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Earth That Was

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"Earth-That-Was could no longer sustain our numbers, we were so many."

The end came and the Earth died. A catastrophe of irrevocable proportions makes the planet unsuitable for large scale civilization— or even life. It can be self inflicted from our abuse, negligence and wars, or external by aliens, astronomical phenomena, or other causes. Usually, a mass exodus occurs where survivors settle on a new planet in an extrasolar system (though a Terraformed Mars is a popular in-system option), sometimes all over the galaxy, and live on. Perhaps a little wiser, or perhaps doomed to repeat our mistakes. During the course of generations the Earth will leave fact and become legend; a mythical place of endless blue and green and Crystal Spires and Togas. How much of this will be Revisionist History, propaganda, or simple nostalgia varies by setting.

If the location of the Earth is lost, finding the lost human homeworld will become a momentous occasion if not an outright quest. If it was thought to be destroyed, then don't be surprised if it is later revealed to not have been destroyed after all.

For some reason most TV and movies that feature large-scale colonization of other planets (not just mining) require a dead or dying Earth as part of the background. Possibly due to either the current stagnation of the space program, suggesting that humanity would need a catastrophe to get off-world; or the current association of the word "colonies" with The Empire and thus evil.

The trope name comes from Firefly and Serenity (2005), in what was likely a Shout-Out to the iconic opening of Once Upon a Time....

See also You Can't Go Home Again, A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away..., Insignificant Little Blue Planet, Future Imperfect. A form of Class 6 Apocalypse How.

For the milder version, see Earth That Used to Be Better, where the Earth is still known and inhabited, but is no longer the center of humanity.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In AKB0048, it is explained the original AKB48 was born in Akihabara, Japan, before Earth was laid to waste.
  • Subverted in Eureka Seven. It takes place over 10,000 years after Mankind was forced to leave the Earth due to an unintentionally harmful alien life. Somewhere along the line, all of Humanity found a new place to settle down, completely forgetting and/or unaware that they just went back to earth and live on a new surface that was created by the aliens. The real, perfectly inhabitable Earth, lay below the surface.
  • Freedom Project: All of the surviving humans live in a colony on the dark side of the moon. Many assumed that the Earth was dead, uninhabitable by nuclear fallout. But a chance encounter by a picture strapped on a toy rocket changed one man's life, and the entire colony as well.
  • Trigun doesn't go into much detail as to why Humanity had to leave Earth, but hundreds of colony ships spent years searching for a suitable new planet to sustain them, while the great majority of humanity was suspended in frozen animation. Gunsmoke was that planet. Only ONE ship actually survived Knives' attempt at destroying them all. This is only true in the anime, in the manga another ship from Earth appears near the end and it's highly likely Earth is still around.
  • Saber Marionette J, Terra II
  • In Sol Bianca, the treasure in the first episode turns out to be a time capsule from Earth. In the prequel series Sol Bianca: The Legacy, the main plot is the crew of the eponymous space ship's quest to discover the ultimate fate of Earth.
  • In Knights of Sidonia, the Gauna are presumed to have killed everyone on Earth a long time ago. They also apparently split the planet itself in half, so nobody bothers trying to go back.
  • Slowly revealed throughout Vandread. Earth that was is now a giant polluted Eternal Engine where the Moon is forcibly buried within it. Most people left it in colonial ships, several of which settled in space stations or even planets, like Taraak and Mejeiru. Those that remain on Earth were the architects of the Harvester fleet, to literally harvest body parts for their continued existence.
  • The 90's anime movie E.Y.E.S. of Mars dealt with an inversion of this as well as an environmental Aesop. Humanity ended up finding a way to build a city on Mars, located entirely inside a crater, covered with a dome to keep out the uninhabitable environment. Deep down below the city was a thriving forest and an academy where certain children ended up developing special powers. The city itself was polluted to extremely unhealthy levels and was being run by a corrupt government with continually mounting tensions all around. Being inside a completely enclosed system meant that they had no way to filter the air pollution and had very limited recycling abilities to filter clean water or let food grow. Some of the children's powers allowed them to see the history of their people. Originally, Humans migrated to Mars from a planet located between Mars and Jupiter known as Titan. The planet was completely destroyed by war, and what remains is now the asteroid belt. One child discovered that the same situation was going to happen to the city, killing off everyone again. Turns out it does. The entire city is completely destroyed, but the main character's special power allowed all of humanity's souls to travel to Earth where Homo Sapiens were just beginning to evolve.
  • In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Earth is only a legend to the Human Galactic Alliance, the civilization the protagonist Ledo hails from. Their ancestors left Earth because of an Ice Age; when Ledo rediscovers Earth, he learns that ice has since melted, resulting in a planet covered by a giant ocean instead. People do still live there, however, sailing in giant fleets.
  • In Dirty Pair, the Earth was destroyed in a Grey Goo incident well before the current timeline.
  • In Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, humanity was driven off earth by Godzilla. Twenty years later, they return to earth, where 20,000 years have passed and there's an ecosystem that has adapted to Godzillas presence. Only in the stinger, it is revealed that there are still humans living on earth.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Earth was abandoned by mankind after the Astral Gate incident of 2021 where an astral gate, a portal designed to allow hyperspace travel through the Solar System, exploded and destroyed most of the Moon, causing debris to rain down on the planet's surface at a near-constant rate, causing untold damage and killing 4.7 billion people. Despite this, there still some humans living on Earth fifty years later, though they are typically regarded as insane and uncivilized by the rest of the Solar System. The planet is generally ignored by humanity as a whole because, as Jet says, "nothing good ever comes from Earth."

