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The Big Bad to end all Big Bads has been brought to a crushing end at the hands of The Hero, his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits and his trademark BFS. The Negative Space Wedgie that was threatening all of creation has been un-wedgied, the Sealed Evil in a Can has been safely disposed of, all the plot threads that were left hanging have been wrapped up nice and neat and everybody lives Happily Ever After.

And then the sequel happens.

It's inevitable: you can't have a story without conflict and chaos, and you can't have a sequel set in a world that we last saw happy and peaceful without dropping a new horrible menace in the thick of things and letting him/her/it run amok. This, however, is taking things far beyond simple Status Quo Is God. We leave an idyllic paradise and come back to a Crapsack World: the Golden Age has rusted over, chivalry has been stabbed in the back, the peaceful kingdom has transformed into an evil empire and everything that our protagonists fought so hard to save has been pillaged and murdered by time and writers. The shaggy dog was shot while we weren't looking. The world is not only substantially worse off than it was when we last saw it, it's worse off than it was when the story began.

This is the part where our heroes (assuming they're not dead, incapacitated or villains) fall to their knees and deliver their best Zero impression: What were we fighting for?

Likely to result in Canon Dis Continuity. Contrast Was It Really Worth It?, where the characters are made to feel the cost (usually personal) of their victory before the story ends, but the good which results is usually lasting.

Examples of Happy Ending Override include:

Anime and Manga

  • Rurouni Kenshin: Part of the reason the titular hero became The Atoner was that he could no longer ignore the fact that he was killing people regardless of how good the motives were. Being indirectly responsible for the death of the woman he loved was the metaphorical last straw. Each major fight afterward, Kenshin speechifies about what he was fighting for, and it takes a Heroic BSOD for him to realize that he can only fight for his own personal peace of mind. The Seisouhen OVA then goes on to have Kenshin still so wracked by guilt that he abandons his family to go Walking the Earth again; it's not until the very end that he returns, only to die in Kaoru's arms, and she dies moments later because he's infected her too. Mind you, Yahiko has taken up Kenshin's mantle, and his son Kenji eventually comes around to the same point of view, but there's a reason most fans deny Seisouhen's existence.
    • And, for the record, the Seisouhen OVA was not written by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Hard to deny what never canonically existed!
    • Even more: Watsuki later started a new manga named Hokkaido arc, which begins around five years after the end of the manga (it has Kenshin and Kaoru Happily Married, a tiny and cute Kenji, the teenaged Yahiko and Tsubame - plus Kenshin's three new disciples (Ashitarou, Alan and Asahi)) and completely ignores the Seisouhen deals.
  • Ichigo in Bleach, after learning that while he was training to get his powers back, the new Big Bad was brainwashing all of his loved ones- the loved ones he was training to protect- with Fake Memories, until they all turn against him. Subverted: a massive Big Damn Heroes takes place, and then he and some Shinigami (Rukia, Renji, Toshiro, Byakuya, Ikkaku and Kenpachi) begin fighting back...



  • In the Star Wars expanded universe, following the defeat of the Emperor, over the course of several decades we get repeated Imperial counterattacks, Palpatine returning and converting Luke to the Dark Side, a race of freaky humanoids coming in and ravaging the Galaxy, killing Chewbacca, and this all comes to a head with the Legacy comics, which have the Empire back on top 130 years after the films.
  • Happens in the second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, though at least it is made fairly clear in the first one the Big Bad cannot be technically killed. Even so it was a kick in the gut, though not a surprise given the nature of the series.
  • The first Sword of Truth book has the Seeker fight to defeat the evil tyrant Darken Rahl. When he finally succeeds, a new crisis, even worse than Rahl's tyranny takes its place in the second book. Eventually, Richard discovers that The Empire he fought against in the first book is nothing compared to the Imperial Order, a massive empire that has somehow remained unknown to everyone else.
  • In Warrior Cats, the first arc ends on a pure happy ending. The sequel has humans tear down the forest which the story is set in and reveals that the villain is still hanging around from beyond the grave.
  • Though the first book of the Never Again series has only a Bittersweet Ending, it still qualifies for this trope, because it ends with the heroes succeeding in democratizing the world, albeit at the cost of their lives. The Distant Finale clearly implies that they succeeded. However, all of that is ignored in the second book, in which it is revealed that somehow one dictatorship still survived John and Joy's changes to history, and was able to start a nuclear war, Take Over the World, and cause more deaths than all the wars, democides, and dictatorships of the Real-Life twentieth century combined. And all this just to set up a Continuity Reboot.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, the heroes leave Narnia restored and happy in the first book, and come back in the second to a later Narnia where everything's even worse than it was before; the winter may be gone, but many Talking Animals have ceased to talk and much of the magic has begun to go away under the reign of the Telmarines. Of course, that's because time in Narnia flows as quickly as it needs to, and Aslan calls the children from England at a point when it would be most beneficial to their personal development, and he sends them to Narnia at a point when it needs them.
  • There's a variation in Hatchet, where the protagonist spends weeks in the wilderness scraping by and fortunately making it out before things got really cold; there was a sequel, and then then an alternate way things could have gone in Brian's Winter which not only begins with Brian not-being-rescued by the radio he'd found but screwing up and missing the signs and -- for one reason or another -- losing a lot of the progress he'd made building a working system.

