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Forever War

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Crosshairs: Do you know the meaning of this war?
Pyro: Hmm?
Crosshairs: I mean, what's the point? It can't be for the land because everything is burned, bombed or polluted. It can't be for the money because there isn't anything left to spend it on. So what is it? Religion? Why do we fight?
Pyro: To win the war.
Crosshairs: Meh, works for me.

Two factions are fighting over... something. The original reason has either been completely forgotten or reduced to a historical footnote. They've been fighting for so long that no one can remember anything except the war. Sometimes, both sides will have an infinite supply of troops via some Applied Phlebotinum.

There are numerous reasons to have a Forever War, but in all cases the two sides cannot reconcile their differences for some reason. One side may exist simply to fight the other but despite their best efforts their foes remain indomitable. Perhaps one group simply enjoys fighting so much that they don't want to stop, or maybe there are political or economic advantages to constant warfare. Maybe it all started with a Silly Reason for War that has since become tragically serious. Though the most common reason would be that the two factions had a reason to fight long ago and at this point the concept of peace is simply foreign to their culture.

If by some miracle one side does manage to win it usually isn't portrayed as a good thing. Questions like "And Then What?" might come up — they've become so used to war that they don't know what they will do now that there is no longer someone to fight. A more common conclusion of hostilities, especially when the wacky heroes become involved, is them trying (and often succeeding) to Reconcile the Bitter Foes.

May overlap with Hopeless War. Could include I Will Fight Some More Forever. Due to the traditionally immortal nature of gods, this often overlaps with Divine Conflict. For the science fiction novel which is not the trope namer, see The Forever War. Contrast Curb-Stomp Battle.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Appleseed: It is implied that Deunan thought she was fighting one of these before being brought to Olympus.
    "You mean the war's been over?"
    "For years."
  • Armored Trooper VOTOMS uses this trope as there was a century old war between Gilgamesh and Balarant, provoked by the presence of the Overman who are effectively immortal beings with Chirico being the most notable one.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • A sort of one-sided example. While it's obvious why the humans are fighting the Titans (they don't want to be eaten), it's not clear what the Titans are, where they came from, or why they eat people — thus, their motives (if they're even intelligent enough to have any) are completely unknown, and so the struggle continues.
    • More of a straight example with the Marley vs. Eldia conflict. Both sides have been locked in a power struggle for at least 2000 years, and all the expansionist fascist Marley tells Eldians is that it's Eldia's fault for being the descendents of expansionist tyrants and that they're all paying for their ancestors' sins, whatever those are. Paradis Island has completely forgotten that it's even involved in this war, but that was intentional and the people of the walls have been indoctrinated and brainwashed to forget the war and the rest of the world.
    • Eren attempts to end the war in the most horrifying way possible; by murdering most of the world and enslaving the survivors on Paradis Island. His supporters believe this will make the world 'smaller and manageable', even if the war continues.
  • Claymore: The place the story sets in is revealed to be an experiment island to provide military power to one of the countries of the continent who have been at war for centuries if not a millennium.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet:
    • The interstellar war between the Galactic Alliance of Humanity and the Hideauze. The original cause and reason for the war is known only to top officials in the Galactic Alliance, and they have been fighting a Total War against the Hideauze for so long that many of them see "kill the Hideauze" as their sole reason for being. When one soldier is questioned as to what he'd do if they ever won the war, he's completely at a loss. As for the Hideauze, we never see the war from their perspective, so it's unknown if they have a similar outlook on it, but the fact that they've never attempted peace (as far as we know) says something.
    • Ledo, a Galactic Alliance soldier who is separated from his fleet when they were escaping the Curb-Stomp Battle being dished out by the Hideauze in the first episode, eventually finds out that there are Hideauze living in Earth's oceans. He's determined to wipe them out at all costs and ends up abandoning a lot of his friends on Gargantia to do battle with them. Then finds out a shocking revelation in an Apocalyptic Log about his foe in episode 9. It turns out that the Hideauze were genetically modified humans, who were originally known as the Evolvers, and wanted to modify humans to survive in space to escape an increasingly freezing and hostile to humans Earth. Meanwhile, the precursor to the Galactic Alliance, the Continental Union, wanted to go into space too, but they wanted humans to stay humans. Both groups were fundamentally opposed to each other, and in space, turned into the Forever War that Ledo was taught about. Meanwhile back on Earth, all the ice seems to have melted away, and the humans remaining there forgot about the Evolvers, and the Earth Hideauze gradually morphed into the "whale-squid" that humans revere and try to leave alone. He doesn't take this revelation too well, as it contradicts everything he had been taught and trained for all of his life.
  • Gundam is something of a meta example. There are over a dozen TV series in it already, and every one is built entirely around a war in different settings and characters. You'd think that the entire Gundam metaverse is in the state of perpetual war (especially true for the Universal Century, where many of the wars are explicit continuations of previous ones). To go even further, the series almost always (with a couple notable exceptions such as Gundam 00) compounds the reality that no matter how many times the heroes win the war, another will come eventually as if war is tied to humanity's existence.
    • Gundam AGE has the longest-running continuous war in Gundam: when it finally ends, it has been over 75 years since the start, encompassing a full three generations of protagonists.
    • ∀ Gundam meanwhile implies that the Dark History i.e. ALL Gundam works made up till that point was for the most part the same war between Earth and Spacenoids happening over and over. The only real difference being the names of the sides fighting.
  • The theoretical goal of the Last Battalion in Hellsing.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The Long War between the Alliance of Free Planets and the Galactic Empire is centuries old, and much older than any cast member alive at the beginning of the series, going on for exactly 158 years, nine months and 21 days before it ended (and it would have continued had one Imperial officer not acted on her own or another arrived at the right place just a little later). It's explained that it's spent a lot of that time being a cold war in stalemate, mostly involving border skirmishes, and the only reason it is really still going is because the Terraist Church are intentionally fanning the flames of war to advance their own agenda which requires the destruction of both sides. The only people who remember the reason of the war (workers fleeing an at-the-time oppressive state and refusing to come back) are historians.
  • Brogy and Dorry, two giants on the One Piece island of Little Garden, have been fighting one another for one hundred years when the Straw Hats meet them. They casually admit to having forgotten the original reason (which of their hunted prey was bigger) and fight purely for the sake of honor.
  • Sailor Moon has the Sailor Wars:
    • In the manga, they are an ongoing conflict between Sailor Senshi from all across the galaxy and the ultimate evil force, Chaos, which have ravaged countless planets. At some point, the Wars become even messier when, manipulated by Chaos, Sailor Galaxia joins in and goes about either single-handedly destroying planets, or turning Sailor Soldiers against one another. The reason? Galaxia wants to prove she's the strongest Senshi in the Universe, Chaos is an Omnicidal Maniac. It's later revealed that each previous Big Bad faced by Sailor Moon was an incarnation of Chaos too, so Sailor Moon's battles were part of the Sailor Wars all along.
      • Ultimately, the war comes to a truce but is not won. Sailor Moon could destroy Chaos for good by also destroying the Galaxy Cauldron, but that would mean no new star could ever be born again. She refuses such a bleak ending and manages to dispel Chaos, but it's only temporary. This leaves open the possibility that a Bad Future foreshdowed by Sailor Chosmos will come true: Chaos itself will raise as a Sailor Senshi and the war will be so violent and destructive that there will be no hope of ever restoring what was lost, making it a truly Forever War.
    • In the 90s anime, the Sailor Wars happened millennia ago when countless Sailor Senshi united to try and defeat Chaos. That proved impossible, so the legendary Sailor Galaxia resorted to seal it within her body. In time, Chaos started corrupting her, until she was taken over and ejected her own Star Seed as the Light of Hope, to search for a host that could wield its power and defeat Chaos. The Wars start again once Galaxia goes on a rampage, destroying planet after planet to add Sailor Senshi's Star Seeds to her collection and increase her power, enslaving formerly good Senshi and turning them into her minions, until she comes to Earth and makes sure that each of the Senshi's Star Seed is ripe for taking before making her big move.
      • The ending of the anime and the fate of the Wars is still open but less ambiguous than the manga: after a harsh battle, Sailor Moon manages to free Galaxia from Chaos' control. Chaos is dispelled throughout the universe, each person carrying a little piece of it in their heart. Galaxia departs to bring all the Star Seeds to their respective homes and rebuild them, while it's implied that Chaos won't be a threat, and the Wars won't resume, as long as everybody in the universe counters its pull with love and friendship. The unspoken problem with this plan is that not everybody has a heart filled with love and friendship. Thus, with Chaos being divided among all people in the universe, keeping it sealed would at a minimum require good people to outnumber evil ones. So whether Sailor Moon's solution will work depends on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism...which fortunately this series is on the more idealistic side of.
    • Not directly related to the Sailor Wars is the conflict between the twin home planets of Sailor Lethe and Mnemosyne in the manga: the dirt-poor planets have been at war with each other since time immemorial, with the ensuing chaos spiralling out of control. The two Senshi voluntarily joined Shadow Galactica in hopes that Galaxia could bring peace at last. For some reason, they blame Sailor Moon's Silver Crystal for the war in their home planets.
  • Saint Seiya: The war between Athena and other Gods, especially Hades have been going for aeons. Just recently the war with Hades is permanently end but as the manga still continue there are other Gods and war the main characters have to face.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What? the humans and demons of the isekai world have been engaged in a centuries-long conflict that varies between hot and cold wars. The conflict started when humans began persecuting demons after the collapse of the ancient civilization due to their misuse of MA energy. The demons eventually banded together and founded their own nation for protection and war soon followed. The most recent hot war has left all of the nations on the verge of collapse and they have been trying to rebuild during the current cold war until Ariel starts a new war.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech: Knowing nothing but war and aggression, most Zentraedi did not realize that there was another way of life. They've been fighting the same war, against the same enemy, for at least 20,000 years (and likely much longer than that) when the series begins.
    • The Invid of Robotech are aware of the cause of their war, but have lost their identity; their entire society is now reorganized for the sole purpose of revenge.

