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"Ray of Hope" Ending

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"Thus marks the beginning of the flame's end. Despair washes over the empire, the continent...the world. But don't lose hope. Even in this darkness, flashes of light remain. In every heart, every pair of joined hands, and in eyes fixed firmly on the future. Rest for now... then rise once more. To see this wretched fairy tale through to the end. To be continued..."

In the end of the story, things might have gone bad for our heroes. They might have lost the base, have the villain remain victorious, or even have themselves killed. But even amongst all that tragedy, there's still something that assures that it doesn't end there, that there might be a chance to make things better, a ray of hope on the horizon.

This differs (almost to the point of being the opposite) from a Bittersweet Ending, where the protagonists win but at a great cost, and is not simply a Downer Ending with a few happy tones either. This trope means that, despite the heroes being soundly defeated, physically and/or emotionally, there's still some hope left; a reassurance that things are not as bleak as they may look, and there could be a chance to turn the tides around, even if everything that has been lost can't ever be truly recovered. Depending on the circumstances, this kind of ending may be (or become), and is often used as, a Sequel Hook, as it is promised that things will get better in the sequel. Though, don't be surprised if the fans are pissed off and unsatisfied anyway, especially if the promised sequel gets stuck in Development Hell and never comes out.

Compare to A World Half Full, which is a world that despite its broken state can still be turned for the better, Fling a Light into the Future, which is a more deliberate hope establishment and usually happens at the start of the story, Hope Springs Eternal, which is the very concept of hope always living on no matter the circumstances.

Contrast Surprisingly Happy Ending, in which a seemingly bittersweet or downer ending turns into a happy ending thanks to a plot twist, Shock-and-Switch Ending, where it looks like there's going to be a Sudden Downer Ending but it's subverted for comedy, and Esoteric Happy Ending, where the creator thinks they have ended things on a positive note, but the Audience Reaction is Fridge Horror.

For more literal rays, see Light Equals Hope. Compare "Eureka!" Moment.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Angel Beats! ends with everyone being obliterated, including Tachibana, whom Otonashi has just proclaimed his love for. While the ending at first implies that Otonashi will relapse to what a former person who was trapped in the afterlife who lost his soul mate did (create a computer program that took away his soul and ability to feel love), the post-credits scene shows both in what is implied to be the living world, with Otonashi recognizing Tachibana and chasing after her.
  • Angolmois: The anime ends this way. While the Mongol army succeeded in destroying most of the resistance on the island, Jinzaburou, Teruhi and a few survivors remain alive. And as it is known to history, the Mongol invasion of Japan is doomed to failure.
  • The Animatrix: "World Record": Davis escapes the matrix, but is physically (and presumably mentally) handicapped in order to incapacitate him and keep him under control. Of course somewhere in his mind he still remembers what happened. So this bit of entrapment might not last for very long.
  • After School Nightmare: The manga ends on something of a dour note, since in "the real world," a fire breaks out in the hospital where the lead characters' mothers are staying. Mashiro escapes to be born, while all of her classmates are erased from existence as their mothers die or their fetuses are miscarried. Also, Mashiro's memories are torn to shreds by the birth. However, Real World Mashiro meets a Real World Sou in the final few pages, which keeps the ending from getting any more bleak, though they have no memory of each other. It's also left ambiguous as to whether or not Real World Mashiro and Real World Sou's relationship will pick up where it left off.
  • The Blue Drop prequel anime ends with Hagino pulling a Senseless Sacrifice at the beginning of the Arume Invasion. The Arume win. However, the Distant Finale 30 years later implies that humanity is on its way to a truce with the Arume. Unfortunately, Tenshi no Bokura quashes this by making the Arume into the most sadistic, Always Chaotic Evil species of aliens possible.
  • Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked is infamous for its "Everybody Dies" Ending, but the final moments are of the characters' souls happy and laughing as they go to be reincarnated. (Though after all the suffering they go through, one has to wonder whether just staying dead would be a better option.) A (non-canon) crossover manga has the characters reincarnate into the Gundam Universal Century characters- with all the strife and suffering they go through in that universe.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion: The twist ending has Homura pull a Face–Heel Turn, become a Satanic Archetype, and remake the world according to her own desires. All the heroines are trapped in her reality and given Laser-Guided Amnesia. However, Homura desires to make everyone alive and happy, and finally gives karma to series villain Kyubey by forcing all the despair they have inflicted into them. It's also implied the heroines will regain their memories and oppose, persuade, or redeem Homura or otherwise change the status quo to something more satisfying for everyone, Homura included.
  • The ending of Naruto Part 1; Naruto has failed to stop Sasuke from going to Orochimaru, and the Akatsuki is still out there, planning to take the Nine-Tailed Fox out of Naruto. BUT... Orochimaru is unable to steal Sasuke's body for another three years, and the Akatsuki also won't make a move on Naruto for that time as well. Jiraiya is going to train Naruto personally, giving him time to prepare to stop both.
  • The first half of One Piece ends with the Straw Hats scattered across the Grand Line thanks to Kuma, Ace and Whitebeard dead, the latter's killer, Blackbeard, stealing Whitebeard's earthquake powers and the Marines in total disarray from the war in trying to discourage future piracy. However, Luffy recovers from his Heroic BSoD thanks to Jimbei and sends a secret message to his crew to meet up in 2 years rather than the 3 days they agreed upon. Why? Because 1) Whitebeard's final words indicate that the One Piece is real and the age of piracy is going into a new era from said proclamation and 2) if the Straw Hats do intend to take on the 2nd half of the Grand Line, dubbed fittingly "The New World", they'll have to train to get stronger to be ready for the tougher challenges that await them. Thus the crew put their travels on hiatus to do just that.
  • As brutal and confusing as The End of Evangelion is, it ultimately ends with Shinji rejecting Instrumentality and choosing to associate with others even if it causes him pain, Asuka being brought back to life after being Eaten Alive by the Mass Production Evas, and everyone who was tanged in the Third Impact having the ability to return to their physical form should they so choose.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans ends with Rustal and the Gjallarhorn organization crushing Tekkadan and killing off many major characters, including the protagonist. But Rustal then implements sweeping reforms and recognizes Martian independence, while the survivors are shown living happy lives; except Ride, who has started another resistance movement against Gjallarhorn and assassinating a major enemy leader, hinting that they may yet win this time.
  • In the anime version of No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, while Tomoko fails to make any friends and chickens out the moment she was about to make a serious effort to speak to Megumi, she nevertheless still managed to catch the class president's attention and sympathy. Her words saying that she'll be keeping an eye out for Tomoko imply there's a chance things can improve.
  • Remina: In one of the more hopeful endings to a Junji Ito work, the manga ends with Earth being eaten, but Remina, the hobo, and a few others somehow managing to survive (albeit stuck in a tiny bomb shelter drifting into the depths of space). Remina herself is pessimistic about their odds of survival, but the hobo muses that since it was already a miracle that they managed to survive all the preceding insanity, another miracle occurring before all their supplies runs out in a year wouldn't be out of the question.
  • In the anime version of Wolf's Rain, despite all the heroes efforts, Lord Darcia kills them all and destroys Cheza's Paradise, ending the world with it. But the last scene shows the protagonist Kiba and some of his friends reincarnated into the modern world, implying the search for Paradise has begun anew, and they might make it this time. The manga, however, averts this in favor of a more traditional ending where the heroes win and the Ice Age ends.
  • Wonder Egg Priority: The girls that Ai, Neiru, Rika, and Momoe had wanted have returned from the dead, but in reality, they aren't the same versions of the girls they know, having no memories of them and having their own lives seperate from the main characters. Frill is no longer a threat, but has kidnapped Neiru after tempting her with fufilling her wish to become Human. Momoe no longer wants to have anything to do with the Egg World, while both Ai and Rika quit upon learning that Neiru is an Artificial Human. Ai learns that Koito had been a Jerkass the entire time and transfers schools as she no longer has a reason to stay, and subsequently, she drifts apart from Rika and Momoe. However, Ai comes to regret her decision of abandoning Neiru and decides to return to the Egg World to save her.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: At the end of "Enemy of the Empire", Zir realizes his sister is Reassigned to Antarctica and his entire society is a horrible, broken mess of lies. But he vows to try and find a way to change it from within.
  • The ending of BIONICLE's Karda Nui storyline has Teridax putting his spirit into Mata Nui's recently-freed empty body before the latter's spirit can, then sealing him in the Mask of Life and banishing him into space. The last page is Mata Nui swearing vengeance, which he gets when he creates a new body for himself after he crashes on Bara Magna in the Glatorian storyline and later obtains a body capable of fighting Teridax head-on.
  • The Call of C'Russo: Inverted. The day is seemingly saved when Ar-Finn is put back to sleep, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie hopefully glance at the sunrise. It still ends on a dark note as Donald realizes that he only exists inside the mind of a sleeping octopus and might one day vanish.
  • In EC Comics' Judgment Day, a human representative of the Galactic Republic denies Cybrinia admission to the Republic on the grounds of their Robots Enslaving Robots Fantastic Caste System, but remarks that Earth's humans used to be the same way before they did away with their prejudices to explore the universe together. He tells the robot guide who led him through the world that, when they cast aside their own prejudices, the wonders of Earth will likewise be theirs to share in.
  • Watchmen ends with Ozymandias committing mass murder to stop potential nuclear war, but Rorschach leaves behind his journal implicating him. Whether or not this will be a good or bad thing is up to the reader. While Doomsday Clock shows that its discovery leads to World War III, the live-action Watchmen series reveals it was never taken seriously, thus ignored.

