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"Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large."
Imagine a universe where even the tiniest spot of hope for the future is blindness in itself, the insane nihilist yelling about The End of the World as We Know It in the asylum is actually the only one with a clue, and too much curiosity about the true nature of the world is a precursor to a Fate Worse Than Death. A universe where humanity is preyed everywhere by inconceivable horrors, and all our ideals are a cruel illusion; a universe which was once ruled by eldritch abominations that seeped down from the depths of space long ago.
Nor are they dead; they merely wait, and soon they shall wake. They shall return to rule this world, and all our grandest achievements shall have been in vain. For all our blind Hubris we are but mice in the wainscoting, making merry while the cat's away--but even today, the world is more dangerous than we may know.
Take one step away from the comforts of home, and you will find terror and madness on every corner -- dark cults, hideous monstrosities, truths so terrible that none may comprehend them and remain sane. Demons gibber in the tunnels beneath your feet. Parasites crawl in your food, drink and stomach. Ghosts hover unseen and unheard around you. The vile essence of an alien disease lurks in the recesses of your own family tree, a genetic time bomb just waiting to go off....
Such was the vision of H.P. Lovecraft, pioneer of the Cosmic Horror Story. Our victories are hollow and our doom is certain, for we struggle not against ordinary monsters, but something else entirely. It's possible that they don't even notice our value; they're simply so unstoppable that their mere passing obliterates worlds, or worse, and we happen to be the world in question.
A Cosmic Horror Story doesn't just scare you with big, ugly monsters--though it can certainly have them--it depresses you with the fatalistic implication of being insignificantly powerless before such vast, unknowable and fundamentally alien entities. On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, it sometimes lies near the cynical Despair Event Horizon.
If you aren't sure if a work is a Cosmic Horror Story or not, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the antagonist evil or uncaring on a cosmic scale? We're talking a Big Bad who is capable of destroying humanity, planet Earth, the universe, or all three and doing so with very little or no preparation and/or intent, and with about as much effort as it takes to swat a mosquito that's landed on your arm.
- Is the attitude of the antagonist towards humanity disregard, simple pragmatism, or incidental hatred? (A godlike antagonist that actively hates humanity and its works is more in line with Rage Against the Heavens or God Is Evil.) Does the antagonist have a worldview and motivations that doesn't really seem to take humanity into account? Are the motivations of the antagonist difficult to explain using human terms?
- Are the antagonist or his minions so alien in appearance that simply seeing him is sufficient to drive a human to madness? Are they Eldritch Abominations?
- Are the antagonist or his minions indescribable -- literally? Lines like "I cannot find the words to describe the vile thing I saw..." are a hallmark of Cosmic Horror Stories.
- Is the tone of the work deeply pessimistic about the possibility of the antagonist being defeated completely? If it isn't, the work is more likely to be Lovecraft Lite.
Answering "No" to more than two of these means that the work is probably not a Cosmic Horror Story, although it may share tropes with the genre.
Common tropes in Cosmic Horror Stories include:
- Above Good and Evil
- Alien Geometries
- Apocalyptic Log
- Body Horror
- Beneath the Earth
- Blue and Orange Morality
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu
- Brown Note
- Closed Circle
- The Dark Times
- Diabolus Ex Machina
- Diabolus Ex Nihilo
- Dug Too Deep
- Eldritch Abomination
- Eldritch Location
- Go Mad From the Revelation
- God Is Evil
- Half-Human Hybrid
- Humans Are Morons
- Insignificant Little Blue Planet
- Lovecraft Country
- Lovecraft Lite
- Mad God
- Mind Rape
- Mythopoeia: Most Eldritch Abominations do not derive from folklore.
That said, there are quite a few of them that created folklore accidentally.
- Psychological Horror
- Puny Earthlings
- Puppeteer Parasite
- Sealed Evil in a Can
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
- Through the Eyes of Madness
- Time Abyss
- Tome of Eldritch Lore
- Town with a Dark Secret
- Ultimate Evil
- The Unpronounceable
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form
The genre is sometimes called "Cosmic Horror", Lovecraftian Fiction, or Weird Fiction. Very likely to use Paranoia Fuel. A Despair Event Horizon or a Downer Ending can be used to add to the depressing atmosphere. Compare/contrast with Gothic Horror (on which prose the first Cosmic Horror Stories, like those from Lovecraft himself, borrowed) Crapsack World, Mind Screw and Through the Eyes of Madness.
Note that while the Cthulhu Mythos Shared Universe originated in the Cosmic Horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, a Cosmic Horror Story need not refer to the Mythos or borrow from its imagery. Lovecraft Lite goes a step further than that and does not expect us to take Lovecraft's vision seriously in the first place.
Anime & Manga
- Hellstar Remina, features an enormous sentient planet coming to Earth and wreaking indescribable horror upon it. Then it EATS the Earth as if it was an appetizer before continuing on its way, presumably to eat more celestial bodies.
- The whole Berserk-verse is supervised by the Godhand who are themselves servants of The Idea Of Evil, a godlike entity that manipulates destiny through the rules of Causality in order to give the people of the world what they wish for. However, the Idea isn't about making people happy, it's about being responsible for their suffering. Because humans want something to be responsible, and it's actually that desire made sentient.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: While it mainly focuses on Existential crisis, the setting has archetypes of cosmic horror stories in it. A post-apocalyptic Crapsack World where, because man meddled with the underlying order of creation and other Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, half of the population has died and the remainder are in the process of being annihilated by the Angels (Quite a few old super robot shows did feature mysterious, alien villains with very lightly defined motivations; cue the relentless attacks of the Angels, alien (or not) assailants on whose motives, constituents or psychology we have a little idea of, simply malevolent Mac Guffins to enable the story to play with 'giant robot' tropes. They also happen to get progressively creepier, and more unexplainably eldritch as the show progresses. Most importantly, there is an emphasis on showing the fear and uncertainty that comes with fighting an enemy that is just plain undefinable).
