Follow TV Tropes


Backstory Horror

Go To

"I remember being dumbfounded when I read the instruction booklet as a kid, and even now I'm still like, 'What?!' whenever I stop to think that all the bricks and rocks in the game are actually the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom! Makes me want to never break any of the bricks again…"

Backstory Horror is when something that seems harmless or is marketed as harmless has something horrible embedded in the Backstory, either by Word of God or All There in the Manual. It's a fully intentional hidden well of Nightmare Fuel on the part of the creators, almost like a creepy Easter Egg for the fans.

Backstory Horror can lead to Fridge Horror, but the two are not the same; one's canonical by way of Word of God or All There in the Manual, while the other only exists in the audience's head as a result of thinking heavily about the implications the work presented. Related to Cerebus Retcon. Compare and contrast Dark and Troubled Past. It can lead to a Crapsaccharine World.

Note: To be this trope, examples must be canon in some way. Fanon and dreams generally don't count! If it's implied but not confirmed canon by any source, it's Fridge Horror instead.

Works that do this very regularly

    open/close all folders 



  • Cubone's mother was killed by Team Rocket. Cubone (originally named 'Orphan', or more accurately, 'Orphon') is portrayed as pining for its mother and wearing her skull as a helmet and carries her femur as a club.
    "It pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull it wears are from its tears. It wears its mother's skull, never revealing its true face."
  • Mewtwo is well known as the victim of "years of horrific gene splicing".
  • Gengar steals the life out of people
    • Gengar's pre-evolved form Haunter's “tongue is made of gas. If licked, its victim starts shaking constantly until death eventually comes.”
  • Lampent swoops in afterwards to steal their soul.
    • It's in the line. Its pre-evolved form Litwick drains people's and Pokémon's life forces, and its evolved form Chandelure burns their souls.
  • Duskull, if "it finds bad children who won't listen to their parents, it will spirit them away—or so it's said", and "loves the crying of children."
  • Drifloon "tugs on the hands of children to steal them away. It is whispered that any child who mistakes Drifloon for a balloon and holds on to it could wind up missing." It also carries souls away to the underworld, sometimes by accident.
  • Shedinja. "It is believed that this Pokémon will steal the spirit of anyone peering into its hollow body from its back." Add to this that in the games, you view your Pokémon from the back...
  • Pinsir “grips prey with its pincers until the prey is torn in half. What it can’t tear, it tosses far.”
  • Hypno feeds off of nightmares. He has been known to kidnap children and then feed off the nightmares of the children and their parents. There was an episode on this, and a subplot in HeartGold and SoulSilver. You also help a girl who's being kidnapped by a Hypno as part of the Sevii Islands quest in FireRed and LeafGreen.
  • Banette is an abandoned doll that sprung to life. It is not happy that it was abandoned, and searches for the child who abandoned it to do Arceus-knows-what to them.
  • The reason Farfetch'd is rare is because people are hunting them to the brink of extinction. Apparently they taste really good roasted with leeks.
  • Ninetales, while usually gentle, is said to be highly intelligent and vindictive. According to legend, it will place a thousand year curse on anyone who pulls one of its tails as a joke. Another states it can cast a sinister light from its eyes and take control of its foe's mind. The "thousand year curse" kicks off the plot of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team, as well as providing Gengar and Gardevoir's Backstory Horror.
  • Both Sandygast and Palossand have this in spades, and are arguably the most nightmarish Pokémon ever designed (in backstory, at least):
    • Sandygast is apparently born from grudges that seep into the sand, can suck the life force of people or Pokémon through its mouth and can Mind Control people who grab its shovel or put a hand in its mouth, forcing them to add sand to its body (and thus, presumably, slowly grow in size).
    • Palossand, if anything, is even worse, with a number of fairly disturbing implications given the work it's from: known as the "Beach Nightmare", it can control sand to the extent that each singular grain of its body has a will of its own. Like its predecessor, it mind-controls people to make them build its sand castle body, and drains the life force of people and Pokémon - however, it can also replenish any sand it loses on its own, the shovel on it now appears to act as a kind of radar to seek out new victims, and it can also create a sandy vortex to capture small Pokémon before draining their vitality. The wiki rather gruesomely states that "bones of Palossand's victims are kept buried beneath it" (implying an unfortunate Cruel and Unusual Death). And as if all that wasn't enough, traces of its victims' ill will are left where it goes, thus enabling new Sandygast to be born and keep multiplying in numbers. Oh, and it can grow to the size of a building. Good luck!
  • Yamask are the spirits of people, who carry masks which once were their human faces. Sometimes they look at the masks and cry. Lampshaded [1].
  • Phantump are the spirits of human children who died in the forest.