Live Action TV

  • Between the first and second season of Heroes Matt Parkman's forgiveness of his wife and the happy reunion of Niki with DL were both undone. So was Sylar's death, but this had been heavily implied to begin with.

Video Games

  • Zero of Mega Man X fame may well have delivered the iconic line, but he is hardly the best example...until he gets his own series where despite all the sacrifices, things get worse.
  • .hack//G.U. seems to have been engineered for the sole purpose of trolling fans of the original series, either as a Player Punch or a colossal This Loser Is You to anyone who accepted its message of "AI are people too" at face value. The World that we left happy, peaceful and safe in the first series has been completely destroyed by a madman (who personally killed a plot-important AI character from the original series in backstory), Player Killers rule the landscape of the Darker and Edgier The World R:2, all of our previous heroes are too busy with real life to do anything about the situation, protagonist Haseo turns out to have been that childish jackass Sora from R:1 all along...and in the end, the bastard responsible gets neither mention nor punishment.
  • Chrono Trigger is the tale of a time-travelling Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who travel the course of history to save the future from Lavos, a world-eating parasite who destroyed the world in the year 1999 and evolved humankind from neanderthals to suit its own malevolent ends. Chrono Cross is the tale of a boy who discovers that all this resulted in people from the future screwing with the time stream, causing history to branch into two slightly but tellingly different paths; that Porre, a minor town from the first game, has turned into a globe-conquering empire that took over the peaceful homeland of the original game's protagonists; that the Reptite Future, originally a joke ending from the first game, has an active role in all this madness; and Lavos, or a piece of him anyway, happens to be the MacGuffin everybody is after. But hey, Schala lives, sort of, so it's all good, right?
  • In Gears of War 2, we first discover that not only has the Lightmass Bomb, which was dropped in the heart of the Locust's underground hive network at the close of the last game, failed to destroy the Locust, but that they have since redoubled their efforts (later revealed to be in desperation), and mankind has been forced back to their last bastion of defense, Jacinto. Not only that, but the Locust now have a method of sinking entire cities. At the end of the game, the heroes are forced to sink Jacinto in order to flood the underground networks and hopefully take out the Locust once and for all. However, given that Gears Of War is planned to be a four part series, it's safe to say this will be happening again.
  • The Jak and Daxter series may be the all-time champion of this. We leave the first game with our heroes triumphant over the Card Carrying Villains and about to embark on a new journey into the unknown. We discover in the first few minutes of the second game that their journey into the unknown takes them Twenty Minutes Into the Future, where the idyllic natural paradise has become a Cyberpunk Crapsack World ruled by an iron-fisted dictator and under siege from a seemingly endless swarm of monsters called "Metalheads." The villains from the first game seem rather pleasant by comparison.
    • Hell, the Mooks from the first game have been turned into pets by Haven's Apathetic Citizens.
    • It gets worse, after dealing with the problems of the second game and seemingly bringing peace to Haven City, we open Jak 3 to find that the city has been nearly destroyed and Jak and Daxter exiled to the wastelands.
  • At the end of Diablo, the hero has defeated the titular demon, saving the one town that was in danger before, and taken it upon him (or her) self to become a living prison for the Lord of Terror. At the start of Diablo 2, said hero's will has completely broken, his body has been taken over by Diablo, and he wanders the Earth releasing other demon lords so they can plunge the entire world into a living Hell. And that one town? Completely ravaged, and all residents but one are soon dead. And Diablo 3 looks to make things even worse than they were in 2...
  • Left 4 Dead was going to fall into this trope by having the first campaign lead to the second one, as the helicopter pilot would have been revealed to be infected. However, the developers found out it was not a satisfactory ending, and made the four campaigns completely separate instead.
    • Then they changed their minds again and released a mini-campaign that links the original first and second with exactly that justification.
      • And then they use it again in the sequel, to set up the third Campaign.
  • Final Fantasy VI isn't a pure example, since it happens in the same game, but the message of this trope is referred to so frequently by PCs and NPCs alike in the second half of the game that it merits mentioning. Several character invoke nostalgic flashbacks to the first half of the game when their only worries were being conquered by an oppressive evil empire instead of suffering under the rule of an Ax Crazy god in a dying world.
    • But by the end of the game, when confronting the Omnicidal Maniac, they make it clear what, exactly, they're fighting for. Which the Big Bad characteristically mocks.