    Comic Books 
  • Birthright: The war on Terrenos against God-King Lore has been going for a long time. So long in fact, that the five greatest heroes of the resistance cross the Despair Event Horizon and abandon their world because the war dragged for too long and no progress in defeating him is being made. Its revealed that even Lore himself laments how long this conflict has been going on too, having grown tired of fighting but is unwilling to quit since its implied he holds off something even worse at bay.
  • In Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars!, or at least the more famous Animated Adaptation, KOMPLEX conquered and brainwashed the toads a century ago, and they've been waging war on the rest of the Aniverse every since. Small potatoes compared to some of the other entries here, but still a really long time to be at continuous war.
  • DIE has the war between Eternal Prussia and Little England. It has been grinding on for generations, and has been a bloody stalemate for just as long, with neither side willing to give up. The party ends up breaking this stalemate by destroying Glass Town to spite Sol, allowing the territory to fall into Eternal Prussia's hands. This pisses off Little England, but not because of the edge being given to their enemies — it's because to them, maintaining the stalemate was the entire point; H. G. Wells, the Master of Little England, believed that the stalemate was delaying Die's plans.
  • Surprisingly enough, Disney Ducks Comic Universe stories from Italy provide various examples, with most coming from Paperinik New Adventures:
  • The Kherubim/Deamonite War in Image Comics has already lasted millions of years. Earth was a minor backwater of this war that lost contact, and the war kept going. When both sides finally re-established contact, they discover that the war had ended thousands of years ago but no-one told them. So they decided "to heck with them" and went on fighting anyway.
  • In The Last West, the US failed to develop a working atomic bomb in 1945, and thus the war in the Pacific never ended. Sixty years later, the US is still fighting against the Japanese.
  • In the Marvel Universe, two galaxy-level empires, The Kree and The Skrull, have been at war for approximately one million years. While the cause is known — The Skrulls offered to share their technology with the Kree if they passed a test, but when they failed (and compounded their failure by killing the Cotati, the pacifist Plant Aliens who had passed the test), the Kree killed the Skrull envoys and stole the technology anyway — it doesn't matter anymore. Both races just wish the other dead, and in at least the Skrulls' case, their warlike tendencies have become hereditary (as in, in their genes). The rivalry was first established in The Kree/Skrull War. The Kree fight because they are Space Nazis who kill anyone non-Kree for "polluting the gene pool" (despite the fact the Kree themselves are canonically established as being a genetic dead end).
    • This rivalry extends to the Ultimate Marvel universe, but between the Kree and the Chitauri. The Chitauri and their unnamed enemies were first mentioned in The Ultimates, and the Kree appear in The Ultimate Galactus Trilogy; it wasn't until Hunger that the rivalry was confirmed. The Skrulls also exist in that universe, unrelated to the Chitauri, but the less we get into the Ultimate Skrull/Chitauri relation, the better.
    • The 2020 event Empyre establishes that the Kree/Skrull War is so massive and long-lasting it's actually become a major cornerstone in the universal economy, to the point that when the two sides actually make peace, it results in a galaxy-spanning financial crisis. One bright spark comes up with an idea to "fix" the upset by genetically engineering two Child Soldiers, one Kree and one Skrull, each imbued with the Genetic Memory of their race's entire history of war, and forcing them to fight endless gladiatorial bouts as a proxy for the war that people can bet on. It actually works. At least, until the Fantastic Four arrive and take offense to the idea.
  • In the MAX imprint of Marvel Comics, it is shown that The Punisher made a deal with...something during the Vietnam War, an entity which promised him exactly what he so desperately wanted: the ability to wage a never ending war (against organized crime).
  • The endless was between Apokolips and New Genesis from the DC Universe has been going on since the beginning of time, and everyone seemed surprised when it abruptly ended. That said, there have been occasional breaks in the fighting, the most notable being when Darkseid and Highfather gave each other their sons to ensure a truce, but it never keeps.
  • Rogue Trooper — in the Rogue continuity, the conflict on Nu Earth had a definite cause: the planet was situated next to a strategic wormhole, and the planet which controlled it would control the galaxy. In the Friday reboot, however, no particular cause was given, to further drive home the fact that that war sucks.
  • ROM (IDW) revolves around a centuries long conflict between the Space Knights, defenders of the Solstar Order, and the Dire Wraiths, an army of dark wizards who seek to assimilate all life. Rom eventually realizes, to his horror, that the higher ranking Space Knights seem to be actively prolonging the war. They've became so obsessed with fighting the Wraiths that they've stopped caring about saving people; they now only seek to continue fighting and don't care how many have to suffer for it.
  • The setting of Saga is a Galaxy where the war between the planet Landfall and its moon Wreath has been ongoing for enough generations that few know or care why it started. Unfortunately the war has long been outsourced due to how the destruction of one homeworld will wreck the other, so large swaths of known space has been dragged in as well.
  • The Silver Surfer: Requiem story includes an issue with two planets at war. Even before they invented space travel the two planets could communicate by radio. They spent generations building up their arsenals in anticipation of the invention of space travel that would allow them to wage war.
  • Tales of the Jedi: The Beast Wars of Onderon raged for over 400 years between the inhabitants of the walled city of Iziz and the Beast Riders, the descendants of exiled criminals that managed to tame the native monsters as their weapons. In reality, the rulers of Iziz were revealed to be Sith worshippers, and the war was brought to an end when the Jedi intervened and helped bring down the corrupt rulers of Ondeorn.
  • The title of the unpublished Story Arc in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.
  • The Transformers (IDW): The entire franchise is based on the war carrying out. In "Chaos Theory," Megatron and Prime discuss the war, which had originally started over an unfair class system, and brutal inequality that the Decepticons were against. At this point in the present, Megatron reveals that he doesn't care about the reasons they fight and merely says that he will kill the last Autobot and anyone in his way, not only to achieve his goal, but because he'd like it.
  • Transformers: Last Bot Standing shows the reader what would happen if the fight between the Autobots, Decepticons, and even the Maximals and Predacons never stopped. The Transformers are stuck in a cycle of death and rebirth as they fight each other, draining planets and stars for their resources to fuel their neverending war, leaving countless civilizations and races dead and gone. Almost all stars in space have gone out, along with any other planet caught in the war. The surviving Cybertronians don't want to fight anymore and resort to converting whatever is suitable for energy as Energon is long since gone.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise and The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye explores the Transformers coming to terms with the fact that yes, their Forever War is over. While the former delves into the political fallout, issue #7 of the latter introduces the Scavengers, a group of ragtag Decepticons utterly baffled by the idea. The war has gone on for as long as they can remember, and they can't really grasp the reality of it ending. They also have absolutely no clue what to do about it. Eventually they decide to just say screw it, head back to Cybertron, and hope for the best when they get there.
    Fulcrum: "But there's always been a war! That's like saying there's no more blue or—or the weather's stopped!"
    • The Transformers: Windblade, meanwhile, is about an outsider who was never part of the war coming to a Cybertron that's still deeply scarred by it.
  • In Valiant Comics, the Harbinger Wars last from the 21st to the 30th Century. Since the instigator has powerful psionic abilities and is able to jump from body to body to keep from dying the wars just keep going until an even stronger psionic arises and is able to finally defeat the enemy leader.
  • It's repeatedly mentioned in the Voltron comics by Dynamite Entertainment that the war between Arus and the Drule Empire has been going on for so long that nearly everyone has forgotten why or when it started, or that a mysterious third party is somehow involved in it.
  • Deff Skwadron, a Warhammer 40,000 comic, centers around two Ork Waaaaghs! fighting each other pretty much forever, and that's just how they like it — they make it a point of holding back when they're about to defeat their foes to ensure they won't find themselves without someone to fight.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The two factions on the planet of Hator have been at war for all of their recored history. The war only came to a close when one side blew up the planet and killed everyone.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Bad Future Crusaders played with this with Sonhos Vale, the country where Apple Bloom grew up after fleeing Equestria. The east populated by zebras and gryphons, and the west populated by ponies, have hated each other for so long that neither side even remembers why or who started it, but when the west actually decided to fight with medieval-type weapons and armor, the east with early World War I era technology like firearms, vehicles, and even tanks and early fighter aircraft kicked the living crap out of the west in very short order.
  • In Child of the Storm, the 'War for the Dawn' between Surtur and the Alliance of Realms is implied to have been this, being explicitly compared to the Last Great Time War, destroying an entire galaxy before it was ended — and that ending, with the foundation of Yggdrasil and the Nine Realms, technically only put it on pause, since Surtur has managed to partially break free on several occasions since, during the last million years, restarting the war.
  • This is Yukari final plan in Diamond in the Rough (Touhou): she says that Gensokyo has become complacent with outsiders, and not only outsiders but its own residents as well. She is concerned because most youkai gain their powers from human fear and if the humans don't fear youkai anymore, they start to lose their powers and fade away, and thus Gensokyo's existence may come to an end. Thus, she's been bringing selfish outsiders to create a state of perpetual war between youkai and humans and thus prolonging Gensokyo's lifespan. This is her "Paradise". Ultimately she doesn't succeed fully due to Brolli dying not in the circumstances she expected; however she still gets away.
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Hermes tells Empath that what Ares wants is eternal war and slavery.
  • In Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls, Soul Society, Hueco Mundo and the Vandenreich have been stuck in a three-way deadlock for centuries, no side able to get a definite advantage on the others as they've built up their forces and abilities while performing probing attacks against each other. This is at least in part intentional on the end of the Zero Division, who want the war to keep going in order to prevent the factions from possibly teaming up and interfering with their own plans for the world. The faction leaders (Captain Commander Scorpan, Hollow King Tirek, and Quincy King Sombra) believe that Sunset, the Humane Five, and Twilight developing their spiritual powers and the influx of magic from Equestria coupled with Human Starlight Glimmer's own plans against the celestial hierarchy to stop the Zero Division's plans have finally signaled the turning point for the war to heat up to a decisive conclusion, with all sides gearing up for the coming storm.
  • In the Doctor Who fanfic The Last Great Time War, the Time War rages literally forever in linear time because it is fought throughout all history and at the meta levels of reality. Many of the battles themselves are time looped and repeat endlessly.
  • Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race: Mega Man worries that the war with Wily will never end.
  • The Night Unfurls: Turns out that something like this has been going on for centuries between Celestine and Olga, who used to be close friends with each other. As for why it started in the first place, both of them had come to blows over the fate of humanity. Olga, with a firm belief that Humans Are Bastards, wanted vengeance against humanity for their Fantastic Racism against Dark Elves, as well as the subsequent development of the Dark Elf slave trade. Celestine, on the other hand, believes that there was still some good among humanity, so she desperately made efforts in talking her down. They both tried to make peace with each other, but the continued enslavement of the Dark Elves drove Olga to declare war, and Celestine was forced to raise arms against her. In the end, the centuries-old war came to a close when a Bad Moon Rising weakens Olga's Black Magic, in addition to Kyril coming to the picture. As a result, the Black Fortress is open for an attack that lead to Olga's defeat.
  • In Rebirth, the entire world is still currently in the middle of the clan wars. The only place that seems not to be affected is Naruto's home village, but that changes rather quickly.
  • In chapter seven of Sixes and Sevens, Michael thinks about how the post-war will be just as bad because as soon as the Axis is defeated, the Allied forces are likely to turn on each other and start fighting over what's left.
    When the war is over, if he survives the serum, they'll still put him, and men like him, to use. He sees it now, the map with all the battle lines drawn, where all the points of friction are. They're the borders that cross Africa and Asia, drawn in London and Paris by men who'd never seen those places. The current alliance is temporary and there will be a fight for the spoils of war should they win. It's happened before, and it will happen again.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos. The Demon Empire and Angel Federation have been at war for five hundred trillion years, driven by the Divine Conflict between Maledict and Allysion. Most of it is on-and-off however, since both sides constantly fight each other to stalemate and are forced into long periods of cold war to recover. The background also implies that if they ever made peace, the Angel coalition would immediately and violently collapse to internal religious conflicts.
    • Also played with in-universe; while the Metarex War did last for thirty years, Tsali and the Metarex expected it to keep going for centuries if not millennia. Its rather sudden ending in the last episode leaves both sides completely lost.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Memories segment "Cannon Fodder" is set in a walled city perpetually at war, with everyone's lives and livelihood depending upon maintaining and firing the enormous cannons that make up most of the city. Nearly every building in the city is equipped with a cannon of varying size, able to fire huge artillery shells over the city walls. Though the story is centered around a young boy and his father, who works as a lowly cannon-loader, the short is dedicated to the lives of the anonymous citizens of the city who slave to fuel and maintain this parody of the 20th-century war machine. All of the shells land in the desert surrounding the city; there is no enemy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The rivalry between the Yanamono and the Shamatari tribes in Cannibal Holocaust.
  • The mostly forgotten 2000 movie For The Cause takes place on a colony world where the two main cities have been fighting for so long that both have been reduced to utter ruin, and the most advanced weapons they started with in common use have been Lost Technology for generations. They started with nukes and holographic Magic from Technology weapons of which only a few users now exist, in the previous generation they both ran out of planes, and in the current plot one side has a decisive advantage because they still have a tank (but not enough fuel to use it for anything but defense).
  • A smaller-scale version is depicted towards the end of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, when Blondie and Tuco reach a bridge caught in the crossfire between Union and Confederate forces. Both sides have orders to secure the bridge, but every fight just ends with lots of bloodshed and neither side accomplishing much of anything. Our "heroes" (if you can call them that) finally end the battle by destroying the bridge so they no longer have a reason to be fighting in the area.
  • The pointless feuds between the various hillbilly clans in Header.
  • Invoked in the Metal Gear Fan Film Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy:
    Pierre LeClerc: Just like Vitalij said it would be, a war fought for so long, no one remembers why it started.
    Solid Snake: What's sad is that each time people think it'll be the last one, the decisive one.
  • Screamers: The two sides have all but obliterated each other and forgot to tell the characters in the movie. Made even worse by the fact that the general they've been receiving orders from back on Earth is already dead.
  • Star Wars is called Star Wars for a reason:
    • How long have the Jedi and Sith been going at it? Due to the supernatural elements, the war has been raging since before either group actually existed. And it will almost certainly continue, what with the Jedi being the representatives of the Sentient Cosmic Force and the Sith being the embodiment of The Dark Side who follow a Religion of Evil.
      • The New Sith Wars, specifically, lasted at least a thousand years. Whoever was there to see it start wasn't there when it ended. A family could have participated in that war for roughly fifty generations if they were in it from start to finish. Even exceptionally long-lived aliens like Hutts and Yoda's unnamed species would've been unlikely to live long enough to see the entirety of the war. More accurately it was a series of wars initiated by a renegade Jedi Master who declared himself a Sith Lord (Darth Ruin) and waged war on the Republic, and when he was assassinated by his followers a succession of other Sith with their own agendas rose and fell over the centuries to terrorize the galaxy, gradually de-stablising the Republic until the war climaxed with the destruction of the Brotherhood of Darkness — a cult that united various Sith Lords under yet another fallen Jedi Master (Lord Kaan) — by the Sith Lord Darth Bane, who decided that the Sith should operate in the shadows from hereon in, and as it was Bane's order that Palaptine belonged to when he destroyed the Jedi and took over the galaxy one could argue that even the millennia of peace that followed the New Sith Wars was just a lull in the fighting as the Sith changed strategy rather than a true end to the conflict.
    • Even after Palpatine and Vader's deaths, the Empire and its successor state the First Order keep on fighting the New Republic for decades. While the Sith did not create the First Order (or at least they didn't when The Force Awakens came out), the Sith are not the only adherents of The Dark Side.
      Rey: What fight?
      Maz Kanata: The only fight! Against the dark side. Through the ages, I've seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order.
  • It's implied at the end of Vantage Point that this trope is the reason Agent Taylor went rogue.

