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Frickin' Laser Beams
Not a laser...

The most prominent type of Ray Gun these days.

When you turn on a Laser Sight, it immediately shows up on your target. This is because it's a laser and moves at the speed of light. So wouldn't you think a laser weapon would also (effectively) immediately hit the target? Logically, yes; but this is TV, where Hollywood Science rules. Thus, energy weapons move a lot slower than the speed of light (and a lot slower than bullets in the same show) and can be dodged after they are fired. Occasionally, it's explained by the dodger seeing the person aiming at them and going for the trigger, and moving in the split-second before they pull it. Also, don't expect the lasers to do more than make victims stumble backwards a few feet, unless of course the targets are inhuman or just not very important.

Speaking of knockback, an Energy Weapon in fiction will always have knockback (which is usually okay) and recoil (which makes no sense at all), in spite of the fact that light has negligible momentum. Finally, regardless of a laser's frequency and the medium it's shooting through, it will make futuristic zap noises and be visible (and glowy).

Most of the complaints about laser weapons not behaving like real lasers are because their primary function in TV are not to be realistic depictions of how real energy-based weapons would work. They are merely stand-ins for "real" guns to appease media watchdogs, to establish a show as being futuristic, or simply applying the Rule of Cool. In fact, the usual "laser bolts" effect looks a lot more like machine gun fire using tracer bullets (which was even colored according to nation, as in Star Wars) and early writers' World War II experiences may have inspired the effect.

There actually are "real lasers" in weapons research and development — like the Airborne Laser and THEL. These lasers are supposed to burn through targets (like missiles) and cause their fuel/warhead to explode or their airframe to disintegrate when it hits, although this is also a continuous beam and requires some time to work. Solid-state pulsed lasers are also in development, which fire bursts of energy and are lighter than fluid-based lasers, but harder to cool. Last but not least, the heat from a powerful laser wouldn't just burn through clothing or make a neat, bloodless, pin-sized hole. There's a common misconception that laser beams cauterize wounds, but real laser wounds are every bit as bloody as knife wounds. It can also cause the water in the body to boil, expand and rip the surrounding tissues apart, much like a high velocity bullet impact. There are also electrolasers under development, which ionize the air so that electric current can be sent along the beam's path. Ironically, all of these characteristics make lasers far more effective as weapons than their portrayal in most fiction, which is in fact the main reason that the military is developing them in the first place. It's also probably the main reason we're not likely to see realistic laser weapons in children's shows.

For those keeping score, the title of this trope comes from an otherwise unrelated line in the first Austin Powers movie ("I want sharks with frickin laser beams on their heads!" - and when they appear on the third movie, they are realistic lasers instead of a Ray Gun). For really frickin big laser beams, see Wave Motion Gun. For real handguns Bowdlerised into energy guns, see Family-Friendly Firearms. If it's Raygun Gothic, it's probably a Death Ray. When such weapons are used excessively, see Beam Spam. And when they track their target like missiles, see Homing Lasers. Often overlaps with Hand Blast for the user's convenience.

Occasionally misspelled "lazer" in fiction, commonly to differentiate from actual LASERs. Frequently misspelled "lazer" in Real Life, because people don't know better, or because it's easier to trademark names that aren't real words. In reality, the name "L.A.S.E.R." is an acronym of "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation", since that's what lasers do. It helps that, by happenstance, the acronym "LASER" makes for a cool-sounding name. (It also sounds like an agentive, which lets us back-form the verb "to lase", meaning "to use a laser on".)


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Beam weapons in Gundam, while fast, are frequently dodged when they are fired. (First few episodes of the First Gundam, Char Aznable stated very clear that he dodges where the gun points, not the beam) This is also because the beam weapons aren't laser beams, but are made up of particles with a considerable amount of mass, called a "Mega-particle", and thus are much slower than the speed of light. See below, and also see Minovsky Physics (the Wave Motion Gun-grade weapons like the Solar Ray and Solar system are portrayed as travelling at the speed of light; fortunately, Newtypes sense the shots before they fire in Gundam).
    • Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino has commented, in later years, that he chose to use particle beam weapons over more realistic lasers for dramatic purposes, feeling that the invisibility and unerring accuracy of lasers would make for boring combat sequences.
    • Actual laser weapons are briefly seen in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which otherwise uses the franchise-standard particle beams. They are depicted as hitting instantaneously and melting armor on contact. It's not explained why they aren't in more widespread use.
  • Macross/Robotech. Their beam weapons are even called "lasers", even if they behave like those from Gundam... but then, it's hand waved as a product of OverTechnology.
    • On occasion, the head-mounted cannons actually behave like very high-powered lasers, and are used as cutting tools.
  • They are all over the place in the Mazinger series -Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger, UFO Robo Grendizer-. Mazinger-Z is equiped with Eye Beams, making it -again!- the Trope Maker in Humongous Mecha, and Grendizer is armed with three or four kinds of different laser beams. Plenty Robeasts from all series are equipped with sundry kinds of laser beams, and the Vegans were mainly armed with ray guns or rifles. Dr. Hell also build ray guns for human use but intriguingly his minions nearly never used them. his Co-Dragons and Mooks prefered guns or machine guns shot bullets. Both Humongous Mechas and Robeasts are frequently seen dodging beams.
  • Done right (according to real physics) in the anime Starship Operators. Beam weapons would hit the ship without warning, to the point the crew had to hide their vessel behind a large asteroid to avoid being destroyed by attacks they couldn't dodge.
    • Also, the main way beam weapons destroy ships is by overheating the entire target ship past their capacity to vent (instead of causing localized damage as with all the other weapons systems) until it blows up from said heat.
  • Gan Deeva, Juna's bow in Earth Maiden Arjuna, is an energy bow.
  • Wolfs Rain deserves a mention here. The laser-like weapons installed in the Nobles' airships fire beams that can actually ZIG-ZAG en route to their targets. (To quote another series, "don't ask me how it works or I'll start to whimper".)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! features ancient Egyptian laser beams.
  • You'd think that a series like One Piece would be void of any beams of the sort, but through the powers of one of The World Government's three Marine admirals, and technology 500 years ahead of the current time, even pirates can face off against Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • Sailor Moon
    • Sailor Venus' Crescent Beam. It's described as been made of light, but moves far slower. Also in one notable occasion the Crescent Beam bounced on the enemy, regrouped as a ball on his head and then launched a dozen beams on his head (appropriately, this variant was named Crescent Beam Shower), while in another Venus fired a few dozens curving beams.
    • Sailor Star Fighter's "Star Serious Laser" attack. Shown as a beam of light that travels much, much slower than the real thing.
  • Averted and played with in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya season 2: when Haruhi subconsciously gives Mikuru the ability to "shoot laser beams" for a special effects shot, the resulting beam is not cool-looking and innocuous, but invisible, instant and razor-thin. Later, Mikuru is enchanted with various other beam weapons which also adhere to the specific principles of whatever name Haruhi used.
  • Laser weapons are used to protect space stations in Planetes. They are invisible and hit instantly. Did you really think this show would have it any other way?
    • Another point the show got correct: even if the lasers hit instantly, they don't DESTROY instantly. Thus requiring one character to use Ramming Always Works on a missile that has negated laser defense systems... just by having an erratic flight path to prevent a continuous beam.
  • Transformers Cybertron actually pokes fun at this in one episode by having Starscream open fire with his laser cannons, point out that lasers travel at the speed of light, and then having Optimus Prime promptly dodge his lasers with ease.
  • Super Atragon: The enemy gigantic black cylinders' powerful laser shots; bonus points for the "gravity lensnote " that bends the lasers, aiming them at targets.
  • Code Geass: Lelouch in R2 when he gets the Shinkiro. He even has an attack called the "Zero Beam"; which can be condensed into a single laser beam, or when he shoots his diamond thing it can work like a mirror, and deflect several beams into dozens of enemies.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion actually portrays lasers somewhat accurately. Despite coming from the eyes of Eldritch Abominations, the only thing visible about the beams for the most part is the glint from excess light emanating from the source. The two exceptions are Ramiel, who has an extremely visible beam and Zeruel's beam as it blows off Unit 01's left arm during its fight. Justified in Zeruel's case, as the place it was fighting in was being smashed by the combat, filling the air with ample dust and smoke particles to reflect the beam or be burnt-up by it. This only applies to the beams themselves, not their effects.
  • While most dragon slayers in Fairy Tail have a large cone of destruction for their roar attack, Sting gets a narrow beam that he can swing around.
  • A very realistic portrayal of lasers shows up in the final episode of the Sentou Yousei Yukikaze OVA in the form of the Free Electron Laser Unit attached to the Flip Knights. They see extensive use for the anime's final battle. The novel goes into much more detail regarding how they work: while it doesn't give a formal name to the lasers, Jack states that the lasers have a near perfect accuracy rating (unless you can outrun the speed of light), are unaffected by weather conditions, and fire in 0.7 second bursts with the cannon having a 1.95 degree turn radius. The lasers in the anime work exactly as described above, firing continuous beams in pulses with a limited swivel turret. Perhaps the only thing unrealistic is that the anime shows the lasers as visible bright blue beams of light.
  • The Martian Kataphrakt that lands in New Orleans in Aldnoah.Zero uses bright red lasers as its primary weapon. In a nod to reality, the lasers hit instantly: the American F-22 squadron and Kataphrakt platoon defending New Orleans are picked off from extreme distance with no chance to fight back.

