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"The Reapers are cunning in their deception. Allowing life to flourish, century upon century, letting us believe ourselves the masters of the cosmos...Then the truth becomes known: there are monsters hiding in the dark spaces. And we are their prey."
Javik, Mass Effect 3
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The plot that seemed to be going has been abruptly overshadowed by the revelation that the setting you thought you were reading about is merely an infinitesimal fraction of a universe that actually teems with overwhelming otherworldly menace.

The threat this reveals is likely to virtually overshadow all the more mundane players you already knew about; at the very least, it substantially alters both the reader's and the characters' understanding of their world. The rebellious factions in The Federation are actually being controlled by an unusual artifact, just shipped back from recent excavations in a fringe system. The Corrupt Corporate Executive and Professional Killer are its cultists. The Evil Overlord you just defeated was the Cosmic Keystone keeping it out, or the whole point of his brutal tyranny was to harden everyone for the terrors to come, or his Evil Plan was to unleash the Sealed Evil in a Can, or he himself is the eldritch horror. The reveal of the Cosmic Horror angle may be accompanied by The End of the World as We Know It, or a revelation that the story is truly getting started.

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The plot probably didn't completely Genre Shift into Cosmic Horror Story, but at the very least, it just received a very noticeable transfusion — it could almost be seen as the Cosmic Horror Story genre itself invading the more traditional settings we know, parasitising them, and altering their realities to one that suits it better.

This can be either a very cheap or very shocking way for things to get worse.

Subtrope of Outside-Context Problem, and sometimes The Man Behind the Man. Compare Genre Shift, Genre Blending, and Going Cosmic. Contrast Giant Space Flea from Nowhere and Diabolus ex Nihilo, wherein the unexpected threat is not necessarily a thing from beyond, and whatever it is is completely unrelated to the extended plot. Can be Lovecraft Lite when the Cosmic Horror reveal is basically similar to a new narrative boss fight or background detail rather than a major revelation.

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Note: This is a Spoilered Rotten trope, which means that EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE on this list is a spoiler by default and most of them will be unmarked. This is your last warning; only proceed if you really believe you can handle this list.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk is a subversion. It starts off being very upfront about the Cosmic Horror elements with Guts' battles against the Baron and the Count, and depicting how the Mark of Sacrifice has made his life a living hell. Then, the story flashes back to the Golden Age arc, which largely focuses on courtly intrigue and battles between medieval armies...up until the Eclipse.
  • Dragon Ball is ultimately this. It starts out whimsical, and by the time Z rolls out, they're punching out ever more powerful enemies. But no problem, the heroes still win, right? But come Dragon Ball Super and it drops straight into this trope, where it's revealed that there are bonafide gods, more powerful gods, even more powerful gods, and so on, until Zeno himself, the single most powerful entity in the series. Every other god shakes in fear at Zeno's presence, his whims are law, and if he wants a multiversal fighting tournament, you'd better provide a multiversal fighting tournament... and if you do something to displease him, you can/will be erased from existence. Goku himself is too pure-hearted to let Zeno's status get to him, which thankfully amuses Zeno who would rather be friends.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has a slow yet eerily casual start — our two heroes wrestle with the military authority they work under and with assorted villains of the smaller kind on their quest to find a way to heal themselves... and then it kicks off. It's not just about all characters in the story, the nation, the conspiracy or even the God of their world — it's about the very concept the story is based on, Equivalent Exchange. All people are a part of the plot, and it has been going on over hundreds of years, and is dominated by a near Semi-Divine Humanoid Abomination. The Elrics have their work cut out for them.
  • With the introduction of Advanced Ancient Acropolis and Sentient Cosmic Force, Helck stops being a normal fantasy story and it becomes clear that the ongoing conflict is a part of a very large picture.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, an interesting variation is The Reveal that the human-inhabited world we'd seen so far (which seems the size of our own, with continents of similar shape and size), which already has copious amounts of incredibly dangerous locations and species (for example, Swindler's Swamp, where the whole ecosystem is geared towards attracting, entrapping and feeding on humans) is only a tiny fraction of the whole planet, and that what little information there is about the rest of the world (called the Dark Continent) paints it as a horrific Death World of incomprehensibly dangerous horrors that dwarf any threat encountered so far by the Shonen protagonists. As a point of comparison, the Chimera Ants, the most powerful menace in the series previously, which were an existential threat to humanity in a world where the potential to be a Person of Mass Destruction is relatively common, are considered the least dangerous of the known species originating from the Dark Continent, and the survival rate of expeditions there, which tend to be extremely well-organized and funded and include many said powerful individuals, is about 1 in every 2500 people. It's rather obvious that humanity survived this long only because the menaces from the Dark Continent barely pay attention to it for some reason.
  • Digimon Tamers: The D-Reaper. Although the numerous Shout Outs to the Cthulhu Mythos may have served as foreshadowing to savvy viewers.
  • Kill la Kill starts off with Ryuko Matoi fighting the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, led by the dictatorial Satsuki Kiryuin. It turns out that Satsuki was trying to rebel against her mother Ragyo, the Life Fibers that make up the clothing that give people superpowers are actually alien parasites that have shaped the course of human evolution, and Ragyo wants to accelerate their ultimate goal: consume every human on Earth and use their energy to explode the planet, sending new Life Fibers hurtling towards other worlds.
  • Psyren starts as a story focused on psychic powers and time travel, with the heroes trying to figure out the mystery behind the titular Psyren. The first hint comes later on, when we learn that the mysterious asteroid Ouroborus, (who will fall in Hokkaido between the present and the future world of Psyren, causing the dreadful state of the world) is apparenly sending messages to the planet and moves erratically through space. Finally confirmed for good by the true villain, Mithra, who reveals that Ouroborus was actually the shell for a planet-eating Eldritch Abomination called "Quat Nevas", who took advantage of Amagi Miroku's life-manipulating Psi-Power to gather enough energy to revive itself and consume the planet.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: It starts as a typical Magical Girl anime, though with a particularly trippy version of The Heartless. About halfway through the series, it's shown that the Weasel Mascot Kyubey is ripping out people's souls in exchange for wishes. The trope comes in when it's revealed that Kyubey isn't a demon like you'd expect. He's actually closer to an Eldritch Abomination who actually cares very little for mankind and Earth and follows his own Blue-and-Orange Morality and his own goals. Those goals consist of pushing magical girls past the Despair Event Horizon until they become Witches, then using other magical girls to kill them and extract their energy to harvest. Lather, rinse, repeat. Kyubey claims the energy is necessary to stave off the Heat Death of the Universe and that his kind has been doing this since humanity lived in caves. Since they're the ones who allowed us to become an advanced species and it's a part of a plan to save the universe, he sees the deaths of countless girls as a fair exchange.
    • Oh, and the events of the anime are only the latest in a long series of time loops that Homura has been going through to try and save everyone, only for things to always end in tragedy. Every one of them seems to end worse than the last, with Madoka either dying or becoming the most powerful Witch of all time.
  • Towards the end of Romeo X Juliet, it becomes clear that the true cause of events isn't the murderous Lord Montague, who is slowly descending into cackling, city-burning madness, but rather Ophelia and the death of the Great Tree Escalus, which is what's holding Neo Verona in the sky: the earthquakes that become much more frequent and ruinous towards the series' climax are the result of Escalus slowly perishing because Ophelia is being deprived of sacrifices, which Montague has been trying to fix.
  • The first half of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is spent defeating Lordgenome the Spiral King, only to reveal in the second part that he was protecting humanity from being wiped out by the eldritch Anti-Spiral, and in the epilogue, the earthlings are shown heading out to face the even more eldritch Spiral Nemesis.
  • Toriko has a reveal very similar to the Hunter × Hunter example above - the world is split into two parts, the comparatively tiny Human World where people live but is still full of extremely deadly biomes and fauna, and the massive Gourmet World, full of monsters and hazards that make those found in the Human World look like an appetizer. Toriko takes one step in and is practically torn to shreds in minutes. On top of that, Coco theorizes the Gourmet World was formed by a meteor from another dimension colliding with Earth, expanding mass around it and corrupting the ecology. Not to mention a race of interdimensional aliens using the planet as a prison for a nigh-unstoppable and extremely hungry monster they were using to sweep other dimensions clean.

