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Going Cosmic is when a work of fiction that was ostensibly about something else starts delving into deep theological and philosophical issues. Frequently for Western works, this entails the introduction of a monotheistic deity with a strong resemblance to the Abrahamic God.

In some cases, the work may have really been about something else to start with, but the writers ran out of ideas and so decided to explore the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. This type of Going Cosmic is usually fairly sudden and/or the result of a Retool. The other form of Going Cosmic is when the Cosmic ideas which were always in the background start shoving their way to the foreground and overshadowing everything else. This tends to be a more gradual process.

Usually indicates a Writer on Board. Expect a lot of Rule of Symbolism and Contemplate Our Navels. Often results in Jumping the Shark. Sometimes a symptom of Cerebus Syndrome. Compare Big Damn Movie, where a film adaptation of a mundane series is given an epic storyline. Compare Cosmic Horror Reveal, What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?

Doesn't have to do with Space "X" or having gone to plaid, or other tropes that actually deal with space.

Sub-Trope of Philosophical Parable, the general trope for when an ideology or philosophy is illustrated via a fictional work.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Gundam: The level of mystical, philosophical weirdness caused by the main characters' Psychic Powers tends to escalate towards the end of most shows, though gods or anything like that are never mentioned.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure starts a noticeable shift near the end of Part 6 when it starts taking on themes of fate, gravity, power, and so on, whereas before it involved mostly simple good vs. evil stories.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is, at the beginning, a show about teenagers battling aliens in Humongous Mechas. Then they delve into psychology and apocalyptic transhumanism, and the last two episodes are exclusively spent psychoanalyzing the main characters and trying to formulate a way to end human suffering. The movie acts as a supplement finale and has a Physical God manifest through Evangelion Unit 01 — or at least through human eyes, it becomes a being on a tier of existence that could be considered a god.
  • One Piece nudged this territory with the Sky Island Saga, introducing Eneru as a being that the residents believed was God. When he was revealed to be brutally cruel, hedonistic, and an all-around Omnicidal Maniac interested in shipping off to the moon, people quickly learned to direct their prayers toward another higher power as he demolished everything... and got their prayers answered from the real God.
  • Outlaw Star started as a campy Space Opera filled with Fanservice, cat girls and some Magitek, it ended with wizards dueling in a massive space library that can grant wishes and a gigantic Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica is, at the beginning, a show about Magical Girls battling monsters as a payment for having their wish granted. Then suddenly it's about morality and how your actions reflect (your lack of) it. Then it's about eschatology and the efforts to stave it at any cost. And then the main character becomes God, with all the (mostly-unenviable) responsibilities of such position.
  • Robotech, as a result of welding a Myth Arc out of three separate anime, develops a far more mystical tinge as it goes along.
    • The first series sticks to a synthetic Artificial Human race having to deal with contamination from human culture, but by the third series the world is not only post-apocalyptic, but the enemy alien is Sufficiently Advanced and focused on Evolutionary Levels as an explicit metaphor for enlightenment (or the other way around, it's kind of hard to tell sometimes). Similarly, the "protoculture" energy source in the first series is revealed to be from the "Flower of Life" in the second, which is the main factor driving the plot of the third.
