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In Spite of a Nail

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"The universe doesn't much care if you step on a butterfly. There are plenty more butterflies."

We all know that in an Alternate History or Alternate Universe, tiny changes ("For want of a nail, the shoe was lost...") can lead to massive changes, where everything is different.

Or, as it may be, not. Sometimes what's different in the new history is less interesting than what has stayed exactly the same.

Consider how a person's DNA is the result of an ovum and one of countless spermatozoa competing to get at it. The slightest change in timing by seconds would result in a completely different person; different sex, possibly different personality and different abilities, etc. (i.e., half the difference between fraternal twins). This is hardly ever addressed.

An alternate universe could arise where the human race never developed money and society is radically different, but you'll find that you were still born, still live in the same house, and still have that tattered old E.T. doll sitting on the mantlepiece.

In an ongoing series, there's generally an element of the production team wanting to get the most out of actors and sets that they've already paid for. In both series and standalone works, the writer may be trying to draw interesting parallels between two different versions of the same character or situation, or to help impress upon the reader how things are different by showing them a familiar figure in slightly different circumstances; Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman allows the reader to see how the world is different, rather than Richard Nixon The Person Who Never Existed Because A Different Spermatozoön Fertilized His Mother's Egg.

If the new history is the result of Time Travel, it might be possible to explain the non-changes as reality avoiding a Temporal Paradox (by making sure that there's still a time machine and a time traveller to go back and create the new history). Often it isn't. And even when it is, the writer usually doesn't bother. The other possible explanation could be that there is some form of higher power (like God, for example) preventing the timeline from changing too drastically. Another still would be the idea of chaos theory and the butterfly effect as being unpredictable in relation to its consequences. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

If it's not the result of time travel, it could be explained by the alternative universes being "parallel", which is often presented as something universes would be naturally expected to do, although this doesn't really explain anything. Some more specific tropes like Bizarro Universe and Gender-Bent Alternate Universe work by having things being much the same in spite of also being completely different in some respect. Parallel universes just seem to be compelled to follow similar paths.

Naturally, this could result in a Close-Enough Timeline.

(Note that this doesn't really apply to alternate histories where the change was something the protagonists or their parents did or didn't do. You wouldn't expect universal change within one generation.)

Of course, why does Hitler have to be the only detail history refused to change?

In fanfiction, this is often a result of The Stations of the Canon, where a fanfic still has many of the same relationships, events, and setpieces happen even when the rest of the story should be well off-track, especially in a Peggy Sue or What If? fic. For instance, a story where the protagonist ends up being given a massive powerboost might still have villains throwing the same challenges at them, even when they know they should easily defeat them.

See Mirror Character, which this is likely to result in. Compare Ontological Inertia. Could also be a result of You Can't Fight Fate. If we're expected to believe things "just happen" to be the same, a subtrope of Contrived Coincidence. See also Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility and Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman. See also Different World, Different Movies.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: Word of God says the alternate history goes back as far as 55 BC, when Julius Caesar's attempt to invade Britain is thwarted by the election of a "super-leader"note  — the Celtic King Eowyn, who is the first member of the Britannian royal line (this is later made year 1 of the a.t.b., Ascension Throne Britannia, calendar). The American Revolution failed. Napoleon beat the British, who then re-headquartered their Empire in North America. In the 21st century, the "Holy Britannian Empire" conquers Japan with Humongous Mecha... and yet there are still a great number of parallel developments with our world:
    • Pizza Huts everywhere.
    • If Britannia is descended from the Celts, they shouldn't even be speaking English. Or what we think of as English, anyways.
    • Specifically, history happened basically the same up until Elizabeth I bore a child, which did not happen in history, either by two people that existed in history, or by the "Duke of Britannia", leading to a "golden age" of the Tudors. Another 250 years later, Elizabeth III dies childless, and appoints a different Duke of Britannia as her successor.
    • Despite his victory over the British Empire, Napoleon is still defeated at some point and France eventually became a democracy just like in real life.
    • India and Pakistan exist even under the rule of the Chinese Federation, which mean the partition of Hindus and Muslims still happened.
    • Despite the fact that the USA never became a country, modern American football exists nonetheless. A football club is briefly seen in The Stolen Mask.
  • Dinosaur Sanctuary is set in a world where Living Dinosaurs have been discovered on a remote island in 1946, and the revival of extinct animals through genetic-engineering was accomplished in 1987, leading to dinosaur zoos becoming a reality. Despite all that, Jurassic Park apparently still ended up being made, as evidenced by the information post for Enoshima Dinoland's Dilophosaurus exhibit clearing up that it did not have a frill or venomous spit (which suggests the revival of Dilophosaurus occurred after 1993). Then again, Michael Crichton could have considered the controversies of both dinosaur zoos and the resurrection of extinct species, so he wrote Jurassic Park to address them.
  • In the first Doraemon manga, Nobita's great-great-grandson explains to him that even though the future will be changed he will still exist, despite the fact Nobita marries Shizuka instead of Jaiko.
  • Near the end of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) it is discovered that the alchemist world is an alternate history of ours that branched at least 400 years ago with the discovery of alchemy. In spite of this, The Movie shows several of the characters also exist in "our world," though with different histories and motivations.
  • Kagerou Daze: In the second timeline shown in the manga, Ene is living in Shintaro's computer, just like in the first timeline. This happens despite the fact that the event that led to her doing that, being killed by the Clearing Eyes Snake in Kenjirou's body, did not happen in the second timeline.
  • Katanagatari ends this way. Despite Shikizaki Kiki's attempts to Screw Destiny with the Deviant Blades created via methods from the future, history managed to correct itself. This is because the people he intended on carrying out his plans, his descendant and his ultimate creation, simply refused to play their part.
  • In the main continuity of Lyrical Nanoha, Dead Guy Junior Reinforce Zwei only existed because she was a replacement for the original, who performed a Heroic Sacrifice. However, in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable continuity, the original survived... and the ending for her route shows her taking a walk with Hayate, talking about the future and their plan to create a new Unison Device named Reinforce Zwei.
    • It's even suggested that Reinforce does not have long to live in spite of surviving what would have been her Heroic Sacrifice. She and Hayate both know this, but don't say anything about it.
    • Invoked in the Blu-Ray release of the first three seasons. There's a what-if story where Hayate was the one who found Raising Heart and defeats Fate instead of Nanoha. Nanoha actually complains about having her role stolen, at which point Hayate lets her have the role of Mistress of the Night Sky who then goes onto befriend Fate (with just as much Les Yay as in canon, judging by the Bridal Carry).
  • Justified in the Nasuverse thanks to the concept of "Quantum Timelocks", events which must happen across all alternate timelines to allow them to remain uniform. This prevents the idea of "infinite realities from infinite choices" from clogging up the multiverse, by using the "core timeline", the one with the highest chance of survival, as a template for all others. While alternate timelines can be divergent in ways that will not change history on a grand scale (for example, if King Arthur were a woman instead of a man), they cannot be too divergent lest they disobey the Quantum Timelocks (for example, the fall of Camelot cannot be prevented). If a timeline disobeys a Quantum Timelock and becomes too divergent, then its odds of survival plummet and it will very likely become a dead world; said dead timeline is designated a "Lostbelt," and deleted from the multiverse to conserve energy. In other words, the only "nails" allowed to exist are the ones that do not lead the human world to be lost.
  • Persona 4: The Golden Animation: Yu's more outgoing and savvy compared to in Persona 4: The Animation, but it doesn't help him avoid Izanami's "push" or prevent the murders.
  • Psyren: After seeing the wreck that the world will be in just 10 years and learning that the catalysts leading to those events will occur much sooner, Ageha and friends quickly begin investigating said future in an attempt to reverse the damage in the present. While their efforts do bear fruit ( letting some previously-doomed friends survive to form La Résistance), they realize that it will take far more drastic changes to prevent the apocalypse than simply altering a few of the particulars. Also, the biggest catalyst is the arrival of an Eldritch Abomination from outer space. ...yeah, that'll take some effort.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • A major frustration to Homura Akemi is that no matter what she does in her indeterminate number of attempts to rewind the events of the series and start them over differently, the outcome is always the same. She refers to it herself as an "endless maze".
    • In the finale, Madoka's wish Ret Cons all witches out of existence, meaning every death at the hands of a witch (Magical Girl or Muggle) didn't happen, saving countless numbers of lives who could then do more things and impact the world. Needless to say, this should radically change the course of human history, as witches and magical girls had been shown to have been around for hundreds of years... yet Mitakihara, at least, looks more or less the same. And Magical Girls still risk life and limb to fight despair, only in the form of 'Wraiths' instead of Witches.
  • Read or Die takes place in a history where the British Empire remains the most powerful force on Earth and cloning is a viable science, yet George W. Bush is still the (at the time) President of the United States, and Stephen King still wrote Misery. Some or all of this may be a result of Gentleman screwing with the Book of Truth.
  • Summer Time Rendering: Shadow Ushio going back in time to erase the origin of the shadows creates a Shadow-free world, yet quite a few things remain the same.
    • Shinpei still returns to Hitogashima two years after he left thanks to Ushio, but because of her phone call rather than her funeral.
    • Shinpei's friendships with Ushio, Mio, Sou, and Tokiko carry over and Sou still has a crush on Mio.
    • Hizuru Minakata is still a successful author under the pen name "Ryuunosuke Nagumo" and she still returns to the island on the same ferry as Shinpei but this time to celebrate her niece's birthday.
    • The Karikiris are still the local Shrine priests, but are entirely normal with the elderly Iwao Karikiri simply having a Strong Family Resemblence to his ancestor.
  • In Tokyo Revengers, no matter how many times Takemichi travels back to the past and alters events in the timeline to prevent the Tokyo Manji Gang from becoming the worst criminal organization in Japan, 12 years later his girlfriend Hina still ends up murdered, Mikey is nowhere to be found, Draken is either dead or on death row, and Kisaki Tetta has corrupted Toman with his influence, before Toman eventually calls a hit on Hina. Justified, since it turns out that Kisaki has climbed his way through the ranks of Toman and turned it into what it is in the modern day, removing Mikey's closest friends and loved ones in the process and leaving no one to rein in his darker impulses, in order to become the greatest delinquent in history and show up Takemichi, who was a delinquent in middle school when he dated Hina, Kisaki's childhood crush, and remains the object of her affection in modern times even after they break up. Kisaki pulls strings to have Akkun assassinate Hina because she turns down his love confession in every timeline. Also, and comparatively minor to this, in the 12 years between when Takemichi travels back to and the present, he drifted apart from everyone he knew in high school and ultimately became a loser - and his past self continues defaulting to that through several changes, only finally stopping when Takemichi becomes a captain in Toman.

    Board Games 
  • Chrononauts has a card called "Your Parents Never Met" which forces a player to pick a new "character" card (thus altering the win conditions for said player). Since players and characters are separate in Chrononauts, this would be logical: the original character ceased to exist and the player takes on a new one. But the new character has the same Artifacts and Mission...

    Comic Books 
  • Most Comic Book Elseworlds suggest that, whatever else happens, the superheroes still exist (unless the absence of a given hero is The Difference). Particularly obvious in many of Marvel Comics's Exiles storylines; in one the entire world has been under the control of Skrulls for the last century, humans have no access to technology, but apparently Peter Parker was still bitten by a radioactive spider.
    • It is actually stated, in an early issue of Exiles, by the character Morph, that he has noticed that a key component missing on a lot of the worlds is the presence of the Norse Gods (Thor, Loki, Odin, etc). He then goes on to say that he thinks that the presence of the Asgardians would've helped a lot of the worlds end up more positively.
    • This one is probably best handled in Marvel Comics' Marvel 1602. In this case, a foreign element (namely, Captain America being sent backwards in time) has messed up history; the universe reacts, and "a season has dawned over three hundred years early: a season of heroes and marvels." Or more accurately, "heroes and Marvels."
      • In a way, 1602 actually justifies the fact of certain things and people existing in alternate universes, no matter how different — in essence, 1602 basically explains that certain people and events were destined to exist, so that altering the past may change some things, but the "important" stuff is still going to happen. Or, to put it another way, the universe itself does its best to ensure that a Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, etc. exist, no matter what it has to do to make that happen. (If by "the universe", we mean "the Marvel writers and editors.")
      • And then Spider-Man 1602 has the dinosaurs die out, the accord between the Roanokians and the natives get broken, and the superhumans apparently disappear from history, so that by the time World War II comes round, the only difference between this universe and Earth-616 is that a vial of Peter Parquagh's blood is used for Captain America's Super Serum. (This may also mean it's a Stable Time Loop.)
  • The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius: The comic used this during one time travel story. When Barry and Jeremy got stuck in the Wild West, Jeremy was worried that they might change history or cause a Time Paradox. Barry dismissed his concerns, saying that humans overestimate their own significance. He claims that they could kill everyone in the town they are currently in without affecting history one iota.
  • Archie Comics: The Archie Universe has one defining feature. 636 got the population of Riverdale magically made the opposite sex. But one thing never, ever, changes — and the cover doesn't even try kidding readers about this anymore:
    female Archie: (sitting between now-male Betty and Veronica) I still can't choose!
  • Astro City: One of the powers of Samaritan (and his arch-enemy Infidel) is immunity to Ret-Gone. Samaritan was originally sent back in time to prevent the Challenger explosion, and because of his meddling undoes his world's past, he was never born. No matter what happens to the timeline, Samaritan and Infidel will still exist. In fact, Infidel once destroyed all of space-time, and they still existed.
    • Another Astro City story, "The Nearness of You", averts the trope. A man is haunted by dreams of a woman that he has never met; he knows her well enough to draw her picture, yet utterly fails to track her down. A supernatural character explains to him that the woman is/was his beloved wife, erased in a time-war, and offers to erase his residual memories of her; he declines, and is told that "no one forgets".
  • Batman:
    • In a special story written for the 500th issue of Detective Comics, Batman is offered the chance to save Bruce Wayne's parents in an alternate universe, knowing that doing so could mean that world never has a Batman to protect Gotham. He does so anyway, and it is later revealed that the deed inspired the alternate Bruce to become Batman as a tribute to the costumed man who saved his parents.
      • This is echoed in the Crisis Crossover series Flashpoint, where there is still a Batman, but with a twist: He's really Thomas Wayne, who took up the cowl after Bruce was murdered. The Joker, by extension, is also an example: what reason other than this trope would cause philanthropist socialite Martha Wayne to respond to her son's death by turning into a psychopathic clown?
      • Elseworlds stories that have Bruce Wayne becoming a different hero (or a different hero becoming Batman) will generally have the other hero's Arch-Enemy becoming the Joker one way or another. In Speeding Bullets (in which Kal-El is adopted by the Waynes) has this happen to Lex Luthor, while In Darkest Knight (where Bruce Wayne gets Abin Sur's Green Lantern ring) does it to Sinestro. The latter is especially notable because Bruce prevented Red Hood (Jack the comedian) from falling into a vat of chemicals earlier in the story.
    • In Detective Comics (Rebirth), Tim Drake from a Bad Future argues that Damian should be killed on sight for what he does in the future. Even after that timeline is averted, it's shown in Batman Beyond (Rebirth) that Damian becomes a villain anyway, following in his grandfather's footsteps.
    • The Batman Dark Knight Dynasty trilogy looks at Vandal Savage developing a long-term interest in and vendetta against the Wayne family; while he admires their resolve and personal strength, his ambition to acquire the meteor that gave him his immortality inevitably leads to the Waynes opposing his efforts due to the collateral damage he causes in his efforts. The "Dark Present" timeline depicts a world where 'Valentin Sinclair' scares Joe Chill away from the Waynes during the confrontation in Crime Alley, but despite lacking the same incentive, Bruce apparently still underwent at least some of the training he experienced in canon over the next few years, with Martha explicitly wishing that Bruce could find what he had been looking for all his life. As a result, after Savage kills Thomas and Martha to stop them interfering with his plan, Bruce is able to become Batman and at least be a suitable physical threat to Savage's minions, even if he doesn't show the incentive to go after any of Gotham's more standard criminals.
  • Bullet Points: The story presents a scenario in which after Dr. Erskine and his guard are murdered before Steve Rogers can get the super serum, many of the Marvel Universe's iconic heroes either don't get powers or end up with different powers, or note Steve becomes Iron Man, Peter Parker becomes Hulk, and Bruce Banner becomes Spider Man. Despite this, by the end of the 5-issue run, Tony Stark becomes Iron Man, albeit as a Legacy Character to Steve, instead of creating the mantle himself.
  • Chronin: Changes made due to the actions of the Big Bad do legitimately change the timeline, so much so that the time travelers who've become Trapped in the Past are unable to return to the future even when they get a working time travel device because their future is literally gone, the changes that have been made are so great that it's simply no longer the same future. However, once they talk the Big Bad into changing sides and trying to correct the worst flaws of the Meiji Revolution instead of thwarting it entirely, the timeline heals and settles into something more like a Close-Enough Timeline, and towards the end of the story Kuji, who stayed behind in the past and essentially took the place of key leaders of the revolution who were killed, laments that even with knowledge of the future there were so many mistakes and things that simply could not be changed or undone.
  • Convergence: In issue #8, Crisis on Infinite Earths is altered so that all the alternate Earths weren't destroyed. The end result is... that the post-Flashpoint multiverse of 52 Earths is still there. Whether they developed from existing worlds in the multiverse or came into existence on their own is unclear, but the 52 end up happening one way or the other.
  • Deviations: In IDW's "Deviations" event, we're shown heavy deviations from canon for five continuities: The Transformers: The Movie, Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe (IDW), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) and The X-Files. In three of them - Transformers, Ghostbusters and G.I. Joe — we see that even though Optimus Prime lives, the Ghostbusters chicken out in crossing the streams and Cobra successfully take over the world with the M.A.S.S. Device, canon sorts itself out and the original endings happen.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: The Don Rosa 60th anniversary Donald Duck story does this with a Wonderful Life scenario. Most everybody is miserable and worse off for Duck never existing...except for Gladstone Gander, whose ridiculous luck keeps him the same well-off Smug Snake he always was.
    • Except that he has to care for Huey, Dewey and Louey, who under his inept parenting (mostly consisting of bending on their every whim) have become needy couch potatoes estranged from reality.
  • Elseworlds:
    • In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Lex Luthor finds Kal-El's rocket instead of the Kents and kills the baby before he grows into Superman, and later hires a hitman to assassinate the Waynes. The hitman fails and murders the Gordons instead, prompting Barbara Gordon to become Batgirl. Several years later Kara Zor-El's parents send her to Earth because, even though they don't know their nephew's fate, they know about the Earth's heroes. Kara is mentored by Wonder Woman, becomes Supergirl, joins a super-team and makes friends with Barbara, just like in the mainstream universe.
    • JLA: The Nail shows what would happen if the Kents had not been out driving their truck as baby Kal-El's ship crash-landed, due to a nail puncturing one of their tires. Instead he was raised by an Amish family and thus never ventured out into the world and never became Superman. Aside from that, not much had changed. All the other heroes still existed, but the public was just more afraid and suspicious of them without Superman as a rallying symbol, inspiring debates as to whether they could be trusted, as well as Jimmy Olsen becoming the subject of a gene-splicing experiment that gave him Kryptonian powers while transforming him psychologically into a Kryptonian. In the end however, evil Jimmy ends up killing the now-adult Kal-El's Amish parents, giving him the Heroic Resolve to fight and defeat Jimmy, Kal-El subsequently becoming Superman and moving in with the Kents (who had been offering superpowered individuals shelter).
  • Fantastic Four: One storyline espouses that time travellers usually only cause minor changes at most, with Johnny Storm explaining it as "Saving Lincoln just means that everybody will remember how Lincoln was almost assassinated, only to die of a heart attack one day later." Dr. Doom claims that the "for want of a nail" theory of time travel is a lie spread throughout the timestream by Kang to prevent the emergence of rival time-travelers.
  • Green Lantern: Guy Gardner's debut had Hal Jordan shown a simulation of what might have happened had Abin Sur picked Guy as his successor instead of Hal. Guy's career as Green Lantern has him facing the same villains as Hal Jordan and comes to an end after an adventure where he convinced a planet of children to stop fighting and found that he was infected with the yellow plague that wiped out the planet's adult population (as the plague had no effect on children), forcing him to appoint a successor before he dies. The result is Hal Jordan becoming a Green Lantern by being given the power ring of his dying predecessor anyway.
  • Jour J: The French comic series are a series of What Ifs concerning Alternate Histories that works hard to avert this.
    • There's one where the Titanic doesn't sink in 1912, preventing Prohibition (the kid with the telescope who gave the alarm ends up working for a newspaper and revealing that Prohibition would be a godsend to gangsters). It does, however, sink a few years later because of an iceberg, preventing World War II as Hitler and Einstein were aboard.
    • Spain is still Muslim territory when Columbus sets off for his voyage, landing further north than in reality. It turns out the Vikings' descendants had colonized and spread further south. The expedition's Sole Survivor marries a native princess named Pocahontas and does what he can to prepare the natives for the inevitable European invasion.
  • Justice Society of America: In issue #31 (Part 3 of "The Bad Seed"), Obsidian gets turned into a black egg, as part of the Fourth Reich's evil plot. After two unrelated storylines (and a crossover miniseries), #36-39 are set in a Bad Future, in which the Fourth Reich rule America. In #40, Mr Terrific of the future sends his knowledge of the Reich's plans back in time, and Mr Terrific from the end of "The Bad Seed" frees Obsidian, and the Society takes the fight to the Reich and defeats them. And then a two page coda assures us that the storylines since "The Bad Seed" happened exactly the same way, only Obsidian was also there.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Nearly all fictional stories you can think of are treated as true in some form, with the stated ethos being "what if all fiction occupied a comic book-style Shared Universe?" This even extends to real-life historical figures being swapped out for No Historical Figures Were Harmed versions, such as Adolf Hitler's role in history being fulfilled by Adenoid Hynkel. This includes Britain being invaded by aliens in War of the Worlds and taken over by a totalitarian state and renamed "Airstrip One" in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Despite this, the world is broadly the same as ours, with most historical events being shared in some form.
  • Major Bummer: The series has an alternate reality where dinosaurs evolved into intelligent lifeforms...and somehow they still managed to create a Nazi society, complete with understandable German language.
  • Original Sin: Issue #0 reveals that there's one event that, across the entirety of the Marvel multiverse, never changes or is prevented in any form: Uatu the Watcher's father, Ikor, swearing the Watchers to eternal noninterference after returning to a planet their species tried to help only to discover the inhabitants had wiped each other out with the technology they were gifted.
  • Seconds (2014): At the end, Katie is returned to the original timeline, reversing the entire story, even Katie preventing Hazel's burns. The one thing that remained constant through all the revisions, even this one, is that Katie still had that first conversation with Hazel about Lis, and they're still great friends in the present.
  • Secret Warps: Ghost Panther helps prevent the Martian invasion of 2099 because he believes if he does so Erik Killraven will never travel back in time to try and kill him, and he'll never become the Ghost Panther. However, when he does prevent the invasion, he finds that while a few details change, Killraven still tries to kill him anyway.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Mirror Broken, we see whats going on with the Star Trek: The Next Generation counterparts in the mirror universe. Picard is in command of the I.S.S. Stargazer (The Cardassian Klingon Alliance almost wiped out the Terran Empire, but they manage to hold on to Earth and the rest of the Solar System), but most of the prominent members of his crew are aboard. Later on, he finds that they are building a warship called the Enterprise, and plans to steal it. He picks up the mirror counterparts of the missing members of his crew along the way.
    • In the Star Trek: Early Voyages Alternate Timeline story arc "Futures", Sulu, Uhura and Saavik were still assigned to the Enterprise in spite of the fact that Kirk never became its captain. Spock still became the first officer, though this time under Captain Pike.
    • Star Trek (IDW) has a two-part story about a Gender-Bent Alternate Universe. Jane Kirk comments that Starfleet Command distrust her "emotional" decisions, suggesting that gender stereotypes are the same in this universe, and that a woman captain is a rarity. Despite this, the main crew of the Enterprise is (of course) almost entirely female, except Uhuro, Jason Rand, and Carl Marcus. (Also, Jane's mother was captain of the Kelvin for eight minutes. Presumably, the parallelism didn't extend quite as far as this happening while she was giving birth.)
  • Strontium Dog: It is explained that since time is so vast, time travellers usually only exert minor changes which smooth out over time. It takes a truly catastrophic event to alter history noticeably.
  • Superman:
    • One of the few things that remains true throughout the DCU's Multiverse is that Superman and Lex Luthor will always be enemies.
    • In one Silver Age Superman story, Supes asks the supercomputer in his fortress to extrapolate what his life might have been like if Krypton had never exploded. The extrapolated story finally ends with an odd circumstance where this alternate Kal-El acquires super-powers, loses his family, and becomes Superman on Krypton, full costume with the cape and insignia and all. Supes and Batman turn away from the screen with just priceless expressions of astonishment.
    • All-Star Superman has Superman trying to create a pocket universe without a Superman. Cue a certain comic book artist drawing the Golden Age Superman saying, "Third time's the charm..." This, in combination with Doomsday Clock, shows that regardless of the parallel universe, there is always a Superman in some form. (Heck, even Marvel supplied one for their universe with Squadron Supreme.)
  • Swamp Thing: In the "River Run" arc of Mark Millar's run, one of the alternate realities Swamp Thing visits is a more realistic universe where the key differences of this reality's incarnation of Alec Holland are that he never became Swamp Thing, his wife Linda is killed by criminals trying to intimidate Alec into giving up development of his biorestorative formula and he has a daughter named Anna. Nevertheless, the story ends with the implication that this Alec Holland will still meet and fall in love with his reality's Abigail Arcane.
  • Teen Titans: In one storyline, Lex Luthor brought a team of evil Future Titans to kill Jaime Reyes aka Blue Beetle because no matter what he did to the timeline, Jaime refused to turn evil.
  • Ultimate Invasion: Despite the Maker playing interference with a time machine, he finds some things still happening despite his best efforts, like Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk, though just because he can't prevent those events doesn't mean he can't interfere afterward.
  • What If?:
    • In "What if the Fantastic Four had not gained their powers?" (v1 #36), Reed Richards properly checked the radiation shielding on his spaceship, so the Fantastic Four never get their powers. As it turns out, this has absolutely no bearing on their ability to kick Mole Man's ass.
    • Another, later story shows what would have happened if the FF had to fight Doctor Doom before ever gaining their powers. Naturally, they beat him.
    • An even more dramatic example is v1 #14, "What if Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos had fought World War II in Outer Space?": Thanks to the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci, mankind has advanced technology including casual spaceflight by the 1940s, but there's still a World War II and it's still got the Howling Commandos fighting in it, complete with all the usual war-comic tropes. Fury's even still a Cigar Chomper, though you'd think that wouldn't work so well in a spacesuit.
    • "What If Someone Else Had Become — the Amazing Spider-Man" (v1 #7) gives us three parallel universes where a supporting cast member was also present and got bitten by the dying radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker, and subsequently becomes a superhero. As it turns out, in all three cases, their careers are short-lived, but Peter has kept the spider and successfully uses its venom to empower himself, thus becoming Spider-Man after all. The one with Betty Brant as Spider-Girl is the straightest example, with the one character to have died being Ben Parker.
    • A quick study of Marvel's What If... series will confirm that, in the multiverse of Marvel Comics, there's really only two circumstances in which Peter Parker doesn't ever become Spider-Man. One of them has no superhumans at all, and the other has no Peter Parker at all. In every other Marvel Universe variant, Peter Parker exists, and he will become Spider-Man at some point.
      • Spider-Gwen adds a third, where Gwen Stacy became Spider-Woman. Here, Peter turned himself into the Lizard... and died.
    • A particularly funny example is "What If The Punisher's Family Hadn't Been Killed?", where Frank Castle's family avoids going to the park on the day of the shooting that killed them in canon. Frank takes a job as a policeman to put his military skills to use, and becomes a By-the-Book Cop. His straight-edge nature pisses off the corrupt police force, who try to have him killed... but instead kill his family. The result is that Frank Castle becomes the Punisher anyway, with the only difference being that he targets corrupt cops and lawmakers as well as criminals.
    • Marvel's youtube TL;DR series notes that even in Spider-Gwen, James Jonah Jameson is, "still same fearmongering blowhard he has always been because apparently that is a multiversal constant."
  • W.I.T.C.H.: Issue #50 answered the question of "What if Will never accepted the Heart of Kandrakar that day?" The answer? She'd get it a little bit later on and W.I.T.C.H. is still formed. The damn thing's persistent.
  • X-Men:
    • In the X-Men storyline Age of Apocalypse, where Charles Xavier died young, Magneto founded the X-Men and the supervillain Apocalypse rules much of the world, there are a whole lot of characters who were villains in the "normal" timeline but heroes in the new one, or vice versa, but darn near everybody still has the same code names, and if they're not wearing the same costume as before they've at least got the same color scheme.
    • Cyclops's inability to control his optic blasts is canonically due to a childhood brain injury (or possibly psychological block) caused by jumping out of his parents' plane. However, his Power Incontinence and the visor are such iconic traits of him that he still has them in Alternate Universes where he didn’t, or couldn’t possibly have suffered a similar accident.
    • Bishop is a "chronal anomaly" who has been involved in so much time travel that he himself is never affected by it.
    • In House of X #2, we learn that some of Moira MacTaggert's attempts to change mutantkind's fate ended thanks to Sentinels. When she attempts to murder the entire Trask lineage to prevent the Sentinels from being built, she learns that they end up still being built as robotics and artificial intelligence are like fire to man.
    • In Sins of Sinister, in the year +100, Sinister creates a version of Rasputin IV who's identical to the one from the X^2 timeline of House and Powers of X, even though they were created for different purposes.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, Lady Tremaine uses the magic of the Fairy Godmother's wand to undo several events, leading to Prince Charming's glass slipper fitting Tremaine's daughter Anastasia instead of Cinderella. But the prince doesn't think Anastasia is the girl he met at the ball, and isn't fooled by Tremaine's repeated attempts to interfere. This isn't helped by Anastasia pulling a Heel–Face Turn as she has a Heel Realization about how badly she's been treating Cinderella, and refusing to go along with Tremaine's spiteful plans.
  • In Zootopia, the basic premise of the movie's setting is that even though human beings never existed and sapient anthropomorphic mammals evolved instead, civilization and modern society emerged in almost exactly the same way as it would have with humans.
  • Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: As lampshaded by this Cracked article, the movie is essentially just an animated remake of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and Tom & Jerry being added to the story changes absolutely nothing to the plot of said movie. All events still play out the way they did in the original.
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse introduces the concept of "canon events" into the Spider-Man mythos. That there are certain life events every Spider-Person must experience (bit by a radioactive spider, loss of a parental figure, etc.). And though the details and specifics may change dependent on the particular reality, these canon events are Anthropic to being Spider-Man, and so cannot be changed. Attempts to change canon events more often than not result in that entire reality being undone.
    • Elsewhere, Gwen Stacey mentions that in "every other universe" where she exists, she's wound up with Spider-Man, and in all those universes it ends badly. On a lighter side, apparently many universes have a J. Jonah Jameson being his usual cantankerous self, even in a universe which doesn't have a Spider-Man, and they all sound like J. K. Simmons.
    • However, many Earths including Earth-65B, Earth-1610B, and Earth-42 have all violated the Canon Events in their own way, yet are still intact, meaning that the idea of Canon Events being something that has to happen isn't true.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • White Man's Burden is set in a world in which black and white people have switched cultural roles, but besides that, 1990s America is still pretty much the same.
  • Blind Chance is a curious case. Despite being a Butterfly of Doom story, where Witek's life plays out completely differently based on catching or not a train, certain events still turn out the same, with or without him getting involved. Most notably, the dean's son is always caught by the authorities for illegal printing of dissident pamphlets.
  • Terminator
    • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines shows us that no matter what, Judgment Day will still transpire circa the Turn of the Millennium. In fact, the climax of Terminator 2: Judgment Day made things worse, since the new version of Skynet designed in T3 wasn't a supercomputer, but software which was able to infiltrate the Internet, which is decentralized and much harder to destroy.
    • Terminator: Dark Fate shows us that John is not a constant, but his role is. If there is ever a machine led apocalypse, there will always be someone who will rise up and resist, and they will lead a resistance and inspire others. In that film, this is showcased with Dani.
  • The Back to the Future trilogy:
    • Back to the Future is a good example — Marty accidentally prevents his parents from meeting in 1955, so has to get them together in order to protect his existence. Marty's actions change a lot in regards to his family; when he returns to 1985, his father George is a much more confident man and successful author, his mother Lorraine is slimmer and no longer an alcoholic, his siblings are no longer dead-end losers, Biff is now a somewhat goofy car waxer that looks up to George, and Marty now owns a spiffy pick-up truck, one that he had been eyeing longingly in the original timeline. However, the only change beyond his family and Biff is that Twin Pines Mall is called Lone Pine Mall; everything else is exactly the same. Marty and his siblings still exist and were still born on the same days, they still live in the same house, his room is exactly the same as in the "old" timeline, Marty is still dating Jennifer, and was planning the exact same trip to the lake as "before".
    • When Marty plays Johnny B. Goode at the school dance, a man phones his cousin Chuck Berry and tells him to listen to it which implies a Stable Time Loop where Berry wrote his song after hearing someone from the future sing it. This isn't how time travel works in the franchise so Berry must have written it himself in the original timeline.
    • Back to the Future Part II:
      • 1985-A. In this timeline, a lot more has changed: Biff becomes insanely wealthy and George gets murdered by Biff, this timeline's Doc Brown is put into a mental institution, the Vietnam War is still going on in the 1980s thanks to Richard Nixon surviving the Watergate scandal and being elected to at least a fourth term as president (seeking a fifth term in the 1984-A election!). Yet Michael Jackson still becomes a famous pop star, A Fistful of Dollars is still made, the Wounded Knee occupation still takes place, and Lorraine's brother Joey still turns out to be a jailbird.
      • This is discussed in the commentary for Part II when Biff goes back from 2015, with Marty and the Doc still there. They discussed why it never changed, and decided it'd be better if things remained the same at that moment.
    • Back to the Future Part III has Marty embarrass Biff's Wild West ancestor and get him arrested, and Marty and Doc rob a train to drive it off a cliff. This didn't change anything at all, except that now Clayton Ravine is called Eastwood Ravine (named for Marty's alias instead of the schoolteacher who "originally" died there). Additionally, for a very brief moment because they saved Clara, the ravine retained its original name of Shionash Ravine, which Doc becomes horrified with changing local history again, but Marty reassures him that it's only just a name, and they saved someone in the process, so maybe it's for the best. The movie's creators said that Clara might have got depressed and jumped into the ravine in the timeline where Doc was shot by Mad Dog Tannen.
  • In the Alternate Universe of Almost Normal, in spite of homosexuals being in the majority (with heterosexuals being the ostracized minority), the culture and society seems to (otherwise) be much of the same. Brad still exists, along with everyone else he knew. It's interesting to note that the homo/hetero flip has led to changes in French history.
