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File:GreatFall 2298.png

Pretty sure the insurance company won't cover that, they were in the blast radius.

Natural disasters are scary enough, but what about supernatural disasters? One way to kick-start a story or motivate characters to pick up The Call is to threaten the setting with a World-Wrecking Wave. The Wave can have any of a number of triggers; it may happen when the Sealed Evil in a Can is released, some overwhelming evil force unleashes a powerful Curse, the Cosmic Keystone is stolen or corrupted, or a scientific/technological device meant to better things Goes Horribly Wrong. The wave can have any or all of the following effects: natural disasters will be triggered, mutations will affect animal, plant, and even human life, areas will enter the Dark World or become haunted and toxic, and millions of Mooks will roam the land and attack all humans.

Once the wave stops rippling, the heroes will be faced with a world gone topsy-turvy. The effects can range from a Cozy Catastrophe to After the End, and affect anywhere from a town to a universe. It's worth noting that the World-Wrecking Wave won't destroy the whole world nor kill all humans, though it probably represents a big step towards some form of apocalypse or Villain World. The Wave is merely an event that whacks the entire setting closer to Crapsack World (or further down the same). Narratively, it isn't supposed to destroy the world either, it's an amped up way to show heroes that things can get much, much worse if the bad guys get their way.

On the plus side, heroes can often Set Right What Once Went Wrong, by a piecemeal process involving healing the land one acre at a time, or all at once by healing the Fisher King, going back in time to prevent the event, or using an opposing World-Healing Wave. Also, a World-Wrecking Wave may end up helping the heroes by serving as a Mass Super-Empowering Event... though some of those may be Lovecraftian Superpowers.

Examples of World-Wrecking Wave include:

Anime and Manga

  • One of these gets unleashed upon the Berserk universe when Griffith uses the Skull Knight's dimension-warping attack to fuse the planes of existence together.
  • Third Impact in End of Evangelion manifests using this trope. Wherever the wave passes, the oceans turn red, all people explode into LCL while their souls fly off into low orbit and the ground spontaneously sprouts billions of Creepy Cool Crosses with the entire scene overlaid by humanity's collective Death Cry Echo. It's utterly awesome and horrifying at the same time.
  • Soul Eater's World-Wrecking Wave is The Kishin and his madness spreading through the world. His release divides the story between a previous and an after, and set up a world slowly being corrupted with the heroes desperate to find him and stop him before it's too late.

Comic Books

  • In the DCU, the God-Wave created the gods out of a lifeless universe, and its echoes created superheroes and supervillains.
  • North Forty has a localized World-Wrecking Wave on the town. However, this was only because one of the two (accidental) instigators of the event focused on containing the negative effects with a barrier so they wouldn't be able to leave.
  • The Ultimatum Wave, in the Ultimate Marvel Crisis Crossover, Ultimatum. (Guess what their favorite word is?) It was an actual wave and it ended with half the Ultimate Marvel cast dead.


  • The Firebird from Fantasia 2000.
  • Disney's Mickey and the Beanstalk. After the golden harp is stolen, Happy Valley quickly turns into Grimy Gulch. Problems include drought and starvation.
  • Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. The wave of corruption that spreads over Heartland after Mr. Mustard steals the title characters' musical instruments.


  • The world of the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey is defined in large part by an ancient event known as the Cataclysm, which was a humongous magical detonation that devastated vast portions of the landscape and left magical ruin behind. It took the form of a sequence of waves radiating around the planet, and was so powerful that it bent time itself, returning three thousand years later.
  • In the Backstory of the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, High Lord Kevin Landwaster enacts the "Ritual of Desecration", releasing one of these in a desperate attempt to defeat Lord Foul. His success is only temporary while seriously nerfing the powers of his successors and ruining the land to boot. Well done.
  • The Darke Domaine in Septimus Heap is a slow version of this.
  • In the Dark Tower novel Wolves Of The Calla, Roland and the crew experience a "Beamquake" as one of the Beams holding up the dark tower gives way. Roland says, the land was destroyed for thousands of miles near where the beam snapped.

Tabletop RPG

  • Dark Conspiracy. The release of extradimensional evil on of Jupiter's moons leads to an invasion of modern day Earth, resulting in the creation of areas called Demongrounds.
  • Wraith: The Oblivion had six such events, called Maelstroms, ruin the Shadowlands. They were triggered by huge disasters or wars in the world of the living that caused huge numbers of ghosts to be thrust into the world of the dead at once. The sixth, final, and most destructive of them was quite different: a series of events triggered a relic nuclear bomb near the mouth of Oblivion. The Sixth Great Maelstrom was so catastrophic it not only took out most of the Shadowlands, but set into motion the events that destroyed the rest of the Old World of Darkness.
  • Monte Cook's World of Darkness kicks off with such an event after an Eldritch Abomination tries to penetrate our dimension. The effects can be scaled to make things better... or worse.
  • Several of these happened in the backstory of Exalted. Two notable events include the imprisonment of She Who Lives In Her Name, who decided to erase two-thirds of the things in Creation from existence out of jealousy, and the Balorian Crusade, when The Fair Folk harrowed the borders of Creation and drew vast chunks of the border back into the Wyld.
  • Rifts: The Great Cataclysm. A nuclear war, during a planetary alignment, on the Winter Solstice, equaled a massive burst of magical energy akin to millions of human sacrifices. Every Ley Line activated at once, creating a catastrophic surge of natural disasters... which meant more people died, which meant more power flooded into the ley lines, which meant more disasters. In the end, humanity was left standing in the ruins of civilization, with aliens, other-dimensional beings, and demons all dragged onto Earth by the newly-opened portals, wondering what the hell just happened.
  • 4th Edition D&D was heralded in the Forgotten Realms by Cyric's murder of Mystra, the goddess of magic. All over the universe, magic burst its bonds. Entire planes of existence were shattered, and part of the planet Toril exchanged itself with a piece of its parallel world Abeir. Many regions of Toril were also infected with a reality-warping, mortal-mutating magical disease, a disease whose name came to describe the entire event: Spellplague.

Video Games

  • The ink spill in Epic Mickey.
  • Final Fantasy IX: When the Iifa tree is destroyed, the mist covering the continents is removed, then when the party returns from Terra, it has returned. Thought, this is an example of the World-Wrecking Wave having been active before the start of the story.
  • Guild Wars Nightfall's actual nightfall events work like this, with demons being released in the world, and some areas becoming like the realm of torment.
  • The different armageddon events if Fall From Heaven's Armageddon counter rises, though spread out more over time.
  • This is what happens in Mortal Kombat when Shao Kahn takes control of a realm. In Mortal Kombat 3, he takes control of Earth, resulting in the series going into post-apocalyptic mode.
  • In Okami, removing the sword sealing Orochi causes all of Nippon[1] to sink into darkness. Large swatches are filled with toxic smog that petrifies humans, plants and animals all over die, buildings are destroyed, and demons roam freely. Thankfully, Amaterasu's first celestial brush techniques, Bloom and Mend, allow you to repair a lot of this damage.
  • Guess what the World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm is named after.
  • The plasma wall that surrounds the otherdimensional Schwarzwelt in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, capable of "disassembling any matter that it touches down to a molecular level." It started as a 1m-wide cylinder that stretched upwards in the middle of Antartica, but it has been expanding steadily ever since. Should the mission to investigate and destroy the Schwarzwelt fail (or should the Main Character die in combat), the wall will suddenly expand so rapidly as to engulf the entire world in seconds, annihilating everything in its path and leaving behind a world of demons. (This is a World-Wrecking Wave rather than an Apocalypse How (though it counts as that too) because if the Schwarzwelt actually did what it was said to be capable of, the result would be more along the lines of "Earth vanishing from existence".)
  • The Scientist's special ability in Spore is the Gravity Wave, which instantly wipes out all life on a planet. Like the more dramatic Planet Buster, using it will instantly be a mark against you in the eyes of any nearby space empires.
  • The Destroyer from The Legend of Spyro Trilogy will let loose one of these in the advent it finishes it's treck around the world, destroying it in a wave of fire and ash. Spyro reverses this by emitting a World-Healing Wave.
  • The heroes of Super Robot Wars Alpha accidentally unleash one of these after killing the final boss of the first game and the plot of Alpha Gaiden revolves around them trying to stop it from hitting Earth and getting trapped in a post-apocalyptic future where they apparently failed.

Web Comics

  • One of these was an important backstory event in Wapsi Square. The rampaging chimera effectively destroyed civilization 10,000 years before the start of the comic.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Phoenix King Ozai attempts this manually with the arrival of Sozen's comet. Through amplified firebending, he wanted to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground from a fleet of airships.
  • Bionicle: the Great Catacylsm.
  • DuckTales (1987) has the Golden Goose, an Artifact of Doom that can turn things to gold. If left outside its protective fountain too long, it comes to life and starts randomly turning things to gold. It then sheds its golden coating, which spreads through the ground and threatens to turn the entire world to gold. Only returning the goose to the fountain reverses the effect.
  • The arrival of Trigon in Teen Titans had this effect, turning the entire world into a volcanic wasteland and turning all life on Earth to stone. Raven killing him (or rebanishing him, it's not exactly clear) triggers a World-Healing Wave.
  • The Fairly OddParents does this in the Abra-Catastrophe TV movie. When Mr. Crocker becomes the ruler of the world, a montage is shown of one of these turning the world into an Egopolis where several major monuments are replaced with Crocker statues. In the same special, the characters at one point end up in an Alternate History where apes are the dominant lifeform on Earth, which causes a similar wave montage turning the monuments into monkey-related versions.
  • Invoked by Jackal/Anubis in the Gargoyles episode "Grief", as beams of dark energy that age objects and living things into dust, rust, and bones.
  • Mainframe Entertainment was fond of the concept, using it in both ReBoot to spread Daemon's infection and Beast Wars creating the Transmetals and Fuzors
  • In the second-to-last episode of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Diagon emits a World Wrecking Wave that turns every human being on Earth into an Esoterica (except Judy who escapes thanks to Ship encasing her in its power armor form).
  1. "Nippon" is "Japan" in Japanese