  • In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, Huck gets caught up in a feud between the Grangerford and Sheperdson families. This is a new concept to him. His friend Buck Grangerford explains: "Well," says Buck, "a feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man's brother kills HIM; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the COUSINS chip in — and by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more feud. But it's kind of slow, and takes a long time." "Has this one been going on long, Buck?" "Well, I should RECKON! It started thirty year ago, or som'ers along there. There was trouble 'bout something, and then a lawsuit to settle it; and the suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot the man that won the suit — which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would." "What was the trouble about, Buck?—land?" "I reckon maybe — I don't know." "Well, who done the shooting? Was it a Grangerford or a Shepherdson?" "Laws, how do I know? It was so long ago." "Don't anybody know?" "Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old people; but they don't know now what the row was about in the first place." Subverted in the most horrific way possible when the Grangerfords and Sheperdsons renew hostilities after Buck's sister runs off with one of the Sheperdson boys. The Sheperdsons slaughter the Grangerfords in one terrible night, including Buck in the end.
  • The world of Avesta of Black and White is one where everyone is born as either Good or Evil and with the two sides being incapable of ever reconciling. As such the whole setting is plagued by non stop warfare with no side really winning. And to make matters worse, should one side "win" then the entire universe will undergo Tentsui with the winners shifting sides while a new group takes their former place, eternally perpetuating the war.
  • The Canaanite wars in The Bible. King David finally secured control of Jerusalem seven years into his reign, solidifying Israelite control over the land of Canaan, except for the Gaza Strip, which remained under Philistine control. David was the great-great-grandson of an Israelite soldier who fought in the first battle of that war, the Battle of Jericho.
  • Bolo: The genocidal "Final War" between the Concordiat of Man and the Melconian Empire didn't end so much as peter out. After all was said and done, both sides ceased to exist as political entities, and what few surviving outposts of civilization remained either made peace with their neighbors or got exterminated by said neighbors.
  • In The Bridge Kingdom Archives general Zarrah Anaphora of Valcotta describes the war between the kingdoms of Valcotta and Maridrina as such. And neither side wants to give up.
    Zarrah: "For nearly five years I've been on the front lines of the war with Maridrina, watching as we fought and killed over the same pile of rubble, the same ten miles of coastline. Back and forth with no end in sight. And why should there be an end, when we've been fighting this same war for hundreds of years? No one even knows what it's like not to be at war."
  • Fritz Leiber wrote a series of novellas and short stories about the Change War, a war of time travellers between "the Spiders" and "the Snakes". The two sides span galaxies and species as well as ages, and no one, at least no one the reader meets, knows what the war is about. Both sides are trying to redesign the history of the universe, but no one knows to what end, nor does the war appear to even have a history.
  • Codex Alera has the war between Alera and the Icemen. In contrast to the conflicts between Alerans and the Marat and the Canim (which are only intermittent and have a definite purpose of gaining territory, slaves or vengeance for a particular incident) the war with the Icemen has been continuous for generations, with nothing whatsoever gained by either side. The destructive pointlessness of this war for both sides means that Isana of Alera and Sunset of the Icemen are both cautiously eager to broker a ceasefire, but unfortunately the war has caused so much resentment and prejudice on both sides that the other Alerans actively try to sabotage any resolution, on the grounds that the other side are monsters and cannot possibly be reasoned with. Efforts to point out that nobody has actually tried to negotiate fall on deaf ears until Isana provokes the Aleran general into nearly killing her in a duel (where both sides can see the result and understand her commitment to the cause) and uses his own shock and guilt to break through his prejudice enough to talk with Sunset, who uses the duel to convince the Icemen that not all Alerans are hopeless killers.
    • The closest thing the war actually has to a cause seems to be the interaction between Aleran fire-magic (which the soldiers used constantly to stay warm) and the water-magic-based telepathy of the Icemen. Using these in close proximity to each other sets up a resonance that makes both parties grouchy and uncomfortable. Since this happens every time Alerans and Icemen are in proximity, a tense first meeting quickly turned into the above Forever War.
  • The war between the Confederation and the Others (who call themselves the Primacy) in the Confederation of Valor series has been going on for a couple hundred years by the time of book one. It turns out in book four that a faction of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens has been manipulating things from the sidelines to keep the war, a giant sociology experiment, from ending.
  • Danjon No Maou Wa Saijaku has one as the backdrop. Humans and the "demon" races have been fighting, killing and enslaving each other for so long nobody knows when it started or why, and the grudges are too far entrenched for either side to lay down their arms and enter peace talks. "God" has grown sick of it and brought in the protagonist, dropped him and his dungeon right in the middle of the land bridge the armies would need to stop and charged him with building a blockade to make further fighting impossible. So far, Amdusias is doing a pretty damn good job at his assigned task, bringing the hope for peace for the first, possibly ever.
  • Subverted in Philip K. Dick's short story "The Defenders": When nuclear war breaks out between the USA and the USSR, everyone on both sides goes into huge bunkers deep under ground and set robots to wage the war on their behalf. At the time of the story, no one has been above ground for eight years. In reality, the robots ended the war as soon as all of the people were underground; all of the reports, photographs, and so forth that show the war's progress have been faked. The robots are waiting until the people are so tired of the war that they are willing to form one world government; in the meantime, they have repaired all of the cities and are keeping them in perfect condition.
  • Discworld:
    • The war between Tsort and Ephebe. No one can remember what caused it, and it only ever lets up when the thin country of Djelibeybi exists between them. Many notable wooden animals are used. Fitting its Troy parody nature, the cause is suggested to involve a beautiful (though not so much after twelve kids) lady and upset gods.
    • The Battle(s) of Koom Valley, a recurring set of conflicts where dwarfs and trolls would wallop the hell out of each other, largely for reasons of tradition. The source of the conflict (your standard tragic miscommunication with a twist or two) was finally revealed in Thud!
      • The History Monks didn't make it any better when they used it to patch a bunch of holes the first time the timeline was destroyed.
    • This is central to the events in Monstrous Regiment — while the specific war (bonus points because it was a religious war, ordered by a Small God who has since been voted off the pantheon) in the book has a known cause and beginning, Borogravia has been at war with at least and often several neighbours for much of their history, to the point that it's the central theme of their national anthem and the only really functioning governmental institution is the army.
  • The Dragonriders of Pern present an interesting twist. Millennia have passed and the only real constant for the residents of Pern over that time has become that the Red Star will bring death from the sky. The thing is, it's only a war for one side — the "enemy" is a nearly non-living fungoid that literally just falls from the sky when the orbital mechanics are wrong. It could still wipe out most life on the planet if left unchecked.
  • Elianto: the parallel world of Neikos is stuck in both Medieval Stasis and this: the two main factions are the manly but bath-hating Oroni of the Triperott clan against the refined and dandy Argentoni of the Siperquater family: any dimensional travelere who happens to overstay his welcome is promptly hired by force. Even the bards can't finish singing an ode to a hero of one of the two factions without being insulted by a rival and start yet another duel. When questioned about the reason of the war, both parties blames the other for the "Ultimate Offense" happened centuries before... but neither actually remembers what the Offense was about. Appropriately, Neikos is the greek for "Hatred".
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Feeling of Power": Earth and Deneb are stuck in a stalemate because their computers are equal in computing ability. They precisely counter one another. The idea of using graphitics to control manned missiles might be enough to break the stalemate and defeat their enemy. Asimov doesn't bother to specify if the Denebian civilization is human or alien, since all that matters is they are equal in technology to Earth's civilization.
  • Joe Haldeman's The Forever War: Interstellar distances and miscommunications leads to thousands of years of warfare even more pointless than usual. Due to the Time Dilation caused by relativistic travel, William Mandella (the narrator) survives the entire war, despite it lasting approximately 1143 years and Mandella going on fewer than half a dozen patrols.
  • One exists between Amika and Belleger in The Great God's War. It supposedly started when the King of Amika murdered the woman who chose to marry his brother the King of Belleger instead of him, but at this point no one is even sure anymore, or much cares. The Bellegerins have actually tried to parlay for peace several times, but the Amikans consistently execute any Bellegerin envoy who shows up in their lands and get back to preparing for the next invasion.
  • In Gulliver's Travels Lilliput and Blefuscu have been fighting so long that they barely remember that it started over how to eat a boiled egg (Big Endians versus Little Endians). One film adaptation changed it to how they eat spaghetti: Blefuscu likes sauce while Liliput likes them plain.
  • In Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, the shapeshifting Avians and Serpiente have been entangled in a war that spanned over generations and has simply devolved into endless bloodshed. Turns out, it was all engineered this way by the Falcons because the Serpiente originally contained and wielded the full power of a particular deity, Anhamirak. When the person acting as balancer for Anhamirak's powers fled, the Serpiente powers turned wild and destructive. The Falcons then split the Serpiente leader's power in half and gave the second half to a little girl, whom they turned into a hawk and thus created the Avians. Then both the Serpiente and Avian queens were assassinated with both sides blaming the other. Et voila, endless war that keeps both sides and their powers very separate.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this happens due to Science Marches On within the story. Old slower-than-light ships are mentioned perpetually showing up and attacking their enemies centuries after the war is over and totally forgotten. And when Time Travel was invented, things got worse. Battles started happening before the issues the war was will be about even arose. Will arise. Whatever.
  • John Carter of Mars: The Holy Therns and the First-Born have been locked in conflict for thousands of years in The Gods of Mars, with the latter frequently raiding the former's domains to capture their women as slaves. The Therns can do nothing but drive them off and abandon any girl they take to her fate, since previous attempts at rescue led to the First-Born nearly wiping them out in retribution. Turns out that the war is a farce. The Therns had been always at the First-Born's mercy, being used as both livestock and puppets to control the rest of Mars' population. The war is brought to an end when John Carter ousts the mastermind behind it all, the First-Born queen who posed as a goddess and tricked everyone else.
  • Just Ella features the war between Ella's country and the neighboring kingdom of Suala, which has been raging for at least as long as the protagonist has been alive. It's ostensibly a border dispute, but it seems more like it's continuing simply because the rulers can't be arsed to try diplomacy. The book ends with a letter from Ella's contact at court, who is hopeful he'll be able to end the war by impressing upon the King what a drain on the treasury it is. ("They don't care about lives, of course.")
  • Known Space: Pak society is stuck in an eternal state of war. Protectors are pathologically unable to cooperate with, or even passively tolerate, anyone other than their descendants and immediate relatives; as such, Pak families and tribes war endlessly as their protectors seek to exterminate all other Pak and secure space and resources for their descendants. Even if one tribe were to succeed, peace would last only until enough breeders have been born, bred, eaten the tree-of-life and transformed for the new protectors to view each other as too distant to be kin, restarting the cycle all over again.
  • The Legends of Ethshar: This acts as a major background feature. The Misenchanted Sword takes place in the final years of the Great War between the Northern Empire and Old Ethshar. By the time of the novel, Old Ethshar had collapsed due to internal strife, but the massive army and supporting staff fielded against the Northerners had become a self-supporting nation by that point.
  • Life On Urth: There are two factions who have been fighting for years over that fact that somebody once ate an appetiser that someone else wanted. After this went on for a few years, the soldiers' wives decided that the men should only have to fight from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, and also get a lunch break. During the book, one of the protagonists ends the war by pointing out how silly the entire thing is. A little later, the guy stalking them gets the war started again when he explains how the entire country's economy was devoted to war, and without the fighting, everybody is going to be unemployed and stuck with unfarmable land.
  • The Lost Fleet: The war has been going on for over a hundred years between the evenly matched Alliance and Syndicate Worlds. Both governments swear up and down that the other side attacked first, nobody really knows what the side that started the war hoped to gain in the first place (they knew they were too evenly matched for the outcome to be anything but a stalemate), and despite a literal century of all-out war and countless millions of lives lost there seems to be absolutely nobody on either side willing to consider suing for peace. There's more at work than the sunk-costs fallacy and stubborn pride, however: It eventually transpires that a third-party was playing both ends against the middle behind the scenes to keep the war going until one side or the other collapsed, at which point they would roll right over whoever was left. It's only thanks to being stranded behind enemy lines and embarking on a months-long fighting retreat that enables the protagonist and his allies stumble upon the clues that let them piece together what's really going on and finally put an end to the war. The sequel series Beyond the Frontier spends much of the plot addressing the question of what everyone is supposed to do now, when an entire generation has lived and died never knowing a time when they weren't at war.
  • The Lotus War: The war with the gaijan in Stormdancer, the first book, has lasted for twenty years, and it's apparently stalemated.
  • Metaltown: The war between the Northern Federation and the East has been going on for forty years or more, with no signs of stopping.
  • Raising the Past, by Jeremy Robinson — later incorporated into his Nemesis Saga — features one between two alien races, the Aeros and the Ferox — which has been going on for millions of years. Somewhat of a variation, as both sides do distinctly remember why it started and why it's continued: both species evolved from the same common ancestor, only for the Aeros to develop the beliefs that not only should the masses be ruled by a select few, but that they're a Master Race who should be that select few, so they enslaved the Ferox and countless other races across the universe. The Ferox ultimately rebelled, and have since been leading other races in fighting back against the Aeros. What's happening on Earth is just one proxy conflict like numerous others that have played out across the universe, with the same pattern: the Ferox spend a few millennia socially and genetically manipulating sentient races to develop both a belief in individual freedom and the skills and technology to fight for it, so that when the war is revealed to them they'll choose to fight the Aeros, while the Aeros use the Gestorumque to crush resistance and eliminate all traces of Ferox tampering. By the time of the fourth book in the Saga, the war has come to Earth directly.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: "We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia."
  • Oddly Enough: In "With His Head Tucked Underneath His Arm", there's an endless war going on between the fifteen kingdoms on the continent of Losfar, and it's gone on for so long that when one kingdom pulls out, the others decide after a few years that this kingdom deserves punishment for daring to get prosperous while they're still spending their resources to defend themselves, and thus send armies of their own against the prosperous kingdom. Fortunately, Brion and his ghostly allies are able to finally bring the war to an end.
  • Probably the bleakest of these is Mark Geston's Out Of The Mouth Of The Dragon, in which the battle of Armageddon has been refought repeatedly for millennia, for what purpose no one any longer remembers. There is no culture or way of life other than preparing, fighting, and recovering from the "Last Battle" over and over again. The protagonist's solution is to collapse into complete catatonia while hallucinating the end of the world. Under the circumstances, this comes across as the sanest choice.
  • The aliens in Pandora's Star exist as giant colony organisms who are basically immortal. Their "society", if you could call it that, does not recognize the concept of cooperation or coexistence. Each hive-mind has been at war with every other member of its species since prehistory. By the time the story takes place, the hive minds have settled into a stalemate between a dozen or so competing members. The interference of one incompetent human breaks the stalemate, with dire consequences for mankind.
  • Planet Of No Return, by Harry Harrison. The protagonist is sent to investigate a Forever War being conducted by highly-advanced robots on a primitive world. Turns out the society that built the robots is run by a military industrial complex split into two rival superpowers. Rather than risk their own world being destroyed, they decided to conduce their war by proxy on another world that they thought (incorrectly) was uninhabited. When the leaders discover their mistake, they simply decide to find another planet to continue the war, because they're perfectly happy with the way things are (thought the ordinary people are less so).
  • A throwaway line in "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman implies that the populace of the future is constantly told that there's a war going on that necessitates the Ticktockman's extremely strict regimentation of society, that mandates that everyone be a Schedule Fanatic.
  • In Sentou Yousei Yukikaze, the JAM invaded Earth, but humanity was able to defeat the invasion and fight them through their hyperspace tunnel back to their homeworld of Faery, where the JAM took such heavy losses they could never attempt to invade again. Humanity then began their own invasion of Faery. However, after 33 years of conflict, the goals of the invasion have become muddled and confused and the war has become a string of pointless battles where humans win against the JAM, the JAM adapt, new tactics are created, rinse and repeat. In the original novel, pundits and politicians back on Earth are becoming irritated with the Faery Air Force being a constant drain on funds, but have no idea what to do with them. And so the war continues for no reason.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has the Schism that occurred between two groups within the secret society VFD. We (the readers) is never given any information on how or when it started. Heck, we never even find out what VFD is, what each respective group is after, what the hell was in that sugar bowl, who the Big Bad is, or the Big Good for that matter. We don't even know if there IS a central villain or hero in the whole mess. Suffice it to say, it's been going on long enough for it to thoroughly ruin the Snicket family and the Baudelaire family before the Baudelaire orphans were born.
  • Shakugan no Shana: The ongoing war between Flame Haze and Denizens is fated to go on forever, considering both side are immortals, until their luck runs out, which is the reason why the male protagonist Yuji has to take a Face–Heel Turn to end the war.
  • Shattered Continent: The collective kingdoms and nations of Neue Erde have never gleaned an objective for the demonic invasions. Every 2 or 3 decades they kick in the doors and make a mess, but no one has anything other than theories about the 'why'.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What? the Humans and Demons are in a perpetual state of war, varying from open conflict to cold war. The war died down after the last Hero and Demon King died due to both sides being exhausted but kicks up again due to Shiraori needing to sacrifice enough people to prevent the end of the world.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe examples:
    • In the Terok Nor novels, part of what motivates Cardassian support for withdrawing from their Occupation of Bajor is the idea that, if the 50-year occupation goes on much longer, both sides will be too emotionally invested in it to ever stop.
    • In The Romulan Way, Vulcan before Surak. It's said that, between the birth of civilization on Earth at Çatalhöyük and the battle of the Thermopylae, there had been only a period of 10 standard years in which as much as ten percent of Vulcan was not at war. In fact, the only thing that stopped the wars was first contact with alien pirates faking peaceful intentions, and war resumed soon after, first against the pirates and then (after the pirates were defeated) between each other until Surak managed to establish his reformations.
      • Amazingly enough, the Rihannsu (future Romulans) weren't involved in the last inter-Vulcan wars: their leader S'task, noticing that Surak's teachings were taking hold in the population and he was the main obstacle, took with himself his followers and left to try and avoid a war that could destroy Vulcan for good, and actually used the enormous planet-wide financial effort to build the colony ships to prevent the old wars from resuming while Surak spread his reformations. It failed, with the wars resuming soon after their departure and Surak himself being killed, but at least they tried.
      • The Rihannsu being very similar to pre-Reformation Vulcans, they got back into this state soon after settling. Rihannsu being Rihannsu, they quickly settled into mostly-ceremonial wars, nowhere as violent as the ones back on Vulcan, until a passing Federation ship sent them first contact information and, remembering what happened with the pirates back on Vulcan, ceased their wars and blew up the next Federation ship that tried to contact them.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The war between the Jedi and the Sith, and the various Republics and Empires associated with them, has been going on for some 24,000 years, beginning with the Dark Jedi splitting off from the Jedi. Even though there have been various long periods where one side has been in hiding, the war has been going ever since. And it doesn't show any signs of ever reaching an end.
      • One of the wars during the Old Republic period against a faction of Sith lasted for a thousand years. The Sith actually succeeded in taking most of the Republic's territory except for the Core Worlds. It got so bad for the good guys that it was even called the Republic Dark Age because they were basically reduced to a besieged rump state. Eventually the Jedi and Republic forces managed to turn the tide and start taking back the galaxy (it helps that the Sith tend to fight each other as much as the Jedi), and eventually won the war. Unfortunately, they failed to detect one last Sith remaining, and this eventually produced the "Rule of Two" Sith order featured in the movies, which used stealth, manipulation, and complex plots instead of armies to fight the Jedi. And anyone who has seen the movies knows how this turns out.
      • Further back in the Star Wars timeline (7,000 years before the movies to be exact) we have a war that was simply referred to as "The Hundred Year Darkness", because it lasted for... well, take a guess. The losing side eventually founded the original Sith Empire.
    • A major part of the novel Shatterpoint is the war that has been going on for ages between the Korunai native to Haruun Kal and the Balawai, or foreigners. Mace Windu ends it in about a week.
    • Likewise the war on Nim Drovis between the Drovians and Gopso'o (seen briefly in Planet of Twilight). The most common theory is that the war started with an argument over the meaning of the word "truth", but the combatants don't really care anymore; the war now contains elements of Feuding Families and Cycle of Revenge.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • For thousands of years, the Ten Heralds of the Almighty led humanity against the Desolations, world-breaking wars perpetuated by the demonic Voidbringers. At Aharietiam, humanity finally won, and the Heralds ascended to the Tranquiline Halls to continue the fight there, to reclaim Heaven from the Voidbringers. The truth, however, is that humanity didn't win. The Heralds were so tired of fighting that they gave up and left. It turns out that part of the cycle was the Heralds traveling to Damnation willingly or by dying and being tortured. Each new Desolation started after one of the Heralds couldn't take it any longer and gave up to escape. During the final Desolation they realized that one of their number, Talenel, had never been the one to break and was the only Herald to have died this time. They told the people they won, and the world gained a four and a half thousand year reprieve from the Desolations as Talenel shouldered the burden of holding back the Voidbringers alone. But as the series begins, people slowly begin to realize that the war never ended, and the Voidbringers are returning once more.
      Death Rattle: They named it the Final Desolation, but they lied. Our gods lied. Oh, how they lied. The Everstorm comes. I hear its whispers, see its stormwall, know its heart.
    • Oathbringer expands on it further, showing that the war actually started when the humans were forced to abandon their home planet. The native Rosharans (called singers) took them in, but humanity betrayed them, beginning the war. Originally the term Voidbringers was the name the singers had given the humans who had come from another planet to settle on theirs.
    • The War of Reckoning is the beginnings of one: the Alethi highprinces declared war on the Parshendi to avenge the assassination of their king, realized that the Chasmfiends in Parshendi lands contain precious magical resources, and turned the entire war effort into a Chasmfiend hunting competition. Six years on, the war camps are the new de facto capital while the Queen drives Alethkar into civil unrest.
  • It's eventually revealed in the The Three-Body Problem trilogy that this is the default state of the universe, due to the Dark Forest phenomenon. When one alien civilization discovers another alien civilization, neither can be certain that the other is not a threat. Even if the language barrier gets crossed, a friendly appearance can be used to conceal hostile intentions, and furthermore they are, by simply existing, competing for vital resources. Given this uncertainty, the safest thing for any given Civilization A to do if it discovers any given Civilization B is to immediately destroy them before the reverse happens. Now scale that up to every civilization in the galaxy, and to every galaxy in the universe. To quote the book:
    The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life — another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod — there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It’s the explanation for the Fermi Paradox.
  • A large part of the Thursday Next series of books is the hundred and fifty year old war between British and Russian forces over the Crimean Peninsula. Many important people believe giving it up would be a disservice to those who died on it. Few recognize the landmass is a bombed out hellhole worth nothing.
  • In Tolkien's Legendarium, the War against Morgoth and Sauron. It started before time was invented as a Divine Conflict, and hostilities will possibly be renewed in a Final Battle at the end of time. It does help that both the protagonists and antagonists contain immortal characters (Elves on the side of good, various wraiths, balrogs, dragons and other miscellaneous creepy-crawlies on team evil). For the first humans without extended lifespans though, it would certainly seem as such, as they entered the world in the midst of a conflict. They couldn't hope to understand.
  • In John Brunner's The Traveller in Black, the Kanishmen and the Kulyamen have been at each other's throats for eons, because... nobody on either side knows why. (Though the fact that they live within the sphere of influence of the elemental Fegrim may have something to do with it.) The war finally fades and dies with the passing of Kanish-Kulya from Chaos into Time.
  • TimeRiders: In one bad timeline the American Civil War is still going on in 2001.
  • Xeelee Sequence: The eponymous aliens have been fighting against their mortal enemies, the Photino Birds, for billions of years. Humanity's war with the Xeelee, lasting for mere millions, is inconsequential by comparison.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's alternate history novel The Years of Rice and Salt features the War of Asuras, a 60 year long war fought between Dar-al-Islam (which takes up most of the world West of the Himalayas) and an alliance of China, India and Native Americans with pre-nuclear technology. It's usually referred to as The Long War.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has the Shadows and the Vorlons, who have been fighting their war of Order Versus Chaos for millions of years. The Shadows ask everyone, "What do you want?", but don't know the answer to the question themselves any more. The Vorlons ask, "Who are you?", but likewise have forgotten their answer. When their respective noses are rubbed in this fact, they rather shamefacedly agree to leave the galaxy forever and let the younger races decide their own course.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The long-running conflict between the Thals and the Kaleds on the planet Skaro. It ran for so long, that technology in the war started to run backwards; one soldier was found with a laser and a musket, wearing a radiation detector and a gas mask. The conflict was only brought to an end when an Omnicidal Maniac was placed in charge of peace negotiations. Which kinda started a whole bunch of new conflicts.
    • The eternal war between the Sontarans and the Rutans, which gets mentioned each time either race appears in the series. It was stated to have been going on for 50,000 years as of "The Poison Sky", and was still going on in the serial "The Sontaran Experiment", set 14,000 years after that.
    • The war between Atrios and Zeos in "The Armageddon Factor". It eventually turns out that Zeons have been dead or gone for years, but the supercomputer built to organise the war effort has been keeping things going without them.
    • The Daleks are shown to be caught up in another one in "Destiny of the Daleks", that is strangely bloodless. The Daleks and the Movellans (both robotic species) cannot commit to an attack if they do not have an advantage, but since their tactical computers are too evenly matched, neither can attain an advantage long enough to do so. The episode centers around both side's efforts to find a way to end the stalemate. The Doctor even comments that their endlessly maneuvering for position without ever actually firing a shot is actually a peculiar form of peace. He ultimately decides to deny his solution to their problem to both sides so that they will continue endlessly seeking an opening against each other without bothering the rest of the galaxy.
    • For that matter, the Time War itself counts, as both sides can travel through time causing it to be waged across time itself — hence the name. The Time Lords even concluded that the only way to end the war would be to end time itself, which did not sit well with the Doctor. Additionally, Dalek/Time Lord hostilities and smaller skirmishes go back long before the war itself. Furthermore, since the Doctor and a number of Daleks managed to escape the time lock, which almost got broken once and might still cause the return of the time war, the surviving Daleks and the Doctor are still continuing the conflict. As of the end of Season 35 (ninth of the relaunched series) both are back, but are shadows of their former power and can't continue the war directly.
    • Subverted in "The Doctor's Daughter". Since time immemorial, the two sides have been relentlessly cloning soldiers to keep the war going. The Reveal is that time immemorial in this case is seven days. They go through about twenty generations of clones in a day, so their knowledge gets corrupted incredibly fast.
  • SEAL Team touches upon this in the Season 3 episode "In The Blind", and especially in the Season 4 episode "Forever War": the War on Terror has been going on for two decades with no end in sight. Protagonist Jason Hays is shaken when he realises that he's been fighting the War on Terror for so long, the son of a terrorist leader he killed has now grown up to become a terrorist leader. See Real Life, below.
    Jason Hayes: We just took out the son of a man I killed thirteen years ago. And it seems to me that this mission isn't ending anytime soon.
  • Star Trek:
  • The West Wing:
    Fitzwallace: Can you tell when it's peacetime and wartime any more?

