The War Arc is a Story Arc that concerns two or more large-scale factions (city-sized at least) in conflict with one another, with the protagonists being involved somehow. The scale will usually be very epic, with politics usually playing a role. Expect to see a Big Badass Battle Sequence. See also Rescue Arc and Tournament Arc.
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Anime and Manga
- The Whitebeard War saga in One Piece, especially the Marineford arc, where dozens of incredibly powerful characters from throughout the series clash in a massive conflict between pirates and the government. Interestingly, this one doubles as a Rescue Arc, as the pirates storm marine headquarters to save their comrade Ace from a public execution.
It's also unusual among both war and rescue arcs for a couple of big reasons: almost none of the main cast are present (the protagonist is there, but none of his True Companions) the hero is actually one of the weaker people on the battlefield, and the antagonists win the war. The rescue also fails, with the character they're trying to rescue getting killed.
- Since most arcs in One Piece involve the Straw Hats arriving at a new location and getting involved in local conflicts between various factions, war arcs are actually pretty common. Notable examples include Alabasta and Skypiea.
- Not to mention The Enies Lobby Arc, where the Straw Hats declare war on the entire world government to save a member of their crew.
- The Shinobi World War Arc in Naruto is the most recent example, but it had the Konoha Invasion arc several hundred chapters earlier, which tied in with the Chuunin Exams Tournament Arc and actually cut that one short.
- Ostensibly, the "Winter War" between the Gotei 13 and the Arrancar led by Sosuke Aizen. It was less of a War Arc than a Rescue Arc ramped Up to Eleven, with a Big Badass Battle Sequence for the remaining antagonists at the end of the Arc.
- The final manga arc is the culmination of 1,000 years of intermittent warfare between the Shinigami and the Vandenreich. The Blood War has been characterised by massacres: there was one a thousand years ago, another one two hundred years ago, and another one begins in the final arc, which includes major deaths RIP Yamamoto.
- The ongoing conflict between the Exorcists of the Black Order and the Millennium Earl's Akuma make up a good portion of the Myth Arc for D.Gray-Man.
- The Arachnophobia arc and the Moon arc in Soul Eater.
- The war between the Kingdom of Midland and the Tudor Empire is the second plot of the Golden Age Arc in Berserk.
- The Hawk of the Millennium Empire arc focuses on one between Midland (and the Apostle army led by the reincarnated Griffith) and the Empire of Kushan led by the rogue Apostle Emperor Ganishka.
- A Certain Magical Index has the British Civil War arc, and shortly thereafter, the World War III arc, the latter of which makes for the climax of the original series of light novels.
- SD Gundam Force has the Neotopia Invasion arc at the end of the first season.
- The second season gives us the Ark Civil War arc.
- The Green Lantern has the Sinestro Corps War (Green Lantern Corps vs Sinestro Corps), War Of Light (7 different Corps against each other) and Blackest Night (everybody against Black Lantern Corps).
- Chaos War is this for Incredible Hercules
- Cosmic Marvel has had multiple war arcs in last few years. Annihilation was a war between the Negative Zone and the normal universe, Annihilation: Conquest told the tale of the Phalanx's invasion of the Kree Empire, War of Kings depicted the war between the Kree and Shi'Ar empires and The Thanos Imperative was a war between the normal Universe and the Cancerverse.
- Civil War, which focuses on heroes taking different sides and fighting about whether or not to put themselves under government control and do away with secret identities.
- The Vizard Trilogy revolved around the war between the titular Visoreds and the Shinigami.
- The Pony POV Series:
- The majority of the Dark World Series is the Mane Six breaking free of Discord's control and acting as La Résistance against his control of the world, having some epic battles against him and his many minions as well as his puppet master, Nightmare Eclipse.
- The Shining Armor Arc grows into one of these between Equestria and its allies (represented by Cadence and Shining Armor's Harmony Guard) and the Hooviet Empire under the control of General-Admiral Makarov, ultimately culminating in Big Badass Battle Sequence and a Cosmic Retcon.
- The Wedding Arc becomes one of these as the vastly outnumbered Mane Six and their allies have to fight against the Changeling occupation of Canterlot.
- Books 21-25 (and beyond?) of the Gor series are focused on the war between the city-state of Ar and Cos, the island Ubarate. Tarl, our protagonist, is on the side of Ar; but Cos won the war...so far.
- Mercedes Lackey has The Mage War in her Heralds of Valdemar books.
- Book 7 of Harry Potter has the war between Voldemort's Death Eaters and the wizards of Hogwarts.
- The Dresden Files has a massive Myth Arc about the Secret War between Red Court vampires and the wizards' White Council, which breaks out in Grave Peril and comes to an abrupt end in Changes.