Humanity does try to do something to defeat them by creating Humongous Mecha which are actually duplicates of said abominations, but the chosen pilots are mentally ill to begin with. Various factions within the series vie for the opportunity to take down the Angels in the way they deem most appropriate, with the winner being the one that causes the most collateral damage, and the battle only makes things worse in increasingly horrifying details. There's also a conspiracy of cultists who discovered and awakened these eldritch abominations in the first place and plans to use them (especially the one whose ichor was actually the primordial origin of all life spilled in a cosmic accident never meant to happen) to bring about The End of the World as We Know It In Their Own Image. In the end, the apocalypse is so incomprehensible it even also makes us real life humans go mad from the revelation.
- Bokurano, a Deconstruction of different focus than Eva, yet similar to it: Something is making you fight in its super robot against other super robots, to decide the fate of the world and infinite numbers of other ones. Why? You will never have the slightest idea.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Oh, boy... Long story short? Aliens with Blue And Orange Psychology harvest magical energy created from the suffering of magical girls in an attempt to stave off the impending death of the universe via the Second Law of Thermodynamics (see Real Life section below), and they can't even comprehend why only this Industrialized Evil works out. Gen Urobuchi wrote both Saya no Uta and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars, the last arc of the anime, reveals that Sailor Senshi exist across the galaxy and have all been engaged in an epic battle against evil. Sailor Galaxia, one of the strongest warriors, has been exterminating entire planets so that she can collect Star Seeds, which are souls. Galaxia is said to have wiped out 80% of the galaxy; nearly all life in the galaxy has been annihilated.
- The manga is even worse: Galaxia, bad as she was, was also the Unwitting Pawn to Bigger Bad the Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaos, which at the climax absorbs the source of the universe's life. But Wait! There's More!! Sure, Usagi destroys Chaos, restores life to the galaxy and resurrects all her dead friends, we're told that Chaos has survived, and that one day it'll be back, as a Sailor Scout no less, to start a war in the future that will make the current victory inconsequential.
- The canonical manga Interquel that was never published would put both Gunbuster and Diebuster in that territory, with revelation that, long story short, the Universe is one big Eldritch Abomination, the Space Monsters are its immune system and humanity can do nothing but desperately fight for survival, sacrificing their weapons and champions in the process. It means that the sacrifices made by both Noriko and Nono were both meaningless.
- Digimon Tamers started as a Coming of Age Mons series but experienced a Genre Shift when the true nature of the D-Reaper was revealed. At the end of the series, after poisoned worlds, endless Mind Rapes, and a total invasion and subjugation of a city, the D-Reaper cannot be defeated, at least not conventionally, only regressed to a less threatening form. The fact that the main writer is a contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos will not shock anyone who's watched the series, nor will the fact that he also wrote Serial Experiment Lain.
- Devilman - thanks to humans being bastards killing the only people protecting them from demons it leads to them being left alone against the enemy. At the very end it's implied that humans have been all killed, leaving only demons and devilmen and then everybody except Satan dies. Oh and God is an gigantic Eldritch Abomination that kills anybody who gets too close it.
- AMON makes it even worse - God has put the entire world on a time loop so all humans and demons live and die for nothing over and over, just to make Satan suffer the loss of his beloved repeatedly for all eternity.
- The Myth Arc of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which leads to the heroes going into all-out war against a race of beings known as the Anti-Spirals, who are intent on destroying mankind to prevent further use of Spiral power.
- Grant Morrison's Zenith mainly fought the Lloigor, shapeless body-stealing beings from beyond time and space who can consume reality. Turns out they're actually the first-generation superheroes who "self-evolved" into Reality Warper Gods and subsequently went mad with power, but were forced to live outside normal space-time since their own universe was too fragile to hold them. And they want back in. Badly.
- A Donald Duck comic features this as its story. Donald tries out for a singing competition organized by a renowned musician, and gets successfully recruited by having his voice altered by an apparent twin of said musician. It’s revealed that the entire world is actually the dream of an ancient cephalophoid monster which slumbers in a city at the bottom of the sea, and the two twins are manifestations of the monster’s conflicting subconscious desires to continue sleeping or wake up, which Donald’s voice will make it do. When the creature does just that the rest of the world vanishes as it no longer creates the world-dream, and everything in its vicinity shapes itself into its image, resulting in Donald and his nephews growing tentacles and stick eyes. It’s eventually put back to sleep, but the story ends on a rather dark note as Donald contemplates everybody's existence as mere parts of the creature’s imagination.
- The Filth, also from Morrison, arguably. But Secret Original is living in this: A Captain Ersatz of Golden Age Superman, he discovered his world had no free will and went to change this, by coming into reality. And the reality is: He is just a comic book character...
- El Eternauta, anyone? The aliens called "Hands", who are smarter and more evolved than human beings, are actually unwilling puppets of higher entities that they only dare to call "Them", and they even define "Them" as the "cosmic hate". "Them" are never shown.
- The notorious work of indy comics artists Al Columbia and Hans Rickheit and, at times, Edward Gorey.
- It's still uncertain whether Hellboy and BPRD are this or Lovecraft Lite. It appeared at first to be the latter, but the monsters are getting nastier, and Hellboy is getting increasingly desperate.
- Leviathan shown in Hellraiser II was described in supplementary graphic novels to be the true Eldritch Abomination.
- There was an Anthology Comic series from Vertigo called Flinch. In one story, a massive fan of Lovecraft eventually grows up with the realization "We don't deserve monsters" and loses all wonder of creatures out there.
- Fall of Cthulhu by BOOM Comics.
- Cthulhu Tales, also by BOOM Comics; however, being an Anthology Comic, a lot of individual stories fell into Lovecraft Lite instead.
- Both Marvel and DC have elements of this. For Marvel, anytime Galactus shows up, and for DC, anytime Starro shows up. Many Crisis Crossover events are this.
