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Great Offscreen War

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"I stepped out of the TARDIS onto a desolate-looking planet. All around me were thousands of extras, killed in an exciting and protracted battle that we've neither the time nor the budget to show."

There was a war. It happened years ago, maybe even thousands of years. Characters reference it, especially if they took a part in it: the Shell-Shocked Veteran never managed to get over what he experienced back then, while the Phony Veteran, on the other hand, will never shut up about how many brave things he did in it.


Sometimes people will use the war as a reference point for placing events on a timeline - something happened a few years before the war, or somebody did something after the war.

Maybe people still have to deal with its consequences. The war happened, and it left its ugly mark on the world. But it's never shown to the audience - we never see a single flashback from the war, are never shown more than just a glimpse of what happened. The war will be referenced, but otherwise left mysterious, unexplained. Why it happened, how it ended, and what all the things that took place there (which people talk about like it should be obvious) actually were, are never explained. We may not even know the different factions involed in the fighting. The war is only a mysterious event of the past, included mostly to add a bit of mystery and give people excuses for insane ideas. Needless to say, this trope can easily be processed into Fanfic Fuel.


World War III is often used as this, as are the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and so on. Stories set After the End have the tendency to do this with the war that caused the apocalypse. If the war never stopped, may be a Forever War.

Often used as a sub-trope of Cryptic Background Reference. Compare also Cataclysm Backstory, and Unspecified Apocalypse for After the End-type scenarios that were not necessarily caused by war. For a fight that literally happens just offscreen, see Battle Discretion Shot.

Please, avoid shows referencing Real Life conflicts. We already have plenty of information on them. If anything, such tales would go under During the War.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is set sometime after both World War III and IV.
  • Code Geass has the Britannian invasion and conquest of Japan, which we see only in flashbacks concerning young Lelouch, Suzaku and Nunally and the one from first episode opening sequence. There also was an alternate version of the Napolean wars, where Napoleon conquered Great Britain, making all the British aristocracy run to America, creating the Britannia Empire.
  • The many wars of the Ancient Belka in Lyrical Nanoha. We have been told some general info about it, such as how it destroyed Old Belka and led to the current age where physical-based weapons were banned, but otherwise, it's a big question mark. These wars were not visually depicted until Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, which revolves around the Reincarnation of two prominent figures from that war.
  • Cowboy Bebop has the War on Titan, which shaped the lives of Spike, Vincent, and Grencia years before any action related to the main story took place. We get a few brief glimpses of it in flashbacks however.
  • In Claymore there is the Mainland, a continent where two nations have been waging war constantly for decades. No main character ever gets to visit the mainland, and we only knows about it through descriptions, however it is revealed that one of these two nations is allied with the Dragon Descendants, powerful creatures much stronger than Humans, and that the nation opposed to the Dragon Descendants created the Organization to develop monsters and creatures able to fight the Dragons, the Organization took over the Island and created all the Yoma and Awakened Being using Dragon's flesh as part of a giant Research project, we know all this thanks to Rubel who's a spy of the Dragon Nation infiltrated within the Organization.
  • Last Exile also has the war between its two major powers, which is mediated by The Guild. Much of the action of this war takes place BEFORE the actual story, as a few episodes in we discover that one of the planets these factions live on is dying, essentially taking them out of the conflict for good. They're pretty much refugees after this point.
  • In Blue Gender, we don't actually see humanity get overtaken by the Blues.
  • The War with "Them" in Sound of the Sky is a complete mystery that has become filled with myths.
  • Mysterious conflict with Mazinkaiser SKL, whose consequences are related to events of the series.
  • Naruto has the first three Shinobi World Wars; though they play a major role in the backstories of a good chunk of the main cast, we still know very little about these conflicts outside of a few offhand mentions and short flashbacks, plus a single gaiden story starring Kakashi.
  • The war between Megalomesembria and Hellas Empire in Mahou Sensei Negima!
  • Pumpkin Scissors begins with the graduation ceremony of a class of army cadets being interrupted by an announcement that the war everyone thought they were going to be sent to fight in had just ended. The series itself is about a team working to help repair all the damage that was inflicted on their country during the war.
  • The war between the Spiral Warriors and the Anti-Spirals in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Parallel Works #8 details this a little focusing on Lordgenome's involvement.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion several wars broke out a few days after the Second Impact, one of which resulted in the destruction of Tokyo. We know nothing about these wars other than what's mentioned in Shinji's history textbook.
  • Bleach: Shinigami and Quincies have been opposed for over a millennium with two periods of warfare being very important for the main storyline. The first is the original war between Yhwach and Yamamoto that occurred a thousand years ago and led to the creation of the Quincy Clan and the Gotei 13. The second is the Shinigami's attempted purge of the Quincies 200 years ago. Both wars significantly impact the present-day Quincies and Shinigami, including anyone they associate with, be they human or hollow.
  • Macross:
    • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross, the backstory tells of a massive war between the Zentradi and a group known as the Supervision Army. This also forms a big part of the plot in Macross 7, where we learn more about what the Supervision Army is and where it came from. The war is actually on-going, and has been for something like 20,000 years, with the Zentradi and Supervision Army having been almost exactly evenly matched from the start. Many Zentradi fleets are still actively engaged in battle against Supervision Army forces far outside of the Milky-Way galaxy, and are far too busy to take note of humanity's affairs. Fortunately for the humans, both groups seem to be largely fragmented, and haven't noticed humanity destroying/assimilating various Zentradi fleets as their civilization expands. The growing human-"cultured" Zentradi alliance commonly skirmish against both forces, but the New United Nations have yet to run afoul of another one of the larger armadas, and already have colonies spread across roughly a third of the Milky Way galaxy.
    • There was also a World War III fought on Earth that led to a One World Order. Though the prequel Macross Zero covers some characters' actions in it, most of the factions and causes are kept vague.
    • Macross Delta has the Windermerean war for independence, which took place a few years before the story. Windermere did succeed in securing their independence from the New UN, but are still bitter over the lives lost... especially over the fact that a Fold Bomb was detonated on Windermere during the conflict.
  • Heavens War in Darker Than Black serves as the backstory for most of the main characters, and is the driving force behind Hei's actions his sister Pai disappeared at the end when Heavens gate exploded, and Hei is trying desperately to find her.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has the Seven Days of Fire, in which the God Warriors were unleashed on the world and industrial civilization was destroyed.
  • Something like this was suggested in the dub version (but not the original version) of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. When Bommer summons his Flying Fortress SKY FIRE to use against Crow, Crow is naturally freaked out (as most of Bommer's opponents are when he summons it) and exclaims "That's not a monster, that's World War IV!" The implication, of course, is that World War III has occurred in the time period between the present day and this future time.
  • Subverted in Space Dandy, where the war isn't so much off-screen as that the narrator completely forgets to mention it. It pops up now and again, but typically does not have much impact on the story until the last episode.
  • The Gundam franchise has used this setting in several of its Alternate Timelines:
    • After War Gundam X: The Seventh Space War, which ended in a mass Colony Drop, devastating Earth, wiping out 90% of the human population, and causing a calendar change. We see a few scenes from it, and meet a few survivors of the war, though the focus is more on the characters trying to build a new world on the ashes of the old, and prevent an Eighth War from starting up in the meantime.
    • ∀ Gundam has the final conflict of the Dark History. There's very little known of it, except that it was apparently so nasty that all the space colonies pulled a Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, and the pilot of the Turn A Gundam felt the need to wipe out all civilization on Earth (though his/her reasons for doing so are never stated... for obvious reasons, very few records of that time survive).
    • Gundam: Reconguista in G: 1000 years before the story started, the Universal Century depicted in the original Gundam series underwent a societal collapse after numerous wars. Records of the time are sparse, but it is known that most of the space colonies were either destroyed or left, Earth's environment was ruined, and there was a severe famine that caused even more death. Most of the current society under the rule of Capitol Tower is kept in line out of fear of ever risking such a disaster again.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has the Calamity War fought 300 years prior, which was so devastating that it caused a change in calendar and blew up most of the Moon. It was apparently fought between humanity and automated, self-repairing, and self-supplying drone superweapons called Mobile Armors, which killed a quarter of the human population at the time. Why anyone would create the Mobile Armors has not been discussed.
  • Hellsing Ultimate : The wars that Alucard/ Dracula fought against the Ottoman Empire.
  • High School Dx D: The war between the Angels, Fallen Angels, and Devils. When the series begins, the three sides have struck an uneasy truce because the last bout of the war very nearly wiped out all three sides and resulted in the deaths of both the four Demon Kings of Hell and God Himself!. Many of the series villains are members of one side or another who wish to continue the conflict, regardless of the potential extinction of their faction.
  • The Joui War in Gintama is often referenced throughout the series and many notable characters take part in it, though only a few flashbacks are shown at best.
  • The war between the Saiyans and the Tuffles (Tsufuru-jin) in Dragon Ball is very important to the mythology of the series but we never actually see it except in brief clips in some of the anime episodes.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid has the dragon war between the Order and Chaos factions. Characters make plenty of references to it, but the fact that the story takes place on Earth (which is an established demilitarized zone) means that it's never shown. The one time that the plot heads to the other world, the battle that would have taken place is avoided thanks to Kobayashi's intervention.
  • In Kemono Jihen, the eponymous Kemono Jihen was a major war between Kemono and humans a thousand years ago. The resulting devastation convinced Kemono to hide themselves from humans and erase the memory of their existence from humanity, allowing themselves to fade into myth and obscurity. The point of Kemono offices like Inugami's is to allow Kemono to live peacefully among humans while preventing needless conflict that could ignite tensions on both sides.
  • Fairy Tail: The Dragon King Festival is the name given to the civil war between dragons 400 years prior to the start of the series, which resulted in the creation of Dragon Slaying Magic, the rise of Acnologia, and the virtual extinction of dragons as a species due to Acnologia's indiscriminate rampage near the end where he slaughtered every dragon and Dragon Slayer, friend or foe, he could get his claws on. Most of the backstory given on the war is told through the ghost of Zirconis, a dragon on the anti-human side slain by Acnologia, and Irene Belserion, the creator of Dragon Slayer Magic who also became a dragon from overuse of her magic (and is also Erza Scarlet's mother).

    Comic Books 
  • The Authority:
    • In the second arc, Jenny Sparks mentions how Earth cut down all connection with the alternate Universe, The Sliding Albion, after the First World War erupted there. Characters from Albion mention briefly that between that event and Albion's invasion on Earth, that world has seen eight other world wars.
    • Also, the fourth story arc (and first written by Mark Millar) showed us a glimpse of another alternate Earth, which had thirteen continents. A world war that erupted there ended with armies of Adolf X exterminating all non-black people on all of them. The Engineer finds the idea of sending a group of superpowered white supremacists there quite interesting.
  • Venado Bay in Legion of Super-Heroes V4. In the retroboot Legion, the backstory of the planet Durla (Chameleon Boy's home) is the Six Minute War, the nuclear fallout from which left the planet barely habitable and is the origin of their Voluntary Shapeshifting.
  • Star Wars: Legacy has the conflict between Galactic Republic and Empire, won by the latter, who then got into the war with the Sith.
  • The Transformers (IDW) continuity has a few that happened either before or sometime during the onscreen war between the Autobots and Decepticons, which has recently ended:
    • The First Great War, which happened several million years before the comics. We don't know much about it, but Nova Prime and his allies managed to bring it to a peaceful conclusion leading the Cybertronion Golden Age.
    • The Software Wars, we know next to nothing about this one, except that Guzzle was in them and it was centered in the city of Polyhex.
    • The Lava Wars, again, we know next-to-nothing about this one. Apparently it was caused by a guy called Magma.
    • The war amongst the Stentarians between the Ammonites and Terradores. It's apparently ongoing, is older than all the other known galactic wars, and caused The Shattering, which eventually led to the formation of the Galactic Council.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) has the aptly named Great War between the Mobians and Overlanders (aka. the descendants of humanity). It was started when the Knight Templar Kodos killed two scouts from both sides and sent them to their respective sides, causing some seriously long-standing racial tensions to explode. It lasted for five years and ended when Dr. Robotnik (back when he was still called Kintobor) supposedly switched sides and gave the Mobians what they needed to drive back the Overlanders. Unfortunately, after the Mobians won, Robotnik promptly betrayed them too and overthrew the king with his badnik army. Many of the comic's older characters were in the war and there's still plenty of resentment and bigotry left over from the war.
    • There's also the first year of the Second Robotnik War, which saw Dr. Eggman regain his power base and promptly retake Mobius after Sonic had been thought killed in battle.
  • Sonic the Comic and the continuation Sonic the Comic – Online! has the Great War between the Echidnas of Megopolis City and the Drakons of the invading Drakon Empire which took place eight thousand years ago over Mobius' Emerald mines which could contain the Chaos energy, a powerful but highly unstable energy source created by scientists on Drak the Drakons home planet, the Drakons were able to steal seven Emeralds before the war began. The gems, when combined with the Chaos energy, formed the legendary Chaos Emeralds. Two days before the war began, Pochacamac, leader of the Megopolis tribe, managed to steal the sacred Emeralds back from the Drakons, both to keep to return them to their true home and to prevent the Drakons from conquering the entire galaxy. Angered, the Drakons sent out a scout to examine the Echidna defenses before sending a full-scale invasion force to claim the Emeralds. A battle erupted inside Pochacmac's command room, with Drakon Prosecutors and Sentinels fighting against Sonic the Hedgehog and echidnas armed with Guardian Robots. The fight was briefly interrupted when a Prosecutor struck the Emeralds with his Dimensional Staff, causing a chain reaction that turned a fallen Drakon warrior into the mighty Chaos. The ensuing explosion weakened the gathered Drakon soldiers enough for Knuckles and the other tribesmen to fight back while Sonic and Pochacmac took care of Chaos. After a final push, the echidnas drove the Drakon invaders out of the city, but the war was far from over. Although no victor was ever declared, the failure of the Drakons to claim their intended prize suggests the Mobian defence held out, albeit at a great cost.
  • Continuing the trend, Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) partially deals with the aftermath of a rebellion against Eggman's army, referencing the one that took place in Sonic Forces. The machinery, social impact, and reconstruction efforts are very much present throughout the comic.
  • In the Judge Dredd universe, the Great Atom War/World War Three started off as this, with only a few incidents in it ever being revealed. However, nearly 30 years later the storyline Origins came along and averted this trope, giving a solid order to events and how they were seen through a long Joe Dredd's eyes.
  • Most of the event on the backstory of Old Man Logan (on which every single villain of the Marvel Universe teamed up and took over North America (if not the world, it's not really explicitly said), killing (most) of the superheroes) remains unexplained except for the post-apocalyptic wasteland where the story takes place, a number of Cryptic Background References (and the piles of spandex-wearing skeletons that adorn the sites where they are mentioned), and a couple of flashbacks to the event, where we see the massacre of the X-Men (by Wolverine, who got such a Heroic BSoD from being duped in such a way (by Mysterio) that he is still reeling from it by the time the story starts), and the Red Skull's slaying of Captain America.
  • Despite the fact that the chronology of Lucky Luke is deliberately murky to the point of parody, one historical event that is often referred to is The American Civil War to the extent that some of Luke's enemies (Jesse James and Joss Jamon's gang) are known to have participated in it as mercenaries (for the Confederacy of course).
  • Ultimate X-Men: The Brotherhood bombed the Capitol in Washington DC a week before the action starts in the first issue.
  • The Marvel Comics mini-series History of the Marvel Universe established the Siancong War, a combination of the Korean and Vietnam Wars which saw America enter the equally fictional Sin-Cong to try and drive off Communist invaders. It would be this war where people like Ben Grimm and Frank Castle would participate in as Comic-Book Time made using World War II and the Vietnam War implausible.
  • As befitting the fact it was based on Frank Miller's original script for RoboCop 2 and elements going into RoboCop 3, the Amazon War from those two films is part of the backstory for Frank Miller's RoboCop, with the Rehabs (much like in 3) being mercenaries who'd been involved in the war now employed by OCP — with the addition of Sgt. Reed having served in the war and recognizing the Rehabs from his time there.