  • Star Trek (2009): No matter what the Big Bad does, the original cast of TOS ends up on the Enterprise in the spots they filled on the show. It's actually implied that Nero's actions cause the group to coalesce sooner than they did in the original timeline.
    • In the case of Chekov, it actually caused him to be born sooner. Chekov was originally born in 2245, but the new timestream pushed it forward to 2241. It's interesting to imagine that as soon as they heard the news about the destruction of the Kelvin, Chekov's parents' first reaction was "we should bone!", and that's why Chekov is older in the new film.note 
    • This also happened to Kirk who was born two months earlier than he would've been. Nero's attack somehow caused Kirk's mom to go into labor (maybe intense stress or something) causing Kirk to be born in January instead of March like he was in the original timeline. The novelization of the 2009 movie reveals that Kirk's mom had an inhibitor device to impede the child's birth while she was still on assignment aboard the USS Kelvin. However, as soon as Nero showed up, the impact of the Narada's weapons on the ship caused the device to fail.
    • The only other main difference is that Spock and Uhura's romance is now much more blatant and not one-sided.
    • Despite that them never having a history, Kirk and Khan will ALWAYS be at each other's throat, and Khan will always make one of the main cast die in a radiation-filled engine room.
    • Also in the novelization, Spock Prime allegedly said these events happened possibly because the new space-time continuum was "trying to repair itself" to be more like the original, hence the reason why everyone ended up on the same starship and in the same roles.
  • An odd version happens in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. The Futurians tells Japan's authorities Japan will become a nuclear wasteland because of Godzilla in the future, and so they must prevent Godzilla's birth in 1954. However, they went after the wrong Godzilla, and went for the one who would be the Heisei Godzilla. However, Godzilla in actuality did not destroy Japan, and judging by the last film, neither will Godzilla Junior, who was Raised by Humans. After Godzilla's death, Japan would still become a superpower nation with a Gentle Giant Godzilla that wouldn't kill a single human.
  • The Invention of Lying: A world where nobody is capable of lying, and yet humanity hasn't killed itself off from everyone constantly insulting one another or failing to conceal their inherent jerkassness. The film shows major cultural consequences of humanity's inability to lie, such as the fact that there's never been any fiction or religion, yet all the countries seem to be the same, there was still a black plague in the thirteenth century, Napoleon still conquered half the world, Coke is still competing with Pepsi, etc. And despite Christianity not existing in the film's universe, the calendar still ended up exactly identical to the Gregorian calendar. Think about it: how did they decide what year to mark as 1?
  • This is the reason the protagonist travels into the future in The Time Machine (2002): whatever he attempts in the past, events insist on playing out so that his present remains unchanged. He heads forwards in hopes of finding someone who can tell him why.
  • This is done humorously in C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, to draw parallels with real history. In the DVD Commentary, however, the creators noted that the Indian Wars were pretty much the same in Real Life.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Discussed by Beast, but ultimately subverted. The Sentinel future has been thoroughly derailed, but Wolverine still falls into Stryker's hands (presumably propelling him through the events of Origins), and Charles goes on to form the X-Men, and the two still meet up. One or two significant things have changed, though. Logan, tragically, plays this ultimately straight, with all of the original X-Men wiped out at the end of the movie, including Logan and Charles, who barely survived Days. Also, going by the movie's premise, the worst of humanity is now in charge.
  • In Men in Black 3, K is erased from history by a time traveling Boris (the Animal), but somehow in the new time line J is still a Men in Black agent (though it might be a Delayed Ripple Effect). And then he goes back in time to ensure things go right again.
  • Bright is set in a universe where magic exists, mankind exist side by side with fantastical creatures like orcs, elves and fairies and over 2,000 years ago, an Evil Overlord attempted to take over the world and it took an alliance of all nine peoples to defeat him. Despite these drastic changes and that Fantastic Racism is rampant, human history seems no different that of the real world - aside from the technology being the same and the cities being in the same locations, among other things, Shrek, the battle of the Alamo, the Crips and Bloods, and Black Lives Matter all get referenced at some point.
  • In Zero Day, Andre gets sick on the day the shooting was supposed to happen (the first day it was less than zero degrees). It doesn't stop the massacre, just gets it postponed to May Day and, other than that, just about everything happens like Cal and Andre want.
  • In The Butterfly Effect, Evan has to convince his cellmate in prison that he actually has magical time-travel powers, which he does by going back to his childhood and stabbing his hand to make a stigmata. The scar suddenly appearing in the present day is enough to convince his cellmate. Apparently the fact Evan impaled his hand as a child didn't change anything else, which is actually a serious Plot Hole since every other time he used his powers to change the past, it had major repercussions (hence the very title of the movie).
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe was mostly the real world with superpowered people, aliens and such, in spite of amazing technology that didn't change society at large, in true comic book tradition. That is, until Avengers: Infinity War had in 2018 half the life in the universe being wiped out, something only fixed after a five year time skip in follow-up Avengers: Endgame. Yet in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, set after Endgame, the title character and his friend Katy are shown singing Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road", released in 2019 - which means that in spite of Earth going through its worst possible days, the rapper was still there, still wrote his cowboy rap, and it still became an enduring hit. Another case happened in Ms. Marvel (2022), where Kamala Khan hears The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights", also released in 2019.
  • The 1986 Mockumentary Babakiueria has a premise broadly similar to White Man's Burden, in which Aborigines colonized Australia in 1788. The country resembled the real Australia as it was when the film was made, and still does nearly 200 years later besides the Persecution Flip, although it is also informed by aspects of modern Aboriginal communities.
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once: In the universe where people have hotdogs for fingers and use their feet to play piano, pianos still look the same as in our universe, and Debussy still composed "Clair de Lune." Evelyn also somehow still owns the same laundromat and lives in the same apartment above it.
  • In Super Mario Bros. (1993), the fantastic elements all come from a parallel universe in which dinosaurs never became extinct and eventually evolved into humanoid creatures with a combination of human and reptilian traits. Despite this, history has broadly played out the same to the point where, among other things, the Statue of Liberty exists in that universe.
  • Look Both Ways (2022): Two drastically different plots happen as a result of Natalie's pregnancy test, however...
    • In both realities, Natalie is accepted into the South by Southwest film festival.
    • At the end of the film, both Natalies walk past her old sorority house, where she reassures herself that it worked out for the best.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In the Book of Esther from The Bible, when Esther's elder cousin Mordecai gets news of Haman's plan to exterminate the Jews, Mordecai pleads with Esther to go before King Xerxes and petition him to save their people. Esther tells Mordecai that she cannot go into the king's chamber without an appointment or else she would die, and the only thing that can spare her life is if the king extended his scepter to the person coming before his throne. Mordecai warns Esther that if she does nothing, God (implied in the text, but not mentioned) will still bring deliverance to the Jews from another place, but she and her family will be destroyed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The GURPS 4th Edition sourcebook Infinite Worlds calls parallel worlds that are very similar, despite drastic divergence, "high-inertia". Probably the best example is "The United States of Lizardia", which is very similar to Earth, but with different historical figures. Oh yeah, and instead of humans there are six foot tall lizards. This is, however, explicitly noted as a "weird parallel", and there's a Lampshade Hanging in the fact that the text description of the worldline mentions that even some scientists who've been studying the USL for years "don't really believe in it".
    • A multiverse of infinite possibilities would mean a world where history was identical but with lizards (or bears, or triffids) would surely be inevitable.
      • The infinite multiverse is tempered somewhat by the inability to see or travel to universes beyond a certain number of quantum levels away. They've also only been doing it for about forty years so there would still be lots of surprises around.
      • "Infinite" doesn't automatically imply "all-encompassing". Just like in math you can have infinite sets of numbers that don't actually include all numbers, it's not hard to imagine an infinite multiverse in which not every conceivable alternate universe necessarily has to exist — and that assumes that it is in fact "infinite" instead of merely "finite, just HUGE" in the first place.
    • A character can also have Temporal Inertia as a personal trait; it ensures that he will exist in all versions of the present, as long as it's at least marginally plausible. There's also its opposite trait, Unique; a character with that one is likely to be among the first things to disappear if history changes even slightly.
    • One Infinite Worlds article in Pyramid describes a town in the Vinland of Midgard, a world based on "what if the Norse colonies actually stuck, and it was now the 15th century?" Despite the massively divergent history and the fact it appears to be three centuries too early, the town is home to a man named Beinir Folkmarsson who, in addition to having a name that looks like Benjamin Franklin, also has a backstory that comprises being apprenticed at a print-shop in another town, jumping his indenture and setting up shop as a printer and natural philosopher in Fimhálsar, while also writing anonymous satires. Homeline researchers used to study him as the best example of a "personal echo" in a highly divergent timeline, but stopped because an alternate Benjamin Franklin is the sort of person who notices weird outsiders taking an interest in him.
  • Used in the setting for the RPG Feng Shui (and the card game Shadowfist). Despite time travel being involved, any changes you make to the past are likely to result in cosmetic differences in the present, at most. That is to say, killing Hitler's ancestor in 1850 would result in little more than some other short, bombastic dictator causing trouble in Germany. Even massive changes to the timeline (which are only possible by having control over Feng Shui sites) will result in the same people being born, but filling slightly different roles, similar to a different character played by an actor with limited range.
    • However, by controlling enough Feng Shui sites, a faction can create a major shift in history, effectively rewriting all of history from that point. Before the game started, the world was a magical world controlled by the Four Monarchs, but then the Ascended gained control of many sites and created our current history. In addition, by changing who controlled some of the Feng Shui sites in the 1930s, the Dragons caused the future, originally dominated by the Architects of the Flesh, to be overwritten.
  • The Halloween freebie for BattleTech, "Empires Aflame", brings us into a radically different Inner Sphere. In effect, the Exodus never happens, and Aleksandr Kerensky is assassinated, prompting his second in command to call off the SLDF fleeing to parts unknown and instead has them take charge of the old Terran Hegemony. This makes for a radically shifted balance of power for the 300-odd years of post-Amaris War history. However, most, if not all of the famous names still take their appointed spaces in the metaplot, the Kentares IV massacre still happens, and Hanse Davion is still First Prince of the Federated Suns in 3025. However, he then allys with the Capellan Confederation, and the combined state gets its ass handed to it by the Draconis Combine. Oddly enough, though, even though The Clans never existed in this universe, as the Exodus never occurred, nor Operation Klondike which can be seen as the official starting point for the Clans proper, many Clan figures from the main universe still find positions of power and authority in the Terran Supremacy, even if they probably shouldn't have existed to begin with, given how they were actually conceived. Devlin Stone himself is also a key player in the Supremacy as of the 3090s.
  • Magic: The Gathering has Sarkhan Vol's home plane of Tarkir. In the original timeline, dragons are extinct and the plane is ruled by feuding walords. After Sarkhan changes the past, Tarkir is ruled by dragons, yet the warlords are still around (albeit in much different circumstances.) And then there's Summit Prowler whose only difference between timelines is slightly different art. Although to be fair, not much changes in the life of a yeti.
  • Claim the Sky: Despite the presence of superpowers since ancient times, and people finding Azari ruins with ultra-technology in it, the world is basically the same.
  • The Dragon magazine article "Legacies of the Suel Imperium" details using several Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition monster races (derro, jermalaine, lerara, skulks, and su-doppelgangers) as PCs, giving each of them a backstory that ties their origins closely to the eponymous ancient empire from the world of Greyhawk. Most of these races also exist in other D&D worlds, which goes largely unexplained save for a vague suggestion they may have travelled from Oerth via portals. However, the article specifically states that skulks in Forgotten Realms have a completely different origin, which just happens to have mutated them in almost exactly the same way.

  • Several nails in Ruy Blas, when Don Salluste tries to compromise him and the Queen, Ruy Blas has a message sent to her not to leave the palace for any reason for the next three days. The message doesn't go through. The Queen receives Salluste's forged invite to Ruy Blas's house, and takes care to send a chaperone to confirm the invitation. Unfortunately, the chaperone is met by the real Don Cesar, who eagerly agrees to receive a pretty woman for a secret rendez-vous, even if he doesn't know what it is about.

    Video Games 
  • 1917 - The Alien Invasion DX begins in 1917 (well, obviously) where Europe is in the middle of the First World War, only for an Alien Invasion to interrupt and tear most of the world to pieces. Your character, a German Ace Pilot controlling a top-secret high-tech biplane, battles the invaders and eventually neutralizes the alien threat... only for the Distant Epilogue two decades later, where despite the world uniting after surviving the alien assault, the Second World War still happens two decades later anyways.
  • Age of Empires II has a scenario covering The Fall of Constantinople wherein the player controls the Byzantines. The scenario ends with the Byzantines averting their demise by holding out long enough for crusader reinforcements to arrive and forcing the Ottomans to lift the siege. However, rather than depict what would come of this Alternate History where the siege failed, the post-scenario outro depicts the historical outcome as if the Ottomans still managed to capture the city in spite of the player's intervention.
  • Chrono Trigger has events that largely react to the player changing history, but there's a few things that are a constant, no matter what happens or which of the Multiple Endings the player is going for.
    • A late-game sidequest has Lucca travel back in time to the moment her mother was crippled by a large machine. As a child, Lucca could do nothing to stop this accident, and dedicated her life to science and machinery to prevent future accidents. If Future Lucca succeeds in stopping the machine (and thus saving her mother from being crippled), her child self still dedicates her life to science, this time so that she never feels so helpless again around machines. Given that Lucca's Telepod invention is itself responsible for the existence of the Gates (or at least the main factor in their creation) that Lucca then uses to travel through time and save her mother, if saving her mother would result in Lucca not having interest in science, it would result in a paradox.
    • The Black Omen is The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, first appearing in 12,000 BC, and traveling through time allows the party to enter it in one of three eras. When it's up, in both 600 AD and 1000 AD, the world and events therein are largely unchanged, simply because the Black Omen has been in the sky for thirteen thousand years at this point, and people have just come to accept it as normal. Still, despite how technologically-advanced the Black Omen is, the tech of the Middle Ages and the Present Day has gone without any significant upgrade.
  • In the Legacy of Kain series of games, they describe changing events of the past via time travel as "throwing pebbles in a river." The idea being that history is resilient at self-preservation, and attempting to change it only makes the timeline diverge temporarily, before it quickly rights itself. The catch is that there is only one person/thing capable of throwing a big enough "pebble" to actually change the course of history: a paradox. So Kain goes about turning Raziel into a walking paradox so that history can be changed.
  • Europa Universalis and its sequel feature historical events and rulers largely unchanged from our timeline, even in the default start. Mostly averted by the third game.
    • There is, however, an option to enforce this upon the game. If you switch on the "Historical Rulers" option, your nation will have the same monarch names as in real life and the same relative military, diplomatic and administrative capabilities. Of course, given that a lot of nations in an average game will exist outside of when they did historically (or nations may exist that were never formed in reality) you can easily end up stuck with the same inept King for hundreds of years. With this option switched off, rulers will be generated randomly
    • Paradox Grand Strategy games in general see some of this by the nature of the games: technology and society always develops in more or less the same way as OTL (really varying only in speed) and Victoria 2 in particular is built to railroad the game along certain allohistorical paths.
  • Eternal Darkness:
    • Three Ancients manipulated Pious Augustus into becoming their champion, but the parallel realities created by choosing one artifact instead of the two others differ very little from each other: you still end up fighting an undead Roman centurion, while his patron deity still gets his ass kicked and horribly mutilated by the opposite one you summoned earlier. It then still proceeds to try and destroy the world and enslave humanity, while your dead grandpa still fixes it for you.
    • Played straight with Max Roivas: despite finding various autopsies for different monsters in his diaries he still ends up making incoherent rants, slaughtering all of his servants and getting locked inside an asylum for the rest of his days.
    • Subverted by the fact that the first aligned rune you find is dependent on which one you choose at the beginning (on a Rock Paper Scissors system from weakest to strongest against). Since it can help replenish health (VERY useful), sanity (useful if you're very low on it) or mana (worthless as it drains the same amount it replenishes), guess why people tend to leave Xel'lotath's artifact for last...
  • Devil May Cry 5: Unlike the original campaign, the final mission of Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition has him and Dante continue their fight to the death without Nero interrupting. Despite this, Nero's interference still happens, albeit offscreen, and Dante and Vergil still head off to deal with the Qliphoth tree.
  • In the Dark Side ending of The Force Unleashed, Starkiller kills Darth Vader and is forced into becoming his replacement by Sidious while the leaders of the Rebel Alliance are killed. However, the events of A New Hope go mostly unchanged as the Rebels are still active, Obi-Wan Kenobi still mentors Luke Skywalker (but is killed before they even get off Tatooine), and Luke still destroys the Death Star. It isn't until the Battle of Hoth that things truly diverge, as Starkiller reveals the truth of Luke's heritage to him and takes him on as his Sith apprentice. In the sequel, things play out similarly (except Vader is alive). This time, Starkiller's Diabolus ex Machina clone takes his place on Hoth and instead kills Luke before going on to do the same to the rest of the Rebellion on Endor's moon.
  • An important component of Achron's design is to ensure player orders happen on every iteration of the timeline when reasonable (i.e. when your opponent isn't actively interfering), so that players don't get frustrated because a unit ending up 2 steps to the left 2 minutes ago caused their main production center to cease to have ever existed. Ensuring that one's strategy as a whole happens despite the interference of opponents is a key component of the metagame.
  • Knights of Ambrose:
    • Certain events in Timeline 1, such as Morgoth summoning the Black Tower, Zamaste being restored, and Dylan marrying Adalia Primrose, still occur in Timeline 2 despite the changes caused by Scitech.
    • Mari and the Black Tower: In the ending, Ned points out that in Timeline 0, Matthew's book about the Black Tower vanishing is still mostly the same, and that it's possible that the Black Tower may resurface again to wipe out humanity despite Abbie defeating Morgoth.
  • Life between the two sides of the Earth in Persona 2 is not that different, with the only major differences being that in Eternal Punishment, there is now a sixth ward (Narumi), and the home lives of Eikichi, Lisa, and especially Jun are far better than they were in Innocent Sin.
  • Persona 3 Portable has a female option, to see what would happen if the quiet and introverted male protagonist were a bright and optimistic girl instead. The answer? Possibly aside from Shinji's life being extended some (he would still die shortly thanks to the suppressants), not much of anything.
  • Bioshock Infinite uses this to provide a meta commentary on the nature of video game storytelling and how the player interacts with it, through the theme of "Constants and Variables." There is always "a man, a lighthouse, and a city," and while there are a few points in the story where you are presented with a binary choice, it has no effect on the ending or the path you take through the story. Certain events are fixed, such as the fact that Booker never rows to the lighthouse, the coin always comes up heads, and he always picks ball #77 at the Raffle, even after being explicitly told not to. On a meta level, the plasmids and weapons at your disposal, as well as environments that support multiple approaches, mean that the number of ways a given playable encounter can pan out are effectively infinite, just as the title suggests. But the major beats of the story, especially the ending, will always happen exactly the same way no matter what.
  • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, only the GDI campaign is considered canon. Yet, no matter which campaign is played, Vega will "borrow" Kane's alien ship, the GDI base in Hammerfest will fall, and Kane will create a mega Tiberium missile. The difference is that in the Nod campaign, Slavik manages to retrieve the ship's contents, Hammerfest remains in Nod hands (and is used as the staging ground for their missiles to destroy Philadelphia), and the mega missile is fired off. But in the GDI campaign, it's McNeil who recovers the ship's contents, Hammerfest is eventually recovered (and Nod attacked it in the first place for the Disruptor sonic crystals rather than to launch missiles from), and the missile becomes scrap metal. Oh, and Umagon gets captured in both campaigns, although both the causes and aftermath of the captures are different. Slavik's appearance in the expansion, Firestorm, is interesting in that it relies on things that happen in the Nod campaign (escaping his attempted execution at the start, then escaping GDI custody halfway through) that are not once mentioned in the GDI campaign, which leaves it ambiguous whether these are also events that happen no matter what which the GDI campaign is simply skipping over due to presenting GDI in a more negative light and/or not being as important as dealing with Kane, or if the opening Nod power struggle and Slavik's capture by GDI simply don't happen in the "true" canon.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series: Einstein originally invented the Chronosphere, a teleportation device and Time Machine, in 1946 with the purpose to erase Hitler from history and prevent World War II. In the alternate timeline that results from this, he develops the same technology anyway, although initially it can only be used for transport. He builds another Time Machine later on, which is secretly reverse-engineered by the Soviets in RA3 to remove him from history when they are about to lose the war. And they lose in the end anyways.
  • According to Word of God, the Mega Man (Classic) and Mega Man Battle Network series are a divergence centering on what branch of research was primarily funded and which was cut, either robotics for the former or network A.I. for the latter. Somehow, most of the robots and A.I. in both universes share the same names, abilities, weapons, appearances, and general motifs for no apparent reason, and most of the people involved are on their same respective sides of good and evil. Furthermore, Dr. Wily's Battle Network incarnation is a roboticist just like in the Classic series. Instead of trying to take over the world because of his jealousy towards Dr. Light for being recognized by the scientific community over him, Wily retaliates against society for pushing internet technology over the field of robotics.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Delta Episode of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire implies this of the Pokémon timelines: the mechanic of Mega Evolution, discovered in the ancient past by Rayquaza putting a stop to the end of the world, is a well-hidden secret, though numerous Trainers of varying degrees of skill and plot importance have access to it. The Delta Episode implies the existence of another world, almost identical, where Mega Evolution wasn't discovered — this world being the setting for all games prior to Generation VI (with Pokémon X and Y showing that the catalyst for Mega Evolution itself was the firing of AZ's ultimate weapon 3,000 years earlier). Aside from a few details, the same Trainers exist and operate in almost the same capacity without the Mega Evolved Pokémon, many of which are drastically different or have world-ending power.
    • In Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, a small-scale example of this trope comes in the form the Battle Frontier seen in Emerald. This facility, which was a replacement for/expansion of the Battle Tower from Ruby/Sapphire, does not exist in the remakes' timeline, instead having been "replaced" by the Battle Resort. However, the Battle Resort itself is suggested to be the predecessor to the Battle Frontier, as a man at the Battle Maison located within the Resort appears to be recruiting for Scott, the Battle Frontier's owner, and mentions that the position of Pike Queen has been scouted, most likely referring to Lucy, the Frontier Brain of the same title in Emerald. Pokémon Sun and Moon confirms this even further, as it features Anabel, who is implied to be the very one from Emerald instead of the one in the Mega Evolution timeline; she mentions being from Hoenn and having a tower to guard despite having lost her memories — but as noted above, the Battle Frontier hasn't yet been built at the time of OR/AS. Interpol refers to her as a "Faller," someone who has explicitly traveled between dimensions via Ultra Wormholes.
    • Zig-zagged heavily with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon. Despite being touted as an "alternate" version of Pokémon Sun and Moon with a drastically different story, the alterations to the plot of Sun/Moon are minimal prior to the events at Po Town and the second trip to Aether Paradise. Most notably, the only significant changes are the appearances by the Ultra Recon Squad and the Aether Foundation's collaboration with them to investigate the Ultra Beasts, whereas Sun/Moon suggests Lusamine and her top subordinates had been looking into the matter of UBs for some time but hadn't seen one in person until a stray Nihilego warped into Aether Paradise's conservation area. Although Lillie's backstory seems to be unchanged, Lusamine's villainous traits are downplayed while their motivations are made more (openly) sympathetic and understandable. Spoilers! Necrozma also plays a more direct role in the story as opposed to being relegated to the post-game, and while Lusamine still wants to use Nebby's power in order to open a gateway to Ultra Space so that they can "love" and "protect" Pokémon, more of their actions feel genuinely altruistic as a whole — to the point that they declare their main goal is not to have a world of beautiful Pokémon all to herself, but to stop Necrozma from harming their world (Lillie and Gladion included) after hearing the Ultra Recon Squad's tales about the Blinding One. So, instead of the player pursuing them to Ultra Space with the help of Solgaleo/Lunala and Lusamine fusing with a Nihilego (while becoming even more mentally warped in the process), things go quite differently. More spoilers! Even so, certain other events like Guzma and Plumeria disbanding Team Skull happen as they did in the original games and the story ends on a very similar note overall.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors: During the fourth mission in Legend Mode, a mission entails safely escorting an Engineer from the Allied Base to a bridge so he can lower it. Succeed, and thing proceed that much faster. Fail, and the Hyrulean Forces take a hit to their morale... but Cia ends up lowering the bridge herself, in order to let her monsters attack.
  • In the Fire Emblem series:
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War's second half is a Time Skip, focusing mostly on Generation Xerox versions of the cast of the first half. Their stats and abilities will vary depending on who their parents were, which is determined by player choice. However, if their parents ended up being killed or never married, they are replaced by Suspiciously Similar Substitute characters, who typically share their classes, design elements, and often their personalities. So normally, Erinyes's son, Ced of Silesse, is a powerful Sage who's fomenting a rebellion in northern Thracia and has a sister named Fee who's a Pegasus Knight, but if Erinyes died or went unpaired, then there's a guy named Hawk, who is also from Silesse, is also a Sage, shows up at the same time as Ced with the same background, and even has a sibling who's a Pegasus Knight.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, no matter which of the three houses you pick, you go through the same general story beats. Part I plays nearly identically for all three houses and ends on the same note (Byleth getting thrown off a cliff and falling into a coma for five years, with the only difference being on Crimson Flower where it's Rhea who does it rather than Thales), Part II opens to the nearly-same geopolitical situation no matter who you play unless it's Crimson Flower (Dimitri is presumed dead, Cornelia rules the western half of Faerghus as a puppet of Adrestia, Claude is playing pro-Empire and pro-Church Alliance nobles against each other to feign neutrality, and the Knights of Seiros are scattered to the four winds), and has mostly the same missions (kill bandits to retake Garreg Mach, defend it from Imperial soldiers, link up with reinforcements in the Valley of Torment, take the Great Bridge of Myrrdin, fight the Battle at Gronder, take Fort Merceus, take Enbarr, invade Shambhala, fight the Final Boss; the only differences are that the Black Eagles skip Gronder and the Blue Lions detour to Fhirdiad and Deirdru after Gronder and end their story at Enbarr). There is one route that breaks this pattern (side with Edelgard at the Black Eagles route split), but even then Chapter 12 still ends the same way and the Alliance is in the same situation.
  • Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town: If the Player Character chooses to "divorce" their spouse, things work more like as if they are sent to a timeline in which everything is the same, except that the player never proposed to their spouse. The only possible ripple effect comes if the Player Character and their spouse have a child when the player chooses to implement the "divorce": the child is then Ret-Gone.
  • Pepper's Adventures in Time: Set during the Revolutionary War, a Game Over will have the American colonists defeated and the British continue ruling. This is signified with the White House having its American flag replaced with a British one. But as the White House was built after the colonists' victory, shouldn't it have disappeared entirely?
  • Deltarune: Asgore and Toriel are divorced and estranged as they are in Undertale, even though their son Asriel is very much still alive in this timeline and (as far as we know) Asgore never killed any human children here. The only possible hint we're given so far is an easily missable news clipping on the wall inside the police station, which states that Asgore was the former police chief but was forced to step down, but the reason is unspecified.
  • The ending cinematic for the normal campaign in Total War: Shogun 2 features a glimpse into modern-day Japan, which looks the same as it does in our world, thoroughly Westernized, with the exception of your chosen faction's mon emblem implying their continued existence and a statue of a historical character from that faction (if you play the Tokugawa, it's a real statue). This is despite the fact that playing as some of the factions would vastly alter Japanese history. (The previous Shogun game was similar but had a Cyberpunk vibe and, if the Mongols won in that scenario, the voiceover talks about the present-day Mongol Empire as a beacon of modernity and progress.)
  • Phantasy Star III is a Generational Saga whose specific plot points can take some curious turns as you proceed through the game, but it all ultimately comes down to facing Orakio's deranged brother Rulakir within the floating city of Lashute to resolve matters. A lesser example is the character of Kara, General Lune's daughter, who will have been raised as either a sweet young lady or as a Warrior Princess depending on when Lune managed to broker peace with the Orakians, but she will always be a member of the final party and a skilled slicer wielder.

    Visual Novels 
  • Steins;Gate: No matter how the timeline changes, no matter how different everyone's lives and circumstances have been because of the change (even to the point of a whole district of the city developing differently), as long as the world line hasn't shifted beyond the 1% barrier, everyone still has the same personalities, relationships, pastimes, addresses, and careers, Mayuri still dies, and her watch still stops immediately before it happens, no matter when it happens.
    • At one point, the main characters are successfully able to alter the circumstances of Luka's birth so that the character is born as a normal female. However, literally every single other thing about her—appearance, behavior, relationship to other characters—is exactly the same. The only real change is a minor event earlier in her life that results in an artifact important to the plot being broken in the new timeline.
    • Suzuha likens timelines to threads in a rope; each one might be slightly different in some way, but the overall sequence of events still follows the same course. Under the right circumstances, it is possible to change the timeline to a different "rope", but that ultimately just establishes a different set of pre-determined events, which may or may not be better than the original ones.

    Web Animation 
  • In the DC Super Hero Girls universe, the Kryptonian Science Council actually heed Jor-El's warnings but Krypton blows up before the evacuation fleet is ready, and Superman, Supergirl and Krypto the Superdog — and possibly Zod and his men- - are the only survivors. And even though Zod isn't banished to the Phantom Zone, he still despises the House of El.

