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Precursor Killers

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"Whatever built the gates and the protomolecule and all these ruins we're living in? They were wiped out. And the thing that wiped them out just took a shot at you."
James Holden, Persepolis Rising

Precursor Killers are the reason why the Precursors aren't around anymore. Typically they are a much more powerful (and evil) group and/or a rogue member or faction of the precursors that managed to wipe out the precursors despite their advanced technology/magic. Either it is because the Killers' own technology/magic was more advanced than the precursors, or they were just so numerous that the precursors couldn't keep them at bay forever. If the Precursor Killers are still around, expect them to be a BIG DEAL and the threat of another attack to be a looming threat. After all, if a more technologically advanced people couldn't beat these guys what can WE do?


Sometimes the precursors were able to Fling a Light into the Future in the form of some sort of Lost Superweapon that the Precursors weren't able to finish in time to stop their enemy. Often this the killers are a Sealed Evil in a Can that was somehow stopped with the last actions of their enemies. Compare Abusive Precursors, Turned Against Their Masters and The Old Gods


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Pillar Men of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency were a race of powerful, intelligent, vampiric superbeings. When two of their number, Kars and Esidisi, invented the Stone Mask to give themselves powers and unlock their race's full potential, the rest of the Pillar Men perceived them as a threat and turned on them. This led to Kars and Esidisi slaughtering the rest of their race, including their own parents.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Ghidorah is one. The alien Abusive Precursors who turned Ichi, Ni and San into Ghidorah eons ago were among Ghidorah's first ever victims.
  • In With Strings Attached, the four are told that the invading Tayhil wiped out most Baravadans hundreds of years ago, an event that gave rise to the current skahs/tirin anarchistic civilization.
    • In a twist on the theme, the last known Tayhil were killed only about ten years ago, and the skahs want them back because they're going crazy with boredom now that they have nothing to fight.
  • In the Pony POV Series, it's revealed that Lord Tirek is the reason the Centaurs aren't around anymore.
  • In The Bridge, Terra's ancient civilizations prospered...until Bagan became the God of Extinction and caused a mass extinction event. While he was defeated and sealed away, the damage was done. They sacrificed most of their remaining mana to create the Guardian Beasts to defeat Bagan when he eventually escaped at which point Battra finished the job.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has The Fallen as one of the first Transformers, the Primes. He killed his brothers in a mad quest for power, but they managed to hide the artifact he was looking for and seal The Fallen away for a time as they all died. As it turns out, one Prime escaped his view: Optimus.
  • In Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth, Battra wiped out the Cosmos civilization that existed on Earth in ancient times for creating a weather manipulation machine and enraging the Earth.
  • It's implied the titular alien in Alien is this as the dead Engineer pilot is found with his chest burst open in a ship full of their eggs though Alien: Covenant showed that the android, David wiped them out fairly recently.