Human Characters

  • Pokémon: The Series: James from Team Rocket is an escapee from a Gilded Cage. Becoming a criminal was his only way out.
  • Jessie came from a lower class background where they often time had no money for food... so she and her mom ate snow and pretended like it was delicious...
  • Not a human character, but completing the trifecta: Meowth was a normal, feral Meowth. Falling for a pet Meowth, he decided to impress her by learning to speak Human and walk on his hind legs like a human. Unfortunately, she regarded this unpokemon behavior as freakish and unnatural.
  • Your conversation with Lt. Surge in Pokémon Red and Blue/Yellow reveals there was a war not long ago and that humans used Pokémon in this war. Yes, Pokémon is a post-war recovery story.
  • X and Y have a war in the backstory that factors heavily into the plot. The war led to the creation of the Ultimate Weapon, a machine powered by the life force of Pokemon that can resurrect the dead, make people or Pokemon immortal, or destroy everything. Team Flare wants to use it to wipe out everyone that isn't them and rule as immortal tyrants.
  • Black 2 and White 2 has an abandoned house at the outskirts of Lentimas Town at the base of Reversal Mountain called Strange House. In this house you'll find a ghost, who rearranges the furniture, and eventually gives you the Lunar Wing. This ghost also appears in Black and White at the Marvelous Bridge. An old woman explains in Black and White that she used to play with her Abra on the bridge. In Black 2 and White 2 you can directly interact with the ghost girl, before she gives you the Lunar Wing and disappears. Her dialogue implies that she was caught in nightmares by Darkrai, her parents tried to help her using Cresselia's Lunar Wing, but it didn't work. She eventually died, and her family and Abra may have died as well, though no evidence of that is provided. She was on the Marvelous Bridge to return the Lunar Wing, and if you have a Lunar Wing with you in Black and White, you actually do encounter Cresselia. Other human ghosts have appeared in Pokemon, with a butler ghost and a little girl ghost in the Old Chateau in Gen 4. It's not said what killed them, but a notebook in Platinum has odd writing in it, most likely referring to Rotom.
  • The remakes of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire do this to a once-minor NPC, Professor Takao Cozmo, but you only learn this through a post-game sidequest. Originally, he just appeared as a theft victim of Team Aqua/Magma's plots. In the remakes, not only does both he AND the MacGuffin linked to him get increased importance, you learn his backstory: As a child, his father Raizo was an extreme workaholic, enough that he noticed that his mother was spending more time with her "friend". Eventually, Raizo stopped coming home and, at the end of the sidequest, when you meet him, you discover he's grown so senile that he imagines a stuffed toy Takao once gave as his son. Given that in the post-game, your own father, Gym Leader Norman, is also presented as a workaholic, the latter's still being able to be there for his family, with only his position necessitating his family move with him from Johto to Hoenn, and blowing off a date with your mother (the tickets of which are passed to you and your neighbor), Raizo is played as Norman who couldn't control his work.
    • The same sidequest also reveals something just as horrible, and is actually connected to the X and Y example above. Hinted during the main post-game story with Devon Corporation, you discover through letters that Mauville Corporation once also employed the same Pokemon life force-based energy system as the Ultimate Weapon for its development, explaining why Mauville City is far more developed in the remakes. However, Gym Leader Wattson, who was also CEO of the corporation regretted the use of such energy and shut down their projects, forcing massive layoffs. One of the Non Player Characters in the city is implied to be a man who wrote about the burden of laying off those people under Wattson's orders. He himself has a sidequest that saves him from his funk, turning him into Mr. Bonding from X and Y.

Normal Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan eventually reveals that the two special Titans who brought down humanity's outer defence walls are not only both human, but close friends of the main protagonists. This is later followed by the revelation that ALL Titans, including the completely mindless ones who gorge themselves on human flesh, were originally human beings. Specifically, they are members of a demi-titan race called the "Eldians" that were injected with titan spinal fluid and transformed into mindless man-eating monstrosities because of discrimination against their kind. The world outside is ruled by the Nazi-like Marleyans, is on the brink of war, and the antagonists are cruel and ruthless to the protagonists because if they don't steal the power to control titankind, their race will be exterminated and the war will engulf their home country.
  • Monster Rancher's backstory has humans who grew proud and destructive, creating Monsters for anything that would suit their wants. Eventually they created Moo in an attempt to end the Final War, which ended up nearly destroying the entire planet until they created the Phoenix to stop him—and what it took to defeat Moo involved destroying virtually everything. Enough humans were left to rebuild civilization, but far less advanced than it had been before.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. Aww, look, it's an Alternate Continuity to those sweet little games that star an adorable hero who looks like a wad of pink chewing gum. Sure, those games had some truly disturbing final bosses, but most of them don't exist in the anime. Then you find out that a massive war took place at some unspecified time before the series began, and the side of good lost. Meta Knight was one of the few survivorsnote . His faithful companions Sword and Blade had to become bandits to keep from starving to death during said war. Kirby himself is an alien destined to save the universe from Nightmare, but unfortunately the Call to Adventure came ahead of schedule and he has to fight while still essentially a baby. Most of this is forgotten during the average episode, which instead focuses on sillier things such as a fish falling in love with Fumu, Wacky Racing, or King Dedede trying to make an anime about himself, with the Monster of the Week thrown in somewhere.

    Comic Books 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: In the original comic they are raised with one purpose: to murder Shredder, which they do in issue one.
  • The Mask: In the original comic, the Mask was a psychotic killing machine similar to The Joker, but with horrific supernatural powers.
  • Casper the Friendly Ghost: Though it is sidestepped by the creators of the original comic and later cartoon, Casper is actually about a dead, lonely and suicidal child. Sidestepped in the movie, where Casper died when he wouldn't come in from sled riding and caught pneumonia.
  • My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic explored the backstories of many of the show's villains, making them nastier in the process. King Sombra's involves him realising he is an Equinoid Abomination and deciding Then Let Me Be Evil and inflicting a horrible And I Must Scream fate on a benevolent queen, and Tirek's involves kidnap and torture. The origin of Chrysalis and the Changelings may be the worst, being essentially a fusion of insects and pony corpses. Also, those swiss cheese-like holes in their bodies on the show? Those are scars from when Celestia blasted them with magic hundreds of years ago.
  • The 80s My Little Pony line had ponies with gems for eyes called the Twinkle-Eyed Ponies. Their eyes were almost never mentioned in-series and were mostly there as an interesting visual. The comics associated with the franchise stated that the Twinkle-Eyed Ponies got their gem eyes because they were enslaved in a gem mine by an evil wizard, where they toiled in the dark for so long that their eyes atrophied. When the wizard was defeated by Applejack smashing his gem throne, the gems of his throne were embedded into the ponies' eye sockets, enabling them to see again. This explains why none of their children have gem eyes like their mothers.
  • The lighter, campier iterations of Batman, whether its Lego, the Silver Age, or the Adam West TV show, still have the same grim origin; a man who dedicates his life to fighting crime after his parents are shot and killed in front of him as a child.
  • Daredevil: During the Daredevil: Father miniseries, Joe Quesada retconned that the old man Matt saved (in the accident that blinded Matt as a kid and gave him his radar sense) was molesting his own daughter. That's right, Matt's crappy luck didn't just start with the accident that blinded him, but the good deed he was trying to do ended up saving a monster.

    Fan Works 
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, it's amazing how most of the Smurfs under Papa Smurf's care live happy, carefree lives like in the cartoon show, given that the parents who were the Smurfs of Papa Smurf's generation have all died in The Plague that is Only Fatal to Adults back when the Smurfs were just little Smurflings. And of course, there's Papa Smurf subjecting his only begotten son Empath to 150 years of living in Psychelia with a group of xenophobic emotionless telepaths whose leader had Mind Raped him as an infant.
  • In Zuma's Fear, Zuma once had an excellent life, only to be sabotaged by just one person, by killing his family. Technically averted for the rest of the fic as it undergoes a Cerebus Syndrome, though.

    Film — Animated 
  • Coraline has one that doubles as a Genius Bonus: the medal worn by The Great Bobinski is a Liquidator's Medal, which was given to the clean-up crew of the Chernobyl Disaster. Many of these peoplenote  were left dead or permanently disabled from exposure to radiation, which casts Bobinski's blue skin, odd figure, and eccentricities in a much different light.
  • In Zootopia, it is made clear (via a Lecture as Exposition at the very beginning) that that the inhabitants of this world had evolved from ordinary wild animals, which naturally tended to kill and eat each other on a regular basis. In addition, an exhibit in the Natural History museum at the end of the film shows that the evolution of sapience did not occur to all mammals at the same time indicating that there was a period of time where sapient prey were still being hunted by non-sapient predators. And until their technology advanced to abolish the food chain, sapient obligate carnivores would have been forced into a Sapient Eat Sapient situation with evolved prey.

    Film — Live Action 
  • One of the more quiet and slow-paced scenes in Gremlins (1984) has Kate telling Billy just what happened to make her hate Christmas: Her father tried to enter the house's chimney dressed as Santa when she was a kid, but broke his neck in a fall and got stuck. They thought he was missing for a few days, until they smelled something awful in the fireplace. In a horror comedy that already has plenty of Nightmare Fuel, this scene especially seems to stick with viewers.

  • Land of Oz:
    • The Tin Man lost all his body parts one by one. They were replaced by metal so he could survive long enough to see his love again. By the time he was whole, she had already fallen in love with a man made out of the Tin Man's lost body parts.
    • To the shock of many, Wicked with its twisted fantasy dystopia is actually a more faithful adaptation of the original book than the 1939 movie.
  • Early in Autobiography of Red, we learn about the main character being sexually abused as a young child. The rest of the book is a mostly gentle Coming of Age Story; the abuse is never mentioned again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In her character profile on NBC's website for Community, it is stated that Britta was molested on her eleventh birthday by a man in a dinosaur costume, and her dad didn't believe her when she told him. This incident has been only vaguely alluded to on the show.
  • Doctor Who is fairly dark but still an idealistic children's show. Some parts of it are unexpectedly horrible:
    • The novelisation of "The Time Warrior" initially contained a very detailed and Squickily sexual account of how Sontarans reproduce through probic vent fluids, straight from the mind of their creator Robert Holmes. It got cut by the publisher due to being virtually unprintable, although the new series vaguely alludes to it when Strax mentions being so excited that he clogged his probic vent.
    • According to the novelisation, the Argolins were a race initially so violent that they were forced to develop a ridiculous and incoherent code of chivalry just to give themselves an outlet. The greatest act of chivalry in Argolin culture was a duel in which both participants both hacked bits off their own bodies to death in order to even the odds and then both died of shock and blood loss. What we see of the Argolins in "The Leisure Hive" is from many centuries after this in which they are a dying race.
    • The Fifth and Sixth Doctor companion Peri was repeatedly raped by her uncle as a child, who told her it was their secret.
    • The novelisation of "The Twin Dilemma" goes into Body Horror territory about what regeneration actually does to you, through telling the story of a Time Lord who tried to kill himself repeatedly until he regenerated into someone more attractive, with some very unpleasant results.
    • The idea in production was that Ace had lost her virginity to Sabalom Glitz at some point during "Dragonfire", although this is only implied onscreen. The much darker Expanded Universe picks up on this idea and runs with it.
    • Vastra is said in supplemental materials to have met Jenny by eating the Chinese gangsters who were about to gang-rape her.
  • Although they were never harmless, the demons of Supernatural were nothing more than hated, powerful monsters for the first couple of seasons. Then the protagonists are gifted with the revelation that nearly every single demon was once human, tortured in Hell until they became twisted shells of their former selves. Since even sympathetic characters can go to Hell for ambiguous crimes like being tricked into a demon deal or accidentally worshipping a demon while performing supposedly harmless magic, this significantly ramped up the Fridge Horror for the Supernatural universe and laid out darker implications for God even before it came out that He abandoned Heaven, leaving the angels confused and with severe daddy issues.