    Fanfiction 

    Films — Animated 
  • Subverted in Toy Story: "It's not a laser! It's a light bulb that blinks!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers, the Trope Namer, though it doesn't actually feature an example of sharks with "Frickin Laser Beams" until the third movie. The second movie does have Dr. Evil threatening the world governments with his Moon-based "laser".
  • The blasters of Star Wars are not actually lasers (retconned into plasma-casters) and neither are the lightsabers, nor the ship-to-ship turbolasers, nor the Death Star's superlaser (though one component in the beam is a proton MASER). That said, Attack of the Clones shows off some lasers that do act like lasers, a constant beam that appears instantly.
    • And that one Star Destroyer's constant-beam laser in Revenge of the Sith that breaks a Banking Clan Comm Ship (right before a bit of debris from it hits the Star Destroyer). The sound of it was awesome.
      • If you pause the scene you can actually see that the source of the beam is one of those walker thingies that fired the beam in Attack of the Clones. According to the official site that is actually one of the ground based lasers firing from the hangar bay of the Star Destroyer; many Star Destroyer captains augmented their firepower by enlisting the help of the ground troops they carried.
    • Empire at War: Forces Of Corruption gives the Star Wars universe "point-defense lasers" that actually work like lasers, instantly appearing and vaporizing their targets. Only works against incoming missiles, though. Just like the laser-that-acts-like-a-laser in Attack of the Clones, they're color-coded a deep azure blue.
  • James Bond:
    • Goldfinger has the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) "crotch-laser", which was an actual laser designed to cut gold. It was later used as part of the villain's scheme, however its initial use was far more memorable, hence the name.
      • Interestingly, real lasers of that power level tend to be in the infrared spectrum. The red beam we see is a secondary guide laser similar to a laser gunsight, not the actual damage-causing bit.
    • Diamonds Are Forever had a Kill Sat with a laser that could destroy a submarine deep underwater and a missile inside its silo.
    • Moonraker has multiple examples: the powerful lasers in the space station and Drax's shuttle, laser equipped space suits, and the hand lasers used by Drax's security personnel on the satellite and the U.S. Marines.
    • In Die Another Day, the villains try to use industrial lasers on Jinx... and Mr. Kil gets them instead.
  • Not long after Goldfinger, the Mad Scientist in Help! had his flunky turn a laser on the Beatles...but seconds later a fuse blows. The flunky stammers "...wrong plug. Just give me five minutes..."
  • The Black Hole consistently portrayed its laser guns firing a beam that traveled instantly.
  • Another film that you wouldn't expect consistency or realism from: the guns in Logans Run are lasers, but they don't use a visible beam. The characters just point at something, fire, and a single point on whatever they're aiming at bursts violently into flame.
    • ...which was a complete simplification of the Sandman's Gun in the book, which was (rather than anything to with lasers) was a heavy pistol with six selectable specialized shells in a revolver-like cylinder. Including the so-called "homer" round, which could curve to follow the target. The film retained the muzzle flash, though.
    • There's no mention in the film that the flameguns were supposed to be lasers of any sort. The guns didn't even have a name. (The ill-fated Logans Run TV series that followed called the guns "weapons" and gave them a stun setting, but still no mention was made of lasers.)
  • Short Circuit has military robots armed with shoulder-mounted "lasers" that are actually more of an explosive "pulse" than a typical Hollywood laser, needing to charge up and causing whatever it hits to blow up spectacularly immediately upon impact.
    • Almost. Armored tanks explode spectacularly, but No.5Johnny Five was able to defend himself quite handily with a common rock.
    • Presumably the robot is able to regulate the amount of power put into the beam. In the above instance, the opposing robot was specifically trying to disable and capture, not destroy, Johnny, which would necessitate less power. Johnny also uses his laser to shoot various articles of clothing off an attacker's body at one point; given his views on "disassembling", he probably wouldn't risk using a lethal charge against a human.
  • The plot of Real Genius involves several college engineering geniuses working on a powerful chemical laser as a school-sponsored research project, not realizing that it is intended for use as an orbital assassination weapon.
  • The Manhattan Project has Chekhov's Laser Beam. The Medatomics lab uses one to purify plutonium. Dr. Mathewson uses it to impress Paul by having it cut through a steel plate. Later, Paul uses it to cut a small hole in the wall to help him smuggle out the plutonium.
  • Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation featured strobe-light weapon props because they couldn't afford real guns. Incidentally, everyone complained that the guns didn't look like they were shooting "lasers".
  • Star Trek (2009) follows the "bullets of light" model: a handheld phaser shoots discrete pulses. The Enterprise itself shakes from recoil as its phasers fire.
    • However, as portrayed through all Star Trek series, phasers are not actually lasers but phased particle beams (called nadions) that occasionally look like lasers. Word of God is that Gene Roddenberry realized shortly into TOS that people who saw the show in 20 years would say "Lasers don't do that" and retconned all weapons into phasers instead.
    • In contrast to most of the rest of the franchise where phasers are presented as beam weapons that connect instantly. They still create shaking on a target when hit though... Err... those are Particle beams. The phased laser is carrying all kinds of hazardous extras for the feds.
  • Destoroyah from the Godzilla franchise is able to emit a laser beam from his horn.
    • The Godzilla franchise also sported freezing lasers. Large weapons mounted on vehicles fired blue laser beams that would lower the temperature of the target hit to several thousand degrees below 0C, creating ice even out of thin air (presumably the water in the air freezing). This does not happen anywhere else along the laser beam, not even on the gun's muzzle. Ice crystals should be forming along the whole length of the beam, causing a a cold fog to fall along it, but this doesn't happen.
  • In Disney's Condorman, the hero's Cool Boat comes equipped with a small turret-mounted laser cannon. Oddly, the non-instantaneous beams it fires do indeed reflect off of water — choppy ocean water. In order to accept it, you need to be working on Rule of Cool.
  • In Iron Man 2, one of Tony's new toys is a Death Blossom-like spinning multi-laser thing.
    • It's re-used in The Avengers but has been upgraded from a one-off to a multi-use with ejectable cartridges. When Tony tries to cut through the armor of a Chitauri Leviathan, JARVIS informs him that the ARC reactor will run out of power before the laser can get through.
  • Mostly averted in Congo; the laser has no recoil, travels immediately in a straight constant beam and produces deadly amounts of heat and cutting power. It does, however, include a visible beam, appears to cauterize wounds, and is powered by an unprocessed diamond that was chipped out of a rock seconds earlier. So all the cool parts without any of the hassle or overwhelming gore.
  • In The Matrix series the Sentinel robots could fire a red continuous beam laser, but only at close range.
  • People on Zyrex's payroll in Parasite have an access to laser weapons, and the main human antagonist uses one prominently.
  • The sci-fi horror film Chopping Mall has Killer Robots that fire these. Said lasers are powerful enough to make someone's head explode with one shot.