  • The entire tragic backstory of the elves in the Deverry series is originally based on a bunch of dimensionally travelling gauls entering a different world and setting off a chain of displacements the end results which brought down the elven civilization.
  • In the Priscilla Hutchins series of Jack McDevitt's novels, every major nonhuman society has disappeared but for a smattering of artifacts left around the galaxy. It turns out that regular waves of comet-like "Omega Clouds" from the galactic core spread out to find and impact with any collections of large, regular, non-naturally-occurring shapes they stumble across — in other words, cities — thereby ending any civilization they encounter.
    • Two characters separately reach the same conclusion about the Omega Clouds' possible purpose, once it's discovered the clouds contain a device that can detonate them in a supernova-esque explosion. They're art. And the galaxy is the canvas for a series of coordinate explosions that will all be visible simultaneously from someone looking down on the Milky Way due to the speed of light. Attacking alien civilizations is a bug, not a feature.
  • In Frederik Pohl's Heechee Saga series, the Heechee had hidden themselves away within Black Holes to avoid the attention of the Kugel (better known as "The Foe" or "The Assassins"), a race of energy beings that regularly wiped out emerging species. They eventually emerge because humanity is on the verge of getting the Assassins' attention.
  • The Inhibitors of Revelation Space were responsible for a lot of dead aliens. However, the Inhibitors apparently weren't designed for this, as its consciousness remarks that it has become far more brutal than needed over the last few million years, implying that it was mostly designed for containment rather than destruction, as they were built to mitigate the damage of the approaching Milky Way - Andromeda collision
  • It's sort of a toss-up who you'd call the precursor and the precursor killer in Larry Niven's "Known Space" series. The Slavers (aka the Thrint) were a species of beings capable of psychically forcing any other life form to do exactly what they wanted. They weren't total idiots, but neither were they terribly clever, since once they made contact with other species, they had those other species do the thinking for them. The tnunctipun were the master technologists, but most of the artifacts from the Thrint era of the galaxy belonged to the Thrint rather than their tnunctipun slaves. When the inevitable war broke out, the Slavers' final act was to use a psychic amplifier to project the command "DIE!" to everything in the galaxy, killing everything sentient - including themselves. So even though the Slavers are often billed as the precursors, they are themselves technically the ones who pulled the trigger.
  • The eponymous Berserkers obliterated both sides of the war they were created to end and continued to scour the galaxy of life.
  • The History of the Galaxy has two examples, although they're not 100% true to this trope, since the actual Precursor races are still around, while their killers aren't (yet). The Forerunners are a race of non-sentient Planet Eaters made up of proto-matter (in fact, they're biological machines created by an Energy Being whose "programming" got messed up by a nova) who are responsible for the complete destruction of the Delphons (the only Precursor race to completely die out) 3 million years ago, forcing the Insects and the Logrians to flee their space (inadvertently causing their enslavement by the Harammins). The much more ancient Evolgs and Emulotti were attacked by an expansionist race called the Shvergs billions of years ago. The Evolgs, being Energy Beings, helped the Human Alien Emulotti Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, while their worlds were bombarded from orbit. The latest novels (going by the in-universe chronology) have the Evolgs, the restored Emulotti, the freed Logrians, and some of the Insects joining the human Confederacy of Suns as equal members.
