Dead Space - The first game in the series, released in 2008 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Engineer Isaac Clarke is part of a team responding to a distress signal from the USG Ishimura, a giant ship designed to "crack" planets for resources. When the Ishimura crew doesn't receive their ship, Isaac's team is forced to crash land inside and, after leaving their damaged shuttle, the crew finds the Ishimura in severe disrepair and swarming with Necromorphs. When Isaac then ends up separated, the team splits up to co-ordinate repairing several ship areas and reunite to escape. Isaac also has a personal stake in fixing the Ishimura; his entire reason for volunteering was to visit his girlfriend, Nicole Brennan, who is also trapped aboard.
Dead Space 2 - The second game in the series, released in 2011 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Three years after Dead Space, Isaac Clarke awakens in a hospital aboard Titan Station, a massive mining station (nicknamed The Sprawl) located on Saturn's moon. With no memory of how he got there and suffering severe hallucinations, Isaac soon finds himself in the middle of another Necromorph outbreak, forcing him to find the source of the Necromorphs and stop them. However, Isaac soon finds himself impeded by Sprawl head Hans Tiedemann, as well as a collective of Unitologist radicals, meaning Necromorphs aren't his only worry this time.
Dead Space 2: Severed - A DLC midquel released in March, that follows Gabe Weller. Acting as a follow-up for one of the main characters of Dead Space: Extraction, the story provides an alternate perspective on events: one of the last surviving security officer in the mines, Gabe has to fight through the outbreak to rescue his wife, Lexine, and get to safety.
Dead Space 3 - The third game in the series, released in February 2013. Three years after Dead Space 2, Isaac is a fugitive wanted by both EarthGov and the Unitologists. Approached by a Earth Defense Force soldiers, Clarke is reluctantly dragged into a plot to destroy several Markers. Escaping a Unitologist attack, Clarke's team follows a lead to Tau Volantis, a frozen planet believed to be "Marker Central". Dead Space 3 is especially notable as the in the series to see co-op; whilst the plot remains the same on the whole, a second player can assist Isaac as Sergeant John Carver, an otherwise secondary character who suggests they should stick together. Said co-op can be played online with a friend, or via drop-in/drop-out with strangers.
Dead Space 3: Awakened - A DLC sequel released March 2013, Awakened acts as a Playable Epilogue to the open ending to the main game. Picking up not long after the main story, the plot continues Isaac and Carver's perspective, and (somewhat infamously) resolved the main game's cliff hanger only to end on an even bigger one.
In addition there have been couple of spinoff games covering events before and after the main games:
Dead Space - (Also known as Dead Space: iOS and Dead Space: Mobile) A Prequel to Dead Space 2 released for iOS systems, this game follow a Unitologist agent named Vandal who first sabotages Titan Station, then tries to escape when the Necromorphs start to appear. Because of the same name, tropes for it are kept on the regular Dead Space page.
Since the release of the original game there have been several other side stories covered in different media, including:
Dead Space: Martyr - A Prequel novel, chronologically it is the earliest story in the Dead Space universe. The book focuses on Michael Altman, the head figure of Unitology, and his discovery of the Black Marker in the Gulf of Mexico. As he and other scientists try to figure what the Marker is, everyone starts going insane, and eventually Necromorphs appear and attack the laboratory they are working out of.
Dead Space - A Comic Book that takes place before the events of Dead Space. On Aegis VII, a Red Marker is discovered during a mining operation. As a duplicate of Unitologists' sacred Black Marker, plans are made to move the Marker on-board the Ishimura. But as the Red Marker is moved on-board the Ishimura, everyone starts going insane, and eventually Necromorphs appear and attack the colony. The comics focuses primarily on Abraham Neumann, who is anti-Unitologist, and Marla Jansenn, who is a Unitologist, as they try to escape Aegis VII. The comic was released retail, and can be unlocked on the Nintendo Wii version of Dead Space: Extraction.
Dead Space: Aftermath - A second Direct-to-Video movie, this time an Interquel between Dead Space and Dead Space 2. The survivors of the USG O'Bannon are brought on-board USM Abraxis and interrogated about what happened on their ship. Most of the movie is told in flashback, as the surviving crewmembers relate how their ship was assigned the mission of bringing back a shard of the Red Marker Isaac Clarke blew up in the first game. Even before the shard is moved to the O'Bannon, everyone starts going insane, and Necromorphs appear and kill everyone on the O'Bannon, and the rest of the movie is how the survivors: Nickolas Kuttner, Alejandro Borges, Nolan Stross, and Isabella Cho, lasted long enough to get out.
