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Eternal Recurrence

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"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again."
Multiple characters, Battlestar Galactica (2003); source is Peter Pan

A major and catastrophic event (normally, The End of the World as We Know It) happens not once but on regular basis. It is not the "end" in linear sense, but rather several cycles of endless Reincarnation—or a Reset Button for the entire universe pressed over and over again, until something or someone breaks the cycle.

The idea goes back to Hindu and Buddhist traditions and ancient Greek philosophy, especially Stoicism. In Hinduism, there is the Maha Yuga concept where the universe is destroyed and recreated by Brahma every 4.32 million years. Buddhism has a similar notion of Kalachakra ("wheel of time"). A similar idea, likely developed in parallel (and responsible for the infamous 2012 apocalypse prediction), appears in Southwestern Native American mythologiesnote , where the world is conceived as having been reborn four or five (depending on the culture) times already, and presumably would be again. This is also known as "eternal return". Many such systems divide these periods of existence into 'Ages'. The Yuga system, for example, shows the world evolve and devolve within each cycle (see Götterdämmerung). Of course, a more Theme Park Version-esque view on these traditions boils down to "History Repeats."

The term Eternal Recurrence was itself coined by Friedrich Nietzsche, who (while never suggesting this theory was true) adopted it as a thought experiment to test one's willpower. For example, a truly virtuous, life-loving person would be able to endure reliving his entire life's experience (both triumphs and mistakes) over and over, with neither bitterness nor regret. A person capable of this degree of engagement with the world demonstrates mastery of amor fati and the 'self-affirming Yes'. It's also to prevent Nietzschean philosophical concepts, such as the Übermensch, from becoming overly-idealistic.

This may cause a Medieval Stasis for some worlds.

Also compare Regularly Scheduled Evil, "Groundhog Day" Loop, History Repeats and the Vicious Cycle. Has to happen at least twice (and the more, the better) — if The End of the World as We Know It only happens just once then it doesn't form a loop.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A crucial plot point in ∀ Gundam in the form of the Dark History aka all the previous Gundam series, which highlights the seemingly endless cycle of bloodshed and conflict between Earth and Spacenoids. And the protagonists are fighting to prevent that cycle from repeating itself.
  • In Berserk, every 216 years an Eclipse results in the creation of a new member of the God Hand. This has happened at least four times previous to the one in the story. It's also mentioned that the Incarnation Ceremony, in which one of the God Hand is given a corporeal body and reborn into the physical plane, can be performed once every thousand years. If it's happened before, there hasn't been much hinting at what the consequences were the last time it happened, but a little arithmetic (216 X 5 = 1080) suggests that it somehow results in there being no God Hand, so that the cycle can start fresh.
  • A Bleach Omake has then-Lieutenant Aizen taking a stroll with the then-much younger Gin. The stroll takes place in winter and Gin remarks that to him, winter and the cyclical seasons is like Hell, which to him is the same stuff repeating over and over again.
  • Destiny of the Shrine Maiden (manga version) has a cycle of the world being destroyed by Orochi, one miko sacrificing her life to seal away Orochi, the other miko choosing one of eight possible worlds to revive, and the reincarnation of both mikos in the new world. At the ending, it's suggested that the cycle is now broken… for now, at least.
  • Happens as an result of Canon Welding between Devilman, Violence Jack and Devilman Lady the world constantly resets itself and in every new version of it Akira Fudou and Satan reincarnate to fight each other. And in AMON the world is on an extended version of "Groundhog Day" Loop, spanning millions of years from Satan's betrayal to Akira's death, so everything that happened once will happen all over again and again.
  • One of the possible explanations of what happened at the end of Getter Robo Armageddon where main characters are dragged into another dimension in which endless war between an army of horrenderous monsters and an army of Getters takes place is this - it may be possible that they are Getter Teams from previous versions of the world. It doesn't help that Getter Robo has crossed over with various Go Nagai works, including abovementioned Devilman.
  • Given the story structure for Higurashi: When They Cry, one would think this is happening. Actually, that's absolutely right. Though it equally falls into "Groundhog Day" Loop zone.
  • This is an important part of Enrico Pucci's plans in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean. The trick is to make the universe reach the parallel point in the next cycle so quickly that spirits don't have time to die.
  • In Naruto, one of the Uchiha's ultimate doujutsu, the Izanami, is based on this trope, by making its victim relive the fight with the doujutsu's user over and over. Completing the trope in the Nietzsche's way, the only way to break free from that technique is to develop the "Amor Fati": accepting the fate and yourself truly and fully.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: Thrice Upon a Time implies the events of Neon Genesis and Rebuild are just two of an indeterminate amount of times the story of Evangelion has played out. Rebuild is the apparent final iteration of the cycle that ends with Shinji using Instrumentality to write the Angels and Evangelions out of existence to create a world free of all the suffering caused by their existence.
  • There are implications in Space Runaway Ideon that the titular Mechanical Abomination may have repeated judged and then exterminated different sapient races that rose to dominate space after deeming them too warlike. Because The Movie and canonical series finale "Be Invoked" seemingly ends with the souls of the departed appearing and being led to a virginal new world by the spirit of Messiah, the murdered-in-utero child of the protagonists, a popular theory is that they will be reincarnated and granted a fresh try at reaching for the stars. Which raises the possibility that the Ideon, destroyed in a Mutual Kill with the Buff Clan's doomsday weapon, may itself return from death in the future to judge them once again.
  • When the creators of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann needed to explain the opening scenes which depict events similarly, but for the most part completely different from what ends up happening, it was implied that this may have been a previous, unsuccessful iteration, which failed for one reason or another. The spiral nemesis is spiral power being so overused that the universe collapses into a big crunch due to the extra energy created.
  • Undead Unluck features this as the main plot. The protagonists' organization is tasked with collecting or defeating certain universal constants or Negators, who defy certain concepts; should they fail, a Punishment is added to the world. At 100 Punishments, the world ends. We later learn that the world always ends, and has ended multiple times in the past before getting restarted. Because of this, Andy and Fuuko decide to stop this hell loop by killing God.
  • In Uzumaki, it is made clear that what happens to the town has already happened, and it will happen again. As the Spiral City, source of the Spiral Curse has infected the land above it out of its obsessive rage over no one being able to observe it, the curse will persist for as long as humans continue to build and rebuild the town over the Spiral's location deep below the ground.
  • Your Name: The comet Tiamat has an orbital period that spans 1,200 years. Every time it gets close to Earth, a piece of it will break out as a meteorite that rains down on the vicinity of Itomori. Lake Itomori is actually a meteoric crater caused by Tiamat 1,200 years ago, and the present-day meteorite crash destroys the town and adds a second crater next to it. It can be presumed that 1,200 years in the future, the same thing will happen again.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: The war between the Signers and Dark Signers is a repeated cycle that happens every few millenia. The true Big Bad of the Dark Signer arc wants to break that cycle by obtaining powers from both sides and recreate the world.