    Fan Works 
  • Beyond The Winding Road, a PandoraHearts Continuation fic, has the Great Tousterre War. Paralleling World Wars I and II, the great political mess left by the events in the manga led to a massive, bloody war between Sable and its invading neighbors. The war has political ramifications even a century later.
  • Child of the Storm has a number of these, as a result of major league world building and the sheer scale of the setting.
    • The War of the Nine Realms, between the Alliance of Realms and Surtur, over a million years before the present.
    • The War for the Dawn, between Asgard and her allies and the Dark Elves, about 6000 years prior to the present when the Dark Elves tried to destroy the Nine Realms with the Aether, and rearrange them with the Dark Elves on top.
    • The Avalon Wars, a series of wars between Asgard and Avalon, as the followers of the two respective pantheons clashed, and the two pantheons wound up on collision course (though it's implied that the Avalonians fired the first shot, lashing out at what they saw as encroachment by the followers of the Asgardian gods and Christian missionaries). It ended when the Frost Giants invaded and an Enemy Mine ensued, but it's heavily implied that Asgard was winning and the Avalonians are still carrying a grudge.
    • The Last Great Frost Giant War, with Asgard, Avalon and their human allies (including the ancestors of the founders of Hogwarts) on one side, and the Frost Giants on the other, circa 500 AD. The Avalonians were swept aside early by the might of the Casket (something which Odin puts down to them having been weakened by fighting Asgard), the ancestors of the Founders rallied for the Last Stand, before Asgard played the role of Big Damn Heroes and saved the day. A long war ensured, a world war, and the allied forces won, the Frost Giants were stripped of the Casket of Ancient Winters and Loki was adopted by Odin. Odin's descriptions to Harry of what happened make it sound pretty spectacular, with notable incidents including Aethelstan Gryffindor dueling Laufey with 'swords and magic' and losing a hand (he eventually took up Mjolnir), while leaving scars to remember him by, Prospero Slytherin wielding the wand Laevaeteinn (which is heavily implied to be a fragment of the Phoenix) in a Last Stand so spectacular it retroactively carved out the Grand Canyon.
  • The Tiberium War (or to the more pedantic people on the streets of Coreline that know their Command & Conquer lore, the Fourth Tiberium War) on Cline Op Ghost In The Machine. The specifics of the War are All There in the Manual for the setting, but all that is important to the protagonists is that the Brotherhood of Nod left behind a base, which was then taken over, transformed into an experiments lab, and abandoned by Aperture Science, deep within the Australian countryside that they need to explore.
  • Digimon Trinity: There are repeated mentions of a war that has resulted in the protagonists of Adventure and 02 becoming Famed in Story. While the specifics are uncertain, it has resulted in TK having become the bitter head of Hypnos, and Tai and Agumon to have vanished for fifteen years.
  • Endless Pantheon: The Goa'uld and Faerie Courts went to war several millennia ago due to Thoth's Folly, a series of events which saw the Goa'uld fall from grace. The exact details of the war are not clear as the Terms which ended the hostilities also rewrote much of the Goa'uld racial memory of what happened. To the modern day, the Goa'uld still consider this to have been the only war worth mentioning as such.
  • Evilhumour's "The Powers That Be" multiverse of stories has a shared one, mentioned in both A Chance Meeting of Two Moons and Diplomacy Through Schooling, the third story in the Diplomacy-verse: the alicorn-dragonequus war, in which the majority of both species fought one another in the service of Order and Chaos, the two Eldest of the Creators. This war is the reason why there are so few alicorns in the multiverse, and why the Doors to the Realms In Between have largely been sealed off. As the Diplomacy-verse notes, after it was over, Order and Chaos stepped back; their Champions for each universe are largely in charge of their business there nowadays.
    • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Equestria fought two during the thousand-year timeskip between the prologue and first chapter.
      • The war between Equestria and the Changelings began after the destruction of Canterlot Castle and the deaths of everyone within, and ended when Blueblood slew Queen Chrysalis. Its ramifications are still being felt a thousand years later, including the treatment of the Changelings.
      • When Sombra returned, he started the Crystal World War, which lasted ten years and took the entire world working together to drive him back to his empire's capital and kill him.
  • Fallout: Equestria has the war between the zebra and Equestria, which ended much like in the original Fallout (again, it's almost confirmed that the zebra fired first). We actually hear a great deal about what happened in the background of the war, but still almost never see a battle fought.
  • Friendship is Witchcraft:
  • In Frontier, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, it's revealed that the geth Consensus tied up the Big Bad so much that its full force is never applied to the heroes. Keep in mind how many casualties they suffered anyway, so the "full force" of said enemy might have been more like "game over."
  • The Golds: At some point between Belle, Baelfire and Bella returning to Storybrooke and “Moving Day”, Cora found her way into Storybrooke and rallied half of its citizens into a frenzy, claiming that Bella is an abomination and should be killed before she brings disaster. Cora ripped her heart out and held it as leverage against her parents, only for Bella to use her first moment of instinctive magic to turn her into a rose.
  • The Jackson Legacy: The Private War takes place a decade before the story kicks off.
  • Justice League of Equestria: The War in Heaven; we don't know much about it, just that Athena battled and defeated Darkseid and the forces of Apokalips.
  • The Man with No Name: The Great Time War and the Independence War both play important roles; besides heavily influencing how the Doctor interacts with the crew of Serenity (and vice versa) the Big Bad is revealed to be an alien who felt his people were betrayed by the Doctor during the Time War, and his sponsors are Browncoat zealots hoping to use mind-controlled Reavers to restart the Independence War.
  • The Negotiations-verse is a recursive fanfiction of The Conversion Bureau that takes place in the aftermath of the war between humanity and ponykind, with humanity emerging victorious. Nothing of the war is actually shown (until the prequel story Warfare, which describes the war in the form of journal entries written by the protagonist, a Royal Guard), but it's stated to have gone on for five years, with both sides sustaining heavy losses (humanity lost at least half of their population and several cities/countries destroyed while Equestria lost the Crystal Empire, three of its princesses and most of its military forces).
  • Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku! has the Lantern War, a colossal conflict between the Green Lantern Corp and the Red Lantern Corp that began when the Red Lantern Corp inexplicably invaded Earth back when Izuku's adoptive grandfather was still in fighting shape. It's heavily implied to have been a bloody and brutal affair, which led to widespread xenophobia on Earth that persists into the main story. Many alien superheroes who were once praised as champions for good like the Martian Manhunter and Starfire were either ousted, forced into hiding, or killed out of sheer paranoia. Those closely associated with them, like Renegade, were treated similarly. Izuku himself is plagued with self-loathing at the start of the story for being an alien, which is only compounded by his lasting guilt complex.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has several mentions of Trainer-Ranger Wars in the past, with Lt. Surge having fought in the most recent one that ended 40 years ago. The sides of the war were mentioned to be the Trainer Aligned Treaty Organization (consisting of Kanto, the Orange Islands, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos, and Orre) and the Fall City Pact (consisting of Fiore, Almia, and Oblivia), with side conflicts originating from one side aiding the traditional enemies of the other, such as the Fall City Pact giving aide to the Draconid Tribe that often was in conflict with the main Hoenn population. What is known about the war is that it was not pretty.
  • Power Rangers GPX: In great Power Rangers tradition, an ancient, pre-historical war between humans, elves and Zordonians forms the backdrop. Long story short, the Zordonians were nasty, the humans and elves got mad and kicked them off the planet, humans accidentally killed the elves' leader, the elves hid and the Zordonians returned 10,000 years later.
  • The Powers of Harmony has the War of the Sun and Moon, the conflict between Celestia and Nightmare Moon, which in this story is presented as having lasted several years. There are a few flashbacks to it, but for the most part it's offscreen.
    • There's also the Blood War between the Metallic and Chromatic dragons, triggered by Discord making each side think the other killed their leader/progenitor Io. This war lasted for the entire Era of Discord (centuries, if not longer), and it was only after his defeat that Celestia and Luna were able to reveal the truth and end the war.
    • Discord also started a war between the Crystal Ponies and the other races inhabiting Tarandus, which led to the formation of the Crystal Empire (which originally lived up to the name and trope.
  • Queen of All Oni: The Red King's Rebellion, wherein Tarakudo overthrew the Oni Elders. We only see a portion of the Final Battle, spread out over two separate flashbacks.
  • Roanapur Connection: The Russian and EU war refered in chapter Eye Of The Storm that took place between 1987-1990, is heavily implied to have been a bloody and costly war that Europe is still recovering from years later. With Ganabati also noting the use of Chemical bombs and gas attacks that did a number on the major cities, but also on Poland and Ukraine especially.
    • The Great War is also mentioned in chapter one that Nathan states led to Japan becoming a republic in 1945 atb. Though no further details have been provided yet on it beyond Natsumi’s grandfather having fought in it.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: Act III mentions the Battle of Kahdaln, the Last Stand during a war between monsters and humans for control of the world; the monsters lost and were forced back into the monster world, thus beginning The Masquerade. In the present day, most monsters dislike talking about it to the extent that, when Ahakon brings it up in class, Ms. Nekonome promptly dismisses it as a myth.
  • Shakedown Shenanigans: The current 40 Eridani Starfleet Construction Yards are built on the site of a Vulcan yard that was destroyed by a Romulan raid during the Earth-Romulan War 250 years earlier. The ongoing Federation-Klingon War also gets mentioned as the reason for the USS Bajor's construction (she's primarily a line battleship to replace combat losses) but doesn't play a role in the plot.
  • Several times in Sonic X: Dark Chaos, mostly because the author has admitted that he isn't good at writing battle scenes.
    • The Demon-Seedrian War, which ended in the creation of Tsali and the near-extermination of Cosmo's race, is a major part of the backstory frequently alluded but never actually shown. The author began to write a prequel to explore it, but it was scrapped.
    • The battles between the Demons and Angels aren't really shown either - the story focuses more on the effects of said battles and the political machinations behind the scenes.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: Death Weapon Meister Academy and the Witch Society have been in opposition for a long time, but their conflict hit the nadir in a time called the Period of Destruction. Lord Death claims it is the darkest and bloodiest period of war between them. Three whole centuries of on-and-off bloodshed; for reference, both World Wars began and ended during the Period of Destruction. Other notable events include the Lucrenian Clan Incident that plays a vital role in Cancer’s and Kujira’s lives and the defensive purge of the Immortal Clan necessitated from their attack on humanity.
  • To the Stars has the Unification Wars between the United Front and Freedom Alliance. The former won and became humanity's unified government seen in the story. Most of the details are All There in the Manual.
  • Utopia Unmade has the Bad End War that took place in the past, where Pierrot took control of Märchenland, renamed it the Bad End Kingdom, and attacked Majorland. The Precure Kingdom aided Majorland and eventually exterminated all the residents of the Bad End Kingdom. This was when Love realized the Precure Kingdom was heading towards something bad.
  • There is the occasional mention of the Battle of Al'Zahur in Warriors of the World: Soldiers of Fortune that took place fourteen years prior to the fic. All anyone knows about the war is that it was "between mercenaries and the Chivalry", and that Valkron was part of it. He's reticent on the subject, but he does imply that it changed a lot about how the way things were run in the Kingdom afterwards.
  • In With Strings Attached, Grunnel talks about how the Tayhil and their monsters conquered most of Baravada some 200 years ago, and how the skahs rose up to take back the place.
  • Another Rainbow In Another Sky: It's mentioned that there's a civil war between the Dream Valley (G1), Friendship Gardens (G2), and Ponyville (G3) ponies. After years of absence, Paradise and Wind Whistler seek out Megan for help. The story ends with Megan, Kim, and the ponies riding off to Dream Valley.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Angry Birds Movie ended with the beginning of the war between the titular Angry Birds and the Bad Piggies, which was central to the Angry Birds video game series for so long. With the sequel, The Angry Birds Movie 2, beginning with the end of such a conflict, very much of that war becomes this trope, left to the imagination...or the series' games that you play.
  • At the beginning of The Black Cauldron, the characters mention that there's a war being fought (presumably against the Horned King, given the context), but we never see any part of it, nor do we even see whom or whatever the Horned King is fighting against.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • When watching Airplane!, they never make clear which war "The War" was for Ted Stryker, though judging by when the movie was made, one might assume Vietnam. As farcical as the entire movie is, it could very well have been some other war entirely though. Hell, it could be a war they (or Ted) completely made up as well. In one scene Ted starts having flashbacks which are represented by Stock Footage going farther and farther back, all the way through World War I biplanes and finally the Wright brothers test flight.
    • "The War" in Zero Hour!, the film on which Airplane! is based, and which came out a quarter of a century earlier, was obviously World War II. This time frame informs a lot of the gags and references in the latter film.
  • Ida is set in Poland in 1961, 16 years after the end of World War II and a decade or so after the show trials at the height of Communist oppression. Both of those traumatic experiences hang over the entire film. Ida is in search of the truth about her parents, Polish Jews who were murdered during the war. Although Wanda doesn't admit it, she obviously feels guilt over her role as a Hanging Judge during the Communist show trials of the early 1950s.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring begins with Galadriel recounting the story of the last war with Sauron, several thousand years prior. We only see the end of the final battle.
  • Maleficent's backstory includes a war between humans and The Fair Folk. While the film only makes small reference to it, the novelization expands on this; notably, it was in this war that Maleficent's parents were killed. The film itself shows the two races living in segregation, though the ending implies that Queen Aurora will bring peace between them.
  • The Clone Wars were this for the Star Wars franchise until the prequels came, then two cartoons and a lot of other things explored it, so it ultimately avoids this trope.
  • The Time Machine (1960): In-Universe. The protagonist from 1899 traveled a couple of decades into the future. One of his friends' sons mentions "the front" of "the war". It's obvious it's the First World War, but being a time-traveler, he was unaware.
    • The film loops back to this trope again in the late second act, when the protagonist visits the remnants of a museum's collection kept (however ignorantly) by the Eloi. The "talking rings" recording devices relate the horrific effects, then aftermath, of a cataclysmic global war that ostensibly occurred during the period that the Time Machine was buried in rock. (Speaking as it does of the destruction of oxygen factories and germ warfare, it's unclear whether it is the same war whose nuclear strike the protagonist narrowly avoids in his second "future stop," or one that follows.)
  • A plot point in Rollerball. Whenever the protagonist tries to find out details about the Corporate Wars he finds himself hitting a brick wall, as America is One Nation Under Copyright and doesn't want its skeletons in the closet being aired.
  • The war against the Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past. When the film starts, the war is over, and the Sentinels are just hunting the last mutant survivors.
  • Seventh Son is set about a century after a war waged by evil witches on humanity, which the world is said to still be recovering from.
  • In RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 there is mention of a war in the Amazon, with Cain and the Rehabs having served in the war and the latter film sees Lewis reading a copy of USA Today in the scene of the botched donut shop robbery with the headline being the war getting worse. These were elements from Frank Miller's original script for 2, which had Sgt. Reed as having served in the war and dreading the arrival of the Rehabs as he recognized them as mercenaries from his time in the war.

