Basically, this is when Humanity is the advanced "alien" species compared to both all other species in the setting, and "real world" Humanity at the time the work was released.
If the aliens are simply wielding clubs and the humans are hurling swords, that's Insufficiently Advanced Alien.
Often in this setting, humanity is the one with the interstellar empire, and the aliens are the ones who are planetbound. In this setting, it is also the Humans who initiate First Contacts or bring superior technology and ideals.
Subtrope of Humans Are Special.
Compare Humanity Is Superior for when it's not just tech level, or Insufficiently Advanced Alien for if it's not humanity being smart so much as aliens being dumb. Compare Advanced Ancient Humans and Humans Advance Swiftly for other versions of this trope. Contrast Sufficiently Advanced Alien and Humans Need Aliens.
- Avatar: Not only are humans the most advanced known species, they're also the Scary Dogmatic Aliens invading this time.
- Alien: Humanity is the most advanced in this universe. They are simply fighting an evolved monster onboard one of humanity's freighter spaceships.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: The ability to make super-soldiers who can curbstomp Klingons and out-logic Vulcans is three hundred year old tech! Somewhat subverted, as this ability was deliberately Lost Technology, outlawed after it was used to create a race of Super Soldiers who ended up going full Nietzsche Wannabe on baseline humans.
- The Ender series features both technologically advanced and primitive races of aliens. In Speaker for the Dead, humans take to space, and some of them make a colony on a planet inhabited by small paleolithic pig-like aliens they call pequeninos. The human scientists must tread carefully to communicate with them and learn about their strange culture, without interfering by "corrupting" the pequeninos with human ideas.
- The Mote in God's Eye has the moties planet bound and the humans with the interstellar empire. Later on we see that the moties are technically at the same technology level.
- In Junction Point, humans are the second most advanced species within a 1000 ly of Earth, putting them above at least a dozen different civilizations. They're the only other species to achieve interstellar travel, and their starships are fairly advanced. However, the other starfaring species, the tianlong, are far more advanced than us.
- In the Horus Heresy series, the pre-heresy Imperium is often this, building a massive interstellar empire in only two centuries, often by wiping out less advanced alien cultures, or more primitive human offshoots that had been cut off for millennia.
- The Honor Harrington series shows humanity as the single spacefaring race in the 'verse. The only three alien races we've seen firsthand are the Medusans (roughly bronze age), Gremlins (stone age), and treecats (tribal forest dwellers). One of the short stories shows there was once another space fairing race, but they are purely know via archaeology.
- In many of Poul Anderson's Terran Empire stories.
- In H. Beam Piper's TerroHuman Future History, humans have a series of interstellar civilizations (the Federation, and later a succession of Empires) and along the way find about a dozen other sapient races. These range from the legendarily stupid Khoogras from the planet Yggdrasil; to the cute, cuddly, quite bright, but Stone-Age-tech Fuzzies; to the four-armed vaguely reptilian Ullerans, who were maybe Iron Age to Medieval before humans showed up. A number of other species are described or mentioned in passing; none has space travel or other high tech.
- In Robert Silverberg's Invaders from Earth, humans have discovered an amiable, intelligent native species on Ganymede who are still in their "low-tech, abundant-natural-resources foraging people" cultural stage (abundant to those with Bizarre Alien Biology anyway). The protagonist works at an advertising agency and is hired to come up with a campaign to sell the people of Earth on xenocide, all to get at Ganymede's resources.
- Alan Dean Foster's short story With Friends Like These. Humanity is so advanced when they agree to help they bring Earth with them.
- In Red Dwarf humanity were the Precursors to all life in the known universe. Though in Lister and Rimmer's time they didn't even have FTL, just stasis fields capable of stopping localized time. Artifacts from later include FTL drives, time machines, terraforming equipment capable of making a dead planet lush in just a couple years (and small enough to fit in an Escape Pod).
- Zig-Zagged in Star Trek, which features aliens from all over the technological spectrum, with humanity somewhere in the middle between Insufficiently Advanced Aliens and Sufficiently Advanced Nigh Omnipotent Energy Beings. Among interstellar empires of roughly equivalent technological levels, the Federation's hat is producing engineers capable of "turning rocks into replicators", but then the Federation has many member races, not just humans. Specific episode examples:
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- The original pilot episode "The Cage" and "The Menagerie". In the Back Story Captain Christopher Pike and the Enterprise crew fight primitive humanoids on Rigel 7. The Talosians later create a mental illusion of Pike's battle with one of them.
- In "The Galileo 7" the crew of the eponymous shuttlecraft had to deal with the large and aggressive primitive humanoids of a planet after they crash landed there.
- "The Omega Glory". On the planet Omega Four, both the Yangs and the Kohms are considerably more primitive than 20th century Earth.
- "The Paradise Syndrome". The inhabitants of a planet are Native Americans (AKA American Indians) whose ancestors were transferred there hundreds of years earlier by a Benevolent Precursors alien race. The natives live in the fashion of their forefathers.
- Subverted in "Errand of Mercy". The inhabitants of the planet Organia appear to be primitive, but the reality is quite different: they're actually highly advanced Energy Beings.
- "The Apple". The humanoids of the planet Gamma Trianguli Six are kept in their backward situation by a computer/device that also controls the local weather.
- "Friday's Child". The people who live on Capella Four don't have advanced technology, but their kligat throwing weapon will kill you instantly.
- "A Private Little War". On the planet Neural the hill people and villagers are supposed to only have bows and arrows and not fight with each other. So how do the villagers have flintlocks?
- "Spock's Brain". The men of the planet Sigma Draconis Six are very primitive (at caveman levels). The women live underground in high tech luxury.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Star Trek: Voyager
- "False Profits". The Voyager crew tries to stop two Ferengi from exploiting the religious beliefs of a Bronze Age civilization.
- "Blink of an Eye". Stuck in the orbit of their planet, the Voyager crew has the opportunity to observe a civilization's development from Stone Age to Space Age. (On this planet, time flows at a much faster rate than in the rest of the universe.)
- The Voyager is consistently shown more advanced than most Delta Quadrant ships that are encountered. In particular, Kazon and Trabe ships are vastly outclassed (Justified: the Kazon stole all of their technology from the Trabe when they rose up and overthrew them, and are so ridiculously bad with new technolgies they once managed to kill the entire crew of one of their ships by trying to integrate a stolen replicator into it; the Trabe, on the other hand, simply lack the resources to improve their technology since the Kazon kicked them out from their homeworld, so we don't know if they could have been a match for the Voyager had they been able to do so).
- After the ship leaves Kazon space they get into territory dominated by the Borg, meaning everyone is either too primitive to bother assimilating or too powerful for them to defeat.
- Star Trek: Enterprise
- "Civilization". The Enterprise visits the home world of the Akaali, who are still in the Medieval Age. It is revealed that the ENT-era Vulcans already have a regulation similar to the Prime Directive, Starfleet's famous non-interference clause regarding pre-warp civilizations.
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Invaders", we see a backwoods woman who is tormented throughout the show by tiny aliens who have landed on her farm. We discover at the end that the tiny aliens are actually Earthers; she's a giant who lives on another planet.
- Traveller: Played with. The Third Imperium is for the most part the most advanced of all and it is controlled by humans. However aliens, including aliens outside the Imperium are not necessarily primitive, and some are ahead of the Imperium in certain areas.
- In the present day setting for Warhammer 40,000, this is subverted with the Imperium of Man. Humanity is one of the more advanced races in the setting, barring the Necrons and Eldar, but like the others, they're technologically stagnant: yes, our stuff is advanced, but it's all maintained by the Adeptus Mechanicus, a strange and oppressive machine cult who act like technology is magical and look down at anyone who tries to improve or modify it. And by "look down on", I mean "view as an abomination and execute for heresy".
- The Tau are a special case. In the 35th millennium they were stone age hunter-gatherers and an Imperial Explorator discovered them. The Imperium planned to exterminate the primitive Tau and colonize their homeworld but the colonization fleet was destroyed by a warp storm, which protected the Tau from further interference. 6,000 years later the Imperium is little different but the Tau have an interstellar empire and many technologies that are more advanced than Imperial tech, though they don't have teleporters and their FTL method is orders of magnitude slower.
- It was played straight in the backstory during the Dark Age of Technology. However, one of the pieces of said technology, the robots known as the Men of Iron, rebelled against humanity. The resulting wars caused so much devastation that they set back humanity's development and caused humanity to forbid future AI development.
- In AT-43 the humans factions are U.N.A and the Red Blok, but they are not the original humans. The real humans are the highly advanced Therians(think human Necrons).