    Fan Works 
  • Another Day in Bluffington Duology: By the end of the day in Another Day in Bluffington, Doug Funnie is still miserable, drunk and pining for the good old days when everything was still normal. However, while the fanfic implies this is a repeating cycle, the prequel story The Convert states that his older sister Judy is still trying to get help for her baby brother. To her, the day will come when he finally seeks help, but it will be a long time before that happens.
  • The Assassination of Twilight Sparkle: In just fifteen years after Twilight's death, Equestria will be wrought with terror attacks by traditionalists who want everything to go back to way things were before and plunge the country into civil war. Tirek escapes, gets caught and then gets set free by other factions who hate Equestria which includes Queen Cicada's changelings and Unicornia in exchange for his help and knowledge on his mana drain spell, which he agrees to thanks to a very tempting offer to restore him to his prime and aid him in conquering his homeland to pit the Centaurs against the ponies once more. Twilight's family and friends are running themselves ragged trying to prevent Equestria from falling apart altogether. Spike runs away to Erebus Islands and disappears from their lives altogether. But this whole mess actually cemented Discord's Heel–Face Turn and the fact that Spike now has a goal to get stronger in Erebus Islands so that he can come back and actually help make his mother's dream a reality.
  • Beyond the Wall: Whisperleaf decides to be a good pony and tells the elder that Fairy Dust is trying to leave the village, and as a result, Fairy Dust is killed. But, maybe, Whisperleaf might change her mind someday and want to escape the village too like her sister did, to see what lies beyond the wall...but that's a pretty big "maybe."
  • Code Prime The final chapter of R1 has this. Megatron and the Decepticons have begun their conquest of the entire world after essentially destroying Britannia, with over half the Black Knights being killed in battle and Cliffjumper and Dreadwing sacrificing themselves to protect their friends. However, despite this victory for the Decepticons, the remaining Autobots and Black Knights rally together what they still have. Joined by several defectors from Britannia, and the Ashford Student Council, they plan to lay low for a while and rebuild their forces. They also manage to piggyback off Megatron's message to bring all remaining Decepticon forces to Earth, and send their own message to bring any scattered Autobots across the universe to Earth so they can join their fight against the Decepticons. Cera/C.C. also forms a contract with Optimus, giving him his own Geass so he can even the playing field against Megatron and his Dark Geass.
  • Danganronpa: The Immersive Learning Program: The first story ends with the titular virtual simulation that the main cast were trapped in shutting down, and the survivors dealing with both their weakness from days of starvation and unable to stop the world around them from falling apart. But the story ends with Shuichi Saihara, Kaede's boyfriend from Hope's Peak who wasn't in the story, appearing and reaching out to save her. However in the sequel Academy of Discontent, which in the fourth chapter shows Shuichi along with Leon and Gundham going in to rescue the Immersive Learning Program main cast, it's revealed that while the majority of the students were rescued and pulled out, Shuichi and Kaede end up dying in the attempt along with another student from the simulation.
  • Darkest Before Dawn: Nightmare Moon managed to kill Princess Celestia before being de-transformed by the Elements of Harmony, and Princess Luna isn't magically powerful enough to move the sun, threatening to condemn the ponies to a slow, freezing death. But Luna is determined to atone for her crime, and Twilight accepts her offer to work together on finding a way to save Equestria.
    Princess Luna: (whispering to herself) And so it is said, that the stars will aid in her escape, and together they will bring an end to nighttime eternal.
  • At the end of The Hobbit fic Heart of Fire, the first part of the The Heart Trilogy, Smaug is fatally wounded by Bard's Black Arrow before Kathryn can convince him to stop his attack on Lake-town. She desperately tries to magically heal his wound, but she overexerts herself and dies, much to Smaug's sorrow. Fankil (who's yet to be identified) then appears to take Kathryn's body away, leaving Smaug to sink alone in the Long Lake. However, Andraya and Freyja fish from the water a man who has the same appearance as Smaug when he has taken a human form in dreams. Andraya then announces her intention to awaken the comatose man...
  • We Must Be Killers: "On The Bloody Morning After" is a one-shot What If? story set in a different timeline than either the main series where just about everyone who isn't Saved by Canon gradually dies or the Fix Fic A District Upside Down: The War, with its Bittersweet Ending. In it, the 3rd Quarter Quell arena escape fails, with Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, Johanna, Enobaria, and Beetee all dying while Brutus wins the Games, the Rebellion never happens, every rebel who wasn't in the arena is exposed and either executed or sent to a Black Site, and the Games continue with more and more dead or mentally scarred children. However, District 12 isn't bombed, District 13 is still presumably out there, there is an Underground Railroad in the districts, and one final Cynicism Catalyst finally makes Brutus and Lyme decide to rebel and hope they can bring down the Capitol.
  • My Little Titan's bad ending: The deaths of the Mane 6 allow Trigon to manifest into Equestria. Seeing this, Discord activates his Godzilla Threshold and completely destroys Equestria, ending Trigon along with it. He then voices his apologies to the Titans and sends them home. The ray of hope is that Doctor Who managed to save the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who are now humans, from the destruction of their world, allowing them to start new lives in the care of the Titans.
  • For The Last Time In Forever: The Endless Winter in Arendelle never stopped, Anna remains an ice statue in Elsa's castle, and Elsa herself has become a hibernal spirit, reduced to an inhuman state by fear and grief. But once a year, on the anniversary of the last time the two princesses played together, two trolls journey to the castle of ice to conduct a simple ritual—rebuilding Olaf to reawaken the Snow Queen's memories of playing with her sister and being able to feel love. Someday, many years from now, when Elsa is able to feel love again, she will become human, Anna will be freed, and spring will return to Arendelle.
  • The Sabrina Gaiden sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines ends with the title character completing her Start of Darkness, and setting out to make a better world by instilling terror on people to force them to live up to their potential, with her town being abandoned and effectively erased from the map. However, Tommy, the Bug-catching trainer who stood up to her, is shown going to join the Busters to bring her down one day.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: After a film's worth of plotting to snuff out the Last Son of Krypton, Lex Luthor succeeds albeit at the cost of being incarcerated. The Director's Cut also hints that Earth will soon face an impending alien invasion. The ray of hope is that Batman has reformed and plans to gather Earth's best to form a team of heroes that will rise up in Superman's absence. What's more, the trembling soil on Clark's coffin hints that he might have a chance at revival.
  • Dune (2021): While the Harkonnens succeed in recapture Arrakis and the Atreides are annihilated, Paul Atreides joins the Fremen at the end, and will lead a rebellion to defeat the Harkonnens once and for all (in Part Two).
  • Used prominently in the Star Wars films:
    • The Empire Strikes Back: The Rebellion is on the run without a base, Han Solo's debt with Jabba the Hutt comes back to bite him and he has been frozen solid in carbonite, Luke gave up his Jedi Training to walk into Darth Vader's trap, lose his hand and finds his true parentage. But the main cast minus Han are able to escape the Empire at Cloud City and it ends on a high note with Luke's replacement hand and the team getting a lead on Han's whereabouts.
    • Revenge of the Sith: Anakin Skywalker has fallen to evil. The Jedi have been all but destroyed. The Republic has fallen, and the Empire has risen to power. Obi-Wan and Yoda, and any other survivors of the Order are in hiding. But the Skywalker twins have been born, and we know from the original trilogy that they will be the ones to change the state of the galaxy for the better.
    • The Last Jedi: Luke has died and become one with the Force. The Resistance is down to a freighter's worth of people, and have lost all their warships and fighters. None of the Resistance's allies answered the call to help them. The Resistance may be a lot weaker, but it's still going. Rey has the ancient texts of the Jedi Order, and while Luke is technically dead, the undiscovered country has a pretty good day release program for Jedi. Supreme Leader Snoke, the only thing keeping the First Order together, is dead, and while Kylo Ren has succeeded him, his control over the First Order is predicated mostly on beating the tar out of General Hux. On top of that, Kylo is a Psychopathic Manchild whose Berserk Button regarding his past has a negative effect on his priorities, which leads to him being decidedly humiliated by Luke in their final confrontation, which rapidly becomes a legend across the galaxy, including among young slaves on Canto Bight - one of whom is shown calling a broom to his hand with the Force.
  • The ending to the European film, Acla also known as Acla's Descent would almost be a Downer Ending, but it has a touch of hope since it's shown that in spite of everything, Acla can still dream of a better future.
  • 12 Monkeys: Protagonist James Cole, a time traveler from After the End, dies trying (and failing) to stop the villain from releasing the virus that triggers The End of the World as We Know It. But in the next scene, another time traveler appears in disguise to speak with the villain — implying that, thanks to Cole's work, the scientists of the future will finally get a pure sample of the virus so they can make a vaccine. The past can't be changed, but the future can still be saved.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World ends with the male characters ending up in the hospital after losing the $350,000 worth of money, but Captain Culpeper assures them with this line:
    "I don't think you have to worry too much about that. My wife is divorcing me, my mother-in-law is suing me for damages, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my pension has been revoked. And the only reason that you 10 idiots will very likely get off lightly, is because the judge will have me up there to throw the book at. I'd like to think that sometime, maybe 10 or 20 years from now, there'd be something I could laugh at... Anything."
Mrs. Marcus comes in and trips on a Banana Peel. Cue a round of deafening laugh from everybody, including Culpeper.
  • The ending of Se7en. The villain has won, as Mills gives in to his anger at his wife's and child's death at the hands of John Doe, and Doe's agenda, a recreation of the Seven Deadly Sins in the form of murders, comes to fruition as Mills' execution of him makes him embody the seventh sin, wrath. Mills, clearly emotionally traumatised by the events, has been taken into custody. The hope comes in the form of Detective Somerset, who is a generally selfless and moral Knight in Sour Armor until a short time before the beginning of the film when he decides to actually retire and get on with his life. However, throughout the film, he just can't keep out that selfless part inside of him that wants to keep on fighting for the innocent, which is pushed on by Mills who is like a reminder of Somerset at a younger age. He does decide to stay on for a few days, but at the end of the film, it is implied that he has decided to stay on completely. The last words of the film are Somerset: "The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part" which shows that even in the worst of places and after seeing the worst in humanity, people will still fight for good. Also; Mills can still get a lesser sentence when circumstances for the execution are considered and there's always therapy. Sommerset could perhaps keep in touch with Mills and help him recover. Meanwhile, Doe's plan is a Pyrrhic Victory since Doe is...well...dead. While this was part of his plan to inspire a movement, there is no evidence presented in the film at all that John Doe is viewed as anything other than an Ax-Crazy maniac by the public, likely making it a Stupid Sacrifice.
