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Abusive Precursors

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"We impose order on the chaos of organic evolution. You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it."
Sovereign, Mass Effect

The verdict is out on some Precursors. Others, however, are not just guilty, they are guilty with extreme prejudice.

An abundance of Sealed Evil in a Can with flimsy seals and easily found keys? They did it on purpose. They even labelled the can as Happy Fun Time For All! to make sure you'd open it — or "Evil Inside, Do Not Release" just relying on humanity's inability to ignore Schmuck Bait. Sometimes, odds are that THEY are the evil in the can. Plagues? Oh, they made it. Then even stored it with crates of candy to make sure you'd catch it. They did not just leave a Lost Super Weapon for villains to acquire; they gave them a manual, tech support, and a 10,000-millennium powertrain warranty.

In short, the Abusive Precursors cause problems through more direct acts than their neglectful equivalent, with the clear intent of doing so. To make it worse, it's likely they are still around and powerful enough that you can't do a thing about it. If a setting has both Neglectful or Benevolent and Abusive Precursors, expect them to have been at war, and that the Abusive Precursors either won or ended up as Sealed Evil in a Can or Only Mostly Dead. Now that their sworn enemies have become Energy Beings and moved to another plane of existence they might be ready to come back and take it out on their enemies' toys. Also, there are very good odds that both types of precursors share origins somehow, with either one race creating the other, both races being offshoots of one another or of a third race, or both being different cultures of the same race. Just to compound the problem, while other surviving Precursors are likely to be Energy Beings as mentioned these are more likely to be Eldritch Abominations. However, if they aren't around, they might have been wiped out by Precursor Killers, who could be even more dangerous.

The Dark Times are a mythological period in the past when the Abusive Precursors were at the height of their power. Sub-Trope of Precursors, with Benevolent Precursors as inversion.

Compare God Is Evil. If this trope applies only to parental relationships, then it is the Abusive Parents trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, it's revealed that humans were created by the ancient Atlanteans via tampering with primates to be used as a servant race.
  • From Naruto, the Otsutsuki clan, they're a race of celestial beings who are also the ancestors of all Shinobi, and the Greater Scope Villains of the entire series; their main MO is to travel between worlds and harvest all the life force and chakra from their inhabitants into a world tree which they consume to become stronger.
  • In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, humanity engineered a vast, vast number of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which include the titanic cyborg-like God Warriors, destroyed the entire ecosystem of the whole world, and finally all but perished in the Seven Days of Fire. However, its greatest sin was to create the Heart of Shuwa, a biological computer which contains a human-like consciousness, and which, when found by the few surviving humans, dispensed just enough scientific knowledge to enthrall them. Additionally, war technology pre-Seven Days of Fire is still scattered across the planet, including the aforementioned God Warriors. If that's not all, the Heart deliberately created the Sea of Corruption and the Ohmu to cleanse the planet, so its creators could live again in a purified world — after willingly destroying the current mankind.
  • The Mu of RahXephon, a race of blue-blooded humans who vanished off the Earth several tens of thousands of years ago due to one of their own experiments failing. (The reason for said experiment? The scientist just wanted to see if it would actually work.) The story happens when they try to come back, and the end of the series makes it very clear that they could effortlessly wipe out humanity if they really wanted. They don't, they only suppress the TERRA organization that is directly opposing them. Their real goal is to re-do that aforementioned failed experiment properly and Ret-Gone the entire human race, so that they can have Earth for themselves. Oh, and the Humongous Mecha they use are Powered by a Forsaken Child, meaning that every Dolem killed was an innocent human life suddenly ending.
  • At the smallest end of the scale, Rozen from Rozen Maiden. He created a race of thinking, sentient creatures, made them blindly loyal, and commanded them to fight to the death until only one survives. Why? To earn his love. Only centuries later, after a pretender triggers a fake Alice Game, does he deign to show his face again... to restore the status quo and reset the game back to start, with a grudging admission that "there are other ways to win besides battle". On the other hand, can a force, however mysterious, who creates a "race" with less than ten members really be considered a Precursor?
  • The Anti-Spirals from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann wait around watching to make sure the universe doesn't develop too many intelligent beings capable of creating or controlling Spiral Energy, including humans. Once they decide there are too many, they sweep in and Leave No Survivors. They do it with a really snotty attitude, too, which adds insult to injury. And the reason? Paranoia that too much Spiral Energy will create the so-called "Spiral Nemesis". Humanity survived due to a rare exception: using Spiral powers, it was winning the war — until the Anti-Spirals explained the apocalyptic threat of the "Spiral Nemesis" scenario to the human leader. They struck up a truce: the human leader killed his entire fleet, bombed Earth back to the stone age, and forced the survivors to live underground. The surviving human population would be culled so it never exceeded only one million worldwide, and in return, the Anti-Spirals would leave the planet alone.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern: The Guardians of the Universe swing in and out of the three Precursor tropes, but towards the end, they landed themselves firmly into this one. Among other things, they:
    • Emotionally lobotomized a former member of their own collective, Ganthet, who had previously been expelled from the Guardian Council, went on to found the Blue Lantern Corps and ultimately returned as a serving Green Lantern.
    • Determined that the Green Lantern Corps is too unstable, and indeed, free will itself is a threat to the stability of the universe. As a result, they have unleashed a "Third Army", which consisted of an endlessly self-replicating totally emotionless power suit that takes control of its victims while keeping them totally conscious, with the intent, either explicit or implicit, of eradicating all life.
    • Try to have Guy Gardner murdered by said army, and when he survives, frame him for the deaths caused by the attack and expel him from the Corps.
    • To emphasize how bad they are, a faction of Oans known as The Hidden Ones who had remained out of touch with the rest of the universe guarding Volthoom are appalled by what the Guardians have become.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Celestials in Earth X created superheroes in order to act as an "immune system" against Galactus, in order for the baby Celestial gestating in the Earth's core to come to maturity. The thing is, when it matures, we die. We'd die sooner if the Earth was eaten by Galactus.
    • The Celestials aren't any better in the standard 616 universe. The planets they abandon for millions of years are the lucky ones. The Celestials have a nasty habit of purging all life on a planet if they don't like what they see. To make things worse, the only standard they have is whether or not the planet's inhabitants might become a potential threat to the Celestials someday. Which is pretty bad for Earth since Sue Storm managed to temporarily kill one of them. They also used our Sun to seal one of their own, considered a dangerous deviant. It turns out his "deviancy" is thinking the rest of his race are dicks.
    • When Marvel took a stab at A Space Odyssey, the Celestials were written to be the ones who built the monoliths, making them the classic Abusive Precursors.
    • In The Ultimates (2015), the Celestials turn out to have got it from their creator, the First Firmament, the first universe to ever exist, which created them out of boredom... and then got pissed when the Celestials started creating life on their own. The end result nearly destroyed the First Firmament, creating the first multiverse. Ever since then, the First Firmament spent all its time plotting ways to corrupt and destroy all existence out of sheer spite.
    • The Builders from Infinity manage to make the Celestials look like the pinnacle of good parenthood. They're the oldest mortal race in the universe and are amazingly advanced, regularly creating and/or uplifting sentient races and inventing systems to benevolently control spacetime. Unfortunately, they're also supremely arrogant assholes who think they know what's best for everybody and have casually destroyed races and planets for the crime of getting in their way while they're going someplace. Fortunately for everyone else, they also turn out to be huge Paper Tigers; for all their arrogance and advanced technology, they're pretty much just humanoid bugs and go down like punks once the Avengers inspire the races of the galaxy to stand up to them.
    • Royals introduces the Progenitors, who mutate entire races with Primagen just so they can later harvest them to facilitate their own reproduction.
    • Galactus in the Heroes Reborn universe. Just like the main one, he destroys whole planets to feed himself, but Dr. Doom and Iron Man also see, via time travel, the origin of life on planet Earth: it seems that it was Galactus himself (actually, his herald Airwalker) who seeded life in the planet to begin with, just to harvest it some millennia afterwards.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): It's revealed in Chapter 10 that Ghidorah was created by a technologically-advanced alien civilization, referred to as the Makers or "the Ones Who Made Us", billions of years ago. These alien beings apparently did "bad things" to Ghidorah which directly triggered and indirectly exacerbated Ghidorah's descent into evil (a descent which was apparently irrevocable for two of the three heads). These aliens made Ghidorah specifically to be a Bioweapon Beast (bear in mind that on an Earth-like planet, Ghidorah is capable of almost single-handedly ending all multicellular life on a global scale), and elaboration by the author on her Tumblr has only painted an even nastier picture regarding what these aliens were really like and the things they did that drove Ghidorah down its dark path. Unsurprisingly, when these beings let Ghidorah out of its cage expecting it to obliterate something for them, Ghidorah did what they wanted it to and then it eradicated THEM for all that they'd done to it.
  • An Extraordinary Journey: The Furlings, and how. At least, the Mystical sects were. Among other things, they tricked the Ancients into opening the Sunnydale Hellmouth, all in the name of getting more mystical power.
  • A Moth to a Flame:
    • Not only were Andrias' ancestors Multiversal Conquerors, so were Marcy's. Hell, even before that they came to Amphibia they were usurpers, directly worked for dictators, Chinese warlords, witches and assassins of other emperors.
    • The Core also contains some of Marcy's direct ancestors as well as the Newts. Although they present themselves as Benevolent Precursors during their time in Marcy's subconsciousness while she's in a coma, they are ultimately grooming the young teen to be their new vessel.
  • The Palaververse: In the distant past, before the world's modern species developed anything in the way of civilization, the world was ruled by the Mage-Lords of Antlertis, a powerful and advanced civilization of deer based on an island on the far side of the planet from the rest of the world’s continents. The Mage-Lords were almost uniformly users of dark magic who saw the other intelligent species — and their own subjects — as nothing more than thralls or guinea pigs for their experiments. They ruled the world tyrannically until they destroyed themselves while attempting to capture something from the depths of space, destroying their island and their race in a single night. They’re also responsible, directly or indirectly, for creating a great deal of the horrors that have plagued the world over the ages, including Tirek, Discord, the Sirens, Ahuizotl, and the horror in the Pachidermian south.
  • In the Pony POV Series, it's revealed that Lord Tirek is the sole survivor of the long-dead Centaur race that ruled long before Ponyland's founding and before pony sapience period. And was the reason for his kind's extinction. As such, he definitely counts for this trope for all races to come after him.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Titans who ruled Earth when it was still new, long before Hercules was born, were known to look down at the little people beneath them, and stomp on them like ants.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Predators from Alien vs. Predator. They uplifted humans just so they could use us as bait in a planet-sized game preserve. When the aliens overwhelmed them (purely because the predators handicapped themselves to increase the challenge rating) they detonated a nuclear weapon and wiped out a whole human civilization.
  • John Carter has the Therns, a group of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that apparently destroys civilizations and gradually whole planets For the Evulz. It's heavily hinted at that before or parallel to messing up Mars, they also meddled in humanity's early civilizations on Earth.
    Matai Shang: We do not cause the destruction of worlds. We merely manage them.
  • In Jupiter Ascending, Earth's humans were created by the House of Abrasax with the intention of being harvested eventually for Longevity Treatment ingredients.
  • In Prometheus, the Engineers/"Space Jockeys" were the advanced alien race responsible for seeding life on Earth. When one is awakened from stasis, he immediately tries to destroy humanity.
  • The unknown alien species from Supernova is smart enough to be able to encase "9th-dimensional matter in a 3rd-dimensional shell". This shell's energy has the effect of a Fountain of Youth when touched. (Better than candy!) The real use for this artifact? To blow up any civilization advanced enough to have developed star drive and reach the places where they've hidden these supernova-causing weapons.