    • The novelizations take all the brakes off on the series' mystical aspects, as "the Protoculture" is often described as an actively plot-guiding force, being responsible for the miraculous and otherwise-impossible birth of the half-Zentraedi Dana Sterling and the enlightenment of Dr. Emil Lang. The Sentinels novelizations, being partially created out of whole cloth, deal with actual alien wizards, more talk of evolution as it relates to the Flowers of Life, another race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens not even involved in this evolution thing, and discussions of childbirth among the alien Zentraedi. And then there's The End of the Circle, a finale taking place mostly outside of time and space that takes the whole thing to outright Mind Screw levels; an alien deity trying to comprehend sexuality and despair is just the start.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Knightfall, the most complex comic-book story arc done up to its time (1992-1994), began as a straight action-adventure thriller, with a steroid-addicted Latin American mastermind named Bane and his three henchmen using rocket launchers to blow up Arkham Asylum, releasing The Joker, Two-Face and at least a dozen other deranged super-criminals and forcing Batman to have to hunt down all of them at once. The story takes an especially dark turn when Batman, physically and emotionally exhausted from his crusade, has his back broken by Bane and is semi-permanently crippled — leaving Bruce Wayne to fear that he may never walk again, much less be Batman. Bruce selects as the new Batman college student and Wayne Enterprises employee Jean-Paul Valley, who has been instilled since childhood (by his father and various others) with a fanatical pseudo-religious programming called "The System." After Bruce Wayne's doctor (and girlfriend) is kidnapped and he heads to England to rescue her, the story shifts to Jean-Paul's exploits as the new Batman and explores his doubts, his feelings of guilt and his struggle against the cultish brainwashing to which he and his father (and dozens of generations of Valleys before) were subjected. At this point, Bane is defeated and almost all of the Arkham villains have either been captured or have dropped out of sight, and as the story plays out Bruce Wayne (who is miraculously cured) and Jean-Paul Valley are set against each other, with Bruce wondering how he could not have foreseen what would happen to Jean-Paul and resolving to reclaim the Batman legacy and reestablish exactly what being a costumed hero entails - all definitely a lot more philosophic than almost anything explored in the Batman comics up to that point. Once Bruce and Jean-Paul have reconciled, the saga ends with these words: "Below was a region of cold and eternal night, and it might be that this was his true home, a destiny he had created and could not escape. Soon, perhaps, he might return to it — but not today."
  • Marville: The first two issues are a parody of Marvel and DC. The last three are about God taking the main characters on a tour of philosophy, and they're completely serious.
  • Promethea has the frame of a superhero story but most of it is rooted in the exploration of symbolism. The protagonist spends many, many issues traveling through the Sefirot and the Tarot cards on a spiritual journey.
  • Secret Wars II is about the omnipotent but naive Beyonder trying to understand the human experience.
  • X-Men: The Phoenix Force serves this purpose. Being the force of all sentient life in the Multiverse, it is basically an avatar of God. It has a complicated relationship with the X-Men through Jean Grey.

    Fan Works 
  • The Games We Play starts off with Jaune working with the White Fang for their goal of faunus liberation, as well as doing battle with the Grimm. Eventually it moves on to ask questions about the nature of existence, reality and souls, questions that, if answered, might just also let Jaune answer the question "How do I defeat The Man Behind the Man?" Foreshadowed extensively by all the mythology and religion references.
  • Latias' Journey starts out as a story about Latias chasing her crush, Ash Ketchum, after the Ghost King destroys her home. By the end of the story, the entire multiverse was destroyed (except not really), and we get several chapters full of navel-gazing on the nature of life, death, and the universe that turned out to be part of a simulation run by an evil computer program who wanted to take over the universe for himself. At least the sequel starts off cosmic, and keeps going back and forth from there.
  • Ultraman Moedari started out as a comedic series about a young ultraman playing truant and picking a host at random... and turns into a series about fate and becoming a god, where the entire omniverse is merged and Time and Space are living beings themselves. To be fair, there was a tiny bit of foreshadowing..

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Apple has lots of symbolism and Dream Sequences throughout comparing the Corrupt Corporate Executive Mr. Boogalow to Lucifer, but then at the end there's a literal Deus ex Machina where "Mr. Topps" descends from the sky in a golden Cadillac and it turns out Boogalow really IS Lucifer.
