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Technologically Advanced Foe

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President Whitmore: Can they be killed?
Dr. Okun: Their bodies are just as frail as ours. These two died in the crash, the other a few weeks later. You just have to get through their technology, which is, sorry to say, far more advanced.

The type of enemy that completely outclasses you on a technological level.

This enemy is common in Alien Invasion stories, both large-scale (aliens from another world) and small-scale (aliens from another continent). Time travel often involves it as well; the Conqueror from the Future in particular abuses this to a point. The Mad Scientist is also this sort of enemy unless there is an equal intellect on the side of the heroes, especially if said Mad Scientist specializes in robotics, computers, or direct weapons.

Realistically, there's little you can do against an enemy like this short of completely outnumbering them or stealing their technology—and oftentimes, that doesn't work either.

Subtrope of Outside-Context Problem. See also Higher-Tech Species (when having the highest tech out of any group is their species hat), Sufficiently Advanced Alien (for when you're really outclassed) and Rock Beats Laser (when you manage to win despite your disadvantage).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Fleet of Fog from Arpeggio of Blue Steel is a globe-spanning fleet of nigh-unstoppable robot warships emulating the fleets of World War II with absurdly advanced technology. It's taken humanity nearly twenty years to come up with anything capable of breaking their total blockade of the oceans.
  • Attack on Titan has the Kingdom of Marley from beyond the three Walls. Unlike the people from behind the Walls, who live in a mostly 17th-century technological stasis, the Marleyans are shown employing Industrial Age technology and are currently in an arms race to boot; it's stated that if it wasn't for the millions of Titans entombed inside the Walls, the Marleyans would easily massacre every man, woman and child behind the walls should they decide to invade.
    • Interestingly, this also applies to the enemy faction. Marley has held military superiority over the rest of the world for over a century by weaponizing Titans. Unfortunately for them, the other nations have slowly advanced to the point that they are starting to roll out weaponry and vehicles that are more practical and effective than a rampaging horde of uncontrolled naked giants could ever be. The Marleans know that it's just a matter of time until their enemies develop technology renders their Titans obsolete and end their dominance. The reason they're so desperate to attack Paradis is that they need to obtain the power of the Founding Titan to turn the tide before that happens.
  • Gate has the Roman/Medieval mash-up Empire ill-prepared for a counterattack from the JSDF. Legions of pre-industrial soldiers and fantasy-genre monsters were simply no match for heavy artillery. And to rub salt in the wound, said heavy artillery is technically outdated by the JSDF's standards.
  • The title mecha from the Gundam franchise frequently prove this to whomever is unlucky enough to be on their receiving end. A Lensman Arms Race by the various factions to catch up to or maintain their technological superiority is the usual result.
    • ∀ Gundam: The Moonrace is such to the terrestrial humans. Humanity on Earth got knocked back into the Stone Age a few thousand years ago and has only just managed to reach the Industrial Age again. The Moonrace, by comparison, have anti-gravity, particle cannons, and nanomachines. The only reason the Earth humans are even able to put up a fight is due to finding some ancient, buried Mobile Suits from a long past age, including the Turn A Gundam itself (which turns out to be technologically superior to anything the Moonrace has).
  • In Hengoku no Schwester, the protagonist is on the wrong end of a Witch Hunt by the church, and forced into their monastery. And while the story is set in 1542, the Knight Templar church is shown to possess technology from later ages and hoards them jealously. For instance, they are able to conduct rudimentary blood transfusion and know the concept of blood types; for reference, the first recorded successful blood transfusion is in 1665. The church also employs a girl gifted with Eidetic Memory, able memorize an archive's worth of books at a glance and recall it perfectly, which the church uses as a human computer database. The church leader also believes that The World Is Not Ready for such knowledge, and the way she explains the potential of people being hunted and milked for their blood, it's hard to argue that she's wrong.
  • Queen Millennia: While Millennium Thieves have some La-Metal's technology, they weren't aware of its full military capabilities, like tanks that can repair themselves even if fried to atoms. Humans don't even bother to join the fight and assist the Thieves in any way they can.
  • The Neuroi from Strike Witches. They came en masse, massacred humanity without a word of communication, covered the land with miasma that ate at the crust of Earth until it shattered, and pushed humanity to the point where sending teenage girls into combat with them was the only viable option remaining.
  • Kuya and the nation of Kunnekamun in Utawarerumono mark their entrance into the plot by walking all over the various medieval Japanese nations with their state-of-the-art Humongous Mecha.

    Comic Books 
  • Done often with Cosmic Marvel. In Annihilation none of the major players in the Universe - neither Kree or Skrull Empires or Nova Corps, were prepared for a massive attack by Annihilus. Similiar in Annihilation: Conquest no one was prepared for Kree to be suddenly attacked by upgraded version of Phalanx, lead by Ultron. In The Thanos Imperative no one was ready for invasions from a reality full of Cosmic Horrors. And in Infinity they were not ready for the Builders either. It's justified by the fact that most of the bad guys beside these attacks until this point were mostly interested in conquering Earth and there was no way or reason for cosmic forces to know about them.
