Bad Future

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

And now the wheels of heaven stop
You feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
It is murder.

Leonard Cohen"The Future"

This future sucks!

Ranma SaotomeRanma ½

One of the more common Alternate Timelines. The heroes are sent into the near future, and while they were gone the world became a crapsack, usually because the villain(s) took over. Nine times out of ten the hero will meet La Résistance and/or Future Badass versions of his friends who were left in the past, though they will of course usually appear older and/or more haggard (due in part to them presencing, and possibly being part of every event which led up to this time). The plot typically ends with the characters going back in time so they can Set Right What Once Went Wrong, so this future can never happen.

Conveniently, in many cases the catalyst that ruined the world was the absence of whoever was sent to the future. Thus all the heroes have to do to fix things is return to the present.

Technically Dystopian, but doesn't fit that trope description well as it's usually ascribable to a single villain-related event. It's a good (or cheap, depending on the execution) way of becoming Darker and Edgier and adding tension while working under Status Quo Is God. If a series gives only a brief glimpse of the Bad Future instead of actually going there, it may be Story-Boarding the Apocalypse. If the villain manages the first step towards its creation, he's made a Villain World.

If this happens to a character from the past to "our" future, then they've entered a Bad Present. If the reason the bad future is so bad is because The Bad Guy Wins, it's a Villain World.

Good Future variations are practically unknown, since knowing that the future is going to turn out okay removes any dire need for the characters to change things in the present. They do sometimes appear as an epilogue to show that the heroes did in fact succeed in changing the future.

Examples of Bad Future include:

Anime and Manga

  • Noein has two bad futures. Shangri'la, an empty world created solely to bring about the convergence of all other time spaces, and La'Cryma, a battered world that is under assaulted by Shangri'la.
    • There is a possible future shown wherein Haruka is dead/gone/something?/out-of-picture, Yuu is away at school, Ai loses use of one leg and nearly commits suicide, Isami loses his parent(s) and becomes a delinquent then loses an eye and is about to commit murder in revenge, and Miho has gone insane and is also on the verge of suicide. The murder is prevented by sending (Young) Yuu to Isami, to remind Isami of who he really is, and tell him that Ai needs him. Isami then comes running to the roof of the hospital to stop Ai. Miho is brought back by Atori, of all people. I would double-spoiler the name if I could. By Shangrila's space-time power, and Haruka's power as the Dragon Torque, it is HIGHLY LIKELY that if they'd died in this alternate future vision, they would be dead. Permanently. Half the main cast was almost wiped out. It is also somewhat implied that this future is similar to Lachryma's past.
    • Additionally, Big Bad Noein is Yuu / Karasu from an alternate future where every other main character was wiped out in a car crash. Even their TEACHER.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn: Roughly half of the cast is dead or about to be exterminated, 10 years from the "present". The 9 previous years were apparently peaceful and prosperous, though.
    • Subverted that this is actually the best future out of 8 trillion. The guardians are still alive, the world has yet to be conquered by the Big Bad, the invention of the Vongola Boxes and Vongola Decimo is still alive!
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Negi and his team are sent forward a week by a time-trap, arriving in a world where the mastermind succeeded in busting the Masquerade wide open. Naturally, this doesn't stop Negi, who finds a way back to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Quite arguably (and this was a source of much angst for Negi), this was actually a Good Future (for the world as a whole, at least; less so for the main cast).
    • Wherever/whenever Chao came from counts as well. She and her compatriots never mentioned it, downplaying it as something relatively trivial. Chapter 298 reveals that it's far from trivial: a horrible, century-long war between Earth-born and Mars-born humans, brought about by Mundus Magicus' collapse.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, the first episode of the second season features a destroyed Hinamizawa, an aging Oishii going back there to find out what went wrong accompanied by a grieving, regretful Akasaka and a broken, nigh catatonic, middle- aged Rena.
    • There's also the one where we find that one month after the events of Tatarigoroshi-hen, Keiichi tries to kill himself, gets locked up in an insane asylum, and we get that tape of the miserable wreck he became.
    • In a continuation of the first example, Yoigoshi-hen is in its entirety a Bad Future from the way Tsumihoroboshi-hen was "supposed" to end.
  • The Future Trunks timeline from Dragon Ball Z was this type of future, where humanity is struggling to survive and the Androids have wiped out just about all the heroes in existence. The Future Badass's reason for going back in time is NOT to prevent the timeline from ever coming to pass (since his paradox-resistant time travel creates tangent universes that unfold independently of the original timeline), but to find the Androids' weaknesses so that he can take them down once and for all when he returns.
  • In a series with plenty of Bad Endings, the third arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni leads to a Bad Future that is inextricably tied to the fourth arc thanks to the miracle of Time Travel.
  • The intro to the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It was possibly initially intended to be a flash-forward to later events in the series, but with the direction the series eventually took it instead appears to show one of these: Namely, one in which Simon failed to heed the Anti-Spirals and continued to abuse Spiral Energy, triggering a war between dimensions.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: This is what the antagonists of the Infinity Arc were trying prevent. About 200 years after the protagonist's time, the human race had made considerable technological progress thanks to Momentum (a perpetual energy machine that uses Planetary Particles which respond to people's hearts), however they grew greedy, apathetic and conceited. This coupled with the overuse of Synchro Summons eventually caused the Momentum network to go out of control and self-destruct, recreating Zero Reverse on a much larger scale.
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza attempts to perform a Heroic Sacrifice in order to save all her friends. While doing so, however, she gets a brief glimpse of her own funeral where everyone is tearfully mourning for her, and Natsu, who witnesses her sacrifice, refusing to accept her death and having to be restrained when he flips out—naturally, this is far from the future Erza intended. Natsu averts this future by saving Erza before she can carry out her sacrifice.
  • It's not exactly clear what happened to the world between the presnt day and the distant future of Psyren.... But seeing as how the end result was an uninhabitable wasteland swarming with horrific monsters, it can't have been anything good.
  • Steins;Gate has two: time travel research by CERN leads to a dystopian future ruled by them. The protagonists actions prevents this and inadvertently ensures that every country in the world gets time travel, which touches off a hellish World War 3.
  • In Sailor Moon Chibi-usa comes back to the present to get help in order to save her own time. The Senshi end up travelling forward with her and fighting the evil force which has invaded Future!Earth. Becomes a bit of a Timey-Wimey Ball since there is a lot of travel between the present and the future, both by heroes and by villains, and Present!Mamoru and Usagi learn things which ought to help them avert the Bad Future in the first place, but apparently they don't because they need to go forward in order to learn them.