  • Lucy literally goes cosmic once her brain achieves 90% Functionality, effectively turning from an enhanced human to a literal god. At 95%, she utilises Mental Time Travel to see everything humans can not, including the Birth of the Universe, the formation of stars and the formation of the Earth. She also meets Lucy the Australopithicus, and ultimately sets into effect a Stable Time Loop which ensures that she will never be erased from the timeline. At 98%, she loses her corporeal form, and starts to turn into metal. Finally, at 100% Functionality, she turns into an all-powerful supercomputer, containing everything that she knows, before disintegrating completely and becoming God, but not before presenting the scientists with a handy USB stick containing the secrets to everything.
  • The Matrix is about humans fighting their enslavement by machines. By The Matrix Revolutions... your guess is as good as ours, but it sure is cosmic.
  • Transformers Film Series: Subverted. Transformers (2007) was a basic science fiction/action film with Transforming Mecha. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen introduced the Fallen, the Lucifer/Judas character of the Transformers universe, as well as the story of the ancient Primes and Ancient Astronauts. For Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Unicron was considered, but the final product scales back from the grand scope introduced in the previous film, going back to the first film's science fiction/thriller tone, with the Autobots fighting a rogue Sentinel Prime and a full invasion force of Decepticons. The sequels do bring the ones that create the Transformers and Unicron's remains show up in Transformers: The Last Knight, but they're not the center of the plot.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier plays with this trope. At first, it seems to be veering towards Going Cosmic with the Enterprise being directed towards a voyage into the heart of the Galaxy to find God. At the climax "God" is revealed to be an imposter — just an alien wanting a lift on the Enterprise.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia were always Christian fantasy, but the series transitioned from adventures with childrento the final book being pretty much a direct stand-in for Revelation.
  • Discworld has done this over time, moving from the parody of fantasy and roleplaying games of the first books into some quite deep "Stealth Philosophy" later in the series. Although the tendency was there from quite early on (the feminist critique of Equal Rites being the first major outbreak), it's become much more prevalent in later books.
  • Dante Alighieri's early work consisted of fairly standard love poetry about the beauty of a woman, only for the The Divine Comedy to reveal said woman has a throne in Heaven right next to the Mother of God's. From there, the middle-aged love story poet is guided by a pagan ghost up the Devil's back and through the fires of Eden so he can reunite with his lover and glimpse the Emperor that loves the cosmos into being.
  • Dune: The first novel is a measured study of the interplay of ecology, science, religion & politics, but is positively action-packed compared to the fourth book, God-Emperor of Dune.
  • Emberverse begins as an immediately-post-apocalyptic survival story in which one of the survivors just happens to be a neo-pagan, and many of her fellow survivors glom onto it as a means of community and cultural identity in a harsh new world. There's some amount of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane from nearly the start, but the balance shifts farther toward the "pretty obviously semi-divine magic" side of the spectrum in the second trilogy, and by the third, characters are having regular chats with Odin and the staunchest Hollywood Atheist in the cast is shopping around for a personal warrior goddess to dedicate her ass-kicking to.
  • Orson Scott Card is prone to Going Cosmic. The Ender series started with the tightly written sci-fi classic Ender's Game, then getting more and more Cosmic with each successive sequel, as it expands into speaking for the dead, xenobiology, virology, philosophy, inter-dimensional travel, and inter-personal struggle. Note that Philotes, as the third book was called when it was a mere draft, wasn't originally intended to be part of the series. Card's publisher forced him to add a third book to the series, and he figured that adding Ender to the existing story would both fulfill the requirement and add life to a story that wasn't very interesting as it was.
  • The Forever War is a science-fiction allegory for the Vietnam War that uses relativistic "time travel" to great dramatic effect. The sequel, Forever Free, involves discovering the true purpose of life in the Milky Way and meeting (essentially) God.
  • His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass is a fantasy-adventure story with an evil church as the bad guys. The following books in the trilogy go cosmic by extending across various universes including Heaven and the Underworld and the Big Bad being God (or an angel claiming to be God; still, it gets very theological and unsubtle).
