home country of Latveria.
- Gargoyles had a subtle arc about Brooklyn's coming of age that became a flaring beacon of story awesomeness in the episode, "Kingdom," when you realize this is what the previous Brooklyn stories have been building toward. Also, there are multi-episode arcs that are more blatant, most infamously the "Avalon World Tour".
- The second season of Sonic Sat AM started off more continuity-based to begin with, then kicked into full-on, development-a-week arc mode with the launch of the Doomsday Project.
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures, in addition to its main Myth Arc, features other story arcs, usually following a specific character over the course of the show (for example, the Living Laser's origin and him figuring out what to do with his new powers and then his eventual downfall). These story arcs also end up combining and become more narrow as the show goes on (The Living Laser story arc ends up fusing with the A.I.M story arc later on).
- Avatar: The Last Airbender's Myth Arc is divided by its three seasons, which are titled "books". Book 1 is Water, Book 2 is Earth, and Book 3 is Fire. As the names suggest, each arc deals heavily with Aang mastering the elements involved. Also, while Book 1 was more or less one whole arc, each half of Book 2 and Book 3 could be divided into arcs: the Earthbending Training arc, the Ba Sing Se arc, the pre-Solar Eclipse Invasion arc, and the pre-Sozin's Comet / Firebending Training arc.
- The Secret Saturdays has this:
- Season One: The Kur Stone Puzzle
- Season Two: Finding Kur
- Season Three: Zak IS Kur
- Though Batman: The Brave and the Bold mostly uses stand alone stories, they do occasionally throw in hints of story arcs, such as Equinox, the Starro story arc and the arrival of Darkseid.
- Each Teen Titans season has an overarching plotline, related to one of the core characters:
- Season One focuses on Robin, with Slade as the Big Bad; the story is mostly about how the two characters are and aren't Not So Different.
- Season Two focuses on Beast Boy and moreso on Sixth Ranger Traitor Terra, who is manipulated by Slade to become The Mole and ultimately The Dragon.
- Season Three deals with Cyborg and his escalating enmity with Brother Blood, who has stolen and abused Cyborg's own technology.
- Season Four is about Raven and her attempts to avert her destiny- opening a portal to allow her demonic father Trigon the chance to escape his can and conquer the universe.
- Season Five focuses on the team as a whole and their efforts to stop the Brotherhood of Evil from wiping out a generation of superheroes.
- Jackie Chan Adventures and its seasonal arcs.
- Season One: The search for Shendu's talismans.
- Season Two: Defeating Shendu's demon siblings.
- Season Three: Finding the animals with the talismans' powers.
- Season Four: Finding the Shadowkhan masks.
- Season Five: The search for the chi of the demon sorcerers.
- Each season of the Total Drama series is essentially this, with a different cast lineup, elimination order, and winner in each one.
- South Park has had several story arcs along with multi-part episodes. Season 3 brought a three-part story arc often called "The Meteor Shower Trilogy", in which each episode was a seperate story about different members of the main cast which all take place on the same night. A three-part mini-arc in season 4 involved Mr. Garrison coming out of the closet, and an arc lasting through the entirety of season 6 involved the absence of Kenny and attempts to replace him.
- The first season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a loose arc about the Mane Six preparing for the Grand Galloping Gala, culminating in them attending it in the season finale. It's only mentioned in about three or four episodes total in the season, but that's still more acknowledged continuity than the show normally has.
- Season three begins featuring an arc concerning the Equestrian Games that's continued into the fourth season, with a few episodes featuring the cast preparing for it.
- Scooby-Doo: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo has Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Scrappy and newcomer Flim Flam charged with returning 13 ghosts to a chest of demons, unfortunately it ended prematurely after only thirteen episodes and only 11 ghosts returned.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has the gang unraveling the mystery of a cursed treasure and has since uncovered the whereabouts of the previous Mystery Inc. gang.
- American Dad! has several...
- The infamous "Golden Turd" saga, which was seen in "Homeland Insecurity" and "Failure is Not a Factory-Installed Option" before concluding in "Rapture's Delight".
- Then there's the arc about Hayley's relationship with Reginald the koala.
- Another began when Roger tricked Jeff into being carried off into space at the end of "Naked to the Limit, One More Time", which led to Hayley coming to terms with his loss in "Spelling Bee My Baby" and "The Missing Kink" before Jeff returns in "Lost in Space".
- At first glance, Adventure Time appears to deal almost exclusively in goofy one-off episodes — but within that format are multiple complex arcs. Many relate to the origins/histories of Ooo and its different inhabitants, but their ongoing relationships and possible destinies have become more dominant since the end of season three (which introduced the show's first real villain, the Lich). The show also makes prominent use of returning buses, and just about everything is guaranteed to become a Rewatch Bonus at some point.