Something hugely nasty has happened to humanity. Be it nuclear war (which was once very popular but has gone out of vogue, in part due to the end of the Cold War), The Plague (which currently seems to be the most popular), natural disaster (which some view as the most likely to happen in the near future in Real Life despite nuclear war being far deadlier and still very possible), supernatural disaster (usually the case with a Sealed Evil in a Can or missing Cosmic Keystone), devastating environmental changes (which, in this kind of fiction, happen too quickly for civilisation to adapt), a Zombie Apocalypse (also hugely popular these days), or an Alien Invasion (God help us if that one happens)—most (if not all) of humanity is gone.
The result is generally that you have the remnants of humanity fighting to survive in a hellish and devastated Crapsack World full of Scenery Gorn, Ghost Cities and a lot of nastiness in every corner of whatever remains of past civilization. This environment is perhaps also a Scavenger World which may have pieces of Schizo Tech and Lost Technology (or even Weird Science) here and there, but also where people inevitably degrade down to Disaster Scavengers and Crazy Survivalists, for whom staying alive may well mean being Reduced to Ratburgers or worse, especially if they're Too Desperate to Be Picky. The world often becomes a Points of Light Setting, with enclaves of survivors separated by long stretches of wastelands and dangerous wilderness and connected by fragmentary and unreliable roads. If enough time has passed, those Born After the End may hear stories of The Beforetimes from those few who survived the catastrophe, trying to impress upon the children what humanity was and still is capable of. Expect a Fish out of Temporal Water who Slept Through the Apocalypse to wake up to see their world changed. At any point in the setting an Apocalyptic Log may be found to explain exactly why the world was devastated in the first place, and/or an Archaeological Arms Race might break out to reclaim the old world's technology.
Large civilizations that were able to recover or at least preserved can include a Divided States of America and multiple interwarring states fighting each other for the corpses of a former superpower, a Dystopia struggling to survive, or a Days of Future Past with a Future Imperfect attempt to recreate happier times.
In any post-apocalyptic story created after the release of Mad Max, it is almost assured that the obvious and natural way for the world to look after a civilisation-destroying cataclysm is "the Australian Outback". There is no need to explain this. Global catastrophe turns the world into a gangster-infested anarchist Wretched Hive Australia. It just follows logically. However, in any After the End story created around the 1950s, expect to see plenty of Nuclear Mutants due to Rule of Cool. Additionally, if civilisation is depicted after a Bizarro Apocalypse, expect things to be really strange.
Related, if not quite the same, is the period immediately after the fall of Rome; most Film and TV set in this time tend to depict it as a time of post-apocalyptic anarchist savagery populated by interwarring warlords; medieval Europeans also tended to perceive themselves as a diminished people living among the ruins of a greater, fallen world. Thus, After the End stories will reference historical parallels about humanity's decay into Medieval Morons wallowing in filth and superstition, fighting for survival, and exterminating any "mutants" with fire. In fact, while there was a significant increase in banditry and piracy, most areas were peaceful most of the time. Fantasy series (especially JRPGs) are chock full of ancient, highly advanced civilizations that met their end and pitted humanity into a long Dark Age in a similar manner.
If you're really lucky, you may get a Cosy Catastrophe, in which case it's best to be friendly and humane, but also adaptable and brave. Of course, that's not a bad personality in Real Life. If you're really unlucky, the only ones left to mourn at Humanity's Wake will be robots, mutants and aliens. Or dogs — you just better hope you brought yours along for the ride, and it stays faithful...
Compare Just Before the End, End of an Age, From Cataclysm to Myth. Not to be confused with The Stinger, an after the end credits scene. See also Soiled City on a Hill and Depopulation Bomb. The people who lived before the end will often come to be seen as Precursors of some stripe or another.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games (including Visual Novels)
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- The Cartographer's Handbook: Humanity has been all but wiped out by a plague that turns people into savage monsters called Wendigos.
- Near the end of Johnny Hart's life, he revealed B.C. to take place in a post-apocalyptic world by having new character Anno Domini have copies of, among other things, phone books and The Bible in his cave. So it was Earth All Along sorta.
- The infamous Halloween 1989 Garfield storyline (Oct 23-28) has the title character finding himself in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world (or at least living in a long-abandoned house). This has led fans to wonder if this is the true setting of the strip.
- Two variations show up during the Gemini arc of Sequinox.
- The first is set in a world where Sequinox accepts the offer to join the Sky Queen and end up taking over the world.
- The second is in a world where the Stars decided to stop Monster of the Week plans and invade as soon as Scorpius is defeated, forcing the surviving humans to hide in underground bunkers while Sequinox struggles to fight off their endless army.
- The Adventure Zone: Ethersea takes place in the underwater city of Founders' Wake. Twenty-five years before the start of the campaign, a magical storm wiped out the entire surface world, forcing humanity to move under the sea in order to survive.
- Life In The World To Come is about giving advice on how to survive the approaching apocalypse after the bombs drop.
- Battle Action Harem Highschool Side Character Quest is set 58 years after the Antagonists have invaded Earth.
- The Darwin's Soldiers tie-in story Card of Ten takes place on a post-apocalyptic Antimatter Earth.
- Dino Attack RPG takes place in the aftermath of an apocalypse at the hands of mutant dinosaurs, though its not entirely objecting to the possibility of reconstruction. The alternate ending December 21, 2010, on the other hand, takes this up so high it makes The Road look optimistic in comparison.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, all the stories have been set some time after the most recent catastrophic event that has taken place in the world. The most recent story arc takes place over a decade after the Cataclysm which shattered continents, gave rise to the terrifying Godslayer and allowed demon hordes to invade the world en masse.
- A Geek's Guide: DeathWorld Earth is set 7 years after the accidental release of an alien Bioweapon on Earth that mutated all Fauna, and 5 years after an ancient self-replicating weapon crash landed on it.
- In We're Animals in a Post-Apocalyptic Town, most of the world became infested with monsters many generations before the main characters were born, making it difficult for most people to venture outside the town walls and largely isolating the towns and settlements from the outside world.
- C0DA is an "obscure text" written by former The Elder Scrolls series writer (and occasional freelance contributor) Michael Kirkbride (with support from current Bethesda writer Kurt Kuhlmann). Numidium has made Landfall. The Thalmor won, time is unbound, Nirn is uninhabitable, and the survivors eke out a living under the surface of the moon. Humans are ambiguously extinct, as the only races seen in the comic outside of flashbacks are Dunmer, Khajiit, and Hist. In the Morrowind expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online, the URL for the C0DA website is referenced (in code), making it something of a Canon Immigrant Easter Egg.
"Go here: world without wheel, charting zero deaths, and echoes singing," Seht said, until all of it was done, and in the center was anything whatever.
- The misanthropic recluse, Hamm, his servant Clov, and Hamm's parents Nagg and Nell appear to be among the last survivors of humanity in Samuel Beckett's Endgame.
- Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play, by Anne Washburn, takes place after a catastrophic event that seems to combine post-nuke and Post-Peak Oil. In the first act it's established that humans are keeping alive distorted memories of their old culture - notably The Simpsons — through oral tradition. The second act takes place decades later after another apocalypse.
- The Last Breakfast Club is a musical sequel to The Breakfast Club, in which the film took place on the day of nuclear holocaust, with the seven main characters being the sole survivors. The musical takes place years later, as they survive in the school building and contemplate leaving to attempt at restarting society.
- The Bara Magna setting in BIONICLE, the Desert Punk remains of a larger planet after an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. Also, the Alternate Universe known as The Kingdom, where Matoro failed to save Mata Nui, and so those who escaped the ensuing collapse migrated en masse to the surface, creating a new society on the Island of Mata Nui.
- Apocalypse Lane: The setting, due to a nuclear war. It's a comedy series, so everything is Played for Laughs.
- Brawl Universe takes place after the events of Subspace Emissary in Smash Bros. Brawl, and has the characters dealing with the aftermath and impact that those events left on the world.
- Dinosauria: The final episode, The Last Tyrant, is set at the very end of both the Cretaceous Period and the Mesozoic Era, where the once thriving world of the dinosaurs has been reduced to a barren wasteland full of starving, injured, dead, and dying dinosaurs after the asteroid impact. Prehistoric Monster is averted in an extremely heartbreaking way, as it shows that the dinosaurs were majestic creatures that ended up falling victim to a tragedy beyond comprehension.
- RWBY: In the distant past, the gods lived among humans, until a woman named Salem tried to trick them into resurrecting her lost love Ozma. As punishment, they gave her Complete Immortality, which she then used to raise an army to attack them. They responded by wiping out the entire human race and abandoning the planet, leaving Salem to wander alone. Eventually, humanity returned with only a semblance of their power and a remnant of their civilization. Now, thousands of years later, humanity is unaware that they are trapped in a Forever War between Salem and Ozma, as Ozma tries to unite humanity so that he can summon back the gods and restore the world, while Salem fights against him out of spite and vengeance.
- The main premise of the Halo based machinima "Shadows of the Past" is a nuclear war took place in the time frame of 1970-2020. Based on the fact the characters are always referencing pop culture of this time period. This could also be Rule of Funny This is Played for Laughs since it's a comedy series.
- Several stories on Everything2, including (but not limited to):
- Electrocuted crows hung the wrong way up on the power lines, smoking feathers falling like leaves, which follows Caramia as she scrounges for something to drink.
- If I'm right, you'll be here to read this any day now. An Apocalyptic Log as the world is being destroyed in a sci-fi-ish Ragnarok
- In Goodbye Strangers, the Dead Cities module is set an unspecified amount of time after Primer and Module II, after something caused entire cities to disappear. Word of God doesn't specify if this was because of the Strangers or something else entirely.
- The Walltown module does this again, but with a worldwide flood that appears to have wiped out many, if not all strangers, and judging by the unnatural red water may have even been caused by strangers. What connection if any it has to Dead Cities is unclear.
- Heck, even the Primer module might be this, considering that the appendices talk about strangers and sensitives in past tense.
- SCP Foundation
- SCP-419 ("Window to the World"). SCP-419 is a window to another reality that looks upon a cityscape. At some point a war occurred and the city was devastated, with buildings burning and reduced to rubble.
- S. D. Locke's proposal ("When Day Breaks"). The premise of this SCP-001 proposal is the Sun becoming anomalous. Any sunlight that comes into contact with organic matter effectively turns it into invincible, living goo with an urge to infect others, quickly turning most of the world's population into puddles. The tale itself chronicles the researchers and agents holding out for as long as they can, and ends with a horrific poem that evokes a mental image of Body Horror.
- The Springhole article So You Want An Apocalypse/Cataclysm In Your Plot? addresses the different apocalyptic scenarios and the problems apparent with them, as well as recommendations for developing these kinds of scenarios well.
- The world of Taerel Setting has the Age of Shattering and Age of Awakening set after a Vampire Apocalypse
- Critical Role: The main three campaigns are set in a world called Exandria over 800 years after the conclusion of the Calamity, a century-long war between the Good- and Neutral-aligned Prime Deities and the Evil-aligned Betrayer Gods, and the resulting cataclysms wiped out two-thirds of Exandria's population. The Calamity eventually ended with all of the gods being sealed away beyond the Divine Gate in what is known as the Divergence, and Exandria's dates are abbreviated PD ("Post-Divergence") to reflect this.
- End Times begins three months after a messy virus (that somehow involved gross swelling) wipes out most of the population past their mid-twenties.
- The Final Minutes: Zombie Plague takes place years after the world was ravaged by the XMNV virus, and the resulting nuclear apocalypse that rose from attempting to sterilize and destroy it.
- ROSA: The titular Rosa is set after humans left cyborgs to fix the ecosystem they destroyed by causing all natural life to disappear.
- Stampy's Lovely World: One of the scary movies watched in the 2017 Halloween Episode, "Block of the Dead", takes place in a ruined version of the Lovely World with all its current residents missing, inhabited by a couple of people trying to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.
- U Realms Live: Every Campaign (save for the 2nd quarter of Senate of Deadlantis) takes place after a catastrophic event known as the Birth of Magic: The Sun Dragon Phanto died and turned into the moon, removing the immortality of the Elves who then proceeded to slaughter each other. 90% of the original Elves died. On top of that, Phanto's death corrupted his 6 Children (Ouro'ras, Quintara Lotus, Yvander, Vlarunga, Rokesh and Golestandt) into being the bearers of the 6 major schools of Magic, and these Magics allowed the Dragons to be able to create new races, which they did. Also, Gnomes appeared out of no where, and no one to this day knows why.
- Bosun's Journal: The broken era comes in the wake of the corpocaste culture destroying itself in a devastating war. One of the four habitat cylinders is left entirely shattered and open to the void; the Bosun is forced to halt the rotation of another to prevent the now-uneven rotational stresses from tearing the ship apart, which has the side effect of collapsing its society by suddenly forcing it into zero gravity; and the outmost cylinder, cut off from the rest by the destruction of habitat two, is left without access to water supplies and slowly turns into a desert. What follows are a few million years of steady decay as society breaks down into increasingly small groups of scavengers, hunter-gatherers and decadent enclaves of the descendants of former elites, all of which steadily decline in technology and social complexity until they either die out or become simple animals. In the end, after the last sapient human dies, history transitions into a period of tens of millions of years where only animals inhabit the Nebukadnezar until, eventually, new sapient species emerge.
- Tales of Ubernorden is set some time after a golden age is destroyed.