  • The Sight: The plot increasingly focuses on philosophical themes in the last act, with Larka's narration commenting a lot on the purpose of life and the future of animals and humans, culminating in the final vision which shows the whole history and future of the world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100 is known for introducing very unexpected threats each season, but by the end of the series a Swirly Energy Thingy invoked a godlike hivemind alien that acted as a cosmic judge for all of humanity, and whether to save the human race by causing an event known as the Transcendence or destroy it utterly.
  • The 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica, especially in comparison to its 1978 parent series. The remake started out much like the original as the story of a bunch of human survivors on the run from renegade robots that Turned Against Their Masters and are now bent on genocide, with occasional hints at a theological basis for the whole business. In later seasons, the episodes of divine intervention became more and more blatant.
  • Supernatural started out as a Monster of the Week show focused on urban legends, with demons being a big deal on the occasions they appeared. Now it's about the impending Apocalypse, with angels and demons duking it out, Greek and Egyptian gods showing up, Lucifer sermonizing on the evils of humanity, and the protagonists caught in the middle. The monster legend adaptations also got less accurate. Eventually it just wound up as a free-for-all All Myths Are True kind of thing, even featuring repeated Time Travel, an Anti-God who makes the Devil look like a chump, alternate universes, and the Writer (i.e. God himself) being the ultimate mastermind.
  • Star Trek did this with Deep Space Nine. The god-like entities are explained as being non-corporeal life-forms that exist inside a wormhole, but they differ from gods only in title, and sometimes even that distinction is eliminated as one of the focal points of the series is an entire planet that religiously worships the wormhole aliens. Captain Sisko at many times tries to provide scientific explanations for what goes on, but later on the series is forced to admit that the universe holds things queerer than we can fathom, and that the religious followers might actually be right about a lot of things. The Prophets' role in the story and Captain Sisko's role as their "emissary" increases steadily every season. This was an interesting genre shift, because previous series has been packed to the rafters with Sufficiently Advanced Aliens since Star Trek: The Original Series. Some of these, such as the Q, have powers far beyond those of the Prophets. Thus skepticism about the divinity of the Prophets was quite logical since Starfleet had encounters with "godlike" beings on a fairly regular basis.
  • Stargate SG-1 always had themes of faith and religion, as many plots revolved around powerful religious artifacts and toppling false gods, but the last two seasons saw the Goa'uld and classic science fiction themes being replaced by the Ori, who bear a much stronger resemblance to actual deities, whose followers are closer to mediaeval religious crusaders than ancient god-cultists, and brought a lot of philosophical conundrums with them. This case is a result of the Retool, as they weren't expecting another season.
  • Being Human. The existence of Hell, or somewhere like it, was implied right from the pilot episode, and there were occasional hints at the existence of Heaven from the first series, but the plots were all very-much grounded in the physical realm at first. Then series two had a sub-plot about The Men with Sticks and Rope trying to lure Annie to the afterlife. Series three had Mitchell venturing into Purgatory to rescue Annie. Series four had some Mind Screw implications that the afterlife could be used to time-travel, as well as the existence of half-demon succubi and mention that vampires only exist because of an ancient Deal with the Devil. Series five finally gives up on attempting any semblance of ambiguity on the matter and outright summons Satan in the first episode. In a flashback.
  • Fringe started out as a series about the FBI division devoted to Paranormal Investigation and Weird Science, and the amusing personalities contained within. By the end of the first season, it's become clear that there are Alternate Universes at play. By the end of the third season, a war has broken out between two parallel universes, and time travel and questions of pre-destination have taken over the plot. By the end of the fifth season, the characters are caught up in a cross-temporal invasion by Sufficiently Advanced Future Humans and formerly completely unrelated characters are revealed to have always been tangled up tightly in a web of destiny.
  • Season one of True Detective is a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane variation. Throughout the series, Rustin Cohl's visions and ramblings get more and more unhinged, and yet also more and more coherent, centering on a Cosmic Horror Story-tinged hybrid of Nietzche's Eternal Recurrence and Flatland that should be familiar to anyone who's read Dreams In The Witch House. By the end of the finale, Rust has a vision of either just a hallucinatory Swirly Energy Thingy or else an actual glimpse of something truly cosmic, faces down what is either a hillbilly serial killer or else a devout cultist of an elder god, and declares that the starry night sky illustrates the battle between "light versus dark": The dark has more territory, but once upon a time, it was all dark.
  • Babylon 5 began as a typical early-90s postcyberpunk sci-fi story, but gradually shifted into a Myth Arc featuring a millennia-spanning conflict between two ancient alien races, one of which tends to influence younger races by posing as angelic figures while the other looks Obviously Evil, especially with a name like "the Shadows", though their conflict is actually about Order Versus Chaos. Worth noting, the groundwork for the Genre Shift began in the very first season as part of the show's planned arc.

  • The Beatles gained their fame as an exceptionally good pop boy-band with songs like "Please Please Me," "She Loves You," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." By the time they broke up, they were psychedelic, avant-garde musical groundbreakers with philosophical songs like "Revolution," "Mother Nature's Son," and "Across the Universe." Asian spirituality also made a number of appearances.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Many games of Unknown Armies have this as the explicit goal. First you start off learning about how weird and twisted the world really is. Then you move among the people who embrace the weirdness, and maybe pick up some of it yourself. And then you start competing in the game to remake the universe...

    Video Games 
  • Xenogears. What starts out as a game about using giant robots to overthrow an oppressive technologically advanced empire steps off the edge of the pier at the start of the second disk and quickly turns into game about killing "god" and stopping a madman with a Messiah Complex from ending human existence as we know it. The game starts throwing out Old Testament biblical references like they'd just gone bad to the degree that you either need to be well-versed in Biblical lore or play the game with a decent encyclopedia close by for it to make sense. Or just read Perfect Works.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1: You don't start fighting god until the last ten/twenty hours, depending on how many sidequests and how much grinding you did.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: The majority of the game is normal Space Opera fare in a Standard Sci Fi Setting where humanity is fleeing the destruction of Earth and trying to colonize a new world. It briefly gets thrown for a loop when the humans are all revealed to be using robot bodies being controlled by their real bodies which are in stasis in their missing mothership, but gets back on track quickly enough. But then the final chapter reveals that there are no human bodies because everyone's minds have been copied into a quantum computer which is the real source of the robot bodies' control, and goes into a heavy debate on the nature of The Singularity and what it means to be human if you can just copy-and-paste yourself into a new body whenever you feel like it. As if that wasn't enough, The Stinger then takes things up a notch when the computer containing everyone's minds was actually destroyed since the beginning of the game, raising even bigger questions on how everyone can even still be existing.
  • Pokémon experienced this as part of the evolution of Legendary Pokémon over time, particularly for "Cover" Legendaries. In Gen I, the most powerful Pokémon were viewed as elusive, enigmatically powerful creatures, with the sole exception being Mewtwo, itself a genetically enhanced clone of Mew. Gen II started to show Legendary Pokémon as being regionally worshipped and capable of feats such as resurrection (Ho-oh) and time travel (Celebi). Gen III would see this escalate to featuring Pokémon considered the rulers of the land, the seas, and the skies (Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza, respectively). Gen IV was the apex of this trend, adding Pokémon that rule over time, space, and other dimensions (Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina), Pokémon that embody human emotion (the Lake Trio) and the literal Creator of the Universe (Arceus). Since then however, there's been a notable step back in the scale of powerful Legendary Pokémon; from Gen V onward, they have been treated as very powerful Pokémon that embody certain ideas and have unique abilities rather than literally ruling over them, though Legendaries are often said to have been viewed as regional rulers or deities in the past. There are also a few exceptions to the modern trend, such as Ultra Necrozma and Mega Rayquaza, both of which were viewed as gods and targets of worship.