- Challenge of the Super Friends: The End, where the Legion of Doom travel to a horrific Lovecraftian universe and begin winding up like victims in the Event Horizon and Hellraiser films. The unseen Benefactor may well be an Ultimate Evil.
- The Shape of the Nightmare to Come takes regular Warhammer 40000 and cranks up the Cosmic Horror elements to max. The Ophilim Kiasoz destroys entire star systems simply by passing through them, and no one knows just what it is. The Nex, of which virtually nothing is known, drives people mad by just mentioning it. The former God-Emperor becomes the Chaos God of Order. And before all of that, the New Devourer (which manages to make the Tyranids retreat) eats more than one third of all life in the galaxy. The whole 1st segment reads like it was written by Lovecraft himself.
- A Statement In The Ice a Lovecraft-meets-Watchmen pastiche in which Cthulhu bears down on New York city rather than the custom-made Eldritch Abomination Veidt unleashed in canon.
- So you think Aeon Natum Engel and its remake Aeon Entelechy Evangelion are going to be your standard "Badass Shinji" Lovecraft Lite setting reboots, do you? Think again.
- Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy fanfiction Johnny. Not surprising, considering it has to top its already very disturbing predecessor.
- The Touhou fanfiction Imperfect Metamorphosis moves further and further into this trope with each chapter. Not even the most powerful denizens of Gensoukyou, working together and using their most potent attacks, do more than inconvenience either Yuuka or the Shadow Youkai, some of them barely surviving the encounter, with retribution being swift and terrible. Furthermore, Yukari casually notes that she deals with similar - though not quite as bad - situations on a regular (for her) basis, and several characters, including Yuuka herself, states that there are far worse things out there.
Films -- Live Action
- John Carpenter's "apocalypse trilogy" (The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness) is an escalation of the trope over the 3 movies: first, a protean, invasive lifeform threatening to subsume in itself every living thing on the planet in a desolate antarctic setting reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains Of Madness; then a liquid corruption that turns out to be Satan, and whose goal is to bring to our world its true father, the Anti-God, in an old church being investigated by academics from an establishment similar to Miskatonic University; and finally, ineffable, unreal horrors attempting to find purchase in our reality through the writings of a Mad Artist and his previously-fictitious Town with a Dark Secret in the middle of Lovecraft Country, all the while screwing over the protagonist in such a way that it was formerly the Trope Namer for Through the Eyes of Madness.
- Event Horizon, in which "Hell" is the easiest way for the characters to describe hyperspace, but some elements suggest it just might be far, far worse. Then you consider the fact that Warhammer 40000 fans like to think of it as a prequel...
- Possession, a film by Andrzej Zulawski which maps Cosmic Horror Story onto a disintegrating marriage.
- Dagon is based on "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by Lovecraft. A desperate town resorts to Eldritch Abomination worship so they don't starve to death. From there, It Gets Worse.
- Considering its background of destroying planets with life, it's confirmed that King Ghidorah is some kind of cosmic horror.
- Spacegodzilla is an alien clone of Godzilla with telekenetic powers that arrives on earth to destroy Godzilla. The Shobijin refuse to say what Spacegodzilla plans to do afterwards if he defeats his predecessor.
- Hedorah. Sentient alien sludge that is so toxic it emits fatal amounts of sulphuric acid from its body. Its body is so poisonous that simply touching it will burn flesh down to the bone (Yes, even if you are Godzilla). Considering how many people it killed while on Earth, imagine the amount of damage it must've caused on other planets.
- The Vanishing On 7th Street gives us a phenomenon that can consume entire cities. Darkness becomes a sentient, malevolent force that hunts down and absorbs everyone it can, leaving only Empty Piles of Clothing and turning those it snatches up into shadows in its thrall. Light can keep the shadows at bay, but becomes harder and harder to sustain the longer the phenomenon is active, and the daylight hours grow shorter and shorter. There is no reason or explanation for this phenomenon, only the growing, desperate sense of inevitable doom. It's heavily implied that the will to live is the key to surviving this, but even then the darkness does everything it can to break the resolve of the few remaining survivors, and succeeds in almost every case.
- The Alien 'verse was originally one of these, despite the fact that xenomorphs aren't actual eldritch abominations (few will dispute the fact that they are just as horrifying); many of the sequels and Expanded Universe works severely diluted the formula -looking at you, Alienversus Predator- Ridley Scott himself set to bring back the Original Flavor of the franchise with the semi-prequel Prometheus. Since the xenomorphs have arguably become too much of a popculture icon to feel menacing enough, he'll simply used another, as yet mostly unexplored but very well-known part of the franchise: the Space Jockeys, who it's implied created/uplifted humanity... and the xenomorphs. Oh Crap.
- In The Cabin in the Woods, The entire horror movie was orchestrated to appease the "Ancient Ones," eldritch abominations who require specific ritualistic human sacrifices or else they will destroy the world. The movie ends with a giant hand bursting out of the cabin and the world ending.
- Proto-example: Robert W Chambers' book The King in Yellow, which was an influence on Lovecraft himself, and he made references to it that are now better known than the original source. Filled with Mind Screw and Take Our Word for It.
- The works of Arthur Machen were also a huge influence, particularly his 1894 novella The Great God Pan, which gives us the eponymous Eldritch Abomination and was the basis for Lovecraft's own story "The Dunwich Horror". Machen wrote other works of this kind, though The Great God Pan stands out as the most significant.
- William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land and The House on the Borderland are also notable forerunners.
- Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Horla" is another influence on Lovecraft, with its motifs of a cosmos harbouring unknown terrors and, closer to home, a malevolent, intangible organism capable not only of possessing humans but of one day replacing them as a species. Unless, that is, it's just the narrator gradually going mad.
- Predating even those was Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, of which Lovecraft's own seminal At the Mountains of Madness is a Spiritual Successor if not outright sequel.