  • The Expanse features an alien civilization (the "Ringbuilders") who, among other things, wielded seemingly physics-breaking technology, could rewrite lifeforms to fulfill their whims, and networked the Milky Way galaxy with wormhole gates - and who were taken out by an even more mysterious and advanced force or entity billions of years ago. The weapon that they use seems to shut off cognitive abilities and also disables the protomolecule that the Ringbuilders use for construction and in their technology, and the aftereffect of the weapon used looks like a bright orb of light with a core of pure darkness.
    • As of Tiamat's Wrath, the precursor killers are having a go at humanity, though they're not (yet) succeeding. One character suspects the precursor killers (the "Goths", after the ones that killed the Roman Empire) still think the Ringbuilders have returned and are attacking using the weapons they used last time (which shuts off people's brains in entire solar systems at a time), but due to human and the Ringbuilders' brains being different it doesn't affect humans permanently. It's implied they're adapting, however, as subsequent attacks render humans unconscious for longer and a character who has been treated with Protomolecule was rendered permanently brain-damaged by a single attack.
  • Done to a lesser extent in Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence. The precursors are the eponymous Xeelee, who are very much still around for most of the stories, yet they are in a losing war with the Photino Birds, and are eventually forced to abandon the universe.
  • In the Gentleman Bastard series, the mere hint of this is terrifying enough that the Bondsmages, who are otherwise casual Super Supremacists, take great pains to keep a low profile and avoid large-scale works of magic. The Eldren precursors got flashy, created magnificent structures of utterly indestructible Elderglass... and vanished without a trace, leaving only the suggestion that they caught the attention of something they shouldn't have.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Whoniverse, though we have only scant details, the Time Lords have destroyed an Eldritch Abomination known as the Fendhal ("Image of the Fendahl") the Great Vampires ("State of Decay"), the Old Ones and the Racnoss ("The Runaway Bride"). Post-2005 Doctor Who regards the Time Lords themselves as something like Precursors who died out in the Last Great War against the Daleks, although really the Doctor destroyed them all or so he thought for a long time. Thanks to Joker Immunity, the Daleks survived.
  • The Ori of Stargate SG-1 were revealed to have actually been the reason the Ancients traveled to the Milky Way Galaxy in the first place and planted he seeds of our own evolution. The Ancients were then driven out of our galaxy by a seriously nasty plague eons later, before ultimately succumbing to the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy.
  • It seems that most ancient empires in Star Trek were destroyed by an unidentified allegiance of La Résistance. The ancient Iconian empire in Star Trek: The Next Generation was destroyed this way. In a reversal in Star Trek: Voyager, the ancient empire of the Vaadwaur were tyrants and they sealed themselves when their enemies attacked.
    • In the Voyager episode Prototype, two warring races (known collectively as the Builders) were wiped out by their own obsessive robot creations when they tried to end the war that they originally built the robots to fight for them. The robots couldn't allow that.
    • Klingon Lore holds that they slew their gods because they were more trouble then they were worth. At a seperate time (well after the orign-myth god killing, as the founder of modern Klingon spirituality, Kahless had already passed by this point) the Klingons were invaded by the Hur'q, which is entirely extinct and unknown to the modern Galaxy because they were the Precursors foolish enough to invade a civilization that believed it had killed gods in the past. The invasion is much more historical fact as it's the reason why Klingons got the technology to become a major Galactic power in the first place.
    • Star Trek: Picard has the Higher Synthetics, an advanced robotic federation that wipes out all sentient life in galaxies where it detects robots being used as slaves. They're implied to have wiped out all spacefaring races in out galaxy hundreds of thousands of years ago.

