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Earth Drift

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Above: Link praying to Jesus.(1991)
Below: People praying to Hyrule's Goddesses.(2002)

A work or series that starts out with many more ties to the real world than it later has. This is especially jarring if it is set in another world or universe. As the series goes on, re-viewing/reading/playing the oldest installments becomes disconcerting (if the reader is more familiar with the more recent installments) as a result of similarities to the real world being more frequent. Usually happens as a result of the work's mythology not being fully defined, or a Schrödinger's Gun that left a few traces of the original plan.

May not necessarily require the real-world references being in older works. This trope can still apply when you find a real-world reference in a newer installment and find it odd.

A Sub-Trope of Early-Installment Weirdness and typically a result of Continuity Drift. Related to Art Evolution and Characterization Marches On. It may also be quite deliberate, as an aversion of Reed Richards Is Useless. Will sometimes invoke the Celebrity Paradox, which is when the popular culture of our world does not exist in the fictional world (because that world is itself part of our pop culture). Contrast Fictional Earth, when a world remains identified as Earth, but is otherwise very different. See also Doing in the Scientist, which is when a previously "realistic" work becomes fantasy-based.


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    Multimedia Franchises 
  • BIONICLE: While the franchise was never set on Earth, the early years were heavily influenced by Polynesian mythology and used several names from it. LEGO got into some legal trouble when they tried to trademark these names, and subsequently the Polynesian themes were toned down significantly, and most of the names were changed as a result. A lot of more earthly concepts and objects kept creeping their way into the story after around the '06 saga, such as characters eating with their mouth, using wheels for transport (one of the Makuta even owned a motorbike, supposedly the only one in their universe), writing on parchment instead of stone slabs and organic animals reproducing with eggs — all of which the main characters found disgusting or just weird. The change of settings in '09 brought about references to sexual reproduction and animal droppings, and even some romantic love. These were all justified, as it was gradually revealed that the characters had been living in a constructed, artificial world all this time, and there was much more to the universe than they had thought.
  • Pokémon: Real world locations and events are mentioned in the first generation games and anime with some frequency, but fade from prominence in later installments.
    • Pokémon Red and Blue:
      • A model of Space Shuttle Columbia and an NPC who discusses travels to the moon (even citing the "July 20, 1969" date) are present.
      • Lt. Surge is referred to as the "Lightning American".
      • A Silph scientist mentions being transferred to a branch in Tiksi as his reason for defecting to Team Rocket.
      • Mew is said to have been discovered in the jungles of Guyana.
      • In FireRed, which features translated Pokédex entries from the Japanese Red/Green, Raichu and Gastly's Pokédex entries state that they can knock out an Indian elephant. While the original Pokédex was made before the Generation 2 Pokémon Donphan, it's still bizarre that this specific animal is mentioned at all. Later Pokédex entries remove references to the animal and instead mention that they can knock out foes several times their size. Raichu's entry in Pokémon Legends: Arceus has a Mythology Gag to the older entries, as Professor Laventon comments that its shocks can knock out a Copperajah, an elephant Pokémon from Galar.
      • The Kanto region is named after the actual Kanto region of Japan. Later regions are also based on real locations, like other areas of Japan or of the U.S and Europe, but are given made-up names and many liberties on their depiction are given (like random deserts or volcanoes).
      • Most such real-world references are retained in the FireRed/LeafGreen remakes, though the Columbia becomes an unnamed spaceship in the English localization, likely in response to its destruction in 2003, about one year prior to their release. Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, meanwhile, cuts out all of them: the spaceship is replaced entirely with a model of an Aerodactyl, Lt. Surge's title is changed to the "Lightning Lieutenant", "the Guyana jungle" is abridged to just "the jungle", and Tiksi is replaced with "the boondocks".
    • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, a Team Rocket grunt in Azalea Town refers to himself as a Good Samaritan; later games establish the the Pokémon world has its own religion and Pokémon deities.
    • The games have begun to emphasize the cultural difference between their world and ours, such as making more Pokémon-related puns or changing context of fictional works (for example Beauty and the Beast is about a man who turned into a Pokémon, not a random monster).
    • The Pokémon games have since turned this trend back around again in regards to geography, explicitly mentioning real-world locations and having characters who speak real-life foreign languages. The general implication seems to be that the Pokémon world is an alternate version of our world, with various places having different geography and names. This is all but explicit in Generation 6, which goes out of its way to state that Kalos is the Pokéverse version of France; Generation 5 does something similar, though to a lesser degree, with Unova and New York City. In Pokémon Sun and Moon, the protagonist's room has a globe on which Africa and Europe are plainly visible, revealing the Pokémon world to have the same continental layout as Earth.note  In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, sandwich ingredients and other foods have simple real-world names, like tomatoes, onions, cheese, and ham, rather than them being derived from Berries (like the Tamato Berry) or from Pokémon (like Miltank Cheese), the way they were in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl through Pokémon Sun and Moon.