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In The Age of Dusk, Earth (and the rest of the Solar System for that matter) has been completely corrupted by Chaos to the point that not even Chaos Marines can survive there.
    Terra was a dark crown rotting towards the centre of the horrific churning nightmare. It had consumed its sister Venus and Mercury; huge chains and hooked fronds had drawn them into the world and pounded them like clay, into new and dreadful forms. Luna was swallowed whole, before forming a giant lidless eye that wept oceans of pus into the void, which formed wailing pus-devils of nuglitch heritage that consumed themselves within moments.
  • In Fractures (SpaceDimentio), Pink Diamond returns to Earth 5000 years after her rebellion failed. Earth's colonization had been completed, meaning it was completely drained of its resources and all life on its surface had gone extinct, nothing but a lifeless hunk of rock with deep pockmarks where Kindergartens drained the life out of it.

    Films — Animation 
  • WALL•E: After the Earth is turned into an uninhabitable wasteland of miles upon miles of garbage thanks to rampant consumerism, humanity relocates to ships like the Axiom until the planet has been cleaned up by WALL-E droids. The MegaCorp responsible officially stated that the clean-up would only take around five years, but it actually takes 700 years until plant life finally starts growing again.
  • In Titan A.E.., the alien Drej blew it up it before the opening titles.
  • In Battle for Terra, Earth, Mars and Venus have all been blown up, so humans go to the eponymous planet to find a new home.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The destination of the quest and the big reveal in The Ice Pirates.
  • Jason X has college students of the future and their professor going on a field trip to a ruined Earth.
  • In After Earth, Earth as a planet is fine, it's just that it isn't inhabited by humans anymore.
  • In Oblivion (2013), Earth was nearly destroyed during a war against a race of alien invaders known as Scavengers. They were only defeated by the use of nuclear weapons, which left most of the planet irradiated and uninhabitable. Or at least that's the version the protagonist was told. Suffice it to say that it turned out to be a bit more complicated than that.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, we're given a brief glance at an Earth that has been assimilated by the Borg—not just the population, the planet, itself.
  • Five involves five survivors, one woman and four men, of an atomic bomb disaster that appears to have wiped out the rest of the human race.