  • Judge Dredd: In a Dark Judges story published in New Scientist, the murdering foursome accidentally end up in a far future Earth due to a black hole interfering with their dimensional teleporters. The entire planet now consists of an impervious Hive Mind of Silver-Surfer-esque metahumans. Cue the Dark Judges getting their asses handed to them since the inhabitants can't experience pain, fear, or death, until Judge Death tricks them so he can infect their hivemind with the Dead Fluids and wipe out the entire collective.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Living Through Science and Ponies boasts this too; Equestria doesn't have any science or devices more complicated than a steam locomotive or an old-timey newsreel. So when GLaDOS shows up looking for new test subjects, nobody has the slightest clue how to react to it.
  • Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race has the Stardroids, extremely powerful robot aliens that no one on Earth knew about before they invaded. Their mere presence en route to Earth enabled them to scan Bass's memories and even make him go haywire, when he was the most powerful robot in the series before they arrived.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, the My-HiME cast faces SUEs armed with powers such as mind control, time manipulation and Anti-Magic. One even opens a portal to the My-Otome world and brings over an army of Schwarz members with Slaves.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: Part of the reason for The Masquerade is due to advances in human weapons in technology, which are stated outright to be superior to monster might and magic. In fact, in Act II, Dark and Kokoa confirm that Fairy Tail could easily take a Dark Lord like Moka's father in a fight by using human technology.
  • The Harry Potter fanfic The Squad, the British Army is this to the wizarding world. The titular squad is a group of SAS Commandoes sporting state-of-the-art anti-terror training and equipment. Let's just say high-powered scoped sniper rifles, assault helicopters, and claymore mines are all great equalizer when it comes to Death Eaters and their wands.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: NERV was made to fight the Angels, not Superman villains. So what happens when Brainiac -a living, conniving humanoid super-computer that hails from a more technologically advanced alien civilization- comes along? They are completely helpless. His computers could hack into the Magi easily, his machines could nullify an A T Field, and his base was a space-ship that drifted out of NERV's reach. If Asuka had not stopped him, he would taken everything he wanted and left.
  • The Ironstorm Army is this in Yognapped. In previous years, Minecraftia's greatest battles were fought against a shadowy cult with swords and bows. When teams of masked soldiers with advanced firearms appear out of nowhere and start marching into the largest population centers, not even the heroes can prevent millions of casualties and the regression of Minecraftia to an After the End state.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Apocalypto plays this twice, first with a small hunter-gatherer tribe being suddenly invaded by the massive and industrialized Mayan nation, which they had no apparent awareness of. In the end, the Spanish arrive to return the favor to the Mayans.
  • Battleship involves an international naval exercise being interrupted... by alien ships coming from underwater to seal an island chain in an impenetrable force field, leaving three destroyers to fight them.
  • This is how the aliens are viewed in Cowboys & Aliens. As a result, they're initially referred to as "demons", something the cowboys do have context for.
  • In High Plains Invaders, the alien invaders have high-tech battlesuits and advanced weaponry. Thhe cowboys can only contextualize them as 'bugs'.
  • Independence Day drives the point home early, as The Mothership is said to be 1/4th the size of the moon and deploys individual craft to cities around the world that are still 15 miles across. In this case, though, it's said that human technological development is heavily based on the Area 51 Roswell alien ship of the same design, so humans find ways to fight back in part because they had developed some familiarity with their technology.
  • Outlander: Features a Norse Viking population suddenly being violently attacked by an intelligent, nigh indestructible creature, driven to anger and desperation by the genocide of its entire species on a distant planet. Mostly they refer to it as a dragon, sometimes as a demon. Luckily they have an Outside-Context Problem to help them.
  • Predator:
    • This is the entire point of the movie Predator: five heavily-armed military men hunting down a missing cabinet member when suddenly... technologically-advanced alien hunter!
    • In Predator 2, the LA police think they're dealing with gang war between rival drug gangs. However, the federal task force sent in turns out to know they're dealing with an alien, they just refuse to tell anyone about it.
  • The Romans in Rome Sweet Rome are completely unprepared for facing the United States Marine Corps. Several Romans die in a confrontation that they thought was just a parley, because the Romans didn't heed the Marines' warning to halt, and they thought they were maintaining a safe distance because they were out of archery range.
  • Sucker Punch: The WWI fantasy has the girls armed with modern guns and a Mini-Mecha vs WWI era zombies. The castle fantasy has the girls armed with modern guns and a plane vs orcs, knights, and a dragon.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953) is about Martians launching an Alien Invasion upon Earth. Their ships are so advanced that even hitting them with a nuclear weapon to the face does nothing to slow them down (though in the novelization, a lucky hit with artillery to the leg of a crawler does manage to very briefly cripple it until one of said Martians makes repairs and the crawlers are unaffected from that point on.) The Martians are only technically defeated because they are infected by some native bacteria to which they have no resistance. (The TV series reveals that said bacteria only put them into stasis, not killed them. They revive when the bacteria are killed by accidental exposure to radioactive waste.)



  • Karl Schroeder's science fiction works, especially Lady of Mazes. A recurring theme involves small societies whose ancestors exiled themselves from an all-encompassing transhuman future full of godlike artificial intelligences that manage everything. These societies strongly restrict technology and knowledge to keep from accidentally growing the A.I.s all over again and try to provide meaning for their people's lives, to the point that after a few generations the people have completely forgotten any other way of life existed. And then the outside world comes for them, unable to tolerate a pocket of humanity that does not take part in their "enlightened, perfect" transhuman society.

Specific works

  • In Ark Royal, humanity encounters aliens for the first time and discovers that the aliens possess powerful plasma weapons that dwarf anything humanity has. Their fighters are fast and deadly. Their FTL drives are more powerful. They obliterate conventional carrier-based human fleets with ease. This forces the Royal Space Navy to Break Out the Museum Piece - the eponymous Battlestar-type vessel, long considered obsolete by modern standards and not scrapped only for sentimental and political reasons. The Ark Royal's thick armor and powerful railguns, in addition to a fighter complement, prove to be an unpleasant surprise to the aliens. Later on, though, humanity catches up and equips its own ships with plasma weapons and energy-absorbing armor.
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series starts as this, with the incredibly-advanced Faata attempt to invade Earth and obliterate the fleet sent against them in a Curb-Stomp Battle. Only a timely intervention by a friendly alien of a different species helps humanity defeat the invaders. By the following novels, humanity has managed to reverse-engineer enough of the alien tech to significantly narrow the gap, at least as far as space technology goes, yet they still spend over a century fighting the Faata in four devastating wars that end with the collapse of Faata society and humanity emerging as a galactic power. After that, the trope tends to be reversed, as humans actually have a number of technological advantages, largely borrowed from the Faata, that other races don't. The other big enemy of the series, the Dromi, are a threat not because of their technology, which is inferior, but because of their sheer numbers (outnumbering all other known races many times over). In Consul Trevelyan, taking place centuries later, the titular protagonist manages to trick a newly-discovered race of a roughly equal technological level that humans have mastered teleportation, thus allowing them to easily overwhelm enemy ships by teleporting heavily-armed marines aboard. The trick works, even though only two people in all of Earth Federation are capable of this trick.
  • The New Republic in The Eschaton Series is essentially 19th century Prussia IN SPACE, trying to pretend The Singularity never happened. It is therefore unequipped to even understand the Festival, which is the Edinburgh Arts Festival hopped up on nanotech, much less defend against it.
  • The Half-Made World takes this trope and sends it back a century or two. Imagine being a soldier in the mid-19th century, when horses are the primary mode of transport and electricity is an expensive luxury. Now imagine you're fighting an enemy armed with rockets, chemical weapons, aircraft, and tanks, and who always outnumbers you. And that's why the Line always wins.
  • Japan Summons, other countries in the New World couldn't stand a chance against Japan and Gra Valkas, only ended up with tremendous damages. Even the latter can't beat the former.
  • In Triplanetary, the first book of the Lensman series, the heroes have escaped from the clutches of the villainous Gray Roger, figured out his nefarious plans, have mustered the space cavalry, and at last have his evil forces on the ropes — and then out of nowhere a brand new super-advanced alien species called the Nevians barges in on the battle, easily trounces every ship with its ability to partially neutralize inertia, and kidnaps the heroes several light-years away. This signals the beginning of the Lensman Arms Race.
    • The Eddorians and their more powerful underlings are this to humans and other friendly species, while the Arisians and the most powerful Lensmen are outside context heroes to the Eddorians, who simply can't grasp the concept of any being having power and not immediately trying to conquer everything in sight. By the end of the series, the Children of the Lens are outside the context of everyone, including the Arisians who engineered them in the first place.
  • Out of the Dark borrows some elements from Worldwar in that the invaders are expecting a more technologically inferior humanity than originally thought, although the gap is much narrower this time (they assumed humanity would be at about 17th-18th century instead of early 21st). Still, the Shongairi have FTL travel, Artificial Gravity, Orbital Bombardment, and Frickin' Laser Beams. Their opening strike obliterates every national capital, as well as all the large military bases (plus the cities near them) and naval warships. The total human casualties on the first day of the invasion are over 2 billion. Then they try to land troops... and find that human ground and air combat tech is actually pretty close to theirs, even surpassing it in certain respects. For example, their Hover Tanks have powerful beam cannons but relatively thin armor, which means even a 30-year-old ex-Soviet tank can punch a hole clean through it with a single shot (although the reverse is also true). Additionally, their combat tactics are woefully inadequate, especially when it comes to asymmetric warfare. Suddenly, everything the Western powers have learned about IEDs and guerrilla warfare (used against them in the Middle East) is now very useful in fighting a technologically superior enemy, who can level entire cities on a whim. Of course, none of that technology helps the aliens when a certain Transylvanian decides to take matters into his own claws and fangs.
  • Skyward: Zig-Zagged. The Krell interceptors are faster than Defiant fighters, and have more powerful shields and destructors, but they have no IMPs or light-lances. This is why Cobb insists the cadets in his class learn those systems, even though the rest of the academy focuses on Old-School Dogfighting.
    • This is explainable if you happen to have read the prequel. The Krell are actually using stolen human technology that they don't really understand, so they can only manufacture the simplest devices. But since the humans they stole it from were several centuries more advanced than the ones that built the Igneous manufactory, the tech they can make is a lot more powerful than what the Defiants have access to.
  • Subverted in Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Superiority", in which the side that had been winning an interstellar war decides to try to win even faster by developing revolutionary new military technologies. Each of these innovations falls well short of expectations as technical glitches and logistical issues are ironed out, and the fleet's ability to build and maintain conventional warships is depleted by the diversion of resources into the experimental projects. As a result, the other side ends up winning the war with its tried-and-true fleet.
  • The Trisolarans of The Three-Body Problem aren't the biggest fish in the pond. But they are a lot bigger and scarier than humanity, and their technology, though fundamentally comprehensible with some study, is far beyond humanity's. However, the Trisolarans fear that humanity could become just as advanced or more in the centuries it will take for their invasion fleet to reach Earth, and so are actively inhibiting human research into physics to ensure they remain technologically superior.
  • Azania in Victoria, who gender-flip stereotypes about masculine technology. A Lady Land that embraces technology and science, they field 21st-century network-centric warfare with modern-to-near-future equipment and tactics, compensating for the individual physical weakness of their Amazon Brigade troops. The heroes of the book, the Northern Confederation, are a reactionary nation of right-wing Christians whose general tech standard averages out somewhere around the World War I/II level, and who must therefore rely on greatly superior numbers to break even.
  • In The War of the Worlds (1898), the technology of the invading Martians far outstrips that of the British military (or that of any other nation on Earth). The Martians have towering three-legged "fighting-machines" (tripods), each armed with a heat-ray and a chemical weapon: the poisonous "black smoke". These tripods are capable of wiping out entire army units. The military is able to score some minor successes through combined artillery fire or the firepower of a warship like HMS Thunder Child, but these are mere drops in the ocean and the Martians swiftly crush all resistance.
  • The premise of the Worldwar series has World War II being thrown into confusion when the alien Race arrives with its invasion fleet, forcing former mortal enemies to fight together to save humanity. Oddly enough, this works both ways - the Race had been expecting the same knights on horseback their probes found a mere seven hundred years earlier. But not only have the natives gone on to invent tanks and airplanes, they've also devised weapons the Race never conceived of, like chemical warfare, suicide attacks, and wet-navy warships (the Race hadn't encountered any planets with sizable oceans before). Combined with mankind's extreme tenacity, fanaticism, and potential for cruelty, the Race consider just glassing the damn planet at least once a book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has a few examples to offer:
    • From a Earther perspective, the Minbari: Earth Alliance knew of their existence and their fame and could conceive their firepower (on a similar level of that of the Centauri warships, that Earth Alliance knew of), but had no idea that Stealth in Space was even possible. The end result was a Hopeless War in which Humans were considered incredibly badass for forcing the Minbari to actually try to annihilate them instead of just waltzing in and winning automatically, and would have ended with the complete extinction of Mankind had the Minbari not changed their mind at the last moment;
    • The Shadows. The first time we see them, one of their warships appears from literally nowhere and disintegrate a Raider ship for no apparent reason, and one of their emissaries gives the Raider's loot to Londo. It takes a while for the good guys to realize even their very existence, or how powerful they actually are;
    • The Thirdspace Aliens, who, in the distant past, nearly subjugated every single sentient in the galaxy, appear from nowhere with ships that could take on both the Vorlon and the Shadows and telepathic powers so immense that they could brainwash even the Vorlons (until then the most powerful telepaths in the series), and their scouting party is barely defeated before the gate enabling them to show up is destroyed.
  • Doctor Who: UNIT versus any of the alien races who invade Earth in the classic series: Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, Axons, Zygons, Kraals, etc. It is usually a combination of superior numbers, pluck, cunning, Heroic Sacrifice and, of course, the Doctor that allows them to win the day. In the new series, UNIT has repurposed some its captured alien tech to help defend Earth, which levels the playing field a bit, but not always enough.
  • In Stargate-verse, many of the enemies the Tau'ri face have technology at a level above that of Earth. This tends to change later, as humans manage to acquire and reverse-engineer powerful tech (all while maintaining The Masquerade among the larger population of Earth). Played with, when dealing with the Goa'uld, who do possess powerful advanced technology, but whose society in general is at Medieval level. Their tech is also horribly inefficient. For example, the powerful and intimidating staff weapons fire deadly plasma blasts, but it takes considerable training and skill in order to reliably hit a target from afar. Meanwhile, the far less advanced Earth assault rifles and sub-machineguns can actually be deadlier in proper hands, especially since the metal armor worn by Jaffa warriors is all for show, while the Tau'ri do, eventually, figure out a way to, at least, mitigate some of the damage from a staff blast, to the point where a staff blast to the chest may be survivable with proper gear. Goa'uld Death Gliders are a terror on wings, except when it comes to dealing with Tau'ri fighters. Unlike human designs, Death Gliders require the pilot or the gunner to aim his staff cannons by hand, using little more than iron sights. Meanwhile, humans are using HUDs and guided missiles.
    • Justified in the case of the Goa'uld because they merely found Lost Technology from the Ancients and with few exceptions lack the drive and interest in developing their own advances. Which makes savvy enemies such as Anubis and Ba'al all the more dangerous because of it.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Doomsday Machine from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode of the same name. It came from outside the Milky Way, a weapon intentionally designed to be "too dreadful to use." Not even whales can stop it. It eats planets.
    • The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In their first appearance, "Q Who", Q uses them to give the crew of the Enterprise a lesson in just how dangerous the universe still is and how "prepared" they are.
    • The Q themselves could also fit this trope.
    • The Dominion from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When they first arrive, they have the Federation (and almost everyone else in the Alpha Quadrant) totally outgunned, making them all but unbeatable in space. It isn't until the Federation captures a crashed Dominion ship and starts reverse engineering their technology that things get a bit more even.
    • Interestingly, Species 8472 from Star Trek: Voyager is an Outside-Context Villain for the Borg: a species from another dimension that they can neither assimilate nor destroy. It proceeds to kick their asses.

  • A lesser example from Jemjammer: at the beginning of the story the party meet Alana, who crash lands her starship on a sphere that is almost strictly High Fantasy. When she pulls out a powerful gun and one-shots a giant spider, everyone is shocked and surprised—including the other spiders.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The history of the Iron Kingdoms is this: people puttering around with warriors, wizards and the like getting steamrolled by The Empire with seriously high sorcery Power Levels from across the western ocean. It took the creation of "scientific" items such as Gunpowder, Steam engines and War Machines four hundred years later before The Empire finally got driven off.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Necrons qualify, being ancient robots with far better tech than the Imperium of Man, using weapons like Gauss Rifles, and being near immune to normal weaponry. It's impossible for them to even research it, as a Necron warrior self destructs after they die.
    • Zig-zagged in the case of the Tau, who have technology that looks sleeker and more advanced but on paper they are about evenly matched with the Imperium. What makes them qualify is that the Tau actually understand the advanced technology they use; while a plasma gun might be a rare Ancestral Weapon to an Imperial Guard captain, plasma rifles are standard-issue among the Tau Fire Warriors, and the Tau versions are safer to operate to boot. The Imperium is more advanced in other fields, and during the Dark Age of Technology humans created wonders that at their greatest can even stump Necron scientists. An AI rebellion and an FTL collapse later, mankind was left reeling having lost most of its technological might.
    • Also played straight with the Drukhari, who unlike their "good" Asuryani cousins kept a lot of their pre-Fall technology. They make extensive use of anti-gravity tech and dark matter weaponry, but also have many other exotic technologies that invoke Clarke's Third Law. Where they really enjoy supremacy though is in biotech - their Haemonculi can bring people Back from the Dead as long as a single piece of the original body can be recovered. That said, they're nowhere near as unstoppable or intimidating as the Necrons - bury them in enough conventional firepower and they'll go down easy enough.
    • It should be noted this is largely due to the Adaptus Mechanicus outright worshipping their technology, which was designed back when the Emperor still had a functioning body thousands of years prior. They treat its operation (yes, even pulling the trigger on a Bolter) as a ritual invoking divine favor. As such, the tech of the Imperium is behind due to their refusal to improve or advance it in any meaningful way due to fanaticism.

    Video Games 
  • In a Bodycount (2011) trailer an African militiaman is surprised by a skyscraper rising from the ground, with a large door opening. He promptly gets one-shotted by a laser from a guy in futuristic body armour.
  • In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, it's business as usual with GDI and Nod killing each other, then aliens show up. The humans are so startled that they call a ceasefire and manage a (very short-lived) truce to deal with the new threat before continuing their war. The aliens are surprised because Earth was supposed to be uninhabitable by that point, so their fleet sent to harvest Tiberium is met with unexpected resistance. And deep within his command center, Kane smiles to himself.
  • Crusader Kings II has this, unusually for a historically-accurate game, with an expansion pack that introduces an Aztec invasion of Europe. They have different gods, powerful weapons, and spread diseases that Europeans have no resistance to, making them a serious threat completely out of left field for all the dynasties engaged in intricate political machinations.
    • The Mongols and Timurids are also present, and they will utterly WRECK the east side of the map on arrival.
    • In the After The End mod, the British and Brazilians take the place of other invasions.
  • In Crysis, the Americans and North Koreans are busily having a scrap on an island and managing to ignore various weird happenings around the mountain in the middle of it, until suddenly the aliens leap out and freeze the whole place solid.
  • In Destiny, the Darkness is explicitly referred to as an OCP/Outside Context Problem. Fitting, as what is known about the Darkness hints at a Kardeshev type-4 entity.
  • Empire Earth has Novaya Russia from the last mission in the Russian campaign. Novaya Russia is a dictatorial regime that started during the first mission as an uprising in Volgograd led by a power hungry man known as Grigor Stoyanovich, and quickly gains ground after recruiting the cities of Rostov, Saratov, and getting the aid of the Ukraine to raze Voronezh. And then Grigor dies from complications related to old age, leading his robotic bodyguard (which he named Grigor II) to lead Novaya Russia. Novaya Russia crushes China and sabotage a Chinese superweapon that would turn the tide of the war: A Time Machine. Then, a Novaya Russia officer becomes a Defector from Decadence, and uses said superweapon to stop Novaya Russia. While said officer and an ally he recruited from the US try to go the subtle route and convince Grigor not to make the mistakes that lead to this, and kill him if he refuses. Grigor II manages to capture the super weapon, and the defector becomes stranded with much lower technology in Voronezh, before the rise of the first Grigor, while Grigor II went the much less subtle route of arming Novaya Russia with nanotech era equipment. The mission relies on stealing technology from Novaya Russia, as the Hero Unit stranded with the defector is a spy and can train other spies to infiltrate key facilities.
  • EXTRAPOWER: The Dark Force invasion fleet can be this depending on what planet it conquers, but is especially advanced compared to Earth. We might have Henshin Heroes, Gadgeteer Genius weapon inventors, monster-hunting mercenaries and several magic factions on Earth in Attack of Darkforce, but they're still invading with a fleet of spaceships that can obliterate planets and endless waves of robotic and bioroid troops that overwhelm Earth's defenses.
  • The Enclave functions as this in Fallout 3. The player initially hears nothing from them except from a bunch of eyebots flying around the Wasteland blasting Enclave propaganda, which most people think is simply an old radio broadcast playing on a loop. So when a bunch of stormtroopers in advanced power armor (even more advanced than the Brotherhood of Steel's) and vertibirds fly in out of nowhere to seize control of Project Purity and start occupying the Wasteland, everyone is caught off-guard, including the Brotherhood themselves, who figured that they had been wiped out in the previous game.
    • In the aforementioned previous game, they're this as well, with the Brotherhood and Shi (the highest tech-possessing factions before the Enclave's arrival) scrambling to catch up.
  • Fallout 4 has the Institute, a shadowy cabal of scientists conducting ethically-dubious experiments in the surrounding Commonwealth. The level of technological prowess the Institute harnesses is easily decades ahead of anyone else in the country, including even the Brotherhood of Steel, who have made it their business to hoard all of the advanced tech they can get their hands on. In addition to maintaining a functioning, self-sufficient society that is safe from the dangers of the outside world, their greatest technological feat is the creation of Synths, lifelike androids that can easily assimilate into the wasteland population. Their laser guns also reflect their technological superiority, having sleek and streamlined designs in comparison to the bulky and old-fashioned energy weapons in the wastesnote .
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Garlean Empire has highly advanced magiteknology that allows them to rival the might of their neighbors. Eorzea, on the other hand, has very low technology (what little tech they have comes from Imperial defectors), but the region's peoples can use magic, something Garleans are physically incapable of doing.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there's a certain faction who's been manipulating events to instigate a continent-wide war. Nothing says 'advanced' like ballistic missiles dropping from the sky, given the setting's general tech.
  • In the first FreeSpace, the two known races of the galaxy, the Humans and the Vasudans, are at war. Then suddenly, weird black ships (with Deflector Shields, something neither race thought possible) show up and start killing everyone. Turns out those ships belong to the Shivans, a race of seriously deadly Horde of Alien Locusts. Even after two games, the only things known about them for certain is that they're extremely technologically advanced and they always have way more power available than you think.
  • Few of the factions in Galactic Civilizations II even knew the Dread Lords ever existed, and no-one expected they would ever return.
  • This scenario forms the backstory of Gears of War. Sera's human population had been fighting each other for seventy-nine years and only just come to an exhausted peace when a massive, well-equipped, highly-organized army—the Locust Horde—erupted from the ground in multiple areas simultaneously and brought their civilization to its knees.
    • Even earlier, this happened to the Locust themselves, with the arrival of Lambency. It was the mutation's virulence that lead to the Locust eventually declaring their underground home a lost cause and making war with humanity because waging a genocidal war against humanity so that they could relocate to the surface was deemed easier than holding the Hollow.
  • The Tuaparang in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn are explicitly noted not to be from any of Weyard's known nations or peoples. They have extremely advanced Magitek (Weyard is just now breaking out of Medieval Stasis; Tuaparang's agents show up in a giant airship), a total war culture, and Psynergy outside the four elements.
  • In the storyline between the Half-Life games, humanity was so completely unprepared for the Combine invasion that the entire planet Earth was conquered in seven hours.
  • Halo:
    • The Covenant play with this; their technology was far superior to humanity's during the Human-Covenant War, but they themselves barely understood how it worked, as it was all poorly reverse-engineered from Forerunner artifacts. After the war, humanity's been able to close much of the tech gap with the Covenant's various remnants.
    • Forerunner constructs play this straight, especially from Halo 4 onward.
    • A small-scale Flood infestation relies almost completely on captured technology, but Halo: Silentium reveals that a large-scale infestation actually plays this trope 100% straight, since the Flood are the descendants of the Precursors, the most technologically-advanced species in the entire setting. As such, the Flood are the only remaining species capable of fully utilizing "neural physics".
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising has the Aurum, a group of planet-eating aliens that only Pyrrhon saw coming. The battle against them takes only three chapters where Palutena's Forces of Light, Viridi's Forces of Nature, and even Hades' Underworld Army join to fight them. They leave as quickly as they appeared.
  • Kirby: Planet Robobot has the Haltman Works Company, who invade Planet Popstar for its rich resources. The company's tech is far superior to that of the natives. Even Meta Knight, who has a technological airship (and may, indeed, have some of the only mechanical technology on Popstar), is no match for them. Unfortunately for them, this ends up being their downfall as Kirby, the only one left to stop them, is able to acquire their tech, specifically a Mini-Mecha. And the rest is history as Kirby uses this mech to absolutely decimate Haltmann's forces as a one-puff army.
  • Kirby Star Allies has this in its backstory between two rival factions, one that mastered magic and the other that mastered science. Despite working together as friends since time immemorial, one day the science clan attacked and banished the magic clan to the far reaches of the universe where their numbers are now dwindling due to being separated and unable to reproduce. Big Bad Hyness is one of the last remaining members of the magic clan, and is seeking revenge.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Reapers, like Sovereign, are this to the entire galaxy. They appear to wipe out all space-faring life every 50,000 years, and spend the intervening time asleep in dark space. Driven home in the Mass Effect 3 announcement trailer where it's made clear, given that the higher-ups constantly tried to silence his/her warnings about them, that no one besides Shepard knows what they are.
    • What makes the Reapers so devastating is that the scale and capabilities of the Reapers sits outside of the context of the Citadel's military doctrine. The three primary Citadel species have geared their militaries to cooperate and specialize, with each species supporting one another: the turians serve as the primary heavy combat element, supplying most of the ground troops, armored vehicles, and spacecraft. The asari provide elite biotic special forces and economic and diplomatic clout, at the expense of heavy combat units. The salarians provide advanced technology, intelligence, and covert operations units at the expense of heavy combat elements as well. This works just fine for the enemies that the Citadel is accustomed to fighting. But when the Reapers show up, they're so fast, they have such huge numbers, they have nonexistent logistics requirements, they have technology that at times breaks the laws of physics, and they have firepower and armor more powerful than anything the other races can even hope to achieve, which means they can attack anywhere at their leisure. As a result, the asari military gets smashed and the salarians only survive the majority of the war because the Reapers haven't bothered with them because their intelligence apparatus (geared to fight more conventional enemies) is a nonthreat. The turians are the only ones who spend the entire game in a (losing) slugging match over their homeworld.
    • In the Leviathan DLC for the third game, Shepard hunts for a mysterious Reaper-killer codenamed Leviathan. Instead of a rogue Reaper as the characters initially believed, the Leviathan are revealed to be giant aquatic lifeforms, with incredible mental abilities and a massive God-complex. They are also the race indirectly responsible for the creation of the Reapers, when a Rogue AI note  turned against them and created the first Reapers in their image.
  • The Galactic Civilisations story is almost directly copied from the Master of Orion, with the Antarans having been the ancient enemies of the Orions who suddenly return and disrupt the younger races (ie. the player and their opponents) efforts to conquer the galaxy for themselves. Arguably the Harvesters are this in turn to the Antarans before the start of the third game. Bioweapons created by the Antarans themselves, most of the Antarans had no idea what they were, where they came from, or why their home systems had suddenly stop communicating, and were forced into desperate measures to avoid extinction. Finally, the backstory also mentions a third galactic power descended from those exiled from the original home of the Orions and Antarans, with one of the playable races apparently being scouts or infiltrators engineered to either investigate or soften things up for invasion. However, with no further games having come in the franchise, this idea was never expanded on.
  • Medieval II: Total War has two of these in the Grand Campaign. Unless you know it's coming and spend the entire early game preparing for it, the Mongol Hordes can steamroll any faction on the eastern half of the map, and even if you've prepared it's not going to be an easy fight. Then, about the time you think you've recovered from the Black Death towards the endgame, the Timurids show up, and on top of all the Mongols' strengths they have cannon-toting elephants.
  • Try as other forces might, in Sonic the Hedgehog, there is no equal to Dr. Eggman in terms of tech level. There have been attempts to reverse-engineer Eggman's robots and war machines by G.U.N. and Tails, but the results are always unwieldy and easily crushed by Eggman's own robots. Accordingly, if an environment in a Sonic game has a metallic, industrial look to it, nine times out of ten Dr. Eggman was involved in its creation.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Eternal Empire, hailing from the backwater region of Wild Space. It is a advanced empire with technology that outmatches anything the Old Republic or Sith Empire has, and has an army of force users capable of standing toe-to-toe with Jedi or Sith. Their leader is the Immortal Emperor Valkorion who is one of the fallen Sith Emperor's latest incarnations. By the time the Outlander is freed from carbonite the Empire has dominated the galaxy and has the Republic and Sith under its thumb.
  • In Star Trek Online, the Iconians. Up until The Reveal, most of the galaxy believed they were extinct for thousands of years.
  • The Grand Menaces from Sword of the Stars almost all have capabilities beyond the reckoning of the playable factions. The System Killer is Exactly What It Says on the Tin in a universe where the lesser factions can only glass planet surfaces. The Puppetmaster can somehow subvert enemy ships and whole planets without recourse to lesser methods like Boarding Parties and ground invasion. The Locusts are Planet Looters that replicate exponentially if left unchecked. And those are just three of goodness knows how many. All will mop the floor with an unprepared player blindly going Attack! Attack! Attack! and are hard fights even with planning and strategy.
  • Stellaris:
    • Unusually, the game allows you to be this when you invade planets with pre-space age inhabitants. Depending on their advancement and traits, the results can be anything from "our weapons must seem like magic to them" to "able to form an international coalition dedicated to stopping you", and yes, there is a rare Worldwar Easter Egg.
    • Fallen Empires are The Remnant of civilizations that pre-dated all other galactic civilizations by hundreds or thousands of years. They typically stay out of galactic affairs, but if they get pissed off, their technology means they can obliterate any other civilization in the galaxy, even if the entire rest of the galaxy teams up against them. The rest of the galaxy will only start catching up to them in the late game. They can sometimes also "Awaken" around the endgame and start taking an active role in galactic society again, which could possibly a very bad thing for the rest of the woefully behind galaxy.
    • The Endgame Crisis are also implied to be this, the Prethoryn can travel between galaxies, the Extradimensional Invaders operate interdimensional portals, and the Contingency's ghost signal can even hijack one of the Fallen Empires, the Ancient Caretakers.
  • In Universe at War, Earth is invaded by an alien race of Planet Looters known as the Hierarchy, and the human race is nearly wiped out in the resulting war as nothing they have can counter the Hierarchy's powerful giant walker robots. Just as all hope seems lost, another alien race turn up, a race of Mechanical Lifeforms with a grudge against the Hierarchy known as the Novus, and begin aiding the human remnants and the tide begins to turn. And then, the mighty Masari, the super-advanced race who once uplifted the Hierarchy only to be hunted to near-extinction by them, rise from the Atlantic in their continent-sized colony ship to deliver a little "divine retribution" to their errant children.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order makes the Nazis this. With their super technology which they stole from a sect of Jewish scientists, they destroy the Allies, win World War II and take over the world.
  • The aliens in XCOM. Interestingly, all XCOM games so far have the titular organization stealing technology from the dead alien bodies and reverse engineering it to use it against those who introduced it, performing Alien Autopsy on those bodies they recover to learn about the alien's cybernetic technology, and so on.

    Western Animation 
  • Mega Man (Ruby-Spears): The appearance of Vile and Spark Mandrill in "Mega X", given they're from the future. Their armor is literally centuries ahead of any present-day weapons, and they are able to shrug off attacks from Mega Man and Dr. Wily alike.
  • Steven Universe: While the Crystal Gems are already a Higher-Tech Species, Homeworld tech completely blows them out of the water. The Gems have been hiding on Earth for 5000 years, so fighting Homeworld with their weapons is like shooting down a stealth bomber with muskets.
  • In Storm Hawks, Master Cyclonis actually manages to become this mid season 2 by traveling to the other side of the planet and bringing back some of its technology.
  • ThunderCats (2011) presents Mumm-Ra this way to the Cats, as he and the Lost Technology his armies use have both been reduced to superstitions and legends in the centuries since he was first defeated by their ancestors.

    Real Life