- A much shorter one occurs in "Summer Knight", where Harry gets embroiled in a war between the Seelie and Unseelie (Summer and Winter) Courts. While it doesn't directly affect the humans in Chicago below them, the weather gets crazy and threatens to go cataclysmic. Harry is way outclassed, but ends the battle by killing Aurora.
- The New Jedi Order is a nineteen-book War Arc within the Star Wars Expanded Universe between the New Republic and the Yuuzhan Vong.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5 featured the Narn-Centauri war, the Shadow war, and the Earth Civil War.
- A few Star Trek series mustered some of these into their runs.
- Season 3 of Star Trek: Enterprise has the eponymous Enterprise racing to stop the Xindi from launching an attack on Earth.
- Deep Space Nine famously featured the two-year war between the Federation and the Dominion, but it also had the Klingon-Cardassian war and the second Klingon-Federation war (before both sides discovered they'd been played like cheap fiddles).
- The Star Trek: Voyager writers wanted to make "Year of Hell" a season-long arc, but the executives said no, and it was instead made into a two-parter.
- Tales of Xillia features the protagonist, Milla, trying to stop a war between Rashugal and Auj Oule over resources. When that fails, she and the rest of the party have to run across a battlefield to try and convince Gaius, the king of Auj Oule, to not use the Lance of Kresnik. They fail, and the weapon is fired, causing a global catastrophe that makes the fighting stop, if only because now the world's on the brink of collapse.
- Mass Effect has the conflict with Saren and the geth in the first game. Notable battles include Saren's attack on Eden Prime (the prologue), the geth besieging the human planet-colony of Feros, the brawl on Saren's headquarters at Virmire, a side-quest that has The Hero attacking several bases to prevent the geth from launching an invasion, and the Battle of the Citadel as the finale.
- The second game, notably, avoids this from the main plotline, but the possibility of a second war between the geth and quarians is addressed several times. Additionally, the Enemy Civil War between the True Neutral geth and the Always Chaotic Evil heretic geth is brought to light, but we never see the actual fighting take place, and we can end it for good during the Sixth Ranger's loyalty mission.
- In the Arrival DLC, Admiral Hackett outright states that war between the humans and batarians could erupt, following the destruction of a batarian-occupied system. Didn't turn out to be true, since the batarians were unfortunate enough to be in the Reapers' way as they headed for Earth.
- Mass Effect 3 features the intergalactic war against the Reapers and their Husks, the conflict with a massively strengthened Cerberus, and the quarians retaking their homeworld from the geth, all going on at the same time. The developers have repeatedly said that Mass Effect 3 is the start of World War II IN SPACE!...
- Halo has the Human-Covenant war as its Myth Arc, with the Covenant Civil War as a late side-effect carrying over to the finale.
- A major plotline in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the conflict between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloak rebellion led by Ulfric Stormcloak. The player is free to help the Empire quell the rebellion or the Stormcloaks fight off the Legion and have Skyrim become an independent nation.
- Fallout: New Vegas centers around a war between the New California Republic and Caesar's Legion, with Mr. House serving as a potential third party. You're given the opportunity to support any three of those. That or decide to oppose all three and rule Vegas yourself.
- Final Fantasy IX: From halfway through Disc One until the end of Disc Two is a long one, showing Brahne's bid for power - even going as far as stealing her daughter's powers to do it. She actually makes good progress on her goal of owning the entire Mist Continent - too bad Kuja turns Bahamut back on her.
- Chapter 3 of Bravely Default more or less boils down to this, combined with Rescue Arc; the party helps the defensive Shieldbearers turn the tide on the Swordbearer rebellion, while rescuing a captive from their main base. The side quests from this chapter involve eliminating high-ranking Swordbearer commanders.
- Red vs. Blue has the "war" between the vastly incompetent or undesirable Reds and Blues, but we barely see any sort of firefights between them (Battle Creek flag zealots notwithstanding), and it's actually just a training scenario used by Super Soldiers; the last detail is kept secret from the Reds and Blues themselves.
- Worm has the Extermination arc where heroes and villains in the city join forces and are joined by heroes from elsewhere to fight off Leviathan. If it sounds uneven, it was: there are many casualties on the side of the heroes and villains but Leviathan will recover without a problem. Later, the Crushed arc covers the fight against Behemoth.
- The Order of the Stick has the Battle for Azure City.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender is about stopping a war that's already going on, sort of making it a series-long War Arc.
- The Legend of Korra actually see the events leading up to one between the Equalists and the Benders.
- The Teen Titans spent the near-entirety of the fifth season battling the forces of the Brotherhood of Evil, ending just before the final episode.