Comic Books

  • The X-Men "Days of Future Past" storyline ("This issue: Everyone Dies!", which, in the future, they did) acted as Trope Codifier and germinated a thousand similar plots in other Superhero comics both related to and independent of the X-Men books.
  • The 'Here Comes Tomorrow' storyline from ' comics.
    • The spin-off title New Mutants did this several times, as one of the characters was a time-traveler with less than perfect control.
    • It is telling that one of the nicest futures seen in X-Books was in the miniseries X-Men: The End, where the school is reduced to a crater with most of the students still inside and half the X-Men die in battle with old enemies and alien invaders. The latter part is revealed to be an interview with U.S. President Katherine Pryde. That's not even going into the aforementioned "Days of Future Past", or, in the first animated series, "Time Fugitives", where the initial efforts to prevent a disaster in the past lead to an even worse future.
    • The world of Earth X falls under this trope (sort of), and notably has Angel discuss the "Days of Future Past" storyline which is nearly its opposite. He suspects their attempts to avert that future actually made things worse. "Living our days in fears of futures now past is no way to live."
  • Teen Titans (the comic) does this in the "Titans of Tomorrow" arc, in which the Titans themselves are the villains who took over.
    • There's also a storyline in the 90s involving a group of Titans going into the past to kill Donna Troy and prevent the birth of Lord Chaos. Lord Chaos created this dystopic world where he controls everything with drugs.
  • The comic book series The Dark Knight Returns was pretty much a view of what would happen if there was a world without Batman for twenty years. The villains pretty much mind control all of the heroes, and of course, Batman is the only one who can set everything right again.
  • The Trigan Empire had a Story Arc in which a humble herdsman found himself in a Bad Future in which yet another treacherous military officer (where did they keep coming from?) had killed off the imperial family and become dictator. He later got home and had to prevent the Bad Future coming to pass (symbolic first gesture, uprooting a sapling that he had seen grown to a tree in the future).
  • The Rhythms of Darkness story in the Marvel Transformers comic.
  • In Grant Morrison's JLA story "Rock of Ages", destroying the title rock results in a Bad Future where "Darkseid is". (In complete control of Earth and slowly rooting out the survivors, having laid waste to New Genesis, that is.)
  • Alan Moore's Spawn/Wild CATS miniseries is entirely based on this trope. Spawn and the WildCATS get thrown into the future where the world is ruled by a tyrannical super-sorcerer and most of our heroes are secretly fighting against him. The twist is that Spawn himself turns out to be the tyrant, having been given the idea by visiting this future in the first place. Our heroes manage to undo the bad future when Spawn finds out one of the resistance members is actually his ex-wife's daughter, and then she dies a moment later. Spawn promises to never let that happen, which undoes the timeline. But of course, it just means even MORE angst for ol' Spawny.
  • At one point in an Avengers and Power Pack crossover, the Pack gets thrown into one of these by Kang, where they meet Badass-looking future versions of themselves.
  • Waverider of the DC Comics crossover series Armageddon 2001 traveled from the future of 2030 to find the superhero that will become the Monarch. The Monarch rules the Earth with an iron fist and controls everything. This one subverts the premise by having a character from the bad future go back to the present, instead of sending present day characters to the future.
  • The Justice Society of America had one involving Those Wacky Nazis.
  • The UK Sonic the Comic seemed to love playing with this.
    • There's a strange example of this trope: early in the run the heroes find themselves transported Twenty Minutes Into the Future, into a world where Robotnik now rules... and stay there, struggling for the majority of the rest of the comic's run to defeat and overthrow Robotnik.
    • There's also a plot where Robotnik tried to make an evil Sonic clone, which ages way, way too fast. He still finds a use for it, though, by deliberately semi-invoking Bad Future, making it believe it's from a future where Sonic's overconfidence gets the resistance killed, and somehow came back to try and warn Sonic of what's coming.
    • Other instances included a played straight Bad Future involving a race of Metal Sonics taking over, and a Bad Future-esque Present that came about by Robotnik managing to become a god, and deleting Sonic from history.
  • Startlingly averted in DC One Million, where the heroes of the present learn that the Solar System of 80,000 years in the future is basically a mutli-planet utopia supervised by a benevolent Justice Legion. (Where, for example, the JLA discourages alien invaders by giving them a tour of the JLA museum, and superpowers are available on-demand.) It's not devoid of problems, but it sure looks nice from the perspective of the year 2000.
  • In the American Sonic the Hedgehog comic, we get glimpses of the time period Silver comes from (200 years after the time the main series is set in) - an unexplained disaster has destroyed almost the entire world, except a few scattered pockets of civilization, and Silver is constantly going back in time to try and find the cause of this disaster so that he can undo it. Recently, he stumbled onto an Alternate Universe that was an even worse Bad Future than his, one where Knuckles became the evil Enerjak and killed almost everyone on the planet - main cast included - leaving only a handful of rebels fighting him.

Fan Works

  • The Pony POV Series chapter "Epilogue" depicts one of these ruled by Discord where the Mane Cast never broke free of his power. Not only are they now his immortal servants, Twilight is now his Dragon and the dead rising from the grave to eat their loved ones happens a lot. Applejack's Healing chapter implies that eventually, Twilight manages to outwit him and restore her own memories behind his back, allowing her to begin plotting his downfall while he's none the wiser.
  • In 30 Minutes That Changed Everything by Radaslab, the century or so following the canon ending of the Harry Potter books is the Bad Future. In the first chapter Harry Potter, literally the last man alive, creates a magical AI and sends it back into the past in order to change the events that led to it.