  • The Discworld series has two examples - the wizard wars which serve as an example of why wizards shouldn't actually cast spells, and the wars of the Evil Empire, which serve as the origin story of the Orcs. The latter may or may not be the same as the "big old wars" mentioned in "Troll Bridge", in which Cohen the Barbarian fought for a bright new future and the return of the king, and Mica the troll fought because a big troll with a whip told him to.
  • Harry Potter series:
    • The First Wizarding War against Voldemort.
    • The Second Wizarding War zigzags with this trope. On one hand, the heroes do eventually get to battle the Death Eaters and their allies. On the other hand, it's pretty clear there are some incidents/battles that happen offscreen such as Voldemort's attack on Amelia Bones which results in the latter's death. This is because most of the books are taken from Harry's point of view. The majority of the seventh book has the trio mostly being on the run and Locked Out of the Loop from the wizarding world until they're able to hear from the radio news about various Death Eater-related attacks/incidents.
    • The war against Gellert Grindelwald is even more obscure. All we know for sure is that it apparently took place around the same time as World War II. Fanon consensus is that Grindelwald and Those Wacky Nazis had some sort of alliance. Word of God is that the timeframe and location of the war against Grindelwald are not a coincidence, but is vague on whether this was just a deliberate parallel to World War II by the author or an indication that they were actually the same war.
  • Twice in The Hunger Games: the civilizational collapse that led to the founding of Panem, and the more recent "Dark Days" when Panem's provinces rose in an unsuccessful rebellion against the Capitol.
  • The Butlerian Jihad is repeatedly mentioned in the original Dune series and had a profound effect upon the setting, specifically, it is the reason computers are outlawed. After Frank Herbert's death, his son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson wrote a prequel trilogy to flesh out the details. But the fans try not to talk about those.
  • Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga is full of these. Mad Yuri's War, the Cetagandan Invasion, the Komarr Conquest and subsequent Revolt all have a direct impact on the storyline decades after they took place.
  • The Psychlo invasion in Battlefield Earth, which lasted about 9 minutes.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Watches books, the Treaty is signed between the Light and the Dark Others after a magical war that nearly destroyed everything. Hardly any details are revealed about the war. The beginning of The Film of the Book Night Watch shows a battle between two groups of barbaric-looking people without using any magic (the director hates magic), with each group consisting of two dozen men at most. This is likely meant to be symbolic, though.
    • Later novels flesh out more details. In The Last Watch, Anton sees a vision of a battle that took place long ago that ended when Gesar and Rustam used a spell devised by Merlin to collapse the layers of the Twilight in a certain area, turning both the Dark Others and their human armies into living statues.
    • In School Supervision, it's revealed that Ghostapo was real in that some Others participated in World War II on the side of the Nazis and used magic against the Allied-aligned Others. St. Petersburg was the site of the biggest magical battle of the war, likely contributing to it becoming a Genius Loci in The Face of the Dark Palmira.
  • Larry Niven's Future History (leading to Known Space) series deals heavily with relations between humans and the Kzin, but the early Man-Kzin Wars never showed up in the books just because Niven didn't like writing war stories. He did let other writers go back and fill that in later, though.
  • The aptly-named Vague War in Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium, which takes place decades prior to the novel. Many references are made to the war, but few details are revealed. Apparently, it was a big free-for-all with all known races but no alliances. The war led to the formation of the Human Empire. The author even throws in a funny story about humans spreading misinformation about their dietary needs (i.e. that we need spinach to survive). The aliens spend resources developing a spinach-killing virus and lose countless ships spreading it throughout the human worlds. When humans don't die, they surrender out of shock. On a less funny note, good luck finding spinach after the war.
  • The Aiel War in The Wheel of Time is mentioned in passing by numerous veteran Warders, Tam al'Thor, and others. Many other wars — the Breaking of the World, the War of a Hundred Years, Artur Hawkwing's war of consolidation — all serve to create rich background for the series.
    • The ending at least of the Aiel War was covered in the Prequel novel, New Spring.
  • The Red Rising trilogy has three:
    • The Conquering, which took place roughly 736 years before the start of the original novel. The original Golds who colonized Luna, weary of paying heavy taxes to Earth-based corporations, declared their independence, turned around, and conquered Earth.
    • The Dark Revolt, when the Obsidian caste rebelled against their Gold masters a little less than three centuries after the Conquering. The rebellion was unsuccessful, and 90% of the Obsidian population was exterminated. To prevent future rebellions, the Obsidians were stripped of all technology and banished to the poles of planets and moons, where tribal shamans encouraged the superstition that the Golds were gods, a fact which Golds masquerading as Nordic deities deliberately reinforced.
    • More recently was the first Moon Lords' Rebellion, which began fifty-five years before the start of the trilogy, when the moons of Saturn rebelled against the Core after Octavia au Lune usurped her father as Sovereign. The war lasted for twenty years and did not end until The Ash Lord destroyed Rhea, the moon which had instigated the rebellion, with nuclear warheads, killing millions. Up until the second book of the trilogy, the glassy ruins of Rhea in the night sky and their children held as political hostages on Luna was enough for Octavia to keep the Moon Lords in line. After the Augustan alliance shatters at the end of Golden Son, the outer moons of the solar system declare their independence once more. Though their second rebellion does not do well, the revelation that Octavia had been keeping enough nuclear weapons to repeat what the Ash Lord did to Rhea if necessary convinces the Moon Lords to form a temporary alliance with the Rising to defeat the Sovereign's forces.
  • The Reynard Cycle:
    • At the outset of the series, there has been a civil war raging in Arcasia for over a hundred years. The Countess Persephone's father was slain in it, Duke Nobel proved his skill as a military commander during it, and Bruin, Tiecelin, and Grymbart fought in it, occasionally referencing battles, camp life, what the weather was like before an engagement, etc. The war drove an entire region to famine so extreme that its people had to resort to eating their own children, and yet it's over before page one of Reynard the Fox.
    • More cryptically, there are occasional references to "The Glyconese Rebellion", an ancient war in which dragons were involved.
  • In the The Sword of Truth series, many of the MacGuffins, events and plots of the entire series are a result of the direct influence of the events in the Great Wizard War that happened over 3000 years ago.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has many of these. The most important is Robert's Rebellion, which is really the cause for all of the events in the series - giving the effect that the reader has plunged into the middle of the story rather than the beginning. More recently, there was Balon Greyjoy's Rebellion. Further back in time, we had the Targaryen Conquest and the War of the Ninepenny Kings. The Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel series features the fallout of the Blackfyre Rebellion. Going even further back then that, back to mythic times, there are the stories from various cultures about a great battle between good and evil, implied to be an earlier war with The Others.
    • What Tywin Lannister did to inspire "The Rains of Castamere". "But there are no Reynes and Tarbecks"... "Exactly."
      • Most of these are elaborated upon either as the series put out new books, or as supplemental materials were released. For instance, in The World of Ice & Fire we learn about the circumstances behind Robert's Rebellion (a Targaryen prince stole Robert's betrothed, but his father also murdered the current Lord of House Stark at the time, and his heir), the War of the Ninepenny Kings (the last of the Blackfyres and a group of bandit-kings warred against Westeros in the Stepstones and the Essos realm of Lys), and a Succession Crisis between two branches of House Targaryen, the greens and blacks, which became the Dance of Dragons. As for Tywin Lannister and the Reynes and Tarbecks, we also find out about what he did (beat them militarily and burned Tarbeck Hall to the ground, and then trapped the Reynes in a mine and redirected a river to drown them).
  • From Honor Harrington:
    • Admiral Theisman's purge of the State Sec forces which refused to fall in line with the new government after the overthrow of the Committee of Public Safety. The only part of it shown is from The Fanatic, which itself took place away from the meat of the action. Not a typical example, as that particular conflict took place between two of the later books of the series.
    • Earth's "Final War" many centuries before the current timeline, where the planet was nearly rendered completely uninhabitable until several colonies sent aid to repair the damage.
  • In Jo Walton's Alternate History Small Change trilogy, Germany continued fighting on the Eastern Front past 1949; Japan conquered most of China. The novels take place from the detached perspective of England, with word of the continuing war coming in newspaper headlines and occasional chatter.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower series occasionally reference the last war of the Gunslingers against the Good Man, and it's the backdrop against which Wizard and Glass is set. There is also an even older event implied to be a nuclear war, which is why the series is After the End in the first place.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • In the Star Trek: New Frontier series, Calhoun and Picard (and their crews) discover that a species that's apparently been friendly — the Selelvians — is actually capable of an insidious level of mind control which they've hidden successfully up until this point. In the next book in the series, there's been a Time Skip of several years and the Selelvians have been defeated after a fairly vicious war.
    • The war is also this trope in the "mainstream" novel 'verse. We know that it indeed happened (between Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul and the early Star Trek: Voyager Relaunch), off near the Tholian border, but other than a couple of offhand mentions it's not yet been visited.
  • Triplanetary mentions the first and fourth Jovian Wars, which resulted in the formation of the Triplanetary League from Venus, Tellus, and Mars.
  • The 'Holy War' against the Ghouls in E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, in which all the civilized ("polite") nations of the world of Mercury fought alongside each other, and that ended just shortly before the book's storyline begins.
  • In 1984, there is supposedly a vast war raging between the three superstates, but it has no actual bearing on the novel's plot. Of course, it could just be made up to make the party's rule seem legitimate.
  • Some kind of great war is implied to be happening in Lord of the Flies. The reason the children are on the island is because the plane that was evacuating them from a soon-to-be-nuked Britain was shot down.
  • One of the Barnaby Grimes books mentions a war that was fought (possibly still being fought) to the East, in "The Malabar Kush". It included events such as "the siege of Rostopov", "the fall of Dhaknow", and "the storming of the Great Redoubt".
  • Stewart Cowley's "Terran Trade Authority Handbooks" opening opus, Spacecraft: 2000-2100AD purports to be an identification guide of the spacecraft of that era (it's essentially one-page profiles based on spacecraft pictures by illustrators such as Chris Foss and Peter Elson). The smaller ships of the Proxima Wars - Earth and Alpha Centauri vs. Proxima Centauri - from all three races fill the military section, and there are hints of major fleet actions between capital ships early in the conflict. While a few specific battles are touched on in terms of detailing the service histories of the ships that fought them, and the civilian ships built in the wars' aftermath add a smattering of their own history, a full history of the entire war does not exist. There were to have been further TTA handbooks as part of an early 21st Century attempt to reboot the franchise, but these seem to have gone to Development Hell and this troper (a BIG fan as a child) has not been able to locate any of them.
    • Cowley played the game again in the follow-on Great Space Battles. One of the ships in the ancient fleet which is resurrected to save humanity when its enemies show a disturbing ability to hack the battle computers of the sophisticated frontline ships (and yes, this predates the reboot Battlestar Galactica by DECADES) is described as being a veteran of 'countless' Imperial policing actions - but we never get to find out what these are, even though they are serious enough that battleships were required.
  • The Hostile Takeover (Swann) series has the Genocide War against the Race, the Big Bads of the Moreau Series, which destroyed all their colonies. There are still Kill Sats in place over their homeworld, programmed to destroy anything that makes orbit.
  • A Dry, Quiet War by Tony Daniel. The protagonist returns to his home planet after fighting a war twelve billion years in the future at the end of time, apparently to hold back the spread of entropy so the universe has a chance to exist in the first place. He deliberately says as little as possible about the war because to discuss what happened would risk creating a Grandfather Paradox, and he'd have to return to the future to fight all over again.
  • The Salvation War has constant mentions of the Great War between Heaven and Hell (lasting for a few million years), demons wiping out multiple other races on other worlds, and skirmishes among the demon nobility.
  • The Godslayer Chronicles by James Clemens has a back story of a great war between the Gods which ended in the shattering of the Gods' world and splitting the Gods into 3 beings: a flesh but immortal body which landed on "Earth", and 2 non-corporeal forms in the Aether "The Aethryn" and the Naether "The Naethryn".
  • In The Rogue King by Aldrea Alien, there was once an empire spanning the whole continent. It fell 2000 years prior to the story's setting.
  • Several characters in Remember To Always Be Brave are straight from the last of three global wars which started in their 1900s, the Roman-Nipponese war. Immediately before those two, there was the Sino-Roman war and the Roman-Mongolian war, and all three lasted from around the 1900s to 1953, with a nuclear bombing of Japan and the "Peninsula" (Korea) followed by a long, bloody invasion.
  • In Palimpsest, there are a lot of references to a war that took place at some point prior to the events of the story. Most of the immigrants know it happened, but few seem bothered by the details. It's eventually revealed that Palimpsest had once closed itself off to immigrants completely, but Casimira went to war against the anti-immigrant group because sorrow and loneliness made her determined to bring the immigrants back. Because she won, people from real life once again got the ability to travel there and possibly stay forever.
  • The Cassandra Kresnov books have the League-Federation War for which Sandy, an Artificial Human Supersoldier, was created. It's never explained for certain who actually won, though the implied outcome is that the Federation won but left the League more or less intact.
  • The vast majority of the century-long war between The Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds in The Lost Fleet series. John "Black Jack" Geary catches just the opening salvos, before being forced to become a Human Popsicle. His Escape Pod is discovered many decades later, and he helps turn the tide and bring the war to an end.
  • Seekers of the Sky makes references to major conflicts between this Alternate History's powers, mainly between the State and the Russian Khanate (it's mentioned that this world had it own version of the Napoleonic Wars). There are also mentions of occasional conflicts between the State's American colonies and the Aztec Empire. There is also the war that brought the British Isles under the State's control.
  • The Crapsack World of the Bas-Lag Cycle has had a few:
    • The destruction of the ancient Ghosthead Empire, which had been founded by Ancient Astronauts wielding probability magic so powerful that the site of their arrival on the planet remains a combination Eldritch Location and Hellgate; relics like "Possible Towers" and "Possible Swords" are scattered in hidden places across the world.
    • The Malarial Queendom of the Anophelii was all but exterminated and its few survivors sequestered on a small island, where the mosquito-like females' insatiable Horror Hunger can be controlled.
    • New Crobuzon's Golden Age ended in the Pirate Wars against two rival city-states, to which New Crobuzon retaliated with an attack of Torque-bombs that twisted the ruins of Suroch into a teratogenic wasteland.
  • The Aeon Legion fought a number of these like the First Temporal War against a people called the Kalians over who would police Time Travel. Also the Faceless War fought against parasitic monsters called the Faceless. The Legion is still struggling to recover from the Faceless War.
  • Most of the large-scale conflicts in Arrivals from the Dark are glossed over with few details given. Even if a story is taking place during an interstellar war, the protagonist is likely to be involved on its fringes. This includes the four Void Wars against the Faata (taking place over the span of a century), the war with the Dromi (which lasts for at least 150 years due to the sheer numbers of the enemy), as well as the smaller conflicts against the Kni'lina and the Haptors.
  • The Shannara books mention the First War of the Races. It's only mentioned briefly as being a huge war where the rebel Druids and the race of Man fought the Druids and the other races (Elf, Dwarf, Gnome and Troll). Men were defeated, but the war had far-reaching consequences. However, none of the books at present actually tell the story of the war itself such as what caused it, the major battles and so on.
  • The Kharkanas Trilogy has a few:
    • The story happens just a few years after the Forulkan War, which is often referenced but never explicitly shown. Almost all characters have in some way been influenced by it, be it through participating or losing a good chunk of their families to it, and the entire population of Kurald Galain has been decimated; some noble houses are almost gone. All that is shown for certain is that the Tiste won.
    • Either parallel to or shortly after the Forulkan War, the war against the Jhelarkan happened, but even less is shown of that even though it must have happened recently enough that the Jhelarkan are still licking their wounds and have yet to deliver the promised hostages as of the start of the first volume.
    • At the end of the second volume a far more ancient war is hinted at. It's supposed to have been scarily similar to the current civil war, hinting that history is repeating itself, but that's all that is said about it.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen, being a ten-volume doorstopper series with a millennia-spanning backstory, also has a couple:
    • The so called Jaghut War on Death is said to have happened millennia ago. The only source of information on that is an undead dragon in the eighth book, who claims that it happened and brought the Jaghut — usually a solitary bunch prone to becoming hermits — together in entire armies, as well as allies from almost every race inexistence at that time. High King Kallor, who's old enough to have seen the Jaghut in their prime, has never heard of that war and refuses to believe the dragon. The trope is, however, later averted in the prequel, The Kharkanas Trilogy, where it happens onscreen, but is still in play for the main series.
    • The civil war that sundered the Tiste homerealm of Kurald Galain is often references but barely ever shown, and what little information there is tends to contradict itself. All that's certain is that it destroyed Kurald Galain and caused the three Tiste peoples to evacuate into other realms, and was caused by Mother Dark turning away from her children. Again, this one is averted in the prequel trilogy, but remains in play in the main series.
    • The extermination war in which the T'lan Imass decided they'd had enough of being ruled over by the Jaghut Tyrants and vowed to hunt the latter into extinction is also often referenced and important for the setting's backstory, but only bits and pieces of information are given to the reader. This one happened at least three hundred thousand years before the main story.
    • Another extermination war with even less information available is that of the Forkrul Assail against the followers of the god best known as the Errant. It reduced the Errant's power drastically and himself from the local top god to skulking the shadows. And that's pretty much all that is known about it. Other than that he is still smarting tens of thousands of years later.
    • The Forkrul Assail — they love their war mongering — invasion of the sub-continent of Kolanse is very sparsely explained, but being important to the series' backstory, it is referenced quite often once introduced. They showed up in their ships, took over, caused a famine and have been lording over Kolanse ever since. How exactly they managed to gain control over several kingdoms can only be inferred thanks to their particular style of magic.
    • The various conquests of the Malazan Empire are mostly only referenced, chiefly among them the conquests of the continents of Korelri and Genabackis (only the tail-end of which is shown) and the sub-continent of Seven Cities. The latter plays the bigger role in the backstory of the series as it provides the reasons for the Whirlwind Rebellion that happens in the second volume.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • Several stories in the Future History 'verse refer to the "Wet Firecracker War", particularly in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Door into Summer.
    • In Between Planets, his protagonist refers to "the great field, still slightly radioactive, where Old Chicago used to be." It is not known if this is a result of the Wet Firecracker War or some other incident.
    • His near-immortal protagonist, Lazarus Long (a.k.a. Woodrow Wilson Smith) mentions having participated in several wars on nearly as many planets.
  • In Andre Norton's novel Plague Ship, the Solar Queen lands on Earth in the middle of a radioactive wasteland. The few clues given indicate that this is all that remains of central Europe, destroyed in a nuclear war a long time ago.
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, the Secret War. It's referred to several times as the reason for much of the chaos in the world. No longer offscreen after the fifth volume, which reveals the lead-up to the war and the war itself.
    • Alien in a Small Town apparently experienced two of these, the Genomic War - which gave rise to a number of genetically engineered Human Subspecies who have had varying degrees of success interacting peaceably with baseline humans in the years since — and the Android Uprising, about which we are given even fewer details, but the current society seems to believe that Androids Are People, Too. The biggest effect of the Genomic War on the main story is that it apparently caused the Amish and Mennonites to have to evacuate their territories for a time, and when they finally returned, they were somewhat less closed minded than they had been, and a number of outsiders followed them, making them a much more ethnically diverse group than they had been.
  • Conspicuously averted in Les Misérables. Hugo takes a break from telling his story to go into a very extensive and detailed history lesson on the Battle of Waterloo. He finally ties it into the main story at the very end of the battle by revealing a relationship between two characters that really could have been summarized in a sentence or two. Thénardier was looting the bodies and encountered Marius's Only Mostly Dead father, saving his life and thus causing Marius to initially believe that Thénardier is a war hero rather than a total scumbag.
  • Sky Jumpers: Forty years prior, General Shadel made an attempt to Take Over the World, which was largely unopposed due to the Worldwide Nuclear Disarmament Act eighteen years before THAT. Ultimately, a new type of bomb was created in the hopes of stopping Shadel, the Green Bomb. Unfortunately, Shadel had managed to get hold of how to build those himself, and fired his bombs at America's ally nations. Of course, America fired their green bombs at him, ending his campaign. Unfortunately, much of society was destroyed in the process.
  • One of these is mentioned at the very end of The Chronicles of Prydain, when Dallben explains that he came across the aftermath of a tremendous battle in which everyone had been killed, including civilians. The only survivor was the infant boy he found hidden among the roots of a tree; Dallben took him home, named him Taran, and raised him. He tells the story to explain that he kept Taran's parentage from him not because he didn't want the boy to know it, but because he himself has no idea who Taran's parents were.
  • Somewhat ironically, the war in The Forever War happens almost entirely offscreen. Time dilation due to near-lightspeed travel means the protagonist misses the vast majority of the war, only finding out what has happened and how technology has changed when they arrive back at base decades or centuries later than when they left. The war lasts over a thousand years, in which time the protagonist completes four years of military service, almost all of it travel time.
  • In the Zodiac Series, the Trinary Axis is brought up quite a few times. To put it simply, a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers (Blazon Logax of House Leo and Brianella Amarise of House Cancer) decided to secede from the Zodiac, convincing Vecily Matador of House Taurus to join them. Things escalated from there. Unsurprisingly, the immortal Aquarius laid the seeds for it (though it’s heavily implied it was unintentional on his part).
  • The Arts of Dark and Light has the war against the Witchkings a number of centuries back, which broke the back of the kingdoms of the elves and enabled the rise of the human states of Savondir and Amorr as the main great powers of the setting. Whether seen as history (by the humans) or living memory (by the elves), everyone still recognizes how important the war was. In the setting, it's treated much like World War II is in real life, as a great defining political and cultural event, and the Witchkings are still invoked in rhetoric as the one supreme great evil, somewhat like a sort of fantasy version of Godwin's Law.
  • The setting of Terra Ignota was shaped by the Church Wars, a religiously-motivated world war so horrific that it discredited the entire concept of the nation-state: starting in Europe, all borders were dissolved in protest, and citizenship to any nation became voluntary and could be renounced at will (national sovereignty becoming secondary to a set of humanistic Universal Laws applicable to everyone, everywhere). It also led to a taboo against organized religion that stands strong even centuries later.
  • Villains by Necessity: The War that set up all the events in the book. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, Good fought Evil in a vast, destructive conflict. Evil was led by the Dark King, with many battles whose relics are still left behind in the present. The Six Heroes finally gathered every segment of the Spectrum Key on a quest, leading the defeat of Evil and then sealing it off from the world entirely. Unfortunately, this upset the cosmic balance, so in the time since things have slowly been sliding toward "sumblimation", i.e. destruction by pure Light and Good. Six villains instead have to gather the segments and release Evil for averting this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The war with the Magogs from Andromeda, the end of which caused the Nietzschean revolution, may count too, as it started at the beginning of the first episode. The episode then jumps 300 years in the future, to the main plot, not only skipping the downfall of the revolution, but also the civil war among the ones who caused it, the High Guard.
  • Babylon 5
    • The Dilgar War, the first major interstellar war that the humans got involved in, as well as the previous Shadow War, which took place around a thousand years previously. We do see a glimpse of that era, mostly just some less advanced looking Minbari ships, but nothing of the war itself.
    • Also the Telepath War. We are shown only before and after.
    • And the first Narn war for independence from the Centauri, about 100 years prior to the beginning of the series.
    • Along with the numerous wars the Centauri Republic was waging with its neighbors in the third season, none of which are seen, or indeed the numerous smaller wars between the members of the League of Nonaligned Worlds in the same season.
    • There are also allusions to various minor conflicts that the Earth Alliance took part in. Not to mention the Earth Minbari War, which we heard much about, but saw little of, until the prequel movie In The Beginning.
    • Also, the Drakh War, of which we see practically nothing due the spin-off telling it getting Screwed by the Network.
    • Other important conflicts are the other Shadow Wars, the war against the Thirdspace Aliens, the one against whoever created The Hand (purpoted to be the Thirdspace Aliens in the Expanded Universe), and the genocidal war between the Centauri and their co-worlder race the Xon.
    • Discussed by Garibaldi in an introspective moment in season 5 as things move towards war with the Centauri. To paraphrase, he wonders aloud why we always divide history by the wars, not by the periods of peace, and comes to the conclusion that wars are just more fun.
    • Played With in one episode when Marcus & Dr. Franklin were being smuggled to Mars. The Earth Alliance kept out of the Vorlon-Shadow war, so from the perspective of most humans this is the case. Marcus even (sarcastically) lamented coming home as a war hero in a war nobody ever heard about.
  • Both series of Battlestar Galactica have mentioned previous wars with Cylons.
    • The new BSG's First Cylon War did eventually get screentime in Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome. A licensed video game also purports to cover that period, even being played from the perspective of Commander Adama as a rookie pilot, but it mixes and matches so many elements of the original series and remake that it probably belongs in its own separate continuity.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Episodes of the classic series referred to several different events, including the survivors of the destruction of Phaester Osiris defeating Sutekh and sealing him in a pyramid on Mars, or the ancient war between the Time Lords and the Great Vampires shortly after the beginning of time.
    • The great Cyber-Wars fought between human forces and the Cybermen were mentioned frequently, but the Cybermen were hardly even seen at the height of their power — mostly after the fact as The Remnant.
    • The Sontarans have been at war with the Rutan host for at least 60,000 years of the Whoniverse's timeline (mentioned in both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures), and yet we've never encountered a Rutan and Sontaran together on TV once.
    • The Last Great Time War, between the classic and new series. It was never shown, we know only that it caused a lot of destruction and wiped out entire races, including the Time Lords, whose last survivor was the Doctor. We find out that the Doctor was the one who ended the war, killing every Dalek (apart from a few who got away, of course) at the cost of also killing every Time Lord, including their own children and grandchildren. The Doctor has to deal with the consequences of the Time War from time to time and sometimes they or somebody else makes a reference to some events of it, but it's still mostly a mystery.
      • The Time War is described by the Gelth in "The Unquiet Dead" as being "invisible to lesser species but devastating to higher ones", meaning that the Time War was "offscreen", as it were, to a large portion of the Universe.
      • Showrunner Steven Moffat has gone on record saying that he will never show the Time War since there isn't enough money in the world to do it justice. All we see of it in "The Day of the Doctor" is a few brief scenes of the Dalek invasion of Gallifrey at the war's climax... and it is not pretty.
        The Doctor: You weren’t there, in the final days of the war. You never saw what was born. But if the Time Lock’s broken then everything’s coming through. Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Never-Weres — the war turned into Hell. And that's what you've opened. Right above the Earth. Hell is descending.
    • Ancient battles between the Fledgling Empires (including Gallifrey) and the Racnoss were mentioned in "The Runaway Bride".
    • Played With in "The Doctor's Daughter". A war, fuelled by cloning machines, has gone on for 700 generations. It turns out that those 700 generations were cloned, shoved into battle and killed in the space of one week.
  • Dominion has the Extermination War fought between humanity and the angels led by Gabriel. We saw the opening days of the conflict in Legion (the movie to which this show is a sequel), but the show is set 25 years after its conclusion.
  • Earth: Final Conflict occasionally mentions the SI War that ended just prior to the arrival of the Taelons, which appears to stand for "Sino-Indian", except the US was also somehow involved. Not many details are revealed, but no nukes were used, which is amazing, since both China and India have them. The first protagonist fought there, and the second one took on the identity of someone else who did. Apparently, the war ended when someone employed a new WMD called the Quantum Vortex (some suggest it was the Taelons), which killed 100,000 people. There's also the Taelon-Jaridian War, of which barely anything is known.
  • Emerald City has the battles against the Beast Forever, which come roughly once every generation. Specifically the last war, which took place twenty years before the events of the series, resulted in the deaths of King Pastoria and Mother South, as well as the Wizard supposedly saving Oz and becoming its ruler as a result. It's eventually revealed that the King and Queen were killed by Eamonn on orders of the Wizard. Mother South is still alive and is being hidden by Glinda, breeding new witches to fight the Wizard.
  • The Firefly pilotnote  (and one other episode) contain a flashback to the "Independence War", but other than that it's just talked about, although its aftermath is the prime motivation for many of the characters. In fact it's not until Serenity that we get a clear picture of what it was actually fought over.note 
  • Game of Thrones: A few, including the Greyjoy Rebellion and the Targaryen Conquest, but the most important is the war seventeen years ago in which Robert Baratheon overthrew the Mad King and drove the last Targaryens into exile.
  • Kamen Rider Agito is a non-direct sequel to Kamen Rider Kuuga, most explicitly referenced by the police-made G3 Powered Armor being based on data from Kuuga himself. According to the backstory, Kuuga's old enemies the Grongi fought a war against another monster group, the Lords, who eventually won and became the villains of Agito. Kamen Rider Decade directly references this when the heroes go to an Alternate Universe version of Agito and land right near the end of the Grongi-Lord War.
  • The Last Ship has the Immune Wars. Season 2 Big Bad Sean Ramsey and his cult, who believe that their natural immunity to the Red Flu is divine will and that they're therefore destined to rule the world, are established shortly after their introduction to have apparently taken over Europe. We never get a full explanation of this, nor what happened after Ramsey's defeat by the crew of the Nathan James, though some details are revealed over time — at the very least, Britain put up a fight, which all but wiped out the Royal Air Force in the process.
    • Season 5 reveals that there was a war between Mexico and Cuba during the global famine of Season 4. Apparently Cuba fired first by invading Mexico (though they claim that the "invaders" were actually starving refugees), which Mexico fought off before counter-invading and occupying Cuba. How this all ended isn't touched on, but Cuba is independent again in the present.
  • The Insect Wars from Lexx. Despite only being mentioned once or twice in a couple episodes, the Wars are very important to the plot since they never really ended. The last surviving Insect passed his essence onto humans to create the Divine Order which helped him revive his original body and wipe out most of the Light Universe's human population in one fell swoop. His Divine Shadow takes great pleasure in telling Kai all of this.
    His Divine Shadow: The victory of your ancestors was not complete.
    Kai: You are a survivor of the Insect Civilization!
    His Divine Shadow: Yes, last of the Brunnen-G.
  • The conflict between Dharma Initiative and the Others was only hinted at in the first four seasons of Lost, though the Season 5 gives us a pretty clear picture of it. The conflict between the Others and the US Army is even more obscure.
  • Lucifer (2016): Lucifer often talks about his rebellion against his Father that led to his fall, but we see nothing of it.
  • In Merlin (2008) there are increasingly frequent mentions of a war waged at some nebulous time before/around King Uther's time in which ancient/recent kings were pitted against the sorcerous High Priestesses.
  • Power Rangers falls back on this one a lot, to the point where Epileptic Trees have grown due to some wars sharing the same rough dates. Some of these conflicts are original while others are carried over from the original Super Sentai counterparts:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had a great battle between Good and Evil 10,000 years ago. Zordon was with the good guys, Rita with the bad guys under the command of Zedd. The only other clue we have about it is the ending: According to some of the novelizations released around the time, the war ended in "a tie" and came down to a frikkin' coin toss to end the war. Zordon won, but Rita, being a sore loser, trapped Zordon in his Time Warp and stole the Dragon Coin before she and her minions were sealed away in the trashcan. Naturally, nothing like the books' 'coin toss' thing has ever been suggested onscreen. All we know is, Rita got canned, and that Zordon has used teenagers before (though none of Zordon's warriors in flashbacks looked like Rangers.)
    • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy is so vague that we don't even know if there was one big event or just a bunch of isolated incidents. Either way, a lot of backstory happened 3,000 years ago. Most of it in deep space, but if the Lights of Orion were found on Terra Venture, then they have to have been left on Earth when they were lost back in the day.
    • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue had Bansheera and company put in the can 5,000 years ago. Her entire motivation for attacking in the present is to destroy the city and reestablish her palace upon the demons' sacred ground, granting 'ultimate power.' The fact that she had it then meant she had to have been a lot worse than anything witnessed during the Lightspeed series.
    • Power Rangers Wild Force/Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger had the war between the Animarian civilization and the Orgs 3,000 years ago.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Storm introduced one of the generals this way; the warlord Shimazu terrorized the populace with his Wolfblades 2,000 years ago until he is sealed in a mask.
    • Power Rangers Mystic Force saw a group of wizards seal away the forces of the underworld only twenty or so years prior (so somewhere in or around the 1980s).
    • Power Rangers Jungle Fury had a war between man and beast 10,000 years ago. Surprisingly, the four of the seven Old Masters that survived the war also survived to the present day.
    • Averted in Power Rangers RPM, where we get a number of flashbacks to Venjix's conquest of Earth the year prior.
    • Power Rangers Samurai/Samurai Sentai Shinkenger had the Nighlocks/Gedoushu sealed away by samurai in feudal Japan, and apparently a number of skirmishes between them and the samurai's descendants in the intervening years. Power Rangers even showed a flashback involving the current Rangers' parents running off to fight as Rangers themselves, which had to have taken place somewhere in the 90s alongside a previous Rangers series.
    • Gloriously averted with the Great Legend War of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, though the evil Space Empire Zangyack are said to have had a long history conquering the universe before the invasion of Earth.
    • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger had the war where the Deboss wiped out the dinosaurs but were ultimately forced into hibernation, along with the two sides being in a cold war that heated up occasionally throughout history.
  • The Amazon War from the second and third RoboCop films carries over to RoboCop: The Series and is likewise an ongoing conflict with one of Murphy's childhood friends being part of a special ops unit that was missing and presumed killed during the war, only for said unit to turn up alive and well, suffering from issues related to the war.
  • Scrubs has the Janitor mention overthrowing Kyle, the former leader the Brain Trust ("A dictatorship masquerading as a democracy") during The Revolution of '02, specifically The Battle of the Basement Supply Closet. This probably never happened.
  • Silicate War, the war with the android revolution, taking place years before events of Space: Above and Beyond.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series has a lot of those:
      • The Third World War and Eugenic Wars, all taking place on Earth and concerning only humanity. It was actually one war in the Original Series, but was later divided.
      • The war between Earth and Romulan Star Empire, which forms the backstory for the episode "Balance of Terror". When first mentioned in the original series, this war was fought entirely at extreme ranges with nuclear weapons (and with neither race ever actually seeing a member of the other). Star Trek: Enterprise depicted the build-up to the war and retconned the details a bit: both sides had access to conventional starships and weapons but the Romulans themselves remained unseen by humans.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • The wars between the Federation and the Cardassians, which were responsible for creating the Anti-Cardassian Maquis. Strangely, the wars weren't mentioned in the first seasons, only later.
      • The "brutal border wars" against the Talarians and the Tzenkethi, which happened at some point between the Original Series and The Next Generation. There was also at least one conflict with the Tholians in the same time-frame.
  • The civil war in heaven among the angels in Supernatural is all off screen, which is likely a Justified Trope as humans can not perceive the true form of angels without their eyes burning out.
  • Played with in That Mitchell and Webb Look where a group of people are holed up in a nuclear bunker playing a game show and broadcasting in the vain hope somebody is actually watching. It all focuses around "The Event"; the only interesting thing any of the characters can think about but are sworn not to talk about for various reasons. The most probable event would be a nuclear war.
    • Or alternatively whatever caused the majority of the human population to become zombies ('Them').
  • In The Walking Dead, the military is mentioned to have been overtaken by the Walkers and their abandoned equipment and corpses are seen lying about in the streets of Atlanta and outside of CDC, but it's never shown how the military were defeated.
    • At least not until Fear the Walking Dead, where it becomes apparent that the military lost because they (or at least the National Guard in LA) were incompetent and evil.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has The Relic Wars, a global conflict fought over immensely powerful magical artifacts called the Grand Relics; it nearly destroyed the world a decade back. Most of the world doesn't remember it, thanks to Laser-Guided Amnesia.