- Space 1889 played straight and averted: current human science and technology is more advanced than Martian or Venusian, but much less advanced than previous Martian technology
- Grey Goo (2015) plays a very rare example of this; Humanity has long since perfected advanced interstellar spaceflight, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. The only reason humans have not yet conquered the galaxy is because they find space to be rather boring and are preoccupied with engineering a flawless utopia here on Earth.
- In the X-Universe, humanity was the only race in the Milky Way to construct working jumpgates independent of the Ancients. They were also the only young race to (accidentally) create sapient AI, though that didn't turn out well. In the games proper, the Earth State (and their AGI Task Force in particular) build the most advanced ships, and safeguard their tech advantage with a huge spy network. AGI Task Force pilots will never abandon their ship to prevent the tech from falling in enemy hands. However, the Argon Federation, a Terran Lost Colony, doesn't enjoy the same tech advantage and are actually slightly behind the ultra-religious Paranid Empire.
- Come X Rebirth some twenty-thirty years after the jumpgate network was deactivated, the museum-piece Terran ships fielded by the Republic of Cantera (Terran Lost Colony) are still largely competitive with the new designs used by the Argon remnants in Albion and Omicron Lyrae. The Canteran's Sucellus capital ship - a dated Terran design - in particular mounts the single most powerful weapon in the known galaxy, a massive spinal railgun
- Subverted in Galactic Civilizations. Terrans become the only race to invent fusion reactors, enabling ship-portable FTL drives, which sets them up for this trope. They decided to share, becoming diplomats instead.
- Upon defeating Belial in Devil Survivor, Belial points out that humans have greater potential to be the King of Bel than demons do.
- Aliens, Trolls & Dragons is built around this idea, with us having all sorts of advanced technology while aliens are stuck in a medieval setting.
- Played with in Endless Space. The Vaulters (spacefaring Vikings) had a huge research bonus and access to research buildings. By the events of the second game however, the Vaulters have been in cryosleep following the destruction of their homeworld and when they awaken the rest of the galaxy has caught up, although they still uniquely have their Mezari ancestors' advanced portal technology. Though more of an industrial powerhouse, the United Empire (basically a human-supremacist Soviet Union) can also pump out a ton of scientific data with a simple gear switch. But then, the eternally curious and Kerbal-like Sophons will always have any human scientist beat.
- In Master of Magic, Humans Are Divided, but:
- The High Men fit this trope. They have access to nearly all buildings (excepting only Fantastic Stables), including the Wizard's Guild (a center of research) and the Cathedral (the greatest of religious buildings), they have road-building Engineers, their Pikemen and Priests are more advanced than more common Halberdiers and Shamans, and they have a monopoly on the knightly Paladins. While they don't have the Dwarves' inherent knowledge of steamcraft, they can build Mechanicians' Guilds that are just as effective as dwarven craftsmen. In short, while a couple of races trump them in their own specialties, no other race has both the breadth and depth of knowledge available to the High Men.
- Nomads are a little behind High Men, but remain one of the most advanced races. They don't have the high-level Wizard's Guild and their shipbuilding is a little worse, but they share advanced Priests and Pikemen with the High Men, can construct Mechanicians' Guilds and Cathedrals, and are the finest and richest merchants in Arcanus. They don't do engineers either, but that's because their caravans don't need roads to traverse the wilds of Arcanus. All in all, they're roughly as advanced as the Dark Elves without being an innately magical race.
- The humans in the story Veil of Madness are rather more advanced than the races around them, as the result of having 3% of the galaxy to themselves, while space is otherwise quite crowded. Of course, this is because said 3% of the galaxy drives everyone other than humanity Ax-Crazy, whereas humans can resist it by being a little insane already.
- The Adventure Time miniseries Islands reveals a population of humans survived the mushroom war hidden in an obscure archipelago. Their technology seems even more advanced than Princess Bubblegum's, as one of their ships easily defeat the Gumball Guardians, and none of the protagonists come close to defeating any of their machines. They're also capable of Brain Uploading on a massive scale.
- Star Trek: The Animated Series. In the episode "Bem" the aboriginal inhabitants of the planet Delta Theta Three are primitive lizard men who capture Kirk, Spock and the eponymous guest alien. The aborigines are actually under the protection of a powerful Energy Being.