  • Marathon 1 and 2 were a basic first-person shooters a la Doom, and were known for having fairly advanced and complex stories for their time, but nothing too complex. Then the third game (Infinity) pops up, and suddenly the plot is about an Eldritch Abomination named "The W'rkncacnter" attempting to eat all of space and time, having long, complex passages about the nature of the human existence, multiple timelines, and a hell of a lot of weird, terrifying dreams. It got so complex that fans are still debating over the symbolism.
  • The World Ends with You initially seems to just be about playing a game for the main characters to get their lives back, but upon reading the Secret Reports, a lot of background is given to the world, with gods, fallen angels, and alternate realities being thrown into the mix.
  • Dragon's Dogma starts off as the adventure of a random fisherman going on a quest to kill a giant Dragon. Then, after you kill said Dragon and the game is seemingly over, a hole to the center of the world opens in the middle of the largest city in the world opens, you jump into it and eventually meet who may or may not be god, a previous Arisen just like the protagonist, who has gotten tired of existing forever, then kill him to take his place, in a series' of fights that are less Boss Fight and more exposition discussing life, the universe and the cycle of life in the universe, all while you're stuck between universes. And then you die. And then you're not dead but your pawn is you. Suffice to say, it gets cosmic.
  • Themes of cosmology and divinity were always present in the Baldur's Gate series, with the first game's revelation that the protagonist is the child of Bhaal, the dead god of murder, and your final showdown with Big Bad Sarevok being in a forgotten temple to Bhaal. These themes are ramped up in the sequel, however, where the climactic battle with the new Big Bad, Jon Irenicus, happens in Hell, and the campaign on its expansion pack gives you a segment of your father's hellish domain to use as a headquarters and ends with a battle at his very throne, giving you the opportunity to succeed Bhaal as a god at the end. All the series' Big Bads have had divine aspirations, and they come progressively closer to meeting that goal.
  • A lot of Shin Megami Tensei games start off with your Ordinary High-School Student's day getting irrevocably ruined by demons popping up everywhere, and everything going to hell. There are sometimes fairly mundane early enemies to deal with (a conspiracy to nuke Japan in SMT1 to contain the sudden emergence of demons, an evil corporation in the first Persona) and then things swiftly move up from there, usually with the revelation that the cosmic forces were manipulating early events.
    • Shin Megami Tensei II is quite infamous for having you fight and kill God.
    • The Persona games all end with exploring Jungian ideas of the collective unconscious and fighting manifestations of primal aspects of humanity's self-destructive drives. Usually, you're fighting some version of humanity's desire to die.
    • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, meanwhile, goes for broke right at the beginning with the apocalypse, and puts you in the middle of the fight to create the next universe before you even get your first combat tutorial. (The "True Demon" ending has you join Lucifer as his general, preparing to break the apocalyptic cycle of the multiverse and defeat God permanently.)
    • In Devil Survivor, at first, you're just trying to survive (as the title indicates) and escape the barricade before everyone inside it dies, though even then you get to listen to the Shomonkai preach about how the Internet and human communication play into God's ordeal. Then you discover the existence and nature of the Bels and the contest for the throne of Bel. Oh, and your genius programmer cousin is Cain. The game also deconstructs the questions of power at the heart of SMT, both by showing how bad it would get if people got access to demons with the power of mass murder, and by dealing with how God responds to humanity becoming powerful enough to supplant Him (a deconstruction of the franchise's assertion that God Is Evil).
  • Touhou Project started out with paper-thin Excuse Plots, then expanded on the characters and setting with slightly more complicated stories and various Expanded Universe material. But with the "Moriya arc" it started delving deeply into the metaphysics of Gensokyo, the moral and practical complications of humans and youkai living together, three different religions arrived preaching their ideals, and a whole Universe Compendium was devoted to the leaders of said religions having a debate over what philosophy is best for Gensokyo's continuing stability.