    Comic Books 
  • In Eight Billion Genies, every time the sentient global population reaches a certain point (usually around eight billion people), the amount of desire causes the titular genies to return and grant everyone a wish. The ensuing chaos serves as a sort of cosmic release valve as everyone makes wishes and throws the world into chaos. Eventually, the last person wishes for a new world, and the process begins anew. The only way to break the loop is a mythical "ultimate wish" that'll satisfy the need for wishing forever.
  • In Lucifer, the Silk Man and at least three of the Jin En Mok are the only survivors of Yahweh's previous creations (although the Jin En Mok may have existed before even those). It isn't entirely clear how many creations there have been already, but we're given the impression He's been doing this for quite a while. It might not have even been Yahweh's creation, considering that the comic gives us two new fully-fledged Creators. Some interpret this as the Creation where Yahweh originally came from.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Galactus is the sole survivor of the universe that existed before the Big Bang and also the seed for the universe that will come into being when the current one is destroyed.
    • Ragnarok used to do this to Asgard until Thor broke the cycle.
    • According to The Ultimates (2015), the Marvel Universe is currently in its eighth iteration. The crossover series Secret Wars (2015) marked the break between the seventh and eighth iteration. There is a survivor from the very first iteration, The First Firmament. He wants everything to return to the way things once were, which would be bad news for everyone else.
    • In Earth X, time is presented as a circle. One day, humanity's mutation will run its course and we will lose our identities to become whatever people think we are or need us to be, then go back in time and become the Asgardians.
  • In Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers meta-project, the Sheeda (the species that inherit the Earth in the far-fetched future when the sun has become a red giant) travel through time in their Castle Revolving to plunder humanity's technology whenever we reach a sufficiently advanced point of development — first they raided a Jack Kirby-esque society of Neanderthal super-scientists, then a utopian, world-wide Kingdom of Camelot as ruled by the original progenitor of the Arthur myth, and then finally our world shortly after the turn of the millennium — that's where the eponymous heroes come in.
  • IDW Publishing Transformers stories about the beginning of the war on Cybertron, such as The Transformers: Autocracy and The Transformers: Primacy, have the ancient city-bots Metroplex and Trypticon imply that the Autobot-Decepticon War comes around on a regular basis. Metroplex even states that the order to hide under Nyon, where Optimus eventually found him, came from Optimus himself.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The Decemberists The Hazards of Love fanfiction "The Certainties'' treats the events of the album as an Eternal Recurrence, a chain of events that Margarets and Williams are forever doomed to repeat, until finally one set breaks the cycle.
  • In the Heaven's Lost Property/The Familiar of Zero crossover Cry for an Angel, it is eventually revealed that every 6000 years, Minos orders Ikaros to wipe out human civilization and reset history to zero, leaving only enough humans to repopulate, in an attempt to prevent humanity from ever advancing enough to challenge him. Ikaros breaks the cycle by developing free will and rebelling.
  • At the end of Heart of the Forest, Hawthorn reveals that an ancient being called Nightmare keeps returning to wreak havoc, but the bearers of the Elements of Harmony will always be able to banish her.
  • Inner Demons: Lezard discusses the possibility of this when comparing Queen Midnight's fall from grace and defeat by Bayonet with the similar events centering around their reincarnations Twilight Sparkle and Apple Bloom.
  • In the Pony POV Series:
    • The universe consists of a natural one: the universe begins with Fauna Luster's (the Goddess of Beginnings) dawn (the Big Bang), lives out its natural life expectancy until heat death at which point Entropy devours the dead universe and all four Elders (of which the above are two of) spend the intervening time setting the foundations for the next universe Entropy made room for.
    • It's revealed that Dark World is one of these: Discord rules for a thousand years, then the Bearers escape his control and defeat him, Fluttercruel somehow dies, and then the true Big Bad Nightmare Eclipse corrupts Twilight into becoming her (whether she wants to or not) at which point she resets the timeline (erasing everyone in it in the process except Discord) to start the process over. However, eventually, Twilight and company end the cycle by defeating Eclipse.
    • The evil Grogar returns every 500 years, causes havoc, then is sealed away again. This has been going on for eons now. In Dark World Loose Canon, eventually the Bearers (now armed with the complete sets for both the Elements of Harmony and Elements of Chaos)end the cycle by killing him via Yin-Yang Bomb using both sets of Elements.
  • In Purple Days, Joff's research takes him to an isolated cavern in the Sunset Sea, where he finds ancient records of the elder race that came before mankind in Planetos, telling him the Long Night has been going on for far, far longer than he ever dared imagine, and a desperate plea, to take a stand, and fight the darkness...
  • Royal Heights: The main antagonist Embry reveals that the only reasons Utopias need to be recreated every four years is that a witch, like herself, comes to destroy Utopia at the same time, obliterating the city and all its citizens along the way. Then the new Utopia comes in and all is well again until the loop repeats itself later.
  • In the Magical Girl Crossover Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Chaos reveals that the war of good versus evil has waged countless times in infinite universes, with every Big Bad there's ever been as an aspect of itself. Every time the war is fought, Chaos and its aspects are fated to lose. The plot gets kicked off when Joker convinces Chaos to rebel against its fate and natural function, so that the recurrence might finally end.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos: The Eternal War between the Demon Empire and Angel Federation always flares up periodically, decimating galaxies before both sides eventually fight each other to exhaustion and temporarily stop fighting to rebuild, before going to war again. Maledict's entire grand plan was to end the cycle by creating the "Ultimate Weapon" to permanently defeat Allysion and her Angels which eventually resulted in him creating Sonic, Shadow, Eric, and Tsali.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Guy Maddin's Brand Upon the Brain! features the odd quote, "Everything that happens will happen again. Twice."
  • Cloud Atlas takes the same themes of the book and turns them up a notch by employing repeating visual motifs and match cuts, as well as having actors play different characters across the six storylines. A slave-owning reverend becomes a corrupt corporate executive in another life and a cannibalistic tribesman in another. Similarly, a backstreet sweatshop in 70's San Francisco is echoed by a fast-food chain in futuristic Korea that employs engineered clones, a man trapped in an abusive nursing home is paralleled by a fabricant huddling in a prison cell, and two lovers find each other in lifetime after lifetime.
  • In The Fifth Element, the planet-sized Great Evil reappears every 5,000 years.
  • Hannah and Her Sisters: Mickey is having a Crisis of Faith, and has been looking up philosophers about the afterlife, and brings up the Trope Namer, and finds no comfort in it.
    Mickey: Great, that means I'll have to watch Ice Capades again.
  • The Incident (2014) features two intersecting time loops, which may lead to others.
  • The Reveal at the end of The Matrix Reloaded is that Neo isn't the second "One", he's the sixth. Not only that, but the program in charge of the Matrix allows him and the other rebels to exist, since giving the Matrix's inhabitants an unconscious choice of realities is what keeps the system going. Each "One" is meant to find the Architect shortly before the Machines invade Zion, at which point he will be allowed to select survivors to repopulate the rebels and begin the process all over again. Neo's love for Trinity, a connection his predecessors didn't have, makes him say Screw Destiny.