  • Meet the Robinsons, with the alternate future ruled entirely by a robotic bowler hat. Specifically, when the Bowler Hat Guy takes credit for Lewis's Memory Scanner, he unwittingly helps Doris and her demonic, robotic bowler-hat offspring destroy the bubblegum neo-fifties Zeerust future in favor of a dystopian future. Bonus points for a Future Badass mind-controlled Robinson family. You can tell they're Future Badass because all the women wear black lipstick.
  • An abandoned concept in Aladdin featured Jafar wishing that he "always was Sultan", resulting in a Bad Present for Agrabah. The artists loved BadFuture!Agrabah, but the Timey-Wimey Ball was too much for the writers to get around.
    • They got to use it in the series though: villain Abis Mal goes back in time, teams up with his own ancestor Abnor Mal, and tries to replace the current sultan's family as founders of Agrabah. Both of them being rather inept however, their plan does not work and is, as always, foiled by Aladdin.
  • Averted in Back to The Future Part II in 2015. The filmmakers stated that they didn't want to just rip off Blade Runner and wanted to get people out of that sort-of grim mindset, so they portrayed the future as a generally nice place to live, though not perfect, and that any trouble was caused by the people (like Griff) there, not technology. Also, they knew that whatever they showed would likely become badly dated or inaccurate as the real 2015 came around, so they just made it all into jokes. The Bad Present, on the other hand...
  • It's a Wonderful Life did the "bad alternate present" thing way before that one.
  • In Time Chasers Nick goes to the future with Lisa the first time and it looks like our time with a few futuristic looking touches. On his second visit to the same time period, he finds the world was ravaged by Time Travel used as a weapon (as a result of his having signed up with the Corrupt Corporate Executive for more funding.) The rest of the plot is him trying to undo his mistake. Due to the movie's abysmally low budget, the future is more "really rather messy I guess and peoples' faces are dirty" than the "there is an ongoing armed conflict and only killers survive" they were going for.
  • The Kamen Rider Kabuto movie God Speed Love is set in such a future. The meteor that brought the Worms to Earth was much larger than in the series and as a result vaporized Earth's oceans and turned the entire planet into a desert wast land and to make matters worse, an evil Kamen Rider exclusive to the movie wants to let the Worms take over the world. Interestingly, this was actually the original future and the series timeline is caused by the title character going back in time.
  • One of those rare inversions drives the plot of Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure: the good future is in danger of not happening if Bill and Ted don't get to start their band.


  • Animorphs has two different Bad Future plots. In book #7, the Ellimist shows them a future in which the Yeerks had taken over; they had all been made Controllers, except Tobias, who was eaten by the others (This book took place before he regained his morphing ability, so he was useless as a host. They complain that he was a "bit stringy," but good with barbecue sauce). In book #41, Jake wakes up in another Yeerk-controlled Bad Future; in that one, the characters' fates are more varied. Ax is dead, Tobias is stuck in Ax morph, Cassie is a Controller involved in the resistance, Marco is a Controller who leads the yeerk forces on Earth, Jake is a regular Controller, and Rachel was severely injured in battle and is now paralyzed, somehow unable to morph.
  • In a strange example, everything after the Chaos War in the Dragonlance universe is the bad future. We know this because in the War of Souls trilogy Tasslehoff mentions visiting a much better future on a previous trip through time.
  • In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Bad Futures are called "Projections." Charles Wallace and the flying Unicorn occasionally get blown into them.
  • The Wheel of Time features a possible bad future, observed during Aviendha's final tests to become a Wise One. It seems that her descendants become embroiled in a war with the Seanchan Empire, who have acquired gunpowder weapons, conquered Tar Valon and subjugated the rest of the world. Decades or centuries later, the once-proud warrior Aiel have been reduced to scavengers living off the refuse of the Seanchan and their vassals.
  • Averted in The Pendragon Adventure, where part of Bobby's quest in the third book involves talking to a contact from the year 6000 or so, which is a nice time to live. Played straight later on, when Saint Dane's meddling changes timelines in multiple territories.
  • The Candy Shop War features one near the end of the book. It's only a few days or so in the future, but so powerful is the villain's corrupting influence—which they've spent the past several days building up—that they've already got one town completely under their control, and the rest of the world isn't far off.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer serial novel, The Lost Slayer had Buffy make a tactical mistake trying to rescue Giles, then get sent five years into the future, to her older self's body, to see a world where Sunnydale was ruled by vampires-with Giles as their king.
  • Dark Future: The title gives it away, doesn't it? A Fallen States of America riven by environmental collapse, ruled by corrupt politicians and being edged closer to destruction by The Church of The Path Of Joseph.
  • The Forever War: The effects of the war cause Earth to fall further and further into chaos, getting more and more Crapsack as the war drags on.
  • In A Christmas Carol, the Ghost Of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the future consequences of his miserly ways: Tiny Tim dies, the deceased Scrooge's belongings are pawned off for chump change, everyone rejoices and no one mourns at his death, and he is buried in a neglected corner of the cemetery.