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: After spending the whole film trying to avert Judgment Day, the heroes fail at the end and the machines nearly wipe out all life on earth. Of course, the T-850 knew it would happen all along. John finally accepts his destiny as leader of the resistance and begins his long journey to the eventual defeat of Skynet.
  • Experimental montage film A Movie has a nearly literal version of this trope. After the latter portion of the film dwells on death, violence, and destruction, the last clip is of a scuba diver exploring a sunken ship, panning up to the sun, visible from under the water.
  • A History of Violence script ends with two words: "There's hope."
  • Dead Poets Society: Neil commits suicide to escape his abusive father, Mr. Keating is the scapegoated and fired, Charlie gets expelled for defending him, the Dead Poets Society is shut down and Mr. Nolan takes over teaching his class, reinstating the conservative, dispassionate approach to learning poetry. However, before Mr. Keating leaves the school for good; Todd - the shy student he encouraged the most - leads over half his class (including students who weren't in the society) in rebellion against Nolan, proving to Keating they will see the world in new ways, they will think for themselves, and he will not be forgotten.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Fitting its protagonist, Captain America: Civil War is toward the optimistic end of this trope. Everyone Lives—hell, no one's even in jail, except Zemo who vindictively provoked much of this conflict in the first place. However, that's only because Cap led a mass jailbreak of the anti-Accords side. They're all now living as fugitives from international law in Wakanda. And while he's still a hero, he's decided to abandon the Captain America mantle by leaving the iconic shield with Tony and showing up to the jailbreak in civilian clothes. Meanwhile Bucky whose disputed right to be free set off most of the plot, is now willingly going back into cryostasis because no one can figure out how to remove what's left of the HYDRA brainwashing in his head, Rhodey was paralyzed by a stray shot from Vision and can only still walk with great difficulty and a Stark Tech exosuit, and Tony is alone except for Rhodey and Vision on the Avengers compound, dealing with the revelation that the Winter Soldier graphically murdered his parents. The ray of hope is Steve's letter to Tony apologizing for how he handled all this, and the fact that Tony puts Secretary Ross on hold (thus letting the jailbreak go ahead unhindered) to finish reading it, with Steve promising that the Avengers will come if the world needs them.
    • Avengers: Infinity War ends with Thanos killing half of the entire universe including many heroes with only Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Black Widow, Nebula, Rocket, War Machine, M'Baku and Okoye as the only known survivors.note  However, Dr. Strange's final words to Tony imply that this is all part of the sole future scenario he foresaw in which the heroes ultimately defeat Thanos and, in the post-credit scene, Nick Fury is able to send a distress call to Carol Danvers before he disappears.
  • Magnolia: Happy ending isn't guaranteed for any of the characters (and might even seem unlikely for most of them), and the demise of the dying ones is a Foregone Conclusion. But the ending gives a hope that there might be a change for the better in the lives of those who survive.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2: The contract on John's head has doubled and expanded to international. His killing of the Big Bad on Continental grounds leads to his being declared excommunicado, meaning that he's cut off from their resources and has no guaranteed sanctuary anywhere. But though he's bruised and bloody, he can still fight, and with the dubious assistance of the Bowery King's group, he might just be able to take the fight to the High Table.
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum carries on the tradition. Come the ending, John's bounty is higher than ever, what few allies he still had after being excommunicated are either dead or no longer want anything to do with him, and he's hurt even worse than at the end of the previous film. However, the Bowery King is definitely agreed with him on fighting the High Table this time, and there is a subtle hint Winston may not actually have betrayed him for real.
  • Children of Men. It's one of the bleakest dystopian films ever made. No child has been born for 18 years, society is rapidly falling apart because there's nobody to preserve it for, every country is gone except for Britain (which is an authoritarian hellhole wracked by political violence), people are depressed wrecks sitting around waiting to die, suicide kits are sold in shops, and there is no hope. By the end, every named character is dead except for Kee and her baby, who are rescued safely off the coast of England. Cut to black and the final title, and the sounds of children laughing and playing can be heard.
  • The Next Three Days: John, Lara, and their son manage to escape and get to Venezuela, but they will remain fugitives (and thus unable to contact anybody they hold dear) for a long time to come, if not the rest of their lives. Besides this, the only piece of evidence that could possibly absolve Lara from her murder charge conviction (and the reason the film's Great Escape happened) is not seen by the policemen when they look at the crime scene again, and most likely disappears down a drain soon afterwards... although one of the detectives seems to be considering checking the drain one last time before the scene cuts.
  • C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America ends with anti-slavery movements defeated and slavery still prevalent in America. But the One Drop scandal, which led to the Fauntroy family patriarch eating his gun, seems to have people questioning the authenticity of the whole program, not to mention noticing how slavery is taking a toll on the CSA economy. Actually the very fact that the ideals of slavery are so vigorously defended by the establishment subtly hints that they aren't taken for granted by the people anymore. As for the rest of the world, equality is still celebrated widely, in part actually due to the C.S.A.'s actions making the evils of racism and slavery so apparent, and Canada has not only prospered as an asylum of liberty but has begun to take America's place as the cultural center of the Americas.
  • Batman Returns: Even though the Penguin is defeated and his and Schreck's reign of terror have come to an end, Selina refuses to be with Bruce because she is incapable of living with herself, and seemingly dies while taking Schreck with her. This leaves Bruce staring vacantly at Penguin's funeral and seeing another lost soul who lived and died alone. Badly shaken and submerged in his inner hell, he spends Christmas Eve with Alfred, until he finds concrete evidence that Selina survived and wants him to take care of her cat while she heals both physically and mentally. Then Alfred, his one friend, wishes him Merry Christmas, making Bruce smile in his own wish for goodwill toward men... "and women". Fittingly, the last shot of the movie is the Bat-Signal shining in the sky as Selina watches.
  • Joker (2019): Arthur is arrested and thrown in Arkham, having embraced the Joker persona and completely lost his mind, but not before his actions and murder of Murray Franklin on his own talk show spark a riot that results in the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. And since Arthur is in Arkham, he's last seen presumably escaping to cause even more chaos. Gotham might be at its breaking point now, but the Waynes' son, Bruce, has been put down his fated path and one day, he will rise up to protect his city when it needs him most.
  • The Fly (1986) was supposed to end with one of four scenes, all of which involved a Dream Sequence counterpart to Veronica's earlier Nightmare Sequence in which she sees a baby with butterfly wings emerge from a chrysalis, that answered the question of what would become of her and her unborn, possibly mutant child by the now-dead Seth. The options were 1) she gets back together with ex-lover Stathis and is carrying his child now, 2) same as 1 but she isn't pregnant at all, 3) she's single and not pregnant, 4) she's single and visibly pregnant with Seth's child. However, no one in the cast and crew wanted 1 or 2, and all four went over poorly with test audiences because, according to David Cronenberg, Seth's death was so upsetting they couldn't accept a hopeful epilogue so soon. Thus, the movie ends immediately after Veronica kills Seth. The dangling plot thread of the fate of the child became the jumping-off point of The Fly II.
  • Brazil is one of the most twisted examples of this ever. The tyrannical government wins, the Love Interest is dead, and the hero finally snaps from it all and descends into insanity, retreating permanently into his Happy Place... but by embracing his madness, the protagonist is freed from all the misery and repression around him, denying the government the satisfaction of breaking him and defeating them in the only way he realistically can; refusing to play along with their broken system at all.
  • Parodied sort of incredibly and while Crossing the Line Twice in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where Brian ends up crucified, and everybody who could save him fails to do it... But another crucifixion victim tells him to cheer up, and the lot of them end up singing a grand musical number about how dying is not so bad. So they definitely die agonisingly, but they're okay with it because they look on the bright side. It's a lot more cheerful than straight examples tend to be.
  • In Shredder Orpheus, while Orpheus fails to save Eurydice and is torn apart, his head becomes a symbol of hope for the rebellion and future generations, and they strike out against the EBN by blowing up at least one of its satellite dishes.
  • The Batman (2022) ends on a mostly bleak note. The Riddler managed to kill a ton of people before being caught, he's met The Joker in Arkham, the Waynes' legacy is tarnished maybe forever, and the events of the movie have left a power vacuum in the criminal underworld that will lead to a lot of bloodshed and chaos. Batman even acknowledges in his closing monologue that things are going to get worse for awhile before they even have a chance at improving, and Selina doesn't think they'll ever improve. Batman himself doesn't know if they will... but he's still going to try. There's a new mayor who's honest and goodhearted working to rebuild trust in the city, Gordon is still around to be a voice of reason in the mostly-corrupt GCPD, and Batman's realized he can do far more good as a protector and symbol of hope than as a living nightmare. The mere promise that things can get better is all he needs to keep fighting his endless war against corruption and evil.
  • Blue Bayou: Despite all the protagonists' efforts, the film ends with Antonio nearly killing himself and being deported, including being forcibly separated from his daughter at the airport. He doesn't know where exactly he'll end up. However, Antonio and Kathy reaffirm their love for each other, and their legal marriage means they have the opportunity to reunite sometime in the future.
  • A Quiet Place Part II: The world is still under siege from the aliens, and most of the people the Abbotts know are dead. But Regan makes it to the radio station and hooks her hearing aid up to the speaker, still sending out the frequency that the aliens are vulnerable to. Marcus manages to tune into the signal on his radio, proving that the frequency can be carried via radio signal. Now anyone who can get the signal can destroy the aliens, opening a possibility for humanity to fight back against them.
  • Fast X: A first for the franchise! Jakob dies in a Heroic Sacrifice to save Dom, which proves fruitless as the film ends with Dom and his son completely at the mercy of Dante and Aimes as they prepare to blow up the dam that would flood the valley Dom and Brian are trapped in. The plane Tej, Roman, Han, and Ramsey are on was shot down with no indication if they make it out alive. Tess is heavily injured earlier in the film. Even if they all make it out alive somehow, they're still branded terrorists by the international community after Dante frames them for the devastating bomb explosion in Rome. The only silver lining is that Letty and Cipher managed to escape the Agency's base and rescued by a very much alive Gisele.