  • In the Book of the New Sun follow-up novel The Urth of the New Sun, the tired old Earth is flooded, but all is not lost as a "white hole" has been successfully placed in the aging sun to rejuvenate it and there's hope the flooding will recede, as the protagonist Severian had previously encountered a future green-skinned human from an epoch when people lived off photosynthesis.
  • In Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat books, Earth was lost even before the Breakdown, and it's unclear whether it was actually called "Earth" or "Dirt". (In a later book, the Rat actually has to go to Earth through a time warp to warn of its impending doom. So it was destroyed. Humanity actually spread to the stars from the terraformed Mars.)
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: The setting takes place a thousand of years into The Future, compared to The Empire Novels, leaving Earth far in the past. By the time of "The Encyclopedists", archaeological-inclined scholars in the First Galactic Empire debate over which planet is the homeworld of humanity, and if there even was one. Centuries later, in Foundation and Earth, the name "Earth" now represents the "origin question". If they find the original homeworld of humanity, they've found Earth.
  • R. A. Lafferty's novel Past Master, Earth, or Old Earth, has apparently been rendered uninhabitable to humans. Humanity has all migrated to the planet Astrobe, also known as Golden Astrobe. Astrobe seems at first to be a utopia. However, many of its inhabitants choose to walk away from that so-called perfect society and live in squalor. It turns out that the society is a Crapsaccharine World, because the society is so heavily policed that everyone must fall in line.
  • Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky: The Earth is said to have been recolonized three times after the previous colony could no longer support itself. This also happens to basically every other planet humans colonize, and in A Fire Upon the Deep, is stated to be the fate of all civilizations in the Slow Zone. Eventually, interstellar civilization collapses and humans settle on Nyjora, and end up rediscovering space travel and abandoning Nyjora in exactly the same way.
  • Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos deals with a universe following the "devouring" of Earth by an artificial black hole. Heroes visit 'devored' Earth. It was moved by Techno-Center to force human expension to stars.
  • Blue Mars: The Earth is now becoming overpopulated so humanity is forced to move to the other planets.
  • In Lord of Light, human colonists from 'Urath' recreate the Hindu pantheon on another planet.
  • In The Mote in God's Eye Earth is mostly a wasteland from a hellish final war. The military academy of the successor empires are located there as a reminder to cadets what they're fighting to avoid.
  • Andre Norton:
    • In the backstory of The Beast Master, the alien Xik performed a "burnoff" of the surface of the Earth, killing all humans living on it. Luckily the human race had already spread out to other planets in the galaxy.
    • Star Rangers (a.k.a. The Last Planet) has Central Control scout ship Starfire crash-landing on an unknown world located far off the star charts. Guess where...
  • In the process of happening in David Gerrold's The War Against the Chtorr series as an alien race is "unterraforming" Earth into their native environment, and plans are being made to relocate to the Moon.
  • Alan Dean Foster's short story Dream Done Green, has Earth lost, and then found to be a complete wasteland. The rest of the story involves the terraforming process.
  • In a Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, human colonists on Mars watch in disbelief as an accidental nuclear war lights up and completely cleanses the Earth's surface. Many of them return home initially, but the survivors of the war return to Mars.
  • In the novelizations of Red Dwarf, Earth was eventually abandoned and used as a garbage dump by the rest of the inhabited solar system, before some of the volatile waste exploded and flung it out of the solar system (possibly a reference to Space: 1999). Lister later crash-lands on it and has an Earth All Along moment.
  • The Ring of Ritornel opens with the planet Terror having been wrecked by nuclear bombardment and about to be chucked into a black hole. "Terror" being a corruption of "Terra".
  • The Remnants series has Earth being hit by an asteroid at the end of the first book, and shattering. Eighty people escape the destruction on the Mayflower spacecraft; about half die while using the extremely-experimental hibernation technology. Later, the few remaining space-colonists return to the shattered rock that was Earth. Turns out not everyone on Earth was killed; some semblance of human society still struggles on. And still more people die, because it's that kind of series.
  • Old Earth still exists in the Dune universe, but is apparently wild and uninhabited, with an ecosystem only just recovering from whatever destroyed it. Its existence is not a secret, but few people visit it. In the prequel series by the author's son, it's revealed that Earth's surface was deliberately nuked by humans in their war against thinking machines, but these books' canonicity is contested.
  • In Steven Brust's sci-fi work Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille, the staff of the eponymous time- and space-traveling restaurant is trying to find out, among other things, whether or not the Earth is still around and still viable. Nope. It was nuked.
  • Steven Gould's Helm begins in a Moon base shortly after Earth was driven into nuclear winter by a war fought with antimatter weapons.
  • In the Dumarest of Terra series, Earl Dumarest is seeking Earth, where he was born, which is barely a rumor or legend in the parts of the galaxy where he now is.
  • In the Homecoming Saga by Orson Scott Card, the Earth was rendered uninhabitable by human wars, and mankind departed for Harmony, as well as at least forty other planets.
  • In Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi, Earth was destroyed by Grey Goo, leading to the reorganization of society into essentially a confederation of feudal states, with each state's leader (the Aristoi in question) being the only ones allowed to use nanotechnology freely.
  • In Last and First Men the Fifth Men migrate to Venus when the moon (destabilized millions of years earlier in the Martian/Second Men war) starts to crash into the earth. And the eighth men design the ninth to colonize Neptune when the sun expands to cover the Inner System.
  • In most of Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix, Earth is only referred to as a place no-one in their right mind would visit - humanity has since spread out to other planets and man-made structures in the Solar System and its immediate vicinity. When we do actually visit Earth, we find that its civilization has degenerated into spatterings of identical city-states, each apparently fanatically worshiping some kind of dictator deity, while the surrounding landscape is a toxic wasteland.
  • In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, the Generation Ship Jacob's Ladder has been out of contact with Earth for centuries; and given the political and environmental situation when it left, the crew mostly assume that there's nothing left by now but a burnt cinder. But they're wrong, as Grail reveals that Earth subsequently managed to recover.
  • In Robert Charles Wilson's Vortex, Earth has been abandoned and rendered uninhabitable in one of the book's parallel storylines. Justified, since the events are taking place millions of years in the future (from the viewpoint of the universe), although only 10,000 years from the viewpoint of Earth, and the Sun has expanded and prepares to scorch Earth. Thanks to the Hypotheticals and their Arches, humanity has spread to other planets from Earth and Mars (which has also suffered the same fate as Earth), although it's mentioned that not everyone was able to make it out before dying. One group is determined to get back to Earth and contact the Hypotheticals. While the Arch to Earth is no longer functional, they hope that one of the new "arrivals" will act as a key to activate the portal. It works, but Earth turns out to be an unlivable hellhole. The Hypotheticals attack Vox Core and kill everyone but the three main characters. They witness the Arch start to break apart on Earth and have to find an alternative means to get off the planet.
  • In Christopher Nuttall's series Angel in the Whirlwind, Earth (and most of the rest of the Solar System) was pulverized in the Breakaway Wars, which presumably took place between the different space colonies and UN-dominated Earth. It gets mentioned that the last remains of civilization there are small settlements in asteroids.
  • David Drake's RCN novels state that Earth was bombarded with asteroids during The War of Earthly Aggression (indicated to have happened at minimum several hundred years ago). It apparently still exists and is still inhabited, but its geography is unrecognizable due to the bombardment and Sol is a backwater fringe system compared to the newer Space Filling Empires, the Republic of Cinnabar and the Alliance of Free Stars. A diamond carved with the pre-Hiatus continents of Earth is a minor MacGuffin in the third book.
  • Alex White's Science Fantasy Salvagers Trilogy features a space faring humanity whose lost homeworld is referred to as, "Origin." Tall tales are told of the power of the ancients, who wielded forbidden magicks and hid their location from unworthy successors. Whether Origin is Earth is left vague; the name is never used, and the glimpses of Origin don't seem Earthlike. Beyond that, the proliferation of magic seems to date to before humanity took to the stars, implying that maybe it Never Was This Universe.
  • The first parts of Seveneves detail the end of the world — to wit, the moon explodes, then bits of it sterilize the surface — while the third part details humanity's descendants returning to the Earth to re-terraform it.
  • Semiosis: The colonists lose contact with Earth on their 150-year voyage to Pax in cold sleep. Their descendants have only their stories about how awful things were before their departure and don't know or particularly care whether humanity survived on Earth.
  • The Sun Eater: In his war to save humanity from the Mericanii A.I. overlords, the God-Emperor William Windsor had to nuke the Earth in order to kill every living thing on it. Thousands of years later, humans have taken to worshipping the Earth as an actual goddess due to Future Imperfect ideas.
  • In 'The Zodiac Series'', the Earth died long ago, along with the old universe. By the time the series has begun, humanity now lives in another solar system, on several different planets themed after the Western Zodiac.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100:
    • Ninety-seven years after a nuclear war, the remnants of humanity living aboard the Ark space station believe they're in an Earth That Was situation, since their calculations say the radioactive fallout on Earth won't subside to safe levels for two hundred years. However, when desperation forces them to send a group of people down to Earth, not only do they find the planet is livable, but they discover that there have been people living down here the whole time. Then double-subverted, as the Earth is still radioactive, it's just that some humans (including the space-born protagonists) have evolved to adapt to higher radiation levels.
    • Eventually played straight when the remaining nuclear reactors break down and produce the Primfaya death wave, turning nearly the entire surface into a desolate wasteland. The few survivors try to resettle in a valley that miraculously escaped serious harm, only to come into conflict with a returning group of criminal miners (in cryosleep since before the first apocalypse), and that haven ends up destroyed as well. They have no choice but to abandon Earth completely, taking the miners’ ship and going to a habitable planet in another system. Season 7 reveals Earth eventually recovered again, but by that point all that remains of humanity is on another planet.
  • In the final episode of Andromeda, Earth, already a Crapsack World of little importance in intergalactic affairs, is unceremoniously blown up by the Drago-Kazov.
  • Kobol, the human homeworld in the new Battlestar Galactica, is revealed to have suffered a nuclear war several millennia in its past. While inhabitable now, it was necessary to leave at the time, and is even "cursed" to exact blood from those who return. It no longer remains to be seen if the 13th colony known as Earth is also a radioactive wasteland. What exactly occurred on Kobol is far from clear. With the apparent 'Cycle of Time' the humans and Cylons exist in, it could have been nuclear in origin, as happened to the Colonies as well, but apart from references to a 'Blaze' that pursued the tribes on Kobol and a 'Flood' that wiped out most of humanity specific references have been thin on the ground, likely as the characters have no way of knowing either.
  • Crusade: Earth has been contaminated with a slow-acting bioweapon that is expected to destroy all life within 5 years. As the planet is under strict quarantine by other races, off-world humans are effectively cut off from their species' homeworld, as surely as if it was already dead or lost.
    • Word of God on the Drakh Plague is that it would have been cured somewhere mid-S2, allowing other plot threads to take over, most notably a conspiracy within the Earth Gov to use Shadow technology.
    • Babylon 5: The next-to-last episode, designed as a Distant Finale, described how Earth was repeatedly devastated, saved, and rebuilt over the next million years before finally being destroyed when the Sun is induced to go nova.

