- The Beast Wars are a conflict in the Beast Era portion of the Generation One continuity family. Aaaaaaaaand maybe the Unicron Trilogy too.
The Beast Wars are the melodramatically-named battles between Optimus Primal's Maximals and Megatron's Predacons on prehistoric Earth. Originally an isolated conflict between the stranded Maximals and Predacons over territory and energon, the conflict gradually became an event that would affect not only the future of the Transformers, but also the very fabric of space and time.
Generation One / Beast Era
Beast Wars cartoon
The Beast Wars may not have formally begun until Primal's declaration on prehistoric Earth, but they were precipitated on Cybertron 300 years after the end of the Great War. The Predacon Megatron had stolen the Golden Disk, escaping with his band of rogues in a transwarp ship. A Maximal exploration vessel, the only one near enough to catch them, gave chase through a transwarp portal. Their ensuing battle ended with both ships crashing on a planet that all parties believed to be an unknown world. The truth that they had reached Megatron's intended destination of prehistoric Earth would not come to light for some time.
One source of confusion was the overabundant energon, so plentiful that its ubiquitous radiation would overload the Transformers' systems within minutes if they left their ships. They adopted semi-organic beast modes to shield themselves, though their robot modes were still vulnerable. Primal feared that Megatron would use the energon to restart the Great War on Cybertron, so he immediately prepped his small crew to fight against the comparably-sized Predacon team.
One might say that the first shot of the Beast Wars was fired by Cheetor, who spotted Waspinator (in insect mode, no less) and immediately attacked him.This led to a series of territorial skirmishes culminating in the detonation of an energon-infused mountain. Primal, realizing that a long fight lay ahead, made his epic pronouncement that their battles would be known as the "Beast Wars."
As they explored their world, they found powerful artifacts of a mysterious alien race, including another Golden Disk. These finds tended to lead to battles as Megatron tried to claim the artifacts as weapons; however, the only lasting effect was to alert the aliens to the Transformers' presence. Deciding that their experiment on the planet had been contaminated, the aliens activated one of its two moons. The satellite turned into a weapon that ignited most of the energon deposits around the world. The planet-buster was only stopped when Primal sacrificed his life to blow it up. (Primal would soon be resurrected, though, in the start of a continuing trend for him.)
Realizing just how powerful the aliens were, Megatron schemed all the more intently on hijacking their technology. Meanwhile, more combatants had been joining the fray as protoform-bearing stasis pods fell to Earth, an after-effect of the original space battle. And, in the absence of overwhelming energon (and a moon), the Beast Warriors slowly began to realize that they were on prehistoric Earth after all. This turned the battle away from territorial squabbles and toward matters of timeline-alteration. With information from the Golden Disk he had stolen, Megatron was able to threaten both the developing human race and the comatose, Ark-bound Autobots.
Back on the Cybertron of their home-time, the Tripredacus Council became aware of Megatron's location, and they sent their Decepticon-turned-Predacon agent Ravage to retrieve the rogue. He nearly succeeded, but he ended up switching sides when Megatron revealed the truth about the Golden Disk: it was part of an elaborate backup plan made by the original Megatron, who had left a message on the disk for the descendants of the Decepticons to travel through time, locate the Ark, and use the access codes to Teletraan I to enter the ship and kill Optimus Prime while he was still in stasis lock. Ravage would end up giving his life while aiding Megatron. And Megatron himself almost destroyed Optimus Prime, which caused a timestorm, but the Maximals were able to repair the Autobot and preserve the status quo.
The last encounter with the aliens came in the form of Tigerhawk, an emissary created from two kidnapped Maximals. He identified the aliens as the "Vok" and tried to destroy Megatron for his temporal interference. But despite his vast power, he was subdued by Tarantulas, who extracted the Vok essence from him. This ended explosively, with Tarantulas apparently destroyed and Tigerhawk left a mere Maximal again. But little was learned about him before he perished when Megatron raised the Nemesis from the ocean floor and rained havoc upon Maximal and Predacon alike. In defending the Ark, the Maximals managed to bring the Nemesis down and capture Megatron, whose troops had either deserted or been destroyed. As the Maximals blasted off in an Autobot shuttle bound for the Cybertron of the future, Primal declared, "The Beast Wars are over... for now."
Inamongst the Beast Warriors of the core timeline were several other Maximals and Predacons bolstering both teams. Packrat, Fractyl, Onyx Primal, and Vice Grip appeared without origin or explanation in adventures that were at first innocuous but later quite significant. When they fought over a mysterious artifact, they were waging the first battle leading to Point Omega, a timeline-shattering apocalypse. Antagony, a visitor from the distant future, sought to claim the artifact, a dimensional key which belonged to Apelinq (who had arrived independently from the Beast Warriors' own home-time). The crux of the matter was Unicron's Dark Essence, which had somehow ended up in a cave on prehistoric Earth after his destruction in 2005. Its continued presence on Earth well into the future was necessary for Antagony's timeline to exist, and the dimensional key could either cement the Essence there or banish it.
The conflict came to a head near the end of the Beast Wars, just as Megatron had assumed his dragon form. More visitors from the threatened timeline appeared, and they were soon followed by the Covenant, the ancient heroes of J'nwan, and other Beast Warriors from alternate dimensions. Optimus Primal and the Predacon Megatron were also caught up in this massive battle - Omega Point - which ended with the dispatching of the Dark Essence and the nullifying of its connected timeline. All of the time-travelers vanished in an explosion of light, and their participation in the Beast Wars was seemingly erased from history as well.
After Optimus Primal and his Maximals left Earth with Megatron in chains, the Beast Wars continued in a fashion. Tarantulas, believed dead, was actually still alive and more dangerous than ever, wielding the captured power of the Vok who had come with Tigerhawk. He resurrected Ravage and gathered a few other Predacons as well (presumably from stasis pods), set on claiming the Matrix of Leadership. The other Vok retaliated by creating Primal Prime, using the Matrix itself as his spark. They also gave new life to Tigatron and Airazor, whose sparks they had saved from Tigerhawk's destruction. Despite assistance from them and the newly-reactivated Ramulus, Primal Prime still fell to Tarantulas, who stole the Matrix. He planned to deliver it to his master, Unicron, which the Vok feared would disrupt the grand harmony of the multiverse. Their response was to inhabit Primal Prime's body as a "font of energy to rival the Matrix itself."
It's unknown what happened afterwards, but Primal Prime (showing no signs of Vok-possession) and his crew (minus Airazor and plus Spittor) would eventually travel to Vehicon-era Cybertron via transwarp portal - the same portal simultaneously whisking Apelinq to the past. The rest of Tarantulas' team would never be seen again, though Tarantulas himself did return to Unicron. The Matrix had presumably been taken back from him and replaced in Prime's chest, as no subsequent disruption of history was ever mentioned.
Dreamwave G1 comics
Before the Beast Wars, Megatron and Dinobot infiltrated the Vector Sigma chamber and stole from it the Golden Disk. This disk looked different than the one stolen in the core timeline; also, it seemed to contain vastly more information: a whole history of the Great War and its combatants. From that research, Megatron took his name. This also differed from the core timeline, where Megatron had taken his name from the Covenant of Primus.
During the Beast Wars, at least three Maximals had activated separately from the main teams, and they kept themselves at a distance. They only revealed themselves once, to save Rattrap from Dinobot II. He tried to welcome them into the fold, but they claimed to no longer be Maximals. They had a new, unspecified purpose that did not involve fighting. Rattrap apparently abided by their wishes and kept quiet. On the trip back to Cybertron, he dreamed fitfully of the encounter, but when Primal asked what was wrong, Rattrap gave no details.
Devil's Due G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers comics
Among the history datatracks of the Decepticon Soundwave was an image of a "warrior known as Optimus Primal" in his pre-Transmetal ape form. Just what role Primal played in this particular version of Transformers history is not known.
IDW Beast Wars comics
After Ravage's failure, the Tripredacus Council sent another agent, Magmatron, to perform the same task. Unlike Ravage, he took a team with him, and also unlike Ravage, they were all chronally displaced to be just out of sync with the core Beast Warriors. While the new arrivals could see them, they couldn't see the new arrivals. And one could even walk right through the other. Thus, the core Beast Warriors were completely unaware when Magmatron activated dozens of the downed stasis pods to create a chronally-displaced army. But one of his soldiers, Razorbeast, was a spy who was able to turn many of the protoforms to Maximals. Foreseeing the scope of the impending battles, Magmatron declared the start of his own "Beast Wars."
As both groups tracked down their widespread, newly-activated allies, Magmatron realized he needed assistance to fulfill his mission. He was able to recover Ravage's spark from his corpse, and he gave the Decepticon new life in a blank protoform. While Ravage led the main Predacon force against Razorbeast and the Maximals, Magmatron captured Megatron.To do so, he had to undo his chronal displacement, and this would be his downfall. While Magmatron was preparing the unconscious Megatron for transwarp delivery to Cybertron, Razorbeast stole his chronal-phase armband and used it to slip in and out of sync as he attacked the Predacon. Megatron was freed, and Magmatron was thrown into his own transwarp device, which catapulted him out of normal space entirely.
But, as Prowl would note, this did not end their particular Beast Wars. Ravage's Predacons continued to harry Razorbeast's Maximals, attempting to recover the stolen chronal-phase facilitators. Meanwhile, on the Cybertron of their home-time, a drug-like substance called "Angolmois" was spreading amongst the population. Magmatron, floating through chronospace, could see that Angolmois was a tool for the resurrection of Unicron, and Cybertron was almost inevitably doomed. But even trapped outside of space-time, he was able to deliver messages to Lio Convoy on Cybertron and Ravage on Earth, bringing the various teams together against their common enemy.
Lio Convoy and his Pack journeyed to prehistoric Earth to retrieve the combatants of the new Beast Wars, but they were ambushed by Angolmois-infused servants of Unicron. The Pack only managed to bring a handful of Beast Warriors back to Cybertron - just in time to fight Shokaract, who was the conduit of Angolmois energy. They were able to defeat him with a chronal-phase facilitator, shunting him into chronospace with Magmatron. There, Magmatron showed him how Unicron would use him as a vessel for his return, destroying the hapless Shokaract in the process. In horror, Shokaract tore the Anti-Matrix from his own chest, self-destructing and sending Magmatron back to normal space.
With the help of a retrovirus, the Maximals set about undoing the effects of Angolmois across the planet. Meanwhile, Megatron had just returned from the Beast Wars, set to unleash his new threat. And on prehistoric Earth, the servants of Unicron were destroyed, but Razorbeast had fallen victim to an Angolmois injection and was euthanized at his own request. The united Maximals and Predacons around him mourned his passing.
Timelines Beast-era comics, text stories, & cartoons
The Maximal who would become Airazor was known previously as "Wing Saber", the pilot of Chromia 10, and she had some adventures on Cybertron. Everyone, including Airazor, did their best to try to forget this.
Estimated hours before the Beast Wars, the Predacon crime lord Cryotek engineered the theft of the Golden Disk. He put his star pupil, Megatron, in charge of the actual operation. Secretly, Cryotek set his protégé up by alerting the Maximals, with the intent that a more loyal agent would deliver the disk to him while Megatron took the fall. Unfortunately for Cryotek, Megatron beat him to the treacherous punch, as the package Cryotek received only contained a Maximal homing beacon. While Maximal forces converged on Cryotek, Megatron and his cohorts escaped with the disk in the Darksyde.
But Cryotek was not the only Predacon string-puller: The Decepticon Divebomb had also been somehow involved in the affair, ensuring that the Darksyde was available while everyone "played their part" for the "Decepticon dream." As Megatron fled, Divebomb ordered Laserbeak and Buzzsaw to covertly safeguard the Darksyde.
This would prove a wise decision, as the Maximal Imperium sent the Axalon in pursuit. Just out of Cybertronian orbit, the two bird-bots attacked the Axalon in a ship of their own. The battle was going against the Maximals until Tigatron and Airazor came to their rescue. The Decepticon ship was destroyed, but Tigatron and Airazor were left in critical condition. Rhinox saved them by transferring their sparks to blank protoforms at the expense of much or all of their "core mainframes."
Cybertron toy bios
When Jetfire went undercover as a Decepticon, he searched the "Axalon archives" for a past Decepticon to pattern himself after. He took the name "Sky Shadow" in reference to a long-lost "Predacon/Decepticon." This warrior had once been a lieutenant of Megatron, and he had been "sent to Earth during the legendary Beast Wars," where he was instrumental as a strategist and leader against the Maximals. He apparently never returned.
Notably, there had been a Beast Warrior named "Sky Shadow," but the Beast Wars timelines are thought to be wholly separate from this universe. References to "Axalon," "Predacon," and "Megatron" only muddy the issue, as those names apply to some things here as well. Either this universe contains its own Beast Wars and Maximals, or some cross-dimensional travel has occurred (possibly related to the Unicron Singularity).
- The exact time period of the Beast Wars (beyond simply "prehistory") was never precisely established in the cartoon, though several casual comments suggest that AD 1984 is "four million years" in their future. The 3H comics identify it as 180,000 BC. The IDW comics say 70,000 BC. This is just one of many ways in which the spinoffs contradict each other.
- Speaking of contradictions, the first toys' on-package bios and pack-in comic set the Beast Wars on modern-day Earth, with Primal and Megatron actually being their Generation One counterparts. However, as the show took off, the bios followed its lead. For a long time, the bios did not explicitly retcon their original conceits; however, ambiguity was introduced by referring to, for example, "the Beast Wars world" instead of Earth in any particular time. The final nail in this micro-continuity's coffin came with the last Beast Wars toys produced, whose bios and tie-in comic were a very intentional prequel to the cartoon.