  • Eva ends on the note that humanity is on the decline, but chimpanzees may one day inherit the Earth.
  • The Lorax ends with the forest where the Truffula trees once grew destroyed, now replaced with pollution and an empty, desolate world. However, the Once-Ler has learned his lesson and, realizing the meaning of the Lorax's final words, passes on the last Truffula seed to a boy who had heard his story, ending the story with an ambiguous, but hopeful, note that someday, with care, the forest and all of the Lorax's friends will return.
  • After the colossal Downer Ending of Nineteen Eighty-Four which sees both protagonists destroyed by Big Brother, the novel concludes with an appendix about Newspeak which is phrased in the past tense and written in standard English. Some people have interpreted this to mean that the reign of Ingsoc was eventually broken.
  • Fate/Zero ends this way, as a prequel to the more optimistic Fate/stay night. The Fourth Holy Grail War ends in tragedy where Kiritsugu and Saber are almost shattered by the pointlessness of their efforts, while the villains are free to plan the next War. But Kiritsugu manages to save the life of one boy, Shirou, who inherits Kiritsugu's ideals and will eventually fight in the Fifth and final War. The Animated Adaptation makes this more explicit, with a timer at the end of each episode counting down to the exact moment (the "zeroth second") Kiritsugu rescues Shirou, marking the the instant Fate/Zero ends and Fate/Stay Night begins. Saber herself more blatantly sees a ray of light pierce through the cloud choked battlefield of her past, symbolizing how she'll be redeemed in the next War.
  • First King of Shannara ends this way. While the Second War of the Races is won and the Warlock Lord defeated, this Big Bad isn't permanently destroyed. In spite of this development and the destruction of the Druids, Allanon remains as the last Druid, the Sword of Shannara is still capable of destroying the Warlock Lord, and Jerle Shannara continues his bloodline — leaving his descendants to eventually destroy the Warlock Lord.
  • At the end of The Dark Tower, when Roland is sent back in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, he holds the horn of Eld (unlike in previous iterations), which implies that he could break the loop eventually. He also hears a vague whisper from somewhere which suggests that perhaps this time "it will be different".
  • At the end of The Kraken Wakes, the invading underwater aliens have melted the polar ice caps and caused worldwide flooding. However, the Japanese have developed an unmanned device that broadcasts ultrasonic waves lethal to the aliens. It has wiped out some of the aliens and might succeed in destroying all of them.
  • The third and the fourth book of A Series of Unfortunate Events end this way, with the Baudelaires reflecting on the small blessings that allowed them to survive this latest attempt on their lives and conclude maybe they do have some luck on their side after all. Really, the majority of the books end on a similar note, with the kids determined to fight back against the world's cruelty. See the Video Game section, too.
  • In A Canticle for Leibowitz, the world nukes itself a second time, yet the church has grown wiser, forming a parallel hierarchy in space, and sending a starship to Alpha Centauri.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire ends almost all its books with these. Often with a dark context.
    • Book 1: The North declares independence. Daenerys hatches her dragons.
    • Book 2: Bran and Rickon escape from Winterfell.
    • Book 3: The Brotherhood without Banners is now under Catelyn Stark's leadership.
    • Book 5: Varys murders Pycelle and Kevan to pave the way for Prince Aegon.
  • At the end of Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader, Roan Shryne and several of the Jedi fugitives are dead, Kashyyyk has fallen to the Empire with tens of thousands of Wookiees pressed into slavery, and Darth Vader has overcome his crippling depression and is ready to take his place as a full Dark Lord of the Sith. But Olee Starstone and the remaining Jedi plan to continue working against the Empire, and Bail Organa and Obi-Wan Kenobi are watching over the twin infants in which the galaxy's hope rests.
  • A Scanner Darkly ends with Arctor in a rehab clinic hopelessly strung out on Substance D. The clinics are where the drug is made from a blue flower. He tucks one in his shoe for evidence.
  • In Christian Nation, the entire United States is taken over by a Christian theocracy, thus putting an end to democracy, religious freedom, and even privacy as the government monitors everything its citizens do. Fortunately, the Free Minds Movement, which the protagonist is now a part of, is recording a part of that history with the help of an electric typewriter, one of the few pieces of technology that isn't being monitored, in the hope that future generations will learn to fight for their freedoms once again.
  • And Still The Turtle Watched: The turtle gets the paint cleaned off and finds itself in a botanical garden, once again visited by children and surrounded by those appreciating plant life.
  • Appears occasionally in Warrior Cats.
    • Power of Three: Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Hollyleaf uncover the identity of their parents, but are disowned by their biological father. Hollyleaf snaps and kills Ashfur, before attempting to murder Leafpool, who is heavily implied to be suicidal. The only reason she relents is that she believes that it would be more of a punishment to let Leafpool live after she lost everything she loved. Brambleclaw is distraught and breaks up with Squirrelflight, who is shunned along with Leafpool by her fellow Clanmates. The Three face prejudice for their statuses as heroic bastards. Hollyleaf seemingly dies after running into a collapsing tunnel, apparently dooming the prophecy. The only good thing about this ending is that Jayfeather and Lionblaze realize that Hollyleaf was never part of the prophecy and that either Dovekit or Ivykit was the Third all along.
    • Hawkwing's Journey: The modern SkyClan has been driven from the gorge, and most of the Clan is dead, missing, or have left. The titular protagonist has lost his entire family, save for his sister. Echosong did eventually receive another prophecy to lead them toward the other Clans, but it's only a tiny spot of hope after the Clan has lost so much. A (downplayed) Foregone Conclusion makes the ending slightly happier, especially when connected to Shattered Sky.
  • The Draka: The Stone Dogs has the Final War end with the Domination of the Draka successfully annihilating the Alliance for Democracy and subjecting the rest of the Earth to a nightmarish nuclear holocaust, with the few survivors of the United States of America being hunted like animals while the Draka get to enjoy the benefits of slavery forever. However, there is one spark of hope left - The New America Project, an antimatter-powered sleeper ship housing the Alliance survivors of the Final War, is successfully launched and they escape to Alpha Centauri so as to continue the war against the Domination.
  • Forbidden: Lochan claims he raped Maya and commits suicide to stop her from getting tried for incest and prevent the family from being taken into Care, leaving Maya grief-stricken. However, she decides to keep on living for him and keep the family together so his sacrifice isn't in vain.
  • The Harlan Ellison short story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman ends with the Harlequin being captured, broken, and forced to renounce his efforts to shake up the schedule-bound society before being implicitly executed. But his actions were not in vain, as he has done permanent damage to the ruling regime - the Tick-Tock Man himself is late for work.
  • It's Not the End of the World: This is the most depressing of Judy's middle-grade books, with Karen having to accept that her parents are getting divorced and her family may have to move, per the court law. Even so, she strives to make the best of things and accept life as it is.
  • Hourglass, the third book in the Evernight series, ends with Lucas being killed by Charity just moments after realizing Bianca (who had died earlier in the story) had returned as a wraith. The only thing that stops it from slipping into Downer Ending territory is the fact that Lucas will rise again as a vampire; Bianca is uncertain because being a vampire was Lucas' worst nightmare, but she clings to the hope things will work out, reasoning that even though they're both dead they are still together.
  • Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future ends with the spacefaring descendants of humanity returning to Earth, now so far removed from their origins that they no longer recognize it as their home planet, and ravage the Earth's surface beyond habitation, before abandoning it for the stars again. It's only prevented from being a complete downer conclusion by the knowledge a few organisms still cling to life on around hydrothermal vents, including a species of abyssal post-human that continues to hold a glimmer of their original intelligence. The story concludes with the narration suggesting that maybe someday its descendants may recolonize the surface.
    "Maybe someday..."
  • Shtetl Days: The story ends with the Nazi Reich still more or less in charge, but Harlan's infatuation with his Jewish identity over his Aryan "identity," on top of scenes where the Reich has to use threats and execution to keep people in line, implies that the Reich's foundation is not nearly as steady as it seems.
  • Used on a very small scale (literally) in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe story "Model Train Set" by Jonathan Blum. The Eighth Doctor has decided Seventh's meticulous, intricate, and entirely creator-controlled model railway is boring, and so he programs the little robot people to form their own construction crews and schedulers, and delights in the emergent phenomenon of a system he could never have designed. But the next time he looks in, the trains are wrecked, the stations are in disrepair and the little robot people are either destroyed or milling about in confusion. For a moment, he thinks his past self was right and wants to shut the whole thing down. Then he notices one group of little robot people are trying to salvage some of the engines, and decides it's still worth waiting to see what happens next.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Season 3's arc. It concluded with the brutal murder of Robb, Catelyn and their allies which crushed the North's fight for independence, seemingly destroyed the honourable House Stark and left the Lannisters in control of the seven kingdoms. However - against all odds and unknown to almost anyone - the rest of the Stark children were still out there, still fighting to get back to each other, getting increasingly badass and most of all are freaking pissed at the Lannisters. Meanwhile across the sea Daenerys - one of the only other benevolent leaders - had gained power, liberated thousands of slaves and was on her way to Westeros. A miserable ending but not the end of the game.
  • The Cut Short V (2009) ended on the big downer of the Visitors gaining the ability to bliss humans en-masse, which could very well be the backbreaker for the human race. Plus many key characters die, and a very hopeful-looking plot against Anna by her estranged mother fails utterly. But Erica is introduced to a deeper underground resistance involving members of the FBI, military and intelligence communities, which may, with some perseverance, cunning and luck, just have enough resources and high connections to succeed, should there ever be a continuation or sequel...
  • The X-Files ends with half the main cast chased by the authorities, Mulder still being wanted and the revelation that an alien invasion will begin in December 2012. However, Mulder expresses his belief to Scully that they have a force more powerful than the aliens on their side and that there's still hope to defeat them. And then the second movie happened.
  • The fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ends with the Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, Deep Space 9 is quickly captured by the Dominion forces (although they paid dearly for it) and the heroes retreat. The ray of hope comes in the form of the massed Federation-Klingon fleet ready to fight back and Captain Sisko leaving behind his baseball on the station, a message that he will return, and shove it up the Dominion's ass when he does.
    • The fourth season episode "The Quickening" has one too. Bashir, in full whiz-kid mode, insists on staying on a planet where the population is being devastated by the titular disease, believing that he and his Starfleet experience can find a cure. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome when he fails and even makes things worse, but he does manage to find a way to immunize unborn children of anyone expecting. So Bashir couldn't save many of the people he promised to save, but he did make things a lot better for the following generation.
    • The seventh season episode "The Changing Face of Evil" has the Federation fleet at Chin'toka utterly destroyed, including the USS Defiant, making things pretty hopeless for the Federation and its allies, and then, they learn of Damar's rebellion.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In the season 3 episode "Remember", the crew take the Enarans onboard, who are a race of telepaths, and things are going smoothly in terms of diplomacy. Then one of them uses their powers to telepathically send memories to B'elanna Torres. What memories? Memories of a holocaust that took place on the Enarans' homeworld. Unfortunately, when B'elanna finally spills the beans to everyone, it falls on deaf ears. The final scene, however, is of another Enaran getting a peek at the memories B'elanna was given, hinting that for the Enarans, this issue isn't over.
    • The episode "Latent Image" ends with the Doctor still suffering from the Heroic BSoD Logic Bomb brought on by saving his friend instead of another patient. In the final scene as Janeway sits with him through the night, there's a hint that he's slowly starting to heal.
  • The fifth season of Fringe begins with our heroes finding themselves in a dystopian future ruled by the Observers, their leader Captain Windmark even going so far as to taunt Walter with the heroes' lack of hope by saying "Nothing grows from scorched earth." At the very end of the episode, Walter finds a single dandelion growing through a crack in the ruined street, a sign that there's still hope to save the Earth.
  • The Wire
    • Season 3: Hamsterdam is a failure but Dennis' gym flourishes. Carver realizes this is what they should have been protecting.
    • Season 4: Michael and Dukie turn to crime and drugs, respectively, and Randy is sent back to a group foster home where his reputation as a snitch follows him. Thanks to him, however, Major Crimes is reopened to take down Marlo. Namond makes it out of The Game.
    • Season 5: On the surface, Baltimore has not changed for the better, but people like Jimmy, Kima, Bunk, Sydnor, Daniels, Pearlman, Carver, Gus, and even Bubbles are still around to help.
  • Person of Interest
    • Season 3: Team Machine is unable to stop Samaritan from being activated but The Machine creates fool-proof identities that would allow them to hide in plain sight.
    • Season 4: The Machine is dead but Finch gathers enough of its source code so he can rebuild it.
  • Fleabag: The main character may have just destroyed her relationship with her sister, but she gets the opportunity to make a go of the cafe and given that the Aesop is that people can come back from their mistakes, a future reconciliation with her sister seems plausible.
  • The Umbrella Academy: The end of Season 1. The team's efforts to fix the timeline end up being in vain: Vanya still loses control of her powers and blows up the moon, and the apocalypse still happens. However, Five is able to transport himself and his siblings back in time just before the blast hits, giving them a possible second chance at saving the world.
  • The Spanish series Victim Number 8 ends with the Frame-Up being successful and our heroes Omar and Edurne serving lengthy prison sentences for a staged jihadist attack, after Juan, a journalist aiding Edurne, agrees to keep a recorded confession under wraps in exchange for a kidney transplantnote . However, Juan, Loveable Rogue that he is, returns to Spain after recovery and promptly shows it to the police chief Olegi, proudly declaring that his word is worth nothing, implying that he intends to publish the confession and free Omar and Edurne.
  • The Day After ends with a world shattered by nuclear war, radiation sickness, and disease. However, the final scene is Dr. Oakes being offered food and comforted by the family squatting on his home, implying that human kindness will endure even in the most impossible of circumstances.
  • The Grand Finale to Travelers has a Cruel Twist Ending revealing that in the end, all that the Travelers managed to accomplish in their desperate attempts to Set Right What Once Went Wrong was undoing the damage they themselves had caused, and possibly delivering a warning about Helios-685 that may or may not be heeded. All of which means that the Bad Future is still on track. However, the ray of hope is that the final scene implies that the Director is about to start over again, this time sans 001 - but given its track record so far, how reassuring that's supposed to be is very much up for debate.
  • Westworld ends in a grim note where almost all of the main characters are dead. And despite the Man in Black being defeated, Dolores narrates that sentient life would die out in a few years. However, she rebuilds the Westworld park from memory inside the Sublime to put sentient life in one final loop where she would test if they can set themselves free so they evolve into a new species.
  • The second season finale of Young Sheldon focuses on Sheldon trying to have a party, inviting his classmates and friends over to listen to the Nobel Prize ceremony over the radio in the middle of the night. Predictably, no one shows up—even his teacher who promised to go ends up being unable to do so when he suffers a breakdown and has to be hospitalized. Sheldon's mom stays up with him, but he can tell she's only humoring him and tells her she can go back inside. The final scene has Sheldon sitting alone in a garage, all set up and decorated for guests he now knows aren't coming, listening to the winners being announced... and the project he was rooting for ends up losing. The poor boy is left desperately Trying Not to Cry, and his adult self, who narrates the series, admits that in that moment, he truly thought he'd always be alone. It's absolutely devastating, but it's not a complete Downer Ending, because we're then shown a montage of what six other kids are doing at the same time, accompanied by the song "Someday We'll Be Together" by The Supremes. Those kids are Sheldon's future friend group from the parent show, reminding us that, as alone as Sheldon was in that moment, it didn't last forever. The season ends with adult Sheldon admitting he's very thankful to have been wrong.