  • The Qu in All Tomorrows. Creators of all intelligent life in the Galaxy, they created a number of pointless and punitive species and left them to die out. Not to mention the technology they left on the Ruin Haunter planet, which drove them insane.
  • Area 51: The Airlia, the aliens who created humans and have covertly manipulated us throughout history, view humanity as cannon fodder at best. However, they were fighting something even worse.
  • The unknown builders of the life-annihilating robots from Berserker, imaginatively known as "The Builders". It was shown that they made them to defeat another alien race and things went wrong. So less abusive and more technology has turned against us. Given the kitbashed and divergent technologies of Berserkers over the millennia of endless killing, it is unknown if one race used them as the Final Option against another or if two or more different factions or races deployed these death machines against each other. (You could always ask a berserker—but they don't care, and you wouldn't survive to share the answer...) No matter how you slice it, Berserkers are shining examples of Gone Horribly Right as well as contenders for largest mass production Precursor Killer models.
  • In Count to the Eschaton, the precursors left the Momument, so that we would meddle with it and reveal our existence, so they could come to enslave us.
  • Curiously mostly averted by the various Eldritch Abominations (and semi-related Starfish Alien species) in the Cthulhu Mythos, most of whom are either too indifferent or too incomprehensible to truly qualify as "abusive on purpose". It's also not always clear how many of them (other than Azathoth, who apparently created the universe more or less by blind accident and the Elder Things who in At the Mountains of Madness are credited with likewise somewhat accidentally being responsible for organic life on Earth) can truly claim "precursor" status.
  • The gods in the Dragaera universe are ascended humans. They are not very nice people, but most of their manipulations on the material plane are for the sole purpose of preventing their old masters (the Jenoine) from coming back and enslaving the world to experiment on it again.
  • The Expanse: The race that created the Protomolecule, as well as the ring network, nicknamed the Ring Builders. As far as can be told, they were a hive-mind that was extraordinarily advanced, to the point that they were able to create wormholes and solar-system-wide engineering. They did this by hijacking local ecosystems and using it to produce more Protomolecule, which would then create a ring for them to reach the star system with, though when they launched the Protomolecule towards Earth no complex lifeforms existed, and it's implied that the Protomolecule has had to make do with humans to rather horrific effect. They then got wiped out by the as-yet-unnamed, even more advanced precursor race capable of instantly destroying consciousness across entire solar systems. They've turned their sights on humanity as of Tiamat's Wrath after the Laconians sent an antimatter bomb at them.
  • Known Space:
    • The Thrint in World of Ptavvs. When their empire was threatened by a successful slave revolt, they went out in a blaze of spite, sending a telepathic blast that killed almost every intelligent being in the entire galaxy — including themselves. It took a billion years for sentient life to evolve again. One story suggests they were not only abusive back then, but they also wanted to make sure they would get any pockets hiding for a thousand or million years after. This weapon exists until the modern day, and goes off from time to time, no longer able to kill all vertebrates, just anything that is sentient... The Thrint were notoriously stupid — they relied on mindslaves for any task requiring much thought or effort. They were about as emotionally mature as you would expect from someone who was waited on hand and foot since birth by entire planets, too, explaining the vindictiveness.
    • Humanity's ancestral Ancient Astronauts, the Pak, who would kill us all if they met us today; a fleet had to be sent out to head them off and wipe them out before they could realize what had happened to us. They're violently xenophobic, and we've mutated far too much to smell right, and our culture is too different for them to accept.
  • The Shaddill from The League of Peoples 'Verse travelled around "uplifting" deserving species by granting them wonderful gifts of sufficiently advanced technology... gifts which would destroy the species' culture, stagnate their development, and slowly drive them into decay and extinction.
  • The Aldenata from Legacy of the Aldenata, with new abuses added with every new novel. Some are negligent, some are abusive. They took the Space Elves and made them unable to kill, but did nothing to their instincts to dominate and control, so instead they seek economic domination of everyone. They convinced most of the other races if they wish to ascend they have to be Perfect Pacifist People, knowing this is not only false, but other races who use rage in their mental powers exist and are actively looking for races to use as cannon fodder and slaves. They also convinced those child races that modifying a race against its will is a good thing, and they are doing it to humans. Oh and then there is the Posleen, where they took a race that was something like Ancient Greece and made them into a Horde of Alien Locusts by making them breed often and quickly, and so that 9/10 would be born with a form of intellectual disability except for genetic memories and gifts for things like agriculture. And when this went horribly wrong they tried to shove them off on a prison planet, and after they escaped it became even worse as they started to actively harm them to try and contain them more. Like wrecking their cultural memory so instead of actively looking for their foes, they loot and breed and plunder everyone.
  • The Elder Races in Lucifer's Star are a bunch of Sufficiently Advanced Alien post-Singularity races that have godlike powers as well as dwell near the galactic center. They're also tremendously bored with their lives and spend their time amusing themselves by screwing with the younger races For the Evulz.
  • There are four major races of precursors in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, all of whom fit this to a greater or lesser degree:
    • The K'chain Che'malle, the oldest race, were lizardmen who ruled the planet with an iron fist; when Che'malle survivors show up in the last couple of books, though, they turn out to be more coldly alien than evil and end up allying with the protagonists, recognizing that humans are now the dominant race on the planet.
    • The Jaghut were mostly a race of solitary, pacifist scholars and mages, but every so often one of them would go mad and become a Jaghut Tyrant, effectively a God-Emperor to the younger races they enslaved. Subverted when more about the Jaghut is revealed. They seem like abusive precursors at first, but aside from the aforementioned occasional Tyrant they just didn't care because civilization is for wimps. And they should know, they used to have a thriving one until one of them aptly named the Lord of Hate convinced them to collectively sit down and stop being social.
    • The Forkrul Assail are the most clear-cut example; a race of Knight Templars obsessed with purity, they killed their own god when it didn't live up to their standards, and come back in the last couple of books to give humanity the same treatment.
    • The T'lan Imass are an undead Neanderthal-type race who are dedicated to destroying the Jaghut to prevent any more Tyrants from arising. They don't have much to do with modern humans (except for the Logros T'lan Imass, who got recruited by Kellanved as shock troops), but historically they have been known to wipe out whole nations if they see a need.
  • In Ice Crown, Clio is an experiment by the Psychocrats, still running after their downfall, and still using conditioning on the humans there to prevent their thinking wrong thoughts.
  • Francis Carsac's short story "In the Mountains of Destiny" is about a planet whose natives are going extinct from apathy. Turns out that there is a "temple" planted on their planet that shows every person their fate. Part of their initiation ceremony is going to it, after which many commit suicide. Turns out it was an Evil Plan by a race that was about to go extinct and didn't want anyone to replace them. The planet in question was at the level of Earth's sixteenth century by then. More advanced civilizations were destroyed outright.
  • Remembrance of Earth's Past: Ancient aliens have used weapons which, among other things, have lowered the speed of light universally and reduced the universe from 10 to 3 dimensions. They continue to do so.
  • Revelation Space Series:
    • The Wolves/Inhibitors seem to be this. They deliberately transformed themselves into (usually) nonsentient machines which act to prevent sentient life from spreading through the galaxy — typically by way of genocide, though they're sometimes willing to overlook planetbound life forms. They do have a noble-sounding motivation — they're trying to ensure the collision with the Andromeda Galaxy doesn't wipe out intelligence permanently and don't believe a multiple-species society can pull together to prevent the chaos ahead — but they've been slaughtering for billions of years, there are billions more to go, and it's questionable whether they really intended to end up this way.
    • Some of the shrouders are pretty abusive too; the one time they didn't kill or drive insane any human that got too close to their territory, it was part of a plan to trick humans into awakening the Inhibitors, so that the shrouders would know whether it was safe to come out of hiding. It wasn't safe, and humans were driven nearly to extinction as a result.
  • The Riftwar Cycle (and spin-off material like Betrayal at Krondor) features the Valheru, dragon-riding tyrants who trolled the multiverse since the dawn of time, only to be brought low by the newly forming gods. They were directly responsible for the introduction of every race in the world, as well as most races on other worlds.
  • The Salvation War: God created monotheistic religion for the sole purpose of being adored by the souls of the people lucky enough to be admitted in Heaven after death, and everyone who didn't adore him enough ended up in Hell to be tortured. Around a thousand years ago, he saw we were thinking with our heads and casting doubt on his word, so he closed the gates of Heaven to everyone (although this might have had to do with the fact that Earth stopped being Crapsack World enough for new arrivals to be happy with what was offered to them as "heaven"). Then, in the early 21st century, he ordered all of Mankind to lie down and die for our heresy. After kicking ass on The Legions of Hell, Man fought back with extreme prejudice.
  • The missing elves in Skate the Thief appear to be this. What records exist of them paint them as violent conquerors who spent all their time ruling as self-absorbed tyrants. Their disappearance is regarded as a mystery, but no one is particularly sad that they're gone.
  • The "Firstborn" featured in Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey and Time Odyssey books are pretty much Ur examples for both this trope and Benevolent Precursors respectively. In Space Odyssey they are super-advanced aliens that made it their purpose to promote the development of intelligent life throughout the Galaxy. After they moved on, they left their "Monoliths" to continue their work in their stead. In Time Odyssey they are the exact opposite: to them, intelligent life is indeed a treasure, but not one greater than their own existence. Every intelligent race out there, if left unchecked, would speed up the Universe's Heat Death, leading to their own extinction as well. The Monoliths are replaced with "Eyes", which act as observers and enforcers of their will; if the Firstborn's first plan to sterilize Earth with a massive solar flare 2000 years in the making failed, the Eyes can also double as planet-busting Q-bombs.
  • Everyone in The Stormlight Archive thinks the Knights Radiant were this, based on their betrayal and abandonment of humanity that created more Voidbringers. In truth, they were Benevolent Precursors who abandoned their oaths after learning a terrible secret, not knowing what that entailed.
  • The First Children from Tales of Kaimere were a diminutive human subspecies that were the first to domesticate the endemic magic and take over Kaimere. They would cull all Megafauna that were in the Qajar Peninsula, and routinely captured, enslaved, and even experimented on both their fellow Human Subspecies and other sophont species. They would also use magic to forcefully fuse different animals into monstrous Servants called Homonculi.
  • In the Uplift series, the punishment for being Abusive to your client species is often extermination. Also, way back in prehistory, there was description of a group called "the Lions" who ignored the rules, ruled without any care for the potential species for millions of years (causing mass extinctions, which is tantamount to genocide for the Galactic Society of the Uplift universe), destroying lots of information about the past, and had to be put down by an alliance of Sentient Species which would have to rebuild so much lost information on Galactic Civilization and put in new safeguards. An idea of the scale involved is that the Lions ruled the Five Galaxies for twenty million years. In retrospect, this is seen as a brief, nasty interregnum.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Vorlons and Shadows from Babylon 5, who manipulate younger races to prove a point to one another. When that isn't going well enough, they start blowing up the races who don't agree with their point of view. Made worse by the fact neither of them can really remember why they are doing what they are doing anymore.
  • Buffyverse:
  • Doctor Who:
    • Before they adopted a non-interference policy, the Time Lords were pretty evil, such as kidnapping species from different planets and have them fight to the death for their amusement. Even afterwards they would act to preserve their near-monopoly on effective time travel, to the point of exterminating any species that got too close. The Time War was not a positive influence on the Time Lords' disposition, either; they became so unpleasant and genocidal that the Doctor had to basically turn all of Gallifrey into a Sealed Evil in a Can.
    • The Daleks inherited their racist beliefs and a ruined Skaro from the Kaleds.
    • The Silence manipulated humanity in secret for millennia and not for good ends. Supposedly they've been trying to save the universe from a future threat that involves the Doctor, but they could easily be lying. They even admit that we should kill them all on sight.
    • The Dæmons were established as manipulating humanity (as one of innumerable "experiments" they ran on less advanced species) long before the Silence. Specifically, what and when they manipulated is just part of the series' long Continuity Snarl. An Expanded Universe series of novels posits the Dæmons tricked Renaissance-era humans in order to force the creation of Earth's first time-sensitives and later pretended to be insulted by the results, arranging a massive purge to kill all of them. Turns out, they just wanted humanity to do all of the heavy lifting — first they ensure Earth has the potential for time sensitivity, and then they arrange for conditions in which only the hardiest and most experienced sensitives can survive in order to create their window of opportunity to create perfect time channelers (essentially, human TARDISes).
  • In Engine Sentai Go-onger, an ancient counterpart of the villains known as the Horonderthals caused the dinosaurs to destroy themselves.
  • Foundation (2021): Season 2 reveals that Cleon I was this to his successor clones in the Genetic Dynasty. Aside from creating the dynasty merely because he was so egotistical that he viewed only himself as capable of keeping the Empire going, it's clear from the attitude of his AI copy left behind as an emergency advisor that he just sees the later Cleons as extensions of himself, ignoring their individual needs so long as they keep to their roles. Also, he reprogrammed Demerzel to be eternally dedicated to protecting the integrity of the dynasty even if it means killing individual clones, whether she wants to or not.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The ancestors of the Southlanders stood with Morgoth in the War of Wrath a thousand years before the current events. As such, their descendants lost their status and kingdoms and live in filthy towns, being watched by the Elves to make sure they don't repeat the mistakes of their precursors. The southlanders of the past build the watchtower of Ostirith holding a power fashioned for those tainted by the Shadow. Said power turns out to be an Artifact of Doom with which, Waldreg, a Southlander, managed to provoke Orodruin's eruption by activating an elaborate device hidden in Ostirith.
  • Humanity itself in Space: Above and Beyond, having created not one, but two races for the purpose of servitude. They both rebelled.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • The Ori are evil ascended beings who fought and chased away the Ancients. Both are the same race, just different cultures.
    • The Goa'uld are megalomaniacal god-kings who kidnapped masses of humans from Earth to use them as slaves and meatsuits on their distant planetary domains.
    • The Wraith are vampiric hive aliens who think humans are crunchy and good with ketchup, and managed to chase the Ancients out of the Pegasus galaxy.
  • Supernatural:
    • The Leviathans were the original dominant life form, long predating humans, monsters, demons, and angels alike. God locked them away in Purgatory at the beginning of time, worried that if allowed free rein they would devour everything else in the universe. The only beings old enough to know anything about them are God and Death... until Season 7, when Castiel accidentally breaks them out of Purgatory. They quickly begin planning to destroy the world. An escaped Leviathan inspired the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
    • Angels themselves long predate humans and had remained in Heaven, avoiding intervening on Earth, for millennia by the start of the series. While angels in general are of varying moralities (though usually evil), the four Archangels certainly qualify: Archangel Michael is a delusional fanatic who wants to destroy half the world because he believes it's God's will, Archangel Gabriel ran off and spent millennia killing and torturing anyone he considered a jerk under the guise of being a pagan god or a Trickster, Archangel Raphael is a megalomaniac who is heavily implied to believe he's God, and Lucifer is an Absolute Xenophobe who seeks to wipe out both humans and demons.
    • Season 15 reveals God himself to be this, as he considers all of reality to be part of his personal entertainment. Thus, the conflicts between Heaven and Hell, monsters roaming the Earth, the Leviathans being a Sealed Evil in a Can, and other extra-dimensional terrors beyond that were put in place by Him.
  • The Greys of The X-Files. Where to start? They manipulated some of the most powerful people on Earth into plotting against the rest of humanity (turning us against each other), abducted and performed medical experiments on us, plotted with their human allies to cover up their existence, leaving said abductees as social outcasts, planned to use the Black Oil to enslave us until we were no longer of use to them, at which point they planned to make us extinct, touched off a war with a rebel faction that was fought on Earth and resulted in tragedy for the families of their abductees, sent the Mighty Morphin' Bounty Hunter and the Supersoldiers after us, and by the way... their invasion date was set for 2012. Even then the real villain is "Black Oil", the creature(s) who took over the originally-peaceful Greys.

    Multiple Media 
  • Halo:
    • The Forerunner Saga novel trilogy reveals that the Precursors tried to exterminate the Forerunners, who struck back and wiped them out instead (then again, it's possible the Forerunners attacked them unprovoked; it depends on which side is telling the story). It's later revealed that the Precursors subsequently became the parasitic Flood and currently do intend to condemn all of their creations to an existence of eternal pain and misery.
    • The Forerunners themselves are shown to have been pretty abusive towards both lesser species and the nearly-as-advanced Humans and San'Shyuum, ultimately culminating in the Forerunners forcibly devolving the former and stripping them of all of their technology and quarantining the latter to a mere two planets. Ironically, it's implied that the Forerunners' overbearing rule played a big role in the fall of their civilization. They had weakened their subject species so much that the latter could provide no real help in fighting back against the Flood, forcing the Forerunners to resort to wiping out all life in the galaxy with the Halo Array.
  • Star Trek: The Iconian civilization was apparently so abusive even in their own time that the other races at the time banded together to wipe them out, and are always referred to in leftover artifacts as "The Demons of Air and Darkness". Though the episode that introduced them had Picard theorise that this was a reaction to their signature technology (portals that can go seemingly anywhere) rather than the Iconians actually being evil, and the other canonical appearance of Iconian technology doesn't present any evidence to the contrary. In Star Trek Online, the Iconians aren't so extinct and apparently have been involved in the destruction of Romulus, and the Undine and Borg issues plaguing the Alpha quadrant as of late. Even more, the Guardian of Forever, the Prophets, and even Kahless know of them, and all agree that they're a bunch of dicks, so much so that the Guardian refuses to let them use him.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Rakata in in the Star Wars Legends continuity, first seen in Knights of the Old Republic, enslaved every other species they came across. Ever wondered why Tatooine is a Desert World? Well... In addition, the planet's native species, the Kumumgah, evolved into the Jawas and Tusken Raiders as a result of their actions. They also left behind the Star Forge, a colossal space factory capable of singlehandedly sustaining the war effort against a galaxy, powered by The Dark Side, designed specifically for aspiring Galactic Conquerors. Complete with operator's manual. Seriously. They paid a serious price for this, however. Eventually, their entire species lost its connection to the force, and they degenerated into tribal primitives found only in the ruins of their homeworld. One of the operations for Star Wars: The Old Republic involves an ancient Rakata Lord about to force open its can... Half of it is listening to his Badass Boasts.
      • The Dawn of the Jedi comic is set while the Rakata were at their prime and has them as the Big Bads. They're horrifying. Even worse, it's revealed early on that a kinder species misjudged them when teaching them how to use the Force.
      • The Kuati signet kyber crystal that Luthen gives to Cassian in Andor is said to celebrate the uprising against the "Rakatan invaders". While the exact details haven't been confirmed, the mention of there being an "uprising" and them being "invaders" implies that they share the same backstory in the Star Wars Expanded Universe as they do in Legends.
    • The Iokath Species are more Blue-and-Orange Morality than outright abusive, but they still count. Their whole race was dedicated solely to the construction of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which they tried to perfect by testing them on over 70 unique worlds. They were also the creators of the Eternal Fleet, the Gravestone, and the Old Gods. However, despite their dedication to weapons, they were not actually violent and expansionist in nature and provided survivors of their weapons with reparations so that they would be able to rebuild their civilizations, if only so they can be tested again at a later date. They eventually all died in a civil war where both sides employed their superweapons and automated armies against each other, only to completely lose control of them.

  • The gods in Classical Mythology are the poster children for Disproportionate Retribution and have a hefty section on that page. Not to be outdone, Gaia instigated a fair number of the divine conflicts, usually as an escalation from a previous conflict. She gave birth to the Giants by Ouranos and Typhon by Tartarus and turned them loose on Zeus as retaliation for Zeus overthrowing and imprisoning the Titans, who themselves were pretty bad, as Cronus devoured all of his children whole in an attempt to defy a prophecy that one of his children would surpass him.
  • The Jötnar in Norse Mythology. Their name does not translate to "giants". It translates to "devourers".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Damnation Decade, the Nagathrite civilization lived lives of hedonistic excess off the back of ancient humanity's labors. Now one of their descendants is helping them return.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Illithids (Mind Flayers) in certain incarnations — squid-headed, brain-eating, power-hungry masters of a multidimensional empire brought down by their own slaves. At least one story suggests they are actually thrown out of time. In one sourcebook dealing with different blood ancestry gifts (stuff like having dragon descendants, etc.), Illithid blood powers are in the people who are the Illthids' ancestors. Thus, some humans are Abusive Precursors. In the fan-made Aielund module series for /Neverwinter Nights, the mind flayers (called Saquarin, but they use the same models and rules) are aliens who keep 'lesser races' as cattle without them knowing it, and have Githzerai agents on the planets to engineer wars so as to keep the humans (and others) technologically inferior.
    • Aboleths used to have a sprawling empire at the dawn of time, or maybe even in the previous universes. They have very little use for anyone not a slave or an experiment.
    • This trope seems to be popular for tentacled aberrations in general, as the kopru from Mystara are mentioned as having ruled a mind-controlled empire in the distant past.
    • Eberron:
      • The demon Overlords were the first lords of the world, and some of their ruins still dot the land to this day. They were also immortal, inescapable Anthropomorphic Personifications of all the worst aspects of mortality, like endless war and a winter that kills all things. The only reason why mortals managed to survive at all is that most Overlords wanted to keep them around to give some meaning to their existences — the Rage of War could send his demons against other demons, but they were all immortal, so it wasn't real. They were bound by the sacrifice of the couatls, aided by the dragons.
      • The dragons of Argonnessen might also be. Oh, they claim everything they've ever done is for the good of the world, but they've caused more than a few genocides that seem to be focused more on keeping their own power, and even on a good day they tend to treat mortal races as interesting animals to be preserved for environmental reasons than people with their own civilization.
    • Forgotten Realms has a couple of these:
      • First, there were the reptilian Sarrukh. At first, they kept their sacrifices to their god to honoured Sarrukh volunteers. But then someone hit upon the idea of sacrificing all those non-reptilians, which required the use of divine aspect trickery to 'purify' the souls, which (together with the non-voluntary part) led to the sacrifices having to be in much larger quantities. Their descendants include various serpentfolk and scalykind races ranging from saurials to yuan-ti to dragonborn to kobolds to troglodytes. Some of them are good-natured and can get on well with mammalian races, but others are just as vile as their ancestors were.
      • Among humans, the Netherese started out a collection of simple farmers and fisherfolk. When they started learning magic from the elves, they realized they had an incredible talent for it. They grew into one of the most powerful magical empires the Realms has ever seen, as well as one of the cruelest and most tyrannical. They were The Magocracy, ruled by spectacularly powerful wizards who dwelled in flying cities, lorded over the lower classes they abused and enslaved. The Netherese wizards' hubris became so great that one of them even tried to become the god of magic, usurping the role from the goddess in charge of it. He had no idea how to handle his divine status and caused a magical apocalypse that completely destroyed the Netherese Empire. A few Netherese wizards survived and haunt the Realms even today, such as the undead wizard Larloch and the Princes of Shade, who fled to the Plane of Shadow before the rest of the empire was destroyed and returned in the present day.
    • The world of Greyhawk has the wicked Suel Imperium. The Suel Imperium was much like the Realms' Netheril, ruled by powerful mages that made deals with Eldritch Abominations and treated the lower classes like chattel. They fell into a violent magical war with the more benign Baklunish Empire when they tried to wipe the Baklunish out with the Invoked Devastation. The enraged Baklunish survivors retaliated with the Rain of Colorless Fire, which vaporized most of the Imperium and turned it into the lifeless Sea of Dust. The surviving Suel fled eastward into the Flanaess, forming new states in the present day. Most modern Suel people aren't as nasty as their ancestors, but some of them like the Scarlet Brotherhood are A Nazi by Any Other Name and want to recreate an empire where the pale-skinned Suel rule over darker-skinned humans and all the world's non-human races.
    • Pathfinder goes back to the aboleths and ramps up both the Precursor nature and the assholish, abusive nature of same. In the Pathfinder cosmology, aboleths were possibly the first form of life to come into existence, and have spent most of the time since then creating slave races and manipulating things from behind the scenes, complete with being The Man Behind the Man for Azlant. Aboleths on Golarion are ultimately responsible for a half-dozen different other creatures coming into existence, including chuuls, cloakers, mimics and even merfolk, and have a notable tendency of discarding entire species as soon as they stop being useful — that's why cloakers and merfolk are largely independent and not minions.
  • The Primordials of Exalted were often described as being destructive jerks who, when not consumed with the Games of Divinity, would travel the world, messing things up for their own amusement and create hideous monstrosities and crazy concepts alongside the more normal things in the world, and tasked the gods with the job of fixing things after their destructive romps. Eventually, the highest gods got fed up, empowered mortals to defeat their overlords, took over Creation, and took the Games of Divinity for themselves. That being said, the highest gods aren't exactly doing a good job, and now the Primordials have actual reasons for trying to break things.reasons 
  • The Syndics of Myriad Song, who vanished just a hundred years ago and whose former slaves are still trying to work things out.
  • The Scarred Lands setting (also by White Wolf, who are obviously in love with this trope) has ostensibly the same backstory. There are hints that the Titans may eventually, even inevitably return to power, that the entire 'reign of the gods' is just the cyclic stage of the particular Titan Denev, who is relatively benevolent.
  • The Titans from Scion certainly fit the bill: the Gods rose up against them because they were horrifically abusive and locked them away.
  • The Ancients in Traveller. As they have kidnapped creatures (including humans) from Earth and sowed them on other planets that makes them a bit like The Grays, as well. The most abusive of all by far is the first Ancient, Grandfather, who uplifted the other Ancients, gave them his abusive guidelines to follow, and wiped them out when they finished what he wanted. Oh, and he's still around, watching and waiting.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, the Antediluvians would qualify if they ever wake up. They created the 13 clans of vampires, and have been sleeping in torpor for millennia (to the point that relatively-young vampires are not even sure if the Antediluvians are real). Their dreams are enough to destabilize the world's population, and various prophecies state that when they awake, they will eat their children (i.e. all vampires), probably to the detriment of the remainder of humanity.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The C'Tan definitely fit the bill, having had a massive war with the (merely neglectful) Old Ones, and given the galaxy the omnicidal Necrons. 40k being what it is, they both lost. Once galaxy-spanning races, in the game's current setting both races combined have five people left. Even the Machine Cult, which holds massive sway in the Imperium of Man is hinted to actually be a slightly reformed version mandated by the Emperor of the older Cult of the Dragon, which still worships the C'Tan Top God Mag'ladroth.
    • The Old Ones qualify too. In fact, they're responsible for most of the horror of 40k. They refused to help the Necrontyr who were all dying horribly from radiation that wasn't even their fault, despite the fact that such an undertaking would be quite easy for them, prompting the war and the Necrontyr becoming Necrons. Granted, the Necrontyr's true motivation for declaring war was to project the simmering hatreds they had for ''each other'' on to another target — the Old Ones not making them immortal was just the pretext. And during the war, the Old Ones created other races to fight the Necrons. Half-finished races like Eldar, who they told were their favorites and would inherit all they left behind before shoving them out as cannon fodder, and Orks, whom they decided to rush into production before creating a psychic Restraining Bolt which they never got around to making before they vanished, to fight and do the dying for them. They may also have dabbled in humanity, giving us psykers that can't quite control themselves, (though the sources are highly ambiguous on this, seeing as the old ones died out about 60 million years ago). And all of these angry warlike races and galaxywide genocides transformed the warp from a peaceful, idyllic place to space hell. And the War in Heaven gave birth to the first Chaos God. Well done, Old Ones.
    • The Eldars are Neglectful Precursors who created the Eye of Terror and are now trying to survive and pay the price of their hubris in the past. The Dark Eldars though, are definitely Abusive as they do not seem to get that memo and instead continuing on their depravity of eons past. It's telling that in a setting populated by Eldritch Abominations, Horde of Alien Locusts, Killer Robots, and more, they remain as one of the vilest, most sadistic factions there is. Even their tagline reflects this: "Pray they don't take you alive''."
    • Let's just say that people weren't any nicer back then than they are in the present of the setting.

    Video Games 
  • The H'riak in Alien Legacy seeded aggressive life all over the galaxy, designed to hate and destroy all non-H'riak life. The Centaurians are one such race. When they found humans, the first thing they did was attack, starting a war that resulted in most (if not all) life on Earth to be wiped out, leaving only colonies. The H'riak also seeded the two habitable planets in the Beta Caeli system with violent flora and fauna and created a race of psychic calamari who, while not aggressive, try to kill humans because our thoughts hurt them. Also, the ship they send to Beta Caeli is also capable of causing the star to go nova as a last resort.
  • The plot of A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda can be summarized as follows: Some alien(s) created all life in the universe. Said alien(s) have decided humanity is destructive and wasteful and should be wiped out. A robot humans built disagrees, strongly.
  • Dead Space: The Brethren Moons, the ultimate form of Necromorph existence. They deliberately seed planets with their Markers, which, once a species has grown to sufficient size, cause Necromorph outbreaks and ultimately a Convergence event, in which the entire Necromorphed population is combined into a new Moon. The reason that humanity has never found any alien life in the galaxy is that the Brethren Moons have consumed all of it, and humanity is next on their list.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Eternals created the present-day races solely to feed on their spirits. One surviving Eternal doesn't even acknowledge the player character as a person, only calling them a "Source vat." The Seven Gods are ascended Eternals, and have free run of the afterlife...
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Ayleids, the "Wild Elves" of Cyrodiil, were a fairly extreme example (probably; there is the wrinkle that almost all sources on them come from their enemies and so may be exaggerating some details). They initially split off from their Aldmeri ancestors to get around the (Aedra worshiping) Aldmeri ban on Daedra worship and would eventually found Tamriel's first empire in Cyrodiil. They enslaved the Nedes (human ancestors to the Bretons, Imperials, and possibly Nords), and some of their more horrific acts toward these slaves included: forcing them all to work naked, force-feeding them hallucinogenic drugs and watching their reactions, creating sculptures out of their bones, creating gardens out of their entrails, and setting human children on fire then siccing hungry animals on them. Eventually, under the leadership of Alessia and with the support of the Aedra who would eventually be recognized as the "Divines" (who were obviously not too happy with the Ayleids' Daedra worship, especially since Ayleid society had started as more Aedra-friendly but went full Daedrophile in a civil war), their human slaves rose up and revolted, driving the Ayleids to near-extinction (save for the few who sided with the humans and were allowed to keep their lands as vassals to the new empire of Men). About a century later, the young empire took up an extremist anti-Elven religion and drove out the remaining Ayleids as well as destroyed any vestiges of Ayleid culture they could find, driving them to apparent extinction as a unique race.
    • The Dwemer, the "Deep Elves" or "Dwarves" whose ancient territory spanned all of north Tamriel from Hammerfell across Skyrim to Morrowind, were another. Their split with the Aldmer was also over religion, though in their case they were Naytheists who did not believe the Aedra and Daedra were truly "gods" worth worshiping. They were a highly intelligent race who created technology that remains unmatched by the other races even thousands of years after their disappearance. They largely wanted to be left alone by the other races, but still tended to war with any they came into contact with (the Chimer and Nords being particular examples). These behaviors, on their own, would make them closer to Neglectful Precursors, but their treatment of the Falmer ("Snow Elves") puts them firmly in the "Abusive" category. With their former empire decimated by the invading Nords, the Dwemer offered to take in their displaced Snow Elf cousins. The Dwemer then enslaved and mutated them, turning them into the modern Falmer. Eventually, the Dwemer did something which caused their entire race to blink out of existence.
    • The dragons and their Dragon Cults ruled over mankind very early in Tamriellic history. The Dragon Priests dominated and brutalized their mortal subjects in the name of their dragon overlords, particularly Alduin, the Beast of the Apocalypse and "first born" of the dragons. Eventually, mankind prayed to the Divines for aid and their prayers were answered when they were taught how to use the Thu'um, the draconic Language of Magic, against the dragons. Alduin was cast out of the timestream, the vast majority of his dragon minions were slain (albeit temporarily), and the cults were overthrown. Thousands of years later, Alduin's return would lead to the return of all dragons and the events of Skyrim.
  • In Endless Space 2, the titular Endless are more firmly placed in this category than the original game. Their species and the civil war which left them nearly extinct shaped the modern galaxy, creating such horrors as the Sowers and Cravers. Many worlds were rendered uninhabitable and some species faced near genocide while still in their infancy. While largely gone in the modern day, some of the surviving Virtual Endless have integrated with the Vodyani and shaped their hostility towards other species.
  • Pre-War civilization in Fallout. Not only did they destroy themselves in a nuclear holocaust and reduce the world to an irradiated hellscape, but a lot of the Wasteland's problems can be tied back to their reprehensible actions: Deathclaws? The result of the US military using bio-engineering on chameleons to create deadly seek-and-destroy units. Robobrains? The US government putting the brains of executed criminals in robot bodies for both military and civilian applications. The Vaults? Most of them were never meant to save anybody, instead being insane social experiments set up by (you guessed it) the US government. The Enclave? They are the US government (or rather their descendants), and seek to wipe out all of the "impure" residents of the wastes — and let's not even get started on the Big Empty.
  • Sin/Yu Yevon in Final Fantasy X is a Space Whale that originated as the most powerful summoner in Spira, who turned himself into a Weapon of Mass Destruction to defend his people and ended up so hopped up on the power that he kept the summoning going for a thousand more years. The "Precursor" part comes from the fact that his daughter organized a religion based around worshipping his name and appeasing him by throwing aeon after aeon at him, so he'd always have a new host to possess... at the cost of the summoner's life.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The Allagan Empire is responsible for a large chunk of the things you have to deal with. A (non-exhaustive) list: The Ultima Weapon faced as the Final Boss of A Realm Reborn, the massive solar generator/Hell Gate that is the Crystal Tower, the floating laboratory/part-time zoo Azys Lla, and a fake moon containing a very angry Bahamut. The Allagans also had a whole Take Over the World thing going on for them, but a Calamity put an end to them before they could.
    • From Shadowbringers, we have a race of ancient beings introduced about halfway through the story. They were a race of people gifted with near-immortal lifespans, and vast aetheric manipulating abilities that allowed them to create just about anything on a whim. Combine this with their culture valuing discussion and philosophy and their naturally peaceful dispositions, their world never once knew conflict or violence. Then one day a series of horrifying calamities brought about by their powers suddenly going haywire with little idea of what was causing it, and they were left with no other option but to willingly sacrifice half of their population to summon a being embodying the will of The Star itself to save them. If you're wondering how these beings could possibly be abusive to anyone, that's because they're actually the Ascians, the very same black-robed sowers of discord you've been fighting throughout the whole game, are actually the last remnants of the original world that existed before it was split into The Source and its thirteen Shards. The reason why the Star was sundered was that Hydaelyn shattered it in her battle against Zodiark, and the original race of Ascians was practically wiped out as a result. The Ascians of today now seek to trigger Calamities that will destroy the Shards and have their aether remerge with The Source, and once they are all reunited, they plan to summon Zodiark once again to restore the original world and all of its inhabitants at the cost of all life remaining on The Source.
  • Final Fantasy XVI: Ultima reveals he and his race (a series of identical individuals, implied to be a Mind Hive) introduced magic and all it brought with it to the planet, but after the Blight began to spiral out of control, created humanity with the sole goal of cultivating a physical body strong enough to handle enough aether to create a new world, one where Ultima would be free of the Blight, with an army of mindless human thralls to wait on him hand and foot. Humans developing sentience was not part of his plan, and now upon returning to collect his perfect vessel, Ultima can barely disguise his hatred and disdain for humans and wants to erase their consciousness before he leaves for his perfect world.
  • The Agarthans, a.k.a. "those who slither in the dark", from Fire Emblem: Three Houses are remnants of an ancient civilization hell-bent on wreaking vengeance against the 'surface-dwellers'. And to give an idea of how dangerous they are, they possess ballistic missiles and mechs in a setting generally characterized by Medieval Stasis. And what do they want revenge for? The Goddess Sothis mopping the floor with them when they tried to kill her and her children in a fit of pride.
  • Freedom Planet 2 reveals that the earth dragons, initially presented in the first game as the Benevolent Precursors, are revealed to have actually enslaved the planet's indigenous species, the water dragons, and forced them to build their spaceship Bakunawa, with them working under horrible and unsafe conditions without any rest. And when the water dragons tried to rebel, the earth dragons responded by genociding the race with the use of Bakunawa; to date, there are only two known still-living water dragons. The reason why the earth dragons are believed to be benevolent beings in the present day is that they were the ones who painted themselves that way once they rewrote the history in their favor while portraying the water dragons as unjust and violent aggressors.
  • The FreeSpace series has the Shivans, though why they are so intent on destroying the Terrans and the Vasudans is a complete mystery. Theories range from them being some kind of "galactic immune system" to them being Sufficiently Advanced Aliens from another universe, but their motivations are more or less entirely unknown. The Ancient Ones were pretty bad too, either enslaving less advanced lifeforms or running rebellious/resisting races into extinction, which caused the Shivans to wipe them out entirely. It's also implied that the Ancient Ones had a hand in helping the Vasudans get off the ground and that the Vasudans rebelled just as the Shivans began attacking, thus allowing them to continue to grow until they met the Terrans, who were probably ignored by the Ancient Ones because of the Shivans' wiping them out. To give them credit, the Ancient Ones also left behind artifacts on their home planet in the Altair System that helped the newly founded Terran-Vasudan Alliance defeat the Shivans in the first game by destroying their super-destroyer, the Lucifer, while in Subspace transit to the Solar System, to destroy Earth like it had Vasuda Prime before it.
  • The Dread Lords of Galactic Civilizations II. There were two Precursor factions (the other called themselves the Arnor), one which wanted to befriend all the younger races and one which wanted to annihilate them all. Guess who's who. Unfortunately, while the Arnor don't seem to be around anymore, the Dread Lords are Sealed Evil in a Can, and early in the game's campaign, said can is opened...
  • The Black Moon in Galaxy Angel has become this either by corruption of its programming into being a factory of destruction or because it was built that way from the start. This makes the White Moon either its counterpart or its opposite. Even at the end of the first game, it's not very clear.
  • The Astrals of Granblue Fantasy, a race of beings that at one point ruled the world, subjugated all other races, and created the Primal Beasts, many of which are now seen as gods. The various machines and monsters the Astrals left behind are an ever-present threat throughout the entire world.
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, Ted Faro and his global mega-corporation absolutely count as this, creating the robot plague that destroyed the biosphere and purging the APOLLO archive of all of humanity's collected art, culture, science, and technology, dooming future humans to ignorance and primitive existences to hide his crimes. Elisabet Sobeck and the rest of Project Zero Dawn, on the other hand, are Benevolent Precursors, even if things didn't turn out quite how they intended.
  • The Mother from La-Mulana is hinted to be one, having created the Eight Children — that is, humankind and its seven predecessor races — for the sole purpose of engineering her return to space, from whence she came. It's stated that she is behind the destruction of a few of the previous Children for their failure to accomplish this goal, making her guilty of multiple counts of genocide (through negligence, at the very least). There is one tablet which implies that humanity itself has an expiration date coming up in 2015.
  • The Last Federation has Hydral. They were first into space and created lots of tech that much, much more powerful than anything else others have. They also actively prevented anyone else getting into the space, destroying anything bigger than a satellite. They died when they were hit by Depopulation Bomb and one of the species dropped a moon on them. The problem is that the game consists of you, on your own, trying to bring all those abused races together to form a federation, and they have ample reason to distrust each other thanks to the Hydral's manipulations — and also to distrust you, since you're the last of the Hydrals.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, the creator of the world created a Tree of Life, each fruit of which is a new species of animal. Apart from the sapient species, these creatures are uniformly hostile to all life, and the final fruit, the Virage Embryo, exists for the sole purpose of destroying all life on the world.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Reapers almost set the record for the most abusive of all. They deliberately leave Lost Technology around for future species to find to encourage specific technological developments, thus making it easier when they return to completely obliterate them. They do this for the purposes of reproduction, creating new Reapers from millions of harvested people. Those who aren't suitable for this are instead transformed into mindless husks, tools to be used in the next "cycle". The Catalyst states at the end of Mass Effect 3 that the Reapers' true purpose is to catalogue and indefinitely preserve all organic life, to protect it from the inevitable (actually quite evitable as it turns out) Robot War.
    • The Leviathan DLC for ME3 introduces the Leviathans, the species that built the intelligence which built the Reapers. The Reaper's brainwashing ability is copied from the Leviathans' own ability which they used to enslave the rest of the galaxy, turning them into thralls to serve their needs.
    • The third game also reveals that the Protheans were not very nice. While they did kickstart the technological development of some species, they were also massive Social Darwinists who erased the cultures of their subject species if they didn't outright exterminate them.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda has the unidentified alien race who were at war with the Jaardan, who disagreed with what they were doing so much they cooked up a Fantastic Nuke called the Scourge, which is designed to seek out Jaardan tech and screw it up. By the time the story takes place in, it's destroyed several planets, one solar system is almost gone, and killed one completely innocent primitive species that just happened to be in the area. Squadmate Liam puts it pretty accurately when he calls them "some motherfuckers".
  • The Antarans of Master of Orion started as Sealed Evil in a Can, sealed by the Orions, just waiting to break out and kick some ass.
  • Done by humanity itself by accident in the Mega Man Legends series. See, humanity made an artificial slave race called the "Carbons", and to make sure they didn't go rogue, set up several failsafe systems to wipe out all the Carbons if there were any signs of acting outside usual parameters, or if Carbon population was suddenly much greater than the human population. Then the humans died off from a cataclysm, leaving behind the sapient carbons and several failsafe systems that thought the Carbons had gone rogue when they were simply replacing the void that humanity's sudden extinction left behind.
  • In Might and Magic VIII, a non-malfunctioning Ancient construct, Escaton tries to destroy the world. As there doesn't seem to be any reason for that, this would appear to make the Ancients fit into this trope (especially as they are still out there, just rather busy at the moment). As it turns out, there is a reason: the Ancients, rather reasonably, put fail-safes into Escaton to keep him from being subverted by the Kreegan, one of which was an inability to willingly stop destroying a world once he had started. As he only started doing it if he deemed a world unable to defeat the Kreegan, that generally worked out, but in this one case, he happened to underestimate the inhabitants...
  • The backstory of Monster Hunter involves an Ancient Civilization with incredibly advanced weapon-making and bioengineering technology. They were powerful enough to treat Elder Dragons like cattle; the Tower from Monster Hunter 2 (dos) and the Sky Corridor from Monster Hunter Frontier were made from the parts of dozens of Kushala Daora. They met their end after slaughtering hundreds of Elder Dragons to create living weapons known as the Wyvern Machine Soldiers, which led to the Great Dragon War and the end of the Ancient Civilization.
  • Myth has the Trow, a race of giants created by the goddess Nyx as the first sentient life in the world. Initially peaceful, when challenged by another elder race, they begged Nyx for help, and she whispered the secret of working iron to them. They used this power to drive no fewer than three elder races to extinction, and one of these was in punishment for rebelling after the Trow had enslaved them. The Trow were eventually punished by the hero Connacht and returned to their peaceful ways...until Connacht returned as the Leveller and offered them positions of leadership in his conquering army. In fairness, the Trow had a Heel–Face Turn in Myth II, where the few remaining Trow sided with the Light against Soulblighter, mostly out of shame for their actions in the previous conflict.
  • The Sarrukh "Old Ones" in Neverwinter Nights. Powerful magical humanoid reptiles forced into dormancy by a cooling climate... for now. Elaboration in the tabletop game reveals that the Sarrukh, one of five Creator Races, had begun fairly non-abusive, but (mostly) began to slide into evil as their god fractured and fell into somnolence and an excuse was made for sacrificing non-Sarrukh (sacrificing honored volunteers are one thing. Mass sacrifices of slave races, another).
  • In Nocturne (RPG Maker), the Big Bad collected an Apocalyptic Log about two constantly warring civilizations. One of the sides genetically engineered monsters and three vampires (which includes the main character and the Big Bad) to make up their military power. The other side created Sorcerous weapons to combat these monsters. The war escalated until less than ten percent of the human population remained, who had to deal with all the monsters let loose, as well as the vampires.
  • For millions of years in Otherspace, the god-like Kamir and Hivers fought each other with willful disregard for the destruction they were doing to the rest of the universe, often pulling players in as proxy warriors in their machinations. Eventually, all their destruction ended up breaking the universe.
  • For the breadth of Phantasy Star Universe and its several expansions, the Ancients are just MacGuffin providing story fodder. Then we finally get to meet a pair in Portable 2 to find that just like the current generation, they ran out of resources fighting off the SEED , and subsequently sealed themselves away in subspace. In a nice long Evil Plan they left humans to keep the system spruced up and ready for colonization via enforced Mind Fuck when they reached the ability to use subspace. About the only reason you have a chance is that one of them is a Benevolent Precursor.
  • The Precursors who built the Sphere in Prey (2006) seeded countless planets throughout the galaxy and are directly responsible for life on Earth. All they ask for in return is that every few thousand years, they stop by and gruesomely abduct and slaughter countless people to keep their Organic Technology running.
  • Skies of Arcadia had an ancient and powerful civilization that decided that mankind was being too destructive. What do they do about it? Destroy those civilizations. Due to Valua's ambitions, they're thinking of doing it all again. But not before sending two agents to check it out. That cute blonde, the one who joins you after you rescue her from the Valuans? She's one of them. Unfortunately, there's the matter of the other one...
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Knuckles' warmongering, power-hungry ancestors, the Knuckles Clan. As narrated in the classic games' Japanese manuals and shown Sonic Adventure, long ago they attempted to seize the Chaos Emeralds for their own purposes, hurting a group of Chao who tried to oppose them in the process and triggering the rage of Chaos. This led to the destruction of their civilization, the extermination of most of the echidna race, the scattering of the Chaos Emeralds, and the creation of Angel Island.
  • Potentially the players themselves in Spore. Abduct primitive life forms for study? Cut the Tractor Beam in the stratosphere? Drop a monolith among a nest of rapacious carnivores? Drag comets into their planet? Why not?
  • Star Control:
    • The Dnyarri are the primary cause of the Ur-Quan's actions, both Kzer-Za and Kohr-Ah. And no, they were not nice people. For a better perceptive, they were inspired by the Thrint in Literature above... and then were made even worse.
    • If you want to consider Star Control 3, let's put up the Eternal Ones. Seeding the universe with sentient life so you can eat all of it? Considering that one such sentient population managed to figure out a way to make sure that no one has to die in their iteration, while the Eternal Ones went through who knows how many iterations committing universe-scale xenocide...
    • Not to mention ... humans, ourselves. We created an entire race of sentients, and we enslaved them for a generation until they managed to escape. That's why the Androsynth hate humans so much.
  • In StarCraft, the Protoss and the Zerg were uplifted by the Xel'Naga and gifted with the purity of form and the purity of essence respectively. At least, that's the history they know. The truth is revealed in StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void: a rogue faction of Xel'Naga led by Amon uplifted the Protoss and the Zerg with the intention of eventually using both to wipe out all life in existence to end the Xel'Naga cycle forever. The vaunted Khala that unites the Khalai Protoss? It's actually something Amon added that allows him to enslave any Protoss connected to it.
  • Stellaris:
    • The Fallen Empires are often this:
      • Militant Isolationists/Fanatic Xenophobes are the most unambiguous. They will declare war on you if you colonise a planet too close to their borders, and they will genocide the population. If they awaken into Jingoistic Reclaimers, they'll actively try to conquer the galaxy, vassalizing all the younger races and preventing them from making new colonies.
      • Holy Guardians/Fanatic Spiritualists protect the sanctity of certain Holy worlds across the galaxy by purging anyone who sets foot on them. When they awaken into Doctrinal Enforcers, they'll attempt to force the entire galaxy to accept their religion at plasma-cannon-point.
      • Knowledge Keepers/Fanatic Materialists are greyer. They will keep to themselves unless you make the mistake of researching certain dangerous technology, but when they awaken into Watchful Regulators, they'll try conquering the galaxy to maintain the superiority of their ancient tech.
      • Enigmatic Observers/Fanatic Xenophiles can be seen as this or haughty but Benevolent Precursors, depending on perspective. They will only attack younger empires who enslave or purge other species, but when they awaken as Benevolent Interventionists, they insist that the rest of the galaxy sign a peace treaty. At this stage of the game, most planets are already claimed and the only way to expand is by conquest; their treaty might not be terrible for the citizens of the galaxy, but it's such a huge hindrance for players that many prefer thralldom to the Jingoistic Reclaimers.
      • In the case of a War in Heaven between two Awakened Empires of any type. Both will readily vaporize you into spacedust if you don't take their side. If you're not with them, you're against them.
    • Four of the precursors in-story were not nice at all. The Yuht attempted to exterminate all other intelligent life out of extreme xenophobia, the Irassians were so despised by their myriad vassals that they wiped them out with a plague, the Zroni attempted to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence by killing everyone else, and the Cybrex were essentially genocidal robots, though they had a Heel Realization and allowed the organic lifeforms to wipe them out of penance, and the survivors in the Contingency Crisis will make their own amends by helping you destroy the rogue machines.
    • Even your star nation can become this through Video Game Cruelty Potential. Primitive civilization? Destroy their military and enslave the populace. Pre-sentient life? Uplift them and use them as laborers or fodder in your wars. If you go the route of biological ascension, you can nerve-staple them and permanently remove their ability to think. You can even genetically modify them to suit your purposes, be it assimilating them into your hive mind or combining the "Delicious" trait with wide-scale nerve stapling to turn them into docile livestock to provide food for your citizens!
  • Sword of the Stars:
    • In the Backstory, the Suul'Ka enslaved the Liir, used their pawns to destroy the old Morrigi civilization and killed 90% of their male population, and created the Zuul, a genocidal race of religiously fanatic Super Soldiers. The Liir wiped most of them out with a bioweapon, but the sequel reveals that seven of them survived and recovered... and now they are back, and they are angry. In the first game, Suul'ka was assumed to merely be the name the Liir gave them, their true name being unknown. "Suul'ka" actually translates literally as "winterheart" or "abomination". As it turns out, they are Liir, and they do indeed call themselves "Suul'ka". It says a lot about them that they actually refer to themselves as abominations.
    • The Morrigi were fairly benign in their heyday, but the intro to A Murder of Crows suggests that they were rather pissed when they came back to reclaim their old colonies.
  • Treasure of the Rudra: At the end of every Great Cycle, a Rudra appears to commit genocide on the current residents of the planet. The Giants, Merfolk, and Lizard people have already been exterminated, with just a few survivors, and humanity's time is almost up... turns out this scheme was all devised by abusive precursors, whose plan to defend against their own abusive precursors was to create a race that could defeat their rudras and, ultimately, them.
  • Utawarerumono has Jerkass precursors: humans who experimented with strangely eared clones and the Ice Man.
  • Want to know why the Origin system in Warframe is so messed up? It's all thanks to the Orokin Empire. Don't let the Corpus propaganda or the obsession with white and gold fool you, the Orokin were rotten to the core. While there are a small number of known Orokin characters who are actually good people, by and large, the picture of the Orokin as a civilization is horrifyingly vile. Just how bad were they? Let us count the ways.
    • The very first red flag you encounter is the fact that they employ mind control with little to no restraint. If you're wondering why the Corrupted are in Orokin towers? That's why.
    • They created the Sentients to terraform the neighboring Tau system, but somehow managed to anger their creations enough to rebel, kicking off the Old War. It's implied that the Sentients realized that the Orokin were so rotten that they'd basically ruin the Tau System as well, and they wanted to strike first to prevent that from happening.
    • They created the Infestation as a bioweapon to fight the Sentients, only to discover that they couldn't control it. Rather than destroying it, they opted to seal it away in a manner that the relatively-primitive Grineer would later be able to undo.
    • Speaking of the Grineer, the Orokin originally created them as disposable slave labor, explaining their constant genetic degradation. The Orokin felt no qualms about heaping abuse on them, making their eventual rebellion during the chaos and upheaval of the Old War unsurprising to anyone but the Orokin themselves.
    • They routinely abducted children. "The War Within" revealed one of their motives for this: they could extend their lifespans by pulling a Grand Theft Me, overwriting the victim's mind and personality with their own.
    • Cephalons were not purely artificial creations as one might assume, but rather are human minds uploaded into digital form before being stripped of their former identity and shackled with a large number of behavioral restrictions. The only surprising part is that at least one participant was willing.
    • And of course, we can't neglect the Tenno. As "The Second Dream" reveals, the Tenno were the child survivors of an accident in the Void that left them with powers. The Orokin initially considered killing them but decided to turn them into child soldiers to fight the Sentients instead. Oh, and because that wasn't enough, the Orokin executed their surrogate mother as well. No wonder the Tenno decided to wipe them out.
    • Their original, hopefully abandoned-by-the-Tenno method of creating the titular warframes? Using a controlled form of the Infestation to mutate people into warframes. While they're alive and conscious. If the unfortunate is lucky, they become just a mindless meat puppet. If not, they replay the traumatic memory of their transformation eternally.
    • It should be noted that an Orokin record explicitly states that the Tenno's ability to link with the frames requires empathy and care for others... something that the Orokin themselves lack.
    • The leader of the Holdfasts implies that not only did the Orokin outlaw religion, it wasn't because they were atheists; it was because they wanted to replace the old gods with themselves.
  • World of Warcraft:
  • On balance, the X series' Old Ones are this. Theoretically, they have good goals, such as preventing the heat death of the universe, and they consider the Portal Network they built a gift to the younger races. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to think of the younger races as a single group, making them frighteningly willing to toy with them seemingly at random. Since their most direct method of manipulation is to switch gate pairs in the Portal Network, this means they do things like start interplanetary wars, separate colony ships from their home planets or lock fleets in deep space with nowhere to go, or even turn off the whole network. Then again, the network shutdown after X3: Albion Prelude came partly in response to the Xenon gaining control over a sizable portion of the galaxy, so YMMV. Possibly justified by the fact that according to the backstory, the Old Ones have been united for over 3.2 billion years, which brings Blue-and-Orange Morality into play. In other words, they're so far above us that we don't understand them, and they don't understand us.

    Visual Novels 

  • Among the Chosen has the Overseers as part of ancient history, where they kidnapped primitive humans to use as slaves.
  • Here in Buttersafe, a child asking where babies come from learns the answer: from an eldritch horror called Consumption who seeded life on Earth with the intent of returning to devour it.
  • The Titans from Erfworld built the eponymous universe with laws of physics that seem designed to make peace impossible. However, recent events indicate they may be still active.
  • Homestuck:
    • Sburb seeds species' existence for the sole purpose of destroying it except for a limited group of children who are tested to see if they can win a difficult game. The children don't even come from that planet, they're created by the game itself, using in-game equipment called Apperifiers. The devices use paradox slime to extract genetic information from the kids' guardians to create both infant versions of them and the kids, which are then sent back in time by an in-game entity called Skaia. Sburb is created by the Genesis Frog, a frog that contains the entire Universe and all alternate timelines, as a means to reproduce and create new Universes. The kids' sprites' prototypings shape the new reality. Therefore, Billious Slick and all Genesis Frogs before him are the Abusive Precursors.
    • The trolls wanted to become this to Earth. It didn't quite work out.
    • In a roundabout way, Lord English is responsible for the existence of the main characters and their universes. He's currently trying his best to wipe them out along with everything else.
  • The Demiurges from Kill Six Billion Demons are powerful multiversal explorers who, under the direction of Zoss, repaired the city of Throne, built bodies for the Angels, made the Law, masked the Devils and stole their secrets, and founded the four orders of Knights. Then they decided that wasn’t enough and tried to conquer the Multiverse. This led to a massive, centuries-long war that ended with all but seven of the Demiurges dead and Zoss missing. Now those Seven have become the absolute epitome of this trope; they’re all either self-obsessed tyrants or broken down wrecks succumbing to the ravages of time. Their tyrannical, incompetent rule has left the Multiverse in chaos, with the Seven being more concerned with maintaining the illusion of peace than with actually achieving it.
  • Schlock Mercenary:

    Web Originals 
  • Played for Laughs in Atop the Fourth Wall: one Running Gag has Linkara ranting about the evils of Ancient Egypt.
  • One proposal for SCP-001 is that the entire SCP Foundation universe is created by a group of abusive precursors for entertainment purposes. "God is real. And He's a bunch of horror writers."
  • The Sufficiently Advanced Trolling thread on the sibling web forum Sufficient Velocity has a long list of examples which are Played for Laughs. How malicious they are varies wildly.
  • The Great Old Ones (yes, those Great Old Ones) in the Whateley Universe. They fought a war with the Sidhe that wiped out the Sidhe and got the Great Old Ones sealed out of this dimension... for now.
  • Worm: Zion/Scion and Eden, also known as The Entities, aren't responsible for the creation of humanity, but they are responsible for the creation of superpowers and parahumans in general through their "shards", though Eden's role in that is partially unwilling. A Day in the Limelight for Scion shows that it and Eden have done this for hundreds if not thousands of planets before, granting the inhabitants powers and watching them develop and create new shards through growth and conflict, then wiping them out when they no longer served any purpose. Scion comes mere inches away from doing the same to humanity, too.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia:
    • King Andrias refers to his ancestors — the newts who founded Newtopia, the heart of all Amphibia — as peaceful explorers. This is a lie. They were conquerors who used the Calamity Box to subjugate other worlds, and the enigmatic ruins turn out to be their factories — still operational factories, at that, for the purpose of assembling death robots. Their city fell to ruin a thousand years ago, and the second season's central Big Bad, King Andrias, seeks the Calamity Box as a means of restoring his ancestors' "glorious" legacy.
    • The Core is an entire Mind Hive of them, as they're a collection of all of Newtopia's previous rulers, and as the series goes on, it becomes clear they couldn't care less about their descendants; not only do they show complete disinterest in the damage they cause to Amphibia and its inhabitants, but they treat King Andrias, the latest king and their most trustworthy servant in the present, like a tool to be used and discarded.
  • Blake and Mortimer: In the cartoon-exclusive "The Secret of Easter Island", it turns out the Easter Island statues were built in the image of an alien-made original, a beacon to detect if any civilization rises on Earth (or on coutless worlds seeded with such a probe) so they can send a xenocidal hit squad. Humanity only lived as long as it did because the previous hit squad was killed by the islanders' god. The "volcano god" erupted with tremendous noise, hitting the aliens in their vulnerability to sonic damage.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Significant First One ruins all seem to be infested with murderous robot spiders, and the Crystal Castle also functions as a Psychological Torment Zone that drives one of the biggest wedges between Adora and Catra since Adora's initial defection. And then it turns out to be so much worse. The First Ones turned Etheria, the planet She-Ra is set on, into a superweapon that can destroy large chunks of the universe, created the Sword of Protection in order to bring Etheria's chosen protector, She-Ra, under their control, and reprogrammed Light Hope to want to fire the weapon at all costs. Adora ends up destroying the Sword of Protection because after Scorpia bonds to the Black Garnet, that's the only way to stop the weapon from firing.
  • In Transformers: Prime, Unicron is this for all life on Earth. He is planet Earth (or at least, the center of it), and views the organisms that have come to live upon him while he slept much the same way as if a human were to wake up covered in mosquitoes.


Video Example(s):


The Cycle cannot be Broken

Sovereign informs Shepard of the cycle: organic species evolve, develop & create galaxy-spanning civilizations, and then the Reapers exterminate them. Sovereign also notes that its kind, not the Protheans, are the true creators of the Mass Relays & the Citadel. The Protheans were merely the previous of countless sequential civilizations who developed using Mass Relay Technology before being wiped out by the Reapers. And the time of the Reapers' return to begin the next cycle is near.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / ViciousCycle

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