    Literature 
  • The Andalites in Animorphs have Shredders, which the Yeerks modified into Dracon beams, which dissolve the target more slowly -- and painfully.
  • Nita in the Young Wizards series has a spell that manifests as a hand-held terawatt linear particle accelerator. Yes, a frickin' magical particle beam rifle.
  • In Robert Sheckley's short story "The Gun Without A Bang", an astronaut is sent to a distant jungle planet along with a new prototype laser gun he's supposed to test. Leaving his ship, he is promptly beset by a pack of dog-like predators. The gun works flawlessly, reducing dogs and wide swaths of jungle to dust, but because the gun doesn't make any noise and the beam is invisible, the "dogs" don't understand that the human is a threat and waves of them keep coming despite the fact that so many of them are being destroyed. (The man also has to worry about enormous severed tree-parts falling on him...) The man finally desperately, fights his way back to his ship, only to discover the gun's beam has thoroughly Swiss-cheesed the vessel, rendering it useless. A rescue crew arrives months later, and learns the man survived by scaring off the dogs with a home-made bow and arrow, and using the butt of the gun as a hammer to build a shelter.
  • There is a similar event in Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Earth: when the heroes land on a long-forgotten planet, a pack of dogs menaces them. Their microwave laser can kill the dogs, but since it gives no indication of cause, it doesn't drive them away; they end up using a different weapon, designed simply to induce pain, to turn the dogs around.
    • And similarly but oppositely in The Day of the Triffids, although with flamethrowers: the reason they're such effective weapons is that while a gunshot will just draw all the triffids for miles to attack the gun, with a flamethrower they don't know what to retaliate against (and occasionally catch each other on fire besides). Different enemy, different response.
  • Alan Dean Foster seems to go to unreasonable lengths to avoid this trope in Humanx Commonwealth. Despite sonic weapons, weapons that have explosions that make nukes look pitiful by comparison, and a planet-mounted weapon connected directly to the core that creates localized black holes, these never show up.
    • A planet-mounted weapon that is controlled by psychics. Although one could wonder if the reason that they don't have these lasers is just because they would be pathetic compared to what there actually is, as Rule of Cool puts everything listed above way beyond lasers.
    • Lasers are in fact mentioned as merely one of the many and varied types of advanced weaponry in the stories. They behave much as one would expect a powerful beam weapon to in real life, with instantaneous (or at least speed-of-light) travel, cutting through things, etc., and there are lasers for everything from starships to hand weapons.
    • Flinx in Flux featured laser weapons in the form of Needlers, which while not high class weapons, were effective and multi-functional. They also had instant beams, even though they were visible. Flinx used one for an amputation later.
  • David Weber handles this particularly well, especially in the Honor Harrington series (Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE!, clearly acknowledged both by the author and in the series itself). There are multiple fights in the books where technologically inferior ship #1 sends out a radar pulse to try to find ship #2, which is received by ship #2 who then instantly triggers their laser weapon already targeted by their superior technology on ship #1, such that the return radar pulse is received by ship #1 immediately followed by the laser pulse which destroys them, because radar and lasers both travel at the same speed. Additionally, the primary weapons used by most space navies is a "laserhead" missile that detonates near its target, with the nuclear explosion used to power dozens of powerful lasers that fire off in multiple directions. The missiles are designed to orient themselves prior to the detonation to aim the largest number of lasers at its target. Additionally, ships use turreted lasers for both offense (in the form of the powerful "grasers" [gamma-ray lasers] and the weaker lasers) and point-defense.
  • In the Hyperion Cantos, laser weapons work at the speed of light. Unfortunately, space battles take place across such great distances that the enemy ships have to watch the beam crawl across space towards them. While the time it takes for lasers to hit is realistic, unless their sensors work considerably faster than light there's no way they could notice the attack until it hit, and it raises questions about why they don't move out of the way.
  • Laser weapons in Artemis Fowl are considered obsolete — the Lower Elements Police long ago switched to the more powerful and flexible neutrino weapons (which can be used as a Stun Gun or to make precise cuts in a material)). As a result, it's been years since LEP suits were made laser-proof... which turns out very bad when a Chessmaster arms some disgruntled goblin triads with lasers and disables all neutrino weapons in Haven. The obsolete "softnose" lasers work by using an inhibitor to slow the beam down and increase power, justifying the trope.
  • From Larry Niven's works:
    • Laser flashlights can be used as weapons, but more like ranged knives than guns. If you sweep the beam across the target quickly, it will make a shallow cut. Doing so slowly makes for a deep cut. And using it on someone wearing clothing the same color as the beam is difficult, as the clothing is that color because it reflects that color of light. The Ringworld can cause its sun to flare, and then turn that flare into a frickin' SUPER laser.
    • In one of the earlier Known Space stories, humans use giant solar-powered lasers on Mercury to provide thrust to ships clear across the solar system (think solar sails, but more concentrated). When the Kzinti invade, they run into a series of "industrial accidents".
    • Kzinti are slow learners: their first encounter with humans involved them trying to slowly roast a human exploration ship that the Kzinti telepaths had determined was unarmed. They weren't concerned about the communications laser. The one big enough to punch through hundreds of A.U. of solar system space and be reliably detectable even when not precisely aimed. Yeah, that one...