 Kefka: This is pathetic! You sound like chapters from a self-help booklet!

  • In the original Geneforge, the best ending has you destroying the Geneforge and saving the world from its menace. In the sequel, we find that Zakary and Barzahl, two characters sent to clean up after the fact, thought that it would be a shame to let such a marvel of science vanish from existence, and decided to rebuild it in another isolated area. The third game ramps it up that no matter what you did (except for one Take a Third Option faction ending of the second), your actions did nothing to stop the Drakon's Rise. The fourth game averts this by stating that the Rebel Ending of the third game is canon. The fifth game also qualifies--the Unbound, released in the fourth game to destroy the Shapers, have succeeded only in causing massive collateral damage, and it's up to a new main character to resolve the conflict. Which may fit with one of a hidden factions endings of the fourth game.
    • Each Geneforge tends to assume a particular outcome from the previous game, but it's usually not any of the (many) actually available endings. It's often a blend of a few with some more things that aren't from any of the endings added in. Then this is all made even stranger by the fact that the role and fate of the player character from previous games is alluded to but never clarified; by the fifth game, this leads to some impressive Wild Mass Guessing about the protagonist's identity.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2. At the end of the first game, Lightning and friends managed to Take a Third Option and defeat the Jerkass Gods without totally destroying the world, Serah returns to normal and Lightning approves of her marriage to Snow. Then the sequel reveals that Lightning disappeared due to Time Paradox shortly afterwards, and Snow left to look for her, leaving Serah alone. A time traveler from the future arrives and reveals that he's the last of humanity living After the End. Furthermore that crystal pillar holding up Cocoon won't hold out forever, and then, well...
  • This is actually the main theme of Knights of the Old Republic 2. After making a survey of expanded universe material, Chris Avellone realized that pretty much all of Galactic History is the same cyclical war between a Sith-backed Empire and a Jedi-Backed Republic, repeated constantly for thousands and thousands of years. The antagonist is a former Jedi who realises this and attempts to end the war by obliterating the Jedi and creating a new breed of Sith who are able to live without the Force. She also critiques the Light and Dark sides of the force for their simplistic and adolescent understandings of morality.
  • According to the official Guild Wars 2 lore, neither Tyria nor Elona has fared too well during the 200 years between games. Cantha may have, but it's become highly isolationist so no one has any idea.
  • Happens in Modern Warfare 2, where Shepherd, Soap, and Price all ask why they fought the last war against the Ultranationalists, if things just became worse afterwards.
    • The older Call of Duty games that takes place during the World War II all end with the allies as the victors and the axis powers as the losers, and the endings of the very first game and World at War are pretty highly optimistic about the future, but all who had read about the Cold War or played Black Ops will know that the future was anything but sunshines and rainbows.
  • Similar to MW2, Half Life ends with Gordon Freeman successfully killing the alien being that prevented the scientists on earth from sealing the portal that spewed forth endless hordes of alien invaders. He gets captured by the GMan and put into a freezer, but at least Earth is safe. More than a decade later Gordon is brought back to Earth, only to learn that the alien being he killed was just desperate to allow its own people to escape from an even scarier and more powerful alien invasion of its home dimension. With Freeman taking care of their leader, the Combine quickly had the alien world conquered and continued its campaign by invading Earth as well.
  • When Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance ends, the Evil Empire has been defeated, Crimea is entering a new golden age and reestablishing ties with the laguz, and the world is by and large peaceful - even the massive Begnion theocracy seems well at ease with the world. By the time of Radiant Dawn, Crimea is being undermined by greedy nobles (including one who starts an open revolution), Daein (the aforementioned Evil Empire) is completely oppressed by the occupational Begnion forces, and Begnion itself is in the midst of a power struggle between its senate and its empress - and to top it all off, the laguz wind up going to war with Begnion partway through the game. The fact just about the entire world is now at war with someone becomes a plot point.
  • Golden Sun and its continuation ended with the world being saved by the party, everyone from the Doomed Hometown happily surviving, and the Big Bad sinking beneath the earth as a volcano erupted beneath him. 30 years later in Golden Sun Dark Dawn, the world is made up of several powerful warring nations, most people are unhappy with the protagonists of the previous games saving the world, half the original party just straight up vanished, and to top it all off, magic-eating vortexes have started popping up. OH. And the previous Big Bad is back.
  • Kingdom Hearts is an example. You save The Multiverse and get reunited with Kairi, and then in the second game no one remembers you, Kairi's gone and there are Heartless all over the place again. It turns out there's a lot more work to be done - several games' worth, in fact.