  • Guilty Gear pulls this off rather gracefully. Various religious concepts like sin and redemption are used as underliers for the main conflicts of the series, and features heavily in the backgrounds of the characters. Ky Kiske of is a devout Christian who finds his idealism, views on justice, and personal integrity repeatedly tested by his ordeals. Sol Badguy was once a genius scientist who worked on a Transhumanism project only to be turned into one against his will, and, in some mission for personal atonement, has vowed to hunt down and destroy every last one of his creations for being a bunch of human-killing Jerkasses. Other heroic characters include Millia Rage, Faust, and Chipp Zanuff, a former assassin, a former serial killer and a former drug dealer, respectively. Deeply spiritual and existential matters crop up frequently in the plot as well.
  • Sands of Destruction starts off dealing with the fact that Kyrie could destroy the world if he can't keep control of himself and that the girl he's fallen for wants him to destroy the world (because she's a little Ax-Crazy), but is largely a case of "go here, kill this Beastlord who's doing horrible things to the humans under him" generic RPG quests. Then we discover Kyrie was actually created specifically for the purpose of destroying the world, but he still really doesn't want to do that. Then Kyrie asks Naja to kill him in order to save the world, is dead for three days, and then comes back with the power to remake the world if he can figure out how to use it. If you think that makes him sound a little bit like Jesus, you're not alone. The game continues on its merry way to the conclusion in which Kyrie is forced to kill his mom, the Creator of the world, so that she'll stop trying to use his powers to destroy it and he can fix the world. Of course, given that it's from the same people who made Xenogears, this isn't such a surprising twist.
  • Metal Gear started out as little more than a Cliché Storm loaded with Shout Outs to 80s action movies. By the third game, the series had evolved into a remarkably sophisticated and philosophical story about the horrors of warfare, with later games analyzing heavy, abstract concepts such as loss of identity, the ethics of patriotism, the perception of reality, the existence of free will, humanity's (in)ability to sustain itself, the complexities of how artificial intelligence will affect the world, and the tragic nature of love, all wrapped up in a weird bundle of fourth wall-shattering humor that makes everything just that much more metaphysical. Metal Gear Solid V pushes this even further, making claims about the purpose of human evolution itself.
  • Bloodborne: You start out as some random disease victim come to an isolated Gothic-looking city in hopes of finding a Panacea. The citizens of said city are turning into werewolves, the local religion seems pretty obscure but apparently focuses on using blood transfusions to heal, and there are, like, some witches and giant hairy guys and an electric skeleton and lots of other stuff. Then you go to the abandoned college of Byrgenwerth and get a good dose of context... Also doubles as a Cosmic Horror Reveal.
  • Both the Neverwinter Nights games do this with their respective expansions. In both cases the expansions are considered superior to the original campaign.
    • The first game's main plot is a straightforward Hero's Journey where you cure a plague, put down an evil cult, and stop a race of Abusive Precursors from returning to power. The "Hordes of the Underdark" expansion is an epic level campaign which sees you descending into the seventh hell of Baator and stopping Mephistopheles from turning the Material Plane into another layer of hell.
    • In the sequel, Neverwinter Nights 2, the main plot has you rising through the ranks of the city-state of Neverwinter and eventually becoming Knight Captain of a fort, putting down an evil cult (again), and stopping an ancient magical guardian from wiping out the Sword Coast in the name of a long-extinct empire. The Mask of the Betrayer expansion again has you traveling the planes, examining the morality of the Wall of the Faithless and the nuances of the Forgotten Realms alignment and worship system.
  • Fahrenheit gets this as a result of time and money running out. There were always cosmic questions and Mayan mythology underlying the game, but everything is suddenly blown out in the last segment of the game, where Lucas dies and is revived as a zombie, the nature of both conspiracies is laid out, and the plot hinges on who receives a magical secret from the Indigo Child. Then one of the epilogues ends with Lucas questioning what he wants to do with godhood.