  • "Apple dot com" by Pinnochio-P has the singer explaining how they're neglecting to take care of themselves and that they choose to "rot away" instead, that Humans Are Bastards, including themselves, and that even after working hard, you can end up with nothing to show for it. But in the final verse, they still maintain a tiny glimmer of determination to keep going and hope that they'll be okay in the end:
    I'm not feeling okay, but I'm living
    I'm smiling, ever so faintly
    I don't have anything, but I'm keeping a little bit of expectation alive
    All lumped together haphazardly, my future
  • "I'll Be Around" by The Spinners is a Break Up Song where the protagonist is still the girl's friend. In one line he mentions he still has a faint hope that she will fall in love with him again someday, as improbable as he admits it is.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer; the plan by the survivors to prevent The End of the World as We Know It fails when Mannfred von Carstein fatally stabs Balthazar Gelt, causing Archaeon's doomsday device to go off and plunge the world into the Realm of Chaos. All that remains is one small spark of light among the darkness, whom a mysterious figure reclaims for a later time. That figure turns out to be Sigmar, who would later rebuild the universe and usher in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

  • Hadestown is based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, so it's no surprise that it ends on a downbeat note, with Eurydice being trapped in the Underworld forever and Orpheus being doomed to Walk the Earth. And, as Hermes sadly tells us, the story is told over and over again, with people always hoping for a happier ending that never comes. But... that kind of hope in the face of despair is exactly what Orpheus inspired in people, and continues to inspire if we keep telling his story. If we tell it again, maybe we can change the ending. If we tell it again, maybe, maybe this time, it'll come out right. The show ends with Persephone raising her glass to Orpheus, and the hope he brought to the world.
  • After Oslo's "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, when all actors have given a grim recap of the past 20 years of Israeli-Palestinian relations (from the optimism of the 1993 peace talks that resulted in the Oslo I Accords through the breakdowns of the late 1990s/early 2000s, including the death of several key negotiators and up to 2016 when the play premiered) and left the stage, only Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul and her husband Terje Rød-Larsen are left. They face the audience and ask — even through all the doubt and pessimism, even after the breakdown of negotiations — if the viewers can imagine a way forwards.
    Terje: My friends, do not look at where we are; look behind you.
    [he points behind] There! See how far we have come!
    If we have come this far, through blood, through fear — hatred — how much further can we go yet?
    [points ahead] There! On the horizon. The Possibility.
    Do you see it?
    Do you?