  • In MOTHER 1 and Earthbound, humans are fighting the evil alien Giygas, although only the protagonists, a couple of kids, know that it's him that they're fighting, and in the first game, you don't even find that out until very late in the story, but it's All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game" anyway, especially outside of Japan. Giygas, in the first game, is attempting to enslave the entire human race, and his army does some pretty bad stuff. But, the heroes sing a song to him and he goes mad from the nostalgia and gives up on trying to conquer Earth. But, later, although it is only revealed in the second game, Giygas comes back with a vengeance and conquers the entire universe, turning it into a living hell. The End. (Don't worry, someone comes back from that future and stops it from happening in the second game.)
  • Starlancer involves the player thrust into a desperate war between The Alliance and the Coalition on the side of the Alliance. While the Coalition's sneak attack deals a heavy blow to the Alliance, the multiple successes by the player's squadron (including destroying countless enemy ships and the Coalition flagship) seem to indicate that the Alliance may yet prevail. Then Freelancer happens, a game almost completely unrelated to Starlancer except for the intro, which reveals that the Alliance-Coalition war lasted for another century, with the Coalition being the inevitable victor (unless you count the original E3 trailer). There was absolutely no reason to make Freelancer a sequel of Starlancer, as it has completely different gameplay and takes place 900 years later. Not one character or news report in Freelancer mentions either side or the war, despite the intro's emphatic "We will never forget". Thanks for ruining the game, Chris Roberts!
  • Star Trek Armada ends with The Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans allying to stop a massive Borg invasion, which is barely stopped and ends on a typical upbeat Trek note. Guess what? The Borg are back in the sequel, stronger than before. The Cardassians also decide to attack the Federation for no reason, even though they should still be devastated from the Dominion War. And Species 8472 randomly decide to wipe out everyone else, despite Janeway earlier convincing them that the Federation means them no harm.
  • There's a certain degree of this in Star Trek Online as well. The Klingon/Federation Alliance, which Kirk's crew fought so hard to establish, is broken (though that was foreshadowed, pretty much every live action Star Trek that went that far into the future had the Federation and Klingons on bad terms); the hope of reconciliation with the Romulans that Star Trek Nemesis ends on is destroyed along with Romulus (although admittedly, that's more due to the Star Trek XI movie); The Mirror Universe is back in the hands of an evil Terran empire; Voyager's defeat of the Borg in the finale and the tentative peace with Species 8472 are shattered...even one-note villains like the Breen and Devidians are up in arms. The only thing that hasn't been completely destroyed from the series is the establishment of Democracy on Cardassia, but there are a lot of left over villains from DS9 who are set on destroying that one, too. (This isn't necessarily a bad thing for an MMORPG setting, however, and the fall seems to make logical sense if you read the backstory of the intervening 30 years.)
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, it reveals in the opening credits that after Hyrule is saved in Ocarina of Time, eventually Ganondorf is freed and Link does not arrive to save the day, causing the world to become lost, and the land flooded by the gods.
    • And then in its climax; it's revealed that the King sacrificed the Triforce and Hyrule to prevent Link and Zelda from being eternally reborn and forced to fight the same battle over and over again, and let them have their own existence. It couldn't last. In the latest installments, Ganon may not be back, but Link and Zelda are back in the same roles.
      • Arguably, the prequel to the series as a whole, Skyward Sword, makes the Wind Waker timeline's situation even more dire, since Ganon is merely the symptom, not the disease; killing him and destroying Hyrule forever didn't lift Demise's curse from Link's bloodline, and so incarnations of the demon king's hate will continue to haunt Link's descendants unless the curse is somehow broken. Essentially all killing Ganon accomplished was severing the curse's connection to the Triforce and losing the Master Sword, the most powerful weapon of good in the world, forever.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess overrides many of the hopeful overtures of Zelda's decision to return Link to his original time. She had obviously intended for him to regain his lost years and live his life in peace. If The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask hadn't already obliterated any delusions of that happening, Twilight Princess went a step further to confirm his lifelong Chronic Hero Syndrome, having him appear as the Hero's Shade and a mentor to the new Hero. The fact that he contributed to a thriving bloodline meant that he eventually settled down enough to have a family, but he still lingered for more than a century in the afterlife out of regret for his lost title.
      • This is a more arguable example, since Link at least had a life in this version of events, lingering to watch over his family and in hope he could pass on his techniques one day while Hyrule had a more happy, peaceful existence than in the other timelines. In the other two timelines, Link either died fighting Ganon or ceased to exist after defeating him; Termina was destroyed in both of these timelines, and one of them also saw the end of Hyrule itself!

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Beast Wars ended with the Maximals successfully capturing Megatron and taking him back to Cybertron, with him tied to the roof of their spaceship. However, in Beast Machines, it's revealed that Megatron has successfully taken over Cybertron.
    • Originally, had there been a fourth season of Transformers Animated, their version of Megatron would have escaped from prison (he is arrested at the end of the show's final episode), possibly by Team Chaar, and is reformatted into a Triple Changer.
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