An epic is a long story centered on a heroic character that describes a series of exceptional events, similar to and suggestive of epic poetry. There are numerous epics in fiction and storytelling. Epics are majestic depictions and capture impressive struggles, such as stories of war, adventures, and other efforts of great scope and size over long periods of time.
Form is mostly limited to literature and theater, and includes.
- Epic Poem (also known as classic epic)
- Epic Narrative (also known as modern epic)
- Epic Movie (more broadly defined, includes film adaptations of the literary epic as defined here)
Some basic guidelines:
- A longer-than-average story that...
- ... Is wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a war or a country-wide catastrophe) and...
- ... Follows one hero, group of heroes or bloodline, who...
- ... Strive to achieve a particular goal or complete a quest, in the course of which they...
- ... Commit extraordinary deeds and...
- ... Have multiple (three or more) separate adventures in the course of their quest or journey.
The classic epics had their own guidelines:
- 12 chapters/stories/volumes
- Starting In Medias Res, usually later having The Hero explain via Flash Back How We Got Here
- "Invocation of the Muse" (formally asking one of the Muses to help the author live up to the task of doing the story justice, or achieve whatever goal they have in mind for it)
- A trip to the Underworld
Can be divided into a few different subgenres. The divisions also come in two flavors, Form and Subject (may be subtropes/genres). Both forms can be divided by subject:
- Heroic (one person, may include companions, but focused on the person)
- Familial (follows a particular lineage)
- and National (follows the history of an entire nation, not common)
Please do not add an example without ensuring that it first meets the criteria.
Anime and Manga
- Akira, both the manga and the film.
- Code Geass
- Death Note, while not as big in scope as other examples here, definitely fits.
- D Gray Man
- Most Digimon series fit:
- Dragon Ball
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Legend of Galactic Heroes
- Mahou Sensei Negima
- Most full-length Gundam series fall under this.
- The Mazinger trilogy, with all their sequels and spin-offs throughout forty years, definitely fits:
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- One Piece
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
- 20th Century Boys
- Tower of God
- Vinland Saga
- Kemono no Souja Erin
- Utawarerumono: National epic of Tuskuru, under Emperor Hakuoro.
- Undocumented Features as a whole is a familial epic; the Symphony of the Sword story cycle within it is a heroic epic on its own.
- Apocalypse Now
- Blood Diamond
- Gangs of New York
- The Godfather
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Lion King
- Master and Commander: Fits all but one of the criteria as it is focused on a single ship action. However it has a majestic plot, and larger then life characters and fits the other four criteria to a T.
- The Matrix
- Star Wars
- The Ten Commandments
- The Aeneid
- Belisarius Series is a Double Subversion with larger-then-life characters and events, modified by cynical asides. That is it is a time-travel dimenensional war centered in the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, with the characters talking like real soldiers rather then in Homeric Purple Prose and the effect can be a little odd. It certainly qualifies as an epic however.
- Book of the New Sun
- Book of the Long Sun
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Dark Tower
- The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.
- Don Juan by Lord Byron is an Affectionate Parody of The Epic.
- The Dresden Files
- Dragonriders of Pern
- Dune (particularly the first book, though most of them count anyways, and can be considered a hereditary epic as well)
- The Epic of Gilgamesh
- Gone with the Wind
- Guin Saga
- Harry Potter, the 7th book especially.
- His Dark Materials
- Honor Harrington: Perhaps not. But it does include a journey to the underworld-well to a planet named Charon.
- The Iliad
- The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.
- The Lord of the Rings
- The Mahabharata, the Indian national epic (although it does focus for the most part on Arjuna and his ancestors).
- Malazan Book of the Fallen
- The Name of the Wind
- North and South US
- The Odyssey
- Paradise Lost
- The Pillars of the Earth
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- The Saga of Hrolf Kraki
- The Silmarillion
- A Song of Ice and Fire
- The Stand
- Volsunga Saga
- Technic History: Fictional history of the expansion of humanity and other races into the stars, framing device for several stories some of which are mini-epics in their own right.
- Warrior Cats
- Watership Down; also has its own epic mythology in-universe.
- Wheel of Time
- The Winds of War/War and Remembrance (they are a two-volume set) by Herman Wouk. Someone or other said it was the World War II version of War and Peace.
- Also a TV miniseries which really went over the top for it's time, including borrowing and blowing up surplus naval vessels, checking out the real Auschwitz as a stage prop for horrific and realistic Holocaust scenes, and hiring big-end actors like Robert Mitchum and Jane Seymour.
- The Worm Ouroboros
Live Action TV
- GURPS has a number of potential epics for The Gamemaster to work with in its various Sourcebooks some of which are quite well done. Several are suggested in the sample campaigns. In Vikings one can replay any saga or make up one's own. There is even a mythic campaign theme in which Loki escape's and threatens to bring about Ragnorak before its time. In Traveller Sword Worlds there is 100 Parsecs which is about the journey of a group of Sword Worlders to set up a new civilization in which the Sword Worlder way of life may be preserved far in the reaches of the universe. One can also do the original founding of the Sword Worlds which is an intensely powerful theme. Intersteller Wars is in a way a "national epic" of the Terran Confederation. In fact some GURPS ideas are so good that it is a tragedy that they were never taken in hand by a writer worthy of them. Hopefully one is waiting.
- Pretty much every one with a plot. Particularly Role Playing Games.
- Assassin's Creed series
- Asura's Wrath: Easily one of the most Epic versions of this ever.
- Baldur's Gate
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Exit Fate
- Fallout series
- Final Fantasy games after the Excuse Plot era.
- Most Fire Emblem titles:
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem tell one epic in two parts
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn also tell one epic in two parts
- Forevers End
- The Half Life series is evolving into this, especially with the integration of the events of the Portal games (and possibly every other Valve title) into the canon.
- Homeworld. It has the appearance of Lensman-inspired Science Fiction Space Opera, but has the feels of Mythical High Fantasy Epic in terms of narration.
- Last Scenario
- The Legend of Zelda
- Mass Effect games.
- Oracle of Tao. It qualifies as a Generational Saga, tracing back from Ambrosia's mother (mainly in flashbacks), to her quest, to her daughter's quest with her.
- Prince of Persia The Sands of Time trilogy
- The entire Rance series (except for one non-canon game which was an Alternate Ending) is essentially one long heroic epic about Rance.
- Shining Force games.
- The Tale of Alltynex is a rare Shmup version of this.
- Xenogears and Xenosaga
- Broken Saints, one of the first flash series to take itself seriously.