    Comic Books 
  • In American Vampire the conflict between Vampires and Vassals of the Morningstar and the Cold War both become overshadowed by reveal of an Outside-Context Problem in form of the Gray Trader's true master, the Beast, an ancient Eldritch Abomination beyond human or vampire understanding that the Vassals were originally founded to defeat but after spending centuries fighting an all-out war with Carpathian Vampires, they've completely forgotten the means to stop it.
  • A particularly bizarre Disney comic ("The Call of C'Russo") that is a parody of the Lovecraft mythos involves Donald Duck winning in a singing contest before it's revealed that he's actually been recruited to wake up an Eldritch Abomination with his voice. The world disappears because it only exists when the monster is dreaming about it, and Donald and his nephews grow octopoid arms and legs as reality is reshaped in its image.
  • The miniseries Memetic starts as seemingly a down-to-earth Zombie Apocalypse tale about an internet meme that causes anyone who sees it to experience a hit of euphoria and a desperate urge to share it with the world. However, 12 hours after one is exposed to it, they start bleeding from the eyes and screaming uncontrollably. The "screamers" will attack anyone not in a similar state and continue their frenzied attempts to expose people to the meme, even after a global internet blackout. Further, once enough screamers gather in one place, their screams combine to create music that is the audio version of the meme, so even blind people are no longer immune. In the final chapter, the screamers go eerily silent and begin gathering in groups of millions in major cities. They start forming spires of human bodies taller than skyscrapers, their flesh melting and fusing as they do so. The artist who created the meme reveals that he was commanded to do so by telepathic voices in his head before killing himself. Even Aaron, the protagonist, who is color-blind and partially deaf and thus one of the few people completely immune to the meme, willingly fuses with the mass, as he'd rather fit in and join the rest of humanity than be left all alone. It's only on the last page that the reader finally sees what the point of this all is — hundreds of giant creatures appear from space to harvest the spires, with the heavy implication that this was the entire point of the human race's existence — to feed these creatures when the time came.
  • The Ultimates (2015): Initially, the series is about a team dealing with high concepts. Come issue 5, they encounter the Anti-Man, who reveals all existence has been encaged by something, only identified as "the One Who is One", capable of imprisoning the living personification of Eternity. Once the second series starts, the cosmic horror starts ramping up further, as it starts directly attacking existence itself.

