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"Why is it always X? It's like they couldn't come up with an exact year, so just make it X."

Setting is important in story telling, especially when you want to tell what time period that story takes place in. The easiest way to do this is to simply state what year the story takes place in... however, being too exact may sometimes narrow down flexibility. So in order to pinpoint the time and keep it vague at the same time, writers like to give the century number, but replace the year and decade with X.

For example: 20XX. You know this takes place after the millennium, but when after the millennium? 2097? 2030? December 21, 2012? We don't know, and that's the beauty of it.

It also renders the setting immune to the flow of Real Life time, since Real Life will never actually cross that date and make fans start wondering why the future doesn't look anything like fiction depicted it.

Commonly seen in Science Fiction, but not limited to it.

Not to be confused with Exty Years From Now, which is about future dates or intervals being nice round numbers, often based on the work's own release date.

Examples of Year X include:

Anime and Manga


  • Godzilla vs. Monster Zero took place in 196X.

Live Action TV



Video Games

  • The Eastern RPG Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is set in Tokyo, 20XX.
  • X Box game Zombies and Pterodactyls 20XX
  • Play Station 2 game Seven Samurai 20XX
  • Mega Man is a strong example of this trope, starting in 200X and later moving into 20XX. The spinoffs are all set relative to this ambiguous date; the X series takes place in 21XX, and drags on into 22XX, while Battle Network is an alternate 200X. The later games in the main timeline starting with Mega Man Zero (which was assumed to take place in 22XX before Mega Man X Command Mission came out) have abandoned this & don't specify any dates, possibly because the world has suffered so many successive apocalypses by this point that people don't even remember what year it's supposed to be. According to the Perfect Memories sourcebook, the Legends series takes place around 6000 years after the end of the X series, but that's about all we know.
  • Hamumu Software's Robot Wants Series game Robot Wants Puppy had an Opening Scroll about rebels in the year 20XX plotting to liberate Zeta Sector from the iron-tentacled rule of the tyrannical Morgox the Unborn.
  • Earthbound is set in 199X. If you borrow a map from the library and then talk to the librarian again, you are told you don't have to return the map until the year 2002, much to the amusement of modern-day fans.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge is set at the aftermath of a Nuclear War that occurred sometime before the year "19XX". Oddly, the Japanese manuals for the first game sets the plot in the slightly more specific year of "199X".
  • The Wario Ware games take place in 20XX
  • Half-Life takes place on May 16, 200X.
  • Metroid is set in 20X5. Like Mega Man, the other games in the series all take place relative to the ambiguous date of 20X5 in the original.
  • The Streets of Rage games are set in 199X.
  • Bomberman Generation takes place in "cosmic year 200X".
  • The Konami 3D Shoot'Em Up Falsion is set in 21XX.
  • Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! takes place in "2XXX A.D."
  • Undertale has the year 201X. This, however, is not actually the year in which Undertale is set, but rather the time when the first human fell. The year when Frisk fell is left unspecified.

Web Animation

Western Animation

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