  • Brimstone Valley Mall: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the war between Heaven and Hell has been going on for longer than any demon or angel can remember, and while both sides have agents on Earth and make moves against the other's cause relatively frequently, the result is an eternal stalemate. As Asmoraius explains, no one on either side is even sure who's winning, because "the score has been pretty much even as long as anyone can remember."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Happens in quite a few wargames, because you can't have a war if peace breaks out.
  • In BattleTech, the Succession Wars lasted more than 200 years, destroying most of the industrial and technological base of known space. The first two saw largely unrestricted warfare, while the Third was most like this trope. The Fourth was a flare-up after the alliance between the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth joined into one super-nation through marriage between their royal families, with the two realms smashing their way through holdings of the other realms (mainly the Capellan Confederation) to link their territories. There followed a decade or two of relative peace, then the Clans invaded, then the Successor States formed a new Star League to end the Clan threat, then they went back to fighting one another again.
  • Dragon Dice has a setting that features races engaging in war between forces aligned with Nature and forces aligned with Death from a few generations after the creation of the first race throughout recorded history — most of the younger races in the game setting were created expressly to engage in the ongoing war.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Blood War. A battle between the Chaos-aligned Demons and Law-aligned Devils which had been raging pretty much since the beginning of existence and was expected to keep raging until the end... or so everyone really hopes. The Forces of Good want it to keep going because if both sides weren't exhausting each other, they'd overrun the multiverse. Asmodeus wants it to keep going (unless he can completely and absolutely win) because having a common enemy tests his subordinates and keeps the backstabbing at acceptable levels. And demons just like hurting things and find devils to be convenient and numerous targets. It is not featured much in the modules, but a taste of it was finally shown in 5th Edition's Descent into Avernus, where the main plot is a scheme by the Archdevil Zariel to gain more soldiers for the Blood War by dragging Eltorel into Avernus.
    • For a period of time, both Kas the Destroyer and Vecna were imprisoned in Ravenloft with their domains right next to each other, allowing them to wage an endless war. This lasted until Vecna managed to break out of the Demiplane of Dread and into Sigil during the transition from second to third edition.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • The goal of both the Chaos Gods Khorne and Tzeentch in Warhammer, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 is to create eternal war. In Khorne’s case, he is a War God who is greatly strengthened by all conflict so a war that never ends would assure his supremacy. Tzeentch on the other hand is the Lord of Change and should any side win then there wouldn’t be any more chance for change, so his solution is to make sure that nobody wins, including himself.
    • Warhammer 40,000. The game's tagline says it all, really.
      "Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."
      • There's an in-universe joke in the Black Crusade rulebook that if peace ever broke out the Imperium would instantly collapse, being built entirely on fighting the Forever War.
      • The Holy Grail for Orks (aside from More Dakka) is something along these lines. Orks were made to wage war, and they gleefully do so on anyone who happens to get in their way, other Orks included. Why? Because it's fun, and it's what they were made to do. For example, one group of Orks ended up on a daemonworld dedicated to Khorne where they would be forced to fight against daemons forever, resurrecting at the end of each day just in time for the next wave. The Orks considered this to be their own little Warrior Heaven.
  • The Valde Bellum in Nobilis has been going on for about two-thirds of the age of the universe (albeit, this only amounts to 4,000 years). It will probably last to the end of all things... if only because that's the stakes.
  • Paranoia, where The Computer is at war with communist mutant traitor spies, despite there being no concrete evidence for their existence.note  It's what it was programmed to do.
  • The Lokossans in Spears of the Dawn have been fending off attacks by the Ambiguously Human Night Men for as long as anyone can remember. Their entire society is shaped around it, from the aggressively militaristic nobility to the widespread practice of Human Sacrifice meant to provide extra power to the kingdom's war-magicks. There was also the Long War against the undead Sixth Kingdom, but it "only" lasted 150 years and is over by the time the game is set in.
  • The Interstellar Wars in Traveller were a series of at least nine wars between the fledgling Terran Confederacy and the Vilani First Imperium from approximately 2114 to 2303, which led to the short-lived Second Imperium ruled by the Terrans/Solomani and the 1700 year Long Night in which the Imperium's former colonies were constantly forming factions to war against one another. Also the fighting between the Third Imperium and the Zhodani.

  • The Feuding Families of Romeo and Juliet had been fighting for so long that even the servants were involved and it seemed like no one really knew why they were fighting. It's interesting to know that both the Montague and Capulet patriarchs seemed interested in bringing the war between their families to an end. If it hadn't been for that damned hot-headed Tybalt ragging on the equally hot-headed Mercutio...