Dead Space: Salvage - A SequelComic Book to Dead Space. Miners discover the remains of the Ishimura out in space and decide to sell it, but get in trouble when they discover shards of the Red Marker, and have to deal with new Necromorphs and government agents that also want the ship.
Plans for Dead Space 4 were placed in Development Hell after 3 didn't sell as well as Electronic Arts had hoped. Visceral Games are instead working on "something else," which they at least are probably enjoying after six years spent on the same Intellectual Property, and EA have not ruled out resuming work on the franchise at a later date.
Tropes the entire series has:
Aborted Arc: Isaac's profile in the first game mentions that his father died while doing work for the government, and his file is classified. This never comes up again.
Ambiguously Brown: In the Dead Space 'verse, we have Indian/Asian/Middle-Eastern looking people with names like Gabe Weller or John Carver. Could be an example of Fridge Brilliance: It's been over 500 years since present times, and given the presumed social progress, it's not hard to believe that everyone has a little bit of every race in them.
Artifact Mook: The babies. You first encounter them in a prosthetics lab with babies growing in tubes all over the walls. Nice and creepy. But even though this lab is only a single room with maybe 50 baby tubes total, from that point on zombie babies are ubiquitous all over the ship and you fight at least a hundred of them in the game.
Artifact of Doom: The Markers, all of them. They are sentient and cause people to hallucinate their loved ones, hurt themselves, write strange writing on the walls in anything they can, kill themselves, and somehow make Necromorphs appear.
Note that the Red and Black markers only show horrific visions as a form of communication, and mostly try to prevent Necromorph outbreaks; it's stated a few times that one needs a high level of intelligence to properly interpret the visions and not go insane. The Golden Marker, on the other hand, seems to be actively malevolent. The visions of Nicole that it shows Isaac taunt, lie to, and manipulate him, and want him to kill himself in the end. The Golden Marker seems built to begin Necromorph outbreaks and trigger Convergence events, unlike the others, which work to prevent them.
Played completely straight in Dead Space 3where it revealed that all of the Markers are built to trigger Convergence events and summon the Brother Moons. The earlier seeming "helpful" advice of the Red and Black Markers was due to people's misinterpretation of their messages.
Art Major Biology: Necromorphs have a blatantly impossible body structure, lacking any kind of vital or digestive organs or central nervous system, and what they have left over is either converted into muscles or Combat Tentacles.
That's because their bodies are not really the actual organism. They're more akin to parasitic creatures inhabiting the stuff they killed.
Bigger Bad: The Markers cause most of the problems in the series, whether directly by causing insanity or indirectly by instilling devotion to them over time. For this reason, the Brother Moons, being their reason to exist in the first place, take the role of the Man Behind the Man for the entire series, the one orbiting Tau Volantis being the primary one from the start of Unitology through Dead Space 3.
Bittersweet Ending: How some stories end if the protagonists are lucky. Usually, they will accomplish some goal before getting ripped to shreds.
Blatant Item Placement: Enemies will often drop health when the main character is about to die, and often drop the right ammo needed for whatever weapons are being carried.
Body Horror: And how! Horrifically mutilated and contorted corpses trying to tear you to pieces? Yep. Horrific death scenes? Yep. Peng? Yep.
In order to get inspiration for the Necromorphs, the design team studied photographs of car accident victims. That somehow makes both the Necromorphs, and the design team, a hell of a lot creepier.
No matter where he goes, there is always someone around who was flayed. It's never explained why this happens as the necromorphs seemed more inclined to stab you to death, not flay you.
Actually, the flayed appearances of Necromorphs are the result of the transformation process which is very quick (within seconds) and very violent causing the skin to rupture. The process can be seen up close in the opening sequences of Dead Space 3 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARuZH1KSjrk.
Book Ends: The series begins with Isaac Clarke looking at a recording of Nicole, his girlfriend. The third game ends with him looking at a photograph of Ellie, whom he had entered into a relationship with after he had gotten over his guilt over Nicole's death.
Crapsack World: Even without the Necromorphs, mankind in the Dead Space-verse is pretty banged up: Unitology is the dominant religion of dubious moral values, bureaucrats tend to use employees as tools in far worse ways than in Real Life, and safety regulations are lacking. The sad story of Howard, the caretaker of the Sprawl's solar arrays is example enough.
There is evidence that humanity itself is circling the drain. Planetcracking came as a saving grace at a time when economic collapse and subsequent extinction due to resource starvation were very close at hand. Furthermore, that solution isn't sustainable, and humanity is still limping on its way to disaster. In many ways, the horrifically unethical experiments that EarthGov has repeatedly performed on the Markers are the only hope humanity has of long-term survival.
The third game reveals that the reason space is 'dead' is because every other race that preceded humanity fell into the same downward spiral and fell victim to the Markers' temptation in an attempt to save themselves.
Despite the dark ending of Dead Space, DS2 leads up to DS3 by featuring the somewhat happy result of Isaac on a ship with trained pilot Ellie, and safely getting back to civilization. You could almost consider this a straight up Earn Your Happy Ending. Then you remember the thousands of men, women, children, and babies you had to dismember after they were horribly killed and turned into monsters. Even if Isaac never sees a Necromorph again, he'll probably never have another good night's sleep without heavy medication.
The second game ends on a slightly brighter note, with Isaac being able to confide in Ellie when he needs to and having recovered to a reasonable extent from Nicole's suicide. However, he is now officially a government fugitive, as is she.
DS2'sDLC Pack Severedis incredibly bittersweet. Lexine escapes with her baby, but is the only remaining survivor of Extraction, not to mention Gabe (her partner and child's father) is dead and she is a fugitive from EarthGov.
Dead Space 3 couldn't be more bittersweet. Sweet:Ellie didn't die and manages to escape, Isaac and Carver fight and kill the Brother Moon, and the Markers/Necromorphs have been stopped, at least for now.Bitter:Ellie loses Isaac after confessing her love, the Unitologists are probably still a threat, there may be more Markers/Necromorphs, and Isaac and Carver are either a) dead or b) alive and stranded on Tau Volantis.
Outright averted with the Dead Space 3 DLC "Awakened." Turns out there is no sweet ending in the Dead Space universe in the foreseeable future. There are many other moons like the one over Tau Volantis that finished convergence and at the end you find out they are already at Earth, liberating its inhabitants of its sweet, delicious biomass. No longer circling the drain, humanity is now being chopped up in the garbage disposal.
Eye Scream: Every numbered entry into the franchise features bad things happening to eyeballs. In Dead Space, Kyne accidentally kills Captain Mathius by stabbing him in the eye with a sedative. In 2, Ellie gets one of her eyes gouged out, and Isaac later has to undergo do-it-yourself eye surgery. And in 3, the Final Boss gets twenty-foot tall markers launched through its eyes.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Unitology. There are two real world religions that end with -logy. One of them is a parody religion, the other is Scientology. Unitology also shares similarities to Scientology. Unitology does NOT paint a pretty picture of itself.
Humanity Is Insane: Considering the amount of horrifying and traumatizing shit Isaac is forced to go through, he's arguably a lot safer fighting the hideous undead Necromorphs than he is deciding which humans he should trust as they are likely to be (1) unlucky people driven insane by the Marker, (2) EarthGov like Kendra Daniels, or (3) deluded or conniving Unitologists in the form of Daina or Challus Mercer. What few good, sane people out there are few and far between, with a good half of them either horribly killed or driven bonkers by the Marker.
Iconic Outfit: The Level 3 Rig was featured in all promotional media for Dead Space (including the image for this very page), and appeared under the name Engineering Suit as the first suit found in Dead Space 2 and as a game completion unlockable for 3. If Isaac has a cameo in some other EA game, chances are he will be wearing that suit.
Ink-Suit Actor: Many of the unique characters' faces are modeled after their voice actors and actresses.
Latex Space Suit: Not typical of Isaac's suits, which usually are bulky as befitting his position as an engineer, but casual ones are shown to be skin-tight. The Advanced Suit from 2 is an example.
Life Meter: The R.I.G. has a spine-mounted life meter, which is actually in-universe and not just a convenience for the player. All adults wear them.
Meaningful Name: The title of the series itself. "Dead space" refers to the fact that the Necromorphs have already completely decimated and consumed countless planets and species between their original home and humanity's solar system, leaving a large vacuum of "dead space" between them; humans are alone with the necromorphs, and no other species are coming to help.
Brilliant engineer turned Necromorph killer Isaac Clarke's name is also significant, taken from science fiction authors "Isaac" Asimov and Arthur C. "Clarke".
Mundane Utility: The Dead Space universe uses high-tech plasma cutters as the equivalent of a pickaxe, as well as all the other incredibly powerful (by modern standards) tools and tech being used in a casual manner.
No Hero Discount: While the stores are all automated, this doesn't answer the question of why Isaac doesn't just hack all the stores to get items for free. Given that Isaac is shown to be capable of some very impressive rewiring tricks, and how vital items are to your success (items that have no limit for purchase at a single store, and the game's RPG Elements come in the form of Power Nodes that can be bought in stores), there's no reason why Isaac never even tries to go for the five fingered discount.
Then again, the shop is possibly the most complex device you see, capable of dispensing ammo, health, even changing out power armor on command. It probably has some pretty bad-ass defenses protecting it; again, it can cut off and replace power armor so it can be assumed it has at least as strong a laser as the plasma cutter, which we've all seen is powerful enough to rip people to shredded ribbons of flesh.
No OSHA Compliance: OSHA might as well have stayed back on earth, for all the good it does in the future. Tanks on ships to regrow lost limbs in accidents as well as easily shattered expansion windows that can decompress an entire area are just two of the more common violations.
No Product Safety Standards: A good thing, as doors and weapons would be far less deadly otherwise, though one has to wonder about the social consequences. Apparently, the tools were modified by the Ishimura crew to be used as weapons, but doesn't explain why the modified tools are in the store (or why the Corporals' pulse rifles disappeared).
Planet Looters: Humanity. We need natural resources, having depleted all of Earth's, and go out breaking down random planets in space to get them; only a matter of time before we pick up an unexpected guest along with our resources.
And the first crack is one of Saturn's moons, which is where the sequel takes place.
The background logs state that Planet Cracking is actually believed by some to destabilize entire star systems because of the gravity imbalance of one planet going missing all of a sudden. The CEC denies this, though, and states that the planets are always carefully chosen. (Not to mention that it's a bit of a silly objection in the first place; breaking one big mass into many small ones doesn't make it less massive, and shattering a planet doesn't mean its pieces will suddenly halt in their tracks rather than continuing along the same orbit. If CEC were towing whole planets away, the argument would make some sense, but they're not, so it doesn't.)
Reality Is Unrealistic: Some complain that the chance of almost all of Isaac's weapons being re-purposed tools strains credibility. For example, why would a tool called the "Plasma Cutter" shoot out a single, non-continuous burst? Then you remember that Dynamite was originally intended for peaceful purposes by inventor Alfred Nobel, and was used for war. Not to mention the real life section of Improbable Weapon User.
To be fair, it is implied that those power tools have had their safeties sabotaged to turn them into weapons. This sort of thing also happens in real life, though for obvious reasons it's not recommended.
Special mention has to be given to the army platoon in Dead Space (who, it should be noted, were explicitly advised about dangerous biological threats being present and were fully combat-ready upon entering the system) that is taken out by a single Necromorph. It was best said on the page for Dead Space: "Oh Dead Space army, you fail so hard. Maybe you should send the troops into mining engineering classes."
Religion Is Right: Unitology, strictly speaking, is completely honest in its claims. They just happen to be a little vague about/ignorant of the specifics.
Shaggy Dog Story: Unless there's a sequel, the Awakened DLC for 3 turns the franchise into one of these; everything Isaac and every other protagonist struggled for falls apart, and the Brethren Moons are in the process of consuming Earth.
Space Is Noisy: Averted throughout the franchise. Space is very, very silent, and you only hear things when they make direct physical contact with your character. Even the music gets muted. This is also pushed into the Nothing Is Scarier territory, where a great majority of boss fights and scripted scenes are fought in near-total silence with epic setpieces. Finally, this is a pun on "dead".
Starfish Aliens: The necromorphs. Some can pass for human (at a distance, in the dark), while others have huge claws and vestigial arms, and still others are nothing more than a blob of meat sprouting Combat Tentacles.
Technically, the necromorphs are just distorted human corpses. The actual aliens make even some of the stranger necromorphs look human.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The series loves using this in trailers. Dead Space featured "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in its trailers, and it plays faintly in a later level of the game. Dead Space 2 uses a distorted version of "Ring Around the Rosie". Dead Space 3, rather than using a lullaby, goes with a cover of Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight".
Superpowered Mooks: Mysterious covert operatives referred to as Oracles appear in Salvage and Dead Space 2: Severed. It's unclear whether they work for the Unitologists or EarthGov, but they exhibit Jedi powers and imply that they're top-level spec ops agents sent to deal with the highest-level covert incidents, such as Necromorph outbreaks.
Through the Eyes of Madness: A common problem the Marker causes is to make people think they see their dead loved ones and think they are real.
Used Future: The Ishimura is old by the start of the story. It is stated that, after another year, it was going to be be decommissioned.