  • Doctor Who:
    • A surprisingly consistent point of future history foretells the mass evacuation of Earth around the thirtieth century, to avoid solar flares. The Fourth Doctor encounters a wheel-type space station full of sleepers in "The Ark in Space", and the Eleventh meets the Starship UK in "The Beast Below", but it comes up in other episodes as well.
    • Later on, we move back in. Later later on, we move back out and leave it as a museum. Then the donations dry up and it finally dies. Of old age (more specifically, it's incinerated when the Sun goes Red Giant.)
    • If the Expanded Universe sources are to be believed, Earth is abandoned and recolonized quite a few times.
    • The Doctor's homeworld of Gallifrey has become this in the revived series, having been razed by the Doctor at the end of the Last Great Time War, wiping out both the Time Lords and the Daleks in one fell swoop and leaving him the sole survivor of the conflict. Or so he thought.
  • In Earth 2 humanity has largely abandoned a hopelessly polluted Earth, and is in the process of colonizing Earth 2.
  • "Earth That Was" is referenced many times in the Firefly series, as well the movie Serenity (2005), which provides the page quote. It's suggested that civilization on Earth simply collapsed due to overpopulation and/or ecological damage, which the original colonists of the series' star system escaped in either Generation Ships, Sleeper Starships or a mix of both an unspecified (at least in the show proper) but seemingly very long time before the series began. In the comics, the crew with Kaylee as captain and Mal tagging along but refusing to lead anymore,flies through a portal to Earth and finds it’s inhabitable but it’s also home to post apocalyptic human tribes, humanoid killer creatures that aren’t Reavers, and giant killer robots. Of course the crew has to be Big Damn Heroes and try to help the people once they convince them they mean no harm.
  • Outcasts is set during the early days of the colonization of a new planet, Carpathia. Bit different to typical examples in that Earth is still inhabited, but people are gradually fleeing it. Exact details of Earth's buggering-up are skated over, but there are passing mentions of a failed climate-change summit in Norway, uprisings in Shanghai, a major earthquake devastating California, etc.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: In "New Eden", the people of Terralysium believe they are the only humans left in the universe, saved by unknown angelic beings during World War Three. But there are a few, like Jacob's family, who believe the Earth and the rest of the human race are still out there.
  • Much of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Twilight" takes place in an Alternate Timeline in which Earth was destroyed by the Xindi twelve years earlier.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Voices in the Earth", humanity evacuated Earth 1,000 years earlier because its biosphere had been destroyed by centuries of pollution. There is no life on the planet, not even amino acids in the oceans. A ship commanded by Jacinda Carlyle is sent to Earth to strip mine its few remaining resources. Except for historians such as Professor Donald Knowles, few humans have any affection for their ancestral home. Archer notes that its name comes from one of the dead languages.

  • This is part of the backstory for basically every Magma recording.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Traveller, at the founding of the Third Imperium, the location of Earth was forgotten.
    • At the same time though, people on Earth remembered it quite well and were doing fine.
  • 2300 AD has a variant in one of the many little alien secrets known only to the GM: the Ebers' mysterious "lost colony" is actually their original (nuked) homeworld.
  • Eclipse Phase takes place 10 years after the Fall, when our ever-evolving AI declared war on humanity, destroyed 95% of the population, and vanished. Earth became a forbidden, toxic wasteland. Anyone who dares land on the planet risks encountering the remaining bots, who seem to be interested in stealing cortical stacks (computerized egos) for some reason. Also hostile nanobot colonies and other, weirder things.
  • The whole point of the Terracide setting (for 6th edition HERO System). Humans had started to spread among the stars after getting their hands on faster-than-light drives, but most of them still had at least sentimental ties to Earth until an unknown force sterilized the entire Sol system.
  • In Finnish RPG Heimot mankind left from Earth thousands of years ago and later all life on Earth was destroyed in a catastrophe. Now, after collapse of society, lost of star gates, surviving an alien invasion and fighting over remaining resources many people believe that Lost Earth is a paradise, where they will be led by the Messiah.
  • In the Exalted science fantasy alternate setting Heaven's Reach, Creation was lost a long time ago, and its location - even whether it still exists or not - is unknown.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones Earth was sterilized in a nuclear war between nations and corporations, then centuries later probes from Mars started detecting strange new and very hostile life forms on Earth. After the lunar colony was wiped out by "Whispers" and a tether of what looked like crystallized blood formed between Earth and the Moon the rest of the solar system decided to steer well away from their ancestral home.
  • Nova Praxis had Earth trashed by one of the two major powers of the backstory deploying the "Technophage", which was supposed to destroy their enemy's capital and force them to sue for peace. Instead, it refused to accept the shutdown command and devastated both sides, forcing everyone to leave.
  • Skyrealms of Jorune: The human colonists who arrived to Jorune were survivors of an Earth that had been wrecked by warfare.
  • Starfinder: Golarion (the main setting of Pathfinder) has been secreted away in a pocket universe by an unknown force, leaving a gap in the history and memory of the universe. The gods assure their worshippers that it's still there, but absolutely unreachable by any conventional or magical force.
  • Zweihänder had a spin-off that riffed from Warhammer 40,000, Dark Astral. In Dark Astral, after having a galaxy spanning empire, humanity fell to marauding alien forces and were forced to return to their sole remaining planet, the long-forgotten Eden (Earth). Now reduced to the city of Outremer, the planet is no safe place as aliens continue their incursions while the dark powers that led to humanity's exodus from Eden are re-awakening.