    Video Games 
  • Armored Core largely runs on this trope, waged primarily between massive corporations in most incarnations of the series before Armored Core V. Taken to its ultimate extreme in Armored Core: Verdict Day, where three major factions — Sirius Executives, Venide and Evergreen Family — are implied to have been at war for hundreds of years over the Lost Technology contained in the 'Towers'. Close analysis of lore suggests that global warfare has been the norm ever since the Lynx War of Armored Core 4, which happened an entire Continuity Reboot and a half ago. And, if the Foundation Man's statement at the game's conclusion is correct, it's never going to end.
  • In the Assassin's Creed series, the covert war between the Assassins and the Templars has been raging since the dawn of human civilization. Whenever someone on either side believes that they have struck a decisive blow and are close to absolute victory, the other side comes Back from the Brink. Even in the 18th century, there were some who believed the war would never end. Altaïr suggests in his codex that even if, hypothetically speaking, one side were to exterminate the other and remove all traces of them, then someone else would eventually rediscover their ideals and rebuild because the ideals ("peace through control" and "peace with freedom", respectively) are abstract and unkillable.
  • The War between the Demi-gods and the Gohma from Asura's Wrath has lasted for at bare minimum 12,500 years, with no end in sight. Indeed, the events of the game over that 12,500 years simply show the most recent developments of the war, spurred on by Deus enacting his radical campaign to destroy the Gohma and their source, Vlitra, at any cost. Made even worse when Chakravartin tells Asura, Yasha and Mithra that even with Vlitra's death, they are his creation in the end, as he will be able to make stronger and stronger Gohma with no end in sight as he desires, turning this into a Hopeless War as well. And then it is massively, brutally, gloriously subverted when Asura beats Chakravartin's face in.
  • In Breath of Fire IV, the conflict between the Fou Empire and the Alliance. The two continents have been in a Cold War that has lasted 600 years, punctuated by four world wars and the incipient threat of a fifth.
  • Wars in Civilization games can sometimes last for an extreme amount of time given the right conditions. If the enemy civ is far enough away, and neither player either bothers to sue for peace or send units at each other, it very easy to forget you're at war.
    • This is exacerbated by Video Game Time — basically, the time period a turn is meant to represent starts long and gets shorter. In the Ancient Era, where turns can represent up to a century, it results in even fairly brief skirmishes and raids looking like millennia-long blood feuds.
    • Probably the most infamous case in Civilization history is the 10 year old Civ II game called 'The Eternal War' featuring a 1,700 year long nuclear conflict that divided the world between three super powers, stalemated all the way up to the year 3991 AD. The world is ruined by radiation and global warming, with billions dead from nukes or starvation, and all effort by each nation going to producing more war units and little going to rebuilding, the front lines have not even changed in 1,000 years. Talk about a Crapsack World!
  • Dark Souls is something of an odd example. While it isn't usually outright warfare, there has been a serious conflict between whether the Age of Fire should continue or end, a conflict which has been going on for at least 1,000 years.
    • Elden Ring: Though organized armies haven't been seen in the Lands Between for hundreds of years, the Shattering War is technically still going on because nobody can die; those who were mortal have been turned into undead who have succumbed to madness, while those that were immortal have rotted and decayed to madness, technically capable of death but too powerful to die. None of the above have rightful claim to the throne any longer, meaning the succession crisis never stopped either. It takes the Tarnished, who have both the strength to kill the demigods and the right to claim the throne, to end the conflict for good.
  • Days of Ruin has Rubinelle and Lazuria, where both sides have fought each other for over a century. The Great War should have ended with the meteors, but even after civilization ends, the last surviving leaders on both sides (Admiral Greyfield and General Forsythe, respectively) refuse to end it. However, this is ultimately subverted: neither faction is actually fighting for their now-defunct nations. Greyfield was responsible for instigating the conflict to fulfill his imperial ambitions, while Forsythe was called out of retirement to lead the remnants of the Lazurian Army against the aggression of the 'New' Rubinelle Army.
  • In Destiny, the belief of the Future War Cult is that the conflict with the Darkness — already spanning centuries — will become this, and that mankind's best bet is to get better at fighting it than anyone else.
    "War is the struggle to exist. Everything that's real is a combatant."
  • The ongoing war between Heaven and Hell in the Diablo series, which is even called the Eternal Conflict. The period where angels and demons fought in the mortal realm of Sanctuary was called the Sin War, and it only ended when Uldyssian, a nephalem (one of the offspring of renegade angels and demons who were the ancestors of humanity), sacrificed himself for the sake of humanity. In Diablo III, Diablo, after being reborn as the embodiment of all seven Great Evils in one being, the Prime Evil, comes very close to destroying the High Heavens and putting an end to the war, only to be destroyed by the player character, one of the first of the new nephalem, resulting in an apparent end to the war on the side of angels and humans. And then Malthael screws it up, implying that there will always be war, since the Diablo Universe is too ingrained in fighting to ever stop.
  • In Einhänder, the war between Earth and the Moon has shades of this, and is implied to have been going on ever since World War III blew up 99% of the Earth's surface. It's eventually revealed that, on the Moon's side at least, the government leaders are deliberately keeping the war going as an easy way of maintaining control over the country. The game's epilogue says that, after the game, the two nations had to accept a cease-fire because they literally had no more weapons left to attack each other with, and during that period of peace, the civilians became aware of their "enemies" plight, and a permanent peace eventually resulted.
  • In Endless Space, the Cravers can never be at peace; they must continuously expand lest they consume their own civilization. At best, they can be in a state of "Cold War" with nearby empires, which allows outpost colonies and fleets in neutral space to be attacked, but prevents established colonies and ships within empire borders from being attacked without a Declaration Of War. During the course of a game, the Cravers will be involved in nearly constant back-and-forth wars for hundreds of years. The mechanically similar Necrophages of Endless Legend likewise cannot engage in diplomacy.
  • The city-state of Ishgard in Final Fantasy XIV have been at war with the Dravanian Horde for over a thousand years, and their entire culture is built around this "Dragonsong War". The war's perpetual nature is intentional by the will of the Dravanian leader Nidhogg. He could wipe out Ishgard entirely, but plans to keep the suffering of war ongoing as a Fate Worse than Death to the descendants of those who wronged him.
  • For Honor has a millennia-long one in its backstory; after the global cataclysm that shattered the lands of the Legions, Warborn, and Chosen, the three factions began warring with each other over the scarce resources of their fallen empires. Problem is, once things got settled and their societies started to be rebuilt, they didn't want to stop warring with each other, leading to centuries of conflict that they're just barely pulling themselves out of. This peace is eventually shattered by the events of the game's campaign mode, and a decade later in the multiplayer mode the Forever War is back in full swing.
  • Foxhole: The game takes place at some point in an Alternate History future but a century of warfare has left the battlefield resembling the World War period. The current conflict isn't some major push for victory for either faction, but a campaign to capture the resource-rich lands to continue the war.
  • Gears of War: The Pendulum Wars between the COG and UIR lasted for 79 years. Six weeks after it ended, Emergence Day happened, kicking off a brand new war that lasted another 16 years. Then there was 25 years of relative peace before the Locust came back as the Swarm, starting a third war. Then there was the war between the Locust and Lambent which has an unknown start date, but was going on during the Pendulum Wars and lasted until the end of the COG-Locust war.
  • Played for laughs in Gems of War, where the server maintenance message informs you that peace has broken out, and war will return shortly.
  • In God of War (PS4), the region of Alfheim has been contested between Light Elves and Dark Elves for centuries, with control over them being exchanged 200 times according to Mimir.
  • In Halo, the Precursors (a Sufficiently Advanced Alien race so powerful one might as well call them gods) have promised the Forerunners that, as retribution for the Forerunner uprising that destroyed nearly their entire race, they plan on causing eternal misery and suffering toward every alien race they created (so, everything). Even after their latest form, the Flood, suffered their first defeat, they managed to set up the Ur-Didact to continue their plans 100,000 years later; after the Flood is defeated again at the Ark, the Ur-Didact awakens. In effect, the Precursors plan to ensure that there will always be something to plague the beings of the galaxy, even if they can't do it directly.
  • Very likely to happen unintentionally in Hearts of Iron 4. Since you can't make peace without having 50 war scores ahead of or behind the enemy, two equally well-entrenched sides can literally duke it out till the end of time. Even the invention of the atomic bomb won't be able to break the deadlock, as you need 75% air superiority to start sending nukes.
  • In Iji, the Tasen and Komato have apparently been fighting for thousands of years. While they still remember why, they seem to have trouble understanding what it would be like to not be at war. After the Tasen are wiped out by the Komato, it's heavily implied in the ending that the Komato may turn on themselves now that they no longer have an enemy to fight.
  • The various nations of the Iron Grip series have been periodically fighting each other for entire centuries, if not millennia. War is almost an accepted way of life in this steampunky Crapsack World.
  • Iron Storm is set in a heavily dystopic Alternate History, where World War I never ended and has been raging on for 50 years, well into the 1960s.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The 7th Stand User, the Slaves to Fate have orchestrated a war in West Bengal, India, through the powers of Raul and DJ Inc's Stands (who are both West Bengalese themselves, and lost their hometown in a guerilla attack). Even Stroheim finds it atrocious.
  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil: Whoever Volk, the kingdom of Discord, is fighting or why they're at war in the first place is never stated. All the info we're given is that they're constantly at war.
  • Mass Effect: the Reaper cycle of extinction might not count (certainly it's been going on for a long, long time and was never meant to end), but their one-to-three-hundred-year exterminations do. Javik mentions it frequently — by the time he was born, the Citadel had already fallen and his world had been reduced to a blackened wasteland, and it only got worse from there.
    • The Rachni Wars deserve an honorable mention. They begin at roughly 1 AD, and the galaxy is on the back foot until the discovery and uplift of the krogan in 80 AD. It's not until 300 AD that the rachni were declared extinct.
    • To a lesser extent, the Quarian–Geth conflict has existed in a default state of cold war for over three centuries. It can end either by reconciliation or by one side wiping out the other in Mass Effect 3.
    • Javik also mentions the Metacon War, a war that the Protheans fought against a machine race which lasted their entire run as a space-faring race (probably up to a few tens of thousands of years). The final insult was the arrival of the Reapers shortly after the Metacons were defeated for good, to which Javik considers the realization "that machines had surpassed organics long ago".
  • In the Metal Gear series, creating one of these is actually Big Boss' main goal in life. His interpretation of The Boss' will, and disgust at the government's disregard of servicemen, combined into the concept of Outer Heaven, a private military company turned country where soldiers could fight endlessly with no governmental control. In his mind, this would create a world where soldiers are always needed and valued. The Patriots, however, came the closest to actually creating this in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots when they founded The War Economy and made weapons production and military combat the core parts of the economy.
  • In Metro 2033 there has been an ongoing war between the Reich and the Reds for control over the metro, making things difficult for Artyom when he is caught in the middle due to his mission. The plot of Metro: Last Light then revolves around Artyom uncovering and trying to stop a plan by the Reds that would end the war and allow them to take over the metro.
  • Invoked in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, where the main goal of the Shadow Wars fourth act is to put Mordor in a state of perpetual war (or at least long enough to keep Sauron busy between the time period of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), meaning that you must fight through a series of increasingly-difficult fortress battles. Eventually however, Talion ultimately succumbs to his Ring's power and becomes a servant of Sauron, but his actions at least lead to the events of trilogy.
  • By the time we found out about, the Ancient-Kreegan War of Might and Magic has been going on for some 1500 years. There are self-aware beings that still remember the beginning of the war — that is how we found out what's going on, and for how long it has been going on — but considering it's been going on for so long that your average Lost Colony has forgotten that there was a war going on in the first place...
  • Mortal Kombat: Outworld is constantly at war with the rest of the universe, seeking to conquer all realms under the iron fist of the Kahn. Earthrealm in particular is the latest snag in their plans, and while they've pretended to be civil about their conquest with a high-stakes Blood Sport, they constantly back-deal, assassinate, and plan total war if they won't get their way. Turns out the Titans, especially Kronika, seek to artificially prolong the war for their own benefit and amusement.
  • Mystic Ark has a mostly-comedic version in the war between the Bloodhook and Gunboss. It's been going for centuries by the time the Player Character arrives, and none of the crew seem to have a reason for it besides that they've always been at war. Matoya outright states that none of them actually remember what the war was about anymore, and the captains can only manage an awkward silence when asked directly. It finally ends due to the intervention of the Player Character, Matoya, and a very large, angry mole.
  • The titular war of both Nexus War games has been going on far longer than any living being can remember and shows no signs of stopping. Since all of the gods fighting to win the war and shape the next cycle of the world are flawed, the mortal worlds they shape each inevitably fall apart eventually, kicking off another cycle of the war. The mortal worlds themselves have the potential to be reasonably nice, but player characters stuck in the war will never get to visit them again.
  • NieR: Automata takes place during a war between an invading force of alien-made machine lifeforms, and an army of androids seeking to liberate Earth on behalf of the human race, which has since fled to the moon. Said war has gone on for nearly 10,000 years by the time the game starts. By the end of the game, the characters find out that the entire war has been artificially extended by both the machine lifeforms and higher-ups among the androids. Since the human race had gone extinct long before the aliens arrived, leaving the androids with no one to serve, and the machine lifeform network Grew Beyond Their Programming enough to know that defeating the androids would rob them of their purpose for being, both of them decided that working together behind the scenes to keep the war going indefinitely would give both sides a reason to exist.
  • PlanetSide has three empires locked in an eternal stalemate, due to the presence of the Ancient Vanu nanites allowing everyone who is on the planet to be rebuilt in seconds when killed. Any time a temporary alliance is forged between two empires in-game, they immediately backstab each other. Who started the war is unknown, though all sides hate each other and will likely fight forever — even during The Bending, the three sides were murdering each other as the planet broke up under them. The Terran Republic hates the New Conglomerate for rebelling, and hate the Vanu Sovereignty because they fear the Vanu technology will break their grip on power. The New Conglomerate hate the Terrans because of having to live under a thousand years of oppression, and likewise fear the Vanu Sovereignty for perverting humanity and its freedoms. The Vanu Sovereignty hate both sides because they are holding humanity back from enlightenment and ascending to a higher plane of existence like they think the Vanu did.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, as a time travel story, reveals that the battle between plants and zombies has been going on since at least the Stone Age and even extends into the far future.
  • Pokémon Conquest has a version of this trope — the campaign can be dragged out for as long as you want it to be, up to a point, so you can make it take 99 years to invade 17 countries. The characters, of course, will not age a day in this time.
  • Ravenfield is a first-person shooter whose whole shtick is the egregious amount of AI units you can spawn in a single battle. While Battalion mode eventually ends due to finite respawn tickets, Conquest has the two teams fighting until all command points fall under a single team's influence. Even with generous respawn rates, cranking the AI player count to a few hundreds will ensure a control point always has a dozen enemies spawning out of nowhere at all times. That implies you can even get to a spawn point because the number of troops alone turns a singular battle into an endless inch-by-inch war.
  • The setting for REDCON is a world where World War I never ended and a century years of stalemated trench warfare has rendered the planet nigh-uninhabitable.
  • Resident Evil has a metaphorical war against bio terrorism and it's been going on since 1998. Despite Umbrella collapsing, bio organic weapons were still popping up in other parts of the world due to a cult, another pharmaceutical company, a secret organization, and other factions. Most of the cast that have been fighting the viral outbreaks since the very first one have aged into their forties and possibly their early fifties and for some, it has taken a toll on them where they wonder if they should even bother continuing to fight. As long as bio terrorism exists, the heroes and their organizations will continue to combat it.
  • The God Wars in RuneScape occurred thousands of years ago, but the 4000-year-long war's utter devastation could be felt to this very day. The God Wars directly lead to the complete extinction of the Fayrg and Raurg races and decimated countless others. Elder demons, Icyenes, and Ourgs are down to the last of their kinds, the Myriad, Aviansie, centaurs, and more are dying races, the goblins's tribes are reduced to the point they have to live together to survive, oh, and their once paradise of a home plane is now an utter wasteland.
  • Order and Chaos in Shin Megami Tensei. Five separate realities and counting, the conflict is going on. Even though every human "fulcrum" they attempt to recruit to their sides has turned around and screwed both factions over in each continuity, YHVH persistently tries to control everything in every universe he can get his hands on, and an incarnation of Lucifer will almost always be there to try and oppose him, which normally would be benevolent but the fallen angel's own ideal world isn't much better than what YHVH wants.
    • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne reveals the conflict between Light and Dark has waged for so long across billions of parallel worlds, with humanity and demons as mere pawns in the war. Lucifer's goal is to create a demon powerful enough to put an end to the eternal conflict — and if the True Demon Ending is taken, that demon will be the protagonist. Though with revelations given in later games, particularly Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, it's shown even the countless worlds shown in this continuity is still just a single cluster among countless others in the Shin Megami Tensei multiverse.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, you meet The White, who are so sick of the endless conflict between Law and Chaos of this continuity to the point they ask you to destroy the universe to end it. And you can accept, if you want. Then, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse finally reveals the real reason behind the everlasting conflict, at least in this particular continuity: YHVH actually controls both Lucifer and Merkabah as well as their respective factions, all to perpetuate an eternal war which will never have a true winner to keep himself in power. The Great Will, the consciousness of the Shin Megami Tensei multiverse, has been creating and incarnating messiahs to oppose YHVH across universes: the protagonists of each main (and potentially every) game of the series.
    • The Triangulum Arc of Devil Survivor 2 has this as a potential ending. Learning that the universe wants to screw over earth with every Administrator, the party decides to regress the world, fight the next Administrator and prevent the Void from taking over earth entirely, just to win and regress the world again, only to perform the same steps over and over, until, hopefully, they run out of Administrators and finally win. But if they lose for real even once, the Administrators will have free reign at last.
  • In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, the N'rrgal and Zoah species have been at war for as long as anyone can remember.
  • This serves as the main crux of sora's plot, as it shows a war between two opposing forces who have fought for so long that they've practically forgotten why they were even fighting in the first place other than "defeat the opposing force before they do the same thing to us". And then things go From Bad to Worse...
  • Starlancer takes place in a hundred-years-long war between the Alliance (basically like Future NATO) and the Coalition (Future Warzaw Pact); the Alliance sending its last survivors elsewhere is what kick starts the plot of Freelancer.
    • Freelancer also has a backstory example with an 80-years war between Rhineland and the Kusari-allied Gas Miners Guild — one of the reasons why Rhineland is depicted as hostile to Kusari.
      • It's worth noting, however, that due to the futuristic setting and the increased life expectancies that come with technological advances that this is not exactly a straight example, as many would probably live throughout it and most would know why it started.
  • This is the ultimate goal of Ambassador B'Vat in Star Trek Online. To wit, the game starts with the Federation and the Klingons at each other's throat. B'Vat is convinced that if the Klingons don't have a target to take out their urges on, they'll destroy themselves. Thus, he plans on finding a way to keep the war going forever, going so far as to find a Doomsday Machine and plan to use it against the Federation. The war more or less sputters to a halt on its own after the Player Character kills B'Vat.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The planet Voss has been immersed in a bloody civil war between its two sentient species, the Voss and the Gormak, for centuries. It's even called "the Eternal War of Voss". It's been going on for so long that both sides have forgotten that they're actually the same race; Voss force use warps their appearance. It's predecessor, Knights of the Old Republic, has the Rakata, a violent species that once ruled most of the known galaxy in ancient times, but who eventually lost their empire and destroyed themselves in a violent civil war that ended when the various warlords unleashed weapons of mass destruction during the fighting on their homeworld. The survivors went underground and by the time they finally emerged, most tribes had long since forgotten their past, but still went right back to fighting each other anyway, albeit with primitive weapons like spears instead of blasters and warships. While this probably can't technically be counted a single conflict since the Rakata spent thousands of years underground before finally emerging (and again most tribes don't know their species dark past), an ancient Rakata computer the player can find still refers to it as a "never-ending-civil war".
  • The Land-Grab Stalemate in Team Fortress 2 is heavily implied to have been planned as this, for reasons unclear at first but were fairly clarified as time went on. It involves Redmond Mann and Blutarch Mann waging war over their inheritance (large chunks of American frontier in the 1860s) which thanks to their connections and desire for power morphed into a cold war that spanned most of the globe between mega-corps RED and BLU. This itself was planned so 1) their father, Zephaniah Mann, could get one over on his two idiot sons via his will by making them fight over what is basically relatively worthless land (the only valuable resource around to be exploited in said territory is gravel, which while not worthless is still not as lucrative as coal and oil) and 2) a certain persuasive chain-smoking seductress could run both RED and BLU behind the scenes, exploting this to gather up as much Australium as she possibly can for unknown reasons. It's eventually ends up ending anyway, when Gray Mann kills the owners of RED and BLU, leaving the mercenaries of both to fight his robots defending Mann Co. property. It turns out even this didn't fully stop the conflict: while the mysterious woman was relegated to the sidelines and Mann Co. eventually fell, the brothers' ghosts simply picked up right where they left off and kept hiring mercenaries to fight in their names to try and send each other to Hell. And the Robot War almost became this, but Gray Mann was smart enough to recognize that he was fighting an intractable stalemate and successfully changed tactics.
  • The plot of Total Annihilation was built on this trope. The only real survivors of the conflict are the military. No matter the outcome, the game takes place in the final days of the war; only two Commanders are left, and both sides have forgotten the technology to build more or to open new gates between worlds. Both campaigns are a last-ditch effort on the part of each Commander to bring the fight to the other one and finally end it all. To quote the intro:
    "What began as a conflict over the transfer of consciousness from flesh to machines escalated into a war which has decimated a million worlds. The Core and the Arm have all but exhausted the resources of a galaxy in their struggle for domination. Both sides now crippled beyond repair, the remnants of their armies continue to battle on ravaged planets, their hatred fueled by over four thousand years of total war. This is a fight to the death. For each side, the only acceptable outcome is the complete elimination of the other."
Total Annihilation's Spiritual Successor, Supreme Commander, makes it clear that its galaxy is coming dangerously close to this state, especially during the Aeon campaign. They don't call it "The Infinite War" for nothing. The Spiritual Successor to both, Planetary Annihilation, is set thousands of years after one of these left the galactic civilizations in ruins. Then the robotic commanders start to self-repair and start the whole thing over again.
  • Justified in the case that they're both immortal, Kaguya Houraisan and Fujiwara no Mokou of Touhou Project have fought each other on a daily basis for several thousand years.
  • Warframe: The Grineer and the Corpus have been fighting over the Origin System for quite a long time, possibly since the Old War and the fall of the Orokin thousands of years ago. The Grineer had been making headway to finally conquering the system, but then the Tenno woke up. The Tenno fight to keep the Grineer and the Corpus as balanced as possible, in order to keep both sides weak so that the innocents caught in the crossfire have a better chance of survival.
  • Although by the time the main story in Wind Child Black takes place, the war between the Gran'Duchy Tceitchkan Imperium and the Kingdom of Thibasene has settled into a Cold War with occasional border skirmishes, it's mentioned briefly that it was an actual, in-the-trenches war for several centuries before that. Apparently, it got started when a flood ravaged Thibasene, and a fundamentalist leader blamed the Imperium for it, killing any Imperium citizens who dared cross the Borderlands.
  • The war between the Terran Confederacy and the Kilrathi Empire portrayed in Wing Commander may not be all that old (it lasted from 2634 to 2669), but it fits the rest of this trope to a tee. By the time Wing Commander III rolls around, the war is older than pretty much all of your wingmennote , and the only reason it looks like it could end any time soon is that the Kilrathi are very slowly gaining an upper hand. One battle in the war actually lasted ten years, only ending when both sides stopped sending reinforcements and the remaining troops wiped each other out (The last person to succumb to their wounds was human, so the Terrans technically won).
  • World of Warcraft: The ongoing conflict between the two playable factions of the Horde (led by orcs) and the Alliance (led by humans) will not end. Despite numerous cataclysmic threats that are hostile to both sides, and numerous instances in the game of interfaction cooperation, there will always be skirmishes going on at the borders of the respective empires and the constant threat of more serious warfare heating up. Each side can point to several reasons for it, but at this point it's more about racial hatred and pervasive militarization than any good reason. (Well, that, and an excuse to earn Honor/Conquest points in PvP.) As of the end of Mists of Pandaria with the deposing of Horde Warchief Garrosh Hellscream by both the Alliance and most of the Horde, Varian Wrynnnote  settles for warning the remaining Horde leadersnote  that he won't forgive any more breaches of honornote ... but come Warlords of Draenor, and there's still ongoing skirmishes between the Horde and Alliance bases on the island of Ashran for control/denial-thereof over ancients and artifacts there. This may however be due to how far away Ashran is from the territories this expansion's hostile-to-both-sides antagonists, the Iron Horde. Note that this is actually something of a Subversion, as while the conflict between the native Azeroth races and the Orcs (which would eventually evolve into the Alliance versus Horde) has been going on since the first game came out, it's only been about 30 or so years in-universe. While this is still a pretty long time for a war it pales in comparison to some other conflicts in the same universe (Such as the Burning Crusade), or even some real life wars which lasted over 100 years.
  • Xenogears, at least near the beginning, fits this quite well with the war between Kislev and Aveh. It gets twisted around like everything else later on, though.
  • On a very similar note to Xenogears, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 begins with a war between two nations called Keves and Agnus. With Child Soldiers grown in pods until they're maturely 10, then living for 10 years doing nothing but fighting. No one even questions anything until the six main characters (three from Keves, three from Agnus) have a fateful encounter that reveals to them the existence of an organization known as Moebius who are in fact the Consuls in charge of their colonies that secretly controls both nations and wants the war to literally last forever because the life force harvested from the fallen soldiers is used to fuel their immortality, and they in turn perpetuate the "Endless Now" as charged by their leader Z, who desires to keep the Merged Reality of Aionios intact.