  • The War in the Void from Embers In The Dusk, fought between the Necrons under the Silent King and the main Tyranid hive fleet. We don't see much of it due to it taking place outside the galaxy, but the Necrons made use of their most destructive superweapons that they don't dare use inside the galaxy for fear of wrecking the place, against a foe a few dozen times vaster than the galaxy at its height.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure I12 Egg of the Phoenix. The War of Ending between the forces of Evil and Old Empyrea. Doc and the silver dragon Falx fought in the war, during the adventure the PCs find a message that dates back to it, and one mission involves scouting one of the Castles of Ruling that played a major part in the war.
    • The backstory of the Nentir Vale setting in 4th Edition has the war between the civilization of Nerath led by King Elidyr and the gnoll demon horde headed by Yeenoghu. There was also the war between the tiefling (half-devil) empire of Bael Turath versus the dragonborn empire of Archosia. Your characters most likely will start their career scrounging leftover supplies from said wars.
    • An attempt was made to rework the World Of Greyhawk setting with The Greyhawk Wars (the war Iuz was preparing for in the time period of the original boxed set). The war itself was represented as a stand-alone board game only. It produced some interesting novels set in the aftermath of the War where characters often have to deal with the consequences, but the canon version of the war itself is relatively obscure.
  • Eberron has one happening just a few years before the current day of the setting. The Great War was sparked by a Succession Crisis, and lasted for about a century. It saw the creation of several nations who seceded from the original five nations of Galifar, and only ended when a mysterious catastrophe consumed the entire nation of Cyre, killing everything within its borders.
  • Exalted has a few examples: the Primordial War, the Aftershock War, the Usurpation and the Balorian Crusade. All of these are provided some level of detail (specifically who was fighting and why), but the exact events of the wars are generally shrouded in mystery (typically because they all involved reality being damaged to some degree).
    • And those are just wars involving the Exalted. The occasional hint is dropped regarding wars waged by gods in the era before humanity, and even occasionally to conflicts involving the Primordials prior to the existence of Creation.
    • Autochthonia has its own version in the Elemental War (so named because it so devastated the mechanical ecology that it drove thousands of elementals violently mad), which was noteworthy for being an extremely violent, ethnically driven total war in a world where most fighting is skirmishes to steal resources and supply lines.
  • The setting of Flying Circus lives in the shadow of the Great War, where Himmilgard's political powers bombarded each other out of existence, tainted the landscape, and traumatized the survivors. This war takes place twenty years before the game setting's start. That's enough time where campaigns won't take place in the Great War, while keeping it enough of a presence that most characters rather want to forget.
  • The War of Vengeance/The War of the Beard in Warhammer led to the current state of the Elvish and Dwarf Kingdoms; Dark Elves disguised as High Elves attacked a Dwarf caravan, to which High King Gotrek sent emissaries to Phoenix King Caledor II demanding an explanation and compensation. Caledor sent the emissaries back with nothing, saying that the Dwarfs had to beg if they wanted anything. Gotrek was pissed, but sent the emissaries back another time, demanding more compensation for the insult. Caledor had their beards shaved, one of the most grievous insults to a Dwarf, starting a war that would wreck both kingdoms and leave the two races as bitter enemies.
  • Given Warhammer 40,000's tagline "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war", it's unsurprising that this happens quite a lot. Most prominent are the Robot War that explains the Imperium's distrust of Artificial Intelligence, the Great Crusade in which the Emperor founded the Imperium, and the Horus Heresy which resulted in the Imperium as we know it today. Going further back, the War In Heaven between the Slaan and the Necrons sets up the backstory for the setting as a whole, but few details are ever given and even less is known in-universe. Some of these have been elaborated on more over time, especially the Horus Heresy which started as a vague explanation for why Chaos Space Marines exist and why the Emperor doesn't do much, but in recent years has become a major focus of the literature in the expanded universe.
    • There are also numerous examples of wars which would count as great in most settings, but which are so small they hardly get a mention in Warhammer. Crusades lasting decades and covering hundreds or thousands of worlds often get little more than a sentence or two of offhand mention. Even those that form the background of larger works (such as Gaunt's Ghosts) have very little of the whole war ever shown.
    • The War in Heaven is arguably the most important event in the Warhammer galaxy's history. It not only directly created three of the largest factions in the game (the Orcs, the Eldar and the Necrons), but the uncounted trillions of angry dead souls was enough to corrupt the Afterlife, turning it into the churning nightmare of a hellscape known as the Warp, making it partially responsible for Chaos as well.
  • In Twilight: 2000 World War III is pretty much already over in 2000 when the first adventure is set, with the players as survivors of one of the last major battles. Everybody lost.
  • Battletech has an interesting relation to this trope, as it features multiple eras who started out being this trope. The 'classic' Battletech started in the In-Universe year of 3025 and featured an eight-hundred year backstory filled with these (of particular note were the Reunification Wars, the Amaris Civil War, and the first three Succession Wars). As the game has expanded forward in time, sourcebooks have also been released to allow games being played at these time points, using era-appropriate tech and 'mechs. The main remaining offscreen war at this point is the Outer Reaches Rebellion, as it happened 300 years before the creation of the Humongous Mecha the setting is known for.