    Video Games 
  • Arc the Lad II's ending would be a Downer Ending in the vast majority of games, being a Pyrrhic Victory in which the only success Elc and the survivors of the party can claim is that they survived The End of the World as We Know It, and saved some portion of humanity as well. But this was better than anyone expected, and probably the best that humanity could hope to win.
  • BioShock 2 has an example that's both figurative and literal in the Neutral ending. Because of Delta's actions, his "daughter" Eleanor has made herself into a monster by murdering a room full of Little Sisters to empower herself. However, he turned from his dark actions in the process of saving her, and at the end stops her from saving him in order to stop her from continuing down her dark path. He dies and she wonders if she can possibly be redeemed for what she's done. And fittingly, the final shot of the game is a lighthouse lit by a single ray of sunlight surrounded by dark clouds.
  • Blue Planet:
    • At first, it appears that Age of Aquarius will end on a high note, with the 14th Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance (GTVA) Battlegroup returning back to their own universe's Earth after being cut off from it for 50 years, an United Earth Federation (UEF) frigate shows up and asks the battlegroup's ships if they come in peace, only for the heroes to discover that GTVA high command had sent the battlegroup to invade the Sol system and forcibly reunify it with the alliance, a point punctuated by the battlegroup easily destroying the frigate. However, it's not all gloom, as Samuel Bei and half the battlegroup decide to fight for Earth instead, in the process giving Earth a fighting chance as opposed to the otherwise certain defeat.
    • However, as War in Heaven is quick to underline, the UEF rarely scores any victories in their war with the GTVA whose forces both outgun and outnumber the UEF's, the second act in particular ending on a very cruel Hope Spot when the Wargods, who up until that point have been singlehandedly winning the war, are completely curb-stomped on the cusp of what could've been a war-ending victory. The third act itself ends with the GTVA forces about to invade the Earth itself, Noemi Laporte's revelation that the Vishnans have given up on preserving humanity because of the UEF-GTVA war and have ordered the Shivans to destroy humanity and Noemi being forced to fake her death to escape from the Elders' grasp. The ray of hope comes in the form of Ken bringing Noemi back from a survivor's guilt-induced Despair Event Horizon by telling her that Lorna is still alive and that the Shivans have a plan to prevent humanity's end, but the UEF needs to win the war in order for the plan to work. This leads to a pretty epic He's Back! moment as Noemi re-joins the UEF fleet under a fake identity and vows to end the war no matter what it takes.
  • Most endings in the Dark Souls series are like this.
    • Is keeping the First Flame alive the best thing for the world? Is letting it die? It's never made clear what the lasting consequences will be, only that anything has to be better than just putting it out and then rekindling it, over and over and over again as everything slowly falls apart.
    • The ultimate end of Dark Souls III takes the cake on this. It's implied that the world will eventually end in all things being Killed Off for Real, living and undead, leaving nothing but a sand-blasted desert hellscape. Fortunately, thanks to the player's actions, the Painter has everything she needs to paint a new world, which will hopefully be free from the nonsense that put the Dark Souls world into this situation in the first place.
  • End at the beginning of Destiny. Most of humanity is wiped out by the Darkness but the Traveler sacrifices itself to create the Last City, which leads to the beginning of the game.
  • Ending 3 of Eternal Senia, where Senia still fails to save Magaleta. However, Magaleta is still alive and trapped in the tower and Senia is freed from the tower's curse, which means she still has another chance to make things right, as opposed to the other two endings where Senia and Magaleta are both trapped or Senia kills Magaleta.
  • The Purple Clan's ending in Fahrenheit would be a downer ending, had it not been for Lucas and Carla's child who has potential to save humankind where his/her father failed.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
    • The Verdant Wind route ends like this. A majority of the existing powers of Fódlan except for the Leicester Alliance are gone and the church is potentially crippled with the loss of Rhea as an authority figure. However, with the truth of the history of Fódlan revealed, those in the present can truly give Fódlan a completely fresh start, free from the system that is born from many years of lies that created prejudices and various problems to the society of Fódlan, and change the land for the better.
    • The Silver Snow route also has this. Every single one of the existing powers of Fódlan are decimated along with the church being potentially crippled with Rhea's death (unless you choose to S-Support her). Fódlan as it was is gone by the end of the Silver Snow route, but those in the present can still create something new for the future of the land.
  • The main ending for the Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach DLC story Ruin ends as this. Cassie's journey into the abandoned Pizzaplex to save Gregory was All for Nothing, as a deadly animatronic known as the Mimic was pretending to be him to trick Cassie into freeing it from its underground prison, and Roxanne Wolf appears to perform a Heroic Sacrifice to give Cassie a chance to escape. Cassie gets into an elevator, but the real Gregory, wanting to make sure the Mimic doesn't go free, cuts the elevator off, sending it into freefall. In a post-credits scene, Roxy can be heard calling out to Cassie, implying they both survived and might escape together.
  • Halo: Reach: The Covenant conquer Reach and burn its entire surface to glass. Humanity's second most important planet is lost. The fleet's attempts to stem the invasion end in failure every time. Almost all of NOBLE Team is killed including the player. The only thing that keeps the story from being a complete tragedy is that the player manages to evacuate the ship Pillar of Autumn with Master Chief and Cortana aboard, who will turn around the course of the war in the subsequent Halo games. In the final cutscene, Dr. Halsey gives your eulogy and assures you that your Heroic Sacrifice was worth it, as shown by Reach now being a green paradise being colonized again.
  • Infinity Blade: In the second game, Siris manages to defeat Radriar the God King for the second time and makes sure not to kill him. He takes Radriar to the Worker of Secret's cell so that the Worker will be freed and Radriar will be imprisoned in his place. Unfortunately, Siris discovers too late that his "old friend" is a Consummate Liar and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. The Worker takes the Infinity Blade with plans for world domination and leaves Siris and Radriar to rot in his cell, as well as claim that Ausar/Siris was the one who imprisoned him there in the first place. By all accounts, this is a Downer Ending, but the last scene shows Isa approaching the castle.
  • Iron Lung's bleak premise and ending is as dark as they come, with the titular submarine being destroyed by the creature lurking in the Blood Ocean, and the researchers unable to obtain any of the data or pictures that the player character took. However, despite having no data to show for it, they don't give up, deciding that the existence of the Blood Ocean itself is a sign that there has to be an explanation for the Quiet Rapture out there, it just isn't there.
  • The ending of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is possibly the closest thing to a full-on Downer Ending the series has. None of the three protagonists have an ending that could be considered good. Terra? Has lost his body to Master Xehanort's machinations, and has no attachment left to the world except through the Animated Armor known as the Lingering Will. Ventus? Has lost his heart thanks to Vanitas' failed attempt at a Fusion Dance, leaving him comatose. Aqua? Has utterly failed to save Terra from Xehanort, has unknowingly doomed the worlds to suffer at Xehanort's hands for 12 years, and is now trapped in the Realm of Darkness in his stead. But despite everything, when she's ready to give up, Aqua is saved by her friends' Keyblades flying in and destroying her aggressors, reminding her of everyone she's forged connections with. This renews her courage as she looks down at her Wayfinder and remarks "There's always a way".
  • Two of the games in the Lonely Wolf Treat series end on a somewhat happy note, even when things don't go well for the main characters.
    • Clever Fox Moxie: Moxie is abandoned by her friends, and she becomes desperate when she cannot find a way to run the Foxy Lodge without their help. She suffers a serious blow to her self-esteem, but cheers up after being invited to have lunch at Treat's house and getting a chance to reconcile with Mochi. Although she is forced to shut down the Foxy Lodge in the end, her confidence is restored and she moves on with her life.
    • Mochi in Frosting: Mochi accepts her abusive cousin Juju's help to investigate a crime, but comes to regret it when Juju ditches her in favor of talking to her crush, resulting in Mochi having another falling out with Juju and returning to Treat without finding the culprit. Despite everything that happened, Treat and Mochi are still happy to have each other, and the two decide to put the incident behind them and start making plans for the future.
  • The "Refusal" ending of Mass Effect 3. The Reapers wipe out most life in the galaxy, but the epilogue implies that the next cycle's races managed to defeat them for good.
  • Mental Omega: The ending of the Epsilon Campaign in Act 2 is treated like this. Despite a ferocious and desperate all-out assault by the remnants of the Allied Nations forces, bolstered by their Superweapon Surprise in the Paradox Engine, Libra's intervention and prior sabotage of the Paradox Engine's Prism Refractors before the final attack ensures the invasion force is all but destroyed and they're unable to destroy the Epsilon Army's Mental Omega Device before it's activated, leading to it mind controlling the entire planet. However, despite the seeming total victory for Epsilon, all is not yet lost. The Allied Commander's sacrificial ramming of the Mental Omega with the Paradox Engine delayed its activation long enough for Siegfried to Chronoshift the Allied remnants and the Paradox Engine wreckage to Point Hope, Alaska, where they form up with Scorpion Cell renegades, American resistance and Chinese defectors to form the Foehn Revolt. Partially repairing the Paradox Engine and using Siegfried's leftover notes, they use an altered Time Freeze to de-sync Point Hope from the world at large, allowing them to build up their forces and plan to strike back in peace. Meanwhile, the Soviet General resisted the Mental Omega's mind control wave long enough to warn the Soviet garrison on the moon to not return to Moscow, cluing them in that something's wrong and leaving them free to act against Epsilon in the future.
  • The "Bad Ending" when you lose all your lives and choose not to continue in Metal Black. The Hero Dies, but inspires the rest of the military to fight the aliens. 20000 Black Fly ships set out for battle.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe: The nuclear apocalypse ending is treated as this, as the world is destroyed and many people die, but eventually, it is shown that a new civilization arises based on progress, peace and understanding. They even have the technology to land on the Moon, where they find the flag that the Nazis planted there which has long-since been bleached white - their hateful and racist ideology is forgotten and they had no lasting impact on the world.
  • The "Too Honest" ending in Papers, Please sees the Inspector arrested after turning in EZIC documents to M. Vonel, on the grounds of "associating with suspicious groups". However, the Ministry of Information will perform an audit on the Inspector's recent activity rather than immediately execute him for treason, which raises the possibility that he may be released if he is cleared of any wrongdoing.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3 ends with the Protagonist sacrificing their life by becoming the Great Seal in order to stop Nyx from destroying humanity. However, Persona 4: Arena reveals that Elizabeth is embarking on a journey to find a way to save him. Given that she is immortal and one of the most powerful beings in the universe she may eventually succeed in her quest.
  • The ending of "Ranger Sign: Bravo" event in Granblue Fantasy: Jade's body was destroyed in order to stop her rampage; however, Walder manages to rescue a fragment of her core. The heroes have no idea where to find a working Astral laboratory that could reconstruct Jade's body, let alone how to operate such a place even if they could find one, but Walder and the heroes remain optimistic, clinging to the hope that perhaps one day Walder and Jade can be reunited.
  • Jill and Carlos from the Resident Evil 3 (Remake) try to save Raccoon City when they discover a vaccine for the T-virus has been developed, and get as far as making a sample while trying to contact the American government to hold on off the missile strike. However, Nicholai destroys the vaccine, dooming the city and anyone still alive in pursuit of his own goals, which forces the strike to go on as planned. The good news is Nemesis is finally destroyed after dogging Jill through the city, Nicholai gets his comeuppance and left for dead, and Jill and Carlos make it out alive, with the former dedicating her life to stopping Umbrella.
  • The video game adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events ends with a literal example with the Baudelaires walking towards a ray of sun in the cloudy sky, with Violet's voiceover saying "At times the world can seem like a terrible place, but there is much more good in it than bad. And what seems to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey."
  • Serious Sam 3: BFE ends with Mental successfully destroying Earth, but not before Sam successfully sends himself to the past to stop Mental at his weakest. The "Hero" theme played in the end credits signifies this.
  • Spec Ops: The Line: In the best ending, it is implied that despite all the horrible things Walker did, he still has a chance at possible redemption. The achievement for getting this ending is even called "The Road Back". Also, the loading screen for the final level shows it raining in Dubai. Given the fact that the water supply was destroyed by Walker's actions, the arrival of fresh water from the rain would at least give the people of Dubai a bit of a chance to survive by the time outside aid actually arrives.
  • In the second part of Vacant Sky, it turns out Auria is really the Big Bad after all, one of the second heroes Serijala has made a pact with the Virad, and Mia is dead. Things are looking kinda grim. ...And then, we discover that the Virad are infected by demons, meaning demon-killing weapons have a chance of permanently killing them off, and also there is the hope that stopping Ejaro will put an end to the Virad.
  • Viewfinder ends with the player character destroying the virtual space they were in to escape back to reality after learning the Weather Manipulator they were seeking within never worked. However, they find a thriving sapling in the space's remains—and somehow they bring it back with them to the real world. The implication is that the sapling, not the Manipulator, becomes the key to restoring the earth's climate to safe levels.