  • In the backstory of Alice and the Nightmare, twin goddesses of dreams Rougina and Bianchia waged war against each other for centuries for reasons that aren't detailed. Eventually, they agreed to a truce — but two hundred years ago, a particularly bad year for humanity spawned a Jabberwocky horde large enough to conquer half of the dream world; specifically, Bianchia's Looking Glass Territories and Bianchia herself. Since then, the war has been against Rougina's semi-oppressive theocracynote  and the disorganized but infectious Jabberwocky Horde. Not helping matters is that the Jabberwockies have Bianchia hostage, so Rougina is forced to make concessions to keep her safe.
  • Archipelago: The weresharks and wereorcas are locked in an eternal feud, which is minor in scale but well-advertised with all the wereshark skeletons hung as trophies. Justified, as most of the weresharks can only be truly happy when they hate someone — literally.
    Blitz: They're screaming at me, Credenza. They want to kill us, they want to EAT us! Why are they like this? They have every word for hate, but no word for happiness.
    Tuff: To a shark, hate and happiness are the s-same thing.
  • Gone with the Blastwave: The first strip sums up the trope in a nutshell, as seen above.
  • Draconia Chronicles: The two races have been fighting each other for centuries and no longer remember the cause of the war. At this point, the main reasons for fighting are vengeance and pride. It doesn't help that both sides are empathetically dead to the other. It's implied that the war has been enforced by a third race of mortals for their own reasons.note  It should be noted that the gods of both sides have apparently agreed to end the ridiculous war, and seek to manipulate their followers into developing the moral character needed to consider peace. Unfortunately, they do so in... 'radical' ways. So radical, that both factions would rather keep fighting than admit their gods are mass-murdering jerkasses.
  • Erfworld operates by wargame-like rules and seems to be "a world where peace is impossible." The only hope for peace is that the protagonist will wage a war so terrible it breaks war itself.
  • In the backstory for Girl Genius the Sparks of Europa tore the continent apart with their constant infighting. The only times in living memory (not counting the memories of the Jaegers and a handful of people with multi-century lifespans) where there really was a pause was thanks to the Heterodyne Boys and Baron Wulfenbach's Empire. When the Baron's rule is broken, the fighting returns full-force. Two years later, it's like the infighting never stopped.
  • The Light and Dark Kingdoms in Homestuck are locked in a constant, unwinnable war until the arrival of Sburb players.
  • Hue Are You Red side and Blue side have been in a war for hundreds of years with no real end in sight. The only thing that could start to wind it down was removing the ability of either side being able to repair themselves.
  • Outsider: The war between the Loroi and Umiak has been going for around 25 Earth years. The Umiak are imperialists who either subsume or enslave every race they come across and put them to work churning out spaceships and munitions, and the Loroi are the only race so far that's proven to be a military match for them, although they haven't been able to advance into Umiak-controlled space and have been largely fighting to keep the Umiak out of their domains.
  • In Slightly Damned, the Angels and Demons have been locked in a divinely-mandated war of annihilation which stemmed from the mortals' tendency to worship Gaia over Syndel, reinforced by numerous Remember the Alamo incidents on both sides. The mortal world (Medius)'s participation in the war ended 300 years ago, but angels and demons kept waging guerilla wars and raids against each other until they became endangered species. Then 15 years ago, the disappearance and/or death of the gods marked the end of the source of the conflict — but it still wasn't enough. Both sides are now actively waging war against Medius itself. The demons' plan is to capture angels and ritually sacrifice them to create portals to Medius, effectively immigrating the entire population of Hell to their new home, while killing off the Guardians of Medius to pave the way for world domination. The Angel Council has not responded yet and is implied to have their own plan.
  • Per the official timeline, at the start of Terra the United Earth Coalition and the Asurian Empire have been at war for over 200 years.
  • Unsounded: Cresce and Alderode have been at war since Cresce was unified over four-hundred years prior to the start of the tale. While hostilities sometimes cool down to something closer to a cold war the war has never actually ended.