  • William Shakespeare:
    • As You Like It: Duke Senior was (somehow) deposed by his younger brother Fredrick and exiled to the Forest of Arden. A very blatant Deus ex Machina at the end restores Senior to his rightful place.
    • Old Hamlet's war with Norway in Hamlet.
    • Othello's military record might also count: he boasts at length of his experience with 'pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war', but we never see him fight. Giuseppe Verdi's opera compensates for this somewhat by having him win a naval battle in the opening scene, but this is still an Offstage Moment of Awesome.
    • Macbeth begins with a recounting of a war between Scotland and Norway.

  • The Core War in BIONICLE, although we do see a very brief account of its more important moments in one of the Flashback comics.

    Video Games 
  • Somewhere between the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series, there occurred a great war called the Elf Wars, caused by Dr. Weil corrupting the Mother Elfnote  and combining it with his other creation, the reploid Omega, to make reploids wreck havoc in the entire world, causing death to 60% of all humans and 90% of reploids until Zero and X stopped them in the fourth year. This event has shaped most of the Zero series' world and its characters, and yet info on the war is scarce. This, as it turns out, is intentional - it was such a horrific war that the Neo Arcadian government, built after the war, decided to bury all historical texts and info about the war deep in the ground, and declare anybody who knows it a Maverick, out of fear that "Weil's Sin" will repeat.
  • RuneScape has the God Wars which had raged on for 4000 years, making up the entirety of the Third Age. Despite ending 2169 years ago, the repercussions are still felt today: many races are driven to extinction, down to Last of His Kind or is a Dying Race; the gods are forced to depart from Gielinor. Many quests focus on this time: the Cave goblin-dwarf railway is postponed due to the discovery of related artifacts, the player rediscovers the myriad, a Dying Race of Energy Beings, human-vampyre tension runs high but if another war breaks out, Guthix would be reawakened to destroy the world and remake it. Except now he's dead.
  • Castlevania has "The Demon Castle War" in 1999 where modern-day soldiers attacked (and died; given the zombies) Dracula's Castle. This war also heralded Dracula's true and final death at the hands of Julius Belmont, Alucard, and other allies (including a member of the Belnades clan), thanks in part to a Shinto ceremony sealing Castlevania inside of a solar eclipse and cutting off the Dark Lord from his source of power in the process. There is no game that covers this, with the two closest games to that point being set 36 years afterwards or 55 years before.
  • The rebooted Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series had the Necromantic Wars, a series of conflicts between the titular Lords of Shadow against the ancient civilization of Agartha that took place before the game's storyline and is merely referenced on in-game supplementary material and Zobek's narration. The Lords of Shadow were victorious and completely wiped out the Agarthians, with only a few survivors of left when the game begins none of which survive until the end.
  • Vector Thrust had World War III in an Alternate Universe Earth which opened up with a nuclear barrage between Kaesel and Poltavia. Having only targeted each other's militaries but avoiding civilian casualties, they isolated themselves while other nations took advantage of the power vaccum, one nation being The Kingdom, which had next generation weaponry. When The Kingdom suddenly enters a nuclear civil war and attacks everyone they believe responsible, it takes "all six" of the world superpowers to stop them, and by then, there was already apocalyptic levels of damage done, and most of the world except for one continent is irradiated. The game pretty much takes place After the End, the remaining nations still maintain order to some degree.
  • Freelancer has the Coalition / Alliance war, the beginning of which was shown in Starlancer but which lasted for another century afterward and the winner is not the one the first game would indicate, as well as the 80 Years War between Rheinland and the GMG.
    • For that matter, Starlancer opens with a Coalition vessel arriving in Alliance space for some sort of peace conference, suggesting that the two sides had at minimum been in an unusually literal Space Cold War up until that point. This is quickly glossed over in favour of establishing the Coalition as a bunch of Card-Carrying Villains. Some flavour text also alludes to a Lunar Civil War some fifty years earlier that the elderly carrier the player character is assigned to participated in, but this is never elaborated upon.
  • Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic has the Mandalorian Wars. Much of the information about it is from allusions and As You Know statements in the games, and lots of characters you run into in both games are war heroes or veterans from one side or the other.
    • Its successor, Star Wars: The Old Republic, has a recent war between the Galactic Republic and the reborn Sith Empire. The war ended when the Empire sacked Coruscant, held it hostage, and demanded a peace treaty (for reasons that vary wildly depending on who you ask). The two powers have spent the intervening years in a very intense just-this-close-to-hot Cold War.
      • Rise of the Hutt Cartel involves the titular organization making their own bid for power on a galactic scale, but all the players ever see is the guerilla war for Makeb where the outcome is decided. It's not entirely clear if there even were other fronts, since their plan hinged on the resources they were raiding Makeb for.
      • Between the Shadow of Revan and Knights of the Fallen Empire expansions a massive raiding force from a third side devastates both factions. We see bits of it in a trailer, but in-game the timeline skips over it and rejoins during a combined attempt to track them back to their homeworld. There's then a second offscreen war with the same enemy's full strength where they conquer the galaxy while the Player Character is temporarily out of action.
      • The Third Galactic War between the Sith Empire and Republic after that faction is defeated takes place almost entirely off-screen, with the player character only involved in strategically important but small scale skirmishes.
  • For the longest time, StarCraft had the Guild Wars, which were referenced only in vague snippets as a civil war whose consequences still loomed over the Terran worlds. Fast forward many years, it's been more-or-less explained away with tie-in literature. Still nothing in the games, but this series has always assumed you did the reading first.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Several significant wars have been fought in the series backstory or between installments that have shaped the game world.
    • The War of the First Council in the First Era set the stage for all that followed. The devout, Daedra/ancestor-worshipping Chimer and atheistic, scientific Dwemer came into conflict in the land now known as Morrowind. After years of fighting, they were forced to team up to drive out the invading Nords. Their alliance remained under the leadership of Chimeri Lord Indoril Nerevar and Dwemer Dumac Dwarfking, known as the "first council." It was a time of great peace and prosperity for both races. However, the Dwemer Dug Too Deep beneath Red Mountain and unearthed the Heart of Lorkhan, the creator god. Chief Tonal Architect, Lord Kagrenec, crafted tools to tap into the power of the heart, hoping to allow the Dwemer to transcend mortality. The Chimer, seeing this as a blasphemy against their gods in the Daedra, attempted to stop the Dwemer, reigniting their war. Forces led by Nerevar and Lord Voryn Dagoth infiltrated the Dwemer Red Mountain stronghold. Exactly what happened next is up for intense debate, but the Dwemer disappeared from existence, Nerevar was slain, Dagoth and the Tribunal used the tools on the heart to achieve godhood, and Azura cursed the Chimer with dark skin and red eyes, transforming them into the modern Dunmer. The Nord defeat in Morrowind also marked the furthest expanse of their early empire, the first empire of Men in Tamriel. Many of their conquests were thanks to their mastery of the Thu'um as a weapon of war. After that defeat, Jurgen Windcaller, one of the defeated Nord leaders, reflected on it and determined that it was a punishment from the gods for misusing the Thu'um. Thus, he created the Way of the Voice and founded the Greybeards to only use the Thu'um to honor the gods. Afterward, it saw a drastic drop in use as a weapon of war and the Nords were never again able to reach that level as an empire. The aftereffects of this battle can still be felt in the plotlines for Morrowind and Skyrim.
    • The Tiber Wars were a series of wars fought as part of Tiber Septim's campaign to conquer all of Tamriel. Septim had conquered all but Morrowind (protected by their Physical Gods and the Summerset Isles (protected by their powerful magics) during the late 2nd Era, the only two provinces the last empire out of Cyrodiil, the Reman Dynasty, had failed to conquer.note  Unknown to Septim, the Dunmer demi-gods of Morrowind, known as the Tribunal, had been cut off from their divine power source by their ancient enemy, Dagoth Ur. Septim's legions easily sacked Mournhold, the capital of Morrowind. Without their gods to protect them, the rest of Morrowind would have been devastated in a protracted war with Septim's legions. Knowing this, Vivec, one of these gods, met with Septim and forged an Armistice. Morrowind would join the empire as a Voluntary Vassal, sparing his people from war. In addition, Vivec offered the Dwemer-crafted Reality Warping Humongous Mecha - The Numidium - to Septim in exchange for special privileges for Morrowind. (Specifially, continued Great House rule, free worship of the Tribunal, and the right to continue practicing slavery which was outlawed elsewhere in the empire.) Septim then used the Numidium to Curb Stomp the Altmer of the Summerset Isles (sacking their capital in less than hour), bringing them under the rule of men for the first time in history. With the unification of Tamriel, Septim began the Third Era of Tamriellic history during which the games from Arena to Oblivion all take place.
    • The War of Betony was fought between the Bretons of Daggerfall under King Lysandus and the Redguards of Sentinel under King Camaron over control of the strategically important island of Betony in the Iliac Bay. Both kings were slain during the war, which saw Lysandus' son lead the forces of Daggerfall to victory. Lysandus' ghost, however, returned to haunt the city of Daggerfall, which kicks off the plot to the Daggerfall.
    • The "Great War" was fought between the forces of the Aldmeri Dominion under the leadership of the anti-human extremist Thalmor and the remnants of the Septim Empire under Emperor Titus Mede II in the 4th Era. The Dominion's forces sacked the Imperial City, committing gruesome atrocities against the city's populace. With reinforcements from his Nord forces in Skyrim, Mede was able to recapture the city, but at great cost. Knowing that his empire was too exhausted to endure further conflict, Mede reluctantly signed the White-Gold Concordat; a treaty that, among other things, banned the worship of Talos in the Empire. This particular provision angered the Nords most of all, leading to the Civil War in Skyrim.
    • The civil war itself in Skyrim is an optional side quest, allowing the player to completely ignore it and let it happen entirely off-screen if they so choose.
  • The battle with the quiskerians and the death of Phaeton in Legacy Of Heroes.
  • Mass Effect has several of them: the Rachni War that ravaged the galaxy some thousands of years ago, the Krogan Rebellions a thousand or so years before the current date, the Morning War between the quarians and the geth, the Skylian Blitz, and the First Contact War/Relay 314 Incident that was humanity's introduction to galactic society. Most of the wars happened very long ago, but occasionally you'll find a veteran of the Krogan Rebellions (either an asari or a krogan, due to their immense lifespans), and many older humans and turians still remember First Contact. Come Mass Effect 3, Javik, a revived Prothean, will talk about a series of wars that both his people fought (i.e. the Metacon Wars) and other conflicts in his timeframe, several of ehich he's implied to have made up for laughs.
    • There's also the war on Garvug mentioned by the Cerberus News Network, in which corporate mercenaries attempted to take over a krogan-controlled world, and the Second American Civil War, the details of which can be found during the "Stolen Memories" mission.
  • Cave Story: References are made several times to a war for control of the Demon Crown. It's implied that the protagonist and Curly Brace were combatants in this war, two of the few surviving soldiers from the army that massacred the Mimigas. But that's ultimately revealed to be false when Curly regains her memories—she remembers fighting to destroy the Demon Crown, separate from any army, with the protagonist as her only ally.
  • Guild Wars:
    • Prophecies has the titular Guild Wars that caused a divide between the three human kingdoms of Tyria. Three separate Guild Wars occurred, ending only when the Charr invaded and presented the humans with a more urgent threat.
    • A majority of the war against the Charr also took place off-screen before the game begins, during the two-year timeskip after the tutorial, and after the refugees departed.
    • Factions has the Tengu Wars which brought about a (temporary) peace between the Canthan Empire and some of the native Tengu. Much earlier in history there was also a war of unification where the Luxons and Kurzicks were both conquered by the Empire.
    • Nightfall has the war between the free nations of Elona and Palawa Joko, .
  • Guild Wars 2: Several wars took place between the two games.
    • A prolonged war took place between the Charr and the surviving armies of Ascalon. Ultimately a peace accord was signed in the face of the common enemy, the Elder Dragons.
    • In Elona Palawa Joko diverted the main source of water for the human nations, forcing their surrender. He now controls everything south of the Crystal Desert.
    • The dwarves have continued to wage a war against the Destroyers since the end of the first game and so are never seen in the sequel.
  • City of Heroes has the first Rikti War in Primal Earth, and the Hamidon Wars in Praetorian Earth.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos: The Arizona Conflict, of which player character Michael Wilson is a veteran. It's heavily hinted that Michael's presidency, Richard's evilness, and nearly every involved party's past is connected to this event, but details are not given, aside from the fact that Michael received a Congressional Medal of Honor during that conflict.
  • BlazBlue: The First War of Magic, in which humans (including Hakumen, Jubei, Valkenhayn, and Terumi) fought against The Black Beast. Later, the Ikaruga Civil War, in which Jin became "The Hero of Ikaruga" by murdering Bang's lord.
  • Guilty Gear has the Crusades, an apocalyptic conflict between humans and Gears, led by Justice. In some games you can play duels that happened back then.
  • The Seven Hour War from Half-Life 2. It's the reason why the Combine control the planet: they defeated all of Earth's armed forces in just seven hours.
    • Additional media expands upon the circumstances of the War: It wasn't so much that the Combine overpowered the full might of the world's militaries in a matter of seven hours, but that, ever since the Black Mesa Incident, the planet had been devastated by portal storms and the hostile extraterrestrial life that emerged from them. It was to the point that the planet was practically three steps away from total societal breakdown anyways, and the Combine just happened to come across Earth in the midst of all this. The Seven Hour War wasn't so much of a "decisive battle" as it was simply mopping up what little military resistance could be mustered in the middle of the massive global calamity. The true tragedy of the Seven Hour War isn't that Humanity's forces weren't defeated so decisively and trivially, but that Humanity lost the War before it even began.
  • In the Ground Control games: World War 3, the Independence Wars, the First Stellar War, the Terran-Viron conflict, most of the Second Stellar War. There are mentioned in a few brief lines in the manual.
  • In the Earth series, we never get to see or read details about World War 3, only that it was a nuclear war that destroyed all former nation-states. Only a few facts are known from before the war, mostly about the founding of the Lunar Corporation. The game history starts after the war, with the creations of the United Civilized States and the Eurasian Dynasty.
  • In Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, the AI Wars are mentioned, but no details are given. Other conflicts not mentioned or mentioned/shown only briefly are the war between IASA and the megacorporations, the Vardrag-Gorg War, and the Noah-Gorg War prior to the events of the game.
  • The Great Keyblade War in Kingdom Hearts. It took place long before any other point in the game's timeline and was fought between hundreds, if not thousands of different Keyblade bearers, all for the right to form the ultimate weapon and take control of the Cosmic Keystone. The result: the weapon was shattered, the great power hid itself, and barriers rose between the worlds to prevent easy travel. All that remains is an absolutely massive Field of Blades on an otherwise abandoned world.
    • Averted in Kingdom Hearts χ which shows the Keyblade War in all its glory. The game reveals that the war was fought over Lux, the light of the world, and not the χ-Blade and Kingdom Hearts as the legends state. On that note, the χ-Blade doesn't even appear in the war at any point nor is it even mentioned during it or prior to it.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has a vague recounting of a war which occurred before Link was born and led to the death of his mother, who left him in the care of the Great Deku Tree. It's implied that this was the war that led to the unification of Hyrule.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past talks about a warnote  known as the Imprisoning War in which the Knights of Hyrule fought to give the Seven Sages the opportunity to seal Ganon in the Sacred Realm. It also talks about an even earlier warnote  which led to the Triforce being sealed in the Sacred Realm in the first place.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess mentions a similar conflict, describing how an evil tribe of powerful sorcerers (known in Fanon as the Dark Interlopers) came so close to getting the Triforce that the Spirits of Light had to entrap them in the Twilight Realm, where they evolved into the Twili.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword mentions an earlier conflict in which Hylia and her armies fought against armies of invading demons to keep the Triforce safe. In this case, the offscreen nature of the war is actually justified: in the early days of the war, the group from whose perspective we see were sent up into the sky on a Floating Continent with the Triforce to keep both safe and out of reach of the war.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds treats the events of A Link to the Past as this. There is also the war fought for the other Triforce in Lorule, very much like the one fought in Hyrule. Unlike Hyrule, they destroyed the Triforce to keep it from being anymore trouble, which ended up being a very big mistake.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has the Great Calamity, in which Calamity Ganon took over the Guardians and Divine Beasts and used them to ravage Hyrule. While an early expository cutscene shows a glimpse of the massacre that took place in Hyrule Castle Town and Link's last retrievable memory shows the moment he succumbed to his injuries while fighting the Guardians, the main evidence that the Calamity happened are the blasted ruins and decayed Guardians strewn about Hyrule. There's also the original battle between Hyrule's combined forces and Ganon 10,000 years prior, which is only depicted on a mural in Impa's home.
  • A recurring element in the Metroid Prime Trilogy:
    • The backstory of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes covers the 50-year war between the Luminoth and the Ing. By the time Samus Aran lands on Aether, the surviving Luminoth are holed up in the Great Temple waiting for a miracle to beat back the Ing, and dead Luminoth are all over the place.
    • At the start of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, a Federation technician mentions that he hasn't seen "that many fighters scrambled since the Horus Rebellion".
  • Fallout has the Great War, a two-hour war during which every nuclear-capable country in the world launched. No one knows who launched first, and given the state of the world afterwards it doesn't really matter anymore.
    • Two sources - the leader of the Enclave (the remnants of the US government) and the log of a Chinese submarine commander during the Great War - point to the Chinese. Still, they might be mistaken, and part of the lead-up to the Great War is still undetailed - the war between China and the USA has been given a fair bit of attention, but the other Resource Wars - especially the one between Europe and the Middle East, and the ones that happened in Europe after that - are still mostly names, if even that.
      • Also the theory that a bored AI started it.
    • Fallout: New Vegas Mentions several for the New California Republic. There's the NCR-Enclave War, The NCR-Great Khans War and the NCR-Brotherhood of Steel War. Each of the conflicts relates to at least one companion; Boone = Khan War, Veronica = Brotherhood, Arcade = Enclave.
    • Kinda adverted with Fallout 3 with the "Operation Anchorage" simulation, where you (virtually) fight a small part of the war to reclaim Alaska from the Chinese before the bombs dropped, though notes around the facility record that the simulation has been repeatedly rewritten at the orders of a general, and bears less and less relation to the reality.
    • We finally get to see it, or at least one of the opening salvos, in Fallout 4.
  • The Dragon Age series has several examples:
    • Loghain of Dragon Age: Origins often mentions the Ferelden rebellion against Orlais. Vague references to the war between the Qunari and the Tevinter Imperium are also present.
    • The First Blight lasted 192 years, the Second lasted 90 years: the Third and Fourth blight were comparatively smaller and lasted only 15 and 12 years. At the beginning of Origins, Duncan is desperately trying to increase the ranks of the Fereldan Grey Wardens in order to avoid another Blight lasting years or even generations. Dragon Age II confirms that the Fifth Blight, which is the setting of Origins, lasted a full year, which is comparatively amazing.
    • The plot of Dragon Age II is about what started the Mage-Templar War that has engulfed all of Thedas by 9:40 Dragon. Vague hints are all we actually know about the present in which the framing-device is set, whereas the game itself focuses on the life of Hawke from 9:30 - 9:37 Dragon and how the Champion came to unintentionally participate in the opening shots of the conflict.
    • Thedas history is built on one enormous war after another. The titular Dragon Age was predicted to be a time of upheaval, but it's still got some catching up to do in terms of body count. The oldest known conflict, predating the First Blight and the Age system, is the elf empire vs the nascent Tevinter Imperium. The sheer loss of elf culture is still being felt centuries later.
    • The novel The Stolen Throne describes the rebellion against the Orlesian occupation, although the final battle in which Loghain really proved himself as a general is not described (the future King Maric wasn't even present there, choosing instead to settle a personal score).
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals some important info about the war between the Elven empire and Tevinter - namely that the elves were already involved in a civil war. Far from the mighty conquerors their descendants imagine, Tevinter was kicking the elves when they were already down.
  • The First Eptinan Wars exist has only a blurb in the manual for Vanguard Bandits. The Second, also has this effect, having been going on since before the game starts, and despite still going on most of the backstory for it exists in a single flashback.
  • Square Enix seems to love this trope:
    • Final Fantasy VI: The War of The Magi that destroyed previous civilization(s) and petrified the Warring Triad, gods of magic.
    • Final Fantasy VII: The war in which Shinra conquered the world, especially Wutai. The very end of this war (the conquest of Wutai part) is the very first chapter of Crisis Core.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: The war between Galbadia and Esthar, roughly eighteen years before the game began, which was caused by Sorceress Adel, the ruler of Esthar, attempting to Take Over the World.
    • Final Fantasy X: The war that destroyed the world and drove Yu Yevon mad, turning him into Sin.
    • Final Fantasy XI: The stage is set by the great Crystal War of twenty years earlier; the opening cinematic shows a climactic battle from the War. The three great cities now deputize adventurers because of how the war depleted their armies. Becomes an onscreen war in the Wings of the Goddess expansion, where characters can travel back in time and participate in the war.
    • Final Fantasy XIII: The War of Transgression, which nearly destroyed Cocoon 500 years ago.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: For A Realm Reborn players, the United Eorzea-Garlemald war that culminated in the Battle of Carteneau is this, with the current conflict being an extension of it. Legacy players got to experience it firsthand.
    • Final Fantasy XV has the war between the kingdom of Lucis and the empire of Niflheim. The turning point of the war is shown early in the story (using footage from Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV) and continues in the background.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics: The war fought between Murond and the Zodiac Braves. The truth is very different from what scholars accepted as historical facts. And recently, the 50 Year War in which many of the game's older famous generals made a name for themselves.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy: The war between Lufenian and their neighbor, which facilitated the birth of Chaos to defeat Omega.
  • Touhou: The Great Suwa War, in which Kanako subjugated Suwako; and Yukari's (first) invasion of the Moon. Silent Sinner in Blue is essentially Yukari taking revenge upon the Lunarians over her defeat 1,000 years ago.
  • The Belkan War was this in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War: the only events mentioned in the game were that Bartlett and Pops were shot down together, and that it ended when Belka dropped seven nukes on its own soil. It was later expanded on in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
    • Other wars that form a crucial part of certain games' backstories are civil wars in enemy nations, one big example being the Estovakian Civil War, a brutal knock-down drag-out mess that involved as many as five factions and lasted six years, essentially a precursor to the Anean Continental War seen in Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. In Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, the Leasathian Civil War also serves a similar purpose.
  • Since Grand Theft Auto III radio conversations and ads have hinted at a war between America and Australia which happened sometime in the mid 1980s. It's played for laughs.
  • Septerra Core. The Resource Wars, the most recent of the wars between Ankara and Jinam. Also the war between Chosen factions that devastated Maya's hometown.