  • El Goonish Shive multiverse. In the main story world Tedd has serious self-esteem issues. In the "alpha dimension" Tedd — but not his friends — exists and apparently has enough of self-esteem issues to flip out, become Evil Overlord and try to kill his alternates. In yet another Alternate Universe ("Second Life") aliens fought in the American Revolutionary War, Ellen's best friend and crush are both Half-Human Hybrids, but... guess what? Tedd still exists. And still has self-esteem issues. Dan said, at some point, that every possible dimension has a Tedd.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Chuck Goodrich, The Mayor came from the future to prevent a zombie apocalypse. However, somehow, increasingly ridiculous global tragedies always end up occurring in the new future, and it's always Chuck Goodrich, Astronaut Chrononaut who finds a time portal in space that allows him to prevent it. It has yet to be revealed whether there's a reason for this or if it's just Rule of Funny.
    • Anthropic Principle. If they weren't his future selves, they wouldn't ask him for help.
    • There's sort of a reason for it. When you travel back in time to fix something, you don't actually prevent the Bad Thing from ever happening; you create a quantum split at the point you emerge in the past that creates two universes; one where you didn't arrive, thus creating the timeline you lived through that was so shitty you had to go back and fix it, and one where you did arrive, thus allowing you to avert the Bad Thing you came back to prevent, but in all likelihood there's going to be another Bad Thing that's just as cataclysmic rolling down the track in its place, which will send the newer, younger you traveling back through time to fix that (Chuck has apparently done this at least five times).
    • Future King Radical Hand Waves it with: "Time travel is a difficult art with few experts. There's a reason it's always Chuck Goodrich. He's the best." It eventually transpires that King Radical himself is his world's Chuck Goodrich. King Radical is just his regnal name. He came through the portal to save his own universe at the expense of the Doctor's universe.
  • Homestuck:
    • In the post-scratch session many things that you'd expect to have changed stayed pretty much the same. For example, Jane and Jake still talk in Anachronism Stew-style old-timey speech, plus Jake still has an interest in firearms and fisticuffs.
    • Also, while not nearly as much is known about pre-scratch Alternia (Beforus, actually) as post-Scratch Alternia is — despite the drastic difference in troll society, some things appear to have stayed the same. The trolls still had two 6-letter names, trolls were still adopted by lusii, and it was implied that the quadrants still existed (although it probably wasn't enforced as strictly).
    • Part of this is somewhat justified, due to the nature of what the scratch actually is. A reset button built into Sburb, to reset the ENTIRE UNIVERSE in the event of an unwinnable scenario, designed to make the new players much more capable than the previous.
    • During Act 6, John uses his newfound time and space travel powers to make a number of changes to the timeline, following instructions given by Terezi. This causes quite a few differences, however, some things are still the same, such as the Alpha Kids still going through the same events from the day they started playing Sburb to the day they all God-Tiered, Kanaya and Rose still becoming a couple (being, in fact, the only couple among the meteor groups to stay the same pre- and post-retcon), and Dave and Karkat still drawing phallic images in Rose's book, though this time they did it for fun rather than as part of an argument.
  • DM of the Rings:
    • For most of the comic, the players are being railroaded through the plot of The Lord of the Rings by a Dungeon Master with an iron fist. However, Legolas's player slips the DM's notice for just a little too long, who winds up killing Gollum during the events of Fellowship of the Ring. Despite this, Frodo and Sam still make it through Mordor, though largely because their players quit (again, because they were sick of the railroading) so the DM turned them into NPCs so he could gloss over the events of their journey.
    • Due to Earth Drift, this happened with the comic's premise: originally, it was supposed to be that the DM was using the game to introduce the players to Tolkien's works, but later on it seems more like the whole story was genuinely created by the DM, suggesting that Lord of the Rings does not exist in that universe. Despite this, all the old fantasy tropes that Tolkien codified are still around in-universe, and the other characters treat them as hopelessly uncreative, so it seems like there was some other iconic work that featured things like elves, dwarves, halflings, and orcs—or alternatively, all those things were created wholecloth by D&D.
  • The premise of Scarlet Lady, is that Chloe got the Ladybug Miraculous instead of Marinette, becoming the titular superhero. But despite being the Ladybug heroine, Chloe is so bad at the job that Marinette often has to step in against Akumas anyway, just this time as a Badass Normal. Though she later becomes an Empowered Badass Normal when she gains the Bee Miraculous and becomes Marigold.
  • In Narbonic, Dave's heavy smoking habit is erased from the timeline when he time travels and alters events in his youth. The webcomic lampshades the fact that certain events that hinged on his smoking, such as burning through ropes with a cigarette light, or a character inhabiting his body being distracted with a need to smoke, must have happened differently in the new timeline, as everything else seems to be the same.
    • It's not really touched on, but this becomes an interesting bit of Fridge Brilliance: he initially joined Helen at the labs because her ad offered him a job "smoking permitted." Knowing that she was trying to recruit him specifically, to study his brain, it makes sense that she wouldn't have given up even if he'd passed over that ad specifically.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • The article for SCP-4001 ("Alexandria Eternal") mentions a "Schmidt-Luhrmann effect," an inverse of the Butterfly of Doom that suggests changing the past to prevent certain events often has the new timeline simply play them out under different circumstances to avoid severe consequences, while discussing how the library affects history when books are changed. This is most apparent when the Foundation tries to create and resurrect life, as the library instantly kills the person again in a negligible time period and sometimes says they deserve it. The result of forcing it to do otherwise was redacted, but apparently wrecked a Foundation site.
  • Crystore Inc.: The Red and Green Bridges are nearly identical, except for some small cosmetic variances (such as the colour of their respective Golden Gate Bridge, which is used to define them). Blue Bridge, not so much.
  • Decades of Darkness:
    • Napoleon manages to win the battle of Waterloo, only to lose against the Prussians under Blücher afterwards, making "Waterloo" in this world the synonym of "a victory claimed too early".
    • Most people in-universe think that the secession of New England was inevitable, going as far as stating that "Americans and Yankees are different people."
  • In Green Antarctica, something happened so that Antarctica didn't have the glaciers and ice sheets that they did in OTL. Yet World History still went on the same until the Tsalal got into the picture.
  • In Keit-Ai, this is necessary for the plot to work. Otherwise, the alternate universe versions of the boy and the girl would end up too different from them, resulting in a different story altogether.
  • In Red Dawn +20, the Chernobyl disaster still happened as scheduled, but this time, instead of Soviet engineering incompetence, it was American military intel incompetence that destroyed the reactor. Intel said the reactors weren't online when they were set to be targeted. Oops.
  • In Red vs. Blue Church gets the opportunity to save himself and his friends, but despite every butterfly he tried to stomp on, some other event kicks in and the only thing he changed is that he is the one who cause him team's eventual demises. Except It all turns out to be a ruse by Gary, who traps him in a simulation of a time loop.
  • In one dimension of We Are Our Avatars, Aurora was a Dragonborn. Her habits haven't changed at all. In fact, she sent a cake with moon sugar inside it. The end result was predictable.
  • In the Whateley Universe, despite the fact that the world has a Lovecraft Lite mythos, ancient Sidhe, mutants with superpowers, and supernatural monsters, the world is pretty much the same as what we're used to. Apparently, all the great scientific and medical advancements thanks to super-inventors have been cancelled out by bad stuff due to supervillains and mad scientists.
  • On WrestleCrap, Rewriting the Book has some stories that end up like this in some way.
    • In "What if Vince McMahon wasn't the Higher Power?", Jake the Snake is the Higher Power, winds up getting control of the company and Stephanie... and in the end, the Ministry is dissolved and Vince is removed from TV albeit by order of Austin, who gained control of the company from Jake in a match.
    • In a story about what would happen if Goldberg's streak hadn't been broken, regardless of everything that changes as a result of this, WCW still collapses. Word of God says that this was the whole point of the story (that WCW's eventual, inevitable collapse wasn't due to one particular incident, but that they would have found some way to screw up and fail no matter what).
    • If DX had gotten into the Norfolk Scope Arena that fateful night, WCW would still have collapsed, apparently (but they would have gotten bought instead by ECW, which wound up becoming successful and eventually becoming Ring of Honor in all but name).
  • Fandom circles on websites like Tumblr or Livejournal tend to invoke this deliberately with the joke "AU in which everything's the same except _____".
  • In WarpZone Project, things stay pretty much the same after Charles Darwin's children get earased from history to keep only one of his descendants from existing.
  • One of the Chuck Norris Facts plays the trope for laughs. Chuck Norris travels back in time and saves JFK. JFK is so surprised and grateful, his head explodes.
  • Alternate History Hub has a very somber example with What if the 'War on Terror' never happened? The 9/11 attacks never occur and America never invades Afghanistan or Iraq. Instead, the attitude of America as the invincible sole superpower continues on into the early 2000's, as does the rule of stagnant dictators like Saddam Hussein. However, the Great Recession of 2008 still occurs, sending the world into a financial crisis. The Arab Spring still occurs as well, sparking revolutions across the middle east and another civil war in Iraq. The Saudis fund Wahhabist terrorist groups through oil money, refugees start pouring into Europe and America, and drone strikes are used by the west on terrorist bases. The biggest differences are that the World Trade Center still stands, a full military invasion by America never occurs, and there's simply gets an extra decade of peace.
  • In the Red Panda Adventures episode "The World Next Door", a time traveler from an Alternate Timeline secures the Red Panda's aid by offering the full case file on an upcoming Villain Team-Up that, in his universe, killed the Red Panda's sidekick the Flying Squirrel. How useful the case file would be was up in the air, as the two universes have vast differences. A trusted friend in one is a supervillain in the other, the Red Pandas' masks are different, and there are at least two confirmed Gender Flips between counterparts. Despite that, when the day comes and the Red Panda Revenge Squad assembles in "A Dish Best Served Cold", the villains' roster is essentially the same as the case file minus those differences and their plan, right down to the death trap used, goes almost identically to the alternate world's version. So much so that the villains are perplexed when the Red Panda names it before they do, notes the death trap they just created had been thwarting him for four years, and rattles off details on its inner workings he could not possibly know. The only difference is who is in the trap, as the hostage is the Red Panda's youngest agent, a teenage boy named Harry Kelly, instead of the Flying Squirrel. Even then, however, the Flying Squirrel was one of the two Gender Flips, being a teenage boy in the other world.
  • After meticulously avoiding this trope in the epic Look to the West, Thande enthusiastically embraces it in The Unreformed Kingdom, with a point-of-departure in 1815 leading to a 2015 that is very different from our world, but full of strangely familiar people.
  • Played for laughs in this parody of Breaking Bad. Rather than cooking meth, Walt cooks cupcakes in Easy-Bake Ovens, yet Gus still approaches him about working together and dies after getting half his face burned off in an explosion for no apparent reason. Walt is baffled at how out-of-nowhere it is and all Jesse can say is, "That must've been a... predetermined event in like, the natural flow of time, yo."note 
  • Specworld: The project is a look at Alternate-History Dinosaur Survival, where the K-Pg impactor never hit the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous. Regardless, numerous groups of plants and animals from our world exist in this timeline which did not evolve until well after dinosaurs died out, yet somehow evolved regardless (referred to as parallel taxa and designated by "P-" in front of their names), which sometimes goes all the way down to species level.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons
    • The "Treehouse of Horror V" segment "Time and Punishment", which begins as a parody of "A Sound of Thunder" and gets progressively weirder — but no matter what changes Homer makes to history, there's still a Simpsons family, and they're still living in the same house. (Granted, the house is in various permutations of history a McDonalds, a Sphinx with Bart's face, and a giant shoe a la the Nursery Rhyme, but the Simpsons live there nonetheless.) The story ends with everything normal, except for people having long, forked, prehensile tongues. "Eh, close enough." Weirdly, forks as eating utensils still exist and are set out on the table, even though the rest of the family does not seem to need them.
    • For that matter, some of the opening credits' "sofa gags" might constitute close parallel universes of their own.