  • While the nature of time in Michael Moorcock's Multiverse proves a bit more complex, Erekosë muses on this concept, and the possibility that in a previous (and future) iteration he led the very force he was then fighting against.
  • The destruction of humanity's control over magic in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga is not the first time, due to it requiring magic to be anchored to mortal or vampire bloodlines, which can be severed. There's no apparent set period but the last time happened about four hundred years before the start of the series, and some of the vampire characters were around for it.
  • In David Eddings' The Belgariad and the sequels and prequels, this is used to explain why the same situation tends to reoccur over and over again. This was used partially as a wry acknowledgement of, and excuse for, David Eddings' lack of creativity, as he himself admits that he wrote it as an attempt to make the most generic fantasy plot of all good. The cycle is supposed to be broken by the end of the sequel series (the explanation they get for the recurrence is that history can't properly progress so long as there are two Prophecies, so in the meantime patterns recur while the two Prophecies fight it out about which vision of the future should happen. The events of the end of the sequel results in there being only one Prophecy, so now things can start progressing as they should again), but since the only thing that takes place after that is the framing for the prequels this doesn't really matter to the story.
  • The Brightest Shadow: The Hero's arrival is essentially this if the cycle is ever reset, leading to bloody/climactic battles every time.
  • A major theme of A Canticle for Leibowitz. The novel chronicles humanity's recovery from a nuclear apocalypse and ends with a second nuclear apocalypse which, it's pretty strongly implied, will kill everyone on Earth. The church has sent out colonists to other worlds, though, so it's possible that humanity may survive.
  • David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas revolves around this. Themes of slavery, oppression, exploitation and the struggle for freedom recur in various forms across six stories set in drastically different settings. It is hinted that the main character of each story is a reincarnation of the same soul. "Eternal Recurrence" is, appropriately enough, the title of a musical composition by a Nietzsche-quoting character.
  • In Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, there is the concept of Ka. Ka is often stated to be like a wheel, eternally rolling, with events constantly recurring. Same places, different faces. The biggest of which is the "Coming of the White" and the "Rising of the Red". While mostly limited to The Dark Tower series, the basic concept tends to occur throughout several of King's works.
  • Discworld:
    • The Golems believe that the universe is circular, and one (Anghammarad, in Going Postal) has been carrying a message to a long since deceased king with him for over nine thousand years, reasoning he'll get it right the next time.
    • I Remember When All This Will Be Again - the last words of Reaper Man, delivered by the Death of Universes.
  • Threadfall from the Dragonriders of Pern series happens on a predictable cycle, and wipes out large areas of landscape as well as any humans not shielded by dragons and/or impenetrable stone shelters.
  • In An Exaltation of Larks, the travellers from the heat death of the universe have been making their way back to the Big Bang to turn the universe into a Perpetual Motion Machine by setting it up for eternal recurrence; rather than succumb to a slow heat death where no energy can be generated and the stars have died, it will instead cyclically expand, contract, and then expand again over billions and billions of years, allowing life to start again.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, one of Haruhi's first truly chilling manipulations of reality has to do with this phenomenon. Not wanting to go back to school before experiencing a truly full summer, she forces the cast to repeat the last two weeks of summer vacation. More than 15,000 times. Kyon eventually pieces together his sense of deja vu and asks Yuki what is going on. Yuki, who retains full memory of the situation, tells him that they have repeated the summer over and over again. And how many times have they realized they're stuck in a time loop? Over 8000.
    • This was portrayed in the anime by animating the same episode 8 times, but showing different parts of the same day and from different camera angles.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Hellas imagines the recurrence of classical Greece. (The choice of subject is quite appropriate since cyclical time was a popular hypothesis with ancient Greek philosophers.)
  • In Brian Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy, the eponymous planet undergoes a regular climactic cycle many centuries in length known as the "Great Year", as a result of its sun being part of a binary star system. When the star it orbits around (Batalix) is furthest from the brighter companion star Freyr, Helliconia experiences an ice age (typically destroying civilization) and when it's close to Freyr, it experiences a warmer climate in which civilization thrives, with the different climactic periods made analogous to "seasons" such as summer and winter.
  • Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus:
    • How many times do you think the Titans and giants will keep going after the Olympians?
    • Invoked with Monsters, which regenerate to be fought again, and with immortals, as they don't change (much). Addressed further in The Kane Chronicles, which share a universe.
  • The Moties in The Mote in God's Eye die if they don't reproduce regularly, so their population grows uncontrollably. Throughout their history, they've repeatedly built up advanced civilizations only to collapse due to the inevitable wars due to overpopulation and competition for resources. Unlike Nightfall (1941), they know this happens and have built many museums to store examples of technology so that civilization can be rebuilt faster the next time, in the hope that eventually they will have some breakthrough and break the cycle. Unfortunately for them, by the time humanity discovers them they've used up most of the natural resources in their system, and one of the Moties notes that each fall takes them further back because of this.
    • Part of their problem is that although they've developed FTL travel many times, in this universe it's only possible between pairs of wormholes and the only one they have access to ends inside a star. One of the big fears by the humans, which leads to a permanent blockade to the end of their wormhole to ensure they never get out in sequels, is that if they ever did manage to escape their solar system, they would still be unable to control their population and eventually cause their growth/collapse cycle to take place on a galactic level.
  • In Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, it is implied that Fantasia is destroyed on a regular basis whenever the balance between worlds gets bad enough, so someone has to be sent a book and travel there to create everything anew.
  • In Isaac Asimov's short story Nightfall (1941), a well-known cult claims that all civilization is destroyed every 2049 years when the Stars come out and cover the planet (which has six suns and therefore never experiences true darkness) in fire. The archaeological data does confirm the cycle of civilizations, but no one believes the reasons stated by the cult (the expanded version has an archaeologist discover the data right at the beginning of the book). Turns out, every 2049 years five of its suns are in one hemisphere, while there's only one remaining on the other. That sun is eclipsed for a long period, eventually covering the whole planet in darkness as it rotates. All the people go crazy and set fires, looking for a new source of light, burning down their whole civilization like clockwork.
  • One of the many computer generated worlds in Otherland is based on Through the Looking Glass. Every time one king or the other dies, the world is reset to how it was at the beginning of the game.
  • In Sister Alice, the climax reveals that the Interdimensional Travel Device built in the core of the Milky Way is known to fail causing an all-annihilating sphere of destruction that ravages the core of the galaxy. Sister Alice uses the device to send the nigh-godlike Family members to newly generated universes, where they will eventually create a new travel device that destroys the galaxy, creating a new universe in the process and sending a Family member through, recursively forever
  • A Song of Ice and Fire the Long Night might be an eternal recurrence. There are too many legends of the world freezing over and the living being terrorized by the dead.
  • Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods explores this on both a human level and a planetary level. Recurring themes of love and loss on the human side, environmental destruction on the planetary side.
  • In the world of The Stormlight Archive, Desolations happen every few centuries, each of them nearly destroying mankind and knocking civilization back to the stone age. The current state - over four and a half thousand years without one - is a prelude to the worst Desolation in history.
  • Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being references Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence directly and frequently throughout the novel. Kundera shows the un-recurrent nature of human life as a source of great hopelessness for Tomas and Tereza. The novel describes several character's attempts to subvert this meaninglessness, which is born from the lack of recurrence. This idea of recurrence is tied to Kundera's exploration of lightness and weight—with recurrence as weight, or meaning, and singularity as lightness, or a lack of meaning.
  • The world of The Wheel of Time series has a cyclic system of time. The seven spokes of the Wheel represent the seven eras, and the turning of the Wheel is the course of history repeating over and over again. The Dark One's foremost human minion, Ishamael, was a philosopher who thought too deeply about this, concluded that human life is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and wants to help his master undo creation because of it. Rand, The Chosen One, struggled with this concept for a long, long time, before eventually concluding that the purpose of the Wheel was the opportunity to get things right next time and fix your mistakes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, the Vorlons and the Shadows, two of the races of the First Ones (the original intelligences in the galaxy), were left behind to become shepherds of the younger races that would appear. Instead, every thousand years they would begin a cycle of war, pitting the younger races against each other in a battle of Order Versus Chaos. Captain Sheridan finally figured out how they could all stand up to them and gave them a giant "Screw you, get out of our galaxy" speech, finally ending the cycle.
  • Battlestar Galactica is an example. The Colonial scriptures talk about the cycle of time as a story told again and again throughout eternity, though with different players. Similar "death, exodus, and rebirth" events have occurred on Kobol, the Thirteenth Colony, and the Twelve Colonies, and could still happen in the future.
  • The classic series and expanded universe of Doctor Who imply that the Guardians and/ or the Eternals are the last survivors of the Universe before the Whoniverse. The new series also has the Beast from "The Impossible Planet", who is said to come from before time and matter itself.
    • The Expanded Universe confirms that there was a universe before the present one, from which some things still survive, and there will be another one after it ends.
    • Spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures includes one story in which the Big Bad is the Ancient Lights, a force surviving from the previous universe which is responsible for the belief in astrology in the current universe.
  • It's stated in Eureka that the Artifact is older than the universe itself, having been created in the universe before this one, and managed to survive the Big Crunch and another Big Bang.
  • In the episode "Dance Dance Resolution" of The Good Place, Michael has put Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi and Jason through a constantly repeating cycle of memory wipes to keep them tormenting each other in the Ironic Hell he constructed for them, only for one of them (usually Eleanor, but on one occasion, Jason managed) to figure out eventually that they are actually in The Bad Place, forcing Michael to erase their memories once again and start the process over. Chidi, a philosophy professor, lampshades this, calling their situation a "warped version of Nietzsche's eternal recurrence".
  • In Lexx, the Time Prophet tells the future by looking into the previous "cycle of time." Events in each cycle are absolutely identical. To the point of pulling off The Tape Knew You Would Say That on Stanley in the second episode.
  • Discussed and defied on Lost. Jacob's enemy says that a series of events repeats itself because of the actions of humans, and it always ends the same. Jacob replies "It only ends once. Anything before that is just progress." In season 6,Jacob summons people to the island to prove that Rousseau Was Right, while the Man in Black is set to prove that Humans Are Bastards. But so far there's just shades and shades of gray. That in turn was revealed to be just a tiny fraction of the actual recurrence: the island itself, or perhaps the protector, summons people to the island. Always have and always will.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gives us a writ-small version in a genre of Cardassian literature called the Cyclical Epic. A multi-generational series of characters go through very similar cycles of birth, growing, working for the betterment of the Cardassian regime, and dying as they pass the torch to the next cycle. It also works as a sly metaphor for the Star Trek franchise as a whole, with each iteration having mostly the same premise, but with a new cast of characters exploring the unknown (except for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which mostly ditched the exploration theme).
  • True Detective: "Time is a flat circle." The nihilistic hero Rustin Cohl goes into a much detailed description of the theory.