    Fanfiction 
  • The Games We Play: The Grimm are revealed to be the creations and minions of a godlike entity who has taken an interest in Jaune. And then Jaune, or rather his soul, is revealed to be a brother-of-sorts to said entity and probably the only one who can stop him.
  • Belated Battleships starts, like most KanColle fanfic, as a story about magical anthropomorphised warships defending mankind from demon ships bent on killing us all. It turns out that there are higher powers orchestrating the whole thing for reasons we can only guess at.
  • Pacific: World War II U.S. Navy Shipgirls: The more is revealed about the local version of the Abyssals, the more it looks like this universe is going down this path. Abyssals are otherworldly beings, alien in appearance and mindset, so wrong they drive normal humans insane from being nearby, so powerful that lone scouts cut through conventional navies with ease, and yet these are but a tiny part of a giant conquering war machine that has already crushed who knows how many other worlds, including some with their own shipgirls, before.
  • Star Wars: Paranormalities: In the first few chapters of Episode I, the Valkoran seem to just be a terrorist organization reminiscent of the many Sith Empires intent on toppling the Galactic Alliance. While there are a few signs throughout these chapters that not everything is as it seems, it's revealed in Chapter 6 that the Valkoran Empire are really a cult for an extragalactic group known as the Forceless Collective, an army of body-possessing beings that somehow defy the Jedi's understanding of the Force by being completely devoid of it, and what Jedi sense from them feels off compared to even the Dark Side. Episode II would reveal that the Forceless symbiotes aren't strictly a species from another galaxy, but a recurring anomaly born from wounds in the Force, and given that the Star Wars galaxy has had many mass-death disasters throughout its history, there are many more symbiotes that have been born in that galaxy. What keeps it from going into full-blown Cosmic Horror Story is that Zolph and the Jedi give these other symbiotes the benefit of the doubt and presume they are innocent until proven otherwise, with Valkor's Collective being the most immediately threatening to the galaxy at the moment.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Cabin in the Woods begins as a run-off-the-mill horror/slasher story which is revealed as a setup to please the Old Gods slumbering below us.
  • The Midnight Meat Train begins as a Slasher-esque story about a musclebound maniac who murders people on a midnight subway train. The protagonist eventually defeats him, only to discover that the killer was part of a city-wide conspiracy to deliver human sacrifices to the indescribable terrors that live underground. He's forced to become the new Butcher and continue the cycle.
  • Necronomicon: Not unexpected for a film loosely based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, but one of the segments starts out as an urban crime story with a cop in pursuit of a Serial Killer who hides out in the sewers to save her kidnapped partner. Then she's dumped inside an ancient cavern and it's revealed to all be an elaborate trap by two giant alien bats disguised as humans, and she's impregnated with their kin.
  • Underwater at first seems just about surviving in and then leaving the abyssal zone. And then some monsters appear... and ultimately their humongous patriarch, which the director has stated to be Cthulhu himself.

    Literature 
  • In both The Angaran Chronicles novellas The Ritual and A False Legacy are revealed to be around this The Ritual with the mysterious, huge, eldritch abomination, Chos'Choloth living in 'the red sea' and the cult which worships it shown from Alathis' memories and his visions within the titular Ritual. And A False Legacy with The Obelisk which mind controls the town Arken is investigating and the mysterious Hunter Garron who erases Arken's memory and replaces it with others to keep the Obelisk a secret.
  • The Brightest Shadow: The series is about a horrifying system of morality being right on a fundamental level of reality. The Hero's actions appear to be backed up by the world itself, leading to a twisted version of Right Makes Might. Killing the Hero is irrelevant, because reality will simply create another one.
  • Halo: Silentium solidifies the story of the Halo series as a Cosmic Horror Story with what the Precursors really are. Let alone the fact that they are older than the universe and are implied to have created it. Not to mention that they became the Flood.
  • The Horus Heresy series is all about the secular Imperium of Mankind's discovery of the Gods of Chaos and the devastating civil war that ensues, as a prologue to the Crapsack World that is Warhammer 40,000.
  • Journey to Chaos starts out with Eric being tossed through dimensions by a trickster god to grow a spine and provide amusement. Then it turns out that said trickster god is molding him through his adventures into a vessel for its mother, Lady Chaos, so that she may better wage war against another one of The Powers That Be, Order. This shifts the focus of the story away from worldly mercenary missions and towards more philosophical confrontations and stabbing the other guy's clerics, along with bouts of Willing Channeler that have a possibility of damaging reality.
  • In the original story of The Midnight Meat Train, if the whole "killing humans to be fed to deformed humans underground that are the true fathers of the city" shtick isn't bad enough, well, it's all for immortality granted by pleasing an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. The protagonists spend book one struggling to overthrow the Evil Overlord, only to slowly realize over the course of book two that said Evil Overlord had been holding back a nasty Eldritch Abomination from destroying the world.
  • In The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin, the true scope of a greater, cosmic war is revealed as soon as the real villain shows up, and reality starts disintegrating.
  • The final novel of The Spirit Thief drops the bombshell revealing that the world in which the entire series has taken place is a tiny remnant of a much larger universe, and this remnant is surrounded by thousands of hungry, starving demons trying to break in and eat everything. The plot then shifts to the heroes trying to prevent the barrier between the remnant and the great nothingness from breaking.
  • The first three books of Venus Prime are about a young female detective who solves mysteries in space while trying to discover The Conspiracy that caused her to lose three years' worth of memories. In the fourth book, she pretty much wipes out the conspiracy. And then, suddenly, the Starfish Aliens start to show up, and the rest of the series is about her and her allies trying to prevent one faction of the aliens from attempting to re-write history so that Earth becomes more like their homeworld — which would make it uninhabitable to humans.
  • In Sophie's World, the cosmic horror is revealed to be the author of the story - which is revealed to be a framed story in the novel as whole.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Gaim starts off fairly light-hearted, centering on street-dancing teenagers who've recently gotten into a Mons-like battle game to settle disputes; even when the titular armored heroes are introduced, it's generally Played for Laughs because they're literally fruit samurai. And then we learn that the Mons come from another realm dominated by Alien Kudzu that's devoured entire civilizations in the past...and Earth is its next target. The guy who looked like the Big Bad is actually trying to save humanity, there are intelligent beings ruling the Forest (who generally want to destroy Earth), and in the end the hero has to give up his humanity and become one of the monsters in order to protect the people he cares about. Of course, considering the series was helmed by Gen Urobuchi (see Puella Magi Madoka Magica above), plenty of fans were expecting a twist like this from the very beginning.
    • At the start of Kamen Rider Build, the plot seems to be about trying to stop an evil syndicate in a Balkanized Japan following an apocalyptic disaster. While definitely a sci-fi story, the villains are humans doing rotten things who create monsters with experiments, and even the second arc is a War Arc with the same base ideas... and then it's revealed that everything is being orchestrated by a planet destroying Ancient Evil spirit accidentally released from the last planet he destroyed predating life on Earth who's been possessing the astronaut who unearthed him since then. And the planet in question? None other than Mars.
  • Raised by Wolves (2020): Voices and visions are appearing to Caleb, Paul and Campion. Humans are devolving. Mother (an android) becomes pregnant with a flying snake parasite. Something seriously wrong is happening on Kepler-22b.
  • Star Trek: Picard reveals that behind the Standard Sci Fi Setting lurks an alliance of Mechanical Abominations ready to wipe out all organic life if summoned.

    Music 
  • The Mechanisms' concept album "The Bifrost Incident" initially appears to be Norse Mythology Recycled IN SPACE!, with an investigator trying to figure out who sabotaged The Ratatosk Express. The Bifrost wormhole the train went through is a gateway to Yog-Sothoth's realm, and the sabotage was a last-ditch effort to stop it breaking through.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the Eldrazi pull this in both the Zendikar block and the Shadows over Innistrad block. In Zendikar, most of the focus is on the "adventure world" with Dungeons & Dragons-style adventurers, until the Eldrazi are unleashed at the end of the second set and things get messy from there. In Shadows, the Gothic Horror plane is dealing with an epidemic of madness and mutation, and even most of the angels have fallen into darkness; "Eldritch Moon" has Emrakul, the last of the Eldrazi Titans, turn up, weld the angels together, and everything goes to hell.
  • A well-known contentious point among RPG fanbase is handling this trope in regards to various games inspired by Cthulhu Mythos. The idea of running a game of Cyberpunk only to suddenly confront the players with something eldritch and switch to GURPS spinoff Cthulhupunk, or a game of Top Secret where covert ops take an unexpected turn after which player characters are reassigned to Delta Green, are, depending on who you ask, either the best ways to introduce the players to these games in an immersive "fish out of water" way or the betrayal of trust that will likely turn them away from ever playing with you again.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed is a perfectly normal game about an evil organization forcing the PC to relive the genetic memories of his ancestors, tied in to an ancient-evil-conspiracy plot. After Assassin's Creed II, suddenly, Abusive Precursors arrive and the world's about to be destroyed by some sort of horrible thing. However, this is subverted: the Precursors are simply human-like animals with more senses, longer lives, and better tech. The world-ending threat is not some inscrutable alien intelligence, but a mundane solar flare. Then it is double-subverted. Juno, one of the Precursors, has transcended physical existence and successfully manipulates generations of humans to free herself. She can possess humans and drive them mad. She also has a cult dedicated to her. Origins takes it deeper, with the strong implication that Precursor technology may be advanced enough to alter the fabric of reality.
  • At first the main campaign of Azur Lane just looks like a Cute 'em Up retelling of the Pacific Theatre of World War II, but the event stories quickly turn this way. Mankind is but a gnat against the threats it's facing. It was getting soundly beaten by the Sirens prior to their leaking access to Wisdom Cube technology, with the strongest Sirens being in-story fleet or country killers, and even then every victory is for naught because the Sirens can just discard the timeline while keeping what they've learnt. Communications from the Sirens are arrogant and mocking at best, enigmatic and inscrutable at worst. Yet despite all these advantages, Siren perspectives imply there's something out there even they can't beat, hence all this tomfoolery to both improve themselves and force mankind to accelerate its technological development rather than simply crushing mankind like a bug.
  • Bloodborne starts off steeped in straightforward Gothic Horror: You're a Hunter somehow implicitly empowered by the moon, trapped in a Victorian Gothic city obsessed with blood, fighting a lycanthropy plague, plus various other stock Gothic monsters like Frankenstein-esque mad science experiments, witches, werebeasts, and vampires. Then it turns out the city is made up of conflicting bands of cultists in contact with ancient, powerful alien entities whom they regard as gods. And the blood they're obsessed with is the nearest thing to a physical form one of those gods has. And the plague may well be somehow caused by the gods' attempt to spawn a half-human child. And you're probably actually trapped in another dimension dreamed into existence by those gods for the purpose of cradling that child. And the moon that empowers you is actually another Eldritch Abomination with which a contract was made to give humanity a fighting chance against the gods. And so on.
  • Borderlands tried to pull this by dropping the main characters into a fight with an Eldritch Abomination. It didn't go over well, and the sequel and interquel proved willing to reference the event (often sarcastically) but focused back on the human dimension, with the Big Bad of Borderlands 2 being a perfectly mundane if staggeringly assholish humannote , and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! being more about his rise to power than anything else. Borderlands 3 is something of a darker take on Lovecraft Lite, as there is a new Siren who can eat the remaining Eldritch Abominations right after they escape, but is also a sadistic cult leader with dreams of godhood.
    • And then 3's second DLC campaign, Guns, Love, and Tentacles: The Marriage of Wainwright & Hammerlock, turns up the Lovecraftian elements with a dead vault monster so vast its corpse is visible from miles away, robe-wearing cultists who worship it, villagers suffering from madness and curses, an occult detective who has lost his mind from exposure to too much horror, and of course, people sprouting tentacles.
  • Bravely Default is steeped in traditional fantasy tropes for most of the game, until the Greater-Scope Villain Ouroboros is revealed to be a world-devouring entity from beyond the cosmos.
  • Chrono Trigger's plot originally concerns itself with accidental Time Travel and the possible problems thereof, but then quickly morphs into trying to stop an Evil Sorcerer from summoning a world-destroying Eldritch Abomination, only to find out The Reveal that the sorcerer was actually trying to destroy the abomination, which is much older and much more powerful than anyone anticipated and has been manipulating the course of evolution for its benefit for over 65 million years.
  • A sci-fi example is found in Crysis 3. Throughout the series, it's hinted that the Ceph, the aliens that humanity is in conflict with, aren't truly invading the planet. Rather than an army, they're compared to a tribe of cavemen with clubs or even simple automated tools designed to harvest or clean up the Earth, mopping the floor with most forces sent against them despite lacking any real intelligence or tactics. Fighting them is akin to an ant fighting a set of rusty hedge-clippers or a Roomba. Indeed, the third game reveals that the true Ceph are over half a billion years old and have colonized millions of planets across multiple spiral arms of the Milky Way alone, with technology so far beyond humanity that they might as well be thought of as gods. Appropriately enough, when the Ceph send one of their ships through a wormhole from the M33 galaxy, it looks like a massive, mechanical Cthulhu-eqsue monster bigger than the moon. One shot is all it needs to wipe out humanity. And even though Prophet is able to destroy it, what it really amounts to is a single gardener dying in a 'freak accident.' It's made clear many times that any victory humanity has against them is because the Ceph hardly notice or care that we even exist. We're not an opposing force to them, we're pests in an old family house they can barely be bothered to deal with.
  • The Chzo Mythos does this at the midway point: The first two games were standard Slasher Movie stories focusing on a wooden idol containing the soul of a Jason Voorhees Expy who would possess anyone that touched the idol with their bare hands and go on a rampage. Then the third game introduced Chzo, an Eldritch Abomination from Another Dimension and the elemental god of pain, as well as his Dragon, who is revealed to have been the one who bound the aforementioned Jason expy's soul to the idol in the first place. The fourth game then introduced an entire cult devoted to Chzo. Apparently this can all be chalked up to Yahtzee making up the story as he went along.
  • Downplayed in Disco Elysium. For the most part, the game is coy, with many surreal Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane elements. Even if these are treated as magic, the game remains comfortably in Magic Realism. Then there's what Joyce reveals about the Pale, and what the player character discovers in the Church. Neither impacts the main plot directly, but the long-term implications are very, very bad for humanity, and both are unambiguously and powerfully supernatural.
  • In Discworld Noir, the first part of the game seems like a normal mystery story, with a detective, a murder, suspects... The final part, however, involves a plan to release an Eldritch Abomination, and once it's released, finding a way to kill it.
  • Earthbound tells you vaguely about the evil alien leader Giygas throughout, but it takes the entire game to find out that he's a galaxy-spanning elder god in the vein of Azathoth. Notably, he wasn’t this in the original game, but became this upon losing his sanity after his defeat.
  • Elden Ring begins like a classic High Fantasy (mixed with Miyazaki's usual Dark Fantasy elements) story about gods, demigods, great wars, magic and dragons. For most of the game, you're led to believe that the humanoid Marika is the Top God of the setting, with the vague mention of an abstract "Greater Will" possibly above even her, and 'only' the occasional Fantasy Aliens stated to have come from a meteor, like the Alabaster Lords and the Fallingstar Beasts to make you start suspecting something is off. As the game goes on and as hints start to pile up both in the events of the game and the item descriptions it starts to become apperent that there are actually multiple cosmic entities called Outer Gods, above Marika and equal to the Greater Will, all of which have had a massive influence on the world: The strange, incurable Scarlet Rot that covered Caelid? The influence of an Outer God. The mysterious and powerful 'Rune of Death'? The power of another Outer God. The insanity-inducing Frenzied Flame? A VERY malevolent Outer God. It comes to the point that you realize that most, if not all, schools of magic in the setting have their roots in one of the various Outer Gods. None of these beings ever enter the foreground, appear, or communicate directly, but the sheer knowledge of their existance makes the Demigods you're hunting down all game feel positively tiny in comparison.
  • Final Fantasy XIV plays out like your standard fantasy story of heroes embarking on quests to save the realm, but Endwalker throws a massive curveball with the Final Days, and the source of the coming apocalypse: Meteion, an empathetic familiar created by an Ancient scientist, was created, along with her identical sisters, to search the cosmos for life. What they found was only civilizations either in decline or already destroyed, leading to the conclusion that life is meaningless and that the merciful thing to do would be to give everyone, everywhere, oblivion. To that end, they built a "nest" on a dead sun at the farthest reaches of the universe and used their empathic powers to orchestrate the Final Days. While it ends up being Lovecraft Lite as the Warrior of Light ultimately defeats Meteion and ends the Final Days, the nature of the universe that drove her mad still exists, and it is unknown how many planets remain in the universe besides the Warrior of Light's homeworld that still contain life.
  • Most of the plot for Freelancer is fairly mundane in nature. Although a conspiracy about alien artefacts is present, much of the plot focuses on political intrigue and the criminal world note . The reveal of who are behind the conspiracy, however, kicks this trope into gear. Afterwards, the story becomes entirely focused on the Nomads, the Dom'Kovash that created them and the Eldritch Location they reside in, including a Dyson Sphere that seems utterly incomprehensibly huge compared to everything else the player encountered up until that point.
  • Halo:
    • Halo 2 revealed that the Flood aren't just semi-sapient zombies, but are being controlled by their Gravemind, aka when a Body Horror Zombie Apocalypse acquires sentience and becomes a hyper-intelligent Eldritch Abomination Hive Mind, putting them into a good position to overrun their local galaxy and begins spreading to others nearby. The Gravemind is also able to do things like make Cortana, an AI, feel real pain, all without having to use a computer itself.
    • In the original Halo: Combat Evolved, the appearance of Flood themselves shifted the focus from a war with Scary Dogmatic Aliens to something more akin to Survival Horror. We also find out that they're the ones responsible for the disappearance of the Forerunners 100,000 years ago.
    • As noted in "Literature", Halo: Silentium reveals that the Flood are merely the current form of a race of Eldritch Abominations older than the universe itself.
  • The Kirby series did this with Kirby's Adventure, which seemed to be a similarly cutesy followup to Kirby's Dream Land... right up until it's revealed the Star Rod you were reassembling was actually the only keeping the Nightmare Wizard, a living personification of Nightmares, trapped in the Fountain of Dreams (which was King Dedede's true goal this entire time). Notably, ever since that game, the Kirby franchise has had an Eldritch Abomination as the final boss, usually (but not always) as a plot twist, whereas King Dedede only remains a central antagonist in spinoffs and even there, it's more about Dedede trying to settle his grudge with Kirby.
  • Halo owes this theme to its spiritual predecessor, Marathon. The game starts as a fairly straightforward alien conflict aside from a few esoteric themes. The first two games have you fighting a conventional war against alien slavers. It is hinted that there is some greater chaos towards the end of Marathon 2, but only in the context of what appears to be a mere creation myth on part of the aliens' slaves that misinterpreted a historic alien war that took place on their homeworld as being the work of the gods. Come Marathon Infinity, and the stakes of the first two games become positively trivial as you sacrifice entire timelines in a battle against this all-consuming monstrosity that is heavily implied to be a W'rkn'cacnter, as in Pathways into Darkness.
  • In Mass Effect, you're initially in pursuit of Saren, a secret agent bent on using synthetic organisms to wipe out humanity. Surprise, he's really working for the Reapers, an ancient race of Mechanical Abominations who have wiped out all galactic civilizations several (hundred) times over.
    Sovereign: Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.
  • The first hour of Moons Of Madness is spent running around a Martian colony fixing solar panels and irrigation systems. While the short nightmare sequence that serves as the prologue should be a pretty big clue, the humdrum opening act can make the later plot quite a shock. Then again, in this case the surprise depends on how closely you read the advertising before you started the game, specifically the parts that establish it as being set in the same universe as The Secret World (which is far more up front about it).
  • Not the main plot, but Oracle of Tao has a bounty hunting sidequest that is relatively calm and relaxing, until you get to about the last monster, who turns out to be an Eldritch Abomination. Losing the battle against this last bounty results in a Mind Rape ending. For a Side Quest, this is still pretty heavy... and there are actually a number of these practically immortal destructive beings roaming about.
  • In Persona 2, the real mastermind behind everything that's happening in Sumaru City is Nyarlathotep, an omnipotent god who embodies the dark side of the collective unconscious.
  • In Persona 4, the Investigation Team has finally revealed the identity of the Serial Killer they've been chasing for most of the plot, just in time for the fog from the TV world to become a permanent fixture in the real world and the townspeople to start babbling about the end of days. When the killer is cornered and defeated, a mountain-sized mechanical eyeball emerges from his body and declares its intent to dissolve humanity into Shadows.
  • In Persona 5, it's your Mission Control Igor who turns out to be the God of Control, The Demiurge/Yaldabaoth. Up until this point, the game had been pretty strictly Urban Fantasy.
  • Pokémon Ruby, Pokémon Sapphire, and Pokémon Emerald start off as your standard Pokémon games (battle trainers, catch Pokémon, etc.) until it's revealed Team Aqua and Team Magma want to awaken an ancient god-like Pokémon (Kyogre or Groudon, depending on which version you're playing). As can be expected, it goes far beyond expectations, resulting in either cataclysmic floods or drought that threatens to destroy all life on the planet. Naturally, it's up to the player character to save the world.
    • Cyrus, the Big Bad in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, attempts to destroy and re-create the entire universe as he sees fit. He does this by imprisoning three legendary Pokémon (Azelf, Uxie, and Mesprit) in order to create an object called the "Red Chain" which he then uses to summon Dialga and Palkia (who happen to be the God of Time and God of Space respectively). Cyrus then attempts to use their power to bend reality and reshape the universe in his image. In Pokémon Platinum, this causes Giratina (a ghostly dragon-god living in an alternate dimension) to become enraged and drags Cyrus into its world (a bizarre reality where the laws of physics and so forth are far beyond human understanding. Appropriately, it's called the "Distortion World"). And, once again, it's up to the player to save the day.
    • And then we have the post-game quest in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the Updated Re-release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, mentioned above. The Delta Episode revolves around an asteroid on a collision course with the Hoenn region. Hoenn's Space Center intends to stop it by using some old thing called "Link Cable" to warp it to another dimension, where hopefully it will cause no damage. However, a girl called Zinnia shows up and steals vital parts of the device explicitly to stop the Center from using it. Her reasoning is that the proper way to dispose of the asteroid is by making Rayquaza Mega Evolve and getting him to destroy it, since it's been done successfully in the past. She argues that if the scientists at the center had their way and warped the asteroid, they would save this version of the region, but would very probably send it instead to another iteration of the universe. One she explicitly says would most definitely have another Hoenn in the collision course, one where Mega Evolution never existed and would thus be defenseless against the asteroid. Yes, this is a pretty clear reference to the Hoenn from the original Ruby and Sapphire (Mega Evolution was not introduced until Pokémon X and Y, which came out right before Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire), and has every implication that that world would be destroyed if the Link Cable plan is executed. Long story short: The Pokémon games, as a whole, are very casually confirmed to be set all within the same multiverse. All older games that got updated, newer generation remakes, are now not simply retconned by their remakes, they exist simultaneously as different iterations of the Pokémon multiverse. And there's more: It's funny that the dimension-warping device is called a "Link Cable". Way back in the days before wireless, the only way to play Pokémon with other players was with a wire called Link Cable. Yup, it seems that now, every single copy of any single Pokémon game is, in canon, an iteration of the Pokémon universe. You've been casually leaping between universes to get that one version exclusive you needed to fill your Pokédex and totally own your cousin in a battle all these years.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon begins as another one of those stories with a young person in a new land setting out to become the champion with a villainous team... only it turns out the villainous team is highly ineffectual. Then, things really get down when a wormhole opens up in front of the protagonist, and a horrific extradimensional creature, known as an Ultra Beast, appears from it. Lusamine, the leader of the Aether Foundation, intends to open up more wormholes to bring over more of these Ultra Beasts, which eventually dominates the story. By the time the protagonist becomes the champion, Ultra Beasts are running amok on every island in Alola, and the protagonist is tasked with containing them to prevent their cataclysmic powers from destroying the world. Being the champion of Alola is small beans compared to the threat the region finds itself in.
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield once again starts as a typical adventure, with the protagonist and some rivals competing to become the Pokémon League Champion. Then during the finals, Chairman Rose, in an attempt to solve the region's coming energy crisis, unleashes Eternatus, the being that created Dynamax Energy and caused the Darkest Day. It's so powerful that it could only be taken down by two of the region's strongest trainers (you and your main rival, natch) fighting alongside two Legendary Pokémon. Not to mention it looks like it could be Giratina's skeleton, and its Eternamax form resembles Yami.
  • RuneScape was released in 2001 with a typical medieval fantasy setting, with the gods having left the world thousands of years ago after the God Wars, until 2013, when the gods began to return and reshape the world to their will. References to Elder Gods have been scattered in the game, but it wasn't until 2016 when Jas physically appeared in-game. It was revealed Elder Gods created universes and fed on them to sustain themselves in an Eternal Recurrence and now the current revision of the universe is under the same threat.
  • Senran Kagura primarily revolves around the Forever War between Good Shinobi and Evil Shinobi (titles that really have little to do with morality), where Child Soldiers are drafted into a world where death is a constant possibility. Despite this dark setup, the games are primarily a goofy fanservice-fest where the worst that happens is the loser gets their clothes destroyed. Until we are introduced to the byproduct of this conflict, giant monstrous creatures called Yoma, which both sides will drop everything to defeat. And then Shinovi Versus reveals this whole war is actually a ploy. The Yoma aren't byproducts of the war, but the reason it began in the first place. There exists an ancient creature called Shin, progenitor of the Yoma and the one responsible for all large-scale calamities in the world, which will continue to claim lives until it's defeated. In order to draw it and the other Yoma out of their pocket dimension, enough blood must be spilled in conflict. The secondary purpose of the Shinobi war is to train fighters capable of defeating Shin. These can be Good, Evil, or Renegade Shinobi, so long as they're strong enough.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: It has repeatedly happened that Eggman suddenly finds himself out of his league when his schemes provoke godlike horrors, such as Perfect Chaos, Dark Gaia, and Solaris, and Sonic has to go Super to bail Earth — and Eggman — out of the mess the doctor had caused.
  • This happened to Warcraft. The series was originally about orcs and the demons they consorted with, with the demons being expanded to have been the true force behind their invasion. In Warcraft III, a "Forgotten One" was found in an underground city and fit the description of an Eldritch Abomination, but its exact place in the universe was ambiguous. In World of Warcraft, occasional appearances of the Old Gods teased the possibility that they were ultimately more of a threat than the traditional demonic Big Bad, especially since they were revealed to have been responsible for the evil of many minor villains. Finally, the World of Warcraft: Chronicle revealed that the force behind the Old Gods, the Void, is truly the ultimate threat. Not only is it a timeless element of the universe, fear of it is what drove the demons to band into a united force to begin with.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine opens with the focus on Captain Titus and his Ultramarines beating back an Ork WAAAGH!!! Then it turns out Titus was being manipulated by the agents of a Chaos Sorcerer, who were working to help their master ascend to daemonhood and unleash Hell on Earth.
  • In We Need to go Deeper, the deeper the submarine goes, the more bizarre the enemies become and the darker the tone gets until you reach the Ancient One, and awakening it triggers The End of the World as We Know It.

    Visual Novels 
  • As with a lot of other tropes, Doki Doki Literature Club! does this in a weird way. You already know there's a much larger world outside the game's world — you're living in it. But you don't really think of it that way, except here when a character is revealed to have Gone Mad from the Revelation about being Trapped in TV Land. And horror? It had already shifted to that before the revelation.
    I peer inside for a clue.
    No! I can't see. I reel, blind, like a film left out in the sun.
    But it's too late. My retinas.
    Already scorched with a permanent copy of the meaningless image.
    It's just a little hole. It wasn't too bright.
    It was too deep.
    Stretching forever into everything.
    A hole of infinite choices.
    I realize now, that I wasn't looking in.
    I was looking out.
    And he, on the other side, was looking in.

    Webcomics 
  • CaptainSNES pretty much starts off with Alex Williams being sucked into Videoland by Lucca's machine and first time readers would initially think that him exploring this strange world and meeting new people and helping them is the entire plot. However,it soon becomes apparent that Videoland was forever changed by a prescient, reality-warping entity known as the Sovereign of Sorrow who possesses the ability to show video game characters the true nature of their world, something that they, with the exception of Kefka who sees it as validation of his nihilistic worldview, can't handle. Even more shocking is the revelation that Alex is unwittingly her champion.
  • Homestuck (surprise!) becomes Hijacked By Cthulhu by [S] Jade: Wake with the revelation that the Horrorterrors do, in fact, exist...and the true main villain, Lord English, is killing them.
  • The Order of the Stick: The first arc of the story concerns the titular Order on a dungeon crawl to stop Xykon, an evil lich and his undead and goblin minions. Then it turns out that within the lich's old lair, there was a portal to a dimension where an Eldritch Abomination with world-destroying power is imprisoned, and the rest of the story becomes a quest to stop the abomination from being released, while the lich and his minions (and several other evil forces) try to use the abomination for their own purposes. The stakes get raised to literally cosmic proportions when it's revealed the cycle of creation and destruction between the gods and the eldritch Snarl has gone on for literal eons. This one world? Acceptable collateral damage.