Live-Action TV

  • Heroes, "Five Years Gone," after New York was blown up, and Sylar takes over the country. And then again, with the Shanti virus having wiped out most of humanity. Season Three starts off apparently averting one Bad Future and creating a new one. Though the series seems to be moving toward that future anyway - just by a different route. Super Registration Act - done. Nathan "betraying his kind" - done. Sylar posing as Nathan - done. And with Daphne dead and Hiro Brought Down to Normal, nobody can Set Right What Once Went Wrong this time. As of Season 4 the registration act is gone, Hiro is getting better (his powers are anyway), and it's getting more and more likely that Matt is going to change Sylar back.
  • Double the Fist shows us one in the second to last episode where Steve has taken over the world and punishes people for being weak (which entails such things as reading and being comfortable) and uses Womp as the symbol of Weakness. Subverted in that this future apparently comes to be, and that within the context of the show, this is a good thing.
  • The Flash television series had a particularly contrived version of this, in which a villainous motorcycle gang leader became mayor of the city and somehow turned it into a repressive dystopia.
  • The Flash Forwards on Lost are fairly dystopian, with characters hallucinating (maybe), trying to commit suicide, being killed, and going crazy. Unfortunately for them, all of the flashforwards have now happened in the present, making this Bad Future the canonical bad past in the show's current present time.
  • While it isn't quite a traditional Bad Future Doctor Who story, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth," the second appearance of the Daleks in Doctor Who, has just about all of the standard features of one. It showed a 22nd century Earth ruled by Daleks. This has gotten enshrined in the Whoniverse as the future, but the later "Day of the Daleks" showed another 22nd century dominated by Daleks, which did get undone. (The "Day of the Daleks" future happened following a nuclear war in the 20th century.)
    • When the Master took over the world in the Series 3 Season Finale, a Time Skip between episodes and the ultimate Reset Button are very reminiscent of a typical Bad Future plot.
    • The Time War in the Eighth Doctor novels (not to be confused with the Time Lords - Daleks Time War in the RTD TV series) is a Bad Future for the whole Doctor Who universe and Time Lords in particular that gets averted in "The Ancestor Cell".
    • The series is built on time travel and has been going off and on since 1963. This trope has come up a LOT, even if many were just minor instances.
  • Dollhouse's season-concluding Epitaph episodes show us the logical conclusion of all the brain-warping technology.
    • "Epitaph One": To put it simply, if you get too close to any form of technology, there is a good chance you will be affected by a "signal" that wipes your memory and imprints you with simple orders to "kill everyone who isn't programmed to kill everyone." That's not even the worst part.
    • "Epitaph Two": Return and the end of the previous episode establish that the Bad Future is the canon ending of the series, and even after Topher's Heroic Sacrifice to restore everyone's original minds, the world is still a post-apocalyptic Crapsack World. And the weaponized Dollhouse tech is still out there...
  • Sanctuary, Pavor Nocturnus. Though it's likely to have been just a fabricated illusion.
  • This is the cornerstone of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as it's set in the Terminator universe.
  • Supernatural, "The End," which reveals that, five years in the future, the Croatoan virus has turned almost everyone into violent, zombie-like killers, the United States is a veritable wasteland under Martial Law, Lucifer has gotten his perfect vessel and taken over, and Sarah Palin is President.
    • Castiel's fallen is is sleeping with any woman he meets, as well as taking drugs. Bobby's dead. Sam said yes to Lucifer. Dean's a bastard who sacrifices his friends. By the end, future!Dean, future!Castiel and Bobby are all dead, with Lucifer pointing out that it will always end here and he will always win. And Dean was sent here by an angel.
  • Legend of the Seeker has an episode that follows this trope. In the 'bad future' Richard and Cara are thrown into, the confessor/wizard combo son of Darken Rahl and Kahlan Amnell goes on to confess the entire world into being his thralls of darkness. It's left up to Richard and Cara to put aside their differences to find a way home.
  • Stargate Atlantis had an instance of this in the fourth season finale "The Last Man". Due to a freak solar flare, Sheppard went 48,000 years into the future where a hologram of Rodney informed him that due to his disappearance, the expedition fell apart and "Michael" took over the galaxy. To set it right, said hologram predicted when a similar flare would occur and sent him back a few days after his accident.
    • Stargate SG-1 had another in the two-parter episode Moebius. The team went back into the past to steal a ZPM from Ra but they lost the Jumper. They then attempted to incite a rebellion, which worked... except that Ra took the Stargate with him. So in the present, the SGC didn't exist, Jack was still retired, Sam never joined the military and Daniel was an English teacher. This new team (minus Daniel) had went back in time too and linked up with the original Daniel and Teal'c; together they incited a new rebellion which preserved both the gate and the ZPM. So when their message was found in the present, the third team didn't have to lift a finger since they gained a full ZPM.
    • There's also the paired episodes '2010' and '2001'. The first takes place entirely in the bad future, with them eventually sending a message back to the 'present'. It looks like they succeeded, but then two seasons later they run into the same bad guys again, fortunately someone remembers the old warning they got and that it might have been in reference to these new potential "friends". History looks like it's starting to repeat, but SG-1 recognises the threat and averts it.
    • Stargate: Continuum did this as well. Ba'al's master plan was to sink the ship carrying the Stargate to the US so that the SGC is never founded and he can conveniently take over the galaxy.
    • It appears the verse really loves this trope. Stargate Universe used it as well. When they visited the actual planet, they got ambushed by nocturnal creatures; many were killed. Since the Stargate was unusable due to a solar flare (again), none of them made back alive while those left on the ship died from an infection in their water supply. One of the Kinos went through the gate and was sent back in time enough that the next team found it and viewed the footage. They deduced that the creatures' venom might be an antidote to the infection but they run out of time and those who had not giotten sick yet had to go to the planet at night; result the same. This time however, Scott grabbed the Kino and recorded a warning about the infection and that the creatures are deadly but contain a cure. When the solar flare affects the wormhole again he throws the Kino in, giving the third team enough time to save themselves and everybody on the ship.
  • Smallville has a future ruled by Zod, which Lois visited between Seasons 8 and 9, and which we finally saw in "Pandora".
  • In Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, about halfway through season 2, Trance Gemini swaps herself for another her from a bad future, who has come to help avoid making the same mistakes that led to her bad future, although by doing so, she might as well have made things worse.
  • Fringe: Season 3 finale. Alternate Universe got destroyed, but instead of saving ours, it only makes things worse. Walternate is somehow alive and wants to destroy ours universe as a revenge. Even opening credits become gray for this occasion.
  • This is where Matt Anderson comes from in Primeval. He came back to the present to try to keep it from happening.
  • No Ordinary Family has Stephanie trying to prevent one by changing one small action by Jim.
  • The "Remedial Chaos Theory" episode of Community has an alternate timeline in which Pierce is dead, Annie has gone insane, Jeff's lost an arm, Shirley is an alcoholic, Troy lost his voicebox and Britta has a blue streak in her hair. Things got dark.
  • The Legends of Tomorrow episode "Star City 2046" takes place in a Star City 30 years after the group left in the first episode. Here it is a ruin filled with Mad Max esqe motorcycle gangs and Oliver Queen has one arm. This is a shock to the cast as the reason they were chosen for the time travel mision in the first place is none of them were supposed to be important to the timeline.