  • Eternal Recurrence is a very common element of Sound Horizon albums, starting with their very first (Chronicle).

  • Aztec Mythology has the myth of the Five Suns, which posits that the world has been created and destroyed multiple times.
  • The Bible. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV)
    What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. {10} Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. {11} There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. {12} I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. {13} I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! {14} I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

    Tabletop Games 
  • "Tome of Decay", the Source Book focusing on Nurgle for Black Crusade expands upon the Warhammer 40,000 deity's character to tie him into this. Specifically, Nurgle represents — or at least believes he represents, rightly or wrongly — the natural cycle of the universe. Life grows and develops to a certain point, and then it starts to stagnate and decay, its moral corruption empowering the resurgence of the Chaos Gods, which sweep forth from the warp and destroy or defile all life until they have nothing left to do but turn upon one another, with Nurgle consuming them all and then consuming himself, as the avatar of decay and despair made manifest. Then, with the warp stilled and calmed by their dwindling, life arises again from the ruins of the old, making the progression to the point where it calls forth Chaos again to cleanse it in turn. This, then, is why Nurgle is the most Affably Evil of the Chaos Gods; he just thinks he's doing his job of putting the old, corrupt universe to the torch and rendering it down to fertile soil from which new life can go. Given the nature of the 40kverse, it's kind of hard to disagree that euthanizing it and letting something new be born from its ruins is really a bad thing.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons supplement "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk" for BECMI, a centaur relates an account of how the current BECMI cosmology, in which the Spheres of Energy, Matter, Time and Thought oppose the Sphere of Entropy, is a temporary phenomenon: in the distant past, the four Spheres were a single Sphere of Life, and Entropy was divided into four. The unaging Faeries of the present are former Immortals from this era, who'd protected the Sphere of Life during the previous iteration, and will do so again when their full powers return as the Spheres shift once again, in a neverending trade-off between Life's dominion and Entropy's.
  • Pathfinder’s cosmology involves one of these, according to in-universe lore called the Windsong Testaments. Each cycle of the multiverse requires a Survivor from the previous cycle to judge the dead (in this cycle, the death goddess Pharasma) and a Watcher (who is always Yog-Sothoth). When this multiverse is one day destroyed by the devouring god Rovagug, there will be a new Survivor who will both create and judge the next world.
  • In Shadowrun and Earthdawn, magic flows and ebbs. At its peak, the nature of reality becomes thin enough for the Horrors to come through, and they do. The indigenous population of Earth must then hide, if they do not want to be eaten. Several supplementary sources suggest that if metahumanity can develop its technology level to be as powerful as its magic at its peak, then the Horrors could be defeated once and for all.
  • The dream plane of Dal Quor in the Eberron cosmology is said to work like this; aside from mortals' dreams, there's also the Quor Tarai, the big dream of the plane itself. When that changes, so does the nature of every single native of the plane!
  • The GodTime in RuneQuest is inspired by Mircea Eliade's mythological version of this concept.

  • Transformers: Several continuities have Cybertron go through periods of devastating civil war, peace, then another faction rising up and starting everything all over again. Also, the fight between Unicron and Primus, since Unicron has a nasty habit of either coming back from the dead, or getting minions to revive him somehow. At least some versions of Unicron have been in the habit of trashing universes since before the current one.
    • Beast Wars: Uprising: After the several million years long war between the Autobots and Decepticons, Cybertron falls into a corrupt oligarchy, which eventually prompts another civil war by the oppressed masses. During one story, a character communes with the Oracle, talking about the current war going on, which the Oracle claims is necessary to encourage new growth. It even quotes the Peter Pan phrase (with the final story suggesting that the "happen again" part is going to happen a lot sooner than previous instances). There's also a hint that Unicron is also doing this. His thwarted attack on Cybertron in the 21st century is mentioned, but the Distant Finale has a bunch of characters stumbling on some of his essence a very long way from home...