    Visual Novels 
  • Chaos;Child ends with Takuru being framed and arrested for the New New Gen murders, separating him from his loved ones, while Wakui accomplishes his mission and gets away unscathed. But Chaos Child Syndrome was cured, the girls are able to live a happy life, and Mio decides to wait for Wakui to slip up, hinting that Takuru's fate may change.
  • Sunrider: Liberation Day ends with the seeming final victory of the Alliance and P.A.C.T. over the Prototypes shattered when they possess Chigara and conduct a massacre at the victory celebration, which both sides blame on each other, causing war to break out again. Kayto sacrifices his ship to save the day, and ultimately the Prototypes are still around- what happened only set them back a bit. Kayto also lost a valuable crew member- Claude, who turns out to be a spy. On top of that, Crow Harbor and the Ryuvian Fleet, the Greater-Scope Villain who the Prototypes were trying to stop, are preparing their own attack on on the galaxy. But Kayto does manage to reunite with his crew, and while they no longer have the backing of the Alliance, they at least have each other, and it is indicated that Claude, actually a god-like entity, plans to interfere to help Kayto in some way. Despite this, the ending still got so much backlash that the [RE]turn DLC has Kayto travel back in time to prevent it from happening and has a more optimistic conclusion.

    Web Animation 
  • In Diamond in the Rough (Touhou), after Eiki Shiki shows Brolli how everything was turned to worse in Gensokyo, Brolli admits everything he's done was wrong and asks to be dropped in hell. However, Eiki Shiki recognizes that Brolli shows regret and decides to give him a second chance, allowing him to be reincarnated in another timeline. The movie ends with Komachi telling him, in the Sanzu: "You are different" and then Fading To White.
  • The Season One finale of Meta Runner ends rather severely borders on Downer Ending, but not enough to keep the heroes down. MD-5's plan has backfired, Sofia has surrendered all of their information on TASCorp, and Tari's involvement in Lucinia's death —a major uniting factor for the group— has been exposed to them. Tari then willingly enters TASCorp's service in exchange for her friends' safety, and Theo's been captured and used as collateral to ensure her cooperation. However, Tari's friends (Masa pending) still refuse to abandon Tari and promise to come back for her, Belle finds a backup copy of the data Sophia gave them and keeps it to herself rather than give it to Lucks, the Big Bad of the series.
  • Minecraft Endventures: Due to the series' premature ending, it ends with the Rebel City being destroyed and most of the inhabitants killed. However, most of the heroes were able to escape the destruction of the island and reach land. The very last scene is the group going to a cave to obtain diamonds and the Endermen triplets spying on them.
  • RWBY: The Volume 8 finale is a dark ending for the heroes, who lose much... but not quite everything. Atlas and Mantle are permanently destroyed, Salem gains two of the relics, Penny and Vine sacrifice themselves, and Team RWBY falls into the abyss alongside Jaune and Neo. However, most of the kingdom's inhabitants have been evacuated, the heroes believe that a kingdom is its people, not its infrastructure, implying a new kingdom can be built, and the Winter Maiden's power remains with the heroes. Thus, Winter rescues the refugees from the sandstorm and Grimm horde in Vacuo while The Stinger implies that the named characters, as well as the refugees that fell when Cinder first attacked, are trapped in the Void Between the Worlds rather than dead.
  • The "Garfield Gameboy'd" saga by Lumpy Touch ends with Garfield destroying the city and trapping Jon Arbuckle inside his body mass, only for an apparently superpowered Lyman to swear vengeance on the feline Eldritch Abomination.
  • "The Rules for Rulers" by CGP Grey is a sobering, Machiavellian look at power structures and how being a leader isn't all it's cracked up to be. Corruption and nepotism are often Inherent in the System in order to placate the key supporters to one's regime, who are more important to ruling than the masses, while rivals will be seeking to overthrow you, and being an "honest" leader will often mean they can exploit that. But at the same time, the viewer is encouraged not to turn away from politics, not just because you can't avoid them, but because you need power if you're ever going to bring about any of the changes that you dream about. It ends with the message that even if the viewer doesn't like the rules, better they be in power than someone else, and by knowing them, maybe they'll be different.