- H. P. "Grandpa Cthulhu" Lovecraft and his Weird Tales colleagues - Clark Ashton "Klarkash-ton" Smith, Robert E. "Two-Gun Bob" Howard, etc. - who started the whole Cthulhu Mythos thing (although it wasn't actually named, nor any kind of cohesive whole, until August Derleth laid hands on it) as a collective attempt to lend their works an air of authenticity, by sharing common elements and references as if the stories were actually based on Real Life sources. And it worked - there are now people who genuinely believe the Necronomicon is a real existing book and that Cthulhu was worshiped by ancient Sumerians.
- The Atrocity Archives and its sequels take place in a world where bureaucratic top secret government agencies even more covert and shadowy than MI 5 and the CIA battle Eldritch Abominations attracted to reality after Alan Turing discovered a theory that allowed the user to warp reality with computers and the Nazis attempted to summon the Great Old Ones using the souls of those slaughtered in the Holocaust to win the Second World War. CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, where the Elder Gods devour the world, is definitely going to happen; the only question is how long we've got, and the best estimates have it as a matter of a few years ... if we're lucky.
- Sarah Monette's The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth stories take place in a Cosmic Horror Story universe -- unsurprisingly, as she openly acknowledges Lovecraft as a major influence.
- Stephen King likes tropes associated with this genre, particularly Eldritch Abominations, although most often they're limited in how much they can affect the world. He also uses Lovecraft Country a lot (many of his works are set in New England, most often rural Maine).
- In IT, the eponymous monster is perceived as a Giant Spider by the protagonists, because this was the closest analogue that their rational minds could find for Its appearance. Attempting to fight It can result one's mind being flung beyond the edge of the universe, then being driven mad by the Deadlights (which It is merely an appendage of). After the protagonists succeed in killing It, they magically forget about the entire incident; apparently this was the only way they could have lived a normal life afterward.
- The Mist describes what happens when ordinary folk are confronted with an encroaching alternate reality that gradually enshrouds everything in an unnatural fog filled with predatory Eldritch Abominations. (Although as the novella explicitly states, they aren't truly "Lovecraftian" horrors, in that they can bleed and die, particularly if they are set on fire.)
- Alternatively, the mist itself could be considered the abomination; the horrid things inhabitting it could merely be its equivalent of microorganisms.
- In The Dark Tower several hints are dropped regarding entities and realities of this magnitude, especially in regards to "Todash Darkness and the unspeakable things that dwell there in the black never between realities". The scenes in Book Seven regarding Roland, Susannah, and Oy fleeing through Castle Discordia from one of these things that somehow got OUT of Todash are laced with suggestive themes about what would happen when the Tower falls and Todash sets these critters loose on all the many universes.
- The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray has the standard deluded-fools-summoning-eldritch-abominations plot. Said Eldritch Abominations are called the Glau Meska, but often known as the Deep Ones. Now where did that idea come from...?
- The American horror writer Thomas Ligotti has written a few of the only genuinely Lovecraftian pastiches ever. A few, though not many, of the works explicitly use the names of Lovecraft's creations. One of his best (and most unsettling), "Nethescurial", can be read here.
- Many stories by Clive Barker could fall into this category. Skins Of The Fathers particularly. Clive Barker is one of the few authors whose Cosmic Horror Story works can't be traced back to Lovecraft's distinctive styles, but has all the themes: Artifacts of Doom, Eldritch Abominations, Eldritch Locations, and a general sense of dread and fear caused by contact with higher beings that just might not have humanity's best intentions in mind.
- The fantasy of Michael Moorcock is full of Cosmic Horror. The Elric Saga's world especially has many, many ancient evils that used to rule the world and now lie around decaying and waiting to destroy any traveler they meet. Elric himself rules over the remnants of one of these evil empires, and his patron god is an Eldritch Abomination (as are virtually all the other gods; Warhammer Fantasy's Order Versus Chaos theme was clearly inspired by Moorcock's work, at least until they decided to get rid of the Order part). The final book involves the world being completely remade by the Eldritch Abominations, and the "good" ending to the story accepts this as inevitable. The Corum series is an example too; he fights against Elric's Lords of Chaos in the first series, and in the second series against a group of Eldritch Abominations who are based on the elemental forces of cold and death.
- In Perelandra, after Weston returns to his body which had heretofore been possessed by a bent eldil, the picture he paints of the afterlife suggests a Cosmic Horror universe: Reality as we know it is just a thin shell surrounding an endless abyss of nothingness, and ultimately nothing humanity does matters. However, this being a novel by CS Lewis, he's wrong about the universe; and it's suggested that this wasn't even Weston talking, but an eldil impersonating Weston in hopes of discouraging Ransom.
- Dark King of the Goths Neil Gaiman gets in on this with a short story in his book M Is For Magic. Two kids end up at the wrong party and one of them is almost consumed by hearing the song of a disembodied race from ... somewhere that is fundamentally at a right angle to our existence. The other one tries to make out with a different type. Things don't go so good for either of them.
- The story is "How to Talk to Girls at Parties." The people at the party are, specifically, the physical embodiment of planetary bodies, or ideas of them. The latter boy inadvertently pisses off a sun. The first kid doesn't understand what happens, and after they leave the party he never hears from his friend again.
- Likewise, Gaiman's A Study in Emerald is a Sherlock Holmes Homage set in a late 19th century where the Great Old Ones took over centuries ago. While the world superficially is much like ours and the God-Monsters themselves seem as if they've gone native, one doesn't need to scratch the surface much to find exceedingly unpleasant facts and goings-on which may soon lead to The End of the World as We Know It - Imagine the first half of the 20th century if all world leaders were cosmic horrors.
- Cthulhu's Reign, edited by Darrell Schweitzer, is an anthology of short stories on what life - well, existence anyway - on Earth would be like when the Old Ones return.
- In Jack Williamson's Born of the Sun, the planets of the Solar system are actually eggs of space-dwelling dragon-like monsters that start hatching. Pluto first.