    • Because the pacifist humans were actually...not so pacifist after all.
  • The works of Dale Brown have featured anti-ballistic missile lasers on modified airliners or bombers and ground-based anti-satellite lasers that prove very capable of tearing spaceplanes a new one. There is realism in that the lasers are instantaneous, effectively undodgeable resulting in a Surprisingly Sudden Death, aren't instant-kill but need time to burn through armour and the Kavaznya one at least was supported by a nuclear plant. At one point the operator of a laser on a modded bomber also notes the lack of the stereotypical sound.
  • Joe Haldemans The Forever War has 'laser-fingers' on the fighting suits, and rapid-fire 'bevawatt laser' emplacements.
  • Sam in Gone seems to have this as his main light power, although he can also make regular, non-lethal light as well.
  • The Kingdom Keepers: The lasers from Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin are a lot more effective once you cross over.
  • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the Loonies jury rig laser drills designed as mining tools into anti-missile defense systems. Like the Real Life example listed in the description, the operator is forced to hold the beam on the missile for several seconds, an act which requires nerves of steel as the operator is all too aware that he's trying to shoot down a nuclear warhead aimed right at him. In this case, the goal is not to detonate the warhead, but to fry the missile's sensors, rendering it incapable of detonating.
  • In The Conquerors Trilogy, the Zhirrzh use lasers as their main weapons, whereas humans and other races mostly use missiles and kinetic-based weaponry. The Zhirrzh lasers are instantaneous like Real Life ones, but produce a visible beam. While they can be dodged, that relies purely on luck and reaction lag of the gunners, and only the Copperheads manage to do it regularly given the improved reaction time granted by their cybernetic interface.
  • In the obscure picture book Shrek, Shrek uses his microwave vision to cook a pheasant.
  • In The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling, when Jack fires his death ray, not only can he actually see a red beam of light emit from the end of the weapon, he has time to watch it travel from the barrel to his target.
  • Troy Rising: While technically not a laser, SAPL (Solar Array Pumped Laser, regular sunlight concentrated and directed by a series of mirrors) behaves more or less in the same way as a real laser. At one point, it's even specifically mentioned that lasers don't show the beam unless they're going through a debris field or otherwise have things to reflect off of.
  • In John Birmingham's Axis of Time trilogy, the ships of the Multinational Force use two types of CIWS systems to defend against, well, anything: missiles, shells, aircraft, you name it. One of these are simply called "laser pods" (the other is MetalStorm, a Real Life weapon system, by the way). Both of these are AI-targetted, which means that, with enough supplies, almost nothing gets through. Laser pods can be "tasked" to a specific enemy turret, which usually means that shells explode almost as soon as they leave the barrel. However, since no one in the 21st century uses standard shells on their warships, the primary use is to destroy incoming missiles. There simply aren't enough MetalStorm rounds or laser... whatever they need... to be able to fend off attacks by World War II-era warships for long. By the third novel, the laser pods have been exhausted, forcing the MF ships to be refitted with more primitive Vulcan autocannons. Interestingly, while the beams are invisible, a number of 40s-era US Navy officers call them Death Rays, before a junior officer corrects them (he's been reading the Astounding magazine).
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Competitors has numerous sci-fi weapons used in space battles. Lasers are also present, and the protagonist sees them on the screen. He then realizes that it must be the ship's computer helpfully adding the lines on the viewscreen in order to provide a visual, as laser beams move too fast to see.
  • An interesting version in William Shatner's The Quest For Tomorrow books. The human Space Navy is armed with laser arrays. A single laser can fire for about 2 seconds before overheating. As such, entire batteries of lasers are aimed at a single spot with each laser firing just as the one before is shutting off to cool down. Thus, it appears (and works) as a continuous beam.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Earth Unaware, Asteroid Miners use lasers to burn through the outer shell of asteroids to reach valuable ore pockets. However, the author appears to think that lasers are solid lances and what happens to the "front" of it affects the ship firing it. Specifically, the ship has to fire rockets to maintain position relative to the asteroid in order to counteract the push of the laser. That part makes sense (although you'd need the rockets to fire on a very weak setting). But when a laser beam encounters a pocket of ice, it burns through it much quicker than through rock... resulting in the laser somehow not pushing the ship backwards as if it's falling forwards. It's troubling that Card got this much detail about lasers right... and then completely fails, especially since it's completely unnecessary for the story. Then there are "gravity lasers"... and that all I'm gonna say about that.
  • Death Lands. Finnigan is killed by one in Crater Lake, and the effects are depicted with graphic details.
  • Despite lasers not having been invented yet, the Literature/Lensman series actually has one of their more realistic depictions. Spaceships fight using intense beams of highly focussed light which must be held on target and cut through things that aren't protected by forcefields. Somewhat ironically, the most unrealistic part in this case is that the lasers travel too fast, hitting instantly even when at great distance or travelling faster than light.
  • Lasers are depicted very realistically in Iain M. Banks Culture novels, although they have long since been rendered nearly obsolete and superseded by much more powerful weapons. This is something of a plot point in the first book Consider Phlebas, in which a group of mercenaries attack an ancient temple which is, unknown to them, built mainly out of mirrors.