    • In regards to non-Pokémon animals, they used to be referenced from time to time in the Gen I games (Pokédex entries and the S.S. Anne's menu) and early anime (non-Pokémon fish, worms, and a cartoon mongoose conjured up by a talking Gastly), but these have largely been phased out as more Pokémon species were introduced. Fruit is in a bit of a gray area as regular fruit (like apples) were common until Gen III introduced Berries (fruits with Pokémon-like properties and naming). Now both these Berries and regular fruit co-exist within the same continuities. Detective Pikachu and the Alola games muddle this up further, with lemonade and ketchup made of berries instead of lemons and tomatoes, yet Pokémon Sword and Shield features vegetables such as potatoes, and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series traditionally uses regular apples for food.
    • Real-world locations are also mentioned only in the anime' first season:
    • Several first season episodes also have Japanese festivals such as Princess Day.note  Apart from a local festival in Pastoria City celebrating Croagunk which could be placed anywhere on the calendar and one relating to the Coumarine Gym tree which had the major trappings of (commercial) Christmas but definitely didn't happen in winter, there have not been any references to holidays in post-Johto seasons outside of Pokémon-featured shorts. This is Enforced by both Ash being Not Allowed to Grow Up and an emphasis on "Cultural Neutrality" levied by Nintendo.note 
    • The anime originally used kanji with the occasional bits of English for their in-series text. However, 4kids edited it out with a fictional language. The Japanese anime eventually began using this alphabet as well, followed by the games themselves in Pokémon X and Y.
    • A few Kanto episodes have references to Christianity, such as James' parents' supposed coffins bearing crosses, Misty holding up a cross to ward off a ghost, and Brock referencing the Biblical story of Noah. Since then, religion is sparingly mentioned in the games and never in the anime. The Sinnoh games contain an unspecified church in Hearthome but it isn't Christian.
    • Inverted in the Alternate Continuity anime film Pokémon: The Power of Us. One of the major characters is a teenage girl who goes to a normal high school, not a Pokémon Trainer school. Real-world fruits are also referred to as such.
  • Star Wars:
    • For those who have only seen the special editions, it's weird seeing English writing on things like the tractor beam instead of the Aurebesh that later replaced it. It's also a little weird hearing Han Solo say things like "I'll See You in Hell" in The Empire Strikes Back without the "nine Corellian hells" backstory. Of course, you can file such things under Translation Convention. The later Hyperspace Article "The Written Word" explains that English is the High Galactic Alphabet, meaning it exists in-canon. As for use of the Greek alphabet, that is also justified as the Tionese writing system.
    • Even in the remastered versions, A New Hope still contains standard numerals on screen as the Death Star nears Yavin IV. Although they don't match up with the numbers the characters are saying. (Just pretend you're imagining them.)
    • The original Star Wars (Marvel 1977) tie-in comic run had many of these, with mentions of "Sunday school" by Han Solo, Jaxxon talking about "space carrots" (implying that there are places not considered to be from space — which would be assumed to be Earth), and so on.
    • The Ewok Adventure live-action TV movies has real-world horses and animals. This is explained as humans not being the only species from Earth in the Star Wars galaxy. It's even mentioned that the human family's homeworld is called "Earth".
    • The Star Wars Holiday Special (which didn't directly reference Christmas, unlike the non-canon Christmas in the Stars album) had many examples of 20th-century Earth technology, ranging from eyeglasses, which are usually a rarity in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, to what appears to be a commercially available personal computer from the late 1970s. The eponymous holiday, Life Day, is itself a secular equivalent to Christmas, which later material has actually retained as canon.
    • In the original A New Hope novelization (written before the movie was released), Obi-Wan explains to Luke why he needs to be trained in the Force, saying "Even a duck has to learn how to swim." In this case, however, this trope is subverted when Luke, puzzled, asks "What's a duck?" The Phantom Menace later establishes ducks to be native to Naboo, where Obi-Wan has been, but Luke obviously hasn't — and for that matter, being aquatic animals, they're not something you'd see on a wholly desert planet. They're pretty weird-looking "ducks", though, with four legs. The same novel also mentions a dog Luke had once owned. In this case, however, it's eventually confirmed (though no longer canon) that yes, it was a normal dog.
    • A canceled novel trilogy was to explain how humans ended up in the Star Wars galaxy. Some characters who were descendants of the characters from American Graffiti and THX 1138 somehow travel to another galaxy and back in time to become the first humans in the galaxy.
    • Timothy Zahn's The Thrawn Trilogy has two instances of Luke drinking a hot beverage that Lando introduced to him. It's called "hot chocolate". The second instance is with "mint".
    • Also, as xkcd once pointed out, the Millenium Falcon is the only ship in the franchise to be somehow named after a real animal which exists on real Earth, but which has never been seen as existing in-universe.

    Anime and Manga 
  • An interesting case happens with Attack on Titan, where it's played straight and inverted. Initially, it was generally assumed that the setting is more or less like our world, presumed to take place somewhere likely in Central Europe given the Germanic flavor. Although the setting uses a fictional calendar, the connection was supported with some vague references to our world's past. However, it is later revealed that humanity is not extinct outside of the walls, and subsequently the story shifts towards the long-standing conflict between the nations of Eldia and Marley, and the latter's conquest of the world. It is revealed that the world's geography is quite different from our own, mostly resembling our Earth but vertically mirrored, the entire story prior to that taking place on an island resembling Madagascar. However, at the same time we also start seeing people of different ethnicities and cultures that strikingly resemble those from our world in the early 20th century, and one panel showing the Rumbling even features a city that highly resembles London.

    Comic Books 
  • The first Judge Dredd story was set in New York, as opposed to Mega City One. Then again, the first story also included regular police within the justice department.
  • Oddly enough, Disney Comics followed a sort of cycle with it. They started following closely on the Silly Symphonies cartoons' footsteps and took place in a childish fairy tale land. Then, when the more grounded adventure of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse became prevalent, it was established that they lived in a world Like Reality, Unless Noted (the main noted feature being the existence of anthropomorphic animals as a legitimate species alongside humans). This was never repealed as such, but over the decades, so many things (from magical elements to fictional foreign countries to Disneyfied history to phasing out humans in favor of Dogfaces) had changed that the Duckverse only superficially resembled the real world anymore. (This started with Donald's home being relocated from Burbank to the fictional Duckburg.) In the 1990's, some writers like Don Rosa tried to undo part of this by reintroducing carefully-researched elements of real-life history and geography, which reset the counters somewhat, but no true Retcon was involved so it didn't stick.
  • Marvel Comics originally claimed that their stories were taking place in the real world, with the only difference being the existence of superheroes. This quickly disappeared as soon as they ventured outside of the USA and fictional countries a plenty started appearing. Now the Marvel Universe bears only a passing resemblance to the real world.
  • The Spirit was originally set in New York City, but the location soon became Central City (ironically, at about the same time the less realistic objects like flying cars were removed).
  • The earliest Superman stories had him living in Cleveland, Ohio (the hometown of his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). This disappeared within a few stories, and later stories had him resident in Metropolis ever since he came of age.
  • Likewise, the early Batman comics were set in New York before changing it to the fictional Gotham City.
  • Inverted in Usagi Yojimbo which, though the setting is obviously Japan and Japanese folklore, carefully refrained from mentioning any real places until one story brought in the Battle of Dan-no-Ura as backstory.
  • Inverted with Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics). Originally the series had no ties to Earth but, this was later retconned. Mobius is actually Earth thousands of years in the future. Aliens forced animals to evolve into Funny Animals while most humans "de-evolved" into four-fingered Overlanders.
  • Dynamite Entertainment's reboot of Jungle Jim made it a spin-off of their Flash Gordon series by changing the setting from Earth to the planet Mongo's moon, Arboria.

    Comic Strips 
  • Despite being a basically realistic police procedural in its early run, Dick Tracy began introducing more and more devices out of Speculative Fiction after World War II ended, starting with the two-way wrist radio. Eventually, the strip got so far into science fiction that an Audience-Alienating Era ensued, and it was later brought back to Earth. Many of the gadgets stayed ahead of real-world technology, though with the heroes having miniature, internet-capable wrist computers decades before Blackberries and iPhones became commonplace.
  • Doonesbury originally was set at Yale, but this was moved to the fictional Walden College shortly into the run.
  • Garfield was originally a very "contemporary" comic strip, with liberal references to late 1970s/early 1980s pop culture: disco dancing, punk rock, even a mention of John Travolta (in his first wave of fame, before declining and coming back after Pulp Fiction in 1994). When Jim Davis retooled the strip in the late '80s to make it more "whimsical" and kid-oriented, the "relevant" references abruptly dropped off and the tone of the strip became more surreal...sometimes much more surreal. The one main exception to this real-world avoidance is the frequent Continuity Nods to Jon Arbuckle's former love affair with disco music, which everyone except Jon now considers an Old Shame.

    Films — Animation 
  • The teaser trailer for Cars actually showed Mater accidentally running over a bumblebee. Not a car colored to resemble a bumblebee, an actual bumblebee. In the final film, all animals in the Cars universe (except birds, for some reason) are also portrayed as vehicles.
  • In the original Ice Age, the animals lived in a very realistic world. Humans (Neanderthals) were present, and the animals were just animals to Neanderthal eyes. The entire plot involved a trio of animals saving a baby human named Roshan from a pack of hungry smilodons and returning him to his family (one of the trio being a smilodon himself, attempting to lure the other two and the baby to his pack). The second film does not contain humans, and the animals are a little more humany. By the time of the third film, animals use weapons, wear some degree of clothes, and are the main inhabitants of the world. However, a modern human appears in the Christmas special.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The DC Extended Universe: In Man of Steel, a lot of attention is given to how revolutionary the idea of 'the Superman' is, with characters discussing at lengths the political, religious, and scientific implications of a man like Superman becoming a reality, but Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman (2017) make it clear that a superhuman with godlike power has existed in this setting since World War I (albeit one you could kill with bullets, so kind of a different story), with Suicide Squad (2016) also depicting metahumans and magic powers as being something the government is intimately aware of (and establishing Batman has been fighting metahuman criminals like Killer Croc for some time). Wonder Woman 1984 further solidifies/retcons that Diana was operating in public as Wonder Woman back in the '80s and makes the existence of magic completely undeniable with world-altering wishes being granted by the film's MacGuffin. Birds of Prey (2020) establishes Dinah Lance's mother was fighting crime in Gotham back when she was a child, and that (in this version) she had the Canary Cry power as well, establishing that metahumans were not at all a new thing when Superman first appeared, and rather Clark was noteworthy because of his extraterrestrial origin and how powerful he was.
  • Pitch Black mentions Earth a lot, but follow-up movies The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) and Riddick don't mention the planet. If you hadn't seen the first movie, you would think it was an A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away... setting.

  • The evolution of Terry Pratchett's Discworld is noteworthy here. In the beginning, it was a parody mirror of fantasy fiction tropes and related to Earth only insofar as the fantasy series it was spoofing were mirrors of Earth.note  Over the course of the books, it has drifted towards Earth: the introduction of parallel nations and cultures such as Fourecks/The Foggy Islands (Australia/New Zealand), Agatea (China, Japan, Thailand and Korea) Quirm (France), Uberwald (Germany/Switzerland) and Borogravia/Zlobenia (Austria/Russia) only serves to lampshade this. Also, Earth history and events are creeping in — the establishment of a mail service, mass communications (Clacks as telegraph analogue), and now the railways (in an Expy of railway-building in 19th century England). And The Science of Discworld series makes the links even more explicit, suggesting that science on the Discworld was responsible for the Big Bang that created our universe. Fridge Logic dictates that if the wizards in a fantasy world caused the Big Bang that created our universe which led to the evolution of Planet Earth and the eventual birth of a fantasy author called Terry Pratchett who created a fantasy world with inquisitive wizards in it.... then Recursion Is Complete.
  • Inverted in many Eternal Champion novels by Michael Moorcock. Usually the first novel of a subseries starts in a rather exotic setting, which quickly drifts toward your bog-standard Medieval European Fantasy, with exotic details not getting a second glance or being written out (e.g. giant bats won't wake due to falling level of chaos). The process may take from a few chapters to a couple of novels.
  • The first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber took place on Earth, before the world of Nehwon was written into the series, with the result that when collected, some lines had to be added explaining why they were on Earth.
  • The original version of The Gunslinger by Stephen King contains numerous hints that the book is set on Earth After the End, but later books in The Dark Tower series established that Roland's world was distinct from ours, and most of these hints were removed in the revised edition.
  • The first two books in the Kushiel's Legacy series are basically political thrillers with a bunch of Historical In Jokes and bondage sex. Gods are an acknowledged presence throughout, but until the third book, they aren't much more than flavor to the Backstory. This escalates, however, through the second trilogy, culminating with the heroes of that trilogy founding a university to study magic, and the heroine of the third trilogy being quite explicitly magical.
  • Happens over the course of The Laundry Files as a consequence of literal Earth drift — the planet's path through the galaxy is taking it through a region of space where normal rules don’t necessarily apply. As a result, the first couple of novels are mostly like the Earth we know, but with some hushed up supernatural elements. Over the course of the series, however, there are increasing mass casualty incidents, followed by alien invasions and people openly developing superhuman powers, then horrors from beyond space manifesting in person and claiming territory.
  • The first Redwall book has horses, dogs, references to most likely human harbors, a church, and Portugal. All of those are gone in the subsequent books, in favor of a world inhabited only by Talking Animals.
  • The Space Trilogy: Outside of all the aliens, the history of Earth is basically the same as any Christian would expect, angels and demons included. That Hideous Strength delves straight into fantasy and mythology by confirming that the pagan gods all existed,note  Merlin was a true wizard who began a millennia long-legacy of Arthurian successors, and that a transhumanist conspiracy controlled the course of post-war Britain only to be covered-up by the media.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien:
    • Early drafts and editions of The Hobbit included references to policemen, lampposts, and China, which were eventually removed. The Hobbit still, however, includes a clock on Bilbo's mantlepiece; clockwork seems increasingly out of place as The Lord of the Rings progresses.note 
      • As late as the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf's firework-dragon is compared to an express train.
    • Subverted with existence of the sport of golf. Golf actually has an in-universe explanation. It was allegedly invented at the Battle of Greenfields, where Bullroarer Took killed the goblin leader Golfimbul by using a club to send his head flying off and down a rabbit hole. Whether this was a premeditated alternate explanation or Ass Pull is unknown, but it is explained.
    • Technically, the series isn't an example of Earth Drift so much as Earth Time Drift. The early editions of the Hobbit did mention the contemporary world, but as Tolkien developed the setting he kept pushing the time period back until he reached pre-Christian Europe. The elves and dwarves of the story are the alleged inspiration for Germanic Mythology. Hence all the references to Hobbits hiding from humans and real Earth languages by the narrator of the books; he's literally Tolkien, presenting his world to the reader as if it were a historical document he translated.
  • Zig-zagged in the Tortall Universe: The Song of the Lioness books introduce a pretty simple Low Fantasy universe where people mostly have names like George and Roger, chess is played, and there's a desert city that just happens to be called Persepolis. Starting from The Immortals, made-up names become the rule (and made-up terms for real things become more common), the world-building is a lot more elaborate, and you get the general sense that the author would retcon out some of that Early-Installment Weirdness if she could. However, Protector of the Small, while broadly following the same trend, also introduces a very close Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Japan that unabashedly uses words like "kimono", and the Trickster's Duet and Beka Cooper draw so heavily on Spy Fiction and Police Procedurals that it's hard not to see constant parallels to the real world.
    • Tamora Pierce's other fantasy universe, the Circleverse, originally rejected the kind of active and meddling Fantasy Pantheon used in the Tortall books in favor of a system where religion plays pretty much the same role as in real life — i.e., there are lots of separate, very different religions and no particular reason to believe any of them is any truer than the others. But in Battle Magic, one culture's gods suddenly get in on the plot.
  • Inverted with Shannara. Per Word of God, Terry Brooks was initially rather wishy-washy if the post-apocalyptic countries of the plot were on earth or not. By the time of The Genesis of Shannara, the planet definitely is earth. This detail is mostly relegated to the prequels, as by the centuries that pass between them and The Sword of Shannara, most signs of the planet that would be recognizable to the reader have long since faded from memory.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Smallville;
    • Early seasons implied that Earth was realistic before alien baby, Clark landed in a shower of Magic Meteors bar a America having a few fictional towns like Smallville and Metropolis.
    • A newspaper headline in "Asylum" says "Themyscirian Queen Addresses the Vatican" meaning that the hidden island of Amazon women that Wonder Woman comes from is a known country.
    • "Absolute Justice" shows that Justice Society of America Super Team was active in the 1970s.
  • Star Trek started out based on Real Life history, but The Original Series made some predictions about the then-future which did not come to pass (for one, human spaceflight hasn't advanced nearly as far as expected, but neither was there a nuclear holocaust killing over 600 million, so it's probably for the best). While the series continues to be Like Reality, Unless Noted, further divergences from real history have unavoidably grown over the franchise's history.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The game borrows plenty of monsters from across mythology. The 1st Edition Monster Manual mentions some of these with more direct ties to Earth than later editions. The giant rat was listed as Rat (Giant Sumatran), doubling as a Shout-Out to Sherlock Holmes. The Ogre Mage was subtitled "Japanese Ogre" - a tip of that hat to the Oni which inspired it. And the Rakshasa entry explicitly said that the monsters were "known first in India".
    • Up to 2nd Edition, the Player's Handbook references items and vehicles in relation to the real world frequently, for instance explaining that the knarr (a type of ship) was used by the Vikings. Later games remove these mentions.
    • St. Cuthbert, a deity from Greyhawk, was strongly implied to be the real life St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Here, he didn't die of illness, but instead was brought to Oerth by the good gods, and eventually attained godhood. One early adventure even involved the characters crossing dimensions to recover his mace from a London museum. (His logic was that the best place to hide it was in a realm with no magic, where it'd never be suspected as anything other than a piece of history.) While this was never retconned, it has rarely been mentioned at all outside of some vague mentions of St. Cuthbert's origins being from another world, noting he has no cultural ties to any other human on Oerth.
    • Forgotten Realms was originally called that because the concept was that Earth and Abeir-Toril (The world the setting is based on) were once much more closely connected, but the connections have long since been forgotten. This was meant as a nice Hand Wave to justify why so much of the setting seems directly inspired by real world cultures. While never directly retconned, this connection has been deprecated as the years went on, and the history of the Forgotten Realms expanded massively into the past, beyond the need for any connection to Earth.
  • Exalted was originally the prehistory of the Old World of Darkness. Second Edition suggested it was the prehistory of our world.
  • Magic: The Gathering currently has a defined multiverse setting, but it originally didn't. The first sets took place in Dominaria, but then there was an Arabian Nights-themed set, which was later retconned as taking place on the world of Rabiah. Also, older cards were more likely to have quotes from real-world sources such as William Shakespeare for their flavor text. Later this was only done in core sets, which didn't have a storyline of their own. With the discontinuation of core sets, this practice has died out entirely.
    • The Dark has a card called Frankenstein's Monster. When Magic took on Gothic horror tropes in Innistrad block nearly two decades later, they had similar creatures, but did not explicitly refer to Frankenstein.

    Video Games 
  • The early Bomberman games are set on Earth, complete with humans being the dominant species and a real world setting with fantasy elements. However, when Bomberman '94 was released in 1993, Planet Bomber was established as the main setting. While Super Bomberman 2 and Panic Bomber W would revert the setting to Earthnote , by 1997 the setting would permanently become Planet Bomber with humans no longer being the dominant species. The Continuity Reboot Super Bomberman R would take this even further as all of the characters are now Bombermen, with Buggler being the sole human in the cast.
  • Crusader Kings 2 games tend to end up like this as a result of Emergent Narrative. Since you can start your game at any point in time between 769 and 1337, everything will be pretty much historically accurate for about the first year (to the point where the majority of characters have links to their wikipedia pages in their profiles), after which you enter a sort of alternate continuity where England is absorbed into Scandinavia, the Holy Roman Empire disbands about six centuries too early, Jerusalem has become part of Ireland, and there's inexplicably been 26 popes in a row called Pascal.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has this as a Cyclic Trope. To note:
    • Arena and Daggerfall are basically standard Medieval European Fantasy RPGs set in the developer's homebrew Dungeons & Dragons world, with a few quirks.
    • Morrowind then swings to a very unconventional and alien setting. The wildlife has few real-life analogues and the land itself is primarily blasted ashlands, lava scathes, disease-ridden swamps, and tons of small islands.
    • Oblivion swings back to the standard "medieval Europe" setting, with realistic deer and wolves bounding across meadows filled with real-world plants.
    • Skyrim splits the difference between its two predecessors, being a "Northern Medieval European Fantasy" setting with plenty of familiar Earth elements, but still feeling otherworldly with the rampaging dragons, giants and mammoths walking the tundra, and ancient monolithic structures dotting the landscape.
  • Grand Theft Auto.
    • The "3D Universe" of the series — Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, San Andreas, Liberty City Stories, and Vice City Stories — saw this happen slowly over the course of its run. III had a reference to the city of Miami and to the then-newly elected president George W. Bush, while later installments swapped Miami out for Vice City, its No Communities Were Harmed parody, and had almost no real life persons (barring figures like Ronald Reagan that are intrinsically tied to the setting, and Phil Collins' cameo in Vice City Stories). Liberty City also started out in III as being based on any number of cities in the Northeastern US, New York just one among them, but by Liberty City Stories it was clearly meant to be the GTA universe's version of the Big Applesauce. It's especially jarring in San Andreas, where a radio song and its host explicitly mention New York City in a setting in which it was already replaced with Liberty City.
    • Then Grand Theft Auto IV comes out and marks the beginning of the "HD Universe", and the Earth Drift continued. The FBI is replaced with the FIB, SWAT is replaced with NOOSE (which is also based on the Department of Homeland Security), all guns are A.K.A.-47 now, and the president in 2008 was Joe Lawton, who is stated to be a buffoon whose father was also president several decades prior. Grand Theft Auto V states that Lawton is still in office circa 2013 instead of being replaced by a Barack Obama expy, indicating that America in the GTA universe either never passed term limits for Presidents or abolished them by Lawton's time.note 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In the original The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Link has a cross on his shield, which according to Word of God was added because the series was originally going to be based on Christianity rather than the three goddesses in later games. A Christian-esque sanctuary appears in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the NES original features the Bible ("Book Of Magic" in the English translation) as an obtainable item, and a cross appears as a magical artifact in Zelda II. And as late as A Link to the Past, there is artwork of Link bowing down before a crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary (especially weird because that's the game that introduced the Golden Goddesses in the first place).
    • Though such real world links were generally done away with by the time The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came around (barring a few loose archetypal parallels), that game still features one notable example: the use of the star and crescent as the symbol of the desert-based Gerudo. Both newer versions of Ocarina of Time and subsequent games replaced the symbol with an original one that resembles Japanese dogū.
    • This was mildly and briefly reversed with the Ancient Cistern dungeon of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, where the big central statue is very clearly modeled on Buddha (though it is never identified as such). The part of the dungeon where Link must climb a spider thread to escape from the crypt-like lower level with its undead Bokoblins is also based directly on a short story that featured Buddha.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: In the first game the WWW lab has a screen of the world map that indicates the series takes place basically on Earth (in keeping with its connections to the Classic series). Electopia's name in the Japanese version of each game is also just "Japan." Battle Network 2 shows a world map that looks nothing like Earth, but it's only in one scene. When other countries start being introduced, they're all Fantasy Counterpart Cultures based on real places instead of actually being said places (e.g. Netopia is a combination of North America and Western Europe), though languages like English and Spanish are explicitly mentioned by name even if their associated countries likely don't exist. Battle Network 4 burns that bridge with a vengeance by introducing an all-new globe, bringing the series into Fictional Earth.
  • In Ratchet & Clank, Captain Qwark becomes a bizarre holdover, being the only human-like character in any of the games.
  • The Sims: The first game, The Sims, is far more grounded in our reality than the later ones, even if it still featured aliens and later, magic. Many in-game items' descriptions would make references to our world rather than exclusively featuring made-up locations, even making references to real-life history and trends throughout the decades (which makes things even more confusing, as The Sims 3 is a Cosmetically-Advanced Prequel set 25 years earlier).
  • For the longest time, the Sonic the Hedgehog games were maddeningly inconsistent with their setting. Some games explicitly did take place on Earth, and other games were ambiguous as to whether they took place on Earth or not.
    • The classic games never clarified the setting in-story, but supplementary Japanese sources regularly establish it as Earth. South Island (the first game's setting) was stated to be in the Pacific, Sonic's birthplace is given as Christmas Island (a real life location), and humans besides Dr. Eggman were seen infrequently. Meanwhile, western sources had a totally different setting, describing Sonic's world as a distant planet named Mobius where Dr. Robotnik is the only human for some unexplained reason. Other western adaptations took this lore as their basis, resulting in a disparate continuity used in cartoons like Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) and the Sonic comics by Archie and Fleetway.