    Video Games 
  • Anachronox builds on the "Big Crunch" theory (see below) with a notable exception: a previous universe, i.e. one from before the most recent Big Bang, is trying to prevent their Big Crunch by teleporting a lot of matter through some kind of time hole into our universe, in order to prevent the next universe (which they are at war with) from ever existing. So our Big Crunch gets accelerated, while their is prolonged indefintely. They didn't count on the teleported matter granting magic powers, and the ending leaves the whole thing on a Cliffhanger, due to Executive Meddling.
  • Defied in the ending of Assassin's Creed III. The world is about to be destroyed in a catastrophic event the main characters are trying to prevent. At the end it's revealed that stopping the event will unleash a potentially great evil on the world, and Desmond will die as a result, and he's told the better alternative is to let it happen and become the leader of a new world of survivors who will eventually be revered as a god and whose teachings will be subverted and used in the name of evil, causing many conflicts until the world gets hit with another catastrophic event, just as it has before and implied to have happened many, many times before. He chooses not to hit the reset button, letting the world continue on.
  • It's implied in Bastion that each time you choose the Restoration ending (turning back time to before the Calamity) the Calamity just happens again (reinforced by Rucks in the New Game Plus having several moments of deja vu) until you choose the Evacuation ending (leaving the past be and going off to find a new place to settle down) to break the cycle.
  • Billy vs. SNAKEMAN: Originally, the idea behind New Game Plus was that your anime got a new season. However, it was eventually made into an in-universe ability called "looping", which your ninja is unique in being able to do. Cici eventually recruits you to attempt to break into a different world, because if something goes wrong and you die, you'll just loop again. It works on the second try; on the first try, you fail, but someone else succeeds - that someone else is you from the second loop. The Jungle reveals that you've looped hundreds of times before the game began, due to the interference of Timmy, a.k.a. Mr. T. It's also established in Billycon that the MikaMika Douga can sense the Loop, but can't affect it, and it's driving them insane.
  • In Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!, in one of the endings Bomberman has to face off against the "Angel of Light and Shadow," the being that is responsible for the creation and destruction of the universe in its lifecycle.
  • If you manage to purify all the crystals in Bravely Default, what awaits you is a parallel world in which you have to do the entire thing over again. This has happened millions of times before, and you can do this process five times at which point The Dragon has succeeded in her plan to summon her boss into the celestial realm. Even with the rematches against the optional bosses being different from their first encounters, this repetition has not sat well with many players. Thankfully, the sequel downplays this by only having you press the Reset Button once.
  • According to Queen Nai, Ragnarok is something akin to this in Brawlhalla.
  • Captain Forever opens up with you being a survivor of a sector-wide explosion, and every time you die you cause ANOTHER sector-wide explosion, and the game starts all over again. The readme confirms the eternal nature of this predicament.
  • The Castlevania canon is similar, with Big Bad Dracula destined to be reborn (at least) once every hundred years and defeated by some iteration of the Belmont clan and their allies. Worth noting is the fact that Dracula himself is canonically Deader than Dead as of 1999, but the cycle seems to be going on even without him. That is explained in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow by Genya Arikado (none other than Alucard, the Dark Lord's prodigal son), who states his belief that even if Soma (Dracula's reincarnation) refuses to become the next Dark Lord, if nature wills for a being to counterbalance God, then someone out there will eventually take up the mantle. This ideology is shared by Celia Fortner (the Big Bad of Dawn) and her cult, With Light. Additionally, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow reveals that there's a de-facto main antagonist of the series known as Chaos, who is the source of all of Dracula's powers. In short, it's a mix of As Long as There Is Evil and Balance Between Good and Evil. Genya however also believes that free will means that no specific person has to be the Dark Lord.
  • Dark Souls:
    • Dark Souls II introduces this idea: ever since the first game (no matter which ending was chosen) the world has gone through successive Ages of Fire and Ages of Dark, each one ending in an outbreak of the Undead Curse, at which point an Undead eventually succeeds in triggering the beginning of the next cycle. Several characters in the second game are noted to have been aware of this and were trying to find a way to break this cycle. The game leaves it an open question as to whether or not that's even possible.
    • The premise of Dark Souls III is that the destruction wrought by the cycles has all but doomed the world. The world is running on embers, the Dark is out of control, and the boundaries of life and death have broken down. It's suggested that the world may not be able to survive another cycle, and if you do Link the Fire to continue the cycles, it barely burns at all, a marked contrast to the powerful explosion of fire that happened in the first game, showing that even the linking of the flame that has kept the cycle going is beginning to fail. The game also gives you the chance to break the cycle once and for all, by intentionally snuffing out the First Flame.
  • The Dominions series implies this — the premise of the games is that the previous Pantokrator (supreme god) has disappeared, and various Pretenders are now scrambling to take the post. Where this trope starts cropping up is in fairly consistent references to a previous Pantokrator (as opposed to the previous Pantokrator), implying this isn't the first time this has happened — and indeed if you win the victory description mentions that eventually you get seduced away from being a Pantokrator by exploring higher mysteries, disappearing beyond the reach of everyone and leaving a power vacuum to be filled thus triggering a new Ascension War.
  • As revealed by the very final boss of the game, the world of Dragon's Dogma is like this. A dragon marks Arisen, one of whom eventually kills the dragon. They then go on to face the Seneschal, the divine motivator of the world, and either lose and become the next dragon or win and replace the Seneschal until they themselves are killed. This has occurred across countless worlds for all eternity.
  • This is what happens in DragonFable and MechQuest, where an event called 'the Reset' causes the Lorian people to revert back to magic in order to compensate for their Lost Technology and reincarnate... TWICE. Ironically only the NPCs just don't realize this situation, so it'll happen again in the future.
  • While Dwarf Fortress generates a new world each time you play, the overarching framing device of the game is that Armok, God of Blood, destroys and recreates the world anew every time it grows too peaceful, so that conflict should always exist. On a meta level, this refers to the probable behavior of the player, who is likely to create a new world once all the enemies are dead.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Mythic echoes of the moment of creation between the primal entities Anu and Padomay occur over and over again throughout history in a phenomenon referred to as the "Enantiomorph". Such instances of echoes include but are not limited to the sundering of Lorkhan from his divine spark (heart), the betrayal of Nerevar by the Tribunal, the triad of Tiber Septim, Zurin Arctus, and Ysmir Wulfharth, and possibly even the Last Dragonborn, General Tullius, and Ulfric Stormcloak. The roles and players are interchangeable, even in the midst of an enantiomorphic event.
    • Alduin the World-Eater is the draconic Beast of the Apocalypse and "firstborn" of Akatosh, the draconic God of Time and Top God of the Nine Divines pantheon. It is Alduin's divinely mandated duty to "eat the world" so that a new one may be created in its place at the end of every "kalpa", or cycle of time. During these world-eating events, Alduin becomes a titanic monster with divine power beyond that of even the Daedric Princes. However, in an early age of the current kalpa, Alduin became Drunk with Power and shirked his duty as World-Eater to instead Take Over the World, ruling it with his fellow dragons and being worshiped as a god by mortals. Several other dragons, most notably his chief lieutenant Paarthurnax, rebelled against him and allied with mankind. Paarthurnax taught mankind to use the Thu'um, the reality warping draconic Language of Magic, but this alone was not enough. Three heroes faced Alduin at the top of the Throat of the World, and when all else had failed, used the power of an Elder Scroll to banish Alduin by casting him out of the stream of time. This defeat was only temporary, and those involved knew that Alduin would one day return. Thousands of years later, Alduin does indeed return, and serves as the Big Bad of Skyrim.
    • As revealed in Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion, in a time before recorded history, Jyggalag, the Daedric Prince of Order grew too powerful, making the other Daedric Princes fearful and jealous of him. They came together and cursed him, trapping in the form of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. However, at the end of every Era, he is allowed to return to his true form in an event known as the Greymarch. During this time, he retakes and destroys the Shivering Isles, Sheogorath's realm, only to return to the form of Sheogorath at the end. The plot of Shivering Isles is essentially Jyggalag finding a way to escape this Vicious Cycle...
  • Energy Breaker plays out a similar situation. Selphia and Oriales are in a constant cycle of destroying the world and creating a new one in its place, and the heroes' eventual mission is to break the cycle.
  • In the Old World Blues DLC add-on for Fallout: New Vegas, the Think Tank, a group of pre-War scientists in Big MT that managed to achieve immortality via Brain in a Jar technology, have been plagued for decades by the incessant need to perform the same experiment over and over again, even if they achieve the same failure over and over again. Even their names invoke this, such as Dr. Klein (as in the Klein bottle) and Dr. 0 (he's called "Oh" but insists his name is "Zero", both of which are edgeless circles in shape). Turns out it was deliberately invoked by their old colleague and Defector from Decadence, Dr. Mobius who realized that the Think Tank's shift into robotic entities left them even more amoral and crazy than when they were human, and if left unchecked, their scientific insanity would spread to, and likely destroy the rest of the world. To try and stop it, he hacked into their robot bodies, erasing their awareness of the world outside of Big MT, and even their original names, to reinforce the recursion loop.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X is an example that's less The End of the World as We Know It and more 'a bunch of people die and there's some colorful explosions' thing. SIN arrives, spreads terror, Summoner gets Final Summon and spectacularly fights it, defeats it, dies in the process, several years of Calm follows, then SIN resurfaces and it all repeats again. So it goes until Tidus comes along and along with Auron convinces Yuna and the rest of the group to break the cycle.
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, it turns out that there have been numerous repetitions (or cycles) of the war between the Gods Cosmos and Chaos. This shows up in the title of the sequel, where the 012 specifically refers to the 12th cycle.
  • The last game in the Galaxy Angel II trilogy has a title* that refers to this. A faction called The Will actually try to reset the universe by inducing what could be described as a Big Crunch, having already done so no less than six times before, only to be defeated by the Rune Angel Wing (with their leaders being finished off by the Hyper Weapon of Kazuya's chosen Angel).
  • The dominant religion in Heaven's Vault is "the Loop", a belief in the cyclicity of all things. Loopers believe that everything that happens has already happened before countless times, which gives rise to an extremely blasé attitude towards historians and archaelogists like Aliya. Some of the more reasonable Loopers realize that, assuming their beliefs are correct, digging up the distant past offers a direct look at the future, but whether any of this makes sense or has some truth to it is ultimately left ambiguous. It also serves as a convenient justification for New Game Plus.
  • The final boss of Ikaruga mentions this, and argues there's no way to stop it. He seems to be uncertain if your awareness is even of such level that you can understand everything that's going on.
  • This is the final reveal at the end of killer7. No matter what happens, Harmon and Kun Lan will come back in one hundred years and play the game again. They switch roles every so often, taking turns at who's "good" and who's "evil", but there appears to be nothing that can break this cycle.
  • The events in Kingdom of Loathing. You beat The Naughty Sorceress, free the king and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and peace returns to the Kingdom. Then you check the news: The NS is back, she has recaptured King Ralph, The Cyrpt has been redefiled, ect. It's an in-world excuse for a New Game Plus.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning: The Fae do not truly die like mortals. They are fated to repeat their lives endlessly in the "Great Cycle". The appearance of the Tuatha Deohn, Winter Fae who have managed to break their own Cycle thanks to the power of their new god Tirnoch, is taken as a sign by other Fae that the Cycle is ending. One early sidequest even exploits this; as part of the Cycle, certain events repeat themselves, known to the Fae as Ballads. One adventurer works with you to recreate a Ballad, forcing a troll with a valuable ring to appear.
  • In The Legend of Spyro trilogy, it turns out that purple dragons are supposed to destroy and rebuild the world periodically. The problem is, the last one appointed to the position, Malefor, didn't exactly do his job properly...
  • The basic premise of The Legend of Zelda canon. Every so many generations a great evil (usually Ganondorf/Ganon) will consume Hyrule, and reincarnations of Link and Zelda will defeat it. Skyward Sword reveals that this is due to the curse Demise placed on Link and Zelda. An incarnation of his hatred — Ganon — will hound Link and Zelda's reincarnated selves until the end of time. In the Wind Waker timeline, the cycle is apparently broken when everything related to the cycle — Ganondorf, the Master Sword, and Hyrule itself — is returned to the bottom of the ocean forever, though that still doesn't stop a great evil (Bellum and Maladus) from showing up to threaten Link and Zelda in future games set in said timeline.
  • This is the main plotline of the Lufia series: every hundred years or so, the four Sinistrals appear and attack humanity. Sometimes they succeed in ruining the world, but other times a hero (the protagonist of each game) stops them. In any case, the Sinistrals will inevitably be revived in another century.
  • Mass Effect:
    • A hyper-advanced race of machines called the Reapers exterminate all sentient life in the Milky Way once they have reached the Citadel and established themselves throughout the galaxy. The last time this happened was 50,000 years ago, but is implied to have gone on for far longer - millions, or even billions of years.
    • In Mass Effect 2, evidence of resistance from a previous cycle is found. 37-million-year-old evidence. More overlooked is the "Leviathan of Dis" which is a ship estimated to be a billion years old. It's an inactive Reaper that the accidental activation of which causes the batarians to be the first victims in this Cycle of Reaping.
    • In Mass Effect 3, direct parallels are drawn between the events of the current cycle and the previous, Prothean one: Namely, the extremely late discovery of the Crucible blueprints, the hasty construction, the frantic search for the Catalyst, and, finally, an indoctrinated splinter faction believing they can control the Reapers and sabotaging the Crucible. For the current cycle, Cerberus fills that role. It is further implied that the Crucible was built in each cycle but much too late to stop the Reapers; the species of the current cycle are the first ones who actually manage to complete the Crucible (sans Catalyst) while preserving most of their forces for the Final Battle.
    • The climax of the trilogy states that the actions of the Reapers are in response to another Eternal Recurrence that they have observed throughout history: The inevitable Robot War that results when civilizations create AI and it rebels against them. To prevent artifical intelligence from wiping out organic life the Catalyst created the Reapers to "preserve" organic races by converting into Reapers as soon as they had the capacity to create AI. It isn't clear if this other cycle is natural, or a result of the Reapers subtly guiding the development of each cycle by planting tech for them to find; the Catalyst claims the former, but the Reaper Sovereign boasted of the latter. During the climax, the Catalyst acknowledges that Shepard actually reaching it is a sign that the Reaper Cycle is breaking down. An organic actually meeting the Catalyst in the heart of the Citadel is the one event that never occurred in any previous Cycle.
  • In Mega Man Legends, it turns out that the catastrophe that is occasionally alluded to is actually the work of Mega Man Juno who periodically activates a machine called EDEN to wipe out life on the island.
  • Mortal Kombat 11: The major twist of the game is that the new timeline created by the ninth game wasn't remotely the first time it was done. Kronika has been rebooting the timeline over and over again, every time she is not satisfied by it. She has done this "for so long, [she] has lost count"; the various character-specific endings in all of the games are highly implied to not only be canon, but part of the recurrence that she created. The only way to stop it from ever happening again is, naturally, by killing her.
  • Myth: Turns out the mad Journeyman from the manual was right, and the world keeps cycling between light and dark ages.
  • In Nexus War, the current iteration of the universe is ending. The eponymous war was to see which of the Elder Powers will shape the next one. This served as a convenient Sequel Hook for Nexus Clash, which takes it to the next step and actually shows the world rebooting from time to time.
  • OMORI: It comes to light that Basil's disappearance and the emergence of Black Space has been happening for 4 years in Sunny's dreams, requiring Omori to step in and reset the world in order to contain Black Space. The cycle is only broken once either Sunny finally moves on, or Omori kills himself.
  • Radiant Silvergun. The entire plot of the game is one of these, thanks to the "big bad" (if it can be considered that) warping you back to 100,000 BC at the end of the game. The clones of the player characters — the originals of both having died in the Stone-Like's penultimate onslaught — are the genesis of humanity.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne implies billions of parallel worlds have been created and destroyed over and over by the power of the Conception. If you get the True Demon ending though you break the cycle, which pisses off YHVH something fierce.
    • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, states outright that the Schwarzwelt has consumed sinful civilizations innumerable times, and humanity is simply experiencing its latest iteration. This is demonstrated when the crew of the Red Sprite finds evidence of those previous civilizations, different from our own but with the same failings. However, it subverts its predecessor's example by having the Chaos faction instigate and perpetuate the Schwarzwelt and the "punishment" of failed civilizations, while Lawful and Neutral paths seek to break the cycle (with vastly different motivations and results.)
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, this emerges from As Long as There Is Evil. As long as humans believe in God and pray to Him, YHVH will exist, while as long as humans cannot live without repressing their desires, Lucifer will return. This results in an endless cycle where every time God or Lucifer wins (a Law or Chaos ending), that victory will set up the seeds of the next battle, and a Neutral victory just kicks the can down the road. The White have a way out of this: destroy the entire universe and humanity, and the fight will be over forever. Though Dagda in Shin Megami Tensei IV has an alternative where new universe would take its place afterwards.
  • In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, every time the planetary fungus network grows large enough to reach the edge of becoming fully sentient, it causes an explosive fungal overgrowth that wreaks ecological havoc on the biosphere, killing off enough of the world's life that its progress towards sentience is set back by thousands of years. One way to win the game is by breaking the cycle, having your colonists use their preexisting sentience and technology to help guide it safely through this process.
  • In Sonic Unleashed, Chip is in fact Light Gaia, and his job is to recreate the world after Dark Gaia has finished destroying it.
  • In Soul Sacrifice Delta, Eternal Recurrence, or as it's known in the game, Eternal Recursion, is the central ideology in the Order of Grim in which the world has died and remade time and time again through the use of a magical chalice and one man's sacrifice to the chalice. Only one man and some words have lived through the death and rebirth cycle of Eternal Recursion. The nameless Sorcerer, who soon spreads the ideology of Eternal Recursion and the words "This is where your story beings." Ironically, It is the nameless sorcerer years later who breaks the cycle.
  • The Soul Series, known to most outsides as Soul Calibur since that's what every single sequel is named, proudly wears the tagline "Transcending history and the world, a tale of souls and swords, eternally retold..." And they mean it. Every single game (with the technical exception of the first) features the twin swords Soul Edge and Soul Calibur finding new hosts to beat the crap out of each other with. The canon ending is always Soul Edge getting sealed away until the next time it can break free and challenge Soul Calibur.
  • In Super Robot Wars W, one of the driving forces of the plot is that the peoples of the universe preceding the last Big Crunch sent various machines and technologies ahead to the present universe to keep a record of their existence.
  • The creation and destruction of Dark and Light Gaia in Terranigma. The two worlds exist in a cyclic existence where one world exists, the other is resurrected, the older one is destroyed, the new one lives on for an unknown period of time, the other one is resurrected again and the older one destroyed. Each world has its own The Chosen One, who is responsible for resurrecting the other world and destroying their own (and will therefore die along with their own world), and the protagonist Ark is the Dark Gaia version.
  • In Treasure of the Rudra, all life is annihilated every four thousand years so the Gods can reseed the world with a new dominant race. The current race is Humanity, and there are only sixteen days left before their time runs out. It turns out that all along, the Gods were hoping to create a race strong enough to break the cycle by killing them.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, the Big Bad has been orchestrating it like so: life grows from the Bionis, that life advances in technology enough to leave the Bionis, Zanza wakes up and summons the Telethia to wipe out all life on the Bionis, which eventually emerges again, and so on and so forth. Everything during the events of the game has been leading up to the conclusion of one of these cycles, but Shulk and his party are willing to put a stop to it.
  • This trope is revealed to be the plan of the Big Bad Wilhelm in the third entry of the Xenosaga trilogy. The Lower Domain of the universe is fated to collapse at a certain point in time, so his plan throughout the series is to manipulate events to initiate Eternal Recurrence to "reset" the universe, in order to stave off destruction. It's strongly implied that he's successfully done this many times prior to the events of the game. Post-game material suggests that his true goal was to delay destruction long enough for the human collective subconscious to evolve to the point that a true way to stop the collapse of the Lower Domain could be discovered. Incidentally, this makes Wilhelm fall more into the Necessarily Evil or Well-Intentioned Extremist category.