    Live Action TV 
  • Invoked by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in a season 10 episode. How are golf balls made more bouncy in order to cheat in a tournament? In the immortal words of Nick Stokes: "Frickin' Laser Beams!"
  • Done half-properly in an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, where an enemy agent explains to the immobilized captain that an energy weapon's beam moves at the speed of light, and is therefore impossible to dodge. Given that the weapon's effect is to leave him conscious but physically frozen in mid-dodge, it's hard to tell why they bothered.
    • Curiously enough (considering that the show made little pretense to scientific accuracy), Voyage did in fact originally depict the sound of a high-energy continuous beam laser (the most common type shown) correctly. Due to the way it ionizes air molecules in its path, such a laser makes a loud "screech" like a high-voltage electrical arc-over, which is exactly the sound effect the show used early on. It was later replaced by a cooler-sounding, but less accurate, electronic "whine".
  • Happens in Doctor Who fairly often. Cybermen sport wrist mounted lasers that can be seen flying through the air at their targets. Daleks have them as well, although In Universe these beams are described as electrical discharges that scramble the target's nervous system, rather than straight-up lasers. Even the Time Lords, the most technologically advanced civilization in the universe, play this trope straight, as seen in their battle with the Daleks in "Day of the Doctor".
    • Annoyingly, energy weapon beams actually did travel instantaneously once, but once the special effects budget increased, Reality Is Unrealistic set in and we got the generic "energy bullets".
  • Stargate SG-1 takes this over the top. The beam weapons of the Ori Motherships are so ridiculously slow that any ship can easily dodge them, but make up for it by being able to pack such a punch they tear through vessels even with Asgard shielding. Similarly, Goa'uld weaponry tends to be highly inaccurate and are designed mostly to inspire terror in less-advance races.
    • The Zatarc use small weapons that fit into a palm emitting bright red beams, cutting right through flesh, meaning it's (more often than not) pointless for a bodyguard to stand in front of the mark.
    • Averted entirely with Tau'ri (Human) weaponry, which follows the mantra that Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better. Ground personnel use machine guns in the field and railgun emplacements for defensive purposes, which also serves as standard armament on their various starships. Only in the final episode do they finally embrace this trope, being allowed to install Asgard beam weapons on the Odyssey, due to the Asgard bequeathing all of their technology to humanity as their final act before they commit ritual-suicide.
  • Done relatively well in Star Trek. While they're called "Phasers" and they form a solid glowy line, they hit the target almost instantaneously. They are a bit slower then they should be, however, with a visible delay between firing and hitting the target. This is explained by phasers being a particle-based weapon. In the technical manual, they are stated as firing a stream of "nadion" particles. But the canon contradicts itself as to exactly how fast phaser beams travel.
    • In the TOS episode "The Ultimate Computer", the Enterprise engages other Federation starships at warp speed, firing the ship's phasers while on the move.
    • In TNG's Universe Bible, however, Roddenberry explicitly states that phaser beams travel at the speed of light and therefore cannot be fired while moving at warp speed.
    • In TMP, during the trippy wormhole scene right after going to warp, Kirk orders phasers to destroy an asteroid in the way (because shields and navigation weren't working) even though the ship has not slowed to subwarp speeds (it wouldn't have worked, but the FTL speed wasn't cited as the reason).
    • In "Wink of an Eye" (TOS), for people experiencing time at a really fast rate (such that Time Stands Still), fire from a hand phaser can be sidestepped at a leisurely pace.
    • In the first season TNG episode "Conspiracy", Riker and Picard are able to dodge a phaser beam after it's been fired.
    • In TNG episode "Home Soil", Data does dodge a laser drill - but he does this because he realizes it must track its target, then halt, then fire, so he dodges the moment it stops moving, just before it can fire. Earlier human victims plainly hadn't got past panicking.
  • V. Not only are the blasts of the Visitors' sidearms slow enough to dodge, if you're in good shape you could probably outrun them.
  • Babylon 5 warships typically use lasers (or some sort of continuous beam) as their main armament. For fighters and groundpounders, however, EarthForce usually relies on plasma weapons.
    • The GROPOS (Earth ground forces) mainly use firearms (extremely powerful firearms with the propellant divided between the round and the weapon, but still firearms) and railguns (usually as a tank gun, plus a devastating anti-tank rifle), PPG only get used when they have to worry about accidental damage like being on a ship or station like Babylon 5.
    • Centauri warships normally use some kind of energy bullet that explodes violently on impact. Fittingly, it's treated as evidence of Centauri advanced technology, as only the Centauri have apparently figured out how to do it.
  • The 1980s television show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century has the characters using hand-held laser guns that fire a visible light laser that is a continuous beam that is instantaneous...although it still makes the 'zap' sounds.
  • Space: 1999 had what are possibly the slowest laser beams in television history. The beams had a clearly defined beginning and end.
  • In the original Battlestar Galactica, both the hand-held guns and the viper-mounted guns were "lasers". The little red or blue bolts they fired travelled with visible slowness.
    • Interestingly enough, some episodes actually had realistic lasers on the hand-held guns. Whether it was because of an animation error or what, when they fired their guns, there was a small flash from the barrel, and an invisible laser hits the target pretty instantaneously.
    • Averted in the remake, though most ship-based weapons use tracer rounds that look like your typical lazer bolt.
  • If you dare, watch The Return of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, in which the newest operative of the OSI undergoes bionic augmentation. His frickin' laser beam—in his eye—can stun!
  • Knight Rider: KITT has a laser that's typically used to destroy things rather than attack people.
  • A Castle episode has a person murdered at a ComiCon expy by a laser. It turns out that there's a guy who makes and sells working replicas of sci-fi weapons... and that's all the explanation we get for how someone can fit a powerful laser into a small prop. When fired, it looks and sounds like a Star Trek phaser.
    • To be fair, though, we only see the weapon being used at a distance of at most a few feet. It's possible at normal gun ranges it's just a laser pointer. Plus, it's battery is likely to handle only several shots before dying. Real Life military-grade lasers require large amounts of toxic materials to function.
  • The murder weapon of choice in The Avengers episode "From Venus, With Love".
  • Takeshi's Castle uses these in comedy sketches in one episode, each and every time "Star Wars" is played as the challenge before the final showdown (From episode 106), and in the final showdown (Starting from episode 88).
  • Firefly usually sticks with Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better, but laser weapons do make the occasional appearance. They're shown fairly realistically with a continuous beam that instantly hits its target, and the main reason they're not used much is that they just need too much power to run and are therefore not much use in hand-held guns. In Serenity, lasers appear to be among the weapons used by spaceships.