  • Whale Star: The Gyeongseong Mermaid ends with all the other named rebels dying. Su-a manages to assassinate Uihyeon's father and many known Japanese associates and was likely killed doing the deed, but nobody knows what happened to Uihyeon. Geon thinks he's alive and still supports the rebels, but doesn't know anything beyond that. Korea remains under Japanese rule, and readers with knowledge of history know it will remain that way until Japan surrenders at the end of World War II. But the rebel cause lives on, and Geon gets to see Yeongyeong's son Jingyu as he grows up.

    Web Original 
  • The first season of Minecraft Utopia ends with nearly the entirety of the cast dying or disappearing. Biel was killed by Red Tuguim and is best friend run away from Utopia without his magic, Adam and Nait (supposedly) died while fighting against the Wither Storm, Pedrux died fighting against the Ice Dragon to find one of the portal's eyes, Mendrake escaped Utopia and left his friends behind, Apuh was pushed towards the void by Luiz and can't die due to his Rat Athena keeping him immortal, Dlet is stranded on Mars, and Lggj was killed by Luiz after entering the portal. However, Tuguim was separated from Red Tuguim before his death and Phantom found him, Ralls woke up from his coma albeit without his memories, and this trio is in Utopia 2, so not all hope is lost.
  • In spite of the grim nature of Mommy Sleeps in the Basement, the fact that Paisley has unknowingly revealed to Mrs June her family's Dark Secret leaves us with the assumption Mrs June will contact the authorities, meaning Tom will be brought to justice and the children will be rescued. Although it may be too late for poor Claire, at least her family will finally know what happened and her children will have a chance of a better life.

    Western Animation 
  • The first Season Finale of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. The identity of the Creep of Crystal Cove is revealed to be Mayor Jones, Fred's adoptive father, and the gang is separated; Shaggy is sent to a military school, Scooby is sent to live on a farm until Shaggy graduates, and Fred has an Achilles in His Tent moment and becomes a wanderer. When things seem lost, however, Scooby renews his resolve and vows to put the gang back together.
  • Every single season of Code Lyoko except the last one (Earn Your Happy Ending) ends this way, with a victory for XANA but with the potential for the heroes to undo his victory. In order:
    • Season 1: While Aelita is finally materialized, a virus planted inside her makes her freedom temporary, and the heroes still unable to shut down the computer without killing her. Still, Aelita is not a complete prisoner, and Jeremie promises to find the cure no matter what it takes.
    • Season 2: Aelita has more freedom from Lyoko, but XANA now has a specific goal, to absorb her memories using the Scyphozoa. In the last episode of the season, he succeeds and manages to escape Lyoko, no longer relying on it and becoming far more powerful than before. But, when the heroes seem out of ideas, they get a message from the enigmatic Franz Hopper, pledging his help.
    • Season 3: The end of this season marks XANA's biggest victory. His goal is to destroy Lyoko so that nothing can undo his attacks on humanity. At the end of the episode, he not only succeeds but makes William his slave. But, when all hope seems lost, the heroes get a message from Hopper again, hinting that he may have a solution. (In the next season, it is shown that Jeremie is able to use what Hopper sends him to rebuild Lyoko.)
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Zero Hour", the season three finale, the Rebellion is dealt a crippling blow with their two biggest cells being almost entirely annihilated, the Atollon base is lost, and Lothal's liberation is cut off before it can even start. But a few do survive including the main cast, the Empire does not find out about the other cells, and the Bendu prophesies Thrawn's defeat.
  • The third season finale of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Splinter's Enemy Mine with the Shredder backfires as the latter's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder flares up at the worst possible moment, allowing the Triceraton Empire to detonate their device that will suck Earth into a singularity. Before Earth is destroyed, the Turtles, April, and Casey are rescued by the Fugitoid, who claims they're about to embark on a wondrous adventure.
  • Wander over Yonder:
    • The ending of the episode "My Fair Hatey". Wander's attempt to help Lord Hater impress Lord Dominator lead to Hater getting mercilessly shot down, and Peepers and Sylvia's attempt to defeat her once and for all is completely ineffective on top of accidentally giving Dominator ice powers on top of her magma powers. Fortunately, now that Hater knows he has no chance with Dominator he's given up on trying to woo her and can instead focus on helping Wander and Sylvia stop her evil plot to destroy every planet in the galaxy For the Evulz, if only so he can conquer the galaxy himself.
    • In the penultimate episode of the series, "The Flower", Wander and Sylvia's morale takes a pounding as much of the galaxy lies dead in Dominator's wake. The only living thing they can find is a flower which they ultimately fail to protect. Yet in the end, they soldier on, still determined to thwart Dominator and somehow find a way to restore the galaxy. Meanwhile, the flower's spores spread to all the dead planets, start to grow, and life, however slowly, begins to return to those planets.
      Wander: Just because I'm sad doesn't mean I've given up hope.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series ends with Red Lantern Razer leaving to find Aya, with a Blue Lantern ring following him. Appropriately, Blue Lanterns use the power of hope.
  • Hey Arnold!: In the episode The Journal, after Arnold finds and reads his father's journal, which much his parents life in the jungle, how he was born, and why his parents left him with his grandparents to return the jungle, Arnold decides to look the journal again. He then ends up finding a map that could have been the route his parents used in the jungle, leaving him with hope that he will find them. This ends up leading to the events of Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The invasion in the two-parter "The Day of Black Sun" is soundly defeated, Fire Lord Ozai and Princess Azula remain in power, almost the entire army is captured, and Team Avatar is forced to flee, as Azula had learned about and planned for the invasion months in advance. However, Prince Zuko finally makes a Heel–Face Turn and the episode ends with him following Team Avatar in an attempt to join them and help them overthrow his father. Additionally, later episodes in the season would show that the Earth Kingdom is still in fervent rebellion against the Fire Nation's forces.
  • The Simpsons: "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" is one of the most cruel Christmas episodes ever made for a Western animated series, and it ends with the Simpsons owning only the clothes on their backs and the roof over their heads after the whole town looted everything else to get back the money they gave the family after an apparent theft (It's a Long Story). But at least the town has (in its own way) forgiven the family, and they are still together (and find happiness in playing keep-away with a rag Homer had in his pocket). The fact the show runs on Negative Continuity also helps.
  • Hilda season 2 ends this way in the form of a song by Frankie Cosmos. This can also hit harder to Hilda, since she went through many obstacles and ups and downs. And also the fact that becoming a troll leads her to another adventure...
  • In the What If…? (2021) episode "What If... the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes" ends with Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor and Hulk dead at the hands of a grief-stricken Hank Pym and the Earth taken over by Loki and the Asgardians, but Nick Fury and Phil Coulson have found Captain America's ice block and Fury has called in Captain Marvel, thus a new team of Avengers can be formed to save the Earth.

    Real Life 
  • The universe. See the Wikipedia page on the timeline of the far future - a far, far future that makes the Time Abyss look like less than an instant. To summarize: in 800 million years all complex life will die out. In some 2 billion years all life is gone on Earth. The planet itself is destroyed in 7.9 billion years by the expanding Sun. By an optimistic estimate, it will take around 120 trillion years for the last stars to go out. In 10^100 years (that is 1 followed by 100 zeroes), even the largest black holes evaporate and disappear. If protons do not decay, in 10^1500 years, all matter will have turned into iron, the most stable element. In 10^10^26 to 10^10^76 years, all matter will have collapsed into black holes, and on these scales, instantly evaporate into subatomic particles. In 10^10^120 years, the universe will arrive at heat death. However, one theory suggests that in 10^10^10^56 yearsnote , quantum mechanics may randomly cause a new Big Bang creating an entirely new universe after this truly mind-boggling stretch of infinite darkness and emptiness. Which, at these timescales, instantaneously undergo heat-death themselves, with the cycle repeating infinitely for all eternity.


Video Example(s):



After capping off his story about the Lorax, the Once-ler gives the boy who listened to his tale the last of the Truffula seeds, telling him to grow a new forest, which will hopefully lead to the Lorax and his friends returning one day.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / RayOfHopeEnding

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