    • By the time of the two Adventure games, the franchise underwent a Soft Reboot to homogenize the separate continuities. While this wasn't much different from a Japanese perspective, from a western lens, it was a drastic departure from the previous games. Suddenly they were on Earth, and the setting now featured realistic cities and humans other than Eggman. Then in Heroes, they're suddenly back to the fantastic-looking world of the classic games, with Continuity Nods to the Adventure games but no other humans or realistic cities in sight. Then back to what is definitely Earth in Shadow, '06 and Unleashed, and then back again to the fantastic world starting with Colors, where the games remained through Sonic Forces.
    • Around the release of Sonic Colors, Sonic Team declared that the human-populated Earth and the anthropomorphic-animal-populated "Sonic's World" are two different worlds, which the plot sometimes moves between. This was further clarified in an official YouTube series, TailsTube, where Tails explains that humans and animals live on the same planet, but humans live on the large continents visible from orbit, while animals live on small islands dotted around those continents.
  • Super Mario Bros.
    • The series ended up losing many connections to Earth or Earth-like locations as the series went on. Note the 'realistic in comparison' settings of the original arcade Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. games, then those of the later platform game series; then note how, after Yoshi's Island established Mario was born in the Mushroom Kingdom, the whole fanon/cartoon/manual-led Brooklyn thing got slowly pushed into obscurity and almost entirely ignored until The Super Mario Bros. Movie brought it back.
    • Super Mario Odyssey sets the series on a Fictional Earth, by establishing the Mushroom Kingdom as one of many kingdoms, some of which are inspired by Mexico, Japan, London, and France among others, and Retcons the New York-styled city where Donkey Kong and such took place as one of these kingdoms.
    • It seems the franchise drifts back and forth with Earth, as Mario Kart Tour includes real-world cities (Paris, New York, Tokyo, etc.) among the usual racing venues.
  • Downplayed with Team Fortress 2. Around the time of release, promotional materials implied that the game was set in a realistic (albeit retro and stylised) world. Everybody came from a real-world country and the game's absurdist leanings came exclusively from its eccentric characters. However, as time went on, a series of in-game updates, animated shorts and tie-in comics would expand the world substantially, developing it into an utterly insane alternate history. This is a downplayed variation since the new information doesn't actively contradict much of what was established before and later material continued to liberally reference real figures, events and places, but the exact details began differing from real life in conspicuous (and absurd) ways. For instance, on this version of Earth, Australia is a hyper-advanced nation populated by superhumans, New Zealand is a sunken landmass with a lost civilization conspicuously similar to Krypton, supernatural beings wreak havoc every October, the entire world is controlled by two competing corporations secretly overseen by the same person and Abraham Lincoln was an arsonist who invented stairs.
  • The original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans made numerous Christian references in regards to the spells of the Human Clerics. The Map Reveal spell was said to be seeing as God (with a capital G) does, and healing was said to be spreading the injury across all humanity, comparing it to the act of bearing the cross of another. The Church building that let you recruit clerics had an obvious crucifix on it. Several orcish spells also mentioned summoning demons from hell. Later games have retconned this monotheism into being "the Light" and "the Twisting Nether".
  • The company Working Designs is notorious for this regarding its translated dialogue for Japanese RPGs and RTS games like Lunar: Silver Star Story and Dragon Force. Lunar contains a thinly disguised attempt to lampshade this; during Nash's betrayal, Nall says that "this is starting to feel like a Dr. Jones adventure. Dragon Force contains references to Christie Love and The Lollard League.
  • The first game in the Zork trilogy features such things as Poseidon's trident and the coffin of Ramses II. Later installments in the Zork 'verse are plainly in a different reality to our own.
  • In Dragon Age II, drakestone was pretty clearly supposed to be sulfur with a fancy name, called that simply to disguise the fact that Anders is building a bomb, and that's one of the ingredients. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, it's an entirely different type of stone, red and crystalline and found in the mountains, that can be made into armor. (Incidentally, using sulfur in armor is a terrible idea, as it makes steel brittle in large quantities.)
  • The manual for Heretic states many times that the game is set on Earth. Heretic II later retconned the setting into a world called Parthoris.
  • Story of Seasons: In Harvest Moon 3, the local Harvest Goddess-worshipping priest Cain wore a cross. Starting with Alisa and Nathan from Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness,the equivalent to a rosary has been a yellow medallion with a red symbol.
  • Ace Combat: In Air Combat, the vague location could have been on Earth. By Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies it was established that the series had taken place entirely on a fictional continent of Usea (which stood for "United States of Euro-Asia" in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, but wasn't used afterwards), which based on an image from an official guidebook, was located in the North Pacific on an Earth with distorted versions of real-life continents. Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and onwards establishes the Strangereal setting, an Earth-like planet with landmasses of hardly any resemblance to the real world's.note  There are definite cultural and sociopolitical analogues to real-world nations, but you wind up with the USA's analogue on the same continent as a cross between Britain and Germany. Some spinoff games take place in the real world.
  • Mother: EarthBound Beginnings explicitly takes place in America, although all the towns and landmarks visited are fictional. EarthBound (1994) continues the Americana setting, but takes place in an ersatz nation called Eagleland, on a planet whose continental outlines generally resemble the real world's, similar to the Pokémon and Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies cases. Whether America and Eagleland are two separate countries on the same planet, or the first game's America has been retconned to have always been Eagleland, is not clarified, yet the presence of Giygas implies that the two are supposed to be in the same continuity.
  • Psychonauts took place in the real world, seen with the Campster profiles of the kids setting their hometowns as real-world locations. Psychonauts 2 introduces Grulovia, a fictional Eastern European-like country. A digital map seen in the Motherlobe also shows that the geography of the Psychonauts world does not resemble our own.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Ace Attorney franchise, the religion practiced by the Fey Clan and associated with spirit channeling was heavily implied to be Pure Land Buddhism, complete with Buddhist nuns and the founder Ami Fey being named after Amitābha Buddha. In Japanese, this is so prevalent a sect that no explanation would have been necessary, and the English version let it be inferred, stating that it came over from Japan. Then, six games (minus spinoffs) into the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice suddenly revealed it to be "Khura'inism", an Interfaith Smoothie from not-Tibet/Nepal that worships the "Holy Mother".

  • The original premise of DM of the Rings was that the DM was using a Dungeons & Dragons campaign to introduce The Lord of the Rings to friends who had never heard of it. This premise gradually changed to the idea that they live in a universe where Tolkien's works never existed, but somehow high fantasy and D&D do, and the DM invented the story and setting wholesale. The alternate universe angle is now considered a given in all works in the "Campaign Comic based on popular media" genre that DM of the Rings launched.

    Web Original 
  • Minilife TV initially seemed to take place on Earth, albeit a LEGOified fantasy version of it, but starting with Season 4, the setting was retconned into a fictional planet known as Legondo.
  • World's Greatest Adventures started out with the unspoken assumption that Rufus was from the real world, and all the outlandish things he raves about are fake. However, starting with Episode 4, and culminating with Gordon's Living Hat status in Episode 10, it gradually became clear that Rufus's world is a bona fide World of Weirdness — which doesn't mean Rufus doesn't make his tall tales up, but they're not as implausible as they sound in our universe.

    Western Animation 
  • Some Masters of the Universe continuities don't bother mentioning that He-Man's mother, Marlena is a stranded astronaut from Earth like in the original series.
  • My Little Pony: The franchise experienced an Earth Drift of sorts post-G1. While the series has never really taken place on Earth, the original G1 series contained rainbows acting as portals from Ponyland to Earth and vice-versa. The follow-up series, My Little Pony Tales, would ditch all mention of humans, but bring in real-world technology such as cars and television, while the G3 series also has an actual Christmas special. Earth does again exist in the G4 series, but more so in the context of a mirror universe that's only seen and mentioned in the Equestria Girls side-series. Meanwhile, G5 is a Distant Sequel to G4, meaning Earth presumably does still exist there as well, but it remains to be seen if it will be depicted in any way.
    • An early episode of Friendship Is Magic has Fluttershy mention something is "French" in passing, suggesting there is a land in their universe simply called "France". Future episodes avert this, and when countries other than Equestria are mentioned and discussed later on, they're Fantasy Counterpart Cultures like Saddle Arabia, which is populated by more realistic-looking Arabian horses, or the Duchy of Maretonia, a Babylonian analogue.
      • One exception is Discord asking for "pastries from Abyssinia" in his song "A Glass of Water". Abyssinia is an old name for what is now Ethiopia.
  • Sonic mentions Axl Rose in the pilot of Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM). This is a case of Early-Installment Weirdness and these are averted for the rest of the show's run. However, if the show hadn't been cancelled, it would have been revealed that Mobius is Earth All Along, thus averting the trope.
  • The first season of The Raccoons had the talking animals living in secret from a human family. Season 2 onward was set in an otherwise realistic world full of anthropomorphic animals and no humans.

Alternative Title(s): Old World Shame