    Music 
  • "Laser Jesus" in Hot Chip's "I Feel Better" music video.
  • Japanese Girl Group Perfume has a song called "レーザービーム" note 
  • Subverted in Phish's "Scent of a Mule":
    "Scent of a mule, you better watch out where you go
    Take your laser beams away
    Scent of a mule, you better watch out where you go
    You better stop that laser game
    Or you'll smell my mule"

    Other Sites 
  • SCP Foundation
    • SCP-2099 ("Laser Shark Fetuses") are some deformed cycloptic baby sharks apparently engineered by Dr. Wondertainment to be demented kid's toy versions of the sharks of the Trope Namer.
    • SCP-2099 ("Brain in a Jar"). SCP-2099 has invented 713 different types of laser gun, all of which he keeps in a bin labeled "713 different laser guns". He has also invented a pistol that fires out highly concentrated X-rays (i.e. an X-ray laser pistol) that is powered by two AA batteries and focused by a common quartz crystal.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Clerics in 4e Dungeons & Dragons like to shoot these. (Or more precisely, many of the cleric's ranged attack spells including a common at-will power inflict "radiant" damage, being essentially the divine embodiment of Power Glows. For unrelated reasons the game also tends to encourage clerics to specialize in either melee or ranged combat instead of going the mix-and-match route, making the "laser cleric" an actually fairly distinctive subtype in its own right.)
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperial Guards' standard "lasguns" are the weakest of all guns actively used by the series' factions, and they can blow body parts off. How realistically the weapons are portrayed varies.
    • In previous editions, lasguns were actually described as firing a discrete "bullet" of laser energy, described in at least one novel (and portrayed in at least one video game) as a twinkling ball of light that moves at about the same speed as a bullet, if not slower. This has been rectified as of the third edition of the game, so that all laser weapons are now assumed to fire actual laser beams (and are portrayed doing so in Dawn of War).
    • In the 40k novels, what lasguns are and how they work vary Depending on the Writer. Dan Abnett has a sniper having to compensate for wind and gravity, with a permanent bruise from the recoil. Others have had lasguns fire normal bullets, in a bizarre inversion of Family-Friendly Firearms. One mistake all of them do is have the shot cauterize the wound, while in real life lasers would do the same damage as normal firearms.
    • Lascannons and other larger laser weaponry are generally portrayed more realistically, although the beam is usually visible (which would only happen with lots of dust in the air — which, granted, is a fairly common battlefield condition). They also avert the weakness of their smaller 'pew pew' cousins, and are particularly powerful anti-armour weapons.
    • 40k also has plasma weapons, which are typically depicted as behaving more like the classic 'laser bullet' type device — firing discrete bolts of magnetically contained plasma (essentially, tiny stars) at a range comparable to an assault rifle (and color-coded in Dawn of War, with blueish for imperial forces and red for Chaos). Curiously, 40k also has melta weapons, which behave closer to how a "real" plasma weapon would: they fire an short ranged 'sub atomic' heat blast, designed to melt through armored targets and vapourise softer things. In a token nod to realism, melta weapons are more common and easier to build and maintain than plasma weapons are in the Imperium whilst still being highly effective.
    • The "autocauterizing laser wound" is repeatedly mentioned in Ciaphas Cain, usually in comparison to a slug-type weapon which would leave a gaping wound.
    • Not just the humans either. The Eldar, the resident elves of the setting, prefer to use shuriken weapons, but they also use a handful of lasers too, most notably the anti-tank Brightlance, the Swooping Hawks' lasblaster, and the larger Scatter-laser mounted on their vehicles. The Orks have their own laser weapon in the appropriately named Zzap Gun, and it's variants. The mutated and corrupted forces of The Lost And The Damned use them frequently, although that's generally because traitor Guardsmen make up a good proportion of their ranks.
  • In Paranoia, laser pistols are common, and so reflective armor is also common. The laser pistols also come in different colors (to match security clearance levels). In the first edition, higher-clearance reflec armor was multi-colored, to represent all the colors of laser that it protected against; the second edition switched to single-color reflec armor (which also protected against all lower clearances). The editors' explanation was "yes, we know physics does not work this way in real life, but this is simpler".
  • In one of the Splat Books for Car Wars, lasers were described as being too useless as energy weapons due to anti-laser armour in the military... which isn't as useful on a car. There were anti-laser types of armour, although those typically cost more at the least.
  • In Traveller, lasers are powerful but expensive, fragile and easy to defend against, with both hand-held (pistol and rifle) and ship-based versions. Plasma and fusion weapons are terrifying but even more expensive, heavy and often require the user to be wearing power armour. And they're almost universally illegal for civilians.
  • Lasers in GURPS are represented accurately, in fact their lack of recoil is a big selling point compared to guns, but can be defended against by reflec-armor. As it happens the Ultra-Tech book has pulse lasers that do fire a "bullet" of light, albeit one that moves at the proper speed.
    • Electrolasers actually fire balls of lightning, using the laser to make it go where you want it to. These work a lot more like conventional weapons—or blasters.
  • Killer Bunnies And The Quest For The Magic Carrot has "Sharks WFLB," which is illustrated as... sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads.
  • The board game Khet uses pieces with mirrors on them and laser pointers in the board. You destroy pieces by hitting a non-mirrored side with the laser, and win by destroying the King-er, I mean the "Pharaoh", because this game is Egyptian themed. That's right, this game has Ancient Egyptian Laser Beams!
  • Cthulhu Tech. Being partially inspired by Robotech, it has lasers and Charge Beams all over the place. Made possible by Magitek. Ah, and it has Lightning Guns!
  • Rifts does better than most in this regard. The books state in more than one instance that laser weapons do not make a sound, apart from the click of the trigger being pulled. However, they remark that many buyers want laser guns that go "pew pew," so a lot of companies include sound effect-generating noisemakers in their guns, which can be turned off if the user decides. Laser guns are also more accurate than other energy weapons, presumably because they have no recoil. Rifts laser weapons are also described as being powerful enough to blow off a limb if you are hit in the elbow or upper arm if shot by a standard laser rifle. Remember that the standard equipment of an infantrymen in Rifts makes his as well armed and armored as a 20th Century IFV. Plasma weapons are also a common form of BFG, both in the classic bolt ejectors and the more realistic plasma flamethrower. Plasma is also a common warhead type for missiles.
    • This trope is also played with in the regards to the "a laser can be dodged" aspect of the trope. Energy weapons can be dodged in Rifts, but at a -10 penalty. The explanation given is that the character sees the trigger being pulled, and tries to get out of the way before the shot is fired. A -10 penalty is big enough that player characters almost never bother trying to dodge the blast. One part where this trope is played completely straight is that laser blasts are visible in Rifts.
  • The focus laser from Battle Machines. If it hits, it will keep on hitting, like a ranged chainsaw.
  • Standard in the BattleTech and MechWarrior franchise, for both infantry units and the iconic Humongous Mecha. Lasers are rarer for infantry but common as dirt on a 'Mech. They are remarkably realistic for fictional laser weapons: they hit instantly and produce a ton of heat (this being their primary disadvantage to offset the fact that they have unlimited ammo), the only strange part being that they're visible. Oddly enough, the weapons as presented have range issues, which may sound odd at first until you realize that a battlefield full of particulates such as smoke and dust would in fact limit lasers to certain ranges in similar ways. Not nearly half as unusual as the way ballistic and missile weapons are treated, though.
  • One of the five primary weapon types in Mekton is the beam weapon. These tend to be bulkier than equivalent-power projectile weapons, but you don't need to buy ammunition for them.
  • Munchkin has a few laser-weapons in one of its expansions, Star Munchkin, which in itself is awesome. However, if you happen to have more than one "-aser" weapon at any given time, you can combine them for a total bonus of +24. Then add in a bunch of Weapon Enhancers, and this weapon essentially becomes the most powerful weapon in the game. Heck, even at Level 1, the +24 "-aser" weapon can slay anything that isn't enhanced, even the Level 20 Plutonium Dragon!