  • The music video for Disturbed's "Another Way To Die" shows one where the entire world is ruled by corporations with the rest of humanity in worse conditions than people in concentration camps. As in the Fallout universe is a better world. It's illegal to garden or share in this post-apocalyptic wasteland.
  • In Ludo's Rock Opera The Broken Bride, we get to see the Bad Future caused by the narrator messing around in the time stream.
  • In Black Sabbath's "Iron Man", a man time-travels and witnesses the Bad Future, but when traveling back to the present, he gets turned into Iron Man, who ends up causing the bad future.
  • Mike and the Mechanics' Silent Running is about an astronaut who has seen his society collapse while experiencing Time Dilation. He spends the song trying to send a warning message back in time to his family.

Video Games

  • The whole plot of Chrono Trigger is based on preventing one of these by destroying Lavos before it destroys the world.
  • Let's face it, Sonic's world seems doomed to being buried in flames no matter what they do.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog CD uses a system of Time Travel that sends Sonic into the Past or Future. Bad Future (The Trope Namer) is the result of completing a level without fixing Robotnik's screwing with the past, which results in a dystopia with broken and rusted machinery everywhere. Good Future is a result of Sonic foiling Robotnik's plans and ends up with advances in technology and nature existing in harmony.
    • The sequel to Sonic Chronicles may have been intended to end up this way as well, but the game bombed so horribly it will never get a sequel.
    • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 Silver travels back in time to stop fiery monster Iblis from destroying the world.
    • In Sonic Rivals 2, Silver travels back in time to stop the fiery monster Ifrit from destroying the world.
    • In Sonic Generations, the Time Eater can access alternate timelines, allowing Stardust Speedway (Bad Future) and Crisis City to be playable levels.
  • Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden was almost entirely this: the heroes got sent to the far future where things were a bit messed up.
    • Reversal, on the other hand, starts you in the Bad Future, then later takes the hero/heroine back to the past to change it.
  • Ecco the Dolphin: Tides of Time has a few levels that take place in a future ruled by the Vortex
    • Ecco: Defender of the Future had three of them (though they were more Bad Presents than bad futures, but time travel caused the problem): Man's Nightmare (aka Humans Were Bastards), Dolphin's Nightmare (aka Dolphins Are Also Bastards), and the version where the foe won.
  • The old text based game Time Quest was pretty much a series of these. The bad guy was a fellow time traveler who apparently really hated the world and goes back and time and messes up a whole bunch of historical events. Failing to correct any one of them will result in a Bad Present /Future, all completely different. Ironically, only one should actually be possible at any given time, since the earliest unfixed event should negate all later ones.
  • This is the main plot of Jak II, where Jak & co are sent centuries ahead in time where Metal Heads (which entered their universe through the same portal that sent them ahead in time) have all but destroyed the planet and the few remaining cities are ruled by tyrants such as Baron Praxis and crime lords like Krew. Unusually, this bad future is never prevented from happening, and the characters opt to stay there because it turns out that Jak and Samos were actually born in that future and their younger selves were sent into the past so that their older selves could defeat the Baron and the Metal Heads. No one ever seems to notice that this actually causes their world to be ruined, since Jak was the one who activated the gate that let the Metal Heads into their world in the first place.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky has this trope when the future has been stopped due to the collapse of Temporal Tower. Except it's one of the most extreme and creepy examples. Nightmare Fuel can't describe it.
  • The NES role-playing game Magic of Scheherazade contains one of the first, if not the first, video game appearances of this trope. When the heroes visit a land threatened by a winter demon, and then use a time gate to jump thirty years into the future, they find that, according to future history, they vanished for thirty years. In the meantime, the demon won, and the world's now completely covered in ice.
  • The City of Heroes MMORPG has a mission in which the hero travels to a future in which the villains have won, as part of a story arc to prevent that from happening.
    • City of Villains one-ups it with a story arc in which the villain travels to a future in which another villain has won, as part of a story arc to prevent that from happening. There's also the part where the future is the result of the player's victory, masterminded and usurped by the latter one. The End of the World as We Know It is a result of said successful usurping.
  • Similarly, World of Warcraft has the dungeon End Time, in which players are sent to a future where Cataclysm's Big Bad Deathwing has succeeded in destroying Azeroth, as part of a convoluted plan by the Dragon Aspects to kill him in the present. In this future, the Omnicidal Maniac Cult has won, the Eldritch Abominations are free and everything is dead. The worst part? According to the Infinite Dragons (who try to stop the players from preventing this future), this isn't the worst possible outcome, and that stopping Deathwing is only going to bring about worse ones...
  • Legacy of Kain does this many times.
    • First, Blood Omen takes place in a typical fantasy world. Then, the setting of the beginning of Soul Reaver is a vampire-ruled hell (or paradise, for a vampire) where humans are subjugated, the skies are blotted out by huge furnaces and there are apparently no trees (at least, Soul Reaver contains no plant life of any kind).
    • Then, Raziel (for whom THAT bad future was actually a nice present) gets tossed into the Lake of the Dead to burn for eternity. He comes out some unspecified number of centuries later when the vampires are all gigantic, mutated monstrosities.
    • In Soul Reaver 2, Raziel travels into Nosgoth's past, which is a couple decades before the time of Blood Omen. From THERE, he travels into the future, but only a hundred years or so. This bad future looks a little like the bad future of Soul Reaver, but its badness seems to derive mostly from unpleasant weather and the building he time-travels in being abandoned, as well as demons running loose for some reason.
    • In Blood Omen 2, Kain gets KO-ed for 200 years and wakes up in a world ruled by an order of vampire hunters. Also, everything is grungy and the setting is Victorian with a side order of steampunk.
  • Day of the Tentacle does this as it's future setting, where Purple Tentacle's army has dominated the world and are holding humans as pets and prisoners.
  • In Second Sight, John Vattic's adventures in the present are eventually revealed to be premonitions of a future where the mission to Dubrensk went horribly wrong; the Zener Children have been horribly murdered, Jayne Wilde has been committed to an asylum, Colonel Stark and the WinterICE team have been disgraced, and John's been confined to the Osiris Research facility. Plus, with the tissue samples taken from both the Children and John, many units of psychic soldiers are in production...
  • Ultimecia's time period in Final Fantasy VIII. Possibly. The Stable Time Loop means that the future Ultimecia comes from is guaranteed to happen - but just how bad a future it's going to be is the subject of some debate, since the player only sees Ultimecia's castle and its immediate surroundings, and SeeD is evidently right on her doorstep.
  • StarCraft II features the mission "In Utter Darkness", which is basically a playable peek into a Bad Future. Basically, in this other timeline Kerrigan was killed by the Terrans and/or Protoss, leaving the way open for the Dark Voice, a being that the Xel'Naga and even the frickin' Overmind feared, to emerge and take control of them. He and his freakish Protoss/Zerg Hybrids proceed to use the Zerg to completely annihilate every other sentient being in the galaxy, including humanity. The Protoss are the last to go. And then once he's done with them, Dark Voice promptly obliterates the Zerg as well.
  • Space Quest Twelve as depicted in Space Quest IV. Vohaul's taken over Xenon's Master Computer. Killer droids patrol the abandoned streets. any living being is taken and given a lobotomy, then fitted with a contraption that permanently holds their eyelids open. Roger's Kid From the Future is a battle-hardened veteran of La Résistance, and implies that Roger (and Beatrice) do not live to see him grow up. Worse, Roger is sent back to his own timeline, and can remember what he saw, but has no way to prevent it. Um...Sierra? Was this supposed to be a comedy?
  • The EverQuest: Seeds of Destruction expansion pack deals with this. The players are sent through the Plane of Time to a period where Norrath had been destroyed by the Legion of Mata Muram- creatures born of sheer chaos. The Gods have been killed, the moons of Luclin and Drinal both destroyed with Norrath, and the sun is about to go nova. The only remaining living creatures are a single tree and Zebuxoruk, the God of Knowledge. He explains that it's the adventurer's responsibility- and the future's only hope- to restore Norrath by traveling back to certain points in time to make sure that history does not deviate from how it originally played out.
    • EverQuest 2 has a heritage quest involving time travel to a past where clockworks had taken over the entire world just because one person got his hands one a particular robe.
  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, thanks to a certain sword deciding a kid can't wield it.
    • Hyrule Historia says that Ocarina of Time also CAUSES a Bad Future. In an alternate timeline where Link loses against Ganondorf in the final battle, he gets the complete Triforce and the Imprisoning War begins, leading to A Link to The Past and the NES games.
  • Creating a Time Machine and using it to go to the fifth time from the selection in Super Scribblenauts will send you to a Terminator-esque Bad Future.
  • In Ghost Trick, you're basically doing this in the short term, per character, by preventing them from dying. You're actually already IN the Bad Future, but don't realize it until the end, when you get to Set Right What Once Went Wrong...and you wouldn't even have bothered if not for Ray's intervention. More details can be had at the Alternate Timeline entry.
  • Inverted in Oracle of Ages—it's the past that's a Crapsack World.
    • Played straight with Symmetry City.In the Bad Future/Present, it stays a ruined Lethal Lava Land until you retrieve and fix a certain artifact to prevent a local cataclysm from happening.
  • The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker plays with this trope. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where a Great Flood destroyed Hyrule in an attempt to stop Ganon. However, the events of the game suggest Ganondorf is finally Killed Off for Real, which means that while Hyrule and its legends may be lost forever, the people who survived may no longer have to fear his ongoing cycle of terror. (Which continues with relative frequency in the child timeline.)
  • This was to be the future of Asheron's Call canon in AC2: Fallen Kings, but with the death of AC2 and the subsequent abandonment of its story, the future of Dereth remains a mystery.
  • Final Fantasy XI has this in the form of Abyssea, where the player's alternate self failed to defeat the final boss, who then proceeded to not only absorb them and Selh'teus, but also turned the skies red and overran the world with monsters to extinguish all life on the planet.
  • In Rift, Defiant player characters start out in Terminus. Regulos has essentially won, and is about to snuff out what's left of the world; several major NPCs are dead or have turned traitor. (Of course, the activation of the Failsafe prevents this from ever actually happening.)
  • In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Noel comes from one of these and the point of the game is to stop his future from happening. They fail, The Bad Guy Wins, and time itself is destroyed.
  • Duke Nukem: Zero Hour features both a bad future, where most of civilization has been wiped out in a nuclear war, and a bad "alternate present".
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening... Lucina and her fellow Children Characters are from one, where the Big Bad Gimle killed and took over the PlayerCharacter's body and destroyed everything- and killed just about every character in front of their eyes. It's so bad that every one of them, save for the enigma, Mark, is a form of a "Shell Shocked Senior" when they show up in the present, thanks to time travel. (Don't ask about Mark. S/He's a Noodle Incident.)