- Mark Z. Danielewski's debut novel House of Leaves. As a book about a book about a film about a House that is a maze (or, in short, a book that is a maze), it layers its Mind Screw into several overlapping narratives, all commenting on each other  , accompanied by some seriously screwed-up typography, all to give the reader the sense of disorientation one would feel inside the ever-shifting, enigmatic house.
Live Action TV
- Sapphire and Steel took place in a universe threatened by formless evils. The (presumably) non-human "Elements" Steel and occasionally even the more sympathetic Sapphire, could, on occasion seem alien themselves.
- Warhammer takes place in a world infiltrated by Chaos, a corruptive force given strength by the ickier parts of the human psyche. The only way to combat Chaos is to be frighteningly dogmatic and wipe it out whenever it looks at you funny, no matter who gets caught in the crossfire.
- Warhammer 40000 is even worse. Not only is Chaos even more of a threat (powerful daemons in Warhammer can devastate armies; powerful daemons in 40K can devastate star systems), there are also the implacable legions of the Necrons and their C'tan masters, and the limitless Tyranid hordes controlled by its immortal Hive Mind. Indeed, it's often noted that humanity still survives despite the galaxy always being doomed not because of anything they do, but because the various unstoppable, incomprehensible menaces keep getting in each others' ways.
- Unknown Armies subverts the trope; the setting's big secret is that the universe is humanocentric, existing only for our benefit. Any horrific monsters beyond time that make us insignificant, then, are actually the product, not the cause, of our sense of insignificance. It's a vicious cycle.
- Even more subverted: Every supernatural being in existence was human, the creation of humans or the ghost of a human (as hinted by the Arc Words "You did it"). As a result, even the most debased Eldritch Abomination around has human emotions and human motivations, as much as they loathe admitting it.
- The Old World of Darkness has elements of this in each of its gamelines, with each one having an apocalyptic ending. Vampire has the Antediluvians, their ancient, cannibalistic and godlike forefathers and Werewolf has The Wyrm and the titular apocalypse. Of the bigger lines, only Mage gives the potential for a happy ending, and doesn't involve one flavour or another of the Old Ones eating everything (unless the PC's screw up BADLY).
- The Swedish RPG Kult mixed Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Aleister Crowley occult traditions and the Hellraiser movies, and took its aesthetics from Splatter Punk, Clive Barker and H. R. Giger art. It's actually a subversion. Humans are hopeless against supernatural forces, but will triumph once awoken. In fact, most supernatural beings are hopelessly trying to prevent that. In other words, they broke their arms punching us.
- The same Swedish company also released Mutant Chronicles, whose basic premise is somewhat similar to that of Warhammer 40000, if on a much smaller scale (humanity still hasn't expanded beyond the solar system); although depending on the Game Master's choices for his own campaign, it could be entirely possible for the players to rip the Dark Soul a new one if they try hard enough. Or not.
- Pikathulhu's Gonna Catch You All.
- The Whispering Vault offers an odd inversion in that the player characters are all minor Eldritch Abominations who act as a "police force" that apprehends and retrieves abominations who have illicitly made their way to Earth. It does bear mentioning, though, that conventional reality is All Just a Dream, controlled and maintained through lucid dreaming by those abominations who haven't gone rogue...
- JAGS Wonderland is a massive subversion. The world is being menaced by the Caretakers, a group of entities who live based on story rather than physical laws, as we humans do. They have collectively decided to drive humanity to self-destruction, and have done so via a viral insanity that causes reality to lose its grip on you...And then the subversion hits. The Caretakers hate humans because they're actually terrified of us, since we act in ways they find utterly incomprehensible. That, and The Reveal of the fact that vice versa is not true...Let's just say the default is Earn Your Happy Ending for humanity and leave it at that.
- If the works of H.P. Lovecraft were one of the defining explorations of Cosmic Horror, Call of Cthulhu, as an RPG based on his works, embraces and expands upon what he developed (though at times in the direction of Lovecraft Lite, depending on the Guardian or scenario).
- In Delta Green, a modern-day conspiracy-heavy setting for COC, It Gets Worse. Curiously enough, it's mentionned in the main book that by the turn of the millenium, most Mythos entities and their minions are far less present and/or active than they were even in the 20s and 30s... They don't need to be. They already won. They just need to wait a comparatively short while for the Stars will soon be Right.
- And for a different take on modern-day Mythos espionage roleplaying, The Laundry Series has been made into its own game, using the same basic Chaosium rules as CoC and DG, making all three fully compatible. Have fun.
- Cthulhu Tech. Mix the above with Robotech, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Guyver and Akira. The good news: You have all sorts of wonderful toys (Magitek Humongous Mecha, Psychic Powers, Functional Magic, Lovecraftian Superpowers...) to fight against the Migou invaders and the Eldritch Abomination-worshipping cults. The bad news: the fact that the Migou and the cults also fight each other only barely slows down their systematic conquest of more areas, both have thoroughly infiltrated human society despite The Government's increasingly (and justifiably) draconian security policies, a handful of godlike abominations and countless lesser ones are already here, and the first storyline-progressing book can be summed up in three words: It Got Worse. It's even mentioned in the core book that should Great Cthulhu be woken up by the Esoteric Order of Dagon, it's game over for anything not in thrall to the Old Ones.
- Long-defunct late-80's/early-90's RPG Dark Conspiracy had this sort of vibe -- even though the Big Bad Ensemble of the Dark Lords took several cues from mythological gods and demons, they were still overwhelmingly powerful and unknowable extradimensional entities, who managed from behind the scenes to turn near-future Earth into a horribly depressing Dystopia with the worst aspects of Cyberpunk cranked Up to Eleven and almost none of the cool stuff that comes with it (they stalled technological progress because too much of it could give humanity hope for the future, y'see, and since they thrive on our despair... Their minions had access to plenty of creepy, evil tech). Oh, and almost everyone even the slightest bit in the know was either an Unwitting Pawn, collaborating, or worse, one of countless monstrous minions who infiltrated and preyed on an apathetically oblivious humanity in secret.