  • The BioShock series at large steadily underwent this: the first two games were Bio Punk-themed deconstructions of objectivism and collectivism respectively, and both also using their medium to discuss the nature and limits of free will. BioShock Infinite takes it a step further: in addition to the continued deconstruction of utopia (this time in the form of everything from American exceptionalism, religious fundamentalism, revolutionary extremism, and many others), it also adds in the idea of constants and variables spread across time and space, recontextualizing the franchise as metaphorically connected by theme, literally connected through alternate planes of reality.

  • Housepets! began as the adventures of a pair of cat and dog siblings, localized to a single house. Very quickly the plot began to expand out to the rest of the town, encompassing more characters and settings. Finally, beginning with the introduction of a psychic girlfriend and a blue gryphon appearing in dreams, it began to develop its own mythos of demons and angels using earthly creatures in a war against each other. While it generally remained lighthearted all the while, world-ending threats became more common as big in-universe events.
  • Homestuck starts off with a group of friends who play a game on the protagonist's birthday. 7000 pages later, the comic has been revealed to be an actual, ongoing creation myth, the author was killed by the metaphorical representation of Hate Dumb, the kids are adrift in the Void Between the Worlds, the comic's reader in Another Dimension contemplates suicide and the protagonist starts traveling through canon with the power to Retcon reality. It got weird.
  • Questionable Content: Following the comic's Cerebus Syndrome, the comic delves into how the AI work in this world, bringing up philosophical points about their individual personalities, how they view and perceive the world compared to humans, and even romance.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time began purely as this silly, irrelevant comedy series that just happened to take place a thousand years after a nuclear war. By the time the show ended, episodes where characters contemplated the meaning of existence or examined their identity and place in the world (and copious symbolism concerning such things) were commonplace. The show still retained much of its goofy tone despite that, however.
  • The Legend of Korra starts out featuring the same supernatural and spiritual elements as its predecessor, but the second season takes an unexpected turn into the cosmic when an unspeakably ancient and powerful spirit of darkness escapes from its prison in the Spirit World and merges with a human to become the Dark Avatar, a kaiju-like Physical God, in order to go on a rampage through the Human World. To fight back, Korra similarly merges with the spirit of light that provides all Avatars their powers and becomes a god-like being herself. Nothing else even remotely close to this in scope or weirdness happens in subsequent seasons, or indeed during the full run of either show.
  • Transformers:
    • Beast Wars was about small groups of Maximals and Predacons fighting a relatively small war with big consequences on prehistoric Earth, but towards the end brought in the Transformers' religion. The sequel show, Beast Machines, was all about identity, consciousness, and the balance between freedom and chaos. Oddly for the metaseries, religion was dealt with exclusively from the perspective of the faithful, arguing over interpretation of their holy text. Usually, when a Transformers series goes religious, it means Robot God Primus and Robot Satan Unicron are at it again in a cosmic battle for the fate of the universe. Considerably more awesome, but less philosophical.
    • The Unicron Trilogy dealt heavily with Primus and Unicron, with long, epic stories surrounding the Autobots and Decepticons being caught in the battle of the two gods. As those series were considered lukewarm at best, and horrible at worst, the two series following those (Transformers: Animated and the Transformers Film Series) kept Primus and Unicron out of the limelight. While the films' Expanded Universe hinted at the two existing, they were never shown to be proactive in the present. Meanwhile, Animated decided to be rather ambiguous about the Transformers' origins, though Word of God says that, as far as he is concerned, Primus doesn't exist, though Unicron might. The main reason for leaving the two out of the equation is that, when one boils down to it, having an ultimate force for Good and an ultimate force for Evil in a story usually ensures that the Good will undoubtedly win (at least when applied to a children's show). Transformers: Prime, and the Aligned Continuity as a whole, brought Primus and Unicron back, however; but since this is now more or less an Ultimate Universe for Transformers, it's only natural that the two be included in some form.