    Web Original 
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance starts out as a fairly typical Science Fantasy: long ago, a cabal of mad sorcerers created the Grand Relics, a bunch of Artifacts of Doom that grant superpowers at the cost of madness, and it's the protagonists' job to recollect and destroy said artifacts. As the plot progresses, it is revealed that the Relics were created to split up and neutralize the massive power source they were created from, which contains enough energy to act as a homing beacon for otherworldly entities — specifically the Hunger, an Eldritch Abomination (physically incomprehensible sans its millions of eyes and tendrils of viscous black fluid) that seeks to assimilate all worlds of the Multiverse into itself. And by collecting the Relics, our heroes have recombined the original power source and unwittingly let the Hunger loose upon the world of Faerun...
  • The Magnus Archives begins as accounts of encounters with the supernatural being collected by the Magnus Institute, a private foundation which gathers evidence of such occurrences in Europe. As it goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that not only are the events connected, but the Magnus Institute itself is a known quantity to these creatures. After all, it's the seat of the Lidless Eye, the embodiment of the fear of being watched. We eventually learn about the rest of the Powers, all born of primal fears, all with their own Lovecraftian rituals, and all are only opposed by one another in their rush to complete their grand ritual first.
  • Reasoning: The story starts off as a typical slasher, with a young woman named Beverly fleeing from a seemingly hostile foe. But then it's revealed said foe is a rat-like monster. And then Beverly comes across a giant Eldritch Abomination and a talking skull-headed deity. By chapter 7, the story shifts into cosmic horror when it's revealed that monsters from a realm called Aevum are being unleashed upon humanity. Chapter 11 takes this even further by revealing that Aevum's surrogate god, EYE, is trying to exterminate all of humanity by sending monsters through portals to feast on human beings.
  • SCP Foundation: So, SCP-2317. Fairly average for a scip. A mystical door that leads to a pocket universe. Then, it turns out that the pocked universe contains an Eldritch Abomination just barely contained. Then it turns out that the thing isn't contained at all, and that it's only a matter of time before it destroys humanity. Then it turns out that the thing may or may not be the Scarlet King, its offspring, or something worse.
  • Worm: After spending much of the story as street-level superhero fare, with an occasional Kaiju attack, Scion is revealed to be the avatar of a Sufficiently Advanced Alien that is using Earth as a giant petri dish, with mankind as the specimens.