  • Shining Resonance: All the player is allowed to see of Ragnarok is a mural of the event, along with narration explaining that the High Elves allied with the Shining Dragon and the World Dragons to seal away Deus. Since the event took place many centuries ago, the mural is one of the few remaining records of it.
  • The Ura-Caelondia war in Bastion. It's been over for a while, but a lot of the Ura and the only living Caelondian old enough to remember it (Rucks) are still a bit sore over it.
  • Tales of Vesperia references The Great War between humans and Entelexeia. One of the party members is a veteran.
  • Most Fire Emblem games have this as a part of the backstory:
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem have the first war between the Kingdom of Archanea and the dragon-ruled Dolhr Empire, where Marth's distant ancestor won fame for sealing the Earth Dragon Medeus away.
    • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade and Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade have a great war between humans and dragons, referred to as 'The Scouring', that occurred roughly 1,000 years before the events of the games. It ended with the humans supposedly killing off the dragons, though in actuality, the dragons, on the verge of defeat, exiled themselves through the Dragon's Gate to find a new home in another world, closing the portal behind them. The few dragon survivors that didn't make it to the Gate and were left behind in Elibe retreated to the Nabata Desert and founded the village of Arcadia.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones details an ancient war against the Demon King, where the Five Heroes and the Manaketes defeated the demons, then went on to found the current kingdoms of Magvel (sans Carcino).
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn give us several offscreen wars of the past, the biggest being the ancient Order Versus Chaos war between Ashera and Yune, with various factions siding with either goddess. More recently, there was also a great revolt of Laguz to liberate themselves from Begnion slavery.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening has one occurring just one generation before the game, instigated by the actions of the Grimleal (a card-carrying Religion of Evil), leading to the previous exalt of Ylisse trying to exterminate them, only to fail as his nation got bogged down in a bloody war with the realm of Plegia as a whole. The second generation characters turn out to come from a war-torn future where the Grimleal caused a Zombie Apocalypse, forcing them to travel back in time after their parents all fell attempting to fight back against the Risen horde.
    • Fire Emblem Fates has long had conflicts between the two main countries of Hoshido and Nohr, with the game's story being the latest war.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses has easily the most war-torn setting in the entire franchise. The land of Fódlan has suffered numerous foreign invasions throughout its almost 1,200 year history, and the continent's three countries have fought their fair share of wars against each other, and put down an even larger number of internal insurrections and rebellions. The most signficant is a war that occurred so far in the backstory none of the characters in the game were alive to witness it, not even the the most long-lived surviving Nabateans. That would be the apocalyptic war the technologically advanced Agarthans and the goddess Sothis, which sundered the continent and led to the destruction of Agartha.
  • In Ultima VI, there's supposedly a huge war with the gargoyles going on. The soldiers talk about it. You see the wounded being cared for in Cove... however due to the Wide Open Sandbox gameplay you travel all over the fairly pristine world and never find a single battleground.
  • Dungeons of Dredmor contains many references to a war between elves and dwarves that's taken place back on the surface; the dungeons are full of discarded weaponry and such.
    • The thousand-year war between Sol Ciel and Sol Cluster that peaked with the Grathnode Inferia. Only a few people actually remember the events of it by virtue of being over 700 years old.
    • Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia has the war between Mir-led Reyvateil and humans, which ended with Mir sealed and the Reyvateil treated as second- or even third-class citizens.
    • Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica has the previous period of conflict between the Grand Bell and the Sacred Army. The current period of conflict takes the majority of the gameplay, so it doesn't feel very offscreen-y.
  • The Assassin's Creed series makes reference to a war that occurred tens of thousands of years ago in the First Civilization, between Those Who Came Before and the humans they used as slaves. This war is never detailed, but is instead used as a context to explain how the Half Human Hybrids "Adam and Eve" became Phlebotinum Rebels and stole the secret of the Pieces of Eden. And then their civilization was wiped out by a solar flare, making the whole thing moot.
  • Hexx mentions the Chaos wars, which apparently involved one of the four deities in the setting.
  • The X-Universe backstory includes the Terraformer War in the 2140s AD, during which insane terraforming robots wiped out all of Earth's extrasolar colonies and nearly destroyed Earth, too. A Terran warfleet managed to lure them through a jumpgate, which was then destroyed behind them; this fleet became the Argon race. About 200 years later, we had the First Xenon Conflict, where the terraformers reappeared, followed by the Boron Campaign, a more conventional interstellar war between the various superpowers.
  • Lt. Surge in Pokémon Red and Blue refers to a war in which his electric Pokémon "zapped [his] enemies into paralysis." None of the subsequent games (except the remakes, which repeated the line exactly) mentioned anything about this war.
    • A popular fan theory theoriezes that there was a large conflict before the first game, which is why there are so few adult males; most are either older, or children.
  • A war three-thousand years before Pokémon X and Y serves as the backstory for the game's plot.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles's Action Prologue is the Battle of Sword Valley, which was the last battle of the Mechon invasion of Bionis and where Dunban became a legend throughout the land for singlehandedly turning back the enemy advance.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles X, there is a massive conflict between two alien armies that just so happened to break out over Earth. As shown in the opening sequence, the battle resulted in Earth's destruction and humanity's forced exodus into space, with one of the alien armies pursuing them and causing one of their ships to crash-land onto Mira.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has the Aegis War, a conflict from 500 years ago that resulted in the destruction of three titans as the Aegis Mythra and her driver Addam fought against Malos, another Aegis and his army of Artifices. While in the game itself, it is only ever talked about or shown in flash backs, as multiple characters that fought in the war are still alive, the DLC expansion “Torna the Golden Country” is set during the war, showing how the war ended and setting up the main game.
  • The Last Story had a war that occurred hundreds of years ago that was ended by House Arganan. Later on, another large war engulfed the Empire that killed the families of Zael and Dagran, which led to them becoming mercenaries. In addition to that, it is also stated that the Empire has fought many campaigns against the Gurak people in the past. The game's plot is well and truly kicked off when the Gurak invade Lazulis Island, sparking off another war.
  • Pandora's Tower has a war that occurred fifty years ago. Unlike most instances of this trope, this particular war and its fallout have great plot significance. Later on, the kingdoms of Elyria and Athos had been fighting a war that ended only two years before the game begins, and tensions between the two countries are still high despite the peace.
  • Gears of War has the Pendulum Wars, which is where Marcus Fenix made himself a war hero. And the majority of the Locust war that happens before the first game opens.
  • Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic (old verse):
    • The Timber Wars between Erathia and AvLee over the Contested Lands. Some hero descriptions mentions them, they're a key part of the backstory for VII and one campaign in Heroes III... and the only one we get any real detail is canonically not a proper war (VII involves a renewed conflict over part of the Contested Lands, but the only things that are assured to happen in the conflict are skirmishes and manouevering for position, followed by peace negotiations. It can escalate into a full-scale war, but hints in later games implies that the path in which that occurs isn't the one that happened).
    • The rebellions against the Colonial Government after the Silence (the loss of contact with the Ancients, the mother civilization). The Colonial Government ruling the planet had been strong before the Silence, but after their legitimacy was damaged and their resources strained, and with that came rebellions. Initially the Colonial Government,under Governor Padish, held on by pumping out weapons and armour using the miraculous Heavenly Forges, but without Ancient maintenance the Forges gradually began to break down, and the rebellions chipped away at the Government. Within a century it had collapsed... and that is what is known of the only known planet-spanning conflict in the history of Enroth.
  • Halo:
    • The backstory has the Interplanetary Wars, a ten-year-long series of conflicts fought almost 400 years before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, which led to the establishment of the Unified Earth Government and the United Nations Space Command as humanity's main governing powers.
    • The Inner Colony Wars, mentioned off-hand in Second Sunrise Over New Mombasa, were a series of conflicts involving the Inner Colonies nearly 200 years after the Interplanetary Wars.
    • The Covenant's 3,404 years of history includes a vast number of conflicts that we know relatively little about, with several involving the conquest of newly encountered species. These conflicts include the War of Beginnings, the Taming of the Lekgolo, the Sixteenth Unggoy Disobedience, the war against the Banished (which was concurrent with the war against humanity), etc.
    • The games treat the war between the Forerunners and Flood (which ended 100,000 years before the start of the main series) largely as this, though we did eventually get a more direct look into the conflict in The Forerunner Saga. The Forerunners are also noted to have fought various other wars even further back in the past, most noticeably their conflict with Advanced Ancient Humans.
  • Buried in the backstory to Hatoful Boyfriend is the war between humans and just-uplifted birds, which started with the disorganized Hitchcock Winter, became formal when birds drew up their own Declaration of Independence, and continued for thirty years until humans surrendered. Of course things aren't entirely peaceful now...
  • Sunrider has the Alliance-Imperial War, which shaped the galaxy’s current political landscape by establishing the Solar Alliance as a legitimate rival to the New Empire and breaking the latter’s dominance of the galaxy. This would lead to the Compact Revolution a century later, in which the New Empire collapsed due to internal dissent and was reorganized into the People’s Alliance for Common Treatment, or PACT.
  • World of Warcraft 's Expanded Universe has goblins mention in passing a series of no less than four Trade Wars, and described as worse, the Peace War. Details are sparse, limited to battles having been fought in the tunnels of the goblin capital Undermine, and Trade Prince Gallywix's favorite bakery being repeatedly destroyed over the multiple wars.
    • There are also the Troll Wars, which are why high elves are friends with humans, humans have mages, and Zul'Aman is in ruins. A few of the Artifact quests also reference it.
  • In Warframe, The Old War between the precursor Orokin Empire and the Sentients is pretty much the cause of the state of present setting. It was the cause of the creation of the playable faction, the Tenno, the release of the Technocyte Plague, and if the Stalker is to be believed, indirectly resulted in their destruction when the Tenno Turned Against Their Masters and destroyed them, leaving behind the reams of Lost Technology that everyone is squabbling over now.
  • Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi: The Scripts Of Grimvald Vorius mention that Malachi was sealed away after an event known as "the Crimson Wars" centuries ago.
  • The "Great Mistake" in Civilization: Beyond Earth is sometimes implied to have been World War III, or a regional nuclear exchange (India and Pakistan are often brought up in this context). Other times it seems that it was an ecological collapse and/or some kind of unexplained science going horribly wrong — whatever it was, it's the cause of Earth That Used to Be Better.
    • Likewise, in Beyond Earth's spiritual predecessor, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, had the implication that civilization back on Earth completely went to shit not long after the Unity left. By the time Planet's descendants finally return to their world of origin, Earth is a lifeless rock with a few giant craters in it.
  • Though it's only hinted at until the sequel, before the events of Hotline Miami, the Soviets attempted to invade America, managed to make it at least to occupying Hawaii and nuked San Francisco.
  • Splatoon has the Great Turf War between the Inklings and Octarians that took place a century before the game's events, in which the Inklings ended as victors. Mission Control Cap'n Cuttlefish was part of this war, and several of its details are revealed in a few of the Sunken Scrolls hidden through the single player campaign.
  • The backstory of Undertale had a war between monsters and humans that resulted in the monsters being sealed away in the underground. Even though monsters are said to be almost helpless in the face of a sufficiently powerful Killing Intent, humans feared monster-kind's ability to absorb the power of human souls and grow stronger.
  • Evolve has the Mutagen Wars, also known as the Basilisk Rebellion. Hyde and Lazarus were veterans of the first while Slim was a veteran of the third on the opposite side, with each of them having various conversations regarding it. The writer eventually released the details of the war, which can be read here.
  • Mission Critical has most of the war between The Alliance and the UN over limitations on technology. The manual goes into a brief overview, but few details are given. The possible future war between the UN and the ELFs is also largely undescribed.
  • Dark Souls:
    • Dark Souls: The war against the Everlasting Dragons, which lead to the founding of Lordran and the prosperity of human kingdoms. Only one character who lived through it will remark on his experiences, which are mainly tinged with sorrow that he now that it's over, his purpose as a dragon slayer is now finished as well. Also briefly mentioned is the war against the demons of Lost Izalith.
    • Dark Souls II: The war against the Giants that took place some 100 years or so before the game begins. It apparently lasted over 120 years and, while Drangleic was ultimately victorious, the kingdom was utterly ravaged by the Giants' attack and never recovered.
    • Dark Souls III: The reason for all those dead knights in Lothric? A civil war erupted between two religions in Lothric, one being the state religion of worshipping and kindling the First Flame, the other being centered around a woman named Gertrude and her "heretical" worship of the Angels (whoever they were). The Winged Knights are the remnants of Gertrude's rebellion.
  • Trails Series:
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: The Hundred Days War. It took place a decade or so before the start of the first game, and shaped the personal history of many of the main characters. The protagonist is the daughter of the man who won the war, and whose mother was a casualty of it, and her love interest is the Sole Survivor of the village that was destroyed by the aggressors to create a Pretext for War.
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel: The War of the Lions. It took place two hundred and fifty years before the game proper, but it get referenced regularly, and the war that is fought in the second game is in many ways a repeat of that war. In the third game, there's also the North Ambria campaign where The Hero of the first two games participates in said war and all the details are told through flashbacks as he explains it to his friends.
  • Atlas Reactor has the Titan War, which was fought between practically all of humanity after the Reactors failed and Atlas was the only place left on Earth with power. The War was won by the three Mega Corps who currently run Atlas. Several of the Freelancers you can play as were veterans of the War, having gained Resurrection Contracts due to their actions during the war.
  • Granblue Fantasy has the War, a war between the Astrals and the rest of the Skydwellers, which happened millennia ago, causing the former to retreat to their home island and leaving behind dozens of their creations which still remain in the present.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story talks about a war in the back story in which the Star Sprites sealed away the Dark Star to keep it from attacking the Mushroom Kingdom.
    • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team features the war between the Pi'illo Kingdom and Antasma to keep the latter from obtaining the wish-granting Dark Stone. The Pi'illos were able to seal Antasma in the Dream World to keep this from happening, but Antasma was able to crush the Dark Stone and turn the Pi'illos to stone until Mario and Luigi free them.
    • In Super Mario Odyssey, the Ruined Kingdom is speculated to have gotten that way as a result of its inhabitants having one against the Ruined Dragon. The region is covered in sword-like pins that were used in an attempt to contain the Dragon's electric powers.
  • In Cat Quest, the Dragons Wars which opposed the dragons to the Old Masters and the Dragonbloods, happened a very long time ago but is constantly referred to through the game.
  • The Winchester War in Sunless Skies, which opposed London loyalists to the Reach independentists, took place several years before the game, leading to the very awkward status quo in place at the start of the game. From what can be heard and seen (it left some very impressive debris fields, and you constantly find wrecked locomotives to investigate while roaming the Reach), this war was a gruesome one.
  • Several cases in the Unreal series. The Tournament series in particular has the Human-Skaarj War; the only concrete references we've got to how anything went down are a pair of Assault maps in Unreal Tournament 2004, one of which depicts the final battle and the other part of the various conflicts in its aftermath. Other cases include the "Strider Wars" mentioned in Unreal II: The Awakening, which very little is known about save for that one of your crewmates served in the war, and was responsible for setting up a trap for the eponymous Striders that resulted in their defeat.
  • The most important event in Overwatch's backstory is the Omnic Crisis, in which the world's omnics rebelled en masse for reasons unknown. It was during this period that Overwatch itself was founded to bring together the world's best soldiers to create an elite task force for combatting the machines. They proved so effective at ending the crisis that the United Nations allowed them to stick around as an officially-sanctioned international law enforcement agency for decades into the early "present" of the 2070s, at which point internal problems, bad press and some critical losses forced its collapse, setting up the actual narrative's main premise. In the present, the conflict's effects are still being felt: Russia is engaged with its own conflict with hostile AI left over from the Crisis, nonviolent and sentient worker omnics are the subject of persecution and injustice throughout the world, and many characters — most notably Bastion, one of the very same killer machines deployed during the conflict that has since developed free will — struggle with the memories of what they endured during the war. Bastion's and Reinhardt's animated story cinematics mitigate some of the "offscreen" nature of this trope by giving us some glimpses of the Crisis while it was ongoing, and the cancelled graphic novel First Strike would have focused entirely on Overwatch's origins during the conflict's height. But otherwise, it remains confined to the background as an explanation for how the world wound up in its current state.
  • Several Monster Rancher data entries reveal that monsters fought in wars in the ancient past. 4 goes even further and has wars between humans, monsters, and demons.
  • The Sin War, an eternal war between the forces of Heaven and Hell, is given as the background to Diablo, but aside from a short mention in the manual it doesn't really make an appearance. It's only in the second game, after Diablo has been released that angels start making an appearance and the war itself becomes relevant.
  • Dungeon Siege 2 has an ancient war forming the entire background to the plot, although the details are somewhat vague due to the circumstances involved - the war ended when two powerful magical artifacts met which resulted in an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, wiping out everyone involved and reshaping the world right down to changing how magic worked. The game gives various hints about it, but many of these come from an Unreliable Narrator who turns out to be the real Big Bad and was lying about at least some of it all along.
  • In the backstory of Fate/stay night, the Third Holy Grail Wars counts, as it shaped the circumstances under which the Fifth is fought. At first, the Fourth Holy Grail War was also an example, but eventually the story was told as Fate/Zero.
    • Said war also occurs in the backstory of Fate/Apocrypha, albeit in this timeline, due to the Greater Grail being taken to Romania, neither the Fourth or Fifth occur in this timeline.
  • Borderlands mentions a conflict between most of the major weapons manufacturers known as the "Corporate Wars" after the collapse of the Central Government.
  • A recurring theme in Book of Mario: Thousands of Doors is an offscreen war. The Persian Empire, The Koop Kingdom, and the 10-Nauties are the primary superpowers fighting in it, though what it's being fought over is...unclear. Book of Mario 64 reveals the Stellarvinden, while controlling Mario, consumed all the peaches and caused a global shortage.
  • Homeworld had two:
  • AI War: Fleet Command: The war outside the galaxy, known semi-officially as the Extragalactic War in the sequel. Rather than being a past event, it's simply far away with almost entirely unknown but impossibly huge threats involved on one side, and the AI on the other. This war is the reason you aren't dead; it takes up so much of the AI's attention and industrial capacity that you, in comparison, are a speck Not Worth Killing. The goal of the game is to remove the local processors to rid your area of the galaxy from AI control, without raising enough hell that it decides it can spare the time and power to really murder you. And if things get too far out of control, stuff that is an actual valuable asset in this war rather than mere chaff is brought in; the low end is pure pain, the high end is a death sentence.
  • Monster Hunter has the Great Dragon War where, an unknown amount of time ago, an advanced civilisation controlled the world at large, creating powerful weapons such as the Dragonator and towers that reached into the stratosphere, as well as genetically enhancing themselves, with their decendents who kept these enhancements being able to become Monster Hunters. The titular monsters were used a guards, livestock or slaves by this civilisation. This alone created hostilities between the humans and monsters, until the civilisation went to far and created the Equal Dragon Weapon, a living weapon made from butchering monsters and fusing parts together, requiring hundreds of monsters be killed to create just one Equal Dragon Weapon. This act drove the Elder Dragons to wage war against the civilisation, destroying their cities and creations across the world and driving humanity to near extinction. This justifies why the Hunters in the series are so intent of maintaining the natural order, the fantastical and futuristic weapons and locations found in the series, and also the reason Elder Dragons are so hostile.
  • The NieR and NieR: Automata has two offscreen wars before the start of the games. NieR has the White Chlorination Syndrome and the infected Legion that Project Gestalt was originally designed to counter long since faded into history. While NieR Automata has the proxy war between aliens and humans by letting the machines and androids fight for them respectively, which was said to be fourteen wars.
  • Chicken Police: The Meat War, which happened about 100 years before the events of the game. It lasted 27 years, 80-90 million animals died, and 27 species were declared extinct after the war. Some people are worried that a second Meat War is brewing.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Repeated references (especially in the Recollection Trilogy) are made to some kind of great war against an alien race. The only details are that it took place during The Blood Gulch Chronicles and was resolved offscreen sometime between Blood Gulch and Reconstruction (or possibly sometime before the end of Blood Gulch), that Project Freelancer was one of many desperate initiatives towards the end of the war, and that humanity became allied with the aliens afterwards. The war occasionally seems to intrude on the Reds and Blues in Blood Gulch but it's unclear if those events were genuine, or just training scenarios for Tex.
    • Another possibility is that the war they mentioned is an attempt by Rooster Teeth to put the series into the Halo continuity. One example is the mention that the Freelancer-project was just one of the magic bullets created to win the war since the war was going really bad for the humans possibly referencing the different projects (for example Spartan II and III) during the covenant war. More can be read on the Red vs Blue WMG page.
  • Salad Fingers from Salad Fingers often references an event called the Great War in a few episodes. However, it's so far unknown if the war was nuclear or even existed at all as it could be all in Salad Finger's mind.
  • RWBY mentions a few distant wars.
    • Once upon a time, humans were driven to the brink of extinction by the Grimm. Humanity discovered the power of Dust and fought back, eventually gaining enough territory to build several kingdoms.
    • Eighty years before the start of the series came the bloody conflict between kingdoms known simply as the Great War, which pitted an expansionist alliance of Mantle and Mistral against Vale, which was later joined by Vacuo. The conflict was touched off by settlers from both sides clashing during the Mantle/Mistral expansion, though nobody knows who shot first. The aftermath of the War had profound societal consequences for all of Remnant. The King of Vale, heavily implied to be an incarnation of Professor Ozpin, who had led the decisive Final Battle, spearheaded the creation of the Huntsman Academies, one for each kingdom, in order to train the future generations of humanity's protectors. Furthermore, as an act of defiance against Mantle and Mistral's suppression of the arts,Note  the tradition of Colorful Theme Naming got started.
    • The Faunus were treated by humanity with no small amount of Fantastic Racism throughout history, resulting in at least one Faunus Rebellion, where Faunus night vision proved itself a decisive advantage. After the Great War, they were granted the small continent of Menagerie as their new homeland, ending open conflict (but not either the racism, or the festering resentment).