  • Zeus and the other Gods of Greek Mythology waged war against the Titans and won, although they didn't kill them (You see two every time you look up at the sky)
  • Several gods in Near-Eastern religions (and one God in particular) acted as this with a Great Flood, destroying the world that came before and allowing only one family of humans to survive.
  • The Maya believed that their Gods created three worlds before this one, but were unsatisfied with the creatures therein and wiped the slate clean.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Necrons (a race of undying skeletal androids) are the reason the Old Ones aren't around anymore, and the only reason the Necrons didn't end up ruling the galaxy was an outbreak of Warp entities.
  • The job description of the Exalted. There are some surviving Primordials, but that's because they surrendered when they realised how badly dead Primordials broke reality itself, creating an entire world as a shadowy and dead mirror of Creation and damaging the formerly foolproof reincarnation system.
  • In the Alternity Star*Drive setting, the Stoneburners and Glassmakers were a faction of, respectively evil and good, precursors. The Stoneburners wiped out the Glassmakers in a massive war, but were themselves mostly killed off by the war. At which point, the I'krl, a servant race of the Stoneburners, took them out and became the new Big Bad of the setting.


    Video Games 
  • The Reapers of Mass Effect and their master, the Catalyst made this their profession. They were Precursors to all the other Precursor races, for the sole purpose of causing the genocide of them once they were advanced enough. Since they return during the games and can be killed, Shepard qualifies as a Precursor Killer him/herself.
    • The Leviathan DLC reveals the original Precursors, the Leviathans, who created the Catalyst in the first place and had most of their species converted into the first Reaper as the price.
  • The Brethren Moons of Dead Space 3 are implied to be the reason why space is dead.
  • The Dark Makers of Jak and Daxter are a dark eco corrupted faction of Precursors who mostly wiped out their own race far before the events of the series. The survivors fled into a subterranean station near the core of the planet to escape them.
  • The player character gets to meet the wizard who nearly destroyed (accidentally) the Netherese Empire in Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. The guy who destroyed the rival Illefarn Empire is the main adversary in Neverwinter Nights II. The latter turns out to be largely self-inflicted; he basically just fought back against their increasingly grandiose attempts to assassinate him when they feared he would turn against them (which he never did). They essentially beat themselves to death against their own guardian.
  • The Flood of Halo are a race of parasitic alien spores that latch onto any sentient life with sufficient biomass, becoming more intelligent as they grow. The Forerunners were forced to use the Halos, a series of doomsday weapons, to wipe the galaxy clean of anything the Flood could infect, including themselves.
    • It turns out that the Forerunners had previously all but wiped out their own Precursors as well. And it turns out that the Flood is what results when said Precursors turn themselves into dust and Come Back Wrong, making Halo a rare recursive version of this trope.
  • Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters has the Sentient Milieu being brought down by the Dnyarri, then the Dnyarri being brought down by their Ur-Quan slaves (and then one branch of the Ur-Quan exterminated at least some of the surviving Milieu species). The reason for the actual, Capital-P Precursors in the universe disappearing remains unknown, despite what some people claim happened in Star Control III. For extra twist points, the Sentient Milieu's enslavement began when an Ur-Quan explorer stumbled upon the Dnyarri's homeworld.
  • The Xel-Naga from StarCraft created races as a means to perpetuate themselves, and created the mentally advanced Protoss, and biologically adaptive Hive Minded Zerg, two species that would eventually join to become the new Xel'Naga. Except... Some Jerkass Eldritch Abomination known as the Fallen One threw a monkey wrench in their plans, by subtly altering the Zerg into genocidal killing machines. The Zerg then promptly became Precursor Killers. In the original manual, the zerg did so under the direction of the Overmind, who simply thought that the Xel'naga had outlived their usefulness. Legacy of the Void retcons so that it was also a Civil War between Amon's rogue faction of Xel-Naga who wanted to end the Cycle forever and the Xel-Naga who wanted to stop him that all but wiped them out. The zerg were just Amon's most effective weapon. The only ones left by the time of the game are Amon, his servant Narud, and their prisoner Ouros. All three are dead for good by the end.
  • The Shivans wiped out the Ancients in the FreeSpace backstory, and it's strongly implied that they've done the same to any other civilisation that spread too far throughout the galaxy and/or through Subspace.
  • The Space Pirates seem to be to blame for wiping out most of the remaining Chozo in Metroid. What the Space Pirates didn't get, phazon did.
  • In the Might and Magic series, it's revealed that the alien Kreegan (which the galaxy's less advanced races mistake for demons) were the ancient enemies of the Ancients (the term used for the most universally applicable Precursors in the setting), and at the very least destroyed the Ancients' domain across an entire galactic arm. VIII indicated that the Ancients still exist somewhere, but have been driven to such desperation that they are resorting to scorched earth policies on entire planets (and the one implementing it is a repurposed android over a thousand years old, not an actual Ancient).
  • Assassin's Creed has an antagonist mentioning his belief that the "artifacts" are left over from "those who came before," but Assassin's Creed II's ending reveals that primitive humanity's sheer numbers were enough to overwhelm the precursor race. However, it's strongly implied that the playable characters' bloodline is genetically descended from a human-Precursor hybrid, and the Facebook game Project Legacy briefly implies that Giovanni Borgia is part of a hybrid line possibly going as far back as Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger. Yeah, that one.
    • It turns out that a solar flare was the true Precursor Killer. The surviving precursors were too few to repopulate their race, but they worked together with their former slaves/enemies to rebuild the world and took steps to ensure that it would survive the next inevitable solar flare. The existence of hybrids and humanity remembering the precursors as deities show that the precursors and humanity made peace with each other before the former died out.
  • In Blue Dragon, Nene's "pet" Deathroy aka Destroy was the biomechanical living weapon that wiped out the Ancients' civilization.
  • The Juno to humanity in Solatorobo. In an interesting twist, they actually only made the suggestion and provided the kill program. The humans are the ones who made the final suicide call, seeing it as the only way to end their wars and give the planet a chance to recover without them.
  • In Master of Orion, the Orions and Antarans are the two main Precursors who fought a huge war well before the first game. The Orions won by trapping the Antarans in a bubble dimension, but the resulting disruption to FTL travel resulted in them becoming their own Precursor Killers. The second game reveals that the Antarans survived and return to conquer the galaxy, but by the start of the third game they've nearly been wiped out by one of their own experiments - a sentient, parasitic biological weapon that would presumably have become a Precursor killer had the series continued. As it is, the most likely Precursor killer is the player, although this is not strictly necessary to win the game.
  • In the backstory for Sword of the Stars, the Suul'ka did this to the old Morrigi Empire and reduced them to The Remnant before the Liir did the same to them. As of the sequel both these factions are back, in a heavily reduced form.
  • The Rains of Destruction in Skies of Arcadia, which destroyed all the old Precursor civilizations. It is eventually revealed to have been the work of the Silvite Gigas, Zelos.
  • In World of Warcraft, it is eventually revealed that the reason the Titans haven't tried to help stop the Legion is because they already tried to stop Sargeras — and lost. The only Titans left are the recovering Sargeras himself and the unborn Titan within Azeroth.
  • The Calamity, Jenova, in Final Fantasy VII was responsible for the extinction of the Cetra, an ancient race that controlled the Planet long before humans ever did. Fast forward a few thousand years to the present, and only one person with Cetra blood is still alive. And she's brutally murdered not halfway into your quest. By an incarnation of Jenova under the control of her "son" no less.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the Agarthians were a super-advanced civilization that was destroyed by the eponymous villains, or more specifically Cornell, the Dark Lord of the Lycans, in a conflict known as the Necromantic Wars. Despite the Agarthians having powerful magic and titanic golems at their disposal, the werewolves' sheer numbers were enough to overwhelm their enemies and wipe them away from existence.
  • In Warframe, the Tenno were mighty Super Soldier Space Ninja Wizards created by the Orokin to fight the Sentients, a species of adaptive self-aware machines that were at war with the Orokin. However, the Orokin were horrifically evil monsters who abused and tortured and slaughtered anyone beneath them at will. When the Sentients were defeated, the Orokin gathered the Tenno for a great ceremony honoring them... at which point the Tenno slaughtered the Orokin leadership in seconds in vengeance and justice for their crimes, shattering their empire overnight.
  • Most iterations of the Doom franchise's backstory have a Martian race being wiped out by the demons that are now fighting humanity. Doom 3 and Doom Eternal both also suggest that these Martians became the ancestors of modern humanity, making them our literal precursors.
  • Stellaris has scores of examples in its background story. In fact, most of the game's lore is built around this trope one way or another, with the most notable example being the fivenote  Precursor event chains your science ships can come across (although only one of them randomly spawns in any unmodded campaign). Some of these ancient civilizations collapsed under their own weight, others started wars that turned against them until they were wiped out by rival civilizations that are also long gone when the game starts. With the Ancient Relics DLC installed, numerous archaeological dig sites shed light on the fate of even more precursor empires that met violent ends. Last but not least, up to five Fallen Empires can be spawned during campaign setup. These once-great empires have existed for eons and are now mere shadows of their former glory, yet are still vastly superior to any newcomer on the galactic stage when the game begins. However, your own empire's technological and military might can eventually put you on equal footing with the Fallen, and depending on how your diplomatic relations with them develop, you might well turn into the galaxy's most recent Precursor Killer (although the species itself will usually survive as part of your empire unless you're of the xenocidal sort).

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Dingo Doodles the Foreclaimers are the ancestors of modern elves and once controlled a powerful and advanced empire until it was destroyed in a single night. The cause was Xanu, an artificial god created by the Foreclaimers which had suffered constant and excruciating torture at their hands. Xanu was able to use his power over souls to take control over the armies of soul-empowered constructs located in every Foreclaimer settlement and turn them on their creators. While some Foreclaimers fled through a portal, Xanu remains committed to finding and exterminating what's left of their race.


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