- Pelgrane Press really seem to like this trope, since the first three published settings for their Gumshoe system -- Trail Of Cthulhu, Fear Itself and The Esoterrorists -- all contain varying degrees of it. The first one is classic Cthulhu Mythos pulp horror investigation; the second is about playing more or less normal people suddenly confronted to the fact that their world actually is like every Clive Barker-esque splatterpunk story lumped together; and the third is about a secret organisation, the Ordo Veritatis, trying to stop an Ancient Conspiracy (the eponymous esoterrorists) from turning their world into a copy of the second one for fun and profit. Things are not going so well for the Ordo.
- Savage Worlds has published a supplement called Worlds Of Cthulhu. No points for guessing the premise.
- Some years ago, a short-lived CCG called Hecatomb had this as its premise - each player was an "Endbringer", someone who, whether Mad Scientist, Evil Sorcerer or what-have-you, competed with other Endbringers to be the first to gather enough souls to bring about The End of the World as We Know It to fuel their powers, then move on to the next alternate reality to start over. You fought each other by summoning/creating monstrous minions (many of them eldritch abominations in their own right) and fusing them together to form Abominations, calling down evil gods (including Great Old Ones), and similar dirty tricks, all to get the requisite 20 soul tokens at your ennemies' expense. And since every player gained a soul token at the beginning of his/her turn...
- Noctum has such a premise (mixed, like others on the list, with splatterpunk), but with the caveat that The reason the Big Bad Ensemble abominations were attracted to our world is because Humans Are Bastards.
- In Bayonetta, Heaven is a white-and-pink patterned version of Hell. That doesn't mean Heaven is all good, nor that Hell isn't all evil. No, they're both equally evil. Which means humankind is screwed the moment they give their last breath.
- Fractional Games specializes in this, with their games Penumbra, and the more popular Amnesia the Dark Descent.
- The Survival Horror game Eternal Darkness (cheerfully subtitled "Sanity's Requiem") for the Gamecube. This one takes one of the most interesting twists:the most powerful Eldritch Abomination, Mantorok the Corpse God, is actually mildly fond of humanity, even serving as a fertility god in a small village in Cambodia. He's ultimately responsible for the main character's destruction of the "evil" abominations, and he's probably the only abomination even close to being good. Ever. Or is he?
- In 1987, Infocom made an Interactive Fiction text adventure called The Lurking Horror loosely drawing on the themes of the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Another IF example: Anchorhead is an award-winningly well-regarded example of a text adventure set in the "slowly unraveling horror" Lovecraftian milieu. Look here for download and information on the game.
- In Drakengard, The World Is Always Doomed because the gods are not just evil, but also composed entirely of Eldritch Abominations. There are not slithering masses of tentacles that cause insanity by their very sight, but something very morbid.
- The events of Persona 3 ultimately leads to the The End of the World as We Know It, complete with a doomsday cult and brain-dead people uttering prophetic warnings. This is all due to the subtle influence of the reawakened Nyx, a vast and ancient being and who apparently is the moon, being called down to the earth. Her presence causes people to explode into puddles of black ooze and random organs. In all likelihood, she doesn't care in the slightest. Oh and she's mainly summoned by the Anthropomorphic Personification of the malice and despair in the hearts of humanity.
- What's more despite your best efforts, you do not punch it out. The best action taken was a reverse seal; the protagonist makes a Heroic Sacrifice to keep said personification of malice and despair away from Nyx.
- The premise of a Sugar Bowl world with Cosmic Horror Story influences is almost as brain-breaking as Cthulhu himself is, but the Kirby series pulls it off in the last few levels and bosses of each game. With Alien Geometries for levels, Eldritch Abominations for bosses, and Nightmare Fuel ahoy. The anime actually implies that Kirby is a good Eldritch Abomination.
- Shadow of the Comet, Prisoner of Ice and the better-known Alone in The Dark, by Infogrames, are all in the same Cthulhu Mythos-haunted world, with several direct Lovecraftian references, including the Necronomicon and De Vermis Mysteriis. The name of the mansion from the first Alone In The Dark, Derceto, is revealed in-game to be an alias of Shub-Niggurath, the Mythos' equivalent of a fertility deity...
- Eversion gradually reveals itself to be a game of this kind. It starts out as a cute Sugar Bowl of a world, but as you progress further and use your Reality Warper powers in order to get the gems you need, the game gradually gets darker and darker. The Let's Play by Deceased Crab in particular reads like a Lovecraft story towards the end of it, right down to the rejection of the Sugar Bowl world's "cheery lies."
- Earthbound morphs into one of these for the final boss fight.
- System Shock 2 fulfills almost all above tropes (minus Tome of Eldritch Lore and The Unpronounceable) but on a fortunately contained scale (less fortunate for those who lived there.) However, Shodan is still out there...
- Whether or not Lavos qualifies is up to the player's imagination, but as of Chrono Cross...
- Mass Effect is a Cosmic Horror Space Opera. The Reapers are a race of sentient machines that wipe out all advanced life in the galaxy every 50,000 years or so. And they have been doing it for millions of years. Sovereign has been described as Mecha-Cthulhu.
- And then Mass Effect 2 pushes this to even more horrifying levels. The point of the cycle of extinction is to turn all conquered species into the raw materials that go into constructing new Reapers.
- The Shadow Hearts series takes place in a universe where nearly every monster is an Eldritch Abomination, especially in the first game.
- Pokémon. In the early generations, it didn't really have that feel to it, and legendary Pokémon seemed to be more akin to Physical Gods than anything else. The fourth generation takes off all gloves; the Big Bad enslaves Pokémon who are the origins of courage, knowledge, and emotion, and uses them to awaken two others, who are masters of time and space, with the intention of creating a new universe that lacks free will and emotions. He in turn pisses off another Pokémon, which is master of the Distortion World. Other gems from the fourth generation include nothing less than the creator of the Pokémon universe and a Pokémon that infects the nightmares of humans and takes them to a sinister island that even makes itself known by possessing a boy named Eldritch.
