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Outside-Context Problems in video games.


  • The Z.O.E. from Ace Combat 2 and its Updated Re-release Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy is an enemy that shows up every now and then just to fight the player. Assault Horizon Legacy gives more context and dialogue to the story, which leads the rebel Cocoon Squadron to wonder if it'd be possible to recruit such a formidable ally, and your own Commander Olsen wondering out loud just what the heck this thing is. He states that there's no way the rebels would've developed such advanced technology during the final encounter, and there are ultimately no answers. "Z.O.E" is only revealed to stand for "Zone Of Endless" for the player's sake.
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  • Chakravartin in Asura's Wrath is a classic example. Absolutely no-one in the story had any inkling what his plans were, or that he even existed, until he straight-up manifested in the world and told the main characters. As the Supreme Being, his powers are infinitely greater than anybody else's, but Asura beats him anyway.
  • The Joker comes across as this in Batman: Arkham Origins. He arrives in town with no explanation, no origin, no identity, no real motives, just wanton and senseless destruction. Batman himself is completely taken aback by the sheer brutality and sadism in the crime scene where he first sees his name and later mentions that while he's put away psychopaths before, The Joker is something completely different.
    • To an extent, Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight's militia in Batman: Arkham Knight. The police were completely unprepared for an actual army bristling with high-tech equipment to march right in and seize control of Gotham, and even Batman's Crazy Preparedness is put to the test, especially when the Arkham Knight seems to know everything about Batman's tactics because he's actually Jason Todd, who Batman thought was long dead.
  • In BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Naoto Kurogane is a heroic example of this. The villains have drawn the cast into a Pocket Dimension called the Embryo, which they can set up the way they want it and exploit to manipulate the cast and drive events. Naoto, however, was sent into the Embryo from an Alternate Timeline by Raquel Alucard as a third party. This is implied to cause problems for the Embryo itself, as Naoto is a foreign object within it, but is also personally a problem for the villains. Only one of them even knows that he exists, none of them are expecting him and his goals and methods are completely unknown to them. In a cast full of chessmasters and Magnificent Bastards, having an unpredictable quantity running around potentially poses a serious threat.
  • Chrono Trigger:
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    • Lavos is an extraterrestrial planetary parasite and the overarching threat of the story. Its existence is known to various people at various times - in prehistory it ended the war between cavemen and the Reptites by making planetfall and triggering an ice age, and in antiquity the Kingdom of Zeal tried to use it as an energy source, which wasn't that smart a move - but nobody knew its purpose until 1999, when it woke up.
    • The heroes use this to great effect when they jump around to other time periods. Robo is an android from the distant future, so naturally people in the Middle Ages aren't sure what to make of him. Crono, Marle and Lucca all learn magic over the course of their adventure, which catches both the Reptites of the prehistoric era and the Fiends of the Middle Ages by surprise, since in those time periods humans haven't learned magic yet or have forgotten it, respectively. The party's only big defeat comes when they visit the ancient Kingdom of Zeal, where they aren't out of context - Zeal is a nation of human mages with access to advanced technology that rivals the stuff from Robo's time, and the Prophet arrives beforehand to warn the natives about the meddlesome heroes.
  • Creepy Castle:
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    • The original scenario has you dealing with Darking. The next problem you have to deal with a few moment afterward is a mysterious powerful entity that suddenly awakened without any warning, possessed Darking and intend to destroy the world. There are actually a few sources that tell of said thing but they are rare due to said entity having ended entire civilizations several times in the past.
  • An old security alert you can find in Destiny calls the Darkness an Outside Context Problem by name. Fitting with the Iain Banks quote above, its arrival heralded the near-destruction of human civilizationnote . High technology means nothing to a malevolent Sentient Cosmic Force.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins the Darkspawn are this to everyone except the Grey Wardens and the Dwarves. Since it's been hundreds of years since the last Blight, the people of the surface believed that the Darkspawn had been eradicated. When the Fifth Blight strikes, the people of Ferelden are left scrambling to prepare their defenses and it doesn't help that Ferelden has so few Grey Wardens to help. Things get worse after the Battle of Ostagar—everyone is too preoccupied with serious internal problems including a civil war and underestimate the true threat level of the Blight. Nobody in Ferelden is really prepared to fight monsters that a) vastly outnumber them b) carry a lethal and corrupting magical plague and c) are controlled by an insane dragon god that is unkillable unless a Grey Warden strikes the final blow.
    • In Dragon Age II, Cassandra and the Seekers are desperately trying to figure out who out of all the key players in Kirkwall, was the Big Bad responsible for the outbreak of the Mage/Templar War. Varric tells her that none of them are responsible, but the Red Lyrium Idol recovered from the Primeval Thaig certainly was a key factor in what happened.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition brings us the Breach: essentially a giant hole in the sky connected to the Fade that constantly spews out demons and other nasty horrors, and is essentially ripping the world apart at the seams when it is first encountered.
  • The Drakengard franchise:
    • Drakengard has the Grotesqueries. The only foreshadowing they get is a hint about the "Watchers" that Manah serves, but they don't show up until the player unlocks Ending D, which reveals them to be huge, man-eating babies with adult teeth and lightning wings, accompanied by a colossal, extremely pregnant Queen whose mere presence causes time and space to come apart. Needless to say, the cast is completely blindsided and has no idea how to deal with them.
      • Ending E drops Caim, Angelus, and the Grotesquerie Queen into modern-day Tokyo, where they abandon the hack-and-slash and dragonback combat used for the rest of the game to engage in a fiendishly difficult rhythm battle before the JASDF blows them out of the sky. Which kicks off the NieR series by introducing White Chlorination Syndrome to that world.
    • NieR is a post-apocalyptic fantasy game with a mix of magic and robots, so about the last thing anyone expected to happen in its supplementary material was an alien invasion.
    • NieR: Automata concerns the struggle between an army of alien-built Machines warring against hyper-advanced Androids serving the remnants of mankind. And then there's Emil, a former party member from the previous game who is the only explicitly magical being left on the planet. He was definitely an Outside Context Problem to the aforementioned alien invaders, however, and is the same to the player when fought as a Bonus Boss.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • In the series' backstory during the 2nd Era, the Kamal (an Akaviri race of "Snow Demons") showed up one day out of the blue along the coast of Skyrim and immediately laid siege to the Nord city of Windhelm. Normally, the Kamal are part of an Akaviri Vicious Cycle where they freeze every winter and thaw out in the spring to attack the Tang Mo "Monkey Folk". For unknown reasons, they broke this cycle to invade Tamriel instead. According to captives taken, they were searching for someone or something called the "Ordained Receptacle." It took an alliance of ancient enemies - the Nords, the Dunmer (Dark Elves), and the Argonians - to finally defeat the Kamal invaders.
    • In the other direction, Uriel Septim V sought to restore the greatness of the Third Tamriellic Empire, which was wracked with internal strife and floundering support in the provinces at the time. To do so, he set out on a series of invasions outside of Tamriel. Over a span of 13 years, he conquered several island nations in the Padomaic Sea to the east of Tamriel. Then, he invaded Akavir itself. His chosen invasion point was in the southwest of Akavir, in the homeland of the Tsaesci, who were apparently quite surprised by the invasion. Unfortunately, instead of capitalizing on their surprise and confusion, Uriel wasted time sending messengers (who never returned) in an attempt to contact whoever it was that ruled the Tsaesci in order to negotiate terms of their surrender. Meanwhile, Tsaesci mounted raiders harassed Uriel's forces who, due to space restrictions on Uriel's invasion fleet, did not have cavalry of their own, leading to a slow Death by a Thousand Cuts. It is speculated that the Tsaesci fought back with an Anti-Magical field that weakened Uriel's Battlemages and Weather Manipulation that extended the Akaviri winter, caused a severe drought, and cut off Uriel's oceanic supply lines. Uriel was eventually forced to withdraw, and died in Akavir making a Heroic Sacrifice to cover the retreat of his legions.
    • In Skyrim, nearly everyone is blindsided by the return of the dragons. Supposedly rendered extinct following a concerted hunting effort thousands of years ago, they are now suddenly returning in vast numbers. Naturally, all of the parties involved in the Skyrim Civil War blame one another for the sudden reappearance of the dragons. The only group to have any idea where they came from are the Graybeards, and that's only because their mentor is a dragon.
  • The monsters in Evolve appear across dozens of worlds without any sign of how they got there, murder and demolish their way through every human settlement they can find, and then terraform the planet into a Death World. Attempts to study and understand them just seem to raise more questions, like why their genetic structure seems artificial, how they interact with and manipulate reality warping forces, and why their "eggs" don't contain fetal monsters when broken open and give off signals similar to those produced by FTL engines. Eventually, it's discovered that they're extradimensional beings whose dimension also connects to the one the humans use for FTL. Using that dimension as a stepping stone, they pass through and form physical bodies out of materials they know how to replicate and produce. As to why they're exterminating humans, the futuristic power sources the humans use for FTL, energy shields, weather control, and other such technologies have the side effect of manifesting in a constant storm of destruction in the monster's world, something they'd very much like to stop.
  • The Lostbelts in Fate/Grand Order are alternate histories that diverged too far from the main timeline to continue, and are thus filled with outside context problems by their very nature. It works both ways, however, as even simple devices such as portable long-distance communication can be non-existent in an otherwise technologically advanced Lostbelt.
  • Final Fantasy games are fond of this, with the villain often being something utterly alien to the protagonists:
    • The Cloud of Darkness from Final Fantasy III is familiar to the World of Darkness, but wholly unknown to the World of Light.
    • The Lunarians (specifically, Zemus, Golbez, and the Lunarian Lost Technology) in Final Fantasy IV, which include the hero, on his father's side anyway. He was raised as a human, so he's just as baffled by the powers of his father's people and the artifacts they left behind. There's supposedly mostly good Lunarians, but we only see one and a Face–Heel Turn.
    • Exdeath of Final Fantasy V is known to the inhabitants of the world he comes from, but utterly unknown in the other. Fortunately, people from his world follow to help the defenseless natives of the protagonists' world fight him.
    • Jenova in Final Fantasy VII, an invading planet- and life-eating parasite from space. The main villain Sephiroth also gets some of this quality partly from Jenova. While both Shinra and members of Avalanche (the eco-terrorist group opposing Shinra) knew him from before, they didn't really know him — especially what his connection to Jenova meant since they didn't know what it was. As he makes his return, he derails the plot from the fight between Avalanche and Shinra into both trying to stop him without really knowing what he even wants.
    • The Terrans of Final Fantasy IX, which, like IV, include the hero, who, like IV, has gone native. Unlike IV, all the other aliens are of the "invade and help their planet devour the souls of those that live on ours" variety.
    • Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles builds up an entire plot about memories, with side characters such as Leon Esla and the Black Knight providing a glimpse into the true conflict of the plot. Then you get to the final level and fight... an alien parasite worm from outer space equipped with laser turrets, and who's been the source of the miasma for eras ever since he crashed. After the lengthy bossfight you fight the more expected villain the game was building up as the final boss, but that doesn't make it any less jarring.
  • The Shivans from Freespace. In the middle of a galactic war between humans and an alien race called the Vasudans, suddenly a second, obscenely powerful and advanced alien race arrives and effortlessly crushes everything in sight, forcing a truce between humans and Vasudans just to protect themselves. Their shields even render them completely impervious to all weapons until R&D introduces some shield-busting weaponry.
  • As seen on the page image for Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, the Big Bad of Growl, a game revolving around rescuing African animals from poachers, turns out to be aliens.
  • Guild Wars has a few examples:
    • First, in Nightfall, was the return of Abaddon, the fallen sixth god, and his Margonite followers. The other gods had gone to great lengths to render him an Un-Deity, so much of the players' knowledge of Abaddon is learned while on the run from his various armies.
    • Second, in Eye of the North, was the appearance of the Destroyers. While foreshadowed in an obscure Dwarven prophecy, nobody really knew about them until they were already halfway through slaughtering the Asurans. Even by the end of the campaign and their destruction very little was actually known about the Destroyers beyond that they were an enemy.
    • Third, in the sequel, Guild Wars 2, is the appearance of the Elder Dragons. While they have been present since long before man or god walked the land, they were largely dormant and only hints of their power were seen.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The Heartless tend to be these for the various Disney worlds in the series.
    • Throughout Kingdom Hearts I, Sora has fought both Heartless and Disney villains who used the power of darkness, and Sora managed to defeat them. But once Sora successfully seals the Keyhole in Hollow Bastion, he suddenly receives a notification from the Princesses that a mysterious man has appeared in the Chapel where Sora defeated Maleficent's Dragon Form where according to them, this man is neither a Heartless nor a human, but "something else", and he is stated to use a power not from the darkness or light. So Sora decides to enter the portal to investigate and suddenly a hooded man in Black Cloak shows up and makes vague proclamations how Sora looks like "him", and how he is familiar with Ansem. Sora is understandably confused about all this, the hooded man decides to test his skills, and proves to be stronger than any of Sora's adversaries up to that point, including Ansem. At the end, when it seems that the Sora has beaten the hooded man, he just shrugs it off and finds the Keyblade wielder amusing and promises Sora that they will meet again soon and he departs but not before vaguely telling Sora that he is just a "mere shell" when Sora asked who he is. This whole incident left everyone and the audience confused with so many questions asked as to who the man in the Black Cloak is and what he wants with Sora. Apparently, according to Ansem's reports that is obtained after beating him, that when a heart leaves its body, that body itself becomes a Nobody and it is stated to be a form that doesn't actually exist. Said mysterious figure is revealed in II to be Xemnas, leader of Organization XIII.
  • In most Kirby games, Kirby blames his problems on Friendly Enemy King Dedede or Noble Demon Meta Knight, and fights a fairly static cast of Dreamland inhabitants that are more dangerous than evil. The Final Boss, though, is some kind of Lovecraftian Eldritch Abomination like Dark Matter or 0 ...
  • The Conqueror in The Last Remnant shows up out of nowhere with an army and starts capturing Remnants until the current world order recognizes him as a ruler. As it turns out, this is a Humanity on Trial thing to see how humans are using the power of the Remnants. They fail.
  • This is a major plot-point, along with Rogues-Gallery Transplant, in LEGO Dimensions — thanks to Lord Vortech's attempt to conquer the multiverse and subsequent rift abuse, villains are scattered all over the place where they logically shouldn't be. For instance, Sauron lands his tower right into the middle of Metropolis. The heroes themselves— Wyldstyle, Batman, and Gandalf, along with any other figure you've got— in turn serve as this to the various villains.
  • In the original Mass Effect trilogy, the Reapers intentionally invoke and weaponize this. Every time they destroy galactic civilization and wipe out the most advanced species, they go to a great deal of effort to also wipe out any trace of themselves, but leave enough behind of their victims to give the next wave of civilizations an assumption that the mass relays and Citadel were the products of the previous civilization, as well as some technology to ensure that the next wave's technology develops along the same paths. Thus when the Reapers come out of Dark Space and attack, they know they're unlikely to face any independently developed novel technology that threatens them and no one is prepared to face mind-controlling technorganic Eldritch Abominations with superior technology who can instantly seize control over galactic government and travel.
    • This is one of the reasons why the Reapers still manage to wreck much of the galaxy even without their normal advantages. The current Citadel's method of warfare depends on a degree of synergy between the three biggest members: the turians, asari, and salarians. The turians provide a conventional military force of disciplined soldiers and powerful navy and ground army, while the asari function as highly elite light infantry and commandos who conduct guerilla operations, raids, and other behind-the-lines operations, and the salarians gather massive amounts of intelligence on the enemy, disrupt their intelligence, logistics, and command structure, and conduct cyberwarfare to cripple the enemy before a war even starts. Because the Reapers came out of nowhere, and have a much more advanced computer technology and virtually no logistics or society or communications to exploit, the salarians' cyberwarfare and intelligence arms are utterly useless against them, and their overwhelming numbers and power mean that they can easily brush aside the lighter asari military forces with ease once they defeat the asari fleets. Only the turians are able to fight the Reapers head-on, and even then they need the help of the krogan to have a chance of holding the line, while the asari are forced to fight guerilla battles on their occupied planets and the salarians are just outright ignored.
    • The first game even has the asari councillor give this as the exact reason they can't and won't help Shepard: Their best agent going rogue and getting an army of killer robots on his side, they can handle. Their best agent working for an angry giant robo-cuttlefish to exterminate galactic civilisation as it has done for aeons, they cannot. So their solution is to ignore the idea, and Shepard's warnings, completely.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda kicks it up a notch; while they had the foresight and the technology to map out habitable planets before departing, it turns out that in the 600 years that they took to arrive, a pheonomenon known as the Scourge appeared, and basically destabilized (or outright destroyed) the planets the Andromeda Initiative intended to inhabit. The Scourge, being a nasty mix of radiation, dark matter, and Element Zero, seemingly came out of nowhere and, on top of poisoning the very planets they intended to live on, also damaged the Initative's ships and their main hub, leaving 100,000 people marooned in an alien galaxy. On top of that, the first signs of intelligent life they encounter are the sociopathic, dogmatic Kett who seem more intent on shooting and kidnapping for unethical experiments than making peace. Compounding both of these issues is the fact that the Initiative is a mostly civilian organization rather than military, and as such their defenses are limited to small arms, some ground vehicles, and light fighters while their opponents are fielding fully-armed capital ships. Needless to say, the Initiative is way out of its league, and it's left up to the Pathfinder to keep it all from going to hell.
  • This isn't normally a big issue in the world of Monster Hunter, as even the strangest of beasts (from golden mantises that wield Humongous Mecha to crystalline dragons from outer space) can still be bested by hunters with enough time, effort, and preparation. Then Monster Hunter: World came along, and new issues popped up.
    • Behemoth is a monster from an entirely different universe, and this shows in how it fights. While it is classified as an Elder Dragon, it is unique in that, unlike all of the other fantastical beasts in the Monster Hunter universe, it is a truly magical creature, and makes ample usage of them in the hunt against it.
    • Taken even further with Leshen - just like Behemoth, Leshen hails from another universe, but while Behemoth is just a really tough, magically enhanced animal, Leshen is a vaguely humanoid nature spirit that can teleport and use magical abilities that not even Behemoth has access to. Fortunately, whatever sent Leshen into the Ancient Forest also sent Geralt over, so he offers to help take it down.
      • For Comparison: Behemoth is classified as an Elder Dragon, a waste-basket group for creatures that are essentially living forces of nature, yet are still understood to some degree. Leshen, however, is classified as a Relict, its designation in the Witcher universe, showing that it is unlike anything ever seen in the Monster Hunter universe.
  • Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth: The Labyrinths themselves and what's behind them are completely unknown even to the Velvet Room Attendants. All they know is that the Velvet Room itself was hijacked halfway between the stories of Persona 3 and Persona 4, with their casts trapped inside with no way out but to explore an alternate Yasogami High for answers.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, the Bittercold is this for the entirety of the Pokémon franchise, being the first boss besides Dark Rust in Pokémon Rumble Blast that isn't a Pokémon or a Pokémon trainer. Instead, it's a crystalline embodiment of despair and hopelessness, given form because how much negativity has been going around in the Pokémon world as of late. Simply being near it causes Pokémon to suffocate and, if left unchecked, it has the potential to destroy the entire world. It takes the intervention of a similarly-outside-context entity (a Nature Spirit in the form of a Pokémon) to destroy it, as, knowing no Pokémon can do the job, they decide to summon humans who can resist its debilitating effects.
    • Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon follows it with Dark Matter, another eldritch force that is not a Pokémon and which can turn even the legendaries into stone. It's also hinted to be the Bittercold once again, with a new slew of powers and even sentience.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon has the Ultra Beasts: strange creatures that appear to be neither human nor Pokémon, but are causing problems in Alola. It turns out that they are Pokémon that hail from another dimension referred to as Ultra Space, and apart from Nihilego, who may not even be sentient, they aren't out to purposely destroy anything but are more like scared animals dumped into an alien and unfamiliar environment.
    • Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon has a different kind of Out-of-Context problem: Team Rainbow Rocket. Made up of the villains from the previous main series games, they hail from Alternate Universes where they succeeded in their goals. They unexpectedly take over Aether Paradise in order to take over all dimensions.
  • In the Game Mod Rise Ofthe Reds for Command & Conquer: Generals, the European Continental Army proved to be one of these for the Global Liberation Army. The GLA had previously overrun large parts of Germany and destroyed or looted large parts of central Europe with little response from the armies of the EU, leaving them to believe that the Europeans were weak and helpless and had to rely on the Americans and Chinese to protect them. A decade later, the various European countries (with Chinese help) had rebuilt and re-armed and create a new, powerful, technologically-advanced allied army. The GLA, mostly focused on internal squabbling and fighting the Chinese, were unprepared when the ECA came looking for revenge, and their advanced technology utterly ruined the GLA forces in Africa with weapons and vehicles they had never seen before.
    • The ECA tended to use these routinely on the Russians when they invaded Europe. While the Russians mostly relied on powerful but conventional weapons and firepower supplemented by Tesla weapons, the Europeans resorted to highly-advanced prototype weapons that completely blindsided the Russians, like the massive AI-driven Manticore tank with nanomachine repair tech, the Solaris fusion satellite arrays, and the Valkyrie armor system. In fact, the ECA even has a specific technology, the Venom Protocol, which causes their army to switch from conventional weapons to extremely advanced prototype weaponry.
    • The GLA proved to be one for the Russians and every other power operating in Africa, despite the fact that they knew the GLA still existed. After going underground (literally in many places) the GLA re-armed and re-equipped their army and then launched a sudden, unexpected attack on their numerous enemies with wholly new and unexpected weapons and equipment, including actual aircraft (which they couldn't field in the base game). They hit the Russians with such ferocity that they annihilated their main army in North Africa overnight.
  • By Saints Row IV, the Saints have taken down plenty of street gangs (including gangs of Voodoo practitioners, Yakuza samurai bikers, cyberpunk hackers and heavily armed masked wrestlers) a Mega-Corp, an extremely hi-tech private army, terrorists and zombies, and have used that sheer force of will to propel themselves to the White House, making it clear that no force on Earth can best them. Then aliens invade, abduct humanity's best and brightest and destroy Earth and the Saints are taken completely by surprise.
    • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell goes one step further when the Boss is abducted by Satan, forcing Gat and Kinzie to chase after him into Hell, where they're both cut off from the rest of the Saints. The only reason this isn't more of a shock is because it came out right after IV.
    • Before that, in Saints Row 2, the majority of the game is spent fighting other street gangs, who while more powerful than the Saints initially, aren't all that different outside of what vehicles they drive and some slight variation what weapons they use. When all three of the street gangs are eliminated, the Boss is out celebrating their victory, when out of nowhere heavily armed commandos with armored personnel carriers storm the building and simultaneously attack the Saint's headquarters. These guys belong to ULTOR, the aforementioned Mega-Corp. And while we the players have been privy to their attempts to manipulate things behind the scenes, to the Saints, the corporation's sudden attack comes as a completely unexpected surprise.
  • The 3D Sonic the Hedgehog games generally use this as their source of villainy, as usual Big Bad Dr. Eggman's role is often demoted in these titles, either trying to benefit from the fact the villain is outside the typical context of the series or only rising to the level of being an instigator of the events and then losing his grip on them after some of the plot has passed. Examples include Chaos (a water monster from ancient times Eggman has been trying to harness but only ends up aiding its vengeful rampage) and Biolizard (a last-ditch experiment by a mad scientist aboard a space colony as his final parting gift for a world he believes betrayed him).
  • In Spyro Orange and Crash Purple, the protagonists suddenly find themselves the victims of a villain switcheroo, and have to take on each other's archnemeses.
    • Similarly, the Shadow Minions from Spyro: Shadow Legacy. Even Spyro couldn't damage these things until he started learning Dragon Kata.
  • StarCraft:
    • The Zerg, who are a Horde of Alien Locusts from another part of the galaxy. The Zerg are out-of-context for the Protoss more than anything, since they were running the galaxy as part of their "Great Stewardship". They never imagined a Horde of Alien Locusts coming out of nowhere with the explicit purpose of assimilating them, and destroying their ancestral homeworld.
    • The Protoss were pretty out-of-context for the Terrrans as well, the Terrans discovered they were not alone when a massive fleet showed up out of nowhere and sterilized one of their colonies.
    • The United Earth Directorate from Brood War is another example. The Zerg are at least comprehensible to the Protoss as they are also a creation of the Xel'Naga, and part of their power comes from absorbing Xel'Naga knowledge. Terrans, as far as most of the Protoss are concerned, are a bit of background noise in their fight with the Zerg. But then a fleet from Earth shows up and (for a time at least) controls the Zerg and becomes the top power.
    • The Dark Voice and his Hybrids also seems to be this in StarCraft II, especially in the Bad Future: the Zerg were the main threat that everybody recognized, and then, just as Kerrigan was killed to defeat the Zerg, the Fallen One came in, took over the Zerg, and used them to bring everlasting darkness to the Universe.
  • Played with in Star Wars: The Old Republic: Sure, the Republic and Jedi have been in cyclical wars with the Sith Empire. Thing is, actual Sith haven't been seen by the Republic for centuries. They thought that the Sith had all been wiped out by a combination of infighting and war. Thing is, they had merely retreated to a part of space not on Republic maps and spent the next few years rebuilding. The Sith they had fought in the centuries since, like Exar Kun, were all fallen Jedi who had unilaterally adopted the name or were backed by ancient Sith ghosts. Revan stumbled on them, got put under a mind-whammy from the Sith Emperor, and sent out to conquer, but the events of the games wiped Revan's memory of the actual Sith, so the Republic thought Revan's followers were all there were. Of course, Revan eventually remembered, recruited the Exile, and they promptly grabbed the Idiot Ball, blundering into an incredibly obvious trap, and they made no attempt to warn the Republic. 300 years later, the Empire invades, the Republic is caught with its pants down, and we get the opening situation with the Republic on the verge of destruction.
    • The Eternal Empire of Zakuul is this even more so. Republic–Empire conflict has been going on for decades at this point, alternating between open hostilities, uneasy truce, a Cold War, renewed conflict, and another truce set up by a Reasonable Authority Figure on both sides. With no setup or foreshadowing, either in this game or the larger Expanded Universe, an entire new Empire emerges from Unknown Regions, secretly built by the Sith Emperor over past centuries. Their technology is superior to anything Republic and Empire have to offer, so they Curb-Stomp both sides, subjugating an entire galaxy within a year and leaving both the Empire and the Republic with no further means or resources for open hostilities.
  • Stellaris hits you with an Endgame Crisis unlike anything you've dealt with before that point: The Praethoryn Scourge, an extragalactic invasion of world-consuming biological monsters, the Unbidden, a horde of Emotion Eater extradimensional invaders who wipe entire worlds clean of populations, and the Contingency, an AI tasked with sterilizing the entire galaxy of life. In addition, you may encounter the War in Heaven, in which two rival Fallen Empires wake up and drag the entire galaxy into a massive war, and a particularly foolish empire can theoretically unleash the End of the Cycle. You can be one yourself to pre-FTL races if you set your "Native Interference" policy to Unrestricted, and can even earn the "Outside Context" achievement if you invade a pre-space flight Earth in the middle of a world war.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • In Sunrider, the people of the galaxy have enough on their plate already between pirates, slavers, the escalating war between two galactic superpowers, and occasional run-ins with ancient but still-functional (and hostile) Lost Technology left behind by the Ancient Ryuvians. Nobody is expecting a time-travelling Ryuvian fleet led by a man who wants to rebuild his people’s galaxy-spanning empire in the present day to suddenly show up, which is just what happens in The Stinger for Sunrider Liberation Day.
  • Tabuu from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He comes out of nowhere and effortlessly beats absolutely every character. Then Dedede's badges activate...
    • There's also Galeem (and later, Dharkon) from Ultimate's story mode, World of Light. Shows up from out of nowhere with an army of Master Hands, and proceeds to obliterate everyone and everything in sight, sans Kirby who manages to escape on his Warp Star. The rest of the mode consists of Kirby rescuing and rounding up the other fighters to take the fight to it.
  • The protagonists of Until Dawn spend most of the game dealing with a masked psycho out to kill them in an isolated cabin in the woods. Except he isn't. He's a deranged but ultimately harmless former friend who wanted to pull a massive prank on them. Except something is killing people. And that something turns out to be a pack of supernatural wendigos that just happen to call the area around the cabin home.
  • In Warcraft, the Void, while originating at the dawn of time and inadvertently helping to create the universe, is this for life in the universe. Even the titans, god-like beings who travel the universe creating life, were surprised to learn of the Void's existence. Sargeras in particular was so horrified by the existence and nature of the Void, he formed a demonic army with the purpose of wiping out all life in the universe, as he saw a lifeless universe preferable to one dominated by the Void.


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