Web Comics

  • In Sluggy Freelance the demon KZK takes over the world and inflicts horrible torments on humanity, such as making everyone watch a stage production of Gilligan's Island with Torg as the Professor. Berk and Dr. Schlock traveled back in time to prevent this, and were seemingly successful. However, since KZK is Not Quite Dead, it may still take over the world at some future date.
  • Homestuck: John gets killed by his denizen because he fought it much earlier than intended, thanks to following the advice of Terezi. Jade is presumed dead because she was unable to enter the Medium before a gigantic meteor struck her island. The game is now Unwinnable without them. Future!Dave reverses time and goes back to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by warning John.
    • Bad Futures are also really easy to create in the world of Homestuck. Didn't run a certain computer virus? One of your best friends goes crazy about a month ahead of schedule and kills you and your entire team horribly! Let an old rival go because you couldn't bring yourself to kill her? Wind up killed by the demon said rival wanted to fight! Made a mistake during frog-breeding? Somehow wind up ruining everything! Due to the sheer ease that players can doom themselves, every session has a player with the ability to manipulate time. Aradia, the troll's Hero of Time wound up with this trope so many times she was able to make an army - which turned out being essential to defeating the Black King.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, there's a Bad Future in which superintelligent dinosaurs rule the world and most of the characters are either dead or part of La Résistance.
  • In Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, there's at least one timeline where Megaville and everyone in it are slaughtered due to one of the heroes performing a Face Heel Turn. Said timeline is explored in a spinoff to its sister comic, Grim Tales from Down Below.

Western Animation

  • Kim Possible did this in the A Sitch in Time movie.
  • G.I. Joe did this once; for more info, see Rushmore Refacement.
  • The Powerpuff Girls ended up here when they approached the speed of light. The future they found themselves in was when where their absence had caused the world to grow gradually worse until Him was able to take over, transforming it into a blasted wasteland where all of the inhabitants of Townsville we see have long since been driven mad (such as the Professor obsessively trying to recreate the girls while haunted by hallucinations, Ms. Bellum ranting about how the girls disappeared while guarding the Mayor's hat and sash which are all that remain of him, and Ms Keene standing in the ruins of the kindergarten repeating the last thing she did before the girls vanished). Then they went backwards again, preventing it—the future was bad only because they'd been absent in the years between. Needless to say, it was one of the show's darker episodes.
    • A few clues on Samurai Jack suggest that Aku's tyranny will take place centuries after the era of the Powerpuff Girls. Conversely, this means that Jack and Aku's home time is in their past... which raises the question of where Aku was if he was supposed to have been establishing his reign of terror during this time.
      • It makes perfect sense if Jack succeeds in his quest and returns home to finish off Aku at the exact moment he'd been flung to the future, correcting the entire timeline and expunging Aku's influence over the future (the girls' present).
  • The Dexters Laboratory movie subverts this. Mandark takes over the world, but we are told from the beginning of the movie that the future was saved, and even see the final (happy) ending before the Darkest Hour.
  • Gargoyles had one, but that's a subversion because it was an illusion - not real. Which is good, because Gargoyles time travel runs on a Stable Time Loop rule - if it had been real, it would have been unchangeable.
    • Puck: "Was it a dream...? Or a prophecy?"
  • The Mask animated series did this once.
  • The Danny Phantom Movie "The Ultimate Enemy": Danny finds out that he "will" become a rampaging sadistic sociopath who would gladly and gleefully murder his mother, his father, his sister, his two best friends and his English teacher to protect his own existance and also happens to be the strongest ghost on the planet. He killed his human self and hinted to have killed many, MANY more. All of it was because he got pretty much caught cheating on a test and his ensuing survivor's guilt; which itself was caused by a Stable Time Loop only broken by Clockwerk stepping in to sever said loop. The good sides? Vlad was reformed, which did not happen in the real timeline, tragically; and for all the bad in that future, it did give present!Danny access to a powerful ghost ability his future self had just perfected, and it did let Danny know that his older sister discovered (and, more importantly, accepted) the fact that he was half-ghost. It is never explained whether that future remained inevitable after the events in the movie or why Clockwork made the bad future in the first place…
  • Donatello winds up in one of these in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon in the episode Same as It Never Was. To list it all: Shredder takes over the world. The survivors are forced to work 18 hours a day in labor camps. The grounds are patrolled by gestapo-like agents and the skies are filled with patrolling mecha and blimps with Shredders face on it. Splinter and Casey Jones are dead. The Turtles started fighting among themselves. Michelangelo lost an arm. When Donatello arrives and rallies the turtles for one final battle, Leo, Mikey, Raph, Hun, Baxter, Karai and Shredder all die. This episode alone has a higher body count than the rest of the series combined.
  • "Time and Punishment", a Darkwing Duck episode, has this happen when Gosalyn ends up taken to the future and sees it's run by a Fascist, Frank Miller -style version of her own father. It was her disappearing in the present that drove him insane; her return was all that was needed to set things straight.
  • A variant of this trope appears in Justice League. The League, with the exception of Batman, were under the protection of Green Lantern's power field when changes wrought by a time-travelling Vandal Savage winning WWII overwrote the current Earth and replaced it with a Bad Future version with him as supreme Evil Overlord. They were therefore unaffected and able to use the time machine Savage used to go back to WWII to fix matters—they even find that Earth's version of Batman on the way, who is the leader of La Résistance because his parents were killed for speaking out against Savage's regime.
    • Another variant appears in the second season, where Superman is sent several thousand years into the future and finds himself on a ruined, depopulated and desolated Earth—where he encounters Vandal Savage, who is immortal. Savage used Superman's absence to steal a device that allowed him to control gravity, which he lost control over and thus ruined the entire solar system, rendering the Earth a destroyed wasteland. Having had time to reflect on his errors, Savage willingly assists Superman in returning even at the cost of his own existence once that future is overwritten.
    • Yet another variant occurs when an Alternate Universe The Flash, a member of the Justice Lords is killed by then president Lex Luthor, causing the Justice Lords to go rogue and kill him, in the oval office. This resulted in a Bad Future and a subsequent universe crossover, with the teams' different but similar moralities causing them to come to blows.
  • Superman the Animated Series did this in "Brave New Metropolis"; Lois finds herself in a Metropolis ruled by Lex Luthor, with Superman as his superpowered enforcer, having gone Knight Templar after failing to save his dimension's Lois from a car bomb.
  • In the Swat Kats episode "A Bright and Shiny Future", the heroes are sent into a world where the Metallikats have taken over, thanks to a Legion of Doom alliance with the Pastmaster.
  • Megas XLR pulled this in the series finale. The local power is not the Glorft, as might be expected (Gorrath's dead); instead, Coop discovers at the end of part one that this world is ruled by an Evil Overlord version of Coop himself.
  • Samurai Jack: The entire premise of the show is that the main character is flung into a Bad Future and tries to return to his own time.
  • The first season finale of ReBoot temporarily dropped Dot into a Mainframe where she had given up on a Game, Bob had been nullified as a result, and Megabyte was in firm control of the system. The whole point (Phong did it somehow) was apparently to convince her just how imperative it was that she not give up. It worked.
    • Later, near the end of the third season, Enzo and AndrAIa found Mainframe even more like a traditional Bad Future, where they had been gone for what amounted to years, with a struggling resistance against Megabyte's rule added in... except this time, it was real.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius had this in "The Tomorrow Boys". Carl was an outlaw, Sheen was a garbage-surfer, and Jimmy was a loser married to Cindy. Oh, and Libby took over the world.
  • Captain Planet had a Bad/Dark Future episode as well, though in this case it dealt with general social/environmental decay caused by Wheeler's desire/decision to leave the Planeteers (thus rendering them unable to summon the titular hero to stop Hoggish Greedly from ruining the world).
    • Actually, it had two. When the World's Summit gets sabotaged by Zarm and the other eco-villains, the ENTIRE WORLD went down the crapper as said eco-villains ran rampant destroying everything for fun, prophet, whatever. Zarm adds insult to injury by having the Planeteers experience the world themselves while laughing about it AND holding a rapidly aging Gaia hostage.
      • Three. There was also one set 100 years from the present where the descendants of the Eco Villains are in charge and the world is a complete waste dump.
  • Spoofed by (naturally) The Simpsons in a Treehouse of Horror short where Homer is flung back in time and proceeds to accidentally destroy various pre-historical creatures, creating a series of Bad Futures starting with one where Ned Flanders is the undisputed and absolute ruler of the world.
    • There's also the Future episodes of The Simpsons. To wit: trees have apparently gone extinct, there was a World War III, and the United States has gone bankrupt. Of course, because of the Comic Book Time in effect, the present has caught up at least one of those futures, wherein Lisa got married. She's still eight years old.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men is mostly about the characters trying to avert the future Professor X finds himself in: two parts "Here Comes Tomorrow", one part Bishop's future, three parts "Days of Future Past", and all parts depressing. And once they succeed it's replaced by a world that looks very much like the Age of Apocalypse. At least Professor X still has his house in this future.
  • And speaking of Bishop, in the original X-Men cartoon Bishop originally came from the "Days of Future Past", or something very like it, but every attempt he made to Set Right What Once Went Wrong seemed to make things worse (Cable's Apocalypse-ruled future, for instance.)
  • Godzilla: The Series had the crew mysteriously transported into the future, where a race of wasp-like monsters created by a Mad Scientist had basically caused The End of the World as We Know It- Godzilla had died fighting them, and the last remaining cast member (and his Robot Buddy) was a Future Badass. Naturally, they travel back to prevent it, using knowledge and weapons from the future.
  • In Phineas and Ferb "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo", a version of Candace from twenty years in future goes back in time to bust the boys, then comes back to realize her actions resulted in this. Creativity has been banned, children are all stored in People Jars until adulthood, and, as a side-effect of her efforts to bust her brothers, Perry the Platypus was incapacitated long enough for Doofenshmirtz to take over the world. Everything is fixed by the end, but the present-day Candace never gets the hint.
  • The Mega Man cartoon had this trope in the episode 'Future Shock'. Interestingly, Wily hadn't taken over completely at the insistence of Protoman, who wanted rebellions to crush. Things were still pretty bad, though.
  • In the Ben 10 Alien Force episode "Time Heals," Gwen herself accidentally creates a future (or rather, present) ruled by Hex when she goes back in time to save Kevin from mutating when the Omnitrix is hacked in the season premiere.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "How Long is Forever", Starfire accidentally travels to one of these when she tackles the villain Warp, ending up twenty years in a future where she hadn't been seen since that day. The Titans have separated. Cyborg is rusted and isolated from everyone, due to wear and tear forcing him to replace his battery with a heavy generator, trapping him in the remains of Titan's Tower. Beast Boy failed miserably as a solo hero, felt into a deep depression, and becomes a circus entertainer. Raven is locked up in an asylum for hallucinating. It's never stated what caused her to be locked up in a mental ward, but considering the danger of her losing control of her emotions, she likely had herself committed for the good of the world. Hallucinations would result from a combination of years of isolation and regular sedatives. And, finally, Robin becomes a less charming version of Nightwing than he would normally be, had a Heroic BSOD, and completely refused to associate with anyone else ever again.
  • Futurama is generally a subversion, with some aspects being bad and some being good, much like the present. However, in an episode featuring a time machine that can only go forward, the characters visit a Bad Future in which robots are destroying all of humanity.
    • Bender, however, thought it was an excellent future. Did you see the view from the mountain of skulls?
  • In The Fairly OddParents episode "Father Time", Timmy melts his dad's trophy with heat vision. He goes back in time to make sure his dad doesn't win it in a race; he comes in last place, winning a trip to dictator school. Returning to his future, his dad is the ruler of the world. Timmy goes back in time again and wins the race while impersonating his dad.
    • There was also the tv movie Channel Chasers which featured one ruled by Vicky.
  • Argai the Prophecy has Queen Dark ruling over 2075.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar episode "It's About Time" Kowalski comes back in time to warn Private and then Skipper. Private's dream of the perfect future is a little different to Skipper's dream...

Future Kowalski 1: Private, can you think of one time I have played a trick or told a joke?
Private: You really are from the future! Tell me, am I living in a cottage in Novaskoscha happily married with one egg and another on the way?
Future Kowalski 1: Uh... no.
Private: Aw...

Skipper: There's two of you? You're from the future! Tell me, does the Earth become a post-apocalyptic wasteland terrorised by roaming bands of irradiated mutants?! (punches one flipper into another eagerly)
Future Kowalski 2: Uh... no.
Skipper: Oh...

  • In the Family Guy episode "Back to the Pilot", Stewie and Brian travel to the first episode of the series in order for Brian to find where he buried a tennis ball. While there, Brian warns his past self about 9/11. When they get home, Brian is hailed as a hero for foiling the terrorist plot. Stewie is outraged, as he specifically warned Brian about changing the past. At the same time, George W. Bush, who has lost the 2004 presidential election and has once again become the Governor of Texas, declares the secession of Texas and several other Southern states, sparking another Civil War. Brian still maintains that, in five years time, it'll all work out. They jump into the future and see that the United States has been destroyed by a nuclear war between the states. Anyone leaving the house has to put on a radiation suit and arm themselves.