  • One (probably two) of the four "Breakings" from The Dragon Doctors.
  • The war with the Other in Girl Genius occurred about twenty years before the events of the comic, and was basically a Steampunk zombie apocalypse. Then, after the Other's unexplained disappearance, the surviving Sparks and nobles immediately started fighting over what was left. Klaus put a stop to all that. Two centuries previously had been the war between the Storm King's Alliance and the Heterodynes, whose ending set the stage for centuries of scheming over who would be Andronicus' successor.
  • In Oceanfalls, There is a mysterious war as part of the setting's backstory, between humans and monsters. Aria's mother died in it. It was ended by the creation of a barrier which divided the human and monster worlds; it is this same barrier that forms a massive dome which traps both worlds inside it. Nino's psychological reaction indicates that he has some dark connection to it.
  • Ronin Galaxy: Taylor speaks to Cecil about the current war-like state of Earth and her difficulty getting to the Moon on this page. Cecil retorts that Earth is an "antique collecting space dust."
  • The Teraport Wars from Schlock Mercenary count as a rare example of a war concurrent with the story. Although it's pretty easy to imagine the effects the Teraport would have on a galaxy used to wormgate travel for war and trading, we never actually see much of the chaos the invention actually inflicts on galactic civilization apart from a single battle.
    • Also the Terraforming wars, back when both Tagons were in the Celeschul military. A faction of the human population of Celeschul wanted to terraform some of the other planets in the system, but the Schuul natives forbid it, eventually they rebelled, and were very much uncivilized about it.
  • The Old War in Skin Horse has been mentioned a few times. Tip has no idea what it was, and finds it very hard to get details from the nonhuman community, either because a crisis is going on, or because they don't actually know anything. We eventually get the details in "Mixed-Up Files", starting here. It turns out to be a desperate shadow war in the 19th century between human and nonhuman, provoked by Moustachio's attack on the Great Exhibition.
  • There are several of these in Drowtales, including several wars of the Surface between the Dark and Light Elves and the conflict that eventually led to the Surface becoming uninhabitable, forcing the remaining elves to flee underground. Then there's the war between the Dark Elves and their children, the Drow, which led to the near extinction of the Dark Elves. The city of Chel'el'sussoloth also has a few of these such as the Sharen vs. the Sullisin'rune and various other times the Imperial forces have come into conflict with rogue clans.
  • How to Raise Your Teenage Dragon references the Nephilim War, an invasion of the friendly furry kingdom Xootopia.
  • Only Human has Luna War I and Luna War II, which eventually brought the end of human civilization.
  • Gene Catlow: There was some sort of armed conflict that led to the Animen being granted full civil rights and several older supporting characters were a part of it. But it's never been spelled out whether this was a full-on revolution, an "Arab Spring" type uprising or a touchstone event like the Stonewall Riots.
  • Sister Claire has a war between the Witches and the Nuns about 20 years ago that greatly affected the world, including causing bits of the landscape to be missing, and the after effects still linger among the characters, several of whom were on either side, including Catharine's sister Clementine, who was the leader of the Witches known as The Bright One.
  • The Sanity Circus: Centuries before the plot, there was a war between humans and sorcerers (in Attley's words, 'The sorcerers invented magic and humans got huffy about that'). In the end humans won and the sorcerers were wiped out, but not before the last one created the Scarecrows.
  • More like Great Offscreen Brawls. In various Celestia's Servant Interview comics, Gig, Master of Death, would antagonize the pony being interviewed that strip. In the comments after Rarity's fifth interview, he paint-bombed the Carousel Boutique, and... well Rainbow Dash gives the fallout both short-term and long-term after the fifth reverse interview. To summarize: Fighting accomplished nothing beyond hospitalizing Dashie twice, and the memory spell didn't work either.
    • Since Derpibooru's days may be numbered, here is the summary:
      Nightwing: Gig maybe? since in one of rarity’s asks he did throw a paint bomb into her boutique.
      Rainbow Dash: That was when I lost my temper and fought with him. I’m not into fashion myself, but Rarity is awesome, and no one does that do her. When a hoof sandwich proved ineffective, I really lost it and gave him a fast-moving shod back hoof to his little monkey balls. That only angered him, and he slammed me into the ground. Trip one to the hospital, and that was when I discovered the "One Hocklet to Rule them All" trilogy. /)^3^(\
      After the fifth Twilight Sparkle interview, Twilight determined that we could safely borrow the Elements from the Tree of Harmony for just long enough to turn him to stone. Gig did not stay petrified, though, and he beat me to a pulp again, If it weren’t for Zecora my wings would have had to be amputated. I still had to go to the hospital again.
      Then the princesses called the emergency meeting to learn as much as possible about Gig. The six of us were there, as were primate experts Lyra Heartstrings and Sunset Shimmer. Bon Bon was there though I’m not supposed to say why, and Django was there because he knew about Gig. There we learned about Gig’s former good self as Vigilance, and Twilight decided to use the memory spell to awaken his Vigilance memories.
      Pinkie found some hotpods, somehow. Just by being Pinkie Pie, I guess. Anyway, Gig came for them and Twilight cast the memory spell. Sadly, the Vigilance memories didn’t stick.
  • Res Nullius: The story takes place immediately after a genocidal war that (Possibly) left the two protagonists as the Last of Their Kind. Details of the war, including the name of the species that decimated two spacefaring civilizations, have been minimal.
  • ReBoot: Code of Honor: It's said that Megabyte's "Hunt" from the end of Season Four eventually escalated into a Net-wide Viral War, which affected tens of thousands of systems. Very little of it is shown, though, as the comic begins in the last days of it.
  • Anecdote of Error takes place in the middle of a war between the countries of Batea and Alemi, but since the story takes place in a boarding school, this is just background detail. Until Alemi's army sends a small group of soldiers to invade the school, thereby dragging the main characters into the conflict despite them only being teenagers.
  • The Universal War in Kill Six Billion Demons, which is long over by the beginning of the comic's story. It was a Divine Conflict free-for-all between all the Demiurges that took a millennia to die down, and whittled the Demiurges' numbers down from over a million to seven. Many of the surviving seven obtained their power during the War, having been born mundane during or shortly prior to its beginning, and at least one appears to be motivated by what he experienced during the war.