    Web Original 
  • Ok, it's technically football games, but in the post-immortality world of 17776, it might as well be war: some games, particularly Game 27 and Game 96249, have lasted for millennia and show no sign of stopping anytime soon, yet the two sides keep playing because they literally have nothing better to do.
  • Nobody in The Call of Warr has any idea why they're fighting the warr, just that they have to, and they seem to be making weird justifications for it, such as Prince's claim that the enemy "burns their bodies", while they bury them.
  • After Republican France occupies Spain in the Chaos Timeline, the fighting down there does not end until eighty years later.
  • Cracked suggests in its article, 6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes, that Popeye has been fighting World War II until 1978.
  • DEATH BATTLE!: This is what ultimately becomes of the fight between Chuck Norris and Segata Sanshiro. Their fight caused a tear in spacetime that either sent them to another dimension or destroyed their home dimension. Or both. In either case, it's impossible to continue observing the fight, so the hosts assume that they never stopped fighting and will continue to do battle for all time. And as shown in the end of the "Naruto vs. Ichigo" episode and even in the "Beerus vs. Sailor Galaxia" episode, they're still fighting!
  • Fire Emblem On Forums:
    • Wonderful Blessing: The conflict between the Demon Lord and the rest of creation has been going on since time immmemorial. Mostly because the Goddess Dragons have been making sure it has and silencing any attempts to get the truth out.
  • The Red and Blue Teams in Blood Gulch aren't really fighting so much as slacking off at opposite ends of the box canyon, and it only feels like they've been there forever, but if one's thing for sure it's that neither side has any clue why they're supposed to be fighting. They later travel to Battle Creek, where two teams of immortal zealots fight to Capture the Flag while spouting comments and insults straight out of X Box Live, and are revived at the end of each match, like a very stupid type of Valhalla.
  • RWBY: Infested with the Creatures of Grimm, humanity struggles to survive on Remnant. Only a few know the Grimm are controlled by an Ancient Evil called Salem; led by Professor Ozpin, they are hiding the truth to avoid mass panic, but he is keeping deeper secrets from even them. Salem was punished by the gods for trying to bring her beloved Ozma back from the dead, so turned humanity against them. The God of Light resurrects Ozma to give humanity a single chance at redemption, something he cannot achieve as long as Salem seeks the world's destruction. The two former lovers are now pitted against each other for the fate of humanity in a war that has no end. Oz therefore hides Salem's indestructability to protect his allies from despair.
  • Tumblr: The "Skeleton War". A war where "Skeletons fight in Hell for all eternity for literally no fucking reason."
  • Wars Used to End.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Aang encountered two tribes who had been feuding for nearly a century. Details were sketchy after nearly a century, but each side claimed that the other side had wronged their emissary, thus setting off the feud. Aang (who was over 100-years-old but spent most of those years as a Human Popsicle) then told the factions that the two "emissaries" were just children playing a game similar to Prisoner's Base, thus encouraging the two sides to iron out their differences. It turned out he was just making that story up.
    • The War itself. Lasting a century, those who started it, like Sozin, have been dead for decades.
    • Toph explains the concept in The Legend of Korra: When one evil dies, another takes its place. She's grown weary over the constant struggle between good and evil.
  • Deconstructed and played for laughs in Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Simple". Ben tries to negotiate peace between the two sides of an alien race, and fails miserably as neither side can think past fighting the other and can't grasp the idea of peace. (The whole dispute was over what color the founder was.) The alien girl who called him wants the war to end because she just wants a better life. An accident caused by Ben causes the two sides to declare war on him, which doesn't help, because although united, the aliens are going to keep dedicating their resources to the military, instead of important things like education or welfare of their citizens.
  • An episode of Cow and Chicken featured a cheese war that had been going on for 200 years caused by the Red Guy. Cow manages to end it by convincing the people to just eat the cheese instead. Then the Red Guy starts a pig war.
  • Duck Dodgers has the war between Earth and Mars, which at the start of the series has already been going on for around two hundred years and remains at more or less for pretty much the whole series. Though there was almost peace between the two planets, after an Enemy Mine in the Aeason 2 finale... Then the show was renewed for a third season and well, Status Quo Is God unfortunately.
  • Final Space: In "The Ventrexian", it's shown that Ventrexia (Avocato and Little Cato's homeworld) and Tryvuulia (Fox's homeworld) were at war for a thousand years before the Lord Commander showed up to annex Ventrexia for himself; and Avocato, despite being a soldier in the war, doesn't know how it began because it's been going on for so long.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes features the feud between Mr. Gar and Lord Boxman, which has been going on for several years before the start of the series' events. A variation in that while Lord Boxman knows why he's fighting (albeit for silly reasons), Mr. Gar treats him as a persistent nuisance. Sure enough, the feud itself is a prominent part of Season 1.
    • The episode "A Hero's Fate" focuses on RPG World's Hero having pursued Galgarion for so long that he eventually abandoned his teammates, so that he can level up without any distractions and get strong enough (he's level 90 at this point). When K.O. gets sick of the constant grind and tells Hero to do something else with his life, Hero and Galgarion admittedly forgot why they've opposed each other for so long, then Galgarion takes the time to remember that they're long-lost siblings and he was under the impression that Hero was the evil one. Hero suggests that they've actually both been Good All Along, and they decide to put their feud on pause, with Hero going back to Cherry so he can start a family with her.
  • Samurai Jack:
    • Episode XXV has the 300 Spartans fighting an evil machine that sends hordes of robots to attack day after day with no end in sight because the machine strips the battlefield of fallen robots to either repair them or salvage them for spare parts. The Spartans fight to protect their homeland from being stripped of its natural resources. The war ends when Jack shows them a hidden path that allows a strike team to attack the robots' main base. During the background story, the king admits he's the fifth king in the war and with his son fighting, that means the war has been going on for at least 6 generations.note 
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: The universe-wide war against Horde Prime has been going on for thousands of years, with his battle against the First Ones specifically having spanned hundreds of years before he seemingly destroyed them. The conflict has spanned so long Horde Prime has an absolutely massive repository of previous bodies and he can't even remember the She-Ra before Adora, Mara.
  • Parodied in a Treehouse of Horror segment on The Simpsons. Marge convinces the alien robots to stop fighting only to have them join forces to enslave Springfield. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • The Transformers in various media. They may know what they're fighting for, but that doesn't change that they've been doing it for more than 4 million years. It's made even worse by the near immortality of Transformers. The same people have been fighting the same war for millions of years, and all over a planet that in some continuities is already doomed. In the original continuity and several more since, the war had consumed so much of the planet's natural resources that the war had in effect become about getting enough resources to continue the war. For comparison: modern man (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) is only 200 thousand years old as a species, which means the Transformers have been battling each other 20 times longer than humans have existed.
    • The war spreads to other worlds like a wildfire, too. The Decepticons won't stop, and neither will the Autobots — although, in the Autobots' defense, most would like to stop, but pragmatism means they have to try and "contain" the Decepticons, who will gladly enslave or genocide other races to gain their resources and use them to continue battling the Autobots.
    • In a few continuities, the war actually has ended. This may change the scale of the conflict or the politics involved, but it's rarely enough to bring actual peace.

