It's 2016, and things are looking pretty grim. As prognosticators of the future, we're here to assess the present, and remind everyone that as bad things are, they can always get much, much worse — and they are much, much worse in mirror universes and parallel worlds. Here are 16 alternate realities that make the original look like home sweet home.
1) The (Days of) Future (Past) from X-Men
Following the movies, this includes the entirety of The Last Stand, so, a timeline where Magneto leaves Mystique for dead, the X-Men thoughtlessly align themselves with the actively mutant-icidal government, Wolverine slaughters countless mutant protestors — including Jean Grey — who's just too damn powerful to live, apparently, and Beast is elected Ambassador to the U.N. (Like John Bolton! This movie was released in 2006!) after literally stabbing Magneto in the back with a dirty syringe. It's later revealed this leads to sentinels killing everyone.
2) Dinohattan from Super Mario Bros.
As Dan Castellaneta explains in the intro, a parallel dimension was created after a meteor hit prehistoric Earth, evolving its dinosaurs into humanoid beings. Though the rest of the planet is a sweltering desert, the reptilian humanoids managed to develop one surviving metropolis called Dinohattan — one that's crawling with webs of ever-expanding fungus. This growth is ultimately revealed to be the "de-evolved" remains of the city's original ruler, before being usurped by King Koopa. It's like learning Dutch elm disease is secretly JFK.
3) The Strange Reality from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Home to Hercules' evil despotic bearded doppelganger, Sovereign, the realm known as The Strange Reality was accidentally opened by Zeus while hurling a lightning bolt to Earth in an effort to stop Ares and Hercules fighting. Like so many other parallel realities, each inhabitant of the Strangeverse's personality is essentially the polar opposite of those belonging to the beloved Hercules characters, but they still retain certain traits. For instance, "Xena II" is loud and cloying, but can still throw her shoes like Xena does her Chakram.
Most notably, whenever someone inside the Strangeverse is hurt or killed, the same happens to their counterpart on Herc's Earth. So basically, your fate may be determined by someone from another world acting in complete opposition to your own interests, which is a pretty thorny proposition.
4) The Flip Side from The Real Ghostbusters
An inverted New York City where the GHOSTS bust PEOPLE. Now referred to as "the big pumpkin", the city of Boo York is entirely populated by ghosts, the undead, and sundry Universal monsters. Most incredibly, in this dimension, the Ghostbuster's proton packs do not shoot radially polarised protons and positrons when fired, but actual screaming ghosts instead. Worst of all, there's no undead Winston for some reason. Nor is his absence addressed.
5) The Dark World from The Legend of Zelda
A dimension parallel to Hyrule created when Ganondorf claimed the Triforce for himself, the realm called the Dark Dimension is… well, darker. Inhabitants of the area are physically warped into shapes revealing their true inner selves, with some having simply turned into frogs, trees or foxes. Luckily, The Dark World can be exited through a magic mirror.
6) Flash-Sideways Universe from Lost
In season six we were introduced to an alternate reality in which all the show's characters had menial day jobs different from their established menial day jobs. In their new fields of employment, only a few of the castaways knew each other — usually because they had the same job. This whole thing turned out to be the afterlife, which is actually profoundly depressing.
7) Vegas from Stargate Atlantis
This is a weird one. In the penultimate episode of Stargate: Atlantis, we're introduced to an alternate universe where Sheppard is a stumblebum PI searching for the killer behind a mysterious string of dehydration murders. Of course, it's an alien Wraith, and we're treated to Stargate's remake of Predator 2.
The episode, titled Vegas, was originally going to be called CSI: Atlantis, and features all the hallmarks of television's favourite grimdark detective genre. The episode ends with Sheppard shot in the gut, bleeding out in the desert to the Johnny Cash cover of Solitary Man. The line between parody and tribute is blurred.
8) Brave New Metropolis from Superman: The Animated Series
An alternate dimension where Lois Lane has been killed by Intergang, Lex Luthor has turned Metropolis into a police state, and Superman now wears the Schutzstaffel. Visiting for the evening, the Lois Lane of the DCAU single-handedly toppled its empire.
9) A Better World from Justice League
In the episode A Better World, we're introduced to a parallel reality where the Justice League are its effective rulers, having killed serving US president Lex Luthor, and taken to lobotomizing Arkham inmates instead of treating them. Now calling themselves The Justice Lords, they have switched to wearing more severe outfits as they reach out to parallel realities to show them the glory of their rule.
10) Beetle-Induced Nightmare Reality from Doctor Who
The classic Third Doctor serial Inferno deals with more evil counterparts, so let's instead talk about Turn Left, where Donna gets an alien beetle attached to her back. The alien beetle — in league with The Sarah Jane Adventures' villain, The Trickster, apparently — showed Donna a world where the Doctor was killed in the same flood he drowned the Racnoss Empress's spider eggs in. Consequently, the starliner Titanic crashed into Buckingham Palace, displacing several Londoners and forcing foreign citizens into labour camps. The Adipose killed 60 million Americans, the Sontarans killed everyone in Torchwood (though they would all die shortly after, anyway, just about) and all the new series companions are dead. Worst of all, the universe itself seems to be switching off its suns. Donna manages to fix things by getting run over by a truck.
11) Farmworld from Adventure Time
An alternate reality created when Finn wished the Lich never existed. This prevented the Great Mushroom War and the end of the world, but it also effectively erased the Candy Kingdom, Princess Bubblegum, Marceline, and, well, everything. Jake was a normal dog, while Finn had a nose and a shoddily made robot arm. Eventually, Farmworld's Finn found the Ice Crown, went insane as its Ice King, and nearly destroyed a whole lotta dimensions before Prisbo sent regular Finn and Jake to stop him.
12) The Negaverse from Darkwing Duck
In the Negaverse, the city of St. Canard has been reduced to a burnt husk, as Darkwing Duck's own reverse-adversary, Negaduck, rules supreme. Each of the series' reasonably "good" characters now wear black leather jackets and live only to cause unnecessary pain and suffering. The show's villains, on the other hand, are on the straight-and-narrow — yet still retain their superpowers, suspiciously. I assume Negaduck is responsible for creating them in instances where Darkwing did? Anyway, it's a pretty basic good/bad inversion. Ducks are still ducks, and dogs made of water are still dogs made of water.
13) The Mirror Universe from Star Trek
The classic. Instead of the United Federation of Planets, this universe is home the Terran Empire, where beards, sleeveless shirts and weird scarves worn on your hip reign supreme. So it's kinda like Brooklyn (wocka wocka).
Discipline is enforced through torture, and recruits climb the ranks by killing their superiors so at least everyone's honest.
14) Wen Kroy from Go-Bots
In the episode Transfer Point, Scooter and Leader-1 are mistakenly "astro-beamed" to the mysterious city of Wen Kroy — which, yes, is New York spelled backwards. In this no man's land, Cy-Kill and the Renegades are the "good" toy robots from Gobotron, while the Guardians are evil. The same thing basically happened on an episode of Transformers with the Autobots/Decepticons, too. Pretty balanced.
15) Introduction to the Opposites From You Can't Do That On Television
While normally a terrifying shot-on-video nightmare world where saying "I don't know" gets you doused in a torrent of slime from some unseen orifice, the series featured a regular segment called "Introduction to the Opposites" in which this already frightening and seemingly inescapable film studio's logic suddenly inverted. In a world where hamburgers are made from health inspectors and children are routinely executed, it's sort of a relaxing reprieve.
16) The Wishverse from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
After Cordelia wished for a world without Buffy, we were transported to an alternate Sunnydale where the Slayer never stopped the Master's ascension and all her friends were either undead vampires or vampire hunters themselves. Otherwise, society sort of went about as usual, so the Master's "Hell on Earth" didn't even end up cancelling local high school classes.