    Web Original 
  • In the Nat One Productions universe of Denazra, this trope has been going on for hundreds of years. The titular denazra have been conquering our tiny slice of the galaxy over the course of many generations. Most recently, the Coalition was completely routed at Orm.
  • Several previous conflicts are mentioned in The Solstice War but only the Ayvartan Civil War and the Nocht Unification War have been explored the tiniest bit in the story (through short flashbacks). At one point a character has a flashback of a dozen conflicts, suggesting a long history of Great Off-Screen Wars.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time takes place a thousand years after "The Mushroom War", which pretty much destroyed all of humanity. The events aren't elaborated on for the first third of the series' run. It isn't until the episodes "Finn the Human" and "Jake the Dog" that we explicitly learn it was a nuclear conflict, and one of the bombs unleashed massive mutagenic (and magical) energies, and these energies either gave birth to the Lich or revived him in the then-modern world. A solid third of the planet was also blown up, with observers from space being able to see a giant gap that goes all the way down to the core.
    • Also mentioned at one point is a war between rainicorns and dogs, which is never elaborated upon (beyond mention of Lady Rainicorn's father being saved by a dog at some point during it) but shown as a cause for great strife between the species.
  • Not exactly a war, but Avatar: The Last Airbender has the Fire Nation's destruction of the Air Nomads 100 years prior to the start of the series.
    • The Hundred-Year War itself is an an interesting variation in the show, as while it is ongoing, it still fits within the realms of this trope: we see much of the actual effects of the war, with the show taking place during its final year, but we get little information concerning the period between the Fire Nation beginning their expansion and colonization of other countries at the start of the war to the present. We only see some snippets of the raids on the Southern Water Tribe and Iroh's assault on Ba Sing Se through flashbacks while most other battles are only alluded to. Even over the course of the show itself we don 't der that much of the actual war, with only a small handful of major military battles being shown. (four, maybe five if you count "The Drill"). In fact, the entire century of conflict between Aang's freezing to when Katara frees him is mostly untouched, even in fan fiction.
  • Batman Beyond referred occasionally to "The Near-Apocalypse of '09", wherein the Justice League managed to seemingly kill the notoriously unkillable Ra's Al Ghul for good. Its nature has been speculated on for years by DCAU fans; one guess is that it was the final battle of Justice League Unlimited, which was definitely a "near-apocalypse", but the instigator of that conflict was Darkseid, not Al Ghul.
  • The Neosapien Rebellion a.k.a. the First Neosapien War fifty years ago in Exo Squad. It is particularly oft mentioned in the early episodes, before the Second Neosapien War breaks out and easily surpasses the original one in scope and impact.
  • Futurama occasionally makes reference to some war or another, usually for a quick gag. One time one is relevant to the main plot is in "Three Hundred Big Boys", where the spoils from a recently-won Bug War are spread among the populace. There were also the Star Trek Wars (not to be confused with the "Star Wars Trek"), which resulted in the banning of Star Trek, which led into the events of "Where No Fan Has Gone Before".
  • Kulipari: An Army of Frogs has the Hiding War, in which the Turtle King, Sergu, raised a great ward (the Veil) over the Amphibilands to keep them safe, and an entire generation of the Frog's elite Kulipari warriors died throwing themselves against a scorpion horde to buy him the time to do it. This is a major background event, particularly as the hero, Darrel's, father was one of the Kulipari who died in that final battle.
  • Lloyd in Space takes this Up to Eleven given that the show's description and marketing mentioned that it takes place shortly after World war IX, only for said war to never get mentioned in the show proper or have any implications on the world. It was likely either a dropped plot or an excuse as to why the show constantly deals with Fantastic Racism between the alien races.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) has a briefly-mentioned "Great War". Robotnik had put himself into a position to take over by helping Mobotropolis win it. The war itself is explored in the comic adaptation but the circumstances that lead into the coup are similar in both media.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krusty Krabs Training Video" stated that Mr. Krabs created the restaurant some time "after the war".
  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Slaver Weapon" imports the Kzinti from Larry Niven's Known Space stories, and with it the backstory of their having fought multiple wars with humanity and lost all of them.
  • Steven Universe: Much of what occurs in the series has its roots in a war that took place 5,750 years ago, in which an alien race known as the Gems fought over the colonization of Earth. The splinter group devoted to protecting the planet, the Crystal Gems, won a Pyrrhic Victory after a thousand years, losing all but 4 warriors to a final attack that turned the rest into berserk monsters. The advancement that was made in colonizing the planet also led to a completely different geography and an Alternate History where various wars were never fought and most holidays never developed.
  • Transformers: Has this to varying degrees, the Cartoon itself is a straight example, as the war has restarted on Earth and the million-year war on Cybertron is only alluded to.
    • The war between the Autobots and the Decepticons in Transformers Animated. By the time the series starts, the war is over, with the Autobots having won and the Decepticons scattered to the far reaches of space.
    • The first flashback material was repurposed clips from The Transformers Generation One. We later see some flashbacks from Ratchet's perspective.
    • Speaking of Transformers: Generation 1, it contains references to the Third and Fourth Great (or "Cybertronian") Wars, the assumption being that there were a first and second. (They're probably in the fourth one. Or the fifth, if you consider the ending of The Transformers: The Movie to be the end of that particular war.)
    • And speaking of Transformers: The Movie, the movie was never seen in Japan until four years after its American release, and even then Japanese fans have already seen Season 3 (there called Transformers 2010). As such, events from the movie were referred to but never seen. So this would count, as it had gained a mysterious and legendary quality beforehand. Japanese first coined the term the "Unicron War".
    • In the Generation 1 episode "Sea Change", Perceptor mentions a "Third Cybertron War". Apparently separate from the Third Cybertronian War. Though given the context, it's not clear.
    • At some point in the process of writing some of the more recent spin-off comics, the writers appear to have decided that all the above were effectively one single conflict with occasional lulls or ceasefires, thus handily allowing any confusion over which war a particular character happened to be referencing at the time to be Hand Waved as the Cybertronians having trouble keeping track as well: If the only actual peace was the occasional short interlude where everyone was busy rearming they'd have to start blurring together after a while.
  • The Venture Bros. makes occasional references to the "Pyramid Wars" of 1987, in which the O.S.I. finally defeated S.P.H.I.N.X. (largely parodies of G.I. Joe and Cobra). While some characters are said to have fought in it, very little detail is given.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Great Offscreen War


Undertale backstory war

A war between humans and monsters where monsters were sealed away in the Underground.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / GreatOffscreenWar

Media sources:

Main / GreatOffscreenWar