    Real Life 
  • 11 Wars That Lasted Way Longer Than They Should Have. Though it should be noted that most of these are the result of some party in a war forgetting to declare that the war was officially over until long after the fighting was. These "wars" have lasted for decades, centuries and even millennia in some cases, although they've been completely bloodless during all that time.
  • Adolf Hitler wanted Germany to be engaged in a forever war, believing that any peace should be a temporary affair to consolidate gains and lick their wounds, and that the Third Reich should be back at war every 15-20 years. He thought that if a country was at peace for too long it made their people soft and complacent, and also believed that wars encouraged people to have lots of children which would result in Germany having an ever growing population through which they would cement their position as the dominant power on Earth. His reign lasted twelve years and his first attempt at applying this logic ended with Germany as a pile of rubble, proving the entire concept to be inane and delusional.
    • WW1 veteran and all-around nutcase Erich Ludendorff believed this too, but differed from Hitler in that he thought party politics was completely useless and that Germany should be engaged in total war against all neighbors right away as an Odin-worshipping army with a state.
  • This was, in fact, a broader fascist opinion beyond Nazi Germany. Mussolini and Gentile's Doctrine of Fascism describes fascism as specifically 'anti-utopian', rejecting a peaceful end-state and instead directing humanity to constantly and eternally cleanse and refine itself through violence. This was, in part, a development of the Italian artistic philosophy of 'futurism' (with several people, like the post Filippo Marinetti, closely involved in both) which focused on the beauty of action and violence over peace and passivity. Of course, as the early, violent deaths of most fascists and futurists attested, the problem with Forever War as policy is that warfare isn't actually very beneficial to your long-term survival.
  • Ongoing hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, which has been ongoing for approximately as long as there have been Israelis and Palestinians.
    • Though this is constantly cited as a real-life example, it would be generous to claim the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has cohesive roots older than 150 years. Granted, this is still at least twice as long as the lifespan of the average person.
    • The first Arab-Israeli war started in 1948, mere hours after the founding of the State of Israel.
      • There were riots, raids and skirmishes before that and the Jews took the British side in the 1930s Arab Revolt because of said troubles.
    • While it hasn't necessarily been the same groups involved, war in the Middle East (specifically, the "Holy Land") has been fairly constant almost since the beginning of recorded history. It primarily stems from the fact that the region serves as the main land crossing between three continents.
    • Collectively, the Crusades stretched on-and-off across close to 400-700 years, depending on which conflicts one counts. Before those were the Arab invasions, to which the Crusades were the answer, and lasted several decades to centuries each.
  • The Kashmir Question between India and Pakistan has dragged since both countries' independence in 1947, with each side holding contradictory positions and neither willing to compromise. The fact that China has also had an interest in the territory has also made things hard to resolve.
  • The Burmese Civil War has been raging between the military and various rebel factions since 1948, making it the longest shooting war still occurring.
  • The Korean War ended in 1953 with a ceasefire, but nobody signed a peace treaty, which means North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war. The war is nearly 70 years now, and while neither side is actively prosecuting it, there are still occasional incidents and flare-ups. Plus, every time there is a peace overture, it's almost always bound to fail.
  • Sudan experienced a civil war literally before the country even declared independence. That war, which lasted from 1955 to 1972, then 1983 to 2005, eventually ended up with the birth of a new country: South Sudan. Which, unsurprisingly, ended up with a civil war on their own that continues today. On top of that, Sudan also opened a front in Darfur in 2003, which lasts until now.
  • The people of Afghanistan have been continuously at war since the Soviet invasion in 1979. It has been going for so long, with record casualties on every side that's fighting on, that it's a wonder why foreign invaders decide on conquering what is basically a mountain fortress with little natural resources as their prize. Every time you think about it, it's rather depressing.
    • Because Afghanistan's population is very young, this trope is Truth in Television in the country. Over 70% of the population were born after the Soviet invasion, which means they have been experiencing nothing but war all their lives. And with how the war is dragging by the year, that percentage is growing.
    • To give you a rundown:
      • The last king was deposed and replaced by his Soviet-leaning cousin in 1973. Everything seemed fine for several years, until said cousin went increasingly astray from the Soviets and eventually assassinated by a rival communist group in 1978.
      • Then the civil war began, prompting the Soviets to invade the country and try to restore order. The Americans funded a Mosque Militant in a neighboring country and sent them to whack the Soviets, forcing them to leave the war in stalemate in 1989. The civil war kept going, this time between the Mosque Militant (now on its way to become a proper army) and their rivals. The former won (although what little territory outside of their hands continued to experience war) and managed to salvage some peace, at the cost of regressing the rights of people (especially women).
      • Then a certain event happened on 11 September 2001, which followed the assassination of the militant's biggest rival. The Americans invaded, dismantled the militant group, and installed their own puppets, but the militants regrouped and started doing the insurgency. Said insurgency lasted until in 2021 the Americans, much like the Soviets before them, retreated their troops from the country and left it to promptly collapse to the insurgents. As of writing, the situation has fallen into a point similar to the one in the early 90's, with the insurgents taking control of the government and attempting to re-establish some sort of order within it, but new insurgencies (albeit on a smaller scale) still fight against the new government (most notably the ISKP).
    • There's a reason why it's known as the "Graveyard of Empires". For centuries, foreign powers have fought over the territory due to its strategic value as a buffer against potential invasion, as well as a gateway connecting the Middle East with Asia. No foreign invaders since Alexander the Great has actually managed to take and hold Afghanistan, and seeing as Alexander died rather young it's unknown whether even he could've maintained control.
  • Somalia has been at war since 1986, after 31 years, Somalia has seen many territorial changes, numerous different rebel groups, radical religious militants, a country trying to become independent (Somaliland), 3 United Nations Peacekeeping missions and at least 3 different Somali governments. And the war is expected to keep going since the new government is still very weak and prone to instability (Since most it's support is done by the UN and the military forces of the African Union) and Al-Shabaab is still very active and strong showing no signs of wanting to surrender or negotiate.
  • Prior to the aforementioned War on Terror, the Philippine-American War had been the longest war the US had fought, starting in 1899 when the US went to war with Philippine nationalists that had declared their own republic despite Spain having sold the Philippines to the US. Though the Philippine Republic collapsed after a few years due to incompetent leadership, fighting continued between the Americans and the Muslim Moro people of the island of Mindanao until 1913. However, with the rise of radical Islam, Moro resistance would flare up again in the 1970s, and the Philippine army has been fighting them ever since in their own war on terror.
  • The Aws and Khazraj were two tribes living in what is now Medina.note  They had been fighting for over 120 years, and no one on either side could remember what it was about. It only ended when both asked the Prophet Muhammad to settle their differences.
  • The Hundred Years' War between England and France, which lasted 116 years (including some armistices). Given the average lifespans and literacy rates at that point, it's very likely most people had no idea what the war was about.
    • It was (originally) a dispute over royal authority: King Edward III of England refused to subordinate himself to King Philip VI of France, as previous kings of England dating to William the Conqueror had done (as they held lands in France as French nobles independently of their lands in England). Philip VI responded by confiscating Edward III's property in France. Edward III then declared that Philip VI had no authority to do so, because he was actually the rightful king of France (Edward was more closely related to the previous king than Philip, but the crown was given to Philip because he was related through the male line while Edward was related to Charles IV through his mother). Accusing the king of being a usurper is obviously a big deal, so naturally war resulted. Given that the kings of England at the time were also French nobility, it could rightly be seen as a French civil war. But unlike most succession disputes, this war continued long after the original claimants to the throne were dead. England and France each had five different kings over the course of the war.
    • Even after the war ended (1453), relations between France and England were far from peachy. Both countries would remain at odds for the next four hundred years over matters such as religion or colonial ambition. In fact, it wasn't until the Crimean War (1853) that either of them actually managed to agree on anything.
      • Not strictly true, as there was a brief period, during what some historians have dubbed the 'Second Hundred Years War' (between the ascension to the throne of William and Mary in 1688 and Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815), between 1716 — 1731 that the Anglo-French Alliance existed and they even fought alongside each other (uniquely in this time period) during the 1718- 1720 'War of the Quadruple Alliance' (with the titular Alliance comprising them, (the then State of the Holy Roman Empire) Austria and the Dutch Republic, later joined by Savoy) against the Kingdom of Spain.
  • Likewise the 80 years war or the Dutch War for independence (actual duration 68 years) ended in 1648. Likewise in the example above, lifespans were not that long back then, and even still; it lasted nearly a century in total until peace was obtained. Lives started and ended in a constant struggle. Notably, the reason for the Non-Indicative Name is that the war spanned 80 years, but was interrupted by a period in the middle known as the Twelve Years Truce. War became so much the default that it became necessary to name the period of peace.
  • According to Herodotus, Persia's invasion of Greece was kind of like this... for the Persians. The Greeks knew exactly what they wanted out of it (that is, not to become a Persian province), but Xerxes wasn't entirely sure what he was doing there: Greece was a resource-poor backyard and the Greeks already in his empire (in Ionia, what is now western Turkey) had proven to be ungovernable. The only reason the Persians even thought about conquering mainland Greece was a peculiar battle in which an Athenian army assisted Miletos (a Greek city in Ionia) in reasserting its independence; in the process, they managed to torch the Persian provincial capital at Sardis. This made Xerxes' father Darius (who was Shah at the time) VERY angry once he got over his confusion (Athens was a tin-pot town nobody important had ever heard of). Darius shot an arrow into the sky, and swore "O God, grant that I may punish the Athenians;" later on, he had a servant remind him of his pledge at dinner daily, and various plans for fighting the Athenians were drawn up. Xerxes was not so preoccupied, and was rather confused with Darius' request that he also try to "punish the Athenians;" supposedly, the only thing that convinced Xerxes to go at all was a recurring dream of a phantom telling him to go to Greece.
    • A recent interpretation that's gaining a lot of credibility that, since the Persian Empire was run on the Tarkin Doctrine, an Emperor had to be seen as living up to the exploits of his forefathers (remember, Xerxes is only the 4th Persian Emperor). This means conquest — and, for Darius and Xerxes, Greece is about the only thing left that's easy to conquer. Or at least they had every reason to expect it to be easy.
    • It also qualifies as "forever" because it raged on and off for about 160 years until Alexander the Great finally toppled the Persian Empire.
      • Heck, Alexander's conquest only put a brief pause to the conflict. One thousand years later, Greeks and Persians were still fighting each other. Which is known as...
  • The group of conflicts collectively known as the Roman-Persian Wars, more than seven centuries of on-and-off conflicts, which was only ended when the Muslims overwhelmed the Sassanids. Therein followed another four or so centuries of conflict with the Arabs, two-and-a-half with the Turks, and then another two-and-a-bit with the Ottomans.
  • Inversion: The Anglo-Zanzibar war lasted somewhere between 33 and 45 minutes.
  • It's not a perfect example but the Thirty Years' War continued to be fought after the initial cause of the war had been resolved (mostly because it became a convenient excuse for other nations to advance their political goals.)
    • It was the longest war that was one of continual fighting. Nearly every example listed here is a series of conflicts.
  • The Sri Lankan Civil War between the Sinhalese-dominated government and the Tamil separatists seemed to be this, going on for 25 years with no apparent end in sight, until the Tamil Tigers were suddenly annihilated alongside a lot of Tamil civilians in 2009.
  • The Cold War was expected to last forever until it suddenly ended in 1991. By the time it finally did, more than half the world population was too young to remember a time before it.
  • In fact, most, if not all, "Wars" against intangible concepts. Like the above mentioned War on Terror, the War on Drugs and War on Poverty have shown no sign of progress. A famous article from The Onion even satirizes this with the headline Drugs Win Drug War, showing the inevitable failure against these sort of "Wars". It must be noted however that the reason for the failure to end these wars mostly stems out of the fact that they are not meant to be won, but are fought because not doing so would lead to each of these concepts (Terror, Drugs, Poverty, Crime, Corruption, etc) to spiral out of control and cause an uncontrollable crisis within the country.
  • After the USA and its allies won the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, a Civil War broke out that racked up a large death toll before being put down within a year. After that the Americans continued to bomb the country to enforce the no-fly zone at least once a week, resulting in the de facto independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. Then the Americans and British invaded in full in 2003 and dissolved the old government, leading to new insurgent groups rising and more civil war. The USA formally withdrew in 2011, but the country experienced a new bout of violence with the rise of the Islamic State in 2014. The Americans returned and, alongside the new Iraqi government and Iraqi Kurdistan, crushed IS by 2017. Thanks to Saddam Hussein's hideous 8-year war with Iran, his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and the frequent Kurdish rebellions including Hussein's genocidal suppression in Al-Anfal, until 2017, Iraq had known only two years of peace since he came to power in 1979. Thankfully, unlike Afghanistan, a happy ending was eventually reached by Iraqis (although the USA's confrontation with Iran might complicate matters), as while insurgency still happens in parts of the country, violence is down to pre 2003 levels and the government is more or less stable with no desire to invade its neighbors. While US troops still remain in the country in small numbers, they declared their combat mission officially done at the end of 2021 - taken collectively the three distinct Iraq Wars take would outdo Afghanistan as the longest American war, at over 30 years.
  • For large portions of history we didn't even bother to name our wars. War was the normal state of being except in the core of large states. In other words the only places where there was peace was where one faction had curb stomped everyone else in the area.
    • According to a UN statistic published in 2000 in the 100 years of the 20th Century there have been roughly 5 minutes of world peace. The rest of the time there was a war being fought somewhere on Earth. Despite that, however, it was actually less violent than any previous century going by percentage of population lost.
    • In the entirety of recorded history, there has been (officially) approximately 250 years of peace. In reality, there would have been unofficial violent conflicts between various groups for most of that time, and smaller-scale conflicts for longer.
  • According to Kevin Phillip's The Cousin's Wars, in every single civil war among English speakers since the seventeenth century the same ethnic and religious groups predictably lined up on opposite sides with the same allies and enemies they had before so that one could predict the line up for the next by the previous. This applies even to elections, which are sort of a nonlethal Civil War.
  • The Wars of the Roses: began in 1455 over a dispute in the succession dating back to 1399 and ended in 1485. The man who won the war and became king wasn't even born yet when it began.
  • The history of Europe and the Middle East from the Roman Civil War of 69 AD until the Napoleonic Wars has been one uninterrupted series of wars. Factions changed, often new players invaded from nowhere, but the relevant fact is that Europe and the surrounding area were at war for one thousand, seven hundred and forty-six years straight, with the wars sometimes spilling in more distant areas (the Seven Years War had battlefields in North America and India, and the French Revolution Wars and Napoleonic Wars were also fought in Central and South America and India, and the British war effort was one of the causes of the War of 1812). Then, after the last round nearly destroyed every single faction, the current combatants settled down and tried to establish a peaceful world order, so Europe went at peace... For five years, after which Spanish, Portuguese and Italian liberals start rising to obtain constitutions (and Italian unification) and Greek rebels start preparing the Greek War of Independence that will erupt in 1821, thus starting the series of wars that will end in 1945 with the end of World War II. And in those five years, Spain was still dealing with the independence wars in its colonial empire sparked by Napoleon's invasion.
    • We could say that, in spite of its name, the Cold War caused the longest period of peace in Europe since 69 AD, lasting from 1945 to 1991 (the Yugoslav Wars), a whopping forty-six years without armed conflict on European soil (though there was still European involvement in some of the wars outside the continent).
    • For an incomplete summary, listen to the song Europa, and keep in mind that it's watered down for lack of time. If there's one thing in this world you can guarantee, Europeans will always default to kicking the hell out of each other.
    • With that in mind, the European Union being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 makes a small measure of sense. The Warsaw Pact and NATO alliances were largely responsible for the status quo following World War II, where none of their members have fought one another since 1945, and those members have include Britain, France, Germany, Poland, and Russia between them responsible for most of the Real Life entries on this page (especially Germany, which prior to unification was in a state of eternal civil war). The expansion of NATO and its civilian component, the EU, to encompass most ex-Warsaw Pact countries as well has continued the peace maintained since then. The reduction of the average level of strife between non-Yugoslav European countries to passive-aggressive sniping is nothing short of astonishing.
  • The Balkans are more or less in a perpetual state of unrest. The 1632 novels lampshade this by saying that, yes, there is a crisis in the Balkans, and had the Ring of Fire taken them three and a half centuries into the future instead of three and a half centuries into the past, there would still be a crisis in the Balkans.
  • The American Civil War, although ending properly in 1865, spawned race conflicts and armed upheavals that lasted for decades. One of the comments made in the Ken Burns documentary stated that it lasts to this very day, as long as race divide is not solved. In short: The Civil Rights Movement wished for a final end to this problem, and they got a number of amendments to support their cause through in The '60s. But then the southern democrats dug in, and this issue is still a problem.
    • The ongoing nature of this conflict is not helped that the two regions have a sizeable political divide, with many of the prominent Northern States being bastions of liberal politics and most of the former Confederate states being bastions of "conservative" (often reactionary) politics.
    • The Hatfield-McCoy feud, which followed almost immediately after the war. The Other Wiki officially lists it running from 1881-1891, but the initial start of the trouble was from a murder of a Union Soldier in 1865, alleged theft of a pig in 1878, and an outstanding bootlegging warrant. During the feud proper, 15 people died. Because issues with state lines involved, it grew to such a problem that it almost sparked a war between Kentucky and West Virginia! The resulting trials of the participants lasted until 1901 (the last one was for the bootlegging).
    • It should be noted that The American Civil War was a forgone conclusion in the minds of many people dating back to the signing of the Constitution. The Ken Burns documentary regarding the war devotes its entire first episode to the backstory of the civil war.
  • On a microscopic level, bacteria have been at war with viruses called Bacteriophages for billions of years. These viruses infect specific strains of bacteria for reproductive purposes, with bacteria trying to adapt against it and the phages adapting against their adaptations. This war goes on all around us, on every surface, in every fluid, and even inside of us.
  • The Arauco War waged between the Spanish Empire and the Mapuche people in the Araucanía, Chile in 1536. It lasted nearly three centuries where bloody conflicts were interpolated with periods of peace of variable length. One of the most notable battles was the Disaster of Curalaba where a band of Mapuches ambushed and killed the Spanish governor and his peerage. This kickstarted the Third Great Mapuche Rebellion that culminated in the Destruction of the Seven Cities where all the Spanish settlements founded south of the Bio-Bio River were burned to the ground. The Spanish Crown realized that there are not any amounts of gold and silver worth getting massacred for and decided to establish frontier using the previously mentioned river as a natural barrier. From here on the conflicts continued at irregular intervals during the Chilean War of Independence and the War of the Pacific. It wasn't until the Occupation of the Araucanía in 1883 that the conflict was brought to an end. King Phillip II of Spain compared the Arauco War to the Eighty Years War described above and claimed that more Spaniards died on this conflict alone than any other war in the New World. What's even more, some people want to start it back up again.
  • Your immune system fights a war against trillions of invading pathogens on a daily basis, even outside of the notable times your skin is breached and something begins making you feel sick. For example, millions of mold spores invade your lungs every time you take a breath, and would take root and kill you if not for this intervention. Your immune system is constantly on alert, active, and will continue fighting off these pathogens every moment you're alive.
  • The longest ongoing conflict is the Chechen-Russian conflict which has been going on since 1785.
  • The Norman invasion of Wales began in 1067 under William the Conqueror, who perceived the war as unending. Unfortunately, nobody told his son and successor William Rufus that, and what ensued was something that didn't officially end until Edward Longshanks conquered it, bringing this long conflict to an end in 1283. And even that didn't totally end it, with the Glyndwr Rising of 1400-1415, when Owain Glyndwr reconquered all of Wales, being the last native Welshman to be crowned Prince of Wales. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't hold it, and he vanished, with a lot of 'Elvis Lives!' stories ensuing about what happened to him.
  • The default state of ant colonies is a costant, never-ending war that would make Warhammer 40,000 blush, with numbers of fighters in the quadrillions:
    • With rare exceptions, ant colonies of different species will be automatically aggressive towards each other, and will fight for any number of reasons: they may field massive amounts of soldiers to fight over a particularly significant amount of food, or invade colonies to occupy it, eat their enemies, or steal their larvae to brainwash them into slaves. If two colonies of the same ant species become too 'genetically distinct', even if they come from the same colony of origin, they'll recognize each other as foreign and become aggressive, assuring that the colonies will never not be at war with another colony, even if they wipe out every other ant species in the surrounding zone.
    • Army ants in particular are specialized in never-ending conflict: they don't build nests like most other ants, instead constantly marching in long columns and devouring everything in their path, and are capable of wiping out even wasp nests. When encountering ants (excluding other Army ants) they will immediately attack, Zerg Rush the colony, devour everyone, and then move along to the next target. They're essentially the insect version of The Horde, to the point that other ant species had to adapt specific tactics against them to survive at all.
  • The longest and oldest war in South America, the Colombian Civil War has officially been raging since the founding of communist groups in 1964, but many put the date as far back as 1948, when the murder of a popular socialist politician reignited centuries-old tensions between the Colombian left and right.


IronStorm (PC Version)

In a war where human lives have become a commodity, is there any chance of it ending?

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ForeverWar

Media sources: