WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

While The End of the World as We Know It is very common fiction, there are a wide variety of ways in which it can actually manifest; this can be measured on two sliding scales, depending on the size of the "world" in question, and to exactly what extent it "ends" -- this is derived in part from Bruce Sterling's analysis of ways in which the Real Life world could theoretically end.


  • Regional: a part of a continent or landmass (eg. "Sub-Saharan Africa"; "California"; "The British Isles", "the peninsula occupied by France and Spain")
  • Continental: An entire continent or landmass ("Europe", "Oceania")
  • Planetary: an entire planet, or the vast majority of one. (If the given setting does not involve space travel and/or other worlds, then the scale effectively stops here.)
  • Stellar: a solar system
  • Galactic: a galaxy
  • Universal: the entire universe
  • Multiversal: multiple universes (whichever flavor of Another Dimension you prefer)
  • Omniversal: all universes; reality itself.


  • Societal Disruption: Civilization survives intact, but is forever altered. This may be due to the sheer amount of damage caused lowering the standard of living, or it may be a result of people being forced to adapt to the new threat(s) they face.
  • Societal Collapse: Humanity backslides within the effected area, regressing to pre-industrial levels[1] at best and pre-agricultural[2] at worst. Civilization may recover on its own, but not for centuries at the least.
  • Species Extinction: A dominant or major species is either wiped out completely or reduced to such a low population level that its recovery is virtually impossible barring intervention by an outside force (or a miracle).
  • Mass Extinction: A large number of species within the effected area die off, but life continues in some form. If humans are among the survivors, expect to see them resorting to things like Soylent Soy (unless they've undergone a societal collapse themselves). See also Gaia's Lament.
  • Total Extinction: Life itself ends. No living organism of any kind exists within the effected area.
  • Physical Annihilation: The effected area itself ceases to exist; it's sunk into the ocean, blasted into asteroids, or made to never exist in the first place.
Examples of Apocalypse How/Sandbox include:

Anime and Manga

  • Fist of the North Star: Planetary Societal Collapse. There's no organizations above the level of villages, and no authority beyond who kicks the most ass.
  • Gundam is fond of these.
    • UC Gundam, most notably Mobile Suit Gundam, has a slightly-more-than-Planetary Societal Disruption, where half of humanity (much of which lives in space colonies orbiting Earth) is killed by nerve gas, nuclear weapons, and a Colony Drop, but civilization as a whole survives relatively unscathed. Locally, this would be a roughly Continental-scale (each cluster of space colonies has a population of roughly one billion) Total Extinction (in the case of chemical weapons) or Physical Annihilation (for nukes). The Colony Drop caused Regional Physical Annihilation (turning Sydney, Australia and a large portion of the surrounding countryside into a crater) and Planetary Societal Disruption (the aftereffects killed about half of Earth's population).
    • G Gundam is an odd case. Most people left Earth for the space colonies, and the world's governments therefore ignore Earth, but those left behind carry on as best they can, leaving it somewhere between Planetary Societal Disruption and Collapse. Of course, the Dark Gundam's goal was to cause Planetary Human Extinction, because it decided that that was the best way to preserve and repair Earth's environment.
    • Gundam X also straddles the line between Planetary Societal Disruption and Collapse, with most people being Disaster Scavengers but a functioning world government (re)taking control of Earth.
    • Turn a Gundam and its Days of Future Past setting necessitates a Planetary Societal Collapse. It's implied that this has happened multiple times at irregular intervals, each cycle resulting in a different Gundam series.
    • The Cosmic Era, consisting of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, has several of its own.
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Planetary Societal Collapse, where industrial civilization is completely gone, with the ever-spreading Sea of Corruption threatening an eventual Planetary Mass Extinction as it kills off everything except its own fungi and giant insects.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Planetary Societal Disruption in the Second Impact, which killed nearly half of humanity and caused sea level to rise enough to flood coastal cities. The Third Impact caused (a potentially reversible) Planetary Total Extinction ...we think.
  • Trinity Blood: A Planetary Human Extinction in the backstory. The whole series takes place in Europe, because it's the only inhabited region left on Earth.


  • 28 Days Later: Regional Human Extinction -- zombies overrun Great Britain, killing or infecting basically everyone.
    • The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is more ambiguous about the extent of the damage, but considering that the final scene is zombies rampaging through Paris, we can probably assume that it's Regional Human Extinction at best and Planetary Total Extinction at worst.
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Planetary Societal Disruption, as humanity flees most of the planet for more moderate climes. Continental Mass Extinction, in the areas that are directly effected.
  • Deep Impact: Continental Societal Collapse, at least. North America's east coast, Europe, and western Africa are all pretty much destroyed.
  • Independence Day: Planetary Societal Disruption. Most major cities have been completely wiped off the map, but governments remain mostly intact.
  • WALL-E: Planetary Mass Extinction. Humanity abandons Earth after turning it into a giant trash pile, leaving the only two things we actually see alive for much of the movie a cockroach and a single plant. Given that humanity's tech level wasn't significantly impacted, however, it seems likely that a rebound is possible.


  • World War Z: Planetary Mass Extinction. Though humanity survives and begins to rebuild, many species are driven to extinction either by the zombies hunting them (turtles are specifically mentioned) or humans hunting them (whales were apparently hunted to extinction by people who took to sea to flee the zombies on shore).

Tabletop Games

  • Ravenloft: Killing a darklord has been known to cause a Regional Physical Annihilation. Their domains (including the native population), simply cease to exist.
  • Warhammer 40000: Pretty much up everything from Stellar down on the Scope scale, and up and down the entire Severity scale, depending on whether you're talking about orbital bombardment by warships, Exterminatus wiping out a planet's biosphere, or stuff just disappearing into the Warp.

Web Comics

  • Dead Winter: Regional Societal Collapse. We haven't seen how far the Zombie Apocalypse has spread, but that's only because every character we see is stuck in the city where it started -- where all semblance of law and order has collapsed.
  • The Zombie Hunters: Planetary Societal Collapse. All of humanity has apparently been reduced to one Island Base and relies primarily on Disaster Scavengers (the eponymous zombie hunters) working on the mainland to survive. However, they do have enough trained military personnel, doctors, and scientists to have some hope of restoring civilization... eventually.

Video Games

  • The Fallout series is based around Planetary Societal Collapse due to nuclear war between the United States and China.
  • Final Fantasy has a number of examples.
    • Final Fantasy VI: As the name implies, the World of Ruin is a pretty rough place, weighing in at Planetary Societal Collapse.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: The Lunar Cry caused a Continental Human Extinction in the past when it destroyed the Centra continent. The one that takes place during the game, having been adequately prepared for and even artificially redirected, averts Apocalypse How entirely.
    • Final Fantasy X: Sin is a sort of roaming Regional Human Extinction, which overall results in a Planetary Societal Disruption, as their entire civilization is based around countering Sin's threat.
  • Half Life: Planetary Societal Collapse via alien invasion, though it's more "overthrown" than "collapsed".
  • Halo: The Covenant "glasses" several planets in the backstory, resulting in Planetary Total Extinction. The destruction of the Halo at the end of the first game is a Planetary Physical Annihilation. The Halos themselves threaten Galactic Total Extinction.
  • Killing Floor: Regional Human Extinction, similar to 28 Days Later above. Essentially everyone in Great Britain who isn't either military or Crazy Prepared is dead or a mutant.
  • Left 4 Dead: As of Left 4 Dead 2, we're looking at a Regional Societal Collapse. The American east coast, from New York to Louisiana, is nothing but zombies and chaos, with the only human life being any Action Survivors who've managed to avoid becoming zombie food.
  • STALKER: Regional Societal Disruption. Civilization inside the Zone is pretty much gone.


  1. most people are forced to be subsistence farmers
  2. most people are hunter-gatherers
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.