    Music and Bands 
  • Steam Powered Giraffe, a generally lighthearted act featuring three performing automatons and a steampunk theme, has a shocking amount of this in their history. Even just a cursory glance over their official timeline and backstory reveals Body Horror, fates worse than death, the funny robots experiencing the horrors of war first-hand, and the fact that Rabbit's core was once stolen and misused, resulting in an explosion that killed several people... including the descendant of her creator, Peter Walter II, whom Rabbit seemed to regard as a father figure. It is directly stated that this deeply bothers Rabbit, understandably. (It's later stated in her own bio that she spends her free time feeding the ducks in the Walter family cemetery.)
  • The Slim Shady LP is a comedy rap Concept Album about the antics of an over-the-top Toon Heroic Comedic Sociopath and his Hilariously Abusive Childhood, but it is also a Life Embellished version of the life of the real Eminem, whose extremely unfunny Dark and Troubled Past of childhood abuse, poverty and suicidality is similar to that of the character. Although he talked about this in interviews (and some of the songs), this was lost on a certain number of listeners, who viewed it as an annoying, squeaky-voiced novelty album — or a malign influence on the youth of America. Later Eminem albums would incorporate more literally autobiographical and confessional elements that would make his real life backstory into the main event — as the Tabloid Melodrama that emerged around his life made it impossible to ignore even if he hadn't.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Everdell takes place in the eponymous idyllic world. However, the History of Everdell mentions a surprisingly dark time featuring an equivalent of The Black Death, which is followed by years of war and famine.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts has the Keyblade War, an apocalyptic Great Offscreen War that led to the current era setting. It is described in the Seekers Of Darkness arc to be a conflict caused by evil and greedy Keyblade wielders who wanted to own the Light of Kingdom Hearts, and took to using Darkness to take it by force. In the prequels Union Cross and X we finally get to see at least part of it and like many cases of Unseen Evil, it's left as ymmv whatever it lives up to the built up or if it comes across as an Anti-Climax. Although according to the Master Of Masters, who used the conflict as part of his Gambit Roulette, the war has been going on for a while even before the prequels.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros., mentioned above, is actually a surprising subversion. Although the brick blocks that give power-ups or coins, are transformed mushroom people, the manual states that hitting the blocks will free the victims. In fact, this is exactly the reason why those blocks contain special items: it is a token of gratitude.
    • Luigi is shown to be a Classical Anti-Hero known for being insecure about his relative anonymity compared to his famous brother, and prone to jealousy, cowardice and attention-seeking. However, he's said in supplemental material to have a very dark secret somewhere in his past (said to be the power behind his incredibly odd Limit Break in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in which he seems to summon a portal to a dark and distorted dimension). Though this may be a case of American Kirby Is Hardcore, since this detail isn't mentioned in the European version.
  • Portal. On the surface, it's a puzzle game with the player as a tester of a gun. Beneath the layers though shows an incredibly twisted place caused by Mad Scientists, the player had her entire life robbed from them, many were murdered For Science! - there's no way of knowing how many people have died in the facility before you, the entire situation with Cave Johnson, and that the A.I. that guides the player through each test area unfolds throughout the first game as rather homicidal with a fatally cavalier approach to human life. (And this is in the same universe as Half-Life, with the Combine's Alien Invasion and subsequent dictatorship over all Earth where people are slaughtered en-masse regularly, so all of that happened too.) This is made more explicit in Portal 2, balanced by a more wacky view of the Aperture Science backstory, but parts of it are even bleaker than the original. Like the fate of poor Caroline, for an example.
  • Invoked in the multiplayer mode of Assassin's Creed III, which is marketed as a This Is Reality version of the Animus Database that allows people to relive the past. As the player levels up, they unlock cheesy, happy-go-lucky meta-commercials promoting it; completing difficult challenges, however, unlocks hacked versions, which contain "Erudito" pointing out true motives, hired actors, careful marketing and blatant lies to hide the truths about it.
  • Touhou Project. The actual narratives (the games and the manga) rarely get worse than a bit morbid, but the backstories and Worldbuilding contain a parade of murder, deception, bigotry, and confusing metaphysics. Of particular note since these two elements are roughly equal in size.
    • Gensokyo was created as a Fantastic Nature Reserve to preserve youkai from humans' waning belief in the supernatural and the impending The Magic Goes Away. Much of the world was once like Gensokyo, but now aside from a few persistent stragglers all those mystical beings are either extinct, or endangered and confined to one small region.
    • Youkai didn't stop eating humans once the barrier went up, they just had more restrictions on it. Anyone caught outside designated safe areas at night are fair game, as are any humans from outside the barrier, with youkai going on not-infrequent trips to abduct and eat people. Most of the human characters are friends with youkai without this ever being brought up.
    • Oni were driven away from the surface and haven't been seen in so long most believe they're extinct. Suika seems like a typical Hard-Drinking Party Girl given her scheme in Immaterial and Missing Power is to force Gensokyo into an endless kegger, but she's doing so in the hopes she can draw her people out from hiding. Fortunately there are some living in the Underground, Suika reuniting with an old friend in Subterranean Animism.
    • Flandre was isolated in her mansion's basement for nearly 500 years due to her sister's fears about her powers, but looking at her you'd never know it.
    • Parsee is a Hashihime, a youkai that is made when her husband left her for another woman, lurking near a bridge and threatening to kill any loving couple that passes if they don't break up immediately (and in some versions of the legend also kills her ex and his new wife). She's treated as a joke by the cast.
    • Even in the Underground, a place were youkai who are despised by other youkai are sent, there are some who are pariahs. One of them, Koishi, was so impacted by the Fantastic Racism inflicted on her because of the fear of her Psychic Powers she permanently closed her third eye, turning her into an Empty Shell with no emotions or thoughts beyond the surface. Again, you wouldn't know it looking at her.
    • The backstory of Byakuren and her followers is that they were protecting youkai from human persecution and trying to find a peace between the two groups, and they ended up persecuted themselves and sealed in Makai for their troubles.
    • The backstory of Miko and her followers is them exacerbating a religious war and manipulating the beliefs of the people so they could install themselves as unquestioned immortal rulers of Japan. It's no wonder that Byakuren and Co. are rather unhappy when they get resurrected.
    • Junko's motivation for invading the Moon: In Chinese myth, the Earth once had multiple suns, which threatened to scorch away all life, so the archer Hou Yi shot them all down (he also received an elixir of immortality that was drunk by his wife Chang'e, who escaped to the Moon). Unfortunately, one of the suns crashed onto Junko's son, killing him. Since then she has become a pure spirit... of pure vengeance, that is. She already killed Hou Yi, but now is fixated on killing Chang'e as well (despite Chang'e being imprisoned by the Lunarians for drinking the elixir). Her power is to make anything pure, which she plans to do by bringing fairies made of pure lifeforce to the Moon, functioning as a Brown Note for them. Because of the Lunarians' particular form of immortality (there are several kinds in Touhou), the very concept of life and therefore death is utterly alien to them (it's also why said fairy is Wearing A Flag On Her Head: it reminds them of the time mortals landed on the moon). The reason the fairy (a spirit from Greek Myth called a lampad who can cause madness) is working for her is because of her own master, the goddess Hecatia who wants revenge for Hou Yi shooting her cousin Apollo.
  • In A Witch's Tale, every kingdom has a horrific backstory.
    • Rem Sacchras was created by Queen Alice to make a seventh kingdom in order to complete the seal on the Eld Witch. But the land was ruled by evil, and to appease the evil being, she chose to sacrifice the younger twin princess from Rem Boreas, and the younger sister's bitterness towards being sacrificed manifested in poison.
    • The Eld Witch's daughters wreaked havoc on Rem Boreas, killing the Ice Queen's two daughters in the process. It's treated as a legend, but the shadow blocking the way to the Shadow Lands in Shadow Town speaks of her home freezing over and how the Ice Rune killed her and her sister.
    • The Eld Witch ruined Florin, which was then occupied by the Winged. When they began to suffer, they turned their faces to the moon and cried out for help. The residents of the moon kingdom, who also worshipped the moon, sent down plants to soothe the Winged. The Eld Witch succeeded in wiping the Winged out.
    • Oceria was a surface kingdom, but got submerged when the Eld Witch's third daughter grew jealous of its magic.
    • In Al'Sahra, the Eld Witch's daughters cursed the land to burn forever. The Eld Witch killed Princess Shahrazad the day after she was crowned, and Lyra is tormented with nightmares of what happened.
    • Artis fought in the war without magic at all, using machines. They were all turned into scrap, including Dorothy's dear friends.
  • Undertale has several characters who have incredibly dark and often disturbing backstories:
    • Alphys conducted experiments using Determination, a fantastical human power, in an attempt to break the barrier between the underworld and the human world. This resulted in the creation of the Amalgamates, horrific (though surprisingly friendly) chimeras that are under great suffering, the creation of Flowey, and possibly the fate of W.D. Gaster. No wonder Alphys is so screwed up after all of this.
    • Flowey or rather, Asriel, was killed by humans while trying to return his dead friend to their home village. He was then unintentionally resurrected into the body of a flower through Alphys' Determination experiments (due to Asriel's dusty remains being on the flower used for the experiments), but this left him without a soul, leaving him incapable of feeling love or compassion—even from his parents—which eventually lead to him falling into deep enough despair to commit suicide. Realizing moments before death that he didn't actually want to die, he woke up safe and sound at his "save point". He began experimenting with this ability by bringing himself to the brink of death multiple other times, followed by using his newfound saving ability to help those around him, and then proceeding to kill out of sheer curiosity after becoming sufficiently bored, eventually realizing that everyone around him was completely predictable like an actor in a game. His constant resetting of the timeline, coupled with his inability to feel any sort of compassion or empathy and boredom from having exhausted every option he can think of, resulted in his transformation from a kindhearted child to a twisted, insane sociopath by the time the player arrives.
    • Sans is one of the few monsters in the underworld aware of Flowey's time-manipulating shenanigans, but is unable to stop him, only being able to harass him into resetting. Despite Sans' best efforts to fight back, he has never been able to truly stop Flowey, knowing that all his hard work will inevitably be reset. That's why he's so lazy. Oh, and everything above about Flowey (save the suicides, hopefully) applies to you, the player. He knows this too.
    • The mysterious W.D. Gaster fell into the CORE and was scattered across time and space, with nobody being aware of his presence afterwards. Even those who knew about him (except perhaps Sans) were erased. Only data-miners have been able to find out about him in a complicated Alternate Reality Game-like manner.
  • The wacky pigeon-dominated world of Hatoful Boyfriend has a backstory of biological warfare recent enough that the human species faces extinction in the present day, the bird society is on the verge of civil war, and the only way you can stop either is by dating birds and trying not to die.
  • This has been showing up more often in the Kirby series as of late. Kirby: Planet Robobot and Kirby: Triple Deluxe in particular. Especially with their main villains.
    • Queen Sectonia is the cruel queen of Floralia. Obsessed with beauty and control, she only cares for herself. However, her descriptions reveal that she was not always this way. In fact, she wasn't always a giant bee, as shown in Planet Robobot when you defeat her clone. Queen Sectonia was corrupted by the Dimension Mirror that appeared back in Kirby & The Amazing Mirror, and was cruel ever since. Even sadder is that, in the Japanese version, Soul of Sectonia's description reveals that she truly regrets all she's done.
    • President Max Profitt Haltmann is a dirty businessman who attempts to take over Planet Popstar for its resources. However, if you look up Haltmann 2.0's description in Meta Knighmare Returns, you find out that he was quite the researcher back in his hayday. In fact, he was a family-man as well, as he had a daughter. Then it's found out said daughter vanished in an accident involving the Big Bad, Star Dream. Haltmann became desperate, and became a cold man. This is worsened when he's absorbed into Star Dream. To Kick the Dog even further, said daughter is working for him, and backstabbed him just before the final battle.
  • Splatoon: Over the course of the first game, you can find documents called Sunken Scrolls that detail the history and culture of the Inklings, the anthropomorphized squid creatures that serve as the playable characters. Some of the documents, however, reveal that the series takes place After the End. Global warming caused the ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise, driving humans and all other mammals to extinction. Afterwards, sea life evolved to the point where it started walking on land and became sapient, beginning civilization anew. This goes on to become a major plot point in following installments, with the exact details being expanded upon in the process.
  • Pikmin has Word of God stating that the Pikmin planet of the main games, PNF-404, is the planet Earth hundreds of millions of years in the future, after the extinction of most current species.
  • Pretty much the entire point of the minimalist storytelling method used in Dark Souls. In the main game it's always clear you've arrived a long time after the party finished, draping everything in a serene, slightly melancholy atmosphere that only serves to make the backstory more impactful as you slowly piece things together from their remains.
  • In Bug Fables, the Day of Awakening that made bugs sentient is heavily implied to be the day of reckoning for the Giants who all mysteriously disappeared without any trace. The final lore book implies that they were driven to extinction in the cataclysmic war or they left the planet to live in the stars, but, either way, the things that live in the Giant's Lair are definitely non-human in the nature, which implies something went very, very wrong with their world.
  • The Monster Hunter series has a historical backstory of dubious canonicity told in companion books. The Ancient Civilization was an extremely advanced society which kept Elder Dragons as slaves and would even slaughter them by the hundreds to build towers from their materials. Eventually they committed the Forbidden Act: The sacrifice of hundreds of dragons to create a new lifeform, the Equal Dragon Weapon. In response, Elder Dragons rose up and fought the Ancients in a war which left both sides nearly extinct. The Hunters are descendants of supersoldiers created to fight during the war while Elder Dragons still hate humanity for their ancestors' actions.
  • Skimming through unit bios in Tooth and Tail reveals some horrifying stuff. The Matriark is a mob boss of sorts who eats those unloyal to her, and somehow regurgitates the repentful to fight for her one last time. Uncle Butter was a chef before the war, and puts his skills to use flame-grilling those who oppose him. Morning Light Croakers are said to explicitly turn against their beliefs and succumb to fear in the last seconds before their suicide bombs go off. Those medicine packets the Volunteers drop are pigeon poop.

  • Grace in El Goonish Shive is a Keet squirrel-girl who was created to be a Super-Soldier, but grew up under extra-horrifying conditions after most of the scientists involved in her creation were slaughtered by Damien, a chimera bent on world domination who planned to use Grace for breeding purposes. Hugs?
  • Asia Ellis' backstory in morphE. Nowhere in the main comic has the subject of this segment of her personal Ask Blog come up. Those who don't follow it would have no idea to the extent of her troubled past.
  • In When Heaven Spits You Out, graphic details of Ryan's abuse at the hands of his father are shown through a flashback.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Word of God is that Ooo is After the End, a combination of the "Mushroom War" and the return of magic killing all humans (except for Finn) and transforming the planet into the weird, wondrous and dangerous place it is now. The show itself heavily implies this through numerous background details and references, until the fifth season premiere "Finn the Human"/"Jake The Dog" finally confirms it, shown in all its gory glory.
    • The Ice King is a humorous Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, with one of the most tragic, terrifying cases of Loss of Identity as his origin story. "I Remember You" plays this for all its worth, contrasting his dark backstory with the incompetent clown he has become for full Tear Jerker effect.
    • Marceline is a "radical dame who likes to play games" and a good contender for having the worst life out of anyone in the show. This includes a monster (literally) of an inattentive father, a Missing Mom, living through the aftermath of the aforementioned Mushroom War as a child, losing the Parental Substitute that got her through part of it, being abused by a boyfriend, and spending 1000 years with almost no friends until Finn came along. On top of that, she had a violent falling out with her ex-girlfriend, though the series thankfully ends with them on good terms and rekindling their relationship.
  • The Animated Adaptation of ALF is based on Gordon Shumway's life on Melmac. Which exploded. Which means most everybody we see on that show died - including Alf's family. All those wacky surreal adventures ended with a light in the sky. Word of God has three of the supporting characters from that show survive, and the premise allows for others. But at least a good portion of them met their fate before the Tanners even found Alf.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The ponies have been on the brink of extinction on numerous occasions. Equestria only exists in the first place because a horde of monsters that feed on hatred and cause fierce blizzards devastated the ponies' original home, and almost froze their new home after they followed the ponies. Then Discord arrived to cause an "eternal state of unrest and unhappiness", which only stopped when the princesses arrived to lay the smack down. Then one of said princesses went mad with jealousy and almost froze Equestria again by trying to enact The Night That Never Ends. Most of this is used to show how The Power of Friendship can triumph over anything, but it's rather jarring to consider how many potential apocalypses the ponies have narrowly avoided.
    • This series gets a double-dose of this in the Season 5 Finale, particularly in the Sombra Takeover timeline where it implies some serious crap has gone down in the span between Sombra's awakening and Twilight's arrival in the new "present". Firstly we only see Princess Celestia in this timeline, and considering that Princess Cadance and Shining Armor were in the now conquered Crystal Empire when Sombra escaped it's likely they (and possibly Princess Luna as well) have all been killed. Another blink-and-you'll-miss-it flashback when Applejack is describing the war effort shows a filly amongst the lineup of ponies going to fight in the war. The implications are deeply disturbing.
  • Steven Universe:
    • The show is mostly about Steven going on fun adventures with his magical alien guardians. We soon learn that two of those are the last survivors of an army that rebelled against their homeworld, their allies either shattered or corrupted into the monsters they spend most of the show fighting. And who arrived on Earth in the first place because they were part of an invasion force that planned to devastate Earth in the process of creating new gem armies. The third and youngest of his guardians, Amethyst, is one of the products of this.
    • In fact Amethyst suffers from deep-seated self-hatred and insecurity due to her creation, which she usually hides behind her facade of a mischievous older-sister type. She hates that her birth was part of a practice that would have destroyed the planet Earth, and learning that she wasn't even made properly makes her doubt her own abilities constantly.
    • Pearl's tendency to obsess over minute details, keep things clean, a near-pathalogical devotion to keeping Steven safe, and dislike for his father Greg are played for laughs and she seems like the stereotypical overprotective mom. After many hints, it's revealed she was made as a member of a Servant Race; Pearls are the Gem equivalent of a Beautiful Slave Girl: pretty, attractive objects that indicate a higher Gem's status and are made to follow orders without question. During the Rebellion, she met Rose Quartz, who convinced her she could become her own Gem, and transferred her obsessive devotion to the only person to ever show her kindness. Pearl pointlessly sacrificed herself constantly in battle if it meant there was a chance to keep Rose safe. And thousands of years after the war, she had to see a human man walk into her life and romance her love away from her, and said love later deciding she wanted to become human, effectively killing herself to reincarnate as her half-Gem son Steven. Pearl's still trying to work through her complicated emotional baggage, especially because "A Single Pale Rose" reveals one of Pearl's biggest secrets: Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond, her former master who lead a double-life as both the tyrant who was supposed to colonize Earth and the rebel leader, and Pearl was sworn to secrecy after helping Pink fake her death.
    • While not as traumatic, Garnet didn't have it easy during the war either. Technically. She's the fusion of two other Gems, Ruby and Sapphire. As Ruby, she was one of many disposable soldiers sent to bodyguard the high-ranking Sapphire, a member of Blue Diamond's court. When Sapphire used her future vision powers to predict the outcome of the war where the rebels would be captured and this did not come to pass, Blue Diamond was furious. What's more, part of this divergence was because Ruby refused to let Sapphire be "poofed"note , leading to the two fusing during a moment of shared protection. Blue Diamond ordered Ruby to be shattered for her actions, to which Sapphire spirited her away, fleeing the Homeworld's base and eventually carving a shared identity as Garnet on the side of the Crystal Gems.
  • Bottersnikes and Gumbles is a very lighthearted show of which the primary drive is comedy and silliness. One of the main characters, however, has a bit of a... questionably bleak backstory. Namely, one of the Gumbles - Toot to be exact - is revealed to once have been swallowed by the Bottersnike King before managing to escape alive (by using the "less clean" way to do so), but not without becoming horribly traumatized in the process and earning himself a paralyzing fear of Bottersnikes that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Although Getting Eaten Is Harmless came into play that time, a couple of episodes suggest that dying this way is a possibility, meaning that Toot's life was in danger despite the show rarely (if ever) portraying characters at risk of perishing. Then there's the official website that hosts lore from the show, and in Toot's biography detailing his story, they also make it clear that this is why he can only say "toot".
  • Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is generally a lighthearted kids' show full of silly villains, Toilet Humour, and not taking itself seriously, but the backstory is ridiculously dark—the main villain, General Betrayus, started a world war between ghosts and Pac-Worlders, and the Pacinator committed genocide on all the yellow Pac-Worlders except for Pac himself.
  • Trollz had the main villain, Simon, wipe out the old Trollzopolis 3000 years before the series began, forever changing the Trollz' way of life by turning most of the good magic evil and minimizing the rest, and according to the website he almost destroyed the planet by unleashing Black Amber.


Video Example(s):


The Final War

Monol relays to the Searchers how the ancient Pangeans became savage, leading to a war that lasted for unknown centuries, to the point that nobody even remembered WHY they were fighting.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / ForeverWar

Media sources: