Follow TV Tropes


Downer Beginning

Go To

"And so the tale begins...
As a tragedy."

Most stories that involve disasters, genocide, rape, murder or whatever horror imaginable wait a little bit before things turn totally awful. Let the plot develop for a while and show some signs that things are about to turn nasty. Some works, however, prefer to kickstart the action by letting whatever unspeakable horror the story is about take place in the very first scene. Better to get the really bad stuff over with quickly, right? It can only go up from there.


Alternatively, the beginning can make the work look very dark and depressing — but it gets better pretty quick and it turns out that the story is not at all as dark as the beginning would have us believe.

Likely to lead to Back from the Brink... But if the story is truly depressing or takes place in a true Crapsack World, the Downer Beginning will lead to a Downer Ending, as all hope of solving the problem has been crushed (or going From Bad to Worse).

Backstory counts only if it is shown rather than merely mentioned, and only if it's at the beginning of the actual story.

An After the End story may begin by showing the horrible event(s) of the apocalypse that began it.

Compare Start to Corpse, which in itself is not a subtrope of this, because in many cases neither the characters nor the audience get any chance to develop a sympathy for the victim. Also compare You Can't Thwart Stage One, which can be jumpstarted by this trope.


Warning: Unmarked spoilers ahead - some spoilers are marked, but having a work on this list can be a spoiler in itself.


    open/close all folders 

    Multiple Media 
  • All versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy begin with Earth destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet.
  • Every version of Batman's origin begins with his parents being shot dead in front of him.
  • All versions of Superman's origin begin with an infant Kal-El being sent to Earth as his home planet Krypton is destroyed.
  • All versions of Spider-Man's origin start with his uncle's death, and it's always because he neglected to stop the killer when he could have.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 starts with the earthquake honoring its name.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion begins with a brief scene of the Second Impact.
  • At the beginning of AKIRA, Tokyo is destroyed by a nuclear explosion, setting off World War III. It turns out the explosion was created by Akira, a young boy with psionic powers.
  • Space Battleship Yamato begins with the Earth getting hit by planet bombs.
  • The first episode of Sgt. Frog opens with Fuyuki having a nightmare about a full-scale Keronian invasion of Earth - and Sarge himself actually kills Natsumi!
  • Cross Game: Wakaba's death in the first episode.
  • Kamichama Karin, the series begins with the character, Karin Hanazono, grieving that she's all alone due to the death of her parents, and just now even her beloved cat. The series itself has quite a few jumps from light and happy to darker.
  • Delicious in Dungeon begins with Falin being eaten by the Red Dragon, then two members of her team leaving instead of sticking around to help her brother rescue her. Fortunately it gets less depressing from there.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho begins with the main character's death. Even though Death Is Cheap here, nobody attending his funeral knew that.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist opens with a flashback of when Ed and Al attempted human transmutation to bring back their dead mother (The result looked like some poor dude that had an encounter with a flamethrower or an acid pit.), which led to Al's body and Ed's arm and leg being lost to the Gate. While the manga didn't cover it in detail for a few chapters, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood flashes back to the event in the second episode.
  • The first episode of Kimba the White Lion has the title character's parents killed off.
  • The Gundam series is fond of these:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: "A new home for mankind, where people are born and raised... and die." Cue the Colony Drop that opened the One Year War, and the opening narration that tells us that half the human population was wiped out in the first month of fighting. Then cue Amuro's Doomed Hometown, the brutal deaths of his friends' families, and becoming a Child Soldier (well, a teenage soldier) in the One Year War in the story proper.
    • Gundam X has the worst Downer Beginning in the entire franchise, consisting of a space war that ends in MULTIPLE space colonies being dropped onto the earth, killing almost 99% of humanity!
    • Gundam SEED Destiny opens with Shinn Asuka's family being killed by a crossfire between the Calamity and the Freedom, and him seeing their mutilated corpses.
    • Gundam 00 starts with a child soldier named Soran Ibrahim running away from the hellhole of the war zone in his own homeland, murmuring in anger, "There is no God in this world!" After a mysterious Gundam saved him from the attack by a hostile mobile suit, he later becomes Setsuna F. Seiei after the Time Skip, dedicating himself in preventing the same tragedy from happening to other innocent lives again.
    • As a homage to this scenario, GundamAGE brings us to a war-torn scenario where Flit Asuno's mother dies in the relentless attack by the Unknown Enemies. Shortly before her demise, she gave Flit the key to activate Gundam, giving him the determination to save humanity from the alleged monsters from out of nowhere.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn begins by telling the audience about Laplace Incident that took place in UC 0001 and set the tone for the rest of the Universal Century.
  • You'd think that Heartcatch Pretty Cure, being a Magical Girl show that runs on The Power of Friendship, would start in a light and fluffy way, introducing the main characters as soon as possible. But no: it starts with Lady of War Yuri/Cure Moonlight on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle against her Evil Counterpart Dark Pretty Cure, ending with her Heart Seed shattered in two, the larger half of which is taken by said Evil Counterpart. Yuri gets better, her fairy partner Cologne, not so much.
  • DokiDoki! PreCure. The first scene involves Cure Sword fighting a losing battle with the villains' forces, who succeed in destroying her home kingdom.
  • Genesis Climber MOSPEADA (aka the New Generation part of Robotech) begins with pictures of Inbit subjugating Earth (skimmed but still shown), followed by the fleet sent to liberate Earth being wiped out by the Inbit in the first 5 minutes of the series.
  • At the beginning of Code Geass, the young Lelouch and Suzaku are shown sitting together in pain in a war-torn Japan, now Area 11 under The Empire. Lelouch is shown promising Suzaku that he will destroy The Empire.
  • The first episode of Texhnolyze concludes with the main character getting his right arm and his left leg cut off.
  • Hellsing begins with a whole village of innocents and Seras' police partners getting killed. In the TV series, Seras is part of a special ops team that gets wiped out. Seras is killed as well, but she gets better.
  • Amakusa 1637 begins with two of the main characters, Natsuki and Masaki, barely surviving to the Great Hanshin Earthquake that destroyed Kobe. Natsuki is very emotionally scarred since not only Masaki is injured while trying to protect her, but she's a first-hand witness to the destruction it caused to their hometown.
  • Cross Ange starts off fairly happily...then we see how Norma are treated. Then we find out that the titular princess is a Norma and the rest of the first episode is her life being torn apart completely, culminating in a "physical examination" that looks scarily like a rape scene and leaves poor Ange naked and in tears. Ouch. It's actually lampshaded in the next-episode preview, where the characters discuss the episode and one decries how poor Ange was treated.
  • Getter Robo loves these.
    • Getter Robo G starts from where the original left off.
    • Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo starts with Musashi's Heroic Sacrifice and the destruction of New York.
    • Getter Robo G vs. Great Mazinger starts with a monster attack that kills Musashi. Seeing a pattern here?
    • Getter Robo Armaggedon does not start with Musashi's death, but with how the Getter Team's bonds were broken beyond repair after Michiru commits suicide to avert being killed by The Virus, Dr. Saotome loses it and then is murdered, Ryoma is accused of said murder and jailed for years, Genki becomes a Creepy Child out of trauma, and a huge alien invasion takes place. Which the heroes fail to stop. And on top of it, Musashi still dies.
  • Deadman Wonderland opens up with Ganta's high school classmates getting killed by a mysterious figure with him in the room. Ganta miraculously survives, but is unfortunately pegged for the murders via a fabricated confessional tape, and then gets transported to Deadman Wonderland, a maximum security prison, without question. Things only get shittier from there.
  • At the end of the fifth Bokurano chapter, one of the children, Decoy Protagonist Waku, dies. The series only goes downhill from there.
  • Within the first minute of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei we see the title character in the middle of a suicide attempt. However, this is played for Black Comedy.
  • Berserk, which is told In Medias Res, starts like this, with Guts in the biggest and darkest pit of despair in his life. Now ruthlessly Demon Slaying, Guts is on the brink of losing his humanity to his hatred for the demons, and Griffith in particular—and we aren't even sure if we should be rooting for him or not.
  • Street Fighter Alpha: Generations begins with the Duel to the Death between a young Akuma and his master Goutetsu, which finishes with the latter's death and the first losing himself to the Satsui no Hado grom then on. It's made worse because Akuma's brother Gouken and girlfriend Sayaka attempt to stop them and fail to reach the place in time.
  • Kotoura-san: Its writeup for Break the Cutie states: the first ten minutes and twelve seconds of the first episode of Kotoura-san does nothing but systematically destroy the titular heroine's life. It is a pileup of several rounds of Break the Cutie—for one single girl—which has caused several comparisons with Gen Urobuchi to be made. It is also the one thing that catapulted the show's status from run of the mill Romantic Comedy that was at first seen to be ignorable to that of a Sleeper Hit.
  • The cheeriness of Tohru Honda in Fruits Basket is somewhat offset by the quick reveal that her mother has recently died, leaving her an orphan, and that she's currently more or less homeless living in a tent in some woods. Not long after, it's revealed that the rest of her family (save for her grandfather) dislike her because of something her mother did years back, and thus Tohru has very little by way of friends or family and has to almost entirely care for herself.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The OP Sequence's bright colors and cheerful music make it easy to ignore how the main character is running through the city, lost and in tears, or huddled in bed. There's also the horrifying scene of eldritch destruction in the first few minutes when it immediately cuts to lighthearted scenes with Madoka's family straight out of a standard Slice of Life Magical Girl anime. In hindsight, the third episode shouldn't have been nearly as much a surprise.
  • Following the novel a lot closer, the 2012 anime adaptation of Ai no Kusabi starts with an anonymous slave being sexually tortured by his also anonymous master for having slept with another slave behind the master's back. It just gets more twisted and depressing from there after the the characters are identified as the protagonists.
  • Saki Shinohayu -dawn of age- begins with Shino coming home to dinner and a game of mahjong with her mother and uncle. The next morning, Shino's mother mysteriously disappears, and Shino's goal is to get her to come back by competing in a mahjong tournament.
  • Sakura Wars (TV), being Darker and Edgier than the video games, has the first episode end with Sakura getting kicked out of the Imperial Flower Division for making everybody, especially Sumire, upset (through ruining a stage production, a press interview session, and wrecking the Kobu). Sakura, rejected and sad, is shown crying and preparing to leave the capital and never return.
  • The X/1999 TV series starts with a short OVA known as The Omen, which is from the POV of Kakyou Kuzuki. And what's shown through his eyes is how his life has sucked, specially when he can't stop the girl he loves, Hokuto Sumeragi from dying at the hands of Seishirou.
  • Attack on Titan: The story opens with the massacre of an entire city when a gigantic Titan kicks in the outer gate and lets its smaller kin through, and the protagonist and his adoptive sister helplessly watching as another Titan kills and eats their mother.
  • The Glass Mask OAV's from The '90s start with a flashback to the time a young actress had a lamp falling on her in the middle of her trademark stage play. Said actress is The Mentor, Chigusa Tsukikage, who got such bad physical scars in the accident that she had to retire.
  • Il Sole penetra le illusioni starts with Akari's cousin Fuyuna getting possessed by a monster called a Daemonia, and Akari accidentally killing her when her Magical Girl powers awaken.
  • Seraph of the End starts out with a major tragedy that kills off a vast majority of humans as vampires take the rest in like cattle. The first episode ends in a major Tear Jerker when a group of children trying to escape the vampires are all killed horribly aside from the main character.
  • Gintama begins the Farewell Shinsengumi Arc following the events of the Shogun Assassination Arc with a funeral march of the Shogun Shigeshige with the heroes depressed about the news coming to light and things get worse from there starting with the Shinsengumi being disbanded and Nobunobu arresting and sentencing Kondo and Matsudaira for execution.
  • Astro Boy always begins with Doctor Tenma's son Tobi getting killed in a car accident. This makes him create a Replacement Goldfish — Astro. However even that isn't happy, as Tenma ends up abandoning Astro due to the fact he's an individual rather than a perfect clone of his son.
  • The Heart of Thomas opens with the titular character jumping off a railway bridge to his death.
  • Kurenai Sanshiro starts with the main character being too late to save his father's life.
  • The first scene of Natsu e no Tobira has Marion running desperately to stop a Duel to the Death between two of his friends. The following scenes start explaining what led to such a tragedy.
  • Grave of the Fireflies has this in with a combination of How We Got Here. "September 21, 1945. That was the night I died." That is the opening line, and it only gets worse from there.
  • DARLING in the FRANXX zig-zags this in its first two episodes. The series starts with Hiro musing on his uselessness as a Stamen and his inability to pilot, alongside with his longtime partner Naomi being Released to Elsewhere. However, Episode 2 is arguably his Darkest Hour, with him feeling like a complete failure due to being unable to reinstate his parasite licence, before recovering for a while with Zero-Two's aid... which brought with it the threat of death due to Zero-Two's cursed nature.
  • Haru and Midori begins with Midori getting a call that her old friend Tsumugi has died. She then attends Tsumugi's funeral, where she learns that the once popular Tsumugi spent her last days alone, and that Tsumugi's teenage daughter Haruko (aka "Haru") is now an orphan.
  • My Hero Academia opens with a scene of a four-year-old Izuku getting the crap kicked out of him by Katsuki Bakugou before being left, beaten and bruised while noting that "All men are not created equal." The story then jumps to his last year of middle school, where he's mocked by his entire class, has one of prized notebooks scorched and thrown out a window, and is nearly murdered by a supervillain in the span of a few hours. After that, things seem like they'll get better when Izuku meets his idol, All Might, only to be told that it was impossible for him to become a hero without a Quirk, grinding all of Izuku's hopes and dreams into fine powder. Even after he rushes in to help Katsuki (to no avail, mind you), Izuku still gets chewed out by the local heroes and is ready to resign himself to a life of mediocrity. After all of this, this is finally subverted when All Might chases him down to apologize and tell him the five words he wanted to hear his entire life: "You can become a hero."

    Asian Animation 
  • Season 2 episode 30 of Happy Heroes begins with the Superstar School being destroyed by a storm, thus throwing thousands of children out of their education and, naturally, leaving the school's principle Headmaster Tele devastated.

    Comic Books 
  • The first issue of the Power of the Atom series began with the Morlaidhan tribe Ray Palmer was living with throughout the Sword of the Atom storyline killed by government agents posing as loggers. Ray escaped, but ended up trapped at three feet tall for a time.
  • Kick-Ass starts off like this (though it's an introduction to a flashback that explains How We Got Here), with Kick-Ass getting his testes electrocuted.
  • Midnight Nation starts out with the hero getting killed. And then it goes downhill from there, as he discovers that the devil has taken his soul and that his guardian angel REALLY hates her job.
  • Every Sin City story starts out rather bleak but the best example is probably The Hard Goodbye, which opens with protagonist Marv having the night of his life, only for Goldie, the lady he was with, to be killed after the second page and the cops moving in loaded for bear to frame him for the murder.
  • The story of All Fall Down begins with heroes and villains dropping out of the sky to their deaths.
  • Identity Crisis begins with Sue Dibny dying in the hands of Jean Loring, the latter which gave Captain Boomerang a mission to kill Jack Drake, the father of Tim Drake.
  • The Transformers: All Hail Megatron starts in New York during a nice day. Then the Constructicons show up and explain how their here to spread peace and happiness, having apparently turned over a new leaf.... Then Scrapper and Hook laugh evilly before promptly starting a massive all out Decepticon attack on New York. The first two issues is pretty much made up of the Decepticons slaughtering their way through the hundreds of civilians and U.S. soldiers trying to survive or maybe fight back.
  • Star Wars: Legacy begins with the Sith allying with the Fel Empire, successfully defeating the Galactic Alliance and carrying out the first Jedi Purge since Order 66, with the remaining Jedi once again being sent into hiding. Afterwards the Sith betray the new Empire, resulting in a three-way war in the galaxy.
  • Irredeemable begins with the Plutonian going on an unstoppable murderous rampage. More specifically, it opens with him brutally murdering his teammate and best friend the Hornet (and his family, kids included), with the story behind his Face–Heel Turn being told in flashbacks over the course of the series.
  • The last arc of Runaways opens with most of the team in such bad moods that Nico is organizing a party to try and cheer them up, and even that falls apart when Karolina starts hitting on Chase. And then something attacks the house, killing Old Lace and driving Klara into such a panic that she traps everyone inside the house. Things rapidly deteriorate from there.
  • The Superman storyline "The Fall of Metropolis" is not only a Downer Ending for the storyline that immediately preceeded it, "The Battle For Metropolis", but a Downer Beginning, with Project Cadmus and the entirety of Metropolis ravaged by Lex Luthor, though the latter was done by one of Luthor's lackeys having a VillainousBreakdown.
  • Amulet starts with Emily and Navin's father dying in a rather traumatic car accident. Additionally, the first volume ends with their mother badly poisoned and on the verge of death as they search for a cure.
  • In Issue #1 of Future Quest, we watch as the man who would become Space Ghost is the last survivor of a galactic space team who stopped an incursion through a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: A weird recording of aliens dying is seen in all the media. Then we find out what is it all about.
  • Issue #1 of Y: The Last Man has all but two male mammals on the planet die a sudden, horrific, and bloody death.
  • Doomsday Clock shows that after seven years of worldwide peace, tensions between the United States and Russia have throttled back up again thanks to a news gazette publishing Rorschach's Journal containing significant evidence in Ozymandias's scheme in New York. The conditions became so bad that Ozymandias thinks finding Doctor Manhattan in another universe will solve the consequences of achieving his idyllic 'peace'.

    Fan Works 
  • Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past begins as most of the shit has already hit the fan and Harry gets to see the Crapsack World he has to continue to live in.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Death Fic Bittersweet beings with the show's Sweet Tooth being diagnosed with diabetes, then killing herself with one last sweet binge. True to the title, however, both the original ending and Revised Ending end on a bittersweet note.
  • The imfamous Alone on the Water starts with Sherlock learning he has a tumor in his head.
  • The first chapter of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War shows the Wonderbolts being beaten and incapacitated by the main antagonists, leaving the skies of Equestria almost completely defenseless against the griffin invasion.
  • Winter War: Aizen won the war, and Ichigo and the others never made it back from Hueco Mundo. The story starts a few months later, and deals mostly with La Résistance trying to undermine, or preferably kill Aizen despite the huge losses they've suffered already. Oh, and the lack of actual shinigami doing their job as psychopomps- because they're all either working for the villains or busy fighting those villains- means that the balance of souls between the living world and Soul Society is failing, which will lead to both of their destruction if left unchecked.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series Crossover "Tiberian Eclipse" starts with Ponyville being overrun by Tiberium and the Majority of Equestria's Survivor's fleeing to Canterlot. Applejack is infected with Tiberium Poisioning and is left behind to die. She gets better when the ISDI shows up to give her medical treatment.
  • The Katawa Shoujo fanfic Reconciliation, being a Continuation Fic from Hanako's bad ending, is naturally this, as the first scene is the ending in question from Hanako's perspective. It gets worse, as the first major plot event is Hanako finding out about Hisao's death.
  • The Immortal Game opens with Celestia and Luna's sadistic, sociopathic parents Titan and Terra taking over Equestria, seemingly killing Celestia, and transforming Twilight into their brutal servant Nihilus. Things only get worse from there, for quite some time.
  • The first chapter of Human Curiosity opens with a letter and a diary entry. The letter is written by "I.B." (Ivan Brasinski, otherwise known as Russia), telling how he and an untold number of other people have just attempted to escape imprisonment in the North pole, how he doesn't know how many made it out, how he is scheduled for execution, and how he has lost so many of his memories that he can't even recall his own name. The diary entry is written by America, and it tells how almost every Nation in the world has gone missing, no one has any idea if they're even still alive, and all leads to find them have come up dry.
  • Two Step begins with a couple that was spared of the Infection running ashore and meeting Nick, who fell from the boat he and his posse were taken to when they were rescued from New Orleans and has one less eye to work with. Unfortunately for them, they're not immune and Nick is a carrier, and before five thousand words roll, the man turns and attacks Nick, who kills him; the wife is left behind by him to become a Witch after she tries to kill Nick out of retaliation.
  • The author known as chaotic9 seems fond of this:
    • Kage: By the end of the first chapter, Jade's been cursed by Drago to be banished from her home dimension and forcibly transformed back into a Shadowkhan.
    • A Frog in Arkham Asylum opens with a mutated Jade locked up in Arkham, falsely accused of having killed her whole family.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Episode 11 starts as this with many heroic characters in pain or worse, and Wily looking victorious.
  • In Swinging Pendulum, the story begins with Shinji begging Ichigo to run away and not rescue him or the Visoreds and to save himself after they are all arrested by Central 46 after the defeat of Aizen. Ichigo is imprisoned in the Muken with no way to help them and all the Visored are executed.
  • Young Justice Titans opens with the on screen murder of a teen superhero while on a mission, with his partner injured and the prisoner they escaped with barely alive, while the murderers, the Arc Villain of the "year" celebrating their victory and showing how powerful they will be in the year to come. It's...definitely a different opening from Young Justice seasons past (even the previous fic season), but it does help with the Series Establishing Moment on how it might be even Darker and Edgier than seasons past.
  • Shatterheart: The opening has Syaoran ostracized and hated by his clone's former True Companions for his clone's betrayal. The ostracization being so bad that Syaoran that he becomes a Hikikomori to avoid. His attempt to connect with Kurogane ends with him almost being attacked.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Why Am I Crying? begins when the Cutie Mark Crusaders' snow day gets ruined by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon making trouble for them like always. An angry Apple Bloom wishes on a star for something bad to happen to Diamond...only to find out the next day that she had been hit by a carriage and died.
  • Azumanga Und Panzer begins with a tsunami destroying the Azumanga Daioh girls' high school and hometown. As a result, many people are killed and the survivors are forced to transfer to Oarai Academy. In a possible case of Reverse Cerebus Syndrome, the tsunami is never mentioned again.
  • Relic Of The Future begins with nearly every member of RWBY cast getting brutally killed in a final battle, with Jaune being left alive to pick up the pieces. The plot revolves around his efforts to change the past and save his friends, and even though this turns out to be a little more complicated than he initially thought, the story doesn't get too dark after the first chapter.
  • Frankie Rules is mainly humorous but it begins with Madame Foster dying of old age, leaving Frankie in charge of Foster's.
  • Persona: The Sougawa Files starts off with people trying to take advantage of Rina due to her wealth and status - exactly what she wanted to avoid. Not only that, but by Chapter 5, she's contracted Shadows.
  • The first chapter of Courtney's Crusade for Redemption shows Courtney as her older, 'current day' self, telling the reader of how much she regrets her past decisions and how they affected her life for years afterwards.
  • So We'd Both Be Free starts off with Zuko waking up to find out that Ozai won the war, most of his friends are dead, and he's to be executed soon.
  • The Raven's Plan begins with the Others having successfully overrun Westeros, with the last survivors making a Last Stand on the Isle of Faces. Fortunately, this is immediately followed by all the main characters being sent back in time in order to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Fallen Kingdom starts with Mario losing the final battle and picks up 20 years after Bowser takes over.
  • Beautiful Light begins with an orphaned Mitsumi nearly being killed by a Snover. Cyrus saves her before she's killed.
  • Sins of the Past opens with Lila successfully framing Marinette for supposedly attacking her. When Marinette confides in Adrien, expecting him to keep his promise of supporting her, he instead blames her and claims that her attempts to expose Lila make her a bully. Then one of Hawkmoth's butterflies finds her alone in her anguish, and he greets her as 'little bug'. Fifteen years later, Ladybug in long gone, and Kamala has a miserable first day at school before the blackened Ladybug earrings find their way into her possession, and she meets a ghostly Marinette.
  • One Day at a Time: Zigzagged. The story begins with Jason Todd's death by lung cancer. The zigzag part is because the entire first chapter shows him meeting his loved ones while on his death bed, who gradually reveal that he lived a mostly happy and fulfilling life (though not without a lot of tragedy).

    Films — Animation 
  • Pixar has done this more than once:
    • Finding Nemo: The movie begins with the death of Nemo's mother and all but one of their eggs.
    • Up. It starts with the main character Carl as a child, and shows him and the love of his life meeting, getting married, and growing old together. Since they were children, they had dreamed of going to Venezuela together to follow in the footsteps of their idol, but they kept having to postpone the trip. Carl finally buys two plane tickets, and his wife falls ill and dies before they can go. They also wanted to have kids, but at least one of them was infertile (or there was a miscarriage). We see Ellie in tears at the doctor's office when she is informed of the situation.
    • WALL•E, with its opening-scene depiction of Earth as an apocalyptic wasteland populated by roaches and a single still-functioning robot, is one of the most depressing openings ever.
    • The Incredibles starts with the incident that caused the superheroes' fall from grace, and then describes the Super Registration Act through a montage. Next we see several scenes showing just how depressed they are, pretending to be normal.
    • Ratatouille starts with the main character losing his home and family
    • Toy Story 3 opens with a sequence of Andy with his toys in their heyday, then timeskips to the stark contrast of them having been sitting in a chest, not having been played with for years.
    • The prologue of Brave started with the loss of Fergus's left leg to the demon bear Mor'du.
    • Cars 3 begins with Lightning McQueen enjoying his time as a race car until a new racer named Jackson Storm shows up and several of the veterans are replaced by next-gens as a result; eventually at the Los Angeles 500, when Lightning tries to catch up after being overtaken, one of his tires blows out, he swerves dangerously, then hits the wall sending him into a near-fatal crash, forcing him out of the race. Jackson eventually wins the Piston Cup, and Lightning spends the next four months worrying that he'll be forced to retire from racing for good.
  • An American Tail opens with the Mousekewitz family's village being burned by Cossacks.
  • Even the cheerful film Rio is not exempt from this, showing the child Blu falling from a failed attempt to learn to fly and getting captured by a group of humans along with all the other birds - and shipped from Rio de Janeiro to the United States of America against his will.
  • Tarzan begins with Tarzan's future ape family losing their son to a vicious predator. Then Tarzan's human parents are killed, by the same predator. What's interesting is that it happens during an upbeat opening song by Phil Collins, of all people, who is known for his more dark and depressing stuff. The song did at least slow down and become more melancholic during and right after the death of Kala and Kerchak's son. This is, of course, a Disneyfied version of what happened in the novel, which also fits this trope, although it takes a lot longer. In the book, Kala loses her child not due to a predator but her own clumsiness, when she is running away from Kerchak, who goes apeshit and begins to attack the females of his tribe (he already bludgeons another female to death with a stick by this point). The child falls from a tree and dies. Tarzan's mother dies from a sickness, while his father is killed by Kerchak, who almost kills Tarzan before Kala grabs him.
  • The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning begins with the death of Ariel's mother and the banning of all music from Atlantica.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 opens with the story of how Lord Shen tried to avert a prophecy by exterminating the Giant Pandas.
  • Tangled zig-zags through this. The opening sentence is Flynn Rider saying "This is the story about how I died", however he goes on to assure the audience that things get better. It then goes on to show how the queen is dying of something, only to show her recover through a miraculous cure that is found. But then, it goes on to show the newly-born princess being kidnapped by Mother Gothel.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie opens rather dimly, with a dark background and crime rampant. Even the narrator's heart isn't in it.
  • The prologue of Disney's Frozen (2013) started with Anna and Elsa as little kids who joyfully played with each other until Elsa nearly killed her little sister by accident, continued with the two of them growing up isolated from each other as Elsa lived in fear of her own powers, and ended with them as teenagers mourning the death of their parents. As co-director Chris Buck also co-directed Disney's Tarzan, Simon Brew of Den of Geek jokingly pointed out in an interview that he seemed to be Disney's go-to-guy for killing off parents at the beginning.
  • Not to be confused with Frozen, but in The Snow Queen (2012), the story starts with Gerda and Kai's parents being frozen into ice, killing them.
  • Titan A.E. begins with another race destroying planet Earth.
  • Brother Bear starts with one character sacrificing himself to save his brothers from a bear and given a funeral pyre.
  • Remember sweet, gentle Mole from The Wind in the Willows (1995)? Well, the sequel film The Willows in Winter (1996) begins with him seemingly drowning in an icy river and his friends breaking down in tears over it.
  • Arashi no Yoru ni begins with Mei's mother being ripped apart by a pack of wolves (she even bites off one of the alpha wolf's ears!) and telling her son to run away as she does so, in what appears to be a very bleak beginning for an otherwise lighthearted tale about the friendship between a goat and a wolf.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Who can forget the start of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, which parodies the Downer Beginning of Cliffhanger, where Ace attempts a solo rescue mission to save a raccoon who has been stranded on the top of a mountain and sadly fails to get a grip on its paw. The kicker is it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie which is as wacky and lighthearted as any Ace Ventura film would be expected to be.
  • All About My Mother: Manuela's beloved teenaged son Esteban is struck and killed by a car 12 minutes into the movie. The rest of the film is about how Manuela grows and changes after the tragedy.
  • The opening narration of Ballad of a Soldier, about a Russian soldier in World War II, states plainly that at some date after the film's time frame poor Alyosha will be killed in combat and buried near some town with "a foreign name".
  • Inglourious Basterds starts with Shoshanna's (one of the protagonists') parents and siblings being massacred by Hans Landa and his Nazis, while she miraculously escapes the massacre.
  • The Dirty Dozen starts with a hanging scene. An American GI is being hanged in a British military prison for robbery and murder.
  • Memento: You see Leonard kill Teddy despite his protests, and then you have to spend the rest of the movie watching the poor guy interact with Leonard.
  • Irréversible is in the same vein due to its Back to Front nature. The gruesome No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that concludes the story is put at the beginning, while the idyllic shots of an unharmed Monica Bellucci are the last thing we see. Let's talk about Downers.
  • Sinister opens with an extremely graphic super 8 video of a family (mother and children included) being hanged. Many viewers reported that when the film started, the audiences they saw it with became deathly silent, as if every person in the audience was thinking "This isn't just some dumb gore-flick I can poke fun at later on... What have I got myself into?"
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day films starts with Judgment Day, the nuclear war that ended human civilization, and continues with the killer machines fighting humans. Also, The Terminator starts with the Robot War itself, and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, by showing both flashes of the Robot War and how wrecked John Connor has become.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men starts in a concentration camp. So does X-Men: First Class
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: James Howlett's father is murdered, leading the boy to kill the assassin, Thomas Logan... and he discovers that Logan is his real father. So Jimmy is forced to run away along with Logan's other son, Victor.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: In the year 2023, we get a glimpse of a post-apocalyptic world where mutants (who are near extinction) and their human allies are either placed in internment camps, or are outright murdered en masse.
  • Star Wars; all of them to various degrees of "downer". Let's take them in canonical chronological order:
    • The Phantom Menace: The greedy Trade Federation is behind a blockade of Naboo, but as few know, there's a far-more sinister motive in the works.
    • Attack of the Clones: As the scrolling text says, "There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic" Most of this due to Palpatine's underhanded work. The film itself the opens by Padme's ship being blown up.
    • Revenge of the Sith: The film starts with the Clone Wars at their worst and no end in sight. "The Republic is crumbling", as the text says.
    • Solo: The teenaged Han Solo is trying to escape gangsters after his job failed.
    • Rogue One: The Empire finds Jyn Erso's family, killing her mother and kidnapping her father. The first time we see Jyn as an adult, she's waking up in an Imperial prison.
    • A New Hope: Despite the name of the movie, little actual hope exists, with the Empire's new super-weapon almost complete, the Tantive IV being overrun by the Empire, Darth Vader making a personal appearance, and Princess Leia, the leader of the Rebellion, being captured.
    • The Empire Strikes Back: The scrolling text does not mince words. "It is a dark time for the Rebellion" for sure, as they're on the defensive with the Empire in hot pursuit.
    • Return of the Jedi: The disaster carried over from the previous film sees Han Solo a prisoner of Jabba the Hutt, and a new Death Star being built, although the scrolling text is more optimistic.
    • The Force Awakens: Luke has disappeared during the Time Skip, and the First Order is threatening to become as bad as the Empire was.
    • The Last Jedi: The rebel base on D'Qar is evacuated before being bombed by First Order fleet and their Dreadnought.
  • Blondie Johnson begins with Blondie's mother dying, her not unable to get welfare, and becoming homeless.
  • Kick-Ass starts off with a Black Humor downer, as a guy dressed as a superhero takes a swan dive off a building. (The comic version has another Downer Beginning.)
  • The first and third of the Jurassic Park films start with someone getting attacked by a dinosaur. Though misremembered as otherwise, the little girl attacked in the second film survives.
  • The film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah begins with an island being destroyed, Godzilla Junior presumed missing (or possibly dead. He shows up later in the film.), and Godzilla attacking Hong Kong with parts of his flesh literally burning orange as he is slowly dying of nuclear overload.
  • Slumdog Millionaire. First, a scene from near the end with Jamal being tortured. Then, Jamal and friends are chased by angry cops. And the flashbacks that follow are far from happy.
  • The Russian film The City of Craftsmen begins with scary looking invaders conquering the title city, killing many inhabitants (including an old painter) in the process.
  • The Panic in Needle Park opens with Helen riding home on the subway, alone, in distress, after getting an illegal abortion from a Back-Alley Doctor. Then it gets worse when she has to go the hospital because she won't stop bleeding. (The rest of the movie has her becoming a heroin addict so it doesn't get more cheerful.)
  • Super 8 opens with the funeral of the protagonist's mother.
  • Fly Away Home begins with the heroine's mother dying in a car accident. The heroine survives with injuries.
  • Sucker Punch opens with Babydoll's mother dying, younger sister being killed by her stepfather, and finally being dropped off for a lobotomy at the local sanitarium.
  • The Wing Commander film starts with the Kilrathi wiping out a key Confederate outpost and learning the Solar System jump coordinates. Admiral Tolwyn makes calculations and realizes that the Kilrathi fleet will arrive to Earth two hours before his fleet. That's two hours more than they need to nuke everything on the surface.
  • In The Ledge, Hollis finding out that he is sterile, that he is not the real father of his children, and that he must now try to talk Gavin out of suicide.
  • The Dark Knight Rises begins eight years after the last movie with Bruce emotionally stunted, Wayne Enterprises in financial trouble and cracks starting to show in Gotham's peace time.
  • The first words of Happy Accidents are "Murder? Sam, Murder?" as Ruby confronts him tearfully.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Guardians of the Galaxy starts with a young Peter at his mother's death bed. Stricken by grief, he runs away before being abducted by aliens.
    • Avengers: Infinity War starts with Thanos claiming two Infinity Stones, killing half the Asgardians, including Heimdall and Loki, and leaving badly injured Thor alone before the ship explodes.
    • Avengers: Endgame starts off with Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and his family having a nice picnic. Clint turns his back on them for a second and when he turns back, he sees that they have all been disintergrated thanks to Thanos' snap. Three weeks later, the surviving Avengers and Captain Marvel ambush Thanos on his farm with the intention of getting the Infinity Stones and undoing the snap. To their horror, they learn that Thanos had destroyed the stones to prevent further use. An enraged Thor decapitates Thanos, and the entire group is shell-shocked at the fact there is no hope to restore the executed half of the universe.
  • Beyond The Lights begins with young Noni proudly getting 2nd place in a talent competition...and then her mother forcing her to throw out the trophy because second place isn't good enough for her, crushing Noni's excitement and joy.
  • Olympus Has Fallen starts with Mike Banning failing to save the First Lady from falling off the bridge to her death when the President's limo crashes in the snowstorm, which gives Banning a motivation to become a Action Hero for the rest of the movie.
  • For the first fifteen minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road, Max is captured, beaten, tortured, and made a blood bag. He also loses his equipment and his car.
  • Who Am I starts with the hero entering a hotel room with three dead bodies inside. The rest of the movie tells the story of How We Got Here.
  • Carlito's Way begins with the protagonist being wheeled out of a train station on a gurney, critically wounded and narrating on his dismal prospects, which precedes another How We Got Here story.
  • A Far Off Place starts with the protagonist's parents getting killed when poachers invade their African reserve.
  • The World of Kanako: The start of the movie is very dark in many ways: Akikazu finds out that his wife has a lover and he loses his job after a violent outburst. Some bloody murders are detected. The narrator gives a saddening speech about how helpless his situation is. Kanako's first boyfriend Ogata commits suicide and nobody takes notice.
  • Star Trek (2009) starts with the destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin and the Heroic Sacrifice of Acting Captain George Kirk (though his wife and newborn son James survive).
  • It (2017) opens with six year old Georgie Denbrough having his arm torn off and dragged into the sewers by a killer clown while screaming out his brother's name.
  • The very first scene of Deadpool 2 is Wade (trying) to commit suicide, with the implication that Vanessa is also dead. It happens a few scenes later.
  • A Quiet Place opens up with the youngest son getting killed by one of the monsters after it hears noise coming from the toy rocket the boy was playing with.
  • Broken Blossoms begins with the protagonist starting off as a bright-eyed Chinese missionary moving to England to teach foreigners about Buddha. It then cuts to him a while later, more cynical and now addicted to opium.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 begins with Katniss hiding from hospital doctors, desperately trying to keep her mind stable by saying things that she knows are true, like her name. Then she meets her friend Finnick who wishes for everyone to be dead, including himself.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 has Katniss visiting her love interest Peeta in hospital, only to watch in horror as Peeta totally freaks out with aggression against Katniss.
  • Midsommar: The movie starts with the main character's family dying when her mentally unstable sister commits suicide by inhaling car smoke and gassing her parent's room, killing them as well. That happens right after a cut to her boyfriend reveal he is thinking of dumping her because she is too needy, which he doesn't just because of that tragedy.

  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant start with the protagonist somehow catching leprosy. Doctors show him the horrible fate that awaits him, another man with the same disease seriously advise him to commit suicide, his wife and daughter leave, his friends and family reject him, his neighbours avoid him, and nobody wants to have anything to do with him. Then he is abducted by a powerful evil deity from another universe who intends to use him to fulfil his agenda. Thomas is, quite understandably, a bit crazy, paranoid and hopeless after all of that, and it takes him a long time (during which he commits some really despicable acts of his own) to start recovering.
  • The first chapter of the first book of Circle of Magic is not fun. It tells the stories of four children in terrible situations; a neglected girl being ruthlessly bullied, a young street rat being sent to a life of hard-labour for his crimes, another girl who's marooned out in the ocean after her ship went down in a storm, killing everyone on board, and another girl who was locked in a supply closet in the hopes of protecting her from the plague that killed her parents, but now cannot escape. Even though they're all rescued, its tough.
  • The first book in the Demonata series has the protagonist find his family horribly murdered in the second chapter. The third has him in an asylum dealing with both the grief of the mentioned tragedy and with the knowledge that demons exist.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series starts with the Second Battle of the Java Sea, where the remaining Allied warships near Java are being curb-stomped by the heavily-armed Japanese fleet. Then two of the American destroyers suddenly find themselves in a parallel world, where evolution took a completely different course. Humans never evolved on this world. Instead, a race of peaceful (some of them, at least) descendants of giant lemurs from Madagascar prowl the seas of the East Indies on giant wooden ships. The Lemurians reveal that they are being hunted to extinction by a race of velociraptor-descended Lizard Folk called the Grik, who sail in three-masted ships remarkably similar to British East Indiamen and hail from Africa. The Americans agree to help the Lemurians, and the outdated destroyers, which are cannon fodder in their own world, become the most powerful warships in this one. Then things get worse, especially when it's discovered that the Grik have an armada of hundreds of ships, and they are being aided by a Japanese battlecruiser. In fact, most novels in the series start on this note.
  • The Divine Comedy starts with middle-aged Dante lost in the woods with no place in life, unable to get anywhere due to the heinous beasts who block his way. Metaphorically, the beasts represents the sins that plague our hero and the dark forest he's in is suspiciously similar to the forest where suicides spend eternity. It's a good thing Virgil comes in to bring Dante to a better place: Hell.
  • Doctor Zhivago begins with the funeral of Marya Nikolayevna Zhivago, the mother of Yuri Zhivago, which leaves the ten-year-old living with his Uncle Kolya. The opening chapter also has his deadbeat father Driven to Suicide without any of the main characters finding out until much later.
  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne starts with the nation of Ferelden in the middle of the Orlesian Occupation, with the Usurper-King Meghren being a typical Caligula. The protagonist, Prince Maric has just witnessed his mother Queen Moira betrayed and murdered by her former subjects and is running for his life. On the other hand, since this is a prequel, any player should already know how it ends.
  • Some of the trilogies from Dragons of Requiem begin with tragedy. Dragonlore, for one, starts with Prince Orin's death, followed by her younger sister, Mori, getting raped, and Queen Solina ready to attack Requiem with her army of phoenixes. Also Mori's pet mouse dies.
  • Michael Connelly novel The Gods of Guilt starts by revealing that Mickey Haller's campaign to be DA, the Sequel Hook at the end of previous novel The Fifth Witness, ended with humiliating defeat. A client that Mickey got off of a DUI charge killed two people in another DUI. Not only did this wreck his political career, and badly damage his legal practice, it turns out that it estranged him from his daughter, who was a classmate of one of the two people killed.
  • Gone starts the instant after all the adults disappear.
  • The Graveyard Book begins with the murder of Bod's family.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire's opening chapter - it involves the caretaker of the Riddle mansion being accused of murdering the Riddles, being suspected by everyone in village for the rest of his life, and finally killed by Voldemort.
    • The first three chapters of the first book, which begins by detailing the past eleven years of Harry's life with his abusive relatives, the Dursleys, years after the murder of his parents.
    • The death of an anti-Death Eater teacher in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is not encouraging, even if she was a Red Shirt. The next chapter involves Harry mourning Dumbledore and learning that Rita Skeeter is publishing an unflattering book about him.
  • One of the sequels to Gorky Park, Havana Bay, starts out with our hero going to Cuba to investigate the mysterious death of an old friend of his. He is shown to already be planning to commit suicide, because of the accidental death of his wife, due to a lazy nurse not reading her medical chart to find she was allergic to penicillin. Of course, just as he's about to kill himself, he's interrupted by a hitman sent to kill him, who he instinctively uses his suicide weapon to kill in self defense. Poor bastard can't even off himself without some mishap getting in his way.
  • It. My God, It. Stephen King pulls no punches, and doesn't stop to take a breath. The first three chapters detail the gruesome murder of Georgie Denbrough, the beating and murder of Adrian Mellon, and the suicide of Stan Uris, respectively. It is not for the squeamish.
  • The Killing Star. Humanity finds the first irrefutable proof of spacfaring aliens in the form of gamma rays consistent with antimatter-powered engines. Almost immediately afterward, every inhabited body in the Solar system is hit with relativistic bombs moving at 92% the speed of light, instantly destroying civilization and annihilating most of the human species. That's all within the first four chapters.
  • The book Julie's Ghosts begins with Julie's family being involved in a car crash, killing both her parents and giving the heroine a concussion.
  • The Land of Oblivion begins with heroine's brother dying in a freak accident.
  • The Lost Fleet series starts with John Geary waking up from cold sleep to find out that the war with the Syndicate Worlds, the start of which he witnessed, has lasted for over 100 years. Worse, The Alliance fleet has just been lured into an ambush far from Alliance space and crippled. The admiral in charge and his entire staff are dead, and Geary, who has been elevated to myth-like status by propaganda, is expected to take command and save everyone. Even worse, the near-constant brutal war has not only concepts like fleet tactics a thing of the past, but morality has been one of the first casualties of the war, with the Alliance fleet matching the Syndics atrocity-for-atrocity. Also, one of the first casualties Geary experiences is his grandnephew.
  • Many of the novels in The Lost Regiment series start on this note. Alternatively, they might start with something good happening, which immediately turns into something bad. For example, the first novel has the 35th Maine retreating from Gettysburg after sustaining heavy casualties (including the protagonist's brother). Before they know it, they find themselves on another world, ruled by hordes of mounted 9-foot-tall Human Aliens with a taste for human flesh. The local humans (also transplanted) are hopelessly stagnated, their religious leaders are corrupt beyond measure, and the political leaders are little more than warlords fighting among one another.
  • In the first book of The Night Angel Trilogy, before any of the action has even started, 12-year-old Azoth's guild leader dies, making the Rat the new leader. Rat then threatens Azoth with homelessness, kidnaps and rapes his best friend, Jarl, and mutilates Doll Girl.
  • The first chapter of the third Noob novel reveals that the player presented as The Ace in the two previous got his avatar erased and all his accomplishments taken off record. Due to said avatar being illegally enhanced without him knowing about it.
  • Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Rosemary And Rue opens with the heroine being turned into a fish for fourteen years, and as a consequence losing both her fiance and child, and turning into an almost complete basket case.
  • Off Armageddon Reef opens with the last human fleet preparing for a battle they know they will lose against a foe that has exterminated all human colonies and they know will do the same to Earth itself.
  • The Posterchildren opens with Corbin Underwood's funeral.
  • The beginning of the third book in Provost's Dog begins with the funeral of the protagonist's abusive fiancée.
  • By the second chapter of Reckless , Will is already turning into living stone. What happened in the twelve years since chapter one? You can catch up on that later.
  • Remnants, by K.A. Applegate, starts with the end of the world.
  • The Secret Garden: The book opens with Mary's entire household (including her parents) dying of the cholera.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire books starts with a prologue where a POV character, who is not really part of the cast, dies at the end of the chapter. The prologue of the first book, A Game of Thrones, showcased the return of The Others/White Walkers with the POV character dead at the end of the chapter.
  • The Wild Ones starts with Kit's parents being murdered after the Flealess raid his home, and him left to fend for himself in Ankle Snap City.
  • Survivors begins with an earthquake, forcing the humans to evacuate and leave their dogs behind to fend for themselves. Lucky and Sweet are the only survivors of the rescue they were staying at after the building collapses.
  • Bravelands starts off with Fearless and his pride being attacked by a group of males. The males murder Fearless' father Gallant, take over the pride, and try to kill Fearless and his sister. Fearless runs off and ends up rescued by a group of baboons, where he lives for the next year.
  • The Stand, as an After the End story, begins with the outbreak of "Captain Trips", the weaponized virus that kills the vast majority of humanity.
  • The Cold Moons starts with all the badgers in Bamber's region, including his brother, his mate, and his newborn cubs, being poisoned to death in human badger cullings. This leaves Bamber the only badger in Yellow Copse and causes him to flee.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • Season 1 begins with Mandy bombing a passenger plane.
    • Season 4 begins with a suicide bomber blowing up a train.
    • At the start of season 5, two main characters are killed, a third badly wounded, and Jack is forced out of a quiet life in hiding.
    • Season 6 starts with a bus getting bombed and Jack almost getting tortured to death.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The series starts with humanity almost being destroyed by aliens. Things get really bad after that.
    • Especially notable is the intro for Season Three, in which Susan Ivanova (the most cynical character on the show) outright states that the characters and the entire premise of the station didn't succeed, and as a result, an entirely new phase for the show has begun. "The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed."
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Battlestar Galactica (2003): Both versions of this show begin with the Cylons nuking the Twelve Colonies and killing nearly 50 billion people.
  • Blake's 7: The first episode starts with the massacre of an Earth resistance group and ends with the murder of Blake's lawyer and the man's girlfriend, while Blake himself is tried under false evidence and exiled to the penal colony Cygnus Alpha. Now begins a four-year caper which leads...nowhere. Except perhaps down.
  • A Chef's Life: You can't get a series premiere for a documentary about a chef more downer than her new restaurant burning down. The rest of the first season, particularly the next episode or so, concentrates on the rebuilding efforts for Chef and the Farmer.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Just about every story or episode begins with some disposable twerp getting killed by the villain or monster.
    • The Doctor "dies" at the beginning of "The Impossible Astronaut". This also happened when Sylvester McCoy replaced Colin Baker as the Doctor and at the beginning of the TV movie in the 90s.
  • Falling Skies: The pilot has a child recall the Alien Invasion (and the death of his mother in the attack), illustrating it with a series of drawings. The actual show takes place six months after the invasion and the resulting devastation.
  • Firefly: Opens with the Independents losing the Battle of Serenity Valley, the deciding battle of the civil war, and the Despair Event Horizon for the main character.
  • Similar to its original source, Game of Thrones starts with three Night Watch rangers scouting beyond the Wall until two of them were killed by a White Walker which showcased their return to Westeros.
  • JAG: Most of the openings starts with an accident occurring or a crime being committed.
  • Jericho: The pilot has the people of the titular town witness a mushroom cloud on the horizon, which signifies the destruction of Denver. It's not until later that they learn that 32 major cities across the US have been nuked. Things get worse for the town, as the infrastructure starts to crumble almost immediately.
  • Kamen Rider Drive starts off with quite possibly one of the most BRUTAL opening scenes in the history of the franchise. To elaborate, the show starts with people just going about their own business. Then everything starts to dramatically slow down. But rather than this being the case of slowing time itself, everyone caught up in it is fully aware of their surroundings but unable to move or even scream. And then to make the matter worse, the Roidmudes start going around destroying everything in sight... all the while people are living statues and can't even scream for help. And to hammer the point home, this was a GLOBAL occurrence.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The episodes tend to start with a really gruesome intro where some random citizen stumbles over someone who just got traumatized or murdered. This is also the case of the mother series, Law & Order, and it is true of the whole Law & Order franchise as well.
  • You wouldn't expect a program like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to have one of these, but episode 1210 begins with an unusually sour Mr. Rogers singing the opening theme, which is played in an unusually staccato-ish and overall downbeat manner, and instead of changing into a sweater and sneakers, fiddles with a parking ticket he'd just gotten. Instead of "Hi, neighbor!", he then proceeds to say the following:
    Mister Rogers: I don't feel like singing "a beautiful day in this neighborhood." Oh, it's beautiful enough outside, all right, but I don't feel beautiful. In fact, I'd like to take this ticket and rip it up. This is a parking ticket. Yes, I parked my car in a... in one of those places that has a meter. You ever seen a parking meter? You know, you have to put nickels or dimes or something in and then... turn the thing and then this... [demonstrates with his hand] this just goes up like that? Pay for parking. Well, I drove downtown, and all I had was a dollar bill in my pocket. I didn't have change to put in there. Well, I went into the drug store and got some change, and when I came out again, there was a lady writing out this ticket. And I had the change right there and I said, "L-Look, I just went in there to get the change. Don't give me a ticket." And she said, "Here's your ticket. Tell your story to the judge."
  • Poirot: Not the series itself, but the final episode ("Curtain") starts with Margaret Litchfield getting hanged during the opening credits... a victim of the Miscarriage of Justice and of a Gambit Roulette started by Manipulative Bastard Stephen Norton.
  • Power Rangers in Space begins with the forces of evil celebrating the defeat of the Power Rangers after Divatox destroyed the Power Chamber, Zordon in captivity, and four new Turbo Rangers left adrift in space.
  • Power Rangers RPM: Starts off with 99% of humanity dead from nuclear Robot War, and only one city left.
  • Red Dwarf: Starts off with everybody dying from a radiation leak in what is surely the bleakest beginning any sitcom has ever had.
  • Revolution: The pilot episode begins with the blackout occurring worldwide, acting as an unusual form of the apocalypse.
  • Supernatural:
    • The pilot kicks off with Sam and Dean's mother, Mary Winchester, dying a gruesome, nightmarish death- stabbed, pinned to the ceiling, and consumed by flames. The same episode ends with Sam's girlfriend Jessica dying the same way. Between that, Sam is ripped from his happy, normal life when Dean tells him they have to save their missing father.
    • The first episode of Season 2 ends with John Winchester trading his life for Dean's, and leaving Dean with feelings of immense self-hatred out of John's sacrifice. Not only that, but the sacrifice itself is the starting point of the series-wide trend of the Winchester brothers sacrificing their lives for the other over and over again. And it's revealed several episodes later that John's last words to Dean were to kill Sam if Sam's demon powers from Azazel went out of control.
    • Season 13 opens with Castiel and Crowley dead, Mary Winchester stuck in a post-apocalyptic Alternate Dimension with Lucifer, causing the brothers to believe she's dead too, and Dean stuck in grieving over the former three.
  • Twin Peaks: Begins with Laura Palmer's body being discovered and nearly the entire town grieving for her death.
  • Veronica Mars: At the beginning of this show, Veronica's dad has been voted out of office, her alcoholic mom has abandoned them, and none of her former friends are speaking to her...and those are just the things that are actually shown in the first episode. If we count things that are talked about and then shown later, we also get Rape as Backstory and a murdered best friend.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine begins with the Battle of Wolf 359, and Jennifer Sisko's death along the way.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger starts off with eighty-eight constellations of the universe (including the planet Earth) suffers under the tyrannical Space Shogunate Jark Matter. While it's spiritual predecessor started off with a similar invasion of Earth, in that series, all the previous 34 teams stopped the initial invasion. Kyuranger is confirmed to take place in alternate universe without previous teams, allowing Jark Matter to conquer Earth without a bigger struggle. Not any better.
  • Ultra Series:
    • Ultraman Leo starts off with Ultraseven disabled and an entire island-city being destroyed by the villains, while the planet L77 is shown blowing up in the opening credits. And it only gets worse from there...
    • Of course, Leo's opening seems outright optimistic in direct comparison to it's Spiritual Successor, Ultraman Geed, which has Belial win within the first few minutes of the first episode, causing the destruction of the entire universe - while Ultraman King manages to restore the universe, much like with Leo, another Ultra ends up injured and stranded on Earth to help the titular Ultra of this series (in this case, it's Seven's son, Ultraman Zero, who was injured after failing to stop Belial). And the kicker this time? The titular Ultra is Belial's own son.
  • The First Episode of For the People ends with Sandra losing her case defending a young man accused of terrorism (in a situation which was clearly entrapment and Seth and Allison breaking up over their case.

  • Kiss Wood starts with explaining how nature is slowly being weeded out of the world and how Sul, an ex-gardener, has the only garden left in the entire city. Nobody else in the city likes this and have demanded numerous times for him to remove it; his niece, who lives with him, leaves as she feels he pays all of his attention to the garden and none to her. Then Sul's garden and house is set on fire, during which he is blinded and is sent to the hospital. End of Chapter One. He then gets trapped in a dangerous world from which he needs to escape, fast.

  • Blutengel's song "Frozen Heart" starts out just as bleak as the name sounds like, but it turns out to be more about Defrosting Ice Queen.
  • Daniel Amos's album Fearful Symmetry opens with "A Sigh for You", a meditation on sorrow that would be wangst if it weren't paired with such an upbeat melody. The lyrics become far more hopeful on the rest of the songs.
  • "Prelude" opens Bad Ideas, Tessa Violet's darkest album yet, with a quiet, resigned description of an unhealthy relationship, admissions that this isn't the first relationship of this sort they've had, and the protagonist speculating that they might be the problem, and not their cold, taciturn lover.

  • The beginning of Guiders of Our Dreams shows the apocalypse occurring while Artemis making a deal with Eclipse to create a new Earth, and Eclipse removing the atmosphere from it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Kingdom Death opens with a doozy: humanity is reduced to the dregs of the Stone Age, trapped in a realm of near-eternal darkness, and beset on all sides by grotesque monsters. A handful of starving people gather together by one of the few sources of light to try and build some kind of civilization. In most campaigns the story has a Downer Ending, too, as the survivors are wiped out in a suitably ironic fashion.

  • The plot of the first scene of La Forza Del Destino goes like this: Don Alvaro of Incan descent and Spanish noblewoman Leonora love each othe to the immense disapproval of her father the Marquis of Calatrava because of the former's origins to the point that when he interrupts the lovers right in the middle of their attempted elopement her wants to get Alvaro executed (he also thinks he 'dishonoured' his daughter). To show he has no ill will, Alvaro tries to surrender and throws his pistol on the floor. Tragically, the pistol fires on its own upon hitting ground mortally wounding the Marquis who curses Leonora with his last words. The lovers have no choice but to run away only to get quickly separated (they won't see each other until the very last scene and their reunion goes horribly wrong).

    Video Games 
  • The Evil Within 2 opens with Sebastian witnessing the house fire that he believed killed his daughter, Lily, which then promptly cuts to him drinking away his life in a bar before being found by MOBIUS.
  • In Golden Sun, your hometown is almost completely destroyed by a rockslide and Felix barely makes it alive out of the river he falls into.
  • American McGee's Alice starts with Alice's home destroyed by fire; she survives, but her family doesn't, and she's now in an asylum, in a comatose state.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In several games, the start involves a formerly friendly nation invading the main character's country, taking their capital and killing most of their retainers as well as family members, forcing them into exile until they can reclaim their land, while in the meantime the invaders will rule like tyrants.
    • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 begins with imperial soldiers storming Fiana in search of Leif and capturing Nanna and Mareeta.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening begins with the player character (the Avatar) getting possessed by Grima, and murdering Chrom after seemingly defeating Validar. It turns out to be a premonition of things to come (at Chapter 23).
    • Fire Emblem Fates also starts with a premonition, this time of the player character being forced to choose between their Nohrian and Hoshidan families.
    • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia begins with a cutscene of Alm killing Celica. It turns out to be a very reluctant Mercy Kill in context (and Celica is brought Back from the Dead soon after thanks to some Divine Intervention courtesy of Mila), but that doesn't lessen the sting much from Alm's side.
  • In Xenogears, Fei's hometown Lahan is caught in the crossfire between two armies using Gears, setting it aflame. And then Fei falls into the cockpit of the prototype Gear both sides are fighting over and accidentally nukes what's left of it after having a mental breakdown over the death of his friend.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: Earth is caught in the crossfire between two warring alien armies and destroyed. One of the ships that escaped the planet's destruction is chased down by one of the alien armies and forced to crash-land on a nearby planet.
  • Paper Mario: What better way to open than being defeated by Bowser as you are trying to do the usual thing?
  • The intro to Super Mario Galaxy: Bowser bombards Toad Town with meteors and lifts Peach's Castle into space, and Mario gets blown away by Kamek when he tries to follow.
  • In the beginning of Super Mario Odyssey, Bowser defeats Mario for the second time and escapes with Peach, also destroying Mario's hat in the process.
  • In Rayman 2, Rayman and his world have been captured and enslaved by the Robo-Pirates.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Viewtiful Joe 2, right off the heels of the first game's ending, begins with GEDOW taking over Movieland and remodeling it into Movieworld. Captain Blue is transformed into one of the seven Rainbow Oscars (artifacts containing the essence of a movie's happy ending) that the Black Emperor is trying to collect. Joe and Silvia briefly lose their Henshin powers and are deposited in a prehistoric jungle. Joe, despite being Genre Savvy (or perhaps because he's Genre Savvy), takes this all in stride.
  • Mega Man Zero: It starts with La Résistance being oppressed by the Neo Arcadian forces as they run away. Several of the Red Shirts get cut in half by the Golems. Only Ciel is left alive by the time Zero is unsealed, an act which succeeds only through the sacrifice of Ciel's personal Cyber-elf Passy (who has apparently been friends with Ciel for quite some time before then).
  • Iji begins with the Alpha Strike.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect 2 opens with the Normandy being destroyed, unable to put up a fight. Worse, Shepard dies making sure Joker gets off the ship. Then they're rebuilt by an enemy of theirs because human colonies are being harvested by the same bastards that killed them.
    • Mass Effect 3 begins with the Reapers, whose arrival Shepard spent the first two games delaying, finally appearing en masse and invading Earth (having already blown through both batarian space and most of the human Alliance's defenses). Shepard has no choice but to get the hell out of Dodge and start rallying their allies.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda begins promisingly enough with you awakening on the Hyperion when it arrives at its destination in the Andromeda galaxy. Things begin to go downhill not long after; a collision with the Scourge damages the Hyperion and leaves your twin sibling comatose, and when you and your squad go down to investigate a nearby planet, you end up getting your helmet cracked during a fight with the kett, exposing you to the planet's toxic environment. The only reason you survive at all is because your father sacrifices himself to save you. It is then revealed that the other Citadel races that came before you have been struggling to get by; it would seem the Andromeda galaxy is a far way away from being hospitable.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, all of the eponymous origin stories end with the player character being forced to leave their old life behind to join the Grey Wardens. Oftentimes, there is no more old life to return to. This is followed by the Battle of Ostagar which ends in a catastrophic betrayal which results in the death of the King of Ferelden and all but two of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden. Since the Wardens are the only ones capable of defeating the Blight, by the time the sandbox opens, Ferelden is considered to be on the verge of destruction.
    • Dragon Age II in spades. The Framing Device has main character Hawke missing and possibly dead and being blamed for starting the Mage-Templar war. The actual beginning of Hawke's story isn't much better. Doomed Hometown, dead sister or brother, Deal with the Devil, and being forced to eke out a living with mercenaries/smugglers in the slums of a Wretched Hive while trying to hide either Bethany's magic (if she survives) or Hawke's magic. And that's the prologue.
  • Dragon's Dogma: you're just an average person in a cozy seaside fishing village, but that all ends when the dreaded dragon lands and starts wreaking havoc. You try to fight the dragon, but are soundly defeated, after which the dragon rips out your heart and eats it in front of you.
  • .hack//: you log into The World for the first time and go on a pleasant little dungeon run. Once you finish, however, you and your friend, who got you into the game, are blindsided by a bizarre monster which one-shots your friend and leaves him comatose in the real world.
  • Dot Hack GU: Haseo logs into The World R:2 for the first time and meets two other players who seem friendly enough. Then when you get to the end of a dungeon, they turn out to be sadistic player-killers.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us, the game begins with the aftermath of Joker destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb, tricking Superman into killing his wife and unborn child and Superman killing the Joker in rage.
  • Injustice 2 opens with the destruction of Krypton, and Kara Zor-El being separated from her infant cousin Kal-El. And to make things worse, this is the Injustice-verse where Superman goes evil.
  • The Legend of Dragoon starts off with a cinematic of Seles, the main character Dart's hometown, being burned to the ground. To make matters worse, Fruegel, the head of Hellena Prison, decides to utterly destroy the village for the heck of it. Soon after he returns, Dart learns that his childhood friend Shana has been taken to Hellena, a literal Hell to those who defy Emperor Doel.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask begins with Skull Kid turning Link into a Deku Scrub and stealing his horse and the Ocarina of Time. As Link chases him, he reaches the land of Termina, where it's revealed that the Moon will fall in three days.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild begins with Link waking up after a century-long slumber in the Shrine of Resurrection to find that the Kingdom of Hyrule has been destroyed by Calamity Ganon, who is starting to leak out of his prison in Hyrule Castle to finish the job.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Within thirty minutes of booting up the game, the world ends and you summarily get a demon bug shoved down your throat.
  • Killzone 3 begins this way as it picks up after Killzone 2's Downer Ending and frankly it's not getting much better for the ISA.
  • In Banjo-Tooie, the first two things Grunty does after being freed by her sisters is to kill Bottles and leave some monsters overrun Spiral Mountain. Not too long after, Klungo challenges the main characters to a fight, and King Jinjaling is zombified by the witches' life force sucker. This is a darker prologue than that of Banjo-Kazooie, which merely starts with Tooty's capture.
  • Saints Row:
    • Saints Row 2 starts off on a positive note, with the main character of the previous game turning out to be alive. Then you find out they've been in a coma for 5 years in a high-security prison's medical wing. Things only get worse from there, as you discover that the plan to destroy the Row in the name of urban renewal and gentrification that was seemingly thwarted at the end of the last game was instead pulled off by Ultor, and the Saints have collapsed — and in their absence, three gangs even worse than the original set have sprung up to take their place. Finally, it becomes quickly obvious in this game that Ultor is the same one from Red Faction — they're just getting started, and they're already easily worse than all the gangs from both games combined. So... yeah. The game really doesn't start off cheerfully.
    • At the beginning of Saints Row: The Third, Johnny Gat (the only remaining member of the original Saints besides you) is killed ensuring your escape from the Syndicate. You land in an unfamiliar town with little weapons, little money, surrounded by a hostile crime syndicate and only a single safe haven. You know the place is supposed to be bad when Shaundi describes it as 'Bangkok's abusive father'. Bizarrely, this is quickly inverted; most of Act 1 is spent getting a very strong foothold in the city, and you get an extensive armoury by the end of the second mission.
    • Saints Row IV starts on an upbeat note, with the Boss taking down a terrorist cell trying to nuke America and getting so popular as a result that they become President of the United States. Then Zinyak and his goons come and abduct you and your homies. You escape from Zinyak's custody, only for Earth to get blown to space dust not long after.
  • Crops up in Metal Gear occasionally:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty opens with what was supposed to be a simple investigation mission by Solid Snake. By the end, Ocelot has the new Metal Gear, the tanker that held it is sunk, and Snake himself is presumed dead, setting up the events of the main game.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater starts with Naked Snake going on a mission to extract a scientist named Sokolov. Heading back to the chopper, Snake's own mentor, The Boss, appears and reveals she's defecting from the US to Russia, before pummeling Snake and almost killing him. As The Boss leaves, Volgin then fires a mini-nuke, causing major diplomatic damage to the US-USSR relations.
    • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance starts with Raiden helping an African Prime Minister in rebuilding a nation recovering from a civil war... only to be attacked by a group of terrorists, who murder the Prime Minister and almost kill Raiden.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is this by premise — a prologue to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the game is set right before Big Boss ends up in a nine year coma, waking to find his left arm missing and his army disbanded. As an added downer, the player gets to see Militaires Sans Frontieres destroyed before Paz, who wasn't really dead, dies in a bomb blast.
  • Mortal Kombat:
  • NieR. The prologue takes place in the snowy ruins of an abandoned city. Nier is forced to make a Deal with the Devil to protect his sister/daughter Yonah from the Shades that are hunting them. Only after driving them off does Nier realize that Yonah also tried to make the deal to help him — but in her case it failed and she is now slowly dying. The prologue ends with Nier desperately screaming for someone, anyone, to help.
  • Halo:
    • Halo: Combat Evolved opens with your starship, on the run from the Covenant fleet which has just obliterated the last major human colony standing between them and Earth, getting shot down by said fleet.
    • Halo 2 appears to start on a high note, only to quickly spiral into a downer, when Earth is found and attacked by the Covenant, something humans have worked hard to avoid.
    • Halo 3 opens with the Covenant launching a full-scale assault on Earth. (All we had in 2 was the personal fleet of one of the Prophets.)
    • Halo 4: After being left drifting in unknown space for four years, your AI companion is forced to awaken you from your long cryo-nap after a Covenant splinter sect boards your ship, with no fellow humans in sight. It becomes quickly apparent that said AI, who accompanied you for the entirety of the original trilogy, is on the verge of going rampant and can barely hold it together.
    • Halo: Reach: Begins with a burning planet, and your cracked helmet lying on the desolate surface. Here is your story.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The first case opens with the players seeing Cindy Stone being killed by the Thinker statue. And right at the beginning of the second chapter, his mentor Mia is murdered and he has to take the stand alone. And he has to defend Mia's sister Maya, mistakenly accused of being the culprit.
  • Phantom Brave opens with Ash, Haze and Jasmine being brutally murdered by a monster. Only Ash manages to come back as a Phantom, and looks after their daughter, Marona. She was five when they died. Due to her powers, she's subjected to constant All of the Other Reindeer treatment, even from the Ungrateful Bastards hiring her to do jobs for them, with the implication they hire her just to stiff her on the payments!
  • Project Zomboid starts off the tutorial with your things getting stolen, no food, a wife with a broken leg, and zombies everywhere.
  • Resistance 2 begins with the destruction of an U.S. Army base in Iceland, only to get worse by each level. Resistance 3 also begins with your hometown getting wiped out.
  • Mother 3: The game starts off by introducing you to the protagonist and his family (Sans father, who's still at home), who are enjoying a peaceful day at their grandpa's house. By the end of the first chapter, his mother is dead, his home is on fire, the woodland creatures have been turned into bizarre half-robots, and his brother has gone missing.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic Unleashed kicks off with Eggman draining Super Sonic of his energy and using it to firing a gigantic laser at the Earth resulting in awakening an Eldritch Abomination and splitting the Earth into several pieces.
    • Sonic Generations begins with Classic Sonic romping through Green Hill, only to run into the Time Eater, who then crashes Modern Sonic's birthday party.
    • Sonic Forces: Sonic goes to confront Eggman, only to face off with the mad scientist's new ally: Infinite, who beats Sonic effortlessly. Sonic is captured, and Eggman goes on to conquer 99.9% of the world.
  • The BioShock games:
    • BioShock starts with Jack's plane exploding, leaving him a castaway swimming to a mysterious lighthouse.
    • BioShock 2 starts with your main character, Subject Delta, being beaten, getting his Little Sister taken, and forced to commit suicide.
  • Soulcalibur VI opens with a retelling of the events between Soul Edge and Soulcalibur: Siegfried finds Soul Edge, takes the cursed sword in his hand, and is instantly transformed into Nightmare, who unleashes the Evil Seed across Europe and Asia.
  • Demon's Souls: The real part of the game starts with one death: yours. And it's not like the world was a bright cheery place before you die.
  • Dark Souls: The game starts with you being tossed into what's essentially a waste pit, because you just contracted a zombie virus.
  • Every game in the Fallout series starts off with a brief recount of the global thermonuclear conflict that left the world in the desperate state you find it in. Typically more bad stuff happens before you get to start playing, and more still after you do — it takes a while for things to start going in any sort of positive direction.
    • Fallout has your vault's water chip, the device which regulates the vault's water purification systems, malfunction with no way of repairing it, forcing you to go out into the wasteland to find a replacement.
    • Fallout 2 has a colony of humans who, after decades of underground segregation, prepare to leave the vault after radiation levels have somewhat subsided to start civilization anew. They're ruthlessly cut down by minigun-toting soldiers before they even step out of the door.
    • Fallout 3: Your mother dies during your birth, your father flees the vault as a criminal for unknown reasons, and you are cast out of the only home you have ever known into an irradiated wasteland.
    • Fallout: New Vegas: You get shot in the head and buried alive.
    • Fallout 4: The game opens up to you, your spouse, and your barely-a-year-old son on the day the global nuclear war starts. You're thawed out an unknown number of years later just in time to see your spouse shot to death, and your son stolen from their arms by two mysterious figures before you are refrozen. When you thaw out for real, you then emerge from Vault 111 after 210 years of slumber, with the fate of your son unknown. In the thoroughly blasted-out remains of what you once called home.
    • Double subverted in Fallout 76: the dwellers of Vault 76 (one of the precious few "control vaults" where Vault-Tec did not conduct inhumane experiments) emerge into an Appalachia that has barely been touched by the ravages of war, the surrounding area flush with greenery and intact infrastructure. There's just one little hair in the soup, though: there's no one around. No emerging societies, no Brotherhood of Steel, not even raiders! Turns out a new plague in the region has completely depopulated West Virginia!
  • X-Universe:
  • Warriors Orochi 3 starts with every main character on the side of humanity dead with the exception of the three you start with, and things are not looking good for them.
  • Ni no Kuni starts with the main character's mother having a heart attack and dying after saving him from drowning.
    • The sequel, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom opens with the main character being caught in an explosion before being transported to Ding Dong Dell, and the king's father has been killed in a coup by the main villain. The entire first chapter of the game firmly establishes the stakes and how it will be an uphill battle to reclaim the throne and restore peace to the kingdom.
  • Ghost Trick opens with Sissel realizing that he's dead and that a woman is going to be killed in front of him. He then tries to use his ghost powers to save her, only for it to be in vain and her to get shot anyway (though he does find another way to save her). Then he finds out that he's lost all of his memories, and then he learns that he'll vanish when morning comes.
  • StarCraft I: Brood Wars picks up where the first left off, the Overmind is dead but the Zerg are running rampant across Aiur forcing the remaining Protoss to escape their Homeworld.
  • Half-Life 2 kicks off with earth in even more dire straits than it was at the end of the first game. A mysterious alien force known as the Combine have invaded earth and conquered it, killing off most of its inhabitants and forcing the rest to either live like zoo animals ruled over by cyborg slaves or submit to be turned into cyborg slaves themselves.
  • Like most modern Zombie Apocalypse media, Left 4 Dead starts off with the zombie plague already well underway, and the four protagonists among the few that remain alive and well. And about a million zombies to worry about if they want to stay that way. Each successive campaign starts with them once again abandoned in the middle of nowhere, often for reasons that go unexplained.
  • Eternal Sonata begins with a cute young teenage girl talking herself into letting herself fall off a cliff. Then, a scene culminating in the conversation that probably lead her to do that. Next, a man in a coma, with the doctor saying that he might not live through it. And, if you want to count the beginning as going all the way to the preliminary credits, you see this girl being feared because she can use magic, even if it's used to heal, and a pair of boys who steal bread for children who have found homes in the sewers, from whom we learn that the cost of living is high due to taxes, and that the girl from the beginning wouldn't have long to live, anyway.
  • The Last of Us opens with the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse, with the main character losing his daughter during the first hour of the game (daughter who was the playable character until her tragic death). Cue Time Skip.
  • Mad Max begins in a very similar vein to Mad Max: Fury Road: Max is ambushed by War Boys and has everything stolen from him, including his car (which is scrapped), his shotgun, his family portrait, and even his jacket and the shirt off his back.
  • XCOM
    • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified starts with a full-scale attack by the Outsiders on the Groom Range base. At the end of the level, the base is completely destroyed, including the Elerium mine under it, with only 6 survivors.
    • The tutorial for XCOM: Enemy Unknown has 3/4 of your squad wiped out. There's nothing you can do about it; the events are scripted. Of course, if you skip the tutorial, then the result of the mission is entirely up to you.
    • XCOM 2 reveals that the events of the previous game are actually an illusion given to the Commander in a Lotus-Eater Machine after XCOM suffered a devastating Curb-Stomp Battle and Earth was quickly conquered by the aliens. The tutorial begins with the resistance liberating the Commander, but you will lose half of your squad in so doing.
  • The Elder Scrolls series seems to be particularly fond of this trope, and plays it Darker and Edgier with each episode:
    • In Arena, the Emperor and his top general are trapped in another dimension by the Imperial Battlemage. You and the Battlemage's apprentice are the only two to see this and know the truth, so the apprentice is killed and you're thrown in a cell in the city dungeon.
    • In Daggerfall, you are an agent of the Emperor sent on an official mission, but your ship wrecks in a storm and you start the game shipwrecked in a dungeon.
    • In Morrowind, you are a prisoner but are quickly granted release on direct orders from the Emperor. However, your "release" more or less amounts to deportation to the backwater island of Vvardenfell, which is currently plagued by the Blight and is full of Dunmer who are hostile to outlanders.
    • In Oblivion, you are a prisoner again, and this time there is no mention of you being pardoned. It just happens that the Emperor is fleeing from an assassination attempt using a secret escape route, and your cell is on the way. And this time, the Emperor doesn't make it...
    • In Skyrim, you are a prisoner yet again, and when the game starts you are sentenced to death and on your way to be executed. You arrive to a small village and some of your fellow prisoners are actually beheaded in front of you. When your head is on the chopping block, a dragon appears from nowhere, kills the guards and utterly destroys the whole place.
    • In Online, you are killed, and your soul is taken, but you somehow escape from your prison in Coldharbour and begin your quest to get your soul back.
    • In the spin-off Dungeon Crawler An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire, when you enter the Battlespire, you find it having already been taken over Dagon's forces with most of your allies dead and your partner captured.
  • Path of Exile: You are a prisoner who has been exiled to a prison continent called Wraeclast (An Expy for Australia's prison continent history.). You and another prisoner are the only exiles from your ship who survived being dumped on the shore, and he promptly gets eaten by a zombie.
  • Almost every FPS from the 90s (Doom, Quake, Unreal, System Shock 2, Duke Nukem 3D, etc.) put you in the skin of the sole survivor of a crashed spaceship, a Space Marine strike force decimated by aliens, a derelict space station, an invasion of creatures from another dimension, etc. This is not very noticeable since those games don't focus on the scenario, but it still means that everybody else is dead (whoever "everybody else" was) and you are suddenly alone with angry monsters.
  • Assassin's Creed I starts with an introductory mission where the Player Character, the master assassin Altair, is sent to slay the grand master of the Knights Templar and retrieve a powerful artifact. Because of his excessive pride and negligence, he fails miserably, barely escapes alive and leaves his teammate for dead. Then he confesses his failure to his master and explains that there was no way he could have succeeded... when his former teammate arrives, seriously wounded, with the artifact, and accuses him to be a traitor and a coward. His master then condemns him to death and stabs him with a knife. It turns out his master does not really killed him, but he is still stripped of all his weapons, ranks and privileges and has to start again as a new Assassin initiate as a punishment for his failure and incompetence.
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts begins with the Federation hijacking the U.S. ODIN satellite and firing its weapons on its cities. The player character and his brother are now running away from the attack, and can do little as their home gets destroyed.
  • World in Conflict starts with the USSR staging a surprise invasion of the American West Coast.
  • Darksiders starts with the apocalypse being called in earlynote , resulting in demons and angels invading Earth, killing everyone and ruining the planet.
  • Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten opens with Azra revealing that not only is she infected with a plague that has turned most of the inhabitants of her homeland into zombies, but she's been tossed into a pit to die. Luckily for her, it turns out that she's immune to the zombification, and she has certain abilities that enable her to fight back against the zombies.
  • The prologue of Astebreed. It starts with Grato and his team in a hopeless fight against the alien forces. Both of Grato's teammates bite the dust while he narrowly escapes the onslaught. Unfortunately, he dies before making it back to Earth.
  • In Homeworld, things start out rather hopeful: Your species has discovered the true origin of their kind and, despite the best efforts of some terrorist zealots, finished construction of the Colony Ship to bring everyone home. However, The Mothership quickly finds itself under attack and returns home to see Kharak, and all of its three hundred million inhabitants, incinerated, with the last (defenseless) survivors under bombardment.
  • At the start of Third Super Robot Wars Z: Tengoku-hen, Sidereal invades the Blue Earth and conquers most of it. They proceed to establish the "Gaia Empire".
  • Star Control 2 starts with your arrival at Earth, where you learn that the Alliance of Free Stars lost the war to the Ur-Quan Hierarchy and that Earth has been enslaved by the Ur-Quan.
  • Valkyrie Profile begins with two kids barely into their teens running away to avoid being sold into slavery, only for them to wander into a field of poisonous flowers and for the girl to die while the boy mourns. This sets the stage for the game nicely, as it's based around recruiting the spirits of people who have died in tragic circumstances.
  • Wolfenstein:
    • Wolfenstein: The New Order begins with a particularly gut-wrenching one — it's 1948, the Third Reich is a technological superpower, and the Allies are losing horribly. The prologue is set during a last-ditch Allied mission to hit Deathshead's compound and assassinate him - failure is not an option, as it would mean the complete loss of Europe to the Nazis. Guess what happens?
    • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood opens with Blazkowics infiltrating the eponymous castle to get intel that could turn the tide of the war back in the Allies' favor. For his trouble, he gets captured and imprisoned.
    • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus opens with your player character being forced with a Shoot the Dog choice in a flashback; and the opening mission involves the same character in the present having to fight their way out of the infirmary as it's being invaded by the soldiers of the Third Reich.
  • Chronomaster starts with a pirate attack on a defenceless colony. They seem to take no prisoners. After the game proper starts, you can read about "Pasqua Wipeout" in Encyclopedia Exposita: pirates killed everybody, then strip-mined the planet making it uninhabitable; two decades later they are still at large. It's pretty obvious the victims you are ordered to save are the pirate leaders targeted by a survivor of the attack.
  • Sands of Destruction opens with you controlling Naja, a Half-Human Hybrid who's the unfortunate subject of much Half-Breed Discrimination. He defends a town against Morte, a known terrorist who intends to end the world, but this does little to raise his standing in the eyes of his fellows. Control then switches to The Hero Kyrie just in time for his Destruct powers to be activated, killing the kindly beastlord Ursa Rex and leveling Kyrie's hometown of Barni Village. Kyrie is devastated, naturally, and while he's deep in denial about his role in the destruction, he's too shocked to offer any resistance as he's dragged off to jail. Kyrie is then broken out of jail by Morte, who insists he's going to help her end the world.
  • At the beginning of Skylanders: SuperChargers, Kaos has successfully taken over Skylands and most of the game is you liberating it.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest begins with Ori being torn from the Spirit Tree by a great storm, whereupon he/she/it is adopted by the bear-like Naru. While attempting to call back Ori with its light, the Tree accidentally kills the young of the dark bird Kuro, driving her into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in which she abducts Sein, the light and eyes of the Spirit Tree, plunging Nibel into darkness and decay. Naru's fruit supply runs out, and she is unable to reach the higher-hanging fruit, resulting in her dying of starvation and Ori having to set out into the forest on their own, where they themselves collapse from exhaustion and starvation before being revived by the Tree's residual power, commencing their quest to restore the light to Nibel.
  • Radiant Silvergun's first level takes place a year after an artifact called the Stone-Like destroys all life on Earth, which is depicted in an introductory cutscene in the console ports' Saturn/Story mode. The protagonists happened to jump away from Earth before they got caught up in the kill radius, but had to return due to running short on survival supplies.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse starts with a few tutorial quests, and then throws you into a Hopeless Boss Fight, with two of your higher-ups getting murdered in the process before you suffer a bloody and humiliating defeat while your childhood friend Asahi watches helplessly in horror. Fortunately, Dagda gives you a second chance at life, at the cost of becoming his personal Person of Mass Destruction.
  • Persona 5 has a double example: the game starts out In Medias Res with the hero committing a heist in a casino, only for it to go wrong and ending up being taken in custody by the police, who torture you for information and inform you that one of your allies betrayed you. The game then flashes back to the proper beginning of the story, where we see the hero try to rescue a woman being assaulted by a drunk man, only for him to turn this around and accuse our protagonist of assaulting HIM, leading to him being arrested, disowned by his family, forced to move to Tokyo and go to a school where everyone thinks you're an untrustworthy criminal.
  • Grand Theft Auto loves having its beginnings start on a downer:
    • Grand Theft Auto III begins with the player character robbing a bank with his girlfriend, Catalina, and another henchman. As they make their escape, Catalina shoots the henchman dead and then shoots you, leaving you to bleed out while she steals all the money. You're then captured by the police and are in a transport truck being moved to a prison. Things start to turn around when the Columbian Cartel ambush the convoy and frees everyone before blowing up the bridge behind them.
    • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has Tommy Vercelli being released from prison after fifteen years and heads down to Vice City on Sonny Ferrelli's behalf to do a drug deal. It goes sour when a gang ambushes the deal by killing everyone and stealing both the drugs and the money while Tommy barely escapes with his life. Tommy is now tasked with getting the money back and it won't be easy...
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has CJ return to his hometown of San Andreas after being away for five years. He returns for his mother's funeral and is picked up by a pair of crooked cops that force him to do jobs for them later unless he wants to be pinned as the murderer of a cop that they themselves did. The cops steal CJ's money and dump him in a neighborhood that's run by the Ballas gang.
    • Grand Theft Auto V has Michael and Trevor robbing a small bank and they succeed, but things start to go downhill as they escape. Their getaway driver is shot dead by the police during the chase and while Trevor does manage to take control of the wheel, the crew eventually spin out and crash. The crew then enter a last stand against the police where Brad is shot dead and Michael gets shot and critically wounded, forcing Trevor to flee and believe Michael is dead. The game then jumps ahead five years later, showing Michael (now in witness protection) absolutely miserable with his life before the player is introduced to a new character, Franklin.
  • Dragon Quest Builders starts out after the Dragonlord has thoroughly conquered Alefgard and somehow muddled the minds of the few survivors so only the protagonist (who slept through the disaster) can build anything. The goal of the game is to reverse the fall of civilization — one step at a time.
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 begins with the player, an apprentice Builder, on a slave ship under the command of the Children of Hargon, who have destroyed civilization on a cluster of islands and enforce their rule by banning the act of building and capturing any Builders they find.
  • Time Shift begins with the protagonist warping back to an alternate 1939 where the villain has set up a fascist regime and is annihilating the remainder of the local resistance. The first level ends with the resistance's leaders being blown away, prompting the protagonist's time suit to look for an alternate insertion point and warp him back to an earlier portion of the timeline, setting up the rest of the plot.
  • Bayonetta 2 opens up with the titular protagonist doing some shopping and meeting up with her best friend Jeanne, only to be interrupted by an angel assault. Bayonetta hops onto a fighter jet and later a train to do battle with them; pretty crazy by traditional video game standards but practically business as usual for the duo. She finishes off a boss fight with one of her Finishing Move demonic summons, and that seems to go fine...until the demon in question, Gomorrah, breaks free from Bayonetta's command and tries to kill her, knocks Jeanne's soul out of her body, and drags said soul off to Inferno. The bulk of the game is then spent trying to get Jeanne's soul back from Inferno before Inferno no longer makes it possible.
  • Far Cry 5 opens with an attempt by the US Marshal and local law enforcement in Hope County to arrest cult leader "Father" Joseph Seed. Their attempt fails when Seed's followers latch onto the helicopter as it tries to leave, with one throwing themselves into helicopter's blades to send it crashing down and letting Seed escape, while you find yourself trapped in Hope County with nowhere safe to run.
  • Yakuza 6: following the events of the previous game, Kazuma Kiryu is sent to prison. By the time he is released, Haruka has gone missing, running away from home to spare her siblings any grief because of the media coverage surrounding her.
  • Judgment begins three years prior to the present day as Takayuki Yagami's career as a defense attorney hits a remarkable high after getting a client acquitted, something of a miracle in Japan's legal system. Not long after, however, his career as a lawyer is destroyed when said client is arrested again, this time for murder.
  • Distant Prologue of Reunion. Day of the Jackboot turns Utopia into a Crapsack World. You play for the colony of escaped loyalists about to reconquer Earth 300 years later.
  • Kirby games tend toward relatively light versions of this as a result of Villains Act, Heroes React, but the standout example is Kirby Mass Attack, where Necrodeus (the sort of villain who usually doesn't show up until the end of a Kirby game) kickstarts the game by splitting Kirby into ten copies and killing off nine of them.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's World of Light mode opens with the new enemy Galeem instantly destroying every fighter in the game as well as the rest of the universe, with Kirby as the Sole Survivor.
  • Fatal Frame III: The Tormented starts with the aftermath of a car accident. Rei crawls out of the car without noticeable injuries... before seeing her fiancee's dead body within the car. Things quickly go From Bad to Worse when she becomes afflicted with a deadly ghostly curse that she must break before it kills her.
  • Infamous opens with Empire City getting nuked by a mysterious device that kills off a lot of people, infects many more with a mysterious plague, and grants Cole his electrokinetic powers. Not long after, martial law is declared and the city falls into anarchy.
  • Infamous 2 starts with the Beast, a nightmarishly powerful conduit Kessler warned Cole about, showing up much earlier than predicted. Even though Cole puts up one hell of a fight and even blows the Beast's head off, he's drained of most of his powers and left in a weakened state for most of the game. Even worse, the Beast just pulls itself back together and wipes Empire City off the map.
  • Unreal Tournament III starts with the main protagonists' hometown being raided and destroyed by a Horde of Alien Locusts. The Player Character even got obliterated before being taken to a private Izanagi hospital in order to be rebuilt.
  • The Closer: Game of the Year Edition begins when the titular Closer is called to the pitcher's mound to finish off the World Series for the New York Yankees. However, that would-be victory is nullified when Carlos "The Machine" Rodriguez steps up to bat for the St. Louis Cardinals. What follows is one of the most humiliating events of the Closer's career as The Machine easily slams his slider out of the park to tie the series and send it to a decisive Game 7. That failure (and finding out his slider got cracked) is what propels our hero to go on his epic quest to remake himself before that final game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Princess Evangile begins with Masaya broke, his Con Man of a father selling him out to the Yakuza, and being forced to run away with nothing but 160 yen in his pocket just to survive.
  • Katawa Shoujo opens with a Love Confession. Normally a happy event, especially as both parts want a relationship. Except this time it's directly responsible for the main character suffering a heart attack, which leads to extended hospitalisation and eventually forcing him to enter the high school the majority of game takes place at.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Right Wing Radio Duck starts off with Donald Duck learning about the large income gap between the upper and middle classes, followed by him getting fired and unable to find a new job, and finally facing foreclosure on his house. The rest of the short follows Donald as he discovers a new idol in the form of Glenn Beck.
  • The sixth episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared opens with Yellow Guy alone in his room, crying over the loss of his best friends after the events of 4 and 5. Before going to sleep, he looks at his buddies' now-empty beds and tearfully says, "Good night, guys. I miss you..."
  • Reversal Of The Heart starts with a man killing a baby dragon to give its chest gem to his love.

    Western Animation 
  • The Flash Gordon animated movie begins with fire falling from the sky and chaos in the city.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian: "The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin!"
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender. The opening narration basically tells us that the world has been at war for a hundred years, an entire nation of Air Benders (core to the very balance of the world itself) have been wiped out entirely and that the forces of good have been losing the entire time. Even worse, the Avatar, who is supposed to bring balance to the world (due to the unique ability to master all four elements, among other abilities) has been missing since the beginning of the war. The next scene is the reawakening of the Avatar (a 12 year old boy, and the Last of His Kind). Back from the Brink indeed.
  • Galaxy Rangers: The Crown stages a sudden, brutal attack on Kirwin, capturing dozens of humans and (is implied to be) killing the Kiwi residents. The Hero is captured by SpacePirates, brutally gunned down and paralyzed, requiring an Emergency Transformation to save his life. His wife makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save their kids, but is marched off to a Fate Worse than Death. (In the original demo reel, the kids also didn't make it). Now humanity is embroiled in a nasty interstellar war with an Evil Overlord who wants to mash them down for Life Energy.
  • About two minutes into the first of the My Little Pony TV Specials a bunch of dragons come flying in and steal several ponies.
  • In the beginning of Transformers G1 the Decepticons have dominated Cybertron, run it low on energon, and the Autobots are struggling to survive by building the Ark to escape the planet.
  • "Blue Cat Blues" (1956), an abnormally depressing Tom and Jerry cartoon. It begins with a depressed Tom sitting on a railway track, Spurned into Suicide. Jerry internally narrates his sad story; the dame he loves has left him for his more affluent rival, Butch. Tom tries everything he can to win her back, but to no avail. Broken, he takes to drinking, and has to be saved from his first suicide attempt by Jerry. Close narration, Jerry sees that the mouse he loves has also left him for a wealthier mouse; dejected, he sits next to Tom on the track, and together they wait for the train to come so they can pass into the next world. As you can imagine, there is little to nothing funny about it in the slightest.
  • Batman Beyond, which begins with a prologue of an older Bruce Wayne having to retire as Batman after developing a heart condition that nearly gets him killed in a battle and forces him to use a gun during the fight. When the setting then fast forwards to the contemporary era, the show's other protagonist Terry McGinnis promptly suffers a tragedy of his own when his father is murdered. Things do gradually get better for both characters over the remainder of the series.
  • The first episode of Capitol Critters begins with Max's family including various younger siblings being killed by exterminators.
  • In Samurai Jack, the first episode ends with the title character almost defeating Aku after a brutal battle and at the verge of ending him, and Aku opening a Time Portal, and throwing him millennia into the future, where he's the supreme ruler. Season 5 finale shows us Future Jack actually defeated him immediately after that.
  • Transformers: The Movie starts after a Time Skip where the Decepticons have conquered Cybertron over the interim. It's not a nice place, to say the least. The opening act of the movie also contains many battles where beloved characters from the cartoon are Killed Off for Real in brutal ways.
  • Jem has one hell of a Mood Whiplash at the start of the series. At the start of the first episode all the Holograms are seen going to a premiere and surrounded by screaming fans. Then it cuts to the rainy funeral of their father.
    Jerrica: "I remember how it all began.. With the unexpected death of my father."
  • The Five-Episode Pilot of She-Ra: Princess of Power begins with Etheria in a bad state, Hordak having succeeded there where Skeletor has failed on Eternia. The entirety of the series dealt with the protagonists as La Résistance trying to overthrow the Evil Horde. (A goal they never truly achieved, due to well, the plot of the show.)
  • Visionaries started with the mysterious event that caused technology to stop functioning, leading to the Age of Magic and a medieval-like After the End setting.
  • In Highlander: The Animated Series, the series started 700 years after an asteroid hit the Earth and plunged the world in chaos. One immortal, Kortan, rule over the world unchallenged and it's up to a new immortal, Quentin, to defeat him.
  • Simba: è nato un re starts with Simba's father being shot by humans. He's then taken in by wolves.
  • The Herself The Elf special starts with Herself being captured and imprisoned for a year while her friends fruitlessly search for her.


Video Example(s):


Destiny 2

Destiny 2 begins with the Last City and the Tower being besieged by the Red Legion of the Cabal. They also managed to strip all Guardians of their Light and destroyed much of their armory, rendering them powerless against the invasion.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / DownerBeginning

Media sources:

Main / DownerBeginning