    Visual Novels 
  • The strange chronology of Norn9, most of which purports to be set in 1919 but features some highly advanced technology and other anachronisms, is eventually explained when the characters reach the destination of their journey and learn that their esper powers are intended to be used to "reset" human civilization if they judge it to have become too destructive. Aion, the AI governing this system, informs them that the Reset has been performed three times, the first of which occurred in AD 2060. Depending on the route, the cast may choose to complete a fourth (and final) Reset, choose not to perform the Reset, or have the choice taken out of their hands by the Reset becoming impossible before they have the chance to come to a decision.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, there was an ancient cycle of The Magic Goes Away and The Magic Comes Back intended to maintain the status quo of the accessibility of magic with a Masquerade. Tedd manages to break the cycle by convincing the Will of Magic that due to technological advances, maintaining the Masquerade by changing the magic system won't work anymore since knowledge travels too fast now.
  • In Godslave, the gods must die and be reborn every so often to ensure the End doesn't happen. Anpu used to be in charge of this, but after his pantheon rebelled, he was forced to stop and it's unsure now what the result was, is or will be.
  • Universes in Homestuck are eventually destroyed due to Lord English, but universes are also created constantly due to Skaia. This process of Sburb has no known beginning or end, though the sessions shown in the comic are instrumental to certain conditions perpetuating it. It is implied all universes and reality itself is merely the shape of another, higher being / force known only as Paradox Space, implicitly responsible for the setting's immutable fate.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: A major reveal of the comic is that the entire multiverse is consistently and repeatedly reset, thanks to the ongoing machinations of Old King Zoss and Metatron 1. While the exact nature and length of each cycle is unknown, the rule of each cycle seems to be that Zoss, looking for an heir who can fix the Multiverse after he broke it, selects a Chosen One to be his successor. That successor is given Zoss' Cosmic Keystone, the Master Key to all creation, and goes on The Hero's Journey with Zoss serving as The Mentor. Zoss is slain by 6 Juggernaut Star Scours the Cosmos, the Successor matures into The Hero, unites the planes, defeats the Big Bad Ensemble and meets with Metatron 1 in an attempt to take Zoss' place... At which point something happens that fails the cycle. Jagganoth appears, kills the Successor, and attempts to use the Master Key to end creation, at which point Zoss (who is a Non-Linear Character and cannot die) appears and resets reality, going back in time to find a new successor. No-one else knows exactly why this happens: There are only a handful of people even aware of it, and they are all Unreliable Narrators, working off of incomplete information, or have long since been driven insane by it.
  • The Order of the Stick: After the Snarl destroyed the world, the gods made another world to imprison it. And after that world was destroyed, the gods made another. And another. And another. And another...
  • In this strip of The Perry Bible Fellowship, a Retro Rocket hits a literal Reset Button floating in space, causing the universe to reset and repeat the same event after a few billion years of evolution.
  • This strip from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal combines it with Lensman Arms Race.
  • A major theme of the last arcs of Schlock Mercenary is how civilization in the Milky Way goes through regular cycles of this: New species arise from their homeworlds, discover FTL, begin exploring and settling the galaxy, discover other species, form a galactic community that co-exists for a while, eventually they grow too powerful, a trigger event spawns a galactic war that wipes out most of them, what few survivors are left either retreat to stellar habitats and remove all trace of themselves or flee the Milky Way in a Generation Ship to live in dark space. The current goal of The Fleetmind is to try to break this cycle, a problem not made any easier by their war with the Pa'anuri.
  • In Unicorn Jelly, both a select few of the human race fleeing the destructive "Stormfall" to colonize a new world and guide it towards being able to construct more arks when the stormfall catches up to them and the discovery of a weapon that creates such a "stormfall", which causes everything to turn into meteors through chain reaction, and crushes everything in the universe into a set of densely-packed orbs (which explains why only specific native species exist on every world plate) only for non-Jellese life to eventually return when the "hyperspace raindrops" phenomenon transports species from another cosmos once again—though the latter isn't apparent until the final arc of the strip.

    Web Original 
  • A prominent theory for the Slender Man story Everyman HYBRID is that the events of the story have happened before through some form of reincarnation. Over and over.
  • Despite The Foundation's best efforts, this seems to be the case with SCP-2000. The object is built to survive any apocalypse scenario and then rebuild human civilization exactly as it was before the apocalypse. However, it turns out that it has been used before - depending on interpretation, anywhere between seven and thirty-five times... minimum.
    • It gets better. SCP-3200 is the Boötes void, and the Foundation theorizes that it can function as a portal to alternate universes. They manage to send a team through, only for them to discover their own mission logs and destroyed spacecraft, as well as lookalike bodies.
      Captain Kuznetsov: Spacetime itself is rending itself apart and we're seeing echoes of every timeline in the past and future. Time is an ouroboros, devouring itself again and again, only to be reborn. I saw all of it. All of the times we tried to stop it in the past. All the times that I tried to stop it in the past. And the future. This happens again and again, until we get it right. Over and over again, we try and try to fix it. All times blend together until we reach singularity and all is lost. The tear opens more holes everywhere in reality, and the anomalies appear faster and faster, but containment is only delaying the inevitable. The inevitable cleansing of the slate. I saw all the timelines. And we haven't stopped it in any of them. Mater' Bozhya. We have seen into the abyss, and by God, it hates us.

