Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world.Natural disasters are scary enough, but what about supernatural disasters? One way to kick-start a story or motivate characters to pick up The Call is to threaten the setting with a World-Wrecking Wave. The Wave can have any of a number of triggers; it may happen when the Sealed Evil in a Can is released, some overwhelming evil force unleashes a powerful Curse, the Cosmic Keystone is stolen or corrupted, or a scientific/technological device meant to better things Goes Horribly Wrong. The wave can have any or all of the following effects: natural disasters will be triggered, mutations will affect animal, plant, and even human life, areas will enter the Dark World or become haunted and toxic, and millions of Mooks (monsters, undead or other things) will roam the land and attack all humans. Once the wave stops rippling, the heroes will be faced with a world gone topsy-turvy. The effects can range from a Cosy Catastrophe to After the End, and affect anywhere from a town to a universe. It's worth noting that the World-Wrecking Wave won't destroy the whole world nor kill all humans, though it probably represents a big step towards some form of apocalypse or Villain World. The Wave is merely an event that whacks the entire setting closer to Crapsack World (or further down the same). Narratively, it isn't supposed to destroy the world either, it's an amped up way to show heroes that things can get much, much worse if the bad guys get their way. On the plus side, heroes can often Set Right What Once Went Wrong, by a piecemeal process involving healing the land one acre at a time, or all at once by healing the Fisher King, going back in time to prevent the event, or using an opposing World-Healing Wave. Also, a World-Wrecking Wave may end up helping the heroes by serving as a Mass Super-Empowering Event... though some of those may be Lovecraftian Superpowers. Expect a Spreading Disaster Map Graphic to hammer home the scope of the threat. Compare Fantastic Nuke, which may set off a World-Wrecking Wave.
— Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
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Anime & Manga
- One of these gets unleashed upon the Berserk universe when Griffith uses the Skull Knight's dimension-warping attack to fuse the planes of existence together.
- Third Impact in End of Evangelion manifests using this trope. Wherever the wave passes, the oceans turn red, all people explode into LCL while their souls fly off into low orbit and the ground spontaneously sprouts billions of Creepy Cool Crosses with the entire scene overlaid by humanity's collective Death Cry Echo. It's utterly awesome and horrifying at the same time.
- Rockman EXE Beast has the alternate universe world Beyondard. Prior to the start of the series a Dimensional Area experiment went out of control and permanently covered the entire planet in a Dimensional Area making it a Crapsack World where deadly computer viruses and rogue AIs exist in the real world.
- Soul Eater's World-Wrecking Wave is The Kishin and his madness spreading through the world. His release divides the story between a previous and an after, and set up a world slowly being corrupted with the heroes desperate to find him and stop him before it's too late.
- The Silent Möbius TV series has one in the first episode as a result of the failure of Project Gaia. It passes over a series of major landmarks and we later see some burning ruins.
- The lore of Puella Magi Madoka Magica states that this would be what happened if Walpurgisnacht ever faced upright.
- In The DCU, the God-Wave created the gods out of a lifeless universe, and its echoes created superheroes and supervillains.
- North Forty has a localized World-Wrecking Wave on the town. However, this was only because one of the two (accidental) instigators of the event focused on containing the negative effects with a barrier so they wouldn't be able to leave.
- The Ultimatum Wave, in the Ultimate Marvel Crisis Crossover, Ultimatum. (Guess what their favorite word is?) It was an actual wave and it ended with half the Ultimate Marvel cast dead.
- Both the Ultimate Annhilator and the Genesis Waves of Sonic the Hedgehog were this. Subverted in that the results of all three incidences, which were always meant to be destructive, didn't quite turn out how their architects had intended due to sabotage of some kind either before or after implementation. As a result, most of the intended changes didn't take or weren't permanent. Then its doubly subverted with the reversion of the last Genesis Wave. Only this time, its Eggman who sabotages Sonic.
Films — Animation
- The Firebird from Fantasia 2000. It's the God of this trope in our Pantheon.
- Disney's Mickey and the Beanstalk. After the golden harp is stolen, Happy Valley quickly turns into Grimy Gulch. Problems include drought and starvation.
- The Croods has no direct antagonist, so the only danger is the end of the world quakes that are catching up to them.
- When the Drej mothership fires on Earth in Titan A.E., it causes one of these... just before the earth blows up.
Films — Live-Action
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The wave of corruption that spreads over Heartland after Mr. Mustard steals the title characters' musical instruments.
- Technically, the Genesis Device from Star Trek II is this. Sure, it can create a completely new biosphere from a dead or lifeless planet... but when used on a world bustling with life, it utterly destroys the existing ecosystem to replace it with the new one.
- In the climax of The World's End, a World-Wrecking Wave destroys Newton Haven after the Network leaves Earth for good... And then it keeps going, destroying all technology on Earth and sending humanity back to the Dark Ages, which makes for a somewhat Bittersweet Ending. This is supposed to be a comedy film by the way.
- The short film Pixels shows parts of New York being disintegrated into tiny cubes by various creatures and objects from arcade games that escaped into our world from a thrown-out TV. Then a giant bomb finishes it off by pixellating everything in the blast, and eventually turning entire world into one giant black cube that drifts silently through space.
- The world of the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey is defined in large part by an ancient event known as the Cataclysm, which was a humongous magical detonation that devastated vast portions of the landscape and left magical ruin behind. It took the form of a sequence of waves radiating around the planet, and was so powerful that it bent time itself, returning three thousand years later.
- In the backstory of the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, High Lord Kevin Landwaster enacts the "Ritual of Desecration", releasing one of these in a desperate attempt to defeat Lord Foul. His success is only temporary while seriously nerfing the powers of his successors and ruining the land to boot. Well done.
- The Darke Domaine in Septimus Heap is a slow version of this.
- In The Dark Tower novel Wolves of the Calla, Roland and the crew experience a "Beamquake" as one of the Beams holding up the Tower gives way. Roland says the land was destroyed for thousands of miles near where the beam snapped.
- Project Starscream in Galaxy of Fear. Oh, it only affected the one planet, but nothing on that planet survived. Instead the people there became furious wraiths, roaming the dead landscape and attacking some of the people who landed there.
- A theme of The Light Fantastic is the Great Spells conspiring together to create a world-changing wave which begins in the representation of Unseen University in a model of the Disc, then spreads out to cover first the whole of the model Disc, the model elephants and Turtle beneath it, and then visibly surges over the entire world. Apparently it's a Change Spell. What it changes is that it rescues the Wizzard Rincewind, who has fallen over the side of the Disc. It pulls him out of a plummet into deep space, to drop him safely into the forest of Skund in the centre of the continental mass. As an unintended side-effect, it magically changes the species of the University librarian from human to orang-utan and calls a bowl of pineapple jelly into being. Apart from this the Disc is unchanged. Although it is seemingly on the catastrophe curve for a different reason - something only Rincewind can avert.
- In Mort, a similar world-changing wave occurs in reverse as two different mutually exclusive timelines exist together. The larger, dominant, consensus timeline wraps the rogue timeline in a wave of visible energy which shrinks, trapping those inside it as it contracts.
Live Action TV
- The 6-part documentary Miracle Planet showed what would happen to the Earth if it got hit by a 300-mile-wide asteroid. A video clip is here. Watch what happens as the wave of vaporized rock propagates around the world. <shudder>
- The medical device hacked by the Master in "The End of Time" (Doctor Who).
- Maybe more a World-Changing Wave, or at least Town-Changing Wave, than a World-Wrecking Wave. But, Eureka has a Christmas episode where a Super Photon Generator goes haywire and turns the entire town into a cartoon. Each wave pulse from the generator changes the style of animation present. Still, non-real cartoon elements like Sninjas (Snowman Ninjas) are able to be created by a child's toy in this altered world which pose a threat.
- The Dakara superweapon in Stargate SG-1 can be this, a World-Healing Wave, or even both at the same time, depending on how it's programmed before activation. And when tied into the Stargate network, its range spans not merely a world but the entire galaxy. Anubis, having a god complex that's massive even by Goa'uld standards, planned to use it in exactly that manner: wiping out all life in the Milky Way and simultaneously creating new life of his own design.
- Daniel Amos: In the short story from the Vox Humana liner notes, the narrator gets caught in a freezing storm cloud that spreads like a massive wave. The full extent of the wave is never shown.
There, rolling down upon me, over what appeared to be a snowy plain, I saw a gigantic black wave. It was miles away, but visibly devouring the earth in its approach, its crest lost in murky clouds.
- Dark Conspiracy. The release of extradimensional evil on of Jupiter's moons leads to an invasion of modern day Earth, resulting in the creation of areas called Demongrounds.
- Wraith: The Oblivion had six such events, called Maelstroms, ruin the Shadowlands. The first five were triggered by huge disasters or wars in the world of the living that caused huge numbers of ghosts to be thrust into the world of the dead at once. The sixth, final, and most destructive of them was quite different: a series of events triggered a relic nuclear bomb near the mouth of Oblivion. The Sixth Great Maelstrom was so catastrophic it not only took out most of the Shadowlands, but set into motion the events that destroyed the rest of the Old World of Darkness.
- How great was that blast? It blew a hole in the gates of Hell.
- Monte Cook's World of Darkness kicks off with such an event after an Eldritch Abomination tries to penetrate our dimension. The effects can be scaled to make things better... or worse.
- Several of these happened in the backstory of Exalted. Two notable events include the imprisonment of She Who Lives In Her Name, who decided to erase two-thirds of the things in Creation from existence out of jealousy, and the Balorian Crusade, when The Fair Folk harrowed the borders of Creation and drew vast chunks of the border back into the Wyld.
- Rifts: The Great Cataclysm. A nuclear war, during a planetary alignment, on the Winter Solstice, equaled a massive burst of magical energy akin to millions of human sacrifices. Every Ley Line activated at once, creating a catastrophic surge of natural disasters... which meant more people died, which meant more power flooded into the ley lines, which meant more disasters. In the end, humanity was left standing in the ruins of civilization, with aliens, other-dimensional beings, and demons all dragged onto Earth by the newly-opened portals, wondering what the hell just happened.
- 4th Edition D&D was heralded in the Forgotten Realms by Cyric's murder of Mystra, the goddess of magic. All over the universe, magic burst its bonds. Entire planes of existence were shattered, and part of the planet Toril exchanged itself with a piece of its parallel world Abeir. Many regions of Toril were also infected with a reality-warping, mortal-mutating magical disease, a disease whose name came to describe the entire event: Spellplague.
- Magic: The Gathering has the card Worldfire, which exiles every permanent and every card in every player's hand and graveyard, and sets their life totals to 1. The picture on the card depicts a wave of fire blazing outward from the spell's center.
- This can happen to worlds in Warhammer 40,000 for different reasons, most notably at the hands of humans. When an imperial world is too far gone to alien invasion, Chaos infestation, or mere rebellion to be reclaimed by conventional forces, the Imperium's Inquisitors order Exterminatus. This is a planetary bombardment that sometimes involves lethal, biosphere-melting virus bombs, but more often cyclone torpedoes and other munitions that cause instant, vast firestorms to scour the planet's surface down to the bedrock.
- That said, Exterminatus can be just as much a mercy-killing as an horrific genocidal atrocity, compared to some of the reasons for it. Other world wrecking waves like the space-locust Tyranids will strip the planet to the bedrock anyway, and a warp-rift or warp storm caused by rogue psykers or agents of Chaos can be a worse fate.
- A world wrecking wave happened to the Eldar, ten thousand years into the past of the setting. The sheer decadence and corruption of this highly psychic race conceived and fed a new god of pleasure and excess in the Warp. When it was finally born, the resulting rip in space-time obliterated the heart of their old empire and sent a psychic wave of destruction through the galaxy, killing most of them and their worlds. They haven't recovered since, despite the remnants becoming space-shaolins or scuttling into a pocket universe, and the rip is still there.
- The ink spill in Epic Mickey.
- Final Fantasy IX: When the Iifa tree is destroyed, the mist covering the continents is removed, then when the party returns from Terra, it has returned. Though this is an example of the World-Wrecking Wave having been active before the start of the story.
- Guild Wars Nightfall's actual nightfall events work like this, with demons being released in the world, and some areas becoming like the realm of torment.
- The different armageddon events if Fall from Heaven's Armageddon counter rises, though spread out more over time.
- This is what happens in Mortal Kombat when Shao Kahn takes control of a realm. In Mortal Kombat 3, he takes control of Earth, resulting in the series going into post-apocalyptic mode.
- In Ōkami, removing the sword sealing Orochi causes all of Nippon ("Nippon" is "Japan" in Japanese) to sink into darkness. Large swatches are filled with toxic smog that petrifies humans, plants and animals all over die, buildings are destroyed, and demons roam freely. Thankfully, Amaterasu's first celestial brush techniques, Bloom and Mend, allow you to repair a lot of this damage.
- Guess what the World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm is named after.
- That was the second World-Wrecking Wave to hit Azeroth, with the first being the Great Sundering which broke the continent into the 4 we know today. There's also whatever happened to Outland, which turned a planet into a series of floating asteroids. A Third World-Wrecking Wave hits Azeroth if you don't stop Deathwing from using it when you fight him.
- The plasma wall that surrounds the otherdimensional Schwarzwelt in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, capable of "disassembling any matter that it touches down to a molecular level." It started as a 1m-wide cylinder that stretched upwards in the middle of Antartica, but it has been expanding steadily ever since. Should the mission to investigate and destroy the Schwarzwelt fail (or should the Main Character die in combat), the wall will suddenly expand so rapidly as to engulf the entire world in seconds, annihilating everything in its path and leaving behind a world of demons. (This is a World Wrecking Wave rather than an Apocalypse How (though it counts as that too) because if the Schwarzwelt actually did what it was said to be capable of, the result would be more along the lines of "Earth vanishing from existence".)
- The Scientist's special ability in Spore is the Gravitation Wave, which instantly wipes out all structures on a planet. Like the more dramatic Planet Buster, using it will instantly be a mark against you in the eyes of any nearby space empires.
- The Destroyer from The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon will let loose one of these in the event it finishes its trek around the world, destroying it in a wave of fire and ash. Spyro reverses this by emitting a World-Healing Wave.
- The heroes of Super Robot Wars Alpha accidentally unleash one of these after killing the final boss of the first game and the plot of Alpha Gaiden revolves around them trying to stop it from hitting Earth and getting trapped in a post-apocalyptic future where they apparently failed.
- In Mass Effect 3, if your War Assets are low and you choose to destroy the Reapers, the resulting wave tears up what's left of Earth's remaining infrastructure. If they're REALLY low, the wave also wipes out most of the remaining population, as well as most life in the galaxy.
- In Multiwinia (the online version of Darwinia), the gamemode Assault ends when the Doomsday Device is disabled or goes off; sending a wave of Doom and tremor upon the entire map; committing genocide upon the enemy team.
- The page image is the Great Fall from MS Saga: A New Dawn, an event that wiped out 90% of humanity and destroyed almost all artificial structures. Sixty years later, the game world is mostly open wasteland or forest.
- In The Journeyman Project, The Temporal Security Agency describes how time is changed due to an alteration in the past as a "Temporal Distortion Wave", which could vary at any speed to reach the present. Depending on what was changed and how, it varies as to how severe the changes turn out to be. In the first game, Gage Blackwood would never be born in the altered timeline, had he not jumped to 200,000,000 BC before the wave hit.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the final arc of the Shadow of Revan story takes place on the Imperial homeworld of Ziost. The (former) Sith Emperor is — "manifesting on" might be the term — the planet, causing a Hate Plague that is gradually driving the population to kill one another. Naturally, the player characters are called in to stop it. But just when they think they've succeeded and returned to space, the Emperor unleashes a World-Wrecking Wave that literally turns everyone on the planet to ash, kills off all life, and bleaches the ground and sky. The implication is that he could have done this at any time, but waited until you'd left for his own sick amusement.
- One of these was an important backstory event in Wapsi Square. The rampaging chimera effectively destroyed civilization 10,000 years before the start of the comic.
- In Bob and George, Dr. Wily sets out to destroy the comic world. It wrecks the world.
- Becquerel of Homestuck sets one off when diverting the massive meteor barreling at Jade as she undertook her entry into the game. The result is the blasted wastelands of Earth we see After the End when the Exiles come around.
- In Deviant Universe, Omega is so powerful that his release alone caused a wave of energy meteors to shoot out across the world.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Phoenix King Ozai attempts this manually with the arrival of Sozen's comet. Through amplified firebending, he wanted to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground from a fleet of airships.
- BIONICLE: the Great Catacylsm.
- The DuckTales episode "The Golden Goose" has the Golden Goose, an Artifact of Doom that can turn things to gold. If left outside its protective fountain too long, it comes to life and starts randomly turning things to gold. It then sheds its golden coating, which spreads through the ground and threatens to turn the entire world to gold. Only returning the goose to the fountain reverses the effect.
- The arrival of Trigon in Teen Titans had this effect, turning the entire world into a volcanic wasteland and turning all life on Earth to stone. Raven destroying him (or rebanishing him, it's not exactly clear) triggers a World-Healing Wave.
- The Fairly OddParents does this in the Abra-Catastrophe TV movie. When Mr. Crocker becomes the ruler of the world, a montage is shown of one of these turning the world into an Egopolis where several major monuments are replaced with Crocker statues. In the same special, the characters at one point end up in an Alternate History where apes are the dominant lifeform on Earth, which causes a similar wave montage turning the monuments into monkey-related versions.
- Invoked by Jackal/Anubis in the Gargoyles episode "Grief", as beams of dark energy that age objects and living things into dust, rust, and bones.
- Mainframe Entertainment was fond of the concept, using it in both ReBoot to spread Daemon's infection and Beast Wars creating the Transmetals and Fuzors.
- In the second-to-last episode of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Diagon emits a World Wrecking Wave that turns every human being on Earth into an Esoterica (except Julie who escapes thanks to Ship encasing her in its power armor form).
- Taken to its logical extreme in the Mortis-trilogy of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where the healing and wrecking wave are following eachother in a constant circle, as part of the planet's Light and Dark in-balance symbolism: when night falls all plants die, and are reduced into ghastly glowing forms, and massive thunder storms start. When dawn approaches all plant life is renewed.
- When Wuya is returned to physical form at the end of Xiaolin Showdown's first season, the region she's in... Suffers. Plants die. Rivers dry up. Entire mountains become barren. When she's sealed away again, the damage is undone with a World-Healing Wave.
- Most reconstructions of the K-T extinction involve a blast of fire and heat moving outwards from the impact site.
- The Tunguska Event probably involved something like this.
- Pyroclastic flows are a small-scale version.
- An interstellar world-wrecking wave: when a star goes supernova, the explosion may destroy or irradiate nearby planets.