Well, it happened again. After millions of dollars in biomedical research and the construction of a remote lab deep in the mountains, a highly paid doctor leaked a vial of their experimental, top-secret cancer medication to a rich corporation with loose ethics and military interests. Long story short, the zombies have risen and the world as we know it has come to an end… again. I’ve seen the world end so many times and in so many ways, it’s hard to keep track of them all, but I’ll try for you, dear reader.
More often than not, the whole thing comes crashing down because of some sort of reanimated undead difficulties. Throngs on the recently deceased descend upon mankind to tear down the lives we built up, and combating the shambling hordes comes in just as many forms. When the mindless masses bent on blind consumption came to punish us for our equally consumer-driven ways in Dead Rising, it was the tools of our old world and the ancient spirit of invention that propelled our heroes to victory against the unrelenting odds. Conversely, State of Decay suggested that we should form tribes of hunter-gathers to combat the immeasurable mass of living dead. Zombies punish us for our modern world but fall to the might that was our primal past, or we just shoot them a bunch, as we did in House of the Dead.
Similarly, nuclear devastation has proven to be an excellent way to bomb mankind back to the Stone Age. To be fair, we’ve been afraid of the bomb since the first uttering of the word atomic. It only makes sense, then, the Fallout franchise is one of the first world-ending cataclysms. The bombs fell and reduced the world to ruin. The survivors banded together, forming loose tribal enclaves, just as they would when the zombies would arise, but this time we needed the tools of the world destroyed to see us through. If we learned anything from Fallout, or the Metro franchise that would follow it, is that technology is great, just not too much.
Now, zombies and science make fine boogeymen for our various bloody downfalls, but our doom has taken a more religious tone as well. Darksiders saw the world brought to ruin when one of the horsemen of the apocalypse flipped the rapture switch too early. Honestly, we humans were a bit busy being dead and all to really navigate all the demons and destruction and all. No, that was up to the same mystical figures that wrought our destruction to put everything right again. It just goes to show you that sometimes these great terrors aren’t even our fault in the first place and there’s nothing we can do about it.
At least when we fell the wrath of Diablo (on three separate occasions) we survived. We huddled in our settlements with an old man talking about ancient prophecies, waiting for the various terrors to take us in the night. Funny enough, the old man ended up being right. He found the chosen one who vanquished the Lord of Terror, until that saviour became the great evil again. It’s a wonder that we listened to that old man a third time.
When demons sought our doom again, this time in Hellgate London, the people found our best defence against unholy terrors. Demons spilled into the world in a highly publicized event and people the world over did all that we could to drive back the horrors. Banding together, we achieved glorious victory against all odds—by not playing Hellgate London, we managed to nip that in the bud.
Sometimes the end of the world can be avoided by the most common resource in all of video games; groups of plucky youngsters armed with optimism and magic. Luckily, this has proven to be effective is halting an apocalypse already in progress, as seen in Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. When faced with world ending destruction by a lone, god-like entity a group three or four young people can triumph against all odds. If there is anything to learn here, it’s that human tenacity knows no bounds, even against massive spiky alien monsters.
If anything can be gleaned from the diverse tapestry of world ending video games it’s that there’s no telling what will finally do us in as a species. No matter what comes, we’ll find our way to fight through whatever ravenous monsters the future throws at us, whether magical simulacrum, horrendous mushroom creatures, or science gone too far. The only thing that we can be sure of is that if we wait long enough weird robot dinosaurs will be there once we’ve gotten the whole thing sorted.