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The old ones speak of winter, the young ones praise the sun.

"And then those sails appeared on the horizon. White, but dripping with the bloody symbols of their foul gods. And then came the black wood of the boats, dragged through the froth by tireless, muscled arms pulling on a hundred oars. I rang the warning bell from my lookout and me lads formed up, each one sweating at the arrival of these beasts. The crossbowmen loosed bolt after bolt, and many fell, but still the howling fiends ran up the beaches with no care for armour or shields. They looked like rabble, but fought like daemons, crashing through our lines, butchering men left and right, clubbing limbs into gore and hacking heads from bodies like they were attached with butter. I'll never forget that morning..."
Ostlander Sergeant, account of a Norscan raid, Warhammer

Dark Fantasy is, generally speaking, a Darker and Edgier subgenre of fantasy. These kind of stories can be pretty much described as Standard Fantasy Setting meets Crapsack World, as opposed to a usually-lighthearted, regular fantasy setting. Oftentimes common fantasy elements are deconstructed where the unfortunate implications presented by some of the elements of standard fantasy become Ascended Fridge Horror in dark fantasy works. So magic is real and it can be used for pretty much any application, huh? A dark fantasy setting will show just how depraved an evil magician, sorcerer, or wizard can be by using magic from Body Horror on poor hapless muggles to straight up Rape using spells of enchantment or mind control. Oh, normal fantasy settings have magical or enchanted animals like unicorns, griffons, and cute little animal familiars that magic users have? Well, you can bet that a Dark Fantasy setting will go above and beyond to show that Nature Is Not Nice on steroids with horrific bestiary like Giant Spiders, Giant Squid, and dragons as furious hellbeasts straight from the darkest abyss capable of destroying whole cities if not countries. What's that? Heroes can call upon their patron deities for strength to banish the great evil and restore peace to the land? In a dark fantasy setting you can bet that very few gods are all that nice, nor are they all that interested in mortal affairs, with the few that are usually operating on Blue-and-Orange Morality while believing A Million Is a Statistic with any boon they give coming at a cost.

Some authors go beyond deconstruction and the story is played in the darkest way possible, and the best you can hope for is Grey-and-Gray Morality. Wikipedia goes a step farther, saying it's Horror meets Fantasy. It may have been originally, but now, with some linguistic drift, any remarkably dark fantasy story (it's sometimes enough if it's set in a Crapsack World) is often listed as a Dark Fantasy. While it's often a matter of marketing or abuse of terms, this entry assumes the latter, currently more common, definition.

Darker and Edgier Science Fiction isn't recognised as a subgenre in the same way as in Fantasy. Dark Fantasy reacts to and deconstructs mainline genre fantasy where, in the case of Science Fiction, it has always had a streak of darkness running through it, from Frankenstein (often regarded as the first Science Fiction novel) onwards. In recent years, grimdark has become another name for Dark Fantasy with fans on both sides divided on whether it's a valid name for it or not.

Do not confuse with Low Fantasy, which is about downplaying fantastic elements in order to tell a more realistic story, though they may overlap. The supernatural levels of a Dark Fantasy can range anywhere from super low to extremely high.

Also, if you want to write your own, check this out.


Politics and society

Religions and deities


Sibling trope to Dungeon Punk, which can be just as grim and gritty, but Dungeon Punk has Magitek. See also Fantastic Noir and Sword and Sorcery. May be the result of a disruption in, or Evil's turn, on the Balance of Good and Evil.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • French comic Arawn is set in a dark fantasy realm loosely inspired by Celtic legend and has an Evil Overlord as a protagonist. However, the comic plays out as a tragedy, detailing how he become a Dark Lord, something he never even really wanted.
  • Black Moon Chronicles, a French series of comic books is essentially this as the tale is set in the war-torn quasi-medieval world where corrupted priests, misguided paladins, demons and indifferent mercenaries vying for power while an impending doom looms on (or rather above) the horizon.
  • Chronicles of Hate from Warhammer artist Adrian Smith is a 2014 Image Comics graphic novel duology which takes elements of Celtic legend and incorporates them into a story where demigod warlords have imprisoned the Earth Mother and taken much of her power for themselves. As a result, the sun is frozen in the sky and the moon burns while plants and animals grow twisted. Humanity itself grows increasingly more mutated and deformed with each succeeding generation, battling and enslaving each other in warring tribes. The Earth Mother seeks a champion to become the Horned God and save her.
  • Hellboy has many dark fantasy elements, such as the Eldritch Abomination known as the Ogdru Jahad, and the title character being destined to one day unleash said abomination on the Earth with his Right Hand of Doom.
  • The original Lady Death comics qualified as Religious Horror, however they turned into straight-up dark fantasy under Avatar Press: the story was rebooted, most biblical elements were ditched and it took place in an afterlife realm that wasn't necessarily Hell in the strictest sense, but it was populated by monstrous demons that lived alongside native humans, with no shortage of omnicidal maniacs trying to purge it of all life.
  • The Last God from DC Black Label, is set in a world that has fallen from grace. With The Creator, Ang Luthia dead and the benign gods she created dying of old age, there was no longer any guidance for the world of Cain Anuun. The only remaining god is an alien Eldritch Abomination. The human race dominates the world, but since they were created as a food source for dragons, their society worships a false god and is deeply patriarchal and xenophobic. The humans not only practice genocide and slavery, they created a form of black magic gained through cannibalism against species with innate magic. The dwarf equivalent race are Always Chaotic Evil with a penchant for rape and cannibalism. Finally besides the Last God seeding the world with violent undead, many of the monstrous failures by Ang Luthia are creeping out of exile to kill and pillage.
  • Monstress is set in a steampunk fantasy world that's influenced by tales told to the author by her Chinese grandparents of their experiences in World War 2. This is a setting where a court of decadent supernatural immortals and their half-human offspring face a genocidal war against a cabal of science-based psychic witches, while alien gods are set to make a return to the world. The main character is a crippled, angry teenaged girl who survived a prison camp to find herself the host of one of these gods and having an appetite for raw flesh.
  • Requiem Vampire Knight is this in spades, and the world of Resurrection is as crapsack as they come. It's set in an afterlife where everyone is reincarnated according to their sins in life, with the worst individuals becoming the vampire nobility that rule Resurrection. While not lacking in black humor, there's plenty of gore and violence to go along a world where evil is largely celebrated.
  • Tales of Telguuth from 2000 AD is an anthology comic series set in a High Fantasy Crapsack World where monsters, demons, and tyrants roam the land, and life is generally short and brutal.
  • Tales of the Dragon Guard: Dragons naturally radiate The Corruption, which only virgin women are immune to. Entire villages are mutated into slavering, insane monsters, and if the dragon knights fail, a Fantastic Nuke is detonated, which turns the countryside into a wasteland. Some peasants are convinced that nailing a virgin vaccinates them against the corruption, so you can guess what happens. The dragon knights are followed closely by prospectors looking for dragon gastroliths and scales, who often won't wait for the dragon to be killed before prospecting.
  • In Ten Thousand Black Feathers, main characters Trish and Jackie invent a fictional universe implied to be subconsciously based on the actual dark dimension they end up in where they are a mage and a sword-wielding warrior respectively. The world mostly looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of run-down, modern, man-made structures like factories, steel bridges and other buildings, but there are also more typically medieval houses too, and travel is done by horse. The Big Bad of the story, called the Crow King, has minions in the form of masked, seemingly mindless men called "skinwalkers" and more intelligent Bird People called Crowfolk.
  • Unholy Grail reimagines the Arthurian Legend as this, with a demonic Merlin manipulating Arthur for his own ends. The Excalibur in the Stone aspect of the story is fittingly reimagined as well, as while the sword Arthur pulls is an ordinary weapon once belonging to his father the origin of the stone is much more dark. After it was announced that the baby Arthur would one day be king, several men decided that they wanted to be king and attempted to take the sword from Merlin, who instead kills one of the men and using magic transforms the corpse into a stone that still bleeds blood.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Berserk: The Golden Age Arc: An Animated Adaptation of the Backstory of Guts, Casca, and Griffith in Berserk. Starts out looking like Historical Fantasy with ambitious mercenary leader Griffith trying to parlay his service to the Kingdom of Midland into nobility and a shot at the throne, which is when the demons start to show up.
  • Ninja Scroll involves an antiheroic Samurai Shinobi aiding a kunoichi loyal to an uncaring, cruel regime as they try to stop the machinations of a cult of demonic ninjas from taking over Japan.
  • Wendell & Wild: A dark fantasy about a troubled teen who strikes a deal with demon brothers to get her dead parents back.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Army of Darkness: The third installment of the Evil Dead films sees King Arthur’s court take on deadites.
  • The Brothers Grimm: The famous writers are con men who must suddenly go up against an evil queen and twisted versions of their fairy tales.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell: In an alternate version of 1940s L.A. where magic is widespread, a detective goes up against evil cultists.
  • The Crow (1994): A murdered musician is brought back to the land of the living by a crow to seek revenge on his killers.
    • The Crow (2024): A reboot in which the musician has a chance to save the soul of the woman he loves.
  • The Curse of Sleeping Beauty: A man inherits an ancestral mansion that has been in his family for generations, only to learn that he has also inherited an ancient curse stemming back to the Crusades.
  • Damsel features Aurea, a peaceful and prosperous kingdom that is hiding a dark secret: every generation the royal family sacrifices three young women to a dragon that resides in a nearby mountain, to guarantee their own safety. They’ve been doing this for centuries, which is a lot of murdered women. The film’s heroine, Elodie, is tricked into becoming the latest sacrifice and fights to survive; the first half especially plays out like a horror movie, with Elodie having to evade the dragon and other hazards inside the dragon's lair, and stumbling upon the remains of those who came before her.
  • The Dark Crystal: Jen, an elf-like creature called a Gelfling, must find a shard that was broken off a magical crystal a thousand years ago, to stop the Skeksis, a malevolent race of reptilian creatures who exterminated all but two of the Gelfling population, from ruling over Jen's home world forever.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: In this take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange battles a corrupted Scarlet Witch who is using dark magic to steal the powers of a young girl so she can kidnap versions of her children from an alternate universe. Ultimately, Strange must turn to similar dark powers, including possessing a corpse of his deceased variant.
  • Drive Angry: A deceased criminal escapes hell to hunt down the cultists who killed his daughter.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: A Darker and Edgier superhero movie in which the protagonist makes a Deal with the Devil to get powers and get revenge.
  • The Green Knight: A dark, sexualized take on the Arthurian Legend about a young knight send to a task that would surely kill him.
  • Hellboy (2004) and its sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army (overlapping with Urban Fantasy and the superhero genre). A demon summoned from Hell seeks to protect the world from monsters, elves, and Nazis.
  • Labyrinth: A teenage girl, played by Jennifer Connelly, wishes for goblins to take away her crying baby brother, and when they actually do, the king of the goblins, played by David Bowie, challenges the girl to solve his labyrinth in thirteen hours, or else her baby brother becomes a goblin forever.
  • Despite being usually held up as classic examples of High Fantasy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy edge into this genre at times, with director Peter Jackson's background in the horror genre making the darker and scarier scenes really stand out. A few examples:
    • The Ringwraiths, especially in the first film, where they're mounted on Hellish Horses. The scenes of them riding through the Arcadia of The Shire under cover of darkness would not feel out of place in a Folk Horror movie.
    • Frodo's Heroic BSoD in the Dead Marshes, as he sinks into the water full of ghosts that look like the illustrations from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
    • The genuinely unnerving prologue to Return of the King, showing Gollum's origin story and descent into animalistic madness.
    • Frodo's passage through the web-choked lair of Shelob, and her subsequent ambush of him in a nearby canyon, is one of the more terrifying uses of a Giant Spider in film history.
    • Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli descending into the Paths of the Dead to try to recruit an army of ghosts to their cause. The extended edition has them caught in an avalanche of Nothing but Skulls.
  • Maleficent: An alternate take on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty with a sympathetic version of the antagonist going up against the evil king who stole her wings.
  • In Pan's Labyrinth is a borderline example. The supernatural elements - even the benign ones - are fairly creepy, but the real darkness comes from the mundane horror of living under fascism. At worst, the magical creatures are a reflection of that (the Pale Man), while at best, they are an escape from it.
  • Van Helsing: A monster hunter helps to save the soul of a young woman and her brother by helping them save Frankenstein’s Monster from Dracula.
  • WolfCop is a comedic example, where a coven of shapeshifting warlocks transform a dimwitted policeman into a werewolf, but it blows up in their face and he becomes their nemesis.

  • In The Acts of Caine it's one half of the setting. The other half is classical Dystopia.
  • The Black Company cycle. The military kind of dark.
  • Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues published by Ragnarok Publications gained a surprisingly large Kickstarter following by promising to be nothing but this.
  • The Broken Empire Trilogy follows Jorg, our Villain Protagonist in a Crapsack World filled with evil mages and the undead as he slaughters his way to the Imperial throne. To put it in perspective, the first book opens with him and his group of raiders in the tail end of a Rape, Pillage, and Burn of a village of farmers.
  • Chronicles Of The Bitch Queen is set in a Crapsack World of a falling, vestigial empire and follows an Anti-Hero protagonist as she tries to save her son from the multiple battling political factions. Magic is a part of the setting, but has enormous costs.
  • Clandestine Daze by Tim Marquitz follows the adventures of a cannibal shapeshifter who hates what he does and who he is but needs to continue on in order to keep peace between humans and Aels in the modern world.
  • Cruel Sisters is a short story with dark fantasy while retelling the ballad "Twa Sisters," showing a harpist making an instrument out of a dead girl's body.
  • The Cthulhu Mythos along with the Cosmic Horror Story genre in general have evil cultists galore, and a whole plethora of incomprehensible Evil Gods. Magic or any reality-warping abilities are generally not used, as one wrong word results in Insanity or Mind Rape by an Eldritch Abomination. Success will usually either drive you insane(r) or get you eaten by an Eldritch Abomination. That said, if a wizard is mentioned, you can bet your ass he's a villain or will meet a tragic end. The only notable exception is a guy who reads a spell book For Lulz and accidentally teleports himself to an Eldritch Location.
  • Demon Road, by Derek Landy of Skulduggery Pleasant, is pretty dark, as it features demons, a Deal with the Devil, and the main character's parents attempting to use her blood in order to fulfill a blood pact.
  • Dirge by Tim Marquitz is a novel about an assassin trying to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse which has pushed her Low Fantasy world to the brink of extinction.
  • The Doctrine of Labyrinths series by Sarah Monette is about a former child prostitute dealing with heavy trauma and receiving huge amounts more of psychological and sexual trauma even as an adult, including going completely insane and being forced into an Edwardian-esque sanitorium for quite some time.
  • Draconian Symphony, is about an abuse victim that gets roped into doing Hell's dirty work after getting a demon's help in revenge against his abuser.
  • Dusk and Dawn from Tim Lebbon are novels that are part of his storiess set in the New Weird-ish world of Noreela. In Dusk and Dawn, humanity is suffering from a long decline ever since The Magic Goes Away (not that anyone would blame it - magic is a Sentient Cosmic Force and it left because humans were too violent even back in the good old days) and people were already pretty scummy in this setting. So dealing with cannibals, bandits, serial killers, bizarre cults and whatnot was already commonplace, things just became even worse as Magitek farming machines no longer work the fields to provide abundant harvests and other benefits of living in a magical world. Now magic appears to be coming back to give humans a second chance, unfortunately a pair of would-be Sorcerous Overlords and their armies are waiting for this.
  • Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga, focusing on a doomed albino emperor (albeit a Defector from Decadence from his cruel and decaying empire) with the mother of all Evil Weapons.
  • The Eye of Argon is an attempt at a gritty Conan-style tale of blood, sex and violence. It sits on the overlap between Dark Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy: Magic Is Evil and The Evil Prince rules unopposed, but the mighty-thewed Barbarian Hero is always up to the challenge.
  • All novels written by Feliks W. Kres, especially the Szerer cycle.
  • Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series has a feudal society in which the upper classes scheme and intrigue while caring nothing about the common man and the Inquisition is a very powerful, feared, and merciless force...bordered by a vast and totalitarian slave-keeping empire to the South and a barbarian kingdom of savage killers from Grim Up North on the other side. Said Southern empire being controlled behind the scenes by a cabal of crazed cannibal mages...and non-cannibal mages being little better (if not worse...). Oh, the little matter of any form of magic being, at its source, a demonic power in this setting. Lots of violence, grittiness, grime, and death. It's saying something that one of the (comparatively) more sympathetic characters is a cynical, crippled Torture Technician for the aforementioned Inquisition.
  • Geist Prelude, by Fallon O'Neill, forgoes the Medieval European Fantasy take on the genre in exchange for a Diesel Punk setting. Blending various eras of human history, the world of Geist centers on Holy Gothica, an industrial city in a wasteland, governed by the Ecclesiarchy, policed by the Inquisition, and underpinned by a hellish otherworld born of mankind's collective unrest.
  • The Gentleman Bastard series has thieves as its protagonists, who are kept sympathetic by the fact that the whole world is cutthroat and corrupt.
  • Goblin Slayer: The weakest monster, goblins, have had a population explosion since 1) nobody with power and influence can be arsed to kill them and because the areas most often hit with goblins are too poor to offer a reward worth the attention of the higher-ranked members of the Adventurer's Guild, the job often falls to inexperienced rookies who frequently get in over their heads and wind up slaughtered or worse; and 2) they have an R-selective reproductive strategy (spawn hundreds in the hopes that a handful will make it to adulthood) and require abducting females to perpetuate their species. The main protagonist - the only high-ranked adventurer who bothers doing anything about the goblin problem and is extremely effective at his job - is a Byronic Hero Knight Templar who wouldn't hesitate about bashing in the brains of even the youngest of the goblins. The worst part is that he is absolutely right because every single goblin is Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi: Society is full of elitist assholes and there are monsters and zombies everywhere.
  • The Grim Company by Luke Scull is set in a world where powerful wizards killed and absorbed their gods' power only to learn that the gods were the Cosmic Keystone to the world. Despite their newfound powers, these wizards can't halt the decay of the world and many of them have gone mad or decadent while demonic forces are starting to make inroads into the world. Trying to save the world is a delusional idiot who was told he had a Heroic Lineage, the girl he's in love with who's secretly a junkie, a pair of world-weary and broken barbarians and a bunch of rebels who are much worse than they let on.
  • The Inquisitor Cycle follows an Inquisitor engaging in witch-hunting and political intrigues, but also deals with a cosmic horror implications of this setting.
  • Jill Kismet is an Urban Fantasy series set in the seedy underbelly of the Weird West, starring a foul-mouthed monster slayer who started as a teenage prostitute and whose mentor was murdered by an Apocalypse Cultist. That should give you some idea.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien actually wrote a fair amount in this genre. He even wrote that most of his tales were tragic.
    • The Children of Húrin would be one of the earliest examples if only Tolkien hadn't held it in Development Hell until his death. The Horde vastly outnumbering human civilization? Check. Isolationist elves and often shameless dwarves? Check. The gods passing the popcorn? Check, as this is set before Eärendil's voyage. Satan is the only one not passing the popcorn? Oh yes, check. The main hero is an Anti-Hero in sour armor? Frickin check. Pile on the incest, genocide, bleak war against the forces of an evil god where humanity's on the losing side, and a tragic Downer Ending, and it's almost hard to believe it's in the same universe as The Hobbit.
    • Much of The Silmarillion feels like this, amusingly enough. The Children of Hurin is but one story in a list of several darker losses and tragedy, set within a world of astounding beauty and wonder, but also in a world where the wisest know that the old glory cannot last and fate is doomed to taint the world with evil. Many elves in the story are genocidal, racist, and on a path of bloodshed and revenge for the Silmarils, doomed by their own oath to get them back or fail beyond any help from the gods and by fate itself. Promises are Serious Business, after all. Humans either die heroically in a war they have no chance of winning, betray their kin with promises and seduction by the dark god Morgoth, or simply try to survive against all odds. Dwarves are either greedy or isolationist against all the suffering around them, and the war is going so bad that both men and elves are on the brink of apocalypse. Things do get better, but their Numenorean descendants bring their triumph down to a Pyrrhic Victory.
    • The Fall of Númenor: The Men who fought the first Dark Lord are rewarded with their own island nation and superior technology, but they become gradually corrupted by their hubris and sense of self-entitlement into imperialistic tyrants who conquer and plunder lands, capturing slaves and sacrificing them to the very Dark Lord whom their ancestors opposed. Likewise, the Elves' pride and desire to preserve the world's fading beauty leave them open to Sauron's manipulations, who exploits their selfish desires to forge his mind-controlling Ring and rise as the next Dark Lord. The Free Peoples will wage long and costly wars against Sauron through the Age, and their conflict will cause untold death, destruction and the forever loss of the beauty of the ancient world, since war is ALWAYS Hell, and it leads to evil even if your cause is just and you emerge victorious.
    • Even The Hobbit could be considered an example, albeit a downplayed one. The whole story is motivated not by the balance of the world, but by greed and self-interest on all sides. There are very few real heroes — Bilbo gradually develops into one after starting as an apathetic Classical Antihero a lot of the time, and Gandalf is a trickster who cannot be relied on for at least half of the journey as he comes and goes apparently capriciously, having greater issues to tackle that are only later revealed.
    • Even The Lord of the Rings counts given it's a Darker and Edgier follow-up to The Hobbit and details some of Middle-Earth's darkest days. There's a general feeling of hopelessness in-universe regarding Frodo's quest and the fight against Sauron's forces, the antagonists are all Nightmare Fuel, with the ringwraiths being corrupted humans, orcs being cannibalistic and monstrous compared to the borderline playful goblins of The Hobbit, and parts of the world being home to Eldritch Abominations. The Ring itself adds elements of psychological horror and body horror with its gradual effect on the wearer's mind and body, turning them into hideous, ghoulish shells of themselves, so obsessed with its beauty and the power it grants that they're willing to murder anyone who seeks to take it from them, and it's shown how, even in the hands of people like Gandalf and Galadriel, the ring would warp them into something just as bad if not worse than Sauron. And while the story doesn't explicitly serve as an allegory for WWII, readers have applied that to the text due to its focus on the consequences and psychological trauma that come with war, especially in the case of Frodo and the physical and mental scars he's left with from carrying the ring. By the climax, even Frodo succumbs to the Ring's temptation, even though it's still ultimately destroyed.
  • Kingdom on Fire: The series is set in a world of magic, where humanity has been fighting a war against seven Eldritch Abominations known as "The Ancients".
  • Lady Of Gems series has a lot of dark fantasy elements, the first book deals with Body Horror and not to mention the fear-feeding creatures that keep people in at night.
  • The Language of Thorns is a dark take on fairy tales, so that each has at best a Bittersweet Ending.
  • A Land Fit for Heroes involves 3 older heroes from a devastating war against the Lizard Folk. One of the heroes is a knight who fell from grace because of his homosexuality and his desire to spill a Dark Secret about their order, older members systematically rape newcomers to bind each member together with that Hidden Shame, another is a barbarian chief who's too in love with civilizations' luxuries and the third is a half-breed alien engineer currently working for a cruel desert kingdom. These three are the only hope against an invasion by the Fair Folk, but what the Crapsack World they're protecting might not be worth it - there's the aforementioned cruel desert kingdom with an erratic young ruler and it's rival kingdom who's foolish business ventures have bankrupted the nation and they now resort to selling their own people into slavery.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen takes typical War Is Hell conventions and applies them to fictional wars in a fantasy setting. Some of the atrocities the characters bear witness to (or go through themselves) are genuinely shocking.
  • Miserere: An Autumn Tale: the purpose of the World is to hold off Hell.
  • Mortis: The Blood 'n Flowers Series's first book, Demon Meat for Dinner, progressively gets darker with each passing chapter, ultimately leading to the the graphic torture and butchering of the antagonist.
  • Overlord (2012): The New World is not exactly pleasant to live in, for most of society. To wit, the sudden introduction of a nigh-invulnerable Lich Overlord, and his army composed mostly of nigh-unstoppable, psychotic, genocidal followers who see people as insects, at best, is actually an improvement in most circumstances.
  • Phenomena starts off as a fantasy and starts showing hints of becoming a Dark Fantasy in the 2nd book, by the 7th and the spin-offs, it is really a dark fantasy with Body Horror, terror, Slasher Smiles, and more. Of the characters only the two main characters seem genuinely good, most of the others have Grey-and-Gray Morality. Most of the characters treat murder as "necisary", at times, people sell them out, lie, and have slaves. One elf that never was a slave thinks it's okay to kill the race that mainly keeps elves as slaves. There's cannibalism, strong implications of rape (one even bragged about seemingly doing it), Fantastic Racism, magic is seen as evil, implied incest, and it goes From Bad to Worse. It's a good series because it's well-written, interesting story, and the characters are great, but it still feels wrong that it still has a 9+ rating in Norway, which might be because of the lack of swearing and implications of nudes, even though it's allowed on Norwegian children's TV.
  • Red Room by C.T. Phipps follows the adventures of The Men in Black Derek Hawthorne and Shannon O'Reilly as they work for Ancient Conspiracy the House in keeping humanity in the dark about the supernatural. There are no heroes and the only thing a person can aspire to o be is less evil than the next guy.
  • The Red Tree (2009) either falls into horror or dark fantasy, depending on your interpretation of what happens. If you choose the latter, it is a subversion of the story of a girl that finds a magical tree less than 100 yards from her house that grants wishes. Instead, according to the manuscript Sara finds in the cellar, the tree has a history of sinister urban legends, tales, and local folklore that becomes fascinating to the protagonist, an author named Sara. Needless to say, the massive red oak starts to take an interest in her too. Some events are not entirely explained by the suggestion that she was slowly going insane and losing touch with reality.
  • Re:Zero, while seemingly starting off as a High Fantasy, is slowly unraveled to be one of these by Arc 3, featuring terrifying monsters, evil cults, and good people doing horrible things when caught in the middle of it all.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: Looks like a Harry Potter clone at first glance, but turns out to take place in magocratic Fantastic Caste System that's almost as abusive to the mages at the top of the pyramid as to Muggles, with demihumans barely rating third-class citizenship if they're lucky. Mage clans perpetuate generational trauma onto their children, the Wizarding School sits overtop of a labyrinth full of monsters that encroaches on the school building at night, the world is periodically threatened by Alien Invasions led by the inhuman gods of other worlds, and the main protagonist Oliver Horn? He's the leader of a Students' Secret Society plotting to assassinate half the faculty to avenge their brutal murder of his mother.
  • Return of the Reaper would be a clear example, with the "hero" being the same demon who enslaved all the sentient races in the world and who is acting more for revenge than for the well-being of those sentient races.
  • Craig Schaefer's Revanche Cycle follows the struggle for to control a parallel-Renaissance papacy. Black-and-Gray Morality is in full effect; decadent nobles, witches, poison, and back-stabbing galore. The one truly good character in the saga, an aspiring knight who seems to have wandered in from a much happier fantasy world, is an Ax-Crazy psycho who's just been drugged and brainwashed into acting that way. It's that kind of story.
  • Roll Over and Die: Though it looks like a classical High Fantasy at first glance, it is quickly shown to be this. The demons are not the stereotypical Always Chaotic Evil monsters that the heroes believe them to be, but just a different humanoid race that have been victims of persecution by the Church for a long time. The Corrupt Church is the true villain. The typical monsters of a Fantasy setting still exist, but the ones the main cast has to fight are "chimeras" with bizarre but powerful abilities created by experiments of the church. Said experiments are also performed on humans, who also get unique but terrifying powers. There is plenty of Body Horror and the heroes never finish an arc without going through great amounts of pain, physical and emotional.
  • The Rollerskater saga features frequent depictions of graphic violence in common with Horror while still being very obviously a Fantasy work. The very first chapter sets the tone with a murderous and creepy villain who can puppet people's shadows, while later arcs introduce vampire cults, sentient Mind Viruses and Eldritch Abominations into the mix.
  • The Second Apocalypse series is unrelenting in its darkness. The world is in a constant struggle involving religious zealots, insane immortals, ruthless sorcerers, and intergalactic sex-demons. War Is Hell, and is described in horrific detail. Plagues, infighting, widespread slavery, casual cruelty, and rape are so common they become background scenery. The setting's already been brutalized in the past by a world-ending apocalypse that came dangerously close to driving humans to extinction, and all the warning signs for the second are already here.
    Humanity's best chance of survival rests in the hands of a manipulative, pitiless sociopath Übermensch who reads the emotions and minds of people with disturbing ease. He's the only one who has the single-minded focus to manipulate the self-interest and infighting of the population into one common goal and prepare for the return of Mog-Pharau, the No-God. The sorcerers of the School of Mandate, who are aware of the Unholy Consult's existence by way of dreaming of the First Apocalypse every night, are derided and mocked by society as madmen who have damned their souls. Additionally, later books state outright that the threat of damnation is completely true, and thousands are doomed to suffering in a literal interpretation of the Christian hell, and those that remain are in for a full-scale Cosmic Horror Story.
  • The Shadows Between Us follows Villain Protagonist Alessandra and her love interest, the equally-evil Kallias (aka the Shadow King) as they fall in love in the midst of Kallias' Decadent Court. Kallias's moniker comes from the shadow powers he inherited from his father's line, after his patrilineal ancestor made a Deal with the Devil to gain them.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: A people as occupied with killing each other as winning liberty, versus a brutal empire which rules them, fairly ruthless "heroes" leading them, and evil wizards who extort others for the simple use of water. The chosen one dies at the end of the first book, and once the empire leaves, the newly free country falls into civil war.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: George R. R. Martin goes the full mile in emphasizing the "dark" in the Dark Ages. Anyone Can Die, morality is a subjective thing, War Is Hell and the tangled politics with its socio-economic lessons in self-defeat makes the whole war thing look like the easy (or just plain lazy) option towards speedplaying your way to disaster. Even the Magic Coming Back seems to just make everything more dangerous.
  • The Sun Eater could be considered a more Lovecraft Lite sci-fantasy version of a Dark Fantasy story in a similar vein to Warhammer 40,000. The titular protagonist is the Touched by Vorlons hero/villain Dark Messiah of a xenophobic empire, who ended the threat of an omnicidal alien Servant Race to Eldritch Abominations that are trying to destroy the physical universe. To do so he committed a near-genocide of those aliens, leaving only a few hundred to be exiled into alienages. Worse yet his final victory over those aliens required the use of a Star Killing weapon and the near destruction of the Imperial fleet plus the death of the Emperor.
  • The Sword Art Online Alicization arc is the closest the series gets to being this, with Underworld being filled with many monsters like Goblins and Giants from the Dark Territory that outright grotesque and violent and the Human Realm while seemingly looks peaceful on the outside, is actually full of hidden corruptions and crimes everywhere.
  • Tales of the Black Raven by Seth Skorkowsky is a work following the adventures of the titular Master Thief in a dark and dreary Renaissance-meets-Hyboria setting.
  • Thieves' World is a Shared Universe setting of Sanctuary, a wretched city where almost everyone is criminal scum. One indication of how messed up the world is, is that the local religion has a rape ceremony to symbolize an event where a renegade goddess is punished by having her brother regularly rape her.
  • The Ties That Bind by Rob J. Hayes. It is a bleak setting of cynical mercenaries with a ruthless Inquisitor out to save the lands from a demonic invasion.
  • While actually set in the far future and being more of a cross between Science Fantasy and Horror, Vampire Hunter D is set in a world where monsters control the Earth, with humans as second-class citizens kept in Medieval Stasis. The only hope humanity has is various monster hunters.
  • The Wardstone Chronicles is dark fantasy for teenagers. It follows the adventures of a young boy, Thomas Ward, who becomes the apprentice of "The Spook", a stern and feared hunter of the forces of evil, whose job is to imprison or kill entities ranging from murderous goblins to creepy ghosts passing by child-eating witches. As the series goes on, Thomas has to fight even more monstrous and dangerous entities, including Eldritch Abominations, while dark secrets about his master, best friend and family are revealed, and sometimes the humans themselves turn out to be worse than the supernatural threats (a fanatic inquisitor appears by book two). Things get even worse when the Devil himself is invoked on Earth and becomes the Big Bad of the series, which leads the heroes to fight fire with fire by siding with witches and other forces of evil to fight him.
  • We Are All Completely Fine is about a support group for traumatized heroes who are all suffering from their various ordeals with the supernatural, some of which, like the Dwellers, are real and still after them
  • The Witcher cycle, particularly in the later books of the Saga, when it began accumulating grimdark. The Continent is gradually cooling into an ice age, monsters are everywhere, and humans are even worse, with a conquering empire invading from the south and elf and dwarf resistance fighters running a terrorist guerrilla campaign against the humans occupying their ancestral lands.
  • Roald Dahl's The Witches is a strange mishmash of Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Defanged Horrors, and Conspiracy Thriller.
  • Wraith Knight, is essentially a Dark Fantasy sequel to The Lord of the Rings with a cynical Deconstruction of the Fellowship and the Witch King as the protagonist.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu features a crapsack world, fantastic racism, Black-and-Grey Morality, while Adelina Amouteru, the protagonist, becomes darker as the books progress.
  • The Zombie Knight: Thanks to a high amount of humor throughout, this story might not have the same sense of hopelessness and/or pessimism that many other entries here have, but even so, this story is still very dark. The "magic" in the story comes from grim reapers who resurrect corpses, and while the protagonist is actually quite noble-hearted and wants to protect the people of Eleg, his success is never guaranteed. That said it slides more towards the idealistic side of the scale. The protagonists win as much if not more so than they lose and they are all likable and heroic. The fact that it takes place in a modern setting means values dissonance isn't at play. There are scores of good people who are capable and willing to stop the numerous villains that inhabit their world. Their may be tons of omnicidal maniacs in Eleg but not all is lost. There is always a sense of hope throughout the story that makes you want to read more to see if things get better.
  • The Zorachus duology was written by Mark E. Rogers who wrote The Adventures of Samurai Cat. A much Darker and Edgier story compared to that feline warrior's misadventures, Zorachus is a grimdark tale about a young magician warrior from a sect of ascetic monks who journeys to Khymir, a city dedicated to excess and where no evil is forbidden. This experience quickly corrupts the young hero and turns him into a genocidal maniac. Its prequel trilogy Zancharthus is even more excessive with the gratuitous violence and sex.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones, just like the books it is based on, casts the fantastical world through a cynical, if not nihilistic lens. The noble king who led a rebellion against a mad tyrant has degenerated into a fat, drunken adulterer. The beautiful queen is a vicious, half-mad shrew who is cuckolding her husband (whom she hates) with her own twin brother. The charming prince is a sadistic little monster born of adultery and incest. Everybody winds up either dead or miserable, and what slivers of happiness are attained are only gained after much blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, and, if things weren't bad enough, there's a cold-flavored Zombie Apocalypse growing in the North.
    • House of the Dragon goes this route too, with Death by Childbirth aplenty, jousts turning into blood sports, a mad corsair admiral with greyscale who feeds his prisoners to the crabs, a creepy and deviant secret advisor to the Queen consort who burned his father and brother alive, scary gigantic dragons, a king who's literally rotting away, his mercurial and ruthless brother, and more.
  • GARO
  • Helstrom
  • Motherland: Fort Salem
  • Red: Werewolf Hunter
  • The Witcher

  • European myths, whether they are Greco-Roman, Lusitanian, Celtic, Norse, Finnish, Estonian, Slavic, Russian or Abrahamic, tended to vary about this. Regarding tropes...
    • The treatment of magic varied a lot. For most of recorded history, it was either bad or ignored. Recently, this has started to get subverted, thanks to popularity of fantasy works and the good PR that Neopagans have.
    • Politics part mostly depends on your interpretation of (mostly real) history. On Standard Fantasy Races, that trope didn't exactly exist back then, and The Fair Folk were mostly just annoying tricksters. A Forever War thankfully never truly occurred.
    • On Jerkass Gods, see that trope. Classical Mythology was the worst offender. A total Cosmic Horror Story was averted though in all myths. (On that, see Aztec Mythology.)
    • The classical heroes were often the "anti-" sort. Averted in the medieval times, which trusted more in the Knight in Shining Armor.
    • In the various stories of Greco-Roman and Christian mythology, the world is apparently filled with horrific monsters that are only held back by God(s) and heroes slaying them from time to time. Be they man-eating giants, draconic manifestations of Satan, an absurd amount of terrors from the sea, or whatever else the universe might want to throw at humanity. The various Hellene heroes and Christian saints have no shortage of Monsters of the Week.
  • When it comes to monsters, Vampires have been an enduringly famous source of Dark Fantasy, ever since the popularity of Dracula. Very often, Vampires are torn between what's left of their humanity and their instincts. They are a lesson, in the price of immortality and letting the lust for power delude oneself. Another interpretation pictures, Vampires as tragic romantics who got the short end of the stick, when it comes to love and happiness.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Atmosfear (AKA Nightmare), which has the players at the mercy of an angry, petty demon-god called the Gatekeeper. The players roleplay his minions, either his Herald, a monster beholden to him, or a "soul ranger" attempting to steal a key from a herald.
  • Don't Rest Your Head: A group of insomniacs are slowly losing their minds, and gain access to a city built out of insanity, and populated by corporeal nightmares, which they fight off with Power Born of Madness. And, as the title suggests, if they do ever get to sleep, they are in deep shit (If they live long enough to wake up again, they lose their superpowers until sleep deprivation drives them crazy enough to use them again).
  • Some Dungeons & Dragons settings (Ravenloft and Heroes of Horror spring to mind), and it really depends on the player's Character Alignment and the DM's mood when he cooked up the campaign whether it stays Heroic Fantasy too.
    • The Dark Sun setting takes place in a desert fantasy world where a psychotic Evil Sorcerer named Rajaat taught the art of Defilingnote  to a bunch of humans and lead them on a genocidal world-war that annihilated a number of sentient species, devastated the cultures of those races not driven extinct, and burned the world to a dying desert. When those humans realised that their boss wasn't human and, in fact, planned on wiping out humanity once it had killed off the other races, they turned on him. Then the most powerful of them all turned into a monstrous dragon-monster and ever since the others have ruled as undying sorcerer-kings whilst slowly trying to advance themselves in the same way. Slavery is the norm, cannibalism a fact of life, family members will kill each other over a mouthful of water, and any heroes (if you can call them that) fight out of necessity, not idealism.
    • Dungeons Of Drakkenheim was already a morally ambiguous world of scheming nobles, an ambitiously overzealous church, and mages who were shunned and hated for having ruled as brutal Sorcerous Overlords over a thousand years ago. Then the capital city of the biggest kingdom was annihilated by a meteor made of Green Rocks, which both turned the city into an urban wasteland crawling with insane mutants and kicked off a fifteen-year civil war amongst the aristocracy over who would claim the now-vacant throne. Not to mention that the toxic mists evenloping the fallen city are slowly spreading, corrupting the rest of the world. Or the fact that the meteor opened a dimensional rift where it struck, and an Eldritch Abomination will eventually enter the world and devour it when it grows big enough.
    • The Midnight (2003) setting takes place in a rather generic fantasy world where the Forces of Evil won the final war and the protagonists are guerillas or simple folk trying to delay the inevitable. Imagine The Lord of the Rings if Sauron had won. Add in the fact that the gods created the world as a prison for the Big Bad and screwed up the bindings that were supposed to keep only the Big Bad trapped, so now they can't get in and sort things out, and it gets worse.
    • The overall theme in Planescape is its moral ambiguity and the bizarre settings only increase the grim mood.
    • Grim Hollow, a third-party setting, markets itself heavily as this. While it's not quite as dark as other entries on this page, it still has some very clear dark elements; Of the two most powerful (and warring) nations on the continent, one is barely held together by a Corrupt Church and an inbred child king, while the other is fallen into civil war and half of it is ruled by vampires. In the north, shamans perform Human Sacrifice to prevent Coldfire from consuming all. In the south, the Castinellan Provinces brutally slaughter sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks for the crime of not performing magic. Meanwhile, monsters and plague stalk the land, the cruel men seek to profit.
  • Exalted: Creation has pretty much been on a declining spiral since it was created, with one or two temporary exceptions. The Gods are corrupt, lazy, and/or addicted to games that are worse than crack, heroin, nicotine, and bacon combined. The world is threatened by no less than three sets of Eldritch Abominations, any of which would be happy to corrupt, unravel, or utterly destroy existence. The greatest weapons with the capability to fend off these enemies are humans stuffed with way more power than humanity was built to handle, suffering from a curse that causes them periodic psychotic breaks. The average mortal can expect either a long life of drudgery and toil or a short life of terror and pain. Oh, and those weapons? Two of the three sets of Abominations have their own versions working for them. Pretty much the only thing keeping the setting from being a Cosmic Horror Story is that the PC Exalted are fully able, if they act with wisdom, to actually confront and, potentially, solve the problems that face Creation.
  • Gemini is set in a dying world that succumbed to eternal twilight and the people are harassed by the demonic forces looking for the hiding Prophet believed to be a Saviour of Man, while the inhuman elves and dwarf races grow increasingly more degenerate and hostile.
  • Ironsworn is described as having a "perilous" setting, as the Ironlanders contend with perpetual winter and defend against the horrific monsters of the Ironland. Magic is rare but dangerous.
  • KULT: Humanity used to be immortal super-entities, but a jealous deity known as the Demiurge took away our powers and sealed them off, and imposed "mundane reality" on us. People who we think to be crazy are actually seeing through this veil.
  • Although the game itself has very little in terms of setting, the rules and artwork in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess core books present a world filled with sex, black magic, and the most gruesome violence imaginable.
  • Palladium Game's Nightbane, where you must save a modern-day Earth that has *already* been taken over secretly by monstrous shapeshifters- often by being one of them.
  • Shadow of the Demon Lord from Schwalb Entertainment was influenced by the makers work on the 2nd. ed. Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. In this setting, the weak magic of WHFRP is even further diminished to uselessness (so no magical hopes) and while there aren't the Chaos Gods to try and turn everything in shit, God has been maimed and devolved into the titular Demon Lord, an almost omnipotent Eldritch Abomination who's nearly mindless with fury and only held back by being imprisoned in a cage made from his stolen power. He's still potent enough to send semi-regular demon invasions and natural disasters. Not to mention that while the fey oppose the Demon Lord, a particularly cruel and sadistic branch known as the devils love taking humans to their realm of hell to be constantly tortured. Finally humans are as mean, racist and unhygenic as they are in WHFRP.
  • By Chaosium, the very early game Stormbringer and its '90s temporary successor Elric! which are set in the world of The Elric Saga where the world is doomed by an idiot sorcerer king and his Evil Weapon.
  • Warhammer hits pretty much every trope except evil cults controlling all organized religion and Cybernetics Eat Your Soul. How dark is it? When the setting was rebooted, the justification was that all the prophecies about The End of the World as We Know It came true simultaneously and everything was destroyed in horror despite everything the various heroes and factions tried.
    • A few of the tropes it meets:
      • Magic really is intrinsically tied to Chaos but not using it simply isn't an option.
      • Every religion and power structure has been infiltrated to some extent by Chaos worshipers.
      • Any and all actions that a sentient being performs directly feed the forces of Chaos. Fighting against the Champions of Khorne, for instance, empowers Khorne because that just increases the violence. Not fighting just means you will die, which also furthers Khorne's goals.
      • Since the coming of Chaos all forms of life in the world have been at least slightly corrupted by it. The elves lost their compassion and turned into haughty manipulators, xenophobic cannibals, and vicious slavers. The lizardmen, the chosen race of the original gods, have gradually lost their Super-Intelligence and the lesser ones have become partially feral. Dwarves once formed firm and long-lasting bonds of friendship but now obsess over grudges and ancient hatreds instead.
    • The off-spring game Mordheim is set in the world of Warhammer Fantasy and fits the bill even better than its progenitor. In the ruined city of Mordheim, the pious become zealous, the tough becomes weak and the good become corpses hung above the streets. It says something that the only irrevocably "good" faction is a small group of fanatic warrior monks who *everyone else* thinks are evil.
    • Its more popular Science Fantasy spinoff Warhammer 40,000 can be summed up as Warhammer In Space. And it does have everything on the list, even the evil cults monopolizing all religion (provided you remember the Imperial Cult is the lesser of who knows how many evils).
  • The World of Darkness games are practically the trope codifiers for urban, Dark Fantasy. It's setting is a Crapsack World where wealthy vampires run the world from the shadows while fighting to cling to their humanity, angry werewolves are losing a battle to save Earth's ecology from an Eldritch Abomination, wizards are waging war amongst each other to dictate reality and etc.

  • McQueen: An exploration of a journey "down the rabbit hole" of a distorted London with two suicidal fashionistas waiting until morning.

    Video Games 
  • Amea features a world overrun by zombies, yetis, and darkness. And by the end of the game, Amea, Inglor, and Garrik are shown to be the only good guys, and Garrik gets killed fairly early.
  • Avadon totters on the edge of the trope without quite falling off, allowing for both humor and heroism in a totalitarian, ends-justify-the-means society that's one broken treaty away from bloody ruin.
  • In Battle Brothers, Orc marauders and goblins roam the countryside, all manner of bloodthirsty monsters lurk in the woods, the nobles are far more interested in their bickering than helping the peasants, violent death is a regular occurrence and the only kind of magic is vile necromancy. You might not save the world, but you might be able to save enough coin to retire comfortably.
  • The Under the Burning Suns campaign in Battle for Wesnoth is set in the same fantasy world as the other campaign, but takes place long after them. By the time of the campaign, what remains of Wesnoth is a desert filled with marauding humans, orcs, and necromancers. And when the protagonist desert-elves find some civilized humans, they turns out to be working for an Eldritch Abomination who pretends to be the elves god.
  • Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō: See entry for Berserk.
  • Black Guards and its sequel, has your band of thugs, madmen, and junkies dealing with enemies much worse than yourselves, as you try to prove yourself innocent of a murder in the first game and go on a dark quest for revenge in the second.
  • Bramble: The Mountain King is based upon Nordic fables and folktales. It revolves around two young siblings, Olle and Lillemor, who sneak out to explore an enchanted forest filled with magical creatures. It initially starts out as a whimsical adventure, but things take an increasingly dark and horrifying turn when Lillemor is kidnapped by a troll and Olle learns of a curse over the land. Olle has to avoid or fight numerous monsters and malevolent beings to save Lillemor. The backstory reveals that humans were the cause of much of the problems and while it has an uplifting ending, Olle has to go through hell to achieve it.
  • Brütal Legend has elements of it (Humans oppressed by demon overlords and both sides under attack from The Undead), but it's mostly masked by the sheer awesome.
  • Despite the sometimes terrifying enemies and morbid nature of the setting most of the Castlevania series is Gothic Horror. The Alternate Continuity Reboot Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and its sequels however, dive right into this.
  • Crossbow Crusade: The game has you exploring a kingdom full of zombies and monsters, all of which you can combat with your trusty crossbow.
  • Dante's Inferno, where you play a Crusader who has to slash his way through the Seven Circles of Hell to rescue his beloved from Satan.
  • Darkest Dungeon toes the line between this and Cosmic Horror Story. After the Narrator spent the family fortune on uncovering the secrets of the family's ancestral home, he Dug Too Deep and found an eldritch portal that let something out. Now the once stately manor has become an abomination, and it's up to the player to send teams of adventurers into those maddening corridors to investigate. Not all of them come out alive, and those that do are often changed irrevocably.
  • The Deception series tends to be set in a world that invokes this feeling. Though the main character is usually limited to a small area, it's mostly shown in outside cutscenes and enemy descriptions.
  • Demon's Crest, the final game in the Gargoyle's Quest series, is one of the bleakest games on the Super Nintendo, taking place in a realm of demons and with a main character who wants to gain ultimate power to rule the world.
  • The Dept. Heaven series in general. As if the mortals weren't bad enough by themselves, all mortals are by design stuck in the middle of the war between gods and demons, both sides of which will actively screw you over in the name of their own victory. Defectors from either side generally don't get very happy endings either.
  • Diablo has elements of it.
  • World of Dominion of Darkness is like this, mostly because of the player character's actions. Altough there is no evidence for existence of any truly benevolent higher power. All "divine" beings turn out to be fictional, malevolent or in the best case, working on bizarre, inhuman morality.
  • Dragon Age is completely this. The entire world is almost always at war. Mages constantly fight against the whispers of demons from the dream world/afterlife of the Fade trying to take them over (little wonder many of them choose to be magically lobotomized), and every so often, one succumbs and becomes a Humanoid Abomination, or makes a deal in order to learn Blood Magic. Demons are thus a constant threat. Because it's so easy for a mage to be possessed or go rogue, they're imprisoned and kept under constant watch by The Chantry. Mages who resist this are hunted down and either captured or killed. Elves are a Slave Race distinguished from humanity only by their long ears, who were once the dominant species but were soon hunted down, and are now second-class citizens in a society dominated by humans (the only exceptions being the Dalish, who are nomadic and desperately hold on to the last shreds of culture they once had). The Dwarves are a politicking race with a brutally restrictive Fantastic Caste System, who cower in their last two remaining fortress-cities, with the rest of their once-mighty empire being overrun. The resident Proud Warrior Race (though it's technically a religion, not a race, and anyone can join) called the Qunari are almost impossible to understand by the other races and are constantly threatening invasion. One of the world's major powers is built on slavery, and the rest are filled with everything from Decadent Courts to constant infighting. To top it all off, every hundred years or so they all come under attack by Darkspawn, which the Chantry's god figure, The Maker, cooked up as divine retribution because Humanity tried to invade heaven - according to the Chantry, anyways.
  • Dragon: Marked for Death: The world has all manner of monsters terrorizing the countryside and villages, the Medius Empire is a brutal regime that could care less about the dregs of their people living in the slums despite being "chosen" by the Celestial Primatus and its emperor is corrupt and seeking immortality by any and all means available to him, the protagonist had most of their Dragonblood Clan wiped out by the empire for the sake of said immortality under the name of them being monsters who worship the Astral Dragon Atruum despite only wanting to live in peace away from persecution, they make a pact with said dragon for revenge and rescuing the other Sole Survivor that leads to them manifesting dragon parts on their bodies and being willing to devour the souls of anyone in their way to gain more power to do it, most humans treat them like monsters for their ties to their clan despite them being willing to do their jobs and save their lives, and said dragon is just using them to revive himself so he can kill his rival god (by blowing up a moon) and plunge the world into chaos and destruction like in ancient times.
  • Drakengard features Caim, a protagonist who gleefully slaughters enemies with his dragon, who is also having a jolly old time with all the murder. One of the party members is a cannibalistic serial killer who targets children. Another is a pedophile. At least there's Caim's sister, who seems like a decent enough person. Except for the fact that she wants to bang her brother, and kills herself when she finds out her brother is disgusted by the idea. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story morphs into a Cosmic Horror Story by the end.
  • Dwarf Fortress, to some extent. The powers of magic range from unpredictable to malevolent. The gods are aloof and arbitrary when they aren't actively cruel, demons rise from the Underworld to become major political players, the only mages of any real power are necromancers who perform vile experiments and send out undead hordes from their dark towers, The Fair Folk abduct villagers to eat and reproduce, massive creatures raid villages to slaughter and steal, and magically-saturated lands are more dangerous than their ordinary counterparts, even when inhabited by the likes of unicorns and pixies. That said, your dwarves and adventurers can carve out a better world through willpower, dedication, and cold, hard steel. Or make it even worse.
  • Eldritch Lands: The Witch Queen's Eternal War calls itself dark fantasy on its own Steam page, and it's quite accurate. The Gods are almost all dead, hordes of undead overwhelm the world, and even the human afterlife is gone, as the protagonist destroyed it when she killed the human's gods, believing that allowing souls "the peace of oblivion" is a better fate.
  • The Fall from Heaven mod for Civilization IV is explicitly described as Dark Fantasy by its creators. Convenient, since the mechanics of Civilization heavily encourage a rather brutal and cynical gameplay.
  • Fallen London and Sunless Sea are set in a version of Victorian London that was "stolen by bats" and is now run by the Masters of the Bazaar. Players can commit murder and cannibalism, go mad, become possessed, have their eyes stolen by spiders, sell their soul and be sank beneath the strange waves of the zee by enemies.
  • Fear & Hunger is set in a world exactly like this. The outside world is not especially better than medieval Europe, with wars and conflict about the world, and it only gets worse when one factors in the supernatural elements. Namely, the fact that all magic is inherently tied to dark gods, the entirety of this world's equivalent of the Americas being a monster-laden Death World, and the fact that throughout the world is dark dwellings of horrible monsters, the one your hapless player character visits being known as the "dungeons of fear and hunger", where the very real threat of being messily killed, devoured or even raped is all too real and every act of fighting to survive is an achievement of its own. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the setting devolves into a Cosmic Horror Story by the time you reach the lowest part of the dungeon.
    • It's sequel, Fear & Hunger: Termina, is not much better, being a contemporary take on the genre. Set several hundred years after the first game, the world's equivalent of Europe has undergone its World War 2 that devastated both sides, with it being strongly implied that one of the characters of the last game has been resurrected and ascended into the Kaiser of the Bremen Empire, the resident Nazi Germany equivalent. As if that wasn't enough, fourteen passengers on a train bound for Prehevil get sucked into a battle royale led by one of the Eldritch Abomination Jerkass Gods of the setting in a festival that lasts three days, and morphs many of the town's inhabitants into monsters themselves. And you have to survive the festival with a ticking timebomb in your head that will lead you to potentially being moonscorched. Have fun!
  • FromSoftware:
    • Demon's Souls is a Survival Horror Action RPG that takes place in the Kingdom of Boletaria, a place many people called paradise on earth until its king went mad with nihilistic grief and made a pact with an ancient demon god known as the Old One. The awakening of the Old One would unleash a fog that would turn humans into savage monsters or powerful demons while also giving form to creatures of myth and reviving an ancient Dragon God. You are just another individual coming to a now-deserted Boletaria to help stop the fog or for your own hunger for power while also meeting other visitors/survivors with their own agendas.
    • In Dark Souls, Where to begin? The games are classed as Survival Horror by way of fantasy Action RPG by a good amount of people. The game takes place primarily in the Kingdom of Lordran, which has been completely run into the ground. The only thing that remains are the decaying buildings, it's inhabitants have all either died or become hollowed, crazed and undead. In addition to it being host to dozens of different types of horrific forms of demons, twisted animals, and grotesque monsters. Lordran is also just the worst of the Kingdoms and nations in the souls universe. Many other states are implied to be decaying and faltering. That's just the setting. The world is actually ending to the Plague of Undeath. The morally ambiguous protagonist, along with most of the world's population has been cursed by the Darksign. A curse that grants its bearer technical immortality, but at the cost of eventual complete loss of sanity. (death is also not any less painful when you're immortal in the souls universe). The gods have either all left or are too bothered to do anything about the situation. Many of the NPCs you meet along the way eventually lose themselves to the curse and you are forced to slay them in self defense. The "hero" is tasked with relighting the First Flame, which even then, would only temporarily cure the curse, as it is forced to resurface every couple of centuries. Or, the hero can choose to let the flame die ushering the world into the ambiguous "Age of Dark". An age of freedom? or simply another word for the dark and nothingness consuming the world? Even the quest givers who task the hero with the final goals of the game are not entirely trustworthy and may be manipulating the player character as an unwitting pawn for further ends. Then there's Manus and the Abyss, if there's anything the Souls series needed to make it the crappiest of crapsack worlds, was an eldritch abomination trying mindlessly to obliterate all known existence. There isn't much hope in the Dark Souls universe, indeed.
    • Dark Souls II is even darker than the first game, with up to four kingdoms crumbling due to the shards of Manus influence. While there were many characters who claimed to be undead in the first, even after going crazy they appeared to be normal. In II, NPCs can be varying levels of hollow, from appearing vaguely zombie-like to almost falling apart — just like the player.
    • It gets even worse in Dark Souls III. Civilization has fallen, the Age of Dark is practically upon mankind, all the Lords who kindled the flame before have abandoned their thrones, and now it's up to you to decide what is the true fate of the world, and this is not necessarily a good thing, all that remains is ember indeed......
    • Bloodborne is a mix of this and Gaslamp Fantasy for the first half of the game, being set in a Victorian-Gothic setting, with a lycanthropy plague, quicksilver bullets, witches, magic, and other elements of the subgenres. However, it is later revealed to be a Cosmic Horror Story along the lines of H. P. Lovecraft's novels.
    • Elden Ring is perhaps the most rooted in Dark Fantasy among FromSoftware's games as, in addition to Hidetaka Miyazaki directing it, George R. R. Martin is responsible for building its myth and world. The Lands Between in the midst of a Succession Crisis between demi-gods fighting over who gets to become the next Elden Lord, with said crisis beginning when God-Emperor Marika the Eternal went missing and her most beloved son Godwyn was killed. Some of her children are also frightening monsters, with Godrick the Grafted being the most blatant example for being a tyrant and grafting body parts onto his body in an attempt to gain more power.
  • Gord: In this 2023 Team17 game, some of the team from The Witcher left and worked on this game inspired by Slavic folklore. In this setting, the sun has gone dark plunging the world into eternal night. Possible hope comes from a southern warrior king trying to unite humanity even if it must take conquest and worse. You are his selected governor to take a backwards northern village and transform it into a staging point for his crusade. Unfortunately, besides the occasional brigands and unnatural monster, you will also have to deal with Horrors, these demons are the mightiest sent by the god of the underworld to punish humanity. Unfortunately these Horrors are going beyond their edict and are coercing humans to sacrifice to themselves or their children as offerings.
  • Grim Dawn has a steampunk fantasy world where humanity is pushed to the brink of extinction by an invasion of other-dimensional beings and the undead. The situation has become so bad that gold has become worthless, it's useful iron that's the currency.
  • Hands of Necromancy, where you play as a Dark Sorceror who practices forbidden magic, and you're fighting The Legionsof Hell.
  • Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is an interesting case, often blurring the line between Dark Fantasy and Psychological Horror. Based upon Celtic and Norse Mythology, the titular Senua journeys into the the depths of Helheim to bargain for her dead lover's life back. In the argument for Maybe Magic, The Corruption is a very real presence in the story, having plenty of nightmarish takes on existent (and non-existent) Norse gods and demons, and featuring a descent into the darkness while on The Quest to save her loved one. In the argument of Maybe Mundane, however, it's basically confirmed that Senua is a schizophrenic who was deeply traumatized by a Viking raid on her home settlement, killing her lover and most of her family, so it's ambiguous how much of it is in her head or not.
  • Heroes of Newerth: Maliken's betrayal has caused many Legion strongholds to fall to the mercy of the Hellbourne forces who plans on destroying it so they can bring forth their Sacrificial Pit.
  • Legacy of Kain: The world of Nosgoth is rotting away when its guardians became corrupted. Demons and undead roam dark forests and swamps while bandits are free to murder as they please. And these are the good old days!!! Because the vampire messiah who was supposed to save the world didn't. Instead he raised a horde that reduced humanity to cowering behind a single fortified city while his vampire minions cloud the skies with toxic fumes, as the world is dying even more rapidly. And then an Eldritch Abomination decides to get into the act...
  • Lies of P is a Souls-like RPG video game centered around a darker and edgier take on Pinocchio. Set in a dark, Belle Époque city called Krat, players control Pinocchio, here a “puppet mechanoid”, as he sets off to find his creator, Mr. Geppetto, fighting through countless enemies to do so amid the ruins of a city overrun by mechanical monstrosities.
  • Lost in Random is set in a dark fairy tale world full of board game motifs, where a wicked Queen rules with an iron fist, monsters roam the land, and three Eldrich Abominations feed off of the fears of stolen children.
  • The Last Faith: A Gothic Horror Metroidvania Souls-like RPG set in a dark, haunted land which has fallen to a mysterious, magical force called the Nycrux, which has spread like a plague and brought mutation and madness in its wake.
  • Mace: The Dark Age: This fighting game presents an alternate timeline version of the medieval era in which the world has rather literally gone to hell due to the presence of Asmodeus and his underlings known as the Covenant of Seven. Some other details about the setting for elaboration:
    • The setting is largely depicted as being a Crapsack World, with an especial mention about Europe and western Asia being portrayed as particularly bad due to those lands being overrun by demons and other supernatural creatures. In addition, it is stated that in the Mace-verse that the religions of Christianity and Islam did not came to exist. While the influence of those religions (or at the very least the manipulations of those religions by certain rulers) may not have been entirely beneficial, but at the very least they contributed to certain shared values across their respective domains. Thus, the non-existence of those religions leads to those parts of the world being even more fractious and chaotic.
    • The Abrahamic God is non-present and the only god-like divinity that is present is the aforementioned Asmodeus, who is a Satanic Archetype.
    • In addition, the Mace of Tanis is used both to enforce Asmodeus' will and also as a way to bait others either into making a Deal with the Devil or lure warriors to fight to the death to claim its power for themselves.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel Shadow of War lead towards this direction rather The Lord of the Rings's High Fantasy: instead of an epic adventure where the heroes travel to several lands in search for a magical artifact to defeat the Dark Lord, the games take place entirely inside Mordor where evil is everywhere and the forces of light have no power. The main protagonist derives his powers from a dark source and has to do very morally ambiguous deeds like raising his own army of brainwashed minions, and said source is not completely well-intentioned either.
  • Nights of Azure is set in a world that had been showered by a demon king's blood, leading to transformed fiends plaguing the night. The only thing protecting humanity is an untrustworthy, Burn the Witch!-happy church who sacrifices a designated Saint every ten years to prevent the demon king from returning and who employs agents that get transformed into fiends if they're exposed to too much demon blood, unless if they themselves are one of the rare half-demons that retained their humanity. Don't feel too bad for humanity though, as a common theme of the game is how humans could be comparable, if not worse, than demons.
  • Overlord series are both a pastiche and a parody of this genre.
  • Path of Exile is set in a continent-sized Corpse Land-cum-Penal Colony (think "fantasy Australia") under siege by Fantasy Nazis. All summoning runs on Necromancy, and even Templars do this.
  • The original Quake featured this as the main setting. Eldritch horrors, dark magic, gothic and occult architecture, and an overall bleak atmosphere permeate the entire setting of the game. The major difference? You kill the enemies with More Dakka.
  • Soul Sacrifice is based around Sorcerers in such a world, and filled to the brim with Body Horror and Was Once a Man.
  • Soulstice is a Stylish Action take on the genre. It takes place in a city where it is Always Night and features Chimeras, magical warriors who run the risk of losing their humanity the more they use their powers.
  • Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage: See the entry for Berserk in the Manga folder.
  • Valkyrie Profile is an example of one. Slavery, war, and general atrocities is the order of the day. More often than not, humans succumb to the worst part of themselves. Not to say that the gods are any better. Ragnarok is just around the corner, and things are falling apart. Your job is to recruit the soul of worthy mortals to fight in that final battle, and there is no shortage of death and despair to make it very easy and guilt-free for you.
  • While Warcraft is generally optimistic High Fantasy, at least two RTS games in the series qualify. Warcraft I is Darker and Edgier compared to later games, orcs lack any redeeming qualities or humorous elements, Medivh is outright a mad Evil Sorcerer and player's character (who later evolved into Orgrim Doomhammer) betrays Blackhand out of lust for power alone. Also, canonically, bad guys win there. Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is a far more prominent and complex example, where ALL campaign protagonists are anti-heroes or villains to some degree, and the known world is still suffering the aftermath of a massive undead and demon onslaught. Humanity is hunted down to the borders of extinction (and its remnants are run by a racist tyrant), high elves willingly damn their entire race, and the main conflict is set between the Lich King and his former master Kil'jaeden, both sides nearly equally evil. Even the bonus campaign, The Founding of Durotar, has a Tearjerker ending with Jaina having to betray her father.
  • Wild Blood, a game inspired by Arthurian Legend, but with the kingdom being conquered by assorted demons and monsters unleashed by the evil sorceress Morgana.
  • Most of the games of Yasumi Matsuno (Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Crimson Shroud) fall under this category. War-torn lands, oppressive governments, Corrupt Churches, and vengeful gods abound.

  • Ark The Improbable: The main characters are an Elf and a Frankenstein's Monster belonging to a Bounty Hunters guild, fight hideously mutated creatures, developed from The Virus working its disgusting magic on mundane animals, plants, humans, and fantastic creatures, including Werewolves and Zombies.
  • Baskets of Guts: Despite the fact that magic is quite common and basically doesn't require any evil activities to use it, most of the wizards empower their spells with homunculi-based batteries. Said homunculi are supposedly artificial powerful wizards, doomed to serve as energy sources for their entire life. And then there are paraanatomists who promote "medicine" over healing magic. And The Mafia, lots of it. So it's not the world that is dark, but rather the creatures who populate it. It even makes the whole goverment tyranny thing somewhat justified.
  • Black Rose features a grimy corrupted empire with Steam Punk technology versus an underdeveloped country where magic users are being wiped out, a lack of fantasy races other than humans, and a continued emphasis on how while things might seem bad at present, the protagonists will doubtlessly be going through worse. Said underdeveloped magic-using country also has magic users capable of Mind Rape, with the military of said grimy corrupted empire being their only true means of protection against them (for a fee)...provided they don't just "vacate" their settlements and take over their land if they don't buy in.
  • Draconia Chronicles, although it's more of the "Society is in the toilet, none of the races can get along or see their so-called "allies" are about to stab them in the back, and there's constant, unceasing warfare, atrocity, and bloodshed" sort of dark.
  • Drowtales: Murder and Demonic Possession are very common. One character whose life is in danger comments that she doesn't want to end up Undead (and another has her zombified little sister as a bodyguard). Cannibalism is completely legal due to a resource shortage, as are rape, incest, pedophilia, and Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. Schools don't mind the students killing each other, as long as they do so quietly and dispose of the bodies themselves. And those are the "good" guys. On the surface world, nobles bathe in elven blood because they think it'll make them immortal. Magic is fairly neutral though, but some are allergic to Blood Magic.
  • Parts three and four (and possibly part 5, we're not sure since it hasn't been posted yet) of A Modest Destiny, although they manage to inject some humor. It also seems to be getting better (due to one character, a frost-elf Vampire/ Necromancer, being stuck in the Heel–Face Revolving Door.)
  • Kill Six Billion Demons is set a multiverse built upon the suicide of its creator YISUN, which was once a place of grandiose warrior-gods and civilizations of wise philosopher-kings, but no more. After an apocalyptic Universal War swept away the multiverse in a deluge of fire, seven mad Demiurges now rule over creation, visiting ruin and oppression upon their subjects. Crime and rot are rampant and unchallenged. The closest thing to Heaven, the Red City of Throne, is a gigantic Wretched Hive built from the corpses of the gods and angels that once inhabited it, controlled by decadent Guilds, devils and ruthless slavers. Angels, the keepers of order and justice, have either stepped on the Path of Thorns, lost their way and became glorified mercenaries, or spend their time philosophying in the Void while the material world tears itself apart. If that wasn't enough, the central religion of the setting, Atru, preaches that all of creation is built on violence and lies, and worst of all, seems to be right.
    "YISUN said: Let there be no genesis, for beginnings are false and I am a consummate liar."
  • [un]Divine is set in an analogue of Cuba where the main protagonist ends up selling his soul to a demon in a ritual and there's a whole war between angels and demons that the former mostly won.

    Web Original 
  • Demons Due: An illustration-based web series where an evil sorceress unleashes all kinds of evils upon a local lordship. Magic is fairly neutral here, too, but dang, is it can't be misused for all kinds of horrors in this one.
  • Dis Acedia: a dark fantasy web serial set in an interdimensional magical prison, crafted by an ancient, utterly demented deity. Magic is extremely dangerous and feared, death is never an escape, and the entire dimension is divided into fiefdoms waging eternal war.
  • The Iron Teeth: A dark fantasy web serial set in a world full of dangers and monsters. Human civilization hangs by a thread and yet people still war and fight among themselves. Magic is neutral but limited and hoarded by guilds that use it for personal power. And of course, everything wants to kill goblins...
  • Pirates SMP: The backstory conflict revolves around a world-eating Corruptive force against a psuedo-religious organization which regularly conducts Human Sacrifice by magickal means; magic itself is generally limited in usage (only as potions or enchanted gear, which in themselves are difficult to come by), even the most well-meaning gods have their limitations in where they can be or what they can do, and the little we know about national politics and societal conventions beyond the government-free Island of Misfit Everything Faction Isles seems to run on either tyranny and oppression or Deliberate Values Dissonance. Even our protagonists whose POVs we follow fall into a Morality Kitchen Sink, ranging from decent people to remorseless murderers to one guy who runs part-time on Blue-and-Orange Morality due to being a Dimensional Traveler who views the entire series as a video game.
  • Tale Of The Necromancer: The presented world makes quite a bleak impression. There are no benevolent higher powers, in fact their absence partly prompted the protagonist to study (or perhaps create) necromancy. The magical powers/spiritual beings that appear in the stories are either evil or, at the best, "neutral but corrupting".

    Western Animation 
  • Castlevania is set in a world filled with violence, filth, and blood, with extremely sadistic vampires who seek to either exterminate the human race or use them as livestock, and only one remaining member of a vampire hunting family left to stop them. And when the protagonists aren't dealing with vampires, they have their hands full with animated skeletons, night creatures, religious zealots killing innocent people for being "heretics", citizens who range from apathetic to dogmatically supportive of said zealots, Evil Sorcerers, and simply mankind exhibiting its worst traits. It even becomes a Cosmic Horror Story with the reveal of a gateway that leads to an infinite number of realms including the afterlife, different points in time, and dimensions with strange architecture, among other things. Adding to this is the final season which introduces an elemental vampire that feeds on death who's been pulling the strings all along to sate his appetite on whatever genocides occur. The heroes and villains both exhibit plenty of moral grayness. Perhaps one of the few characters that don't is Sypha.
  • Disenchantment has probably the most darkly humorous take on the dark fantasy genre in cartoon history, playing its medieval dystopian setting for laughs. Despite this, is still meets many of the traits of other Dark Fantasy stories. The royal palace is large and comfortable, and the royalty/nobility live in luxury; but the commoners live in severe poverty, filthy homes, and barely have enough to eat, and often have to make a living doing unpleasant work such as executioners. And despite the fact that the royalty and nobility have much more comfortable lives, they're also going bankrupt. Children may even start work as soon as they are born, taking jobs such as midwife, miner, or candlemaker. The relations between the various nations are tense at best, and the threat of war is very real. Magical beings don't have it any better; fairies often work as prostitutes, while elves are hunted for their magical blood which can create the Elixir of Life. The elves, by the way, live in a society where you are expected to act happy all the time... or else.
  • Little Demon: An Animated Sitcom about The Antichrist coming into her powers and living a suburban life killing bullies and dealing with parents.
  • The Owl House: While a Denser and Wackier take on the genre (being a family-friendly Disney Channel series), a lot of the tropes that make up the setting it very much in line with Dark Fantasy. Unlike many of the Summon Everyman Hero fiction novels that Luz is used to, the Boiling Isles is a dog-eat-dog Giant Corpse World populated by witches with inherently deadly Weird Weather, deadly curses, a Wizarding School that makes Hogwarts look safe and accommodating in comparison and all sorts of monsters that literally prowl the streets that are equally likely to eat you, imprison you or rip you off in every sense of the phrase. The plot itself is about a human who finds herself in this world and has had her life threatened and her childish notions of magic and wonder questioned multiple times, a small demon with aspirations of conquest and tyranny and a Con Artist witch under a curse that turns her into a mindless beast, all the while being hunted down by an oppressive regime that has all of the bells and whistles of a Corrupt Church.


Video Example(s):


Demon's Souls

The game is set in the Kingdom of Boletaria, which was led to great prosperity by King Allant XII with the use of the power of souls, until it was beset by a strange colorless fog that isolated it from the rest of the world and brought soul-hungry demons with it.

After the world was let known of Boletaria's plight, legend spread of the chaos within the kingdom wreaked upon it by a beast from the Nexus and of the demons that grew ever more powerful with each soul they devoured. Many people went to Boletaria, either to save it from its plight or lured by the prospect of the power of souls, but all were lost in its chaos.

You are one such person, like many others now dead and trapped in the fog with your soul bound to the Nexus. From there, your journey begins...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DarkFantasy

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