    Video Games 
  • LunarLux: Comet Coda, an antimatter comet, rendered Terra desolate and uninhabitable. The same comet is back again one thousand years later to threaten humanity again by aiming for Terra's moon, Luna. However, Earth itself is a completely different planet from Terra in a faraway solar system, and the scientists in Lunex Space Station managed to find proof of Earth's existence.
  • SimEarth: Shortly after the sentient species reaches the nanotech age, they will leave the planet in droves. Subverted in the sense that the planet doesn't have to be a wasteland for this to happen.
  • Freelancer, where descendants of The Alliance survivors have vague memories of Earth after their ancestors are forced to abandon the Solar System by the forces of the Coalition. Also, Earth is actually destroyed in the original intro for the game, which was cut from the final release.
    • The Alliance actually launched the sleeper ships to escape the eternal war between themselves and the Coalition (which the Coalition was winning).
  • Warframe: Earth was originally stated to have been a desolate hellhole before the fascist Grineer took it over. Retcons have changed things so that most of the planet is overrun with a rainforest of super weeds and packs of feral kubrow. As of the Plains of Eidolon update, we can now visit one of the remaining settlements, although each faction maintains its headquarters in other locations.
  • FreeSpace, where the destruction of the Lucifer seals off Earth from the rest of the galaxy, leaving its fate an opened ended question until the second game, where the Ancient's Knossos Device, discovered in Gamma Draconis, offered hope to reestablish contact with Sol. If that would have worked will remain unanswered, however, as the third game was never made. It is mentioned in the Encyclopedia Exposita that Earth most likely didn't survive. Earth was a political and cultural centre, not an agricultural or industrial one, so the probable result of the jump node collapse is famine, disease and societal collapse.
  • Gaia Seed: Project Trap is set after a cataclysm wipes out most of the earth's vegetation and turns the world to ruins. You play as one of the pilots spearheading the titular Gaia Seed project, with the game revolving around your efforts to return to the planet... despite earth trying to prevent your return due to rejecting humans for the damage they've done to the ecosystem.
  • Homeworld follows the spirit of the trope if not the letter. Gameplay concerns the quest of the Kushan people to return to their homeworld, which they were exiled from thousands of years ago after losing a war. Having said that, their home planet is not Earth and the Kushan are not specified to be human. (Though they do speak English.)
  • In the Lunar series, the humans of Lunar came from the Blue Star, a planet visible in the sky, in time immemorial. According to lore, the Goddess Althena made Lunar habitable and moved people there when the Blue Star was ruined. Given that all of this proves to be true and that outlines of real-world continents appear on its surface, it's pretty clear what the Blue Star used to be.
  • Earth, or Lost Jerusalem as it's called, is referred to often in Xenosaga. Humans had to leave it because of a mysterious space-time disturbance. Its location has been long lost. At the end of the third game a chunk of the party goes off searching for it, and we're left wanting another sequel.
  • The backstory for Xenogears tells that humans left Earth in AD 2510 due to a space-time anomaly. The only reference to Earth in the game, though, is in the intro, and it is called "the main planet."
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: Earth is outright destroyed as collateral damage due to a war between two alien factions. Humanity flees in colony ships before that happens, but they're harassed by one of the alien factions, and one of the ships crash land on an uninhabited planet, and the game starts with the main character awakening on this planet.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri starts with Humankind leaving the Earth in the UN Unity spaceship towards Planet, near the Alpha Centauri system. The epilogue story once you reach the Transcendence Victory reveals the Earth humans nuked themselves to oblivion. It gets better, though - the same ending tells us Earth gets recolonized. The pitch of the entire game, in fact, is to put this twist to the Spaceship Victory from the Civilization series.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth: While the trailer clearly shows the Earth in the middle of an ecological catastrophe, and the new colony is completely cut off from the homeworld, two of the endings allow you to open a portal back to Earth.
  • In Pandora: First Contact, Earth isn't doing very well. Humanity is steadily moving out to space habitats and other planets in the Solar System, although their lives are hardly ideal. Then the AI tasked with restoring Earth to habitability decides that humans are the biggest problem for the planet and forces everyone else out, locking down the planet and hiding it under a thick cloud cover. All anyone knows is that strange seismic activity is taking place somewhere on Earth, but the AI is silent on what's happening. This all happens after the departure of the colony ships to the Nashira (Gamma Capricorni) system, though.
  • It is mentioned that earth in Space Colony is 'no longer economically viable'. Rich people live in space stations, with the poor taking risky lander jobs to harvest resources.
  • In EVE Online, the original introduction explains that humanity left Earth, 'a world outgrown', over 20 000 years ago and started colonizing the entire galaxy. Eventually we found a wormhole leading to what is presumably a completely different galaxy and colonized it as well, before the wormhole collapsed, leaving the inhabitants of this new galaxy cut off from the Milky Way. The very existence of Earth and the Milky Way has been forgotten or turned into myths and legends during the dark age that followed the collapse of the wormhole.
  • It's strongly implied that the Pikmin games are set on Earth, possibly After the End.
  • In Outpost 2 the human race has fled from an asteroid-doomed earth. The plot of the game revolves around the earthling colonists of a new planet and how they destroy themselves all over again.
  • In Wild ARMs 3, we find out that not only is Filgaia a Lost Colony of Earth, but that the homeworld was rendered lifeless in wars following some of its people upgrading themselves into battle-crazy "Metal Demons."
  • UFO Aftermath kicks off the After Blank series with an alien race, the Reticulans, killing off nearly all life on Earth, with only a handful of humans and mutants left on the planet. In one of the possible endings of the first game the survivors present enough of a threat that the Reticulans offer to evacuate them to a space station and a colony on Mars. The two subsequent games are focused on those colonies.
  • Another non-Earth example: The D'ni of the Myst series originated on a world called Garternay, which became uninhabitable when its sun began growing dim. Their ancestors fled into a succession of other worlds via their linking books, and have since lost all contact with their abandoned homeworld.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Robert House's master plan is to eventually start a space program to colonize other planets.
  • In Gaiares, pollution and radiation have turned the Earth into an uninhabitable wasteland. An alien empire is prepared to destroy the planet by blowing up the Sun to stop intergalactic terrorists who want to reclaim the toxic waste for superweapons.
  • Starflight kicks off with this scenario happening... Again, since Earth had been long abandoned and humanity needs to find new planets to populate now that their new homeworld is dying.
  • In Naev, an ill-defined "Incident"note  resulted in Sol going supernova, obliterating the entire solar system and destroying life on planets in a several-light-year radius.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The quarians were forced to evacuate Rannoch after their disastrous war with the geth, three hundred years ago. While Rannoch is still inhabitable (and even being maintained), trying to get past the billions of heavily armed synthetics has proven somewhat problematic. Mostly because it never occurred to the quarians to just ask nicely, though given that anyone who travelled to Geth Space never came back, except that one time as husks, there's a reason for that.
    • Over-industrialization ruined the climate of the already arid drell homeworld of Rakhana. While some of their number were evacuated by the hanar, the majority of their race died with their world.
  • While most characters in Infinite Space are aware that the humans of the Magellanic Clouds originally came from the Milky Way, it's not really relevant to the plot. Until the very end when they discover that the universe-building aliens shutting down their universe have their entry point in the old Solar System. The sun has been encapsulated in a Dyson Sphere to power their gate, and the Earth may or may not have much life left on it.
  • In Strange Adventures In Infinite Space and its sequel/remake, humanity's new homeworld is Hope with the player being sent to explore the new region of space. The location of Earth is lost to time, although one of the objects you can find is the Voyager Golden Record.
  • In the backstory of Dungeon Fighter Online, Earth — referred to exclusively as Terra to the point of near-parody — was blown right the hell up in the backstory, with only New York City surviving, now known as Pandemonium and adrift in space and time. Among those in the know, Terra is little more than a legend of a beautiful utopia with advanced technology and natural beauty. The main villain wants to bring it back, at the cost of the destruction of the game's other primary worlds, particularly its main setting of Arad.
  • The goal of OPUS The Day We Found Earth is to find the titular Earth. Set in the distant future, the game has humanity spread out throughout the universe. Unfortunately, rampant genetic engineering has resulted in genome degradation. The only hope likes in the mythical planet of origin, where scientists hope to obtain an original, unmodified DNA sample to save humanity. Notably, a great many people believe that humanity didn't originate on Earth and was simply genetically engineered. Those who believe do so with a near-religious fervor (you even find an Earthology Bible at one point).
  • In Children of a Dead Earth, when World War III broke out the two superpowers used rapidly escalating weapons of mass destruction, slinging asteroids and comets at each other using their orbital assets. This caused a complete breakdown in Earth's biosphere, dooming the planet to runaway greenhouse heating effect; within a few decades, it became a new Venus. A few million people were able to make it off-planet to the Colonized Solar System.
  • Shiver Star, the fifth planet visited Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, is a snow-covered planet heavily implied to be post-apocalyptic Earth. Outlines of Earth's continents can be seen on its world map model, and its levels include a shopping mall, an abandoned factory, and a fight against a robot in a giant cityscape. According to Word of God, the inhabitants of Shiver Star left long ago for unknown reasons.
  • Humans in Stars In Shadow are the only race not to start with a homeworld. Instead, they have a fuel depot and a small fleet (a light cruiser, a scout, 3 colony ships and 2 multipurpose transports) containing their entire population.
  • In the X-Universe, Earth's terraforming drones went rogue and began 'terraforming' the Sol system; a lone Terran cruiser managed to break through, and blew up the jump gate behind it, sealing Earth off from the Portal Network. The crew presumed Earth to be destroyed, and by the time the games take place 700 years later, their descendants regard Earth as a fairy tale. However, the first game shows Earth is still around, and the third has Earth reconnected to the network and revealed as far in advance of any of the other races.
  • In the backstory of Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages, Earth was blown up by the Sophians to force humanity to join the Consortium of the Inner Rings.
  • In Objects In Space, the Player Character and their companions are about to colonize the Apollo Cluster, when you get flinged to the future, where the construction of Earthgate is cancelled and little of the promises made to you about habitability and idealism turn out to be true.
  • Endless Space 2:
    • All human factions originated from the colonies of the planet Mezan, which they can rediscovered late in the game. An unspecified disaster has transformed it into a hostile volcanic wasteland which can never be restored.
    • The Vaulters are the descendants of Mezari humans stranded on the planet Auriga but were eventually forced to restore their ancient ship to escape when the planet's biosphere began to collapse. When they return during their faction quest the planet is a lifeless ice planet. You can actually witness the Glacial Apocalypse happening in Endless Legend, though canon didn't spare the other factions in that game.
    • The titular Endless originated from the planet Tor but a deep ocean mining operation inadvertently breached the planet's core, destabilizing the entire planet's crust. Eruptions wiped out nearly all life on land and in sea, nearly rendering the planet sterile.
  • The original game of ARK: Survival Evolved shows this to be the case for Earth via the Earth holograms (one of Pangaea, one of present-day Earth, and one of post-apocalyptic Earth), although you don't get the full story until Extinction: the radioactive Element corrupted life on Earth, turning it against itself and against humanity. Some humans escaped via Brain Uploading and from there developed the namesake ARKs, space stations populated with cloned life forms and humans, to breed an army strong enough to break the Element-corrupted creatures' hold on Earth and from there, repopulate.
  • In Crying Suns, Earth has been forgotten by Oberon's galactic Empire. Few people have even heard of the planet, and fewer still believe it ever existed. This is Oberon's doing: the people of Earth rejected the OMNIs and tried to live without them, so Oberon cut the planet off from the Empire's Fold Net and made it a crime to even speak its name. He assumes the people of Earth must surely have died out since then, but one of the endings reveals that Earth is still inhabited.
  • One of the fixed systems in Stellaris is the Sol system. It is the starting system of the United Nations of Earth, but the UNE is only one of the possible preset empires. If no empire spawns in the Sol system, then the Sol system has a 50% chance of spawning, and can spawn in one of four states, one of them being as a Tomb World with Roachoids as the dominant species. Neither an empire spawning in the Sol System or Sol III Spawning in another state is any guarantee Sol III will stay safe either: one of the possible Empire origin is Post Apocalyptic, or it can spawn in a WW II state that, if it goes on long enough, can go out of hand and end up in the natives wiping each other in nuclear warfare. And even then, if Sol III spawns in either the present day, medieval era, or as the capital of another empire, nuking it from orbit, firing a Planet Cracker or Neutron Sweep at Sol III is an option. And even then, the UNE might make an ill advised deal with the Worm-in Waiting, the Devourer of Worlds or even the End of the Cycle...
    • All of the above also holds true for non-earth worlds. Finding tomb worlds wiped out by nuclear Armageddon, or primitives from worlds other than Sol III wiping themselves the same way is a depressingly common occurrence... And then the Rat Folk Space Nomads of Rackett Industrial Enterprises have Tomb World climate preferrence...
  • Starbound's story opens with your character living on Earth, waking up late to attend your graduation ceremony to be hailed as an official member of the Terrene Protectorate. During the ceremony, however, Earth is suddenly attacked on a global scale by an unknown entity, forcing you and many others in the Protectorate to evacuate immediately and barely escape the planet's complete destruction.

  • Anna Galactic: Revealed near the end to be the case all along.
  • Homestuck: To start a game of Sburb, the planet that initiated the game must be scoured with meteors. This happens to Earth at the beginning of the webcomic when the four main protagonists first begin the game, and it results in large areas (if not all) of the planet being reduced to arid desert where none of the previous life survives. However, if Alternia is any indication, planets so devastated ultimately end up being repopulated by Sburb’s chess-people “NPCs”.

    Web Original 
  • The backstory to Dawn of Victory has the arrival of an Alien Kudzu called the Scinfaxi on Earth in 1933, which threatened to destroy all life on the planet and replace it with its own twisted monstrosities. Humanity held the Scinfaxi at bay for decades, long enough to develop the technology to colonize space, but was never able to fully destroy it, and eventually, it became clear that holding off the Scinfaxi was a lost cause. With that, Earth's nations evacuated their entire populations to their colonies on other worlds, then laid waste to Earth with nuclear weapons, turning it into a lifeless, irradiated husk in order to destroy the Scinfaxi once and for all.
  • In Orion's Arm Old Earth was abandoned after the nanodisaster, because the AI that was designed to protect Earth from Grey Goo decided humanity was the greatest threat to Earth and kicked them off-planet under threat of death (it was at least considerate enough to build a fleet of starships humanity could use to get off Earth first). Granted, Old Earth is still inhabitable, it's just no one's allowed to live there anymore. Of course, after 10,000 years of interstellar expansion Sol has been all but reduced to a tourist trap, significant only in that it's the location of the original homeworld of the Terragens, merely a historical curiosity among the millions of inhabited star system. It's mentioned that by the "present day" of the setting (approx. 12,000 AD) that the AI in charge of Earth has mellowed somewhat and now allows a limited number of tourists, pilgrims and scientists to a limited number of areas on Earth. She even went through the trouble of preserving or restoring some culturally significant human sites such as Mecca or Cape Canaveral.
  • Played with in this story on Tumblr. The richest flee earth to settle on Mars, believing themselves to be the the best and brightest of humanity. They soon run into the realities of settling a new planet when the robots break down, no one knows how to fix them, and they spend all their time squabbling over land rights. When some of them eventually look to Earth, they find that humanity has flourished. Not quite as populous as before, but they have rediscovered sustainable farming and live in a Solar Punk utopia. Some martians try to return to earth to reclaim ownership of their land, but the new humanity just laugh them of, instead offering them a place in their civilization, as normal people equal to everyone else. The martians can't accept that a society without wealth could flourish, so they just load up on supplies, return to mars, and tell everyone that Earth is doomed.

    Western Animation 
  • In the opening of Once Upon a Time... Man an astronaut, fleeing from a sinister mob, boards a rocket and takes off from Earth, which promptly explodes.
    • The narrator of the final episode describes the events leading up to "Man—our ancestor" leaving a destroyed Earth, but in a subversion the last scene reveals the narrator to be a present-day scientist dramatizing a "what-if" scenario as part of a public lecture.

    Real Life 
  • It's very likely that Earth will be completely engulfed by the Sun when it finally swells into a red giant 5 billion years from now. However, even if Earth wasn't engulfed, the increasing heat from the aging Sun will boil away the oceans and reduce the planet into a sterile, molten cinder that will be too hot for even bacteria to survive on.