- The fifth generation introduces Kyurem. A frozen zombie alien dragon that was once part of another dragon before being split into three different beings (Kyurem representing Wuji/Nothingness whearas Reshiram and Zekrom represent Yang/Truth and Yin/Ideals rspectively). Even worse,. Even worse, Kyurem is said to have a taste for human flesh. No wonder the citizens of one town absolutely refuse to go outside at night.
- In Phantasy Star IV, it's revealed that the planets of Algo are the seal on the Sealed Evil in a Can, the Profound Darkness, that Dark Force is a fragment of the Profound Darkness' power that is able to force its way out of said seal, which was flawed from the beginning, and that the sentient races of Algo exist for no other reason than to produce heroes who can defeat Dark Force and prevent it from destroying the seal and releasing the Profound Darkness back into the universe. Meanwhile, the Great Light has considered its work done, and has gone off to do whatever someplace else. Chaz doesn't take well to this news.
- While it doesn't really have the atmosphere, Freelancer certainly has shades of this, what with horrifically advanced alien parasites bodyjacking humanity's leadership to prepare it for outright slaughter. And that's just the Nomads. Imagine what the Sufficiently Advanced Alien Daam K'Vosh are like!
- A pretty good example comes from the Chzo Mythos. Well, it just so happens that there's another world next door, a world ruled by the VERY EMBODIMENT of PAIN, and he can't wait to get his hands on our world. Don't worry that he has an intricate web of followers that are helping him to succeed, but thanks to his non linear view of time, he already has.
- Though, luckily for humanity, it's all a Kansas City Shuffle on his part.
- While the Zerg of Starcraft are not a cosmic horror themselves, we have yet to have seen their creators, the Xel'Naga. Kerrigan and her insane extermination/assimilation war may yet be the lesser evil in this story.
- The sequel only makes things worse. Not only are the main factions unsure about the Xel'Naga, but now their ancient enemy seems to have his own plans for the galaxy. It does not help that his first appearance was in a strongly Lovecraft inspired comic.
- The indie Survival Horror / Adventure Game Pathologic achieves this in a very minimalistic, Psychological Horror fashion (no darkness or monsters, just a surreal tale set in a town hit by a mysterious plague).
- Surprisingly, the quirky cult hit Deadly Premonition ends up with elements of this genre. Throughout the game the protagonist seems to be dragged into an alternate reality and elements of his everyday life seem unnervingly surreal, yet his nonchalant attitude to it all paints him as an Unreliable Narrator whose grip on reality is seemingly quite weak. However, the Big Bad is ultimately revealed to be an immortal Humanoid Abomination from another plane of existence that has warped the hero's life since childhood and thrives on torturing humans For the Evulz. The story is just vague enough to make every detail questionable, making for a wonderful Psychological Horror experience.
- The MUD Lusternia features a lot of different genres, but this is one of the most prevalent. There was even a war between the Precursors of mortalkind, the Elder Gods, and the resident Eldritch Abominations, the Soulless Ones. (Also known as the Heralds of Magnora, Magnora being the personification of destruction.) Nowadays they're largely sealed away, but there's a world-spanning event every real life year or so where one breaks free...
- From a gameplay perspective, The Breach is closer to Lovecraft Lite, but in narrative terms, it's more like this. At no point is there any hope of permanently defeating the Yellow, just pushing it back where it came from, and Sergei firmly believes that if hyperspace experiments continue, humanity is doomed.
- In the new ending, the 'Lite' is officially gone. Sergei's luck runs out.
- Metroid's backstory doesn't have Eldritch Abominations (they come later) but does have X: Microscopic organisms in large colonies that seek out and devour all that lives. X never stop eating and reproducing, can reproduce exponentially in seconds, fly, turn intangible, project large amounts of energy and survive any trauma less than planetary explosions or prolonged exposure to the vacuum of space before they decide to turn to any abilities of previous life forms they ate to hunt you down. To hunt X came Metroids, which feed on life itself. Scientist note Metroids rarely puncture or damage their prey's body and they extract no matter but take in energy. The energy hasn't been identified or traced to an origin, yet when Metroids get it, prey dies. The only safe way to kill X is to suck life in a way scientists can't explain.
- Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is an alternate viewpoint retelling of Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth with the main character going irrevocably insane in the end, thanks in part to the knowledge that he has, at best, only slightly postponed the inevitable downfall of humanity.
- Star Control and the... erm... whatever it is from *below*. It is some kind of extradimensional being that can annihilate anything that learns about it. If you know enough about it, it can hurt you. If you're ignorant, you're safe. Well, mostly. The Orz are heavily implied to be a "piece" of this being that has managed to sneak into Normal Space (the Orz at one point seem to make reference to "*chasing*" a race of aliens who were -presumably- killed thousands of years ago). And then there's Quasi-Space, the background music of which contains sounds that sound suspiciously like screaming.
- Alan Wake's premise seems to be for the titular author to prevent his world from falling into this trope.
- The primary antagonists of the Silent Hill series are a human cult who worship bizarre supernatural beings with inscrutable motives (assuming they have any at all). The plot of the first and third games involve said cult trying to birth their God into our world from..... somewhere else through a human vessel. It is implied that this wouldn't be a good thing. The games involve a hefty dose of Psychological Horror and how much of this is being generated by the character's own minds isn't clear.
- Saya no Uta. That's the main theme.
- Muv-Luv Unlimited (though only informed, not seen) and Muv-Luv Alternative, where we see the things and eventually learn the Awful Truth.
- Thanks in part to Real Life Writes the Plot, Thunderstruck has gained elements of a Cosmic Horror Story world. The city in which most of the action takes place is doomed, period. The primary action focuses on a race of gods for whom all of human history is a single generation - and the action is centered on the scions of the preceding generation's champion.
- Brawl in the Family has Mario jumping into paintings like in Super Mario 64. He makes a bad choice in deciding to jump into The Scream; we are spared whatever horrors within unlike Mario.