    • In another Treehouse of Horror segment, Bart acquires the keys of a Time machine and travels back to 1974 (so he can get a comic book cheap). While there, he finds out that if his parents never met, he would be rich. So he splits his parents up and travels back to 2012 (the present when the episode aired). Even though Marge married a rich man, he, Lisa, and Maggie are still born. The mansion they live in is in the same place as his old home as well.
    • One episode had Homer finding out through an alternate-timeline showing tomato sauce how his life would have changed, had he won the valedictorian vote in his highschool years. A lot of minor things have changed, like living next to the lot the Simpson house is on (which still has the Simpson home on it, but where his father lives) and working in a different sector of the power plant, and having used protection, so Bart, Lisa, and Maggie have not been born. But he still ends up falling in love with and marrying Marge and still works for Mr Burns.
  • Danny Phantom: In "Masters of All Time", Danny goes back in time to prevent the accident that gave Vlad ecto-acne and his powers... and he succeeds in this, but Jack gets hit with the blast instead, becoming half-ghost in Vlad's place. Apparently somebody had to fill that role. Not only that, but Jack's ghost form has the exact same costume that Vlad's has in the real timeline... with no real explanation as to why this should be. (Then again, it's never really explained why Vlad had that costume, either...) On top of that, even without the accident that gave him his powers and overall contempt for Jack for being married to Maddie, Vlad still grew up to become the same controlling and domineering sociopath seen in the main timeline; even still being rich, married to Maddie, and having Jack as a disfigured outcast didn't make him a better person, showing his malevolent traits are a core part of his character.
  • Family Guy has the episode "Road to the Multiverse" where Brian and Stewie travel through different alternate realities including one where the Japanese won World War II, another where people have two heads and another one where dogs are the dominant sentient species and keep humans as pets. In all of them Quahog and the main characters exist, with the only apparent exception being a world where the last Ice Age didn't end and the town's place is occupied by a glacier. The first world they visit is even stated as one where Christianity never existed, and yet St. Peter's Basilica still exists and is identical to ours... except the Sistine Chapel consists entirely of Jodie Foster's portraits painted by John Hinckley Jr. Also, in EVERY universe Meg is a Butt-Monkey, and she's still one of the ugly girls including in the universe where everybody is attractive.
    • In a more heartwarming example, there is the episode "Forget-Me-Not," in which Peter, Brian, Joe, and Quagmire wake up after a car crash, with no memory of themselves or each other. This trope comes into play when it is revealed that the entire situation was fabricated by Stewie, who wanted to challenge Brian's claim that he and Peter would be friends regardless of how they met. Turns out Brian was right, as the two end up defending each other in the end of the scenario after Peter's odd behavior convinces Joe and Quagmire that he's some sort of mass-murderer responsible for killing everybody else on the planet. Stewie even admits that the two are destined to be friends. D'aww.
      • For most of the episode, Quagmire and Brian are convinced Brian is Quagmire's dog after they find a leash in his house, but it quickly becomes apparent that even in the case of neither having any memories, Quagmire still can't stand Brian. Also, the sensation of a cutaway exists despite the fact that none of them have memories to cutaway to.
    • The episode "Life of Brian" had Brian and Stewie altering history where everyone in the present are Native Americans after they gave them guns before the whites settled and established Jamestown. Everything is the same, but made up of Native Americans including an alternate Stewie who also built a time machine.
  • In Futurama, the crew is sent back in time to Roswell, creating the famous UFO crash landing (it's Bender's mangled body). Though an effort is made to not alter history, Fry ends up becoming his own grandfather. At this point, the Professor is just fed up and mounts a full-blown assault on Roswell Army Air Field with the Planet Express ship, stealing a radar dish so they can return home. History is not affected in the slightest.
    Professor: Choke on that, causality!
    • On the other hand, if the alternate universes presented by the What-If Machine in the "Anthology of Interest" stories are accepted as true, then Fry becoming his own grandfather is a set point in time that can't be avoided (in the AU where he never goes into the future, his destroying the Cryo-Chamber destroys the universe). In other words, the events of the Roswell episode are quite possible all part of a Stable Time Loop - the assault and its aftermath might well be events unrecorded by history (especially given its unreliability back in the 1940s-50s, including the lack of advanced technology to record such events as faithfully as in the present). But who can say for certain?
      • In fact, the episode explains the Roswell Incident by indicating that it was caused by the Planet Express ship crashing to earth. Unless there was no "Roswell Incident" in Fry's initial timeline, this one's stable.
      • In The Why of Fry, we learn that Nibbler deliberately sent Fry to the future because of this time loop. If Fry stayed in the 21st century, he never would have gone back in time to become his own grandfather, and he never would have had the delta brain waves needed for him to be able to take down the Brain's Infosphere.
    • In the film Bender's Big Score, Bender goes back in time hundreds of times and steals all of history's great treasures, including the Mona Lisa, the mask of King Tut, Michelangelo's David, and a mess of other things. This doesn't change anything, because he's using "paradox-free" time travel, which invokes this trope - the universe automatically corrects any problems that would be created, usually by any spare temporal duplicates that can't be made part of a Stable Time Loop (for instance, if you traveled back in time and stopped yourself from traveling back in time) abruptly dying. Of course, at the end of the movie, he ends up creating hundreds of these temporal duplicates, in a manner that makes half the events of the movie impossible, at which the universe gives up and cracks open.
    • In "The Late Philip J. Fry", Bender squashing the first fish to crawl out of the ocean and the Professor shooting Hitler (and in the second go around, Eleanor Roosevelt), seem to have no effect on the timeline.
  • An odd variation in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic during the season five finale "The Cutie Remark". Starlight Glimmer, the villain from the season opener "The Cutie Map", reveals a time travel spell developed by Star Swirl the Bearded and refined by her and uses it to go back in time to stop Rainbow Dash from performing her first Sonic Rainboom, which allowed the Mane Six to get their Cutie Marks at the same time. When Twilight and Spike go back to stop her, all of their attempts to use force to invoke Set Right What Once Went Wrong ends up invoking this trope - Starlight wins and the Sonic Rainboom is stopped. Caught between endlessly trying to stop Starlight or letting her win, Twilight decides to Take a Third Option: Dragging Starlight into the next altered timeline and showing her what damage she's caused.
    • Played straight in that all the characters still have the same cutie marks anyways. Also, each time back to the present, only one villain is shown to be in power, with no Villain Team-Up.
  • In Adventure Time Finn asks the Literal Genie Prismo to make it so the Lich never existed in the first place. He wakes up in an alternate universe where the Mushroom War never happened, Finn is a farm boy with a prosthetic arm, and Jake is just a normal yellow dog. The "war" happens anyways, only Jake is turned into the Lich instead thanks to the accidental detonation of the bomb.
  • There's a less extreme example in Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear", in which Spock died at the age of seven because he failed to go back in time to save his own life. Nothing changes on the Enterprise except that the first officer is an Andorian we've never met before. Everyone we know but Spock is still alive, in the same positions, and they are still on the same assignment. A Myriad Universes story explores the alternate universe in more detail and follows the life of said Andorian. There's no major difference in the timelines until the events of Star Trek II, at which point divergences begin to happen almost exponentially.
  • Steven Universe zigzags this; it takes place in a world where Earth was the site of an alien war back in the Stone Age. The geography has been noticeably altered, ancient relics and battlegrounds can be found in remote places, and it's implied that aliens have interfered in culture in other ways, but broadly speaking, the world of the series is pretty similar to that of ours - there's still a United States, game consoles, smartphones, and so on. It's even implied in one episode that there was a disco fad. On the other hand, it's almost a Running Gag that the world is subtly "off" from ours - there are East Coast states going by the name of Delmarva and Keystone, Korea seems to be unified, several major holidays no longer exist, the center of film culture is in Kansas, the money looks completely different, it's implied that American colonization happened significantly differently, and Different World, Different Movies runs rampant. On the other other hand, Mike Krol cameoed in one episode. Possibly the most perplexing element is that two of the supporting cast (Kofi and Nanefua) are immigrants from Ghana and recognizable as such, even though the real Ghana's landmass is part of South America in this universe. Whether their Ghana is in South America or a different part of Africa or isn't really touched on.
  • An episode of SWAT Kats had the titular duo sent to an alternate dimension where they are not only criminals, but they and Callie Briggs are working with Dark Kat. Dark Kat's criminal ambitions and Commander Ferral's hatred for the SWAT Kats remain the same (the latter more so than usual).
  • Love, Death & Robots: The short "Alternate Histories" is based on a demo of an app that showcases alternate timelines. The ones that result from a rubbery, squeaky-voiced Adolf Hitler dying in 1908 of various causes. In the first scenario, he is beaten to death in a brawl outside his art school - it results in a later World War II that results in an American victory, and Berlin is the city destroyed in a nuclear blast. In the second scenario, he avoids being beaten to death... and gets crushed under a cart instead, resulting in legislation restricting horse and cart, Austria becoming an automotive powerhouse, and Germany winning the Second World War. After that, things get real crazy.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In the episode "Trial," Gotham's new District Attorney, Janet van Dorn, blames Batman for the city's problems; she believes that Batman created each of the city's villains and wants to put him on trial. The inmates of Arkham kidnap her and Batman to give her what she asked for—the Dark Knight being tried in a Kangaroo Court, with the villains as jury, Two-Face prosecuting, and the Joker as judge. van Dorn is tasked with defending the Caped Crusader, and by the end of the case, she realizes she was wrong; Batman may have inspired some of their gimmicks, but even without him, they would have become criminals and caused trouble for Gotham regardless.
  • What If…? (2021) has a number of these.
    • What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? has Peggy Carter take the super soldier serum instead of Steve, becoming a Captain America analogue. Because of her closer military connections, she's deployed onto the field sooner and stops Hydra from ever getting the Tesseract. However, she still pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to stop Hydra from destroying the world and winds up a Fish out of Temporal Water in the present (in this case by stopping an Eldritch Abomination and being dragged through a portal in space/time).
    • What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? has Christine die in the crash that originally crippled Doctor Strange. Despite that, he still joins the Masters of the Mystics Arts, defeats Dormammu, and becomes Sorcerer Supreme. He also finds this trope applies when he tries to go back in time and save her; no matter what he tries, she always dies in his timeline. He spends the rest of the episode becoming powerful enough to avert this, only to cause a Reality-Breaking Paradox that destroys everything.
    • What If... Zombies?! has a Cruel Twist Ending where Thanos arrived in Wakanda and was subsequently zombified, and has all but one of the Infinity Stones... the last of which our heroes are unwittingly bringing to him. Uatu's narration essentially says that the Snap will still happen despite the Zombie Apocalypse, although Zombie Thanos' plans are likely much worse than the original universe's.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Apparently no matter what universe, where there's a Spider-person there's a J. Jonah Jameson angrily ranting about how they're a menace.
  • Justice League: The episode "Epilogue," which wraps up the story of Batman Beyond, reveals that Amanda Waller came to respect Batman and, realizing that he was getting too old to continue, used her government connections to create a new Dark Knight. She selected Warren and Mary McGinnis, who were nearly psychologically identical to Thomas and Martha Wayne, and replaced Warren's genetic material with Bruce's under the guise of a flu shot. Years after Terry was born, Waller moved into phase two, which involved hiring the Phantasm to gun down Terry's parents, thus motivating him to fight crime just like Bruce. However, the Phantasm couldn't go through with it and castigated Waller for using such tactics, and she reluctantly put the project on hold...until Warren McGinnis was killed by thugs anyway, giving Terry the drive he needed to take up the cowl after all. Waller lampshades the situation by remarking that Fate itself seems to demand that there be a Batman in the world.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Butterfly Nets


Japan still loses the War

In his video "What if Japan Won the Battle of Midway", Cody describes and states that regardless of the outcome of the Battle, Japan was still going to lose the Pacific War.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / InSpiteOfANail

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