    Western Animation 
  • In 12 oz. Mouse, it’s increasingly strongly implied that the city and characters are stuck in some kind of perpetually repeating series of events, possibly as part of a Lotus-Eater Machine. Some characters appear to retain their memories of all the loops, while others like Fritz don’t, hence the strange flashbacks and dreams he keeps having. The ending is ambiguous; either the heroes have broken the loop, or they’ve merely entered the next phase of it, or something else entirely.
  • In the Futurama "The Late Phillip J. Fry", Bender, Fry, and Farnsworth travel to the end of the universe in a forwards-only time machine, then witness a new Big Bang, allowing them to return to the year 3010. Then they go too far and have to "bring her around again" and witness another Big Bang. But this time the new universe is about ten feet lower than their old one.
  • In allusion to its Mesoamerican setting, Onyx Equinox demonstrates that the world has been created and destroyed by the gods multiple times, with Tezcatlipoca threatning and at the end starting another such process.
  • In the final season of Regular Show, it's revealed that Pops is an alien and a Physical God, and every 14 billion years the universe is reset during a battle between him and his Evil Twin. In the Series Finale, Pops manages to finally break the cycle by killing himself and his brother.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated has the Arc Words, "This has all happened before," and these words do come to pass when the secret of the Planospheric Disc is revealed to be that it keeps the Ultimate Evil sealed away in an alternate dimension, and every so often a team of four detectives and their Team Pet seeks the pieces out, with the animal always being the first to be corrupted by the promise of power and riches beyond their wildest dreams. The cycle is broken in the end, however, when the group finally manages to kill it.
    • The end of the series reveals that the cycle is part of an even bigger cycle the Ultimate Evil doesn't control, consisting of reality itself being re-written over and over again. In other words, the entire franchise is part of the same cycle.

    Real Life 
  • Many versions of the Real Life "Big Crunch" hypothesis of how the universe will end postulate that our own universe started with a Big Bang an indeterminate amount of time after a previous universe's Big Crunch. Other cosmological theories include:
    • That our cosmos is one of an unknown number of universes which emerge from an eternal quantum vacuum independently of each other.
    • That, since the Universe is accelerating its expansion, space will eventually expand so quickly that it will repeat the conditions of the Big Bang and start the whole thing all over again.
    • That what we call a void really isn't, but is filled with quantum energy, and particles that come and go in picoseconds. In untold trillions of years it will form conditions somewhere, which will produce another universe. When there's an infinity of time, even the utterly improbable will become a certainty.
    • One variant of the original theory above is a subversion, however, in that while there may be an unknown number of universes, it's a finite number. Meaning that even if one puts into account quantum theory, it all ends eventually.
    • According to the Poincaré recurrence theorem, any finite system will eventually return to its original state. This includes the universe, if it is finite; however, this will take 10^10^10^56 years, so an exceedingly long time.
  • One of the schisms from the Last Thursdayist religion believes that this happens every week.
  • Hegel famously said that everything in history happens twice. Karl Marx in "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" said that Hegel forgot to add: "the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce".
  • Earth's naturally occurring cycle of mass extinctions.
  • There's a hypothesis that suggests that intelligent life gets to a point where it eventually destroys itself, and that is why we never met any aliens yet - the races that are (or were) capable of advanced science are either extinct, or in a situation similar to us, looking into the sky and pondering if they are alone or not. Every time any intelligent extraterrestrial life got to a certain point, it ended up destroying itself before it left it's planet. Some who subscribe to this idea hope that Humans Are Special, and that we broke past that ceiling, or will break past it.

Alternative Title(s): Eternal Recurrance