- Considering that the picture takes on the form of Giygas when Mario jumps through...
- Homestuck: Andrew Hussie cites Earthbound as an inspiration, and oh boy does it show. Entire universes are created for the sole purpose of recruiting players for a game, one which violently destroys the players' home planets. Victory at the game results in (at best) one's home planet being recolonized, and the creation of a new universe--both of which will eventually be host to new instances of the game. And that's when things go right. The protagonists have accidentally rendered the game Unwinnable, by enabling the Big Bad to obtain the powers of a Physical God. Now, the only way to defeat him is to reset the universe--which will pave the way for the arrival (albeit, in a different universe) of a time-travelling demon who feeds on dead universes. In any case, given the way that Stable Time Loops work in this story, the protagonists may already be doomed to fail. And in case all that's too subtle, the comic takes an acrobatic fucking pirouette off the handle and into the deep end with "Jade: Wake up", where the Lovecraft-inspired Noble Circle of Horrorterrors make their on-screen debut. And then we find out that the Horrorterrors need the protagonists' help, because something is killing them.
- And to make things worse it's been stated in the comic that the vast majority of sburb sessions are doomed to fail from the start, never producing new universes, but tumors that just to make a big F-U to those who try. So the nearly all of your race is destroyed, and the most of races don't actually ever even win. So um....
- The premise of Lovecraft Is Missing is that Lovecraft wrote truth disguised as fiction. And now he's missing...
- The Watcher of Yaathagggu is Post Apocalyptic Cosmic Horror.
- Ow, My Sanity is a Cosmic Horror Magical Girlfriend / Unwanted Harem story. Word of God is that it most likely won't end well for the protagonist.
- Actually, Word of God just said that the comic will have a "lovecraft ending"; take that as you will.
- Necessary Monsters could be considered such, since while the comic itself takes a more Spy Fiction approach, the fact remains that the world is actually controlled by an Ancient Conspiracy of every type of monster possible, from Slasher Movie and Urban Legend-style serial killers to outright eldritch abominations, with a vested interest in preserving humanity -- because when you've got a self-perpetuating all-you-can-eat buffet with everything you and your pals like to eat in it, you don't want anybody to go around thrashing it.
- In the world of the SCP Foundation, the only thing standing between humanity and a legion of sanity-shattering artifacts or implacably destructive monsters is a shadowy organization of Men in Black... whose ruthlessness makes them only slightly less dangerous than the things they're protecting humanity from.
- The Whateley Universe has a Cosmic Horror Story backstory, and the Sara Waite stories are all centered around one or more eldritch abominations... including Sara Waite herself. Plus, there's an in-universe example, since Sara Waite's previous form Michael Waite wrote a best-seller called "Incongruity" which turns out to be The First Book Of The Kellith, which is now in print all over the world. Oops.
- Stickman Exodus traps hapless stickmen in a Cosmic Horror Notebook (Played for Laughs -- Dead Baby Comedy laughs). Their goal, the Promised Page, the one place the "Great Doodler" can't touch, might not even exist for all they know. We won't either since the series had a No Ending.
- Most of the stories in The Slender Man Mythos are this in some form or another.
- As well as those part of The Fear Mythos, of which Slender Man is also a part.
- H-M Brown's Shell is the prologue to the Geolyth Lore series.
- The Bionicle serial, Sahmad's Tale, features a plague that robs its victims of their ability to dream, gradually causing them to go completely insane and eventually die. It is eventually revealed that the plague is caused by an Eldritch Abomination that resembles a miniature sun with tentacles, who feeds on dreams for sustenance.
- The Castle Series, told with stickmen, but not Played for Laughs. The cosmic horror in this series comes from the titular Castles that may or may not be sentient.
- This comes up now and again in various Creepypasta, most notably The Holders series.
- Mighty Max arguably takes place in such a universe. Although over the course of the series we find Max beating his fair share of enemies, ultimately the great Big Bad is shown to be unstoppably powerful, and our hero's only hope to even TIE with him is to let all his friends die and restart the timeline with his own death in the hopes it goes better the second time. Unfortunately, given the prophecies frequently referenced, this cycle has happened at least several dozen times.
- The premise of Shadow Raiders is that the 4 elemental worlds must band together using ancient technology to fight a great giant planet that wants to eat their homes. It is unstoppable, unrelenting, and unbeatable. The only hope is to run away, or face certain destruction. And they can't run forever. For a child's show this is somewhat jarring.
- The premise of Samurai Jack is that an unstoppable, endlessly malevolent force of literal evil (the Start of Darkness episodes reveal that Aku is simply a tiny fragment of a creature that formed in the first moments of the universe) has conquered the world and is spreading its influence throughout the stars, and that a lone warrior wielding the only thing in existence that can even harm it embarks on a hopeless quest to defeat the evil and Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
- The short-lived 80's Cartoon Show Inhumanoids was heavily influenced by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. It pushed towards this trope as hard as was possible for a Merchandise-Driven cartoon from The Eighties; even the comedy episodes had more than their share of Nightmare Fuel. One can only imagine how they would have upped the ante had it been successful enough to get more than one season (and toy wave)...
- While the "Human life is meaningless" statement and the philosophy of Nihilism have been discussed before Lovecraft and Gothic Horror, supposedly Lovecraft's own inspiration was contemporary discoveries in astronomy that there really are things out there so enormous so powerful and so mind-shatteringly complex that our entire world is meaninglessly small in comparison. Subsequent discoveries have only added to the strangeness of the universe, but most of the people who know just how weird physics and astronomy can get and how humans are so small find this awesome rather than a total suicide-fuel.
- The Great Attractor in particular stands out.
- This Cracked article lists a few cosmic events that can wipe Earth clean. While none of them are outright inevitable, they can all strike without sufficient warning for us to actually do anything to prevent them.
- There's also that hypothetical evil red star flinging extinction event comets at us every few million years.
- No one sleeps better after realizing the ultimate logical extension of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
- ↑ some warning you of danger