    Web Video 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: This series starts as a comedic comic book review show. The host at first fought a Monster of the Week or Arc Villain related to the comic he had reviewed, to symbolically defeat the bad story. After the show's second anniversary, he fought a Multiversal Conqueror that was chasing an omnicidal Outer God. After that, the Outer God itself finally showed up and nearly destroyed the entire universe. Later, it's revealed that there's an entire family of such beings.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls starts out with two siblings exploring the weird little town they're visiting and encountering things like ghosts, gnomes, and mermen. Then the Myth Arc gets going, and Bill Cipher takes over as not just the Big Bad but the number one threat to humanity.
  • Love, Death & Robots: The episode "Beyond the Aquila Rift" starts off very standard for a sci-fi story: a spaceship breaks down and its crew must wait aboard a remote space station until the ship is repaired. But as time goes on, the main character, Thom, grows suspicious of the circumstances and starts investigating, and eventually starts wishing that he hadn't. Everyone of Thom's crewmates turns out to have been Dead All Along and everything Thom thought was real was actually an illusion; in reality, he is lost in space alongside an alien being who trapped him in said illusion to keep him from going insane.
  • The main concept of the short (and potential series) Pibby is that various otherwise cheery and optimistic cartoon worlds, including many beloved classics (or expies of said classics) are being corrupted and devoured one by one by a horrific, nigh-unstoppable Glitch Entity that no one knows the origin of.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated appears to be a Darker and Edgier version of the classic series, only to reveal an overarching story about a cursed treasure that has destroyed several previous mystery solving teams who had all turned on each other in their greed for the treasure. Season 2 reveals that it's in reality a Sealed Evil in a Can for an Eldritch Abomination known as The Evil Entity, and that the various talking animal sidekicks that have appeared throughout the Hanna-Barberaverse partially share The Evil Entity's extraterrerstrial origin.
  • South Park: The episode "Pinewood Derby" begins with Stan competing for the derby and his father Randy cheating to win, which catches the attention of cosmic beings who subject humanity to a morality test.
  • Steven Universe features The Cluster. While the show up until that point had been raising the stakes with the looming threat of the Diamond Authority, as well as the background presence of Malachite the toxic fusion, it still had a copious amount of more relaxed breather episodes. Once the audience and the Crystal Gems are informed about this threat, it becomes the key focus for the remainder of show's second season, tying into Peridot's redemption arc. However, it's ultimately subverted as Steven manages to communicate and reason with it come the season three premiere, ending things peacefully.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Hijacked By Cthulhu

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Greta shows the truth

After Thom demands Greta to tell him everything, she obliges and shows him the reality of their situation.

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