[[quoteright:350:[[ComicBook/MegaMan http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Year_20XX_127.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:And the previous year was 200X]]

->''"Why is it always X? It's like they couldn't come up with an exact year, so just make it X."''
-->-- '''WebVideo/TheAngryVideoGameNerd'''

Setting is important in story telling, especially when you want to tell what time period that story takes place in. The easiest way to do this is to simply state what year the story takes place in... however, being [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture too exact]] may sometimes narrow down flexibility. So in order to pinpoint the time and keep it vague at the same time, writers like to give the century number, but replace the year and decade with X.

For example: 20XX. You know this takes place [[NextSundayAD after the millennium]], but ''when'' after the millennium? 2097? 2030? [[MayanDoomsday December 21, 2012]]? We don't know, and that's the beauty of it.

It also renders the setting somewhat resistant to the flow of RealLife time, since RealLife will take longer to cross that date and make fans start wondering [[IWantMyJetpack why the future doesn't look anything like fiction depicted it]]. Of course, as the list below shows, years like 199X and 200X have been used and passed, and even 20XX will pass eventually. Inevitably, TimeMarchesOn.

Commonly seen in ScienceFiction, but not limited to it.

Not to be confused with ExtyYearsFromNow, which is about future dates or intervals being nice round numbers, often based on the work's own release date. Compare SpellMyNameWithABlank, which is similar but with names or locations.

Note that older examples such as ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}'' or ''Literature/TreasureIsland'' use -- instead of X to denote the uncertain years: Both of the above works are set in "17--".
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!!Examples:

[[AC:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* ''Manga/WanganMidnight'' is set in the year 20XX to allow for the introduction of newer cars that at the time of the first publishing (1992) did not exist.
* ''Manga/IchigekiSacchuHoihoiSan'' is set in the year 20XX.
* ''Manga/ZeroIn'' is set in 20XX.
* ''Manga/HellstarRemina'': [[spoiler:Earth]] is eaten in "July 20XX".
* ''Anime/DigimonXrosWars'' starts in 20XX.
* ''Manga/FutureDiary'''s dates are all shown in the form "29 JULY 20XX"
* ''Manga/NewMazinger'': The action in this ''Anime/MazingerZ'' spin-off begins in 220X.
* ''CrystalTriangle'' is set in the year 198X. The funny thing about this is that the show was made in 1987. They were really hopeful for those next two years.
* ''Manga/FistOfTheNorthStar'' is set a few years after a nuclear war destroyed the world in "[=199X=]".
* In ''Manga/SangatsuNoLion'', the year is revealed to be 20XX on Nikaidou's New Years postcard.
* ''Manga/FairyTail'': The story takes place in "X784". [[spoiler:X791 after the TimeSkip.]]

[[AC:{{Film}}]]
* ''Film/InvasionOfAstroMonster '' took place in 196X.
* ''Film/TimeChanger'' When someone from the 1890's came over 100 years in the future and looked at the newspaper, the last two years of 20xx were obscured and when he yelled the date out loud the 20xx was cut off by a car honk. Also, at [[{{stinger}} end]] of the movie, they are attempting to send a bible in the future but it will not go if the end of the world already happened by then, so he keeps on changing the date earlier to see when the end of the world takes place, and the movie cuts off somewhere in the 2000s.

[[AC:LiveActionTV]]
* ''Series/PowerRangersRPM'' was set in 20XX (between late 2040 and 2096).
* The ''Series/DoctorWho'' episode "The End of The World" takes place in "5.5/Apple/26", although this may be another term for [[ExtyYearsFromNow exactly 5 billion years]] after the characters had left.
* ''Series/ServantOfThePeople'' features a subtle version of this, with a small poster that has the year on it, but the part with the last digit is torn off. The show is basically set in 201X.

[[AC: Literature]]
* John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse" sets the date as 19--, then lampshades it, then lampshades that a young protagonist would be GenreSavvy enough to point this out. This is {{Postmodernism}} after all.
* In ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}'', in Robert Walton's letters to his sister, the date is given as "Dec. 11th, 17--," making this trope at least OlderThanRadio.
* ''Literature/TreasureIsland'' also takes place "in the year of grace 17--."
* WordOfGod says that the works in The Jingoverse take place in '201X'.
* ''Literature/TheStrangeCaseOfDrJekyllAndMrHyde'' happens in 18**.
* In ''Literature/LifeTheUniverseAndEverything'', Ford and Arthur time travel from the prehistoric past to the year 198--.
* Creator/KimNewman's "Richard Jeperson" stories (part of the Literature/DiogenesClub series) are all mostly set in the 1970s, but are fairly ambiguous as to the precise setting (although careful reading can give a few clues as to roughly when each one is set), and every time a specific year is mentioned it is presented to the reader as 197-.

[[AC:{{Manhwa}}]]
* ''Webcomic/OrangeMarmalade'' starts in "Autumn, 20XX".

[[AC:VideoGames]]
* ''[[VideoGame/NineteenFortyTwo 19XX]]'', part of the ''1942'' ShootEmUp series by Capcom.
* ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIIINocturne'' is set in Tokyo, 20XX.
** There's also ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'' 20XX, which [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin happens to takes place during the year 20XX]]
* UsefulNotes/XBox game ''Zombies and Pterodactyls 20XX''
* [=PS2=] game ''Seven Samurai 20XX''
* ''VideoGame/MegaManClassic'' is a strong example of this trope, starting in 200X and later moving into 20XX. The spinoffs are all set relative to this ambiguous date; the ''[[VideoGame/MegaManX X]]'' series takes place in 21XX, and drags on into 22XX, while ''[[VideoGame/MegaManBattleNetwork Battle Network]]'' is in an alternate 200X. The later games in the main timeline starting with ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'' (which was assumed to take place in 22XX before ''VideoGame/MegaManXCommandMission'' came out) have abandoned this & don't specify any dates, possibly because the world has [[AfterTheEnd suffered so many successive apocalypses]] by this point that people don't even remember what year it's supposed to be. According to the [[AllThereInTheManual ''Perfect Memories'' sourcebook]], the ''[[VideoGame/MegaManLegends Legends]]'' series takes place around 6000 years after the end of the ''X'' series (which would put it circa 82XX), but that's about all we know.
* Creator/HamumuSoftware's ''RobotWantsSeries'' game ''Robot Wants Puppy'' had an OpeningScroll about rebels in the year 20XX plotting to liberate Zeta Sector from the iron-tentacled rule of the tyrannical Morgox the Unborn.
* ''VideoGame/EarthBound'' is set in 199X. If you borrow a map from the library and then talk to the librarian again, you are told you don't have to return the map until the year 2002, [[HilariousInHindsight much to the amusement of modern-day fans]].
** While ''VideoGame/EarthBoundBeginnings'' was originally set in 1988, at some point this was changed to 198X.
** The fangame ''VideoGame/Mother4'' is set in 197X.
* The early ''VideoGame/DoubleDragon'' games are set in a post-apocalyptic New York after a Nuclear War occurred in [=19XX=].
* The ''VideoGame/{{WarioWare}}'' games take place in 20XX.
* ''VideoGame/HalfLife1'' takes place on May 16, 200X (though it is commonly agreed among fans to be set in 2003).
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Metroid 1}} Metroid]]'' is set in 20X5. Like ''Mega Man'', the other games in the series all take place relative to the ambiguous date of 20X5 in the original.
* The ''VideoGame/StreetsOfRage'' games are set in 199X.
* ''VideoGame/BombermanGeneration'' takes place in "[[AlternativeCalendar cosmic year]] 200X".
* ''Falsion'', a 3D ShootEmUp by Creator/{{Konami}} for the FamicomDiskSystem, is set in 21XX.
* ''Godzilla: Monster of Monsters!'' takes place in "2XXX A.D."
* The events of the first ''VideoGame/MetalGear'' was originally placed in the year [=199X=] before the sequels decided to give it a specific year. The manual for ''VideoGame/MetalGear2SolidSnake'' was inconsistent as to whether the original game was set in 1995 or 1996 (with the in-game dialogue placing the events of the sequel three years later), but ultimately ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' went with the 1995 date.
* According to the intro cinematic of ''VideoGame/{{Pikmin}} 3'', the game takes place in "Galactic Date 20XX".
* ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys'' takes place in Year XX, according to the PC's pay check. The sequel subverts this, taking place in 19[[spoiler:87]].
* ''VideoGame/EDFEarthDefenseForce'' takes place in 20XX, except in the SNES localization which is set either in 4129 (by the manual) or the 23rd century (by the blurb).
* Parodied with ''19YY'', a ShootEmUp MiniGame from the UsefulNotes/NeoGeo CD ''ADK World''.
* A popular in-joke about ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosMelee'' describes the year 20XX, where everyone plays [[VideoGame/StarFox Fox]] (the top-tier character, yet [[DifficultButAwesome incredibly difficult to play well]]) to TAS levels of perfection. Because of this, the only way to decide matches is through port priority which can only be decided by rock-paper-scissors. A somewhat popular GameMod of ''Melee'' is even named after this joke, called the ''20XX hack pack''.
* The opening cutscene of ''{{VideoGame/Undertale}}'' states that the year is 201X. [[spoiler: Sharp eyes will notice that a lot of things that show dates say 201'''x''', lowercase. This is very subtle foreshadowing that the calendars Toriel and Asgore own aren't current, but keepsakes of the day their children died.]]
* While not using "Xs", ''{{VideoGame/KirbySuperStar}}'' 's final subgame in the original takes place in the year ??? (or some time after it).

[[AC:WebAnimation]]
* In ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner'', the anime counterparts of the main cast hail from the year 20X6. Which they pronounce as [[ExtyYearsFromNow "Twenty exty-six"]].

[[AC:Webcomics]]
* The number of the year is pixeled in ''Webcomic/LuminaryChildren''.
* WordOfGod says that Webcomic/ElGoonishShive takes place in the year 20XY.

[[AC:WebOriginal]]
* The ''Wiki/SCPFoundation'' often redacts dates, but sometimes the century or decade is left uncensored, leading to a similar effect but with {{Censor Box}}es instead of X's.

[[AC:WesternAnimation]]
* In ''[[Creator/RankinBassProductions Rudolph's Shiny New Year]]'', the new year is "19-Wonderful".

[[AC:TruthInTelevision]]
* In the Philippines the colloquial phrase "19-''kopong-kopong''" generally indicates "a long time ago". Precisely when is usually unspecified, but some online sources will make a more specific case by pointing out that ''kopong'' is an Old Tagalog word for "zero", hence, the year 1900.
* The Scottish phrase "nineteen oatcake" (or sometimes "nineteen canteen") means much the same thing. The non-number words seem intended to create the sound of "190X" or "191X".
* In Brazil there is a similar phrase, "mil novecentos e guaraná com rolha", roughly "19-soda with a cork".

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