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • In the DLC of BioShock 2 Minerva's Den, the new Big Daddy "The Lancer'' uses one called an Ion Laser. You are also able to use one, as well as the security bots now use them.
  • Mass Effect, in keeping with the theme of the series, does not use lasers in the standard way. The primary weapon is the mass accelerator, essentially a projectile weapon accelerated by electromagnets rather than gas, cordite, smokeless powder, etc and enhanced in various ways by mass effect fields. Lasers are, instead, used as point-defence weapons that can only fire for a limited time before overheating. They are, however, 100% accurate before this happens.
    • Even the Reapers' main weapons, which look and sound like unscientific lasers... aren't lasers. They're actually molten ferrofluids fired at relativistic speeds.
    • The Collector Particle Beam from Mass Effect 2 fires a continuous laser beam that ignores all shields, barriers and armour, ironically making it perfect for mowing through the Collectors themselves. They really shouldn't have left one lying around for Shepard to find.
    • Mass Effect 2 also shows the aforementioned GARDIAN lasers in action twice. In both cases the VFX artists went with Rule of Cool in their depiction. In the first instance during the battle on Horizon, Shepard activates the colony's anti-air defenses to drive off the Collector cruiser. Prior dialogue describes them as GARDIAN lasers, but the visuals go with the stereotypical discrete slower-than-light bolts. Much later the Normandy's point-defense lasers are shown firing during the battle with the Oculus attack drones after exiting the galactic core mass relay. This time, they're shown as a continuous visible beam.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has the Light Beam, which looks like a multispectral laser and is really good at taking out the Ing. Strangely, the Charged Attack behaves like a Reverse Shrapnel shotgun. Metroid Prime: Hunters features the Imperialist, a laser sniper rifle, which strikes the target instantaneously, but creates a very visible red beam that lasts just long enough to give away the firer's position.
  • The Halo series has plasma weapons both handheld and vehicle-mounted versions, and the famous Spartan Laser; the Covenant Scarab unleashes a lightning-like green beam at targets, possibly an electrolaser. The Forerunner's creations use actual hitscan weapons which fire glowy beams that land with a sizzling sound. The Spartan Laser, likewise, also reaches its target almost instantly, although it lands with more of a 'boom' sound and takes some time to charge. Forerunner constructs are armed with weapons that fire bolts of hard light.
    • The earlier Marathon series also had all sorts of energy weapons which moved very slowly, and a number of typically near-hitscan bullet weapons. Since there were only one or two enemies with bullet weapons and one or two Cool, but Inefficient energy weapons you could use, this typically added up to you dodging lots of enemy fire and them ending up as bullet-riddled heaps of steaming entrails (when you didn't trick them into starting a fight with the other guy that was standing behind you.)
  • In Descent, the various laser weapons travel approximately at twice your ship's velocity and can be dodged-however, the Vulcan Cannon, effectively a machine gun that fires pieces of metal, travels instantly and can not be dodged. (Now imagine the Vulcan Cannon doing much more damage per shot with an equally high rate of fire, and you have Descent II's Gauss Cannon.) Once you get the afterburner powerup, you can travel at the same speed as the laser beams.
  • X-Com has lasers, which are slower than light and pulse, but are impossible to dodge — on account of being in a Turn-Based Strategy game.
    • X-Com: Apocalypse has laser sniper rifle. Of vehicle weapons available early in the game, lasers are cheap, cause less collateral damage if miss and miss less to begin with than other variants.
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown has laser weapons that behave more realistically, producing a single burst/beam of light that cuts straight out. The visibility of said beam can be justified by the intensity/power behind the laser and atmospheric dust making the beam visible. There is also a Heavy Laser cannon for the Heavy Weapons specialist troopers that has a rotary barrel assembly, which is probably meant to help heat dispersal, and the Precision Laser Rifle for Snipers is incredibly long and has more focusing hardware inside to help keep the beam accurate and more effective over greater distances that the Snipers need them for. Amusingly, there is also a "shotgun" style Scatter Laser cannon that has a series of prisms/lenses in the barrel to create a spread-effect like a normal ballistics shotgun, and it also has a pump-action that your Assaults will rack after each shot.
  • UFO: Alien Invasion has laser weapons as well, being a fanmade love-letter to X-Com. They use Deuterium-Fluoride cartridges as "ammunition" and are realistically depicted as being limited by environmental factors like smoke, fire, and scattering effects, and are very accurate while having less stopping power than advanced kinetic, plasma, or particle beam weapons.
  • MechCommander featured a bizarre spin on the matter: lasers move as visible projectiles towards the target (at the same speed as ballistic projectiles), but whether they hit or not is predetermined at the moment they are fired. This results in bizarre situations where firing at a fast-moving target will cause the laser to actually bend, change course, and follow the target until impact.
    • Unreal Tournament's Shock Rifle does something similar, although the effect varies. The weapon is Hit Scan (another word for instant hit), but the beam is not. The result is that when you fire you see the target light up with the blast shockwave before the actual bolt reaches it.
      • Averted with UT 2003 onward, as the Shock Rifle now appears to shoot a typical laser beam.
    • MechCommander 2 and MechWarrior 3 and 4, however, have lasers travel instantaneously. Interestingly, however, the 'Pulse Lasers' behave like (continous beam) lasers, and the 'Lasers' behave like pulse lasers.
    • Mech Assault is a step backward in this regard; pulse laser shots travel like your average "laser" projectile, while lasers shoot visibly-moving beams. Both types are, at least, as fast as bullets.
      • MechWarrior 2 had projectile "lasers" well before MechAssault. It's a Zig-Zagging Trope as far as Battletech video game adaptations go.
      • So Zig-Zagged that MechWarrior Online averts this trope completely. Not only do lasers travel and hit instantly, but pulse lasers actually flicker, unlike previous games where Pulse Lasers were depicted as chained-blobs.
  • The Brotherhood of Nod in Command & Conquer is in love with laser weapons, with everything from laser rifles and laser tanks or their iconic Obelisk of Light. GDI, on the other hand, just uses conventional cannons—very, very large conventional cannons.
    • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the Allies were in love with laser weapons. While many people believe the Empire loves them too, this is wrong. The Empire uses Particle Accelerators and Superheated Slugs. The only lasers in Red Alert 3 are of the Laser Sight kind.
    • Command & Conquer: Renegade has perhaps one of the most realistic instances of lasers. They are instant, they fire in short pulses (with gattling lasers being able to saturate the target more), and their blooming effect causes the air to be translucent rather than opaque. Perhaps one of the few unrealistic effects of the laser is that on Easy mode, auto-aiming will cause the lasers to turn slightly from a direct line to hit targets.
  • The 1998 Activision game Battlezone has a weapon called a blast cannon, on which the manual says "The Blast Cannon delivers a short but powerful laser beam burst that does tremendous damage to enemy armour". This behaves like an actual pulsed LASER beam, with the atmosphere in its path being superheated to explosive temperatures and causing both its appearance of a blinding white line and its sound of a loud thunderclap.
    • Except when you use it on Europa or Earth's moon, where there is no atmosphere.
    • There is also "Flash beam" weapon in Battlezone 2 (for some reason available only in mutliplayer, along with several other weapons), which fires a (nearly) constant beam of concentrated microwaves, damaging target by extreme heat.
  • Jedi Outcast has a particularly infuriating version of an actual instant-hit laser being dodgeable. The Disruptor Rifle is actually hitscan on normal enemies, but force-sensitive ones will dodge out of the way in a single frame not-an-animation if you try to zap them with it.
    • Handwaved in the sequel Jedi Academy. They do it with Force Sense in the short time between you decide to pull the trigger and the actual pulling. But obviously it is to force you to fight with a lightsaber against them.
    • The player character is an actual Jedi themselves and can't block said shots.
    • Jedi Outcast does allow the player to dodge the Disruptor Rifle shots, if you have Force Speed. It activates Force Speed for the duration of the dodge animation, making it look cooler and drain a lot of Force Power, so the Computer is still a cheating bastard. Still, better than the Rocket Launcher Force Push hot-potato game.
    • In a mission to capture Boba Fett, he is also able to insta-dodge Disruptor shots, with the same animation (maybe he learned it from Remo Williams).
  • In the Crusader games, laser bolts are slower than bullets. It's not like the speed of light was actually altered in-universe or anything, but the fact remains that bullets do hitscan damage and lasers fly through the air slightly faster than rockets.
  • Space sims vary somewhat, usually for gameplay reasons more than anything else — for shooters, players are expected to have to lead their targets in addition to lining them up, so nearly everything is a (pretty) projectile, lasers included. 4X games vary, since the player isn't the one doing the lining up and shooting.
    • In the Escape Velocity games, lasers, plasma, protons, and bullets all move about as fast, but a number of special weapons (like the original game's particle beam) move instantly but with a very short range. Some projectiles, though, are faster or slower in the third game: "blaster" shots are fast, with railguns and fusion pulse shots being slower. Weapons described as "lasers" like the Capacitor Pulse laser, Bio Relay laser, and the Thunderhead do hit instantly, but all had visible beams. There were also some non-laser beam weapons that hit instantly.
    • In Freelancer, everything is a projectile. The laser and photon weapons just have faster projectiles.
    • The Freespace games saddle the player with lasers that fire projectiles. However, capital ships in the second game usually mount "beam" type weapons as their main guns. These are highly visible so that the player has a chance to avoid flying through them and being destroyed... assuming the player isn't in their path to begin with, as they are Hit Scan weapons.
    • All the Wing Commander games (you guessed it) feature projectile weapon mechanics even for the "lasers". Interestingly, the laser is universally the weakest ship-mounted weapon, even though it has a high rate of fire and is the most efficient in terms of energy usage.
    • A different kind of space sim, the 4X game Master of Orion II used lasers as its most basic ship-mounted beams — big red beams. They traveled as quickly as every other beam, and only traveled instantaneously with the "continuous" upgrade, which several other weapons could also use.
  • Too Human avoids this, as its laser weapons shoot an immediate continuous beam, which also heats up and does more damage the longer its kept on target.
  • Touhou often has these kind of weaponry in Spell Cards. Two notable examples are the slow laser beams rampant in Keine's and Nitori's attacks (from Imperishable Night and Mountain of Faith, respectively), and the laser sight to laser in Mokou's and Patchouli's attacks (from Imperishable Night and the gaiden game Shoot the Bullet, respectively)
    • There are also quite a few instant laser attacks, generally done by having a faint and harmless laser appear for a second or two before the opaque laser that damages you appears in the same location.
    • Undefined Fantastic Object adds Shou Toramaru, whose entire theme seems to be Frickin' Laser Beams. She uses her magic for such niceties as slow accelerating lasers, spinning laser crosses, lasers that curve in midair to hit you...
      • Other users of curved lasers include Iku Nagae (in Double Spoiler) and Seiga Kaku.
  • EVE Online has lasers, used primarily by the ships of the Amarr Empire. EVE lasers are visible as solid beams, but do strike the target instantly.
    • It also has plasma "Blasters", though unlike other examples they lose containment quickly, making the shortest ranged weapon in the game.
  • In Tachyon: The Fringe, the fighter-mounted pulse lasers travel slower-than-light and are visible. Ironically, capital ship-mounted beam lasers strike the target instantly (still visible beam though). To top it off, one of the factions has a railgun weapon, which strikes the target instantly (i.e. faster than lasers).
  • In Crystal Quest, the Menace employs "laser beams" that extend and retract like measuring tape.
  • Kirby can gain a "laser" ability (slower than light, travels in tangible lumps rather than as a continuous beam); in the words of the ability description screen, "it bounces off walls, too!".
    • In Nightmare in Dreamland and The Amazing Mirror, the game actually gives you the acronym "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation", in addition to telling you "And it ricochets off hills, too!"
  • Even Castlevania is not free from this trope, despite all but two of the games taking place pre-scifi. Orlox and the Nova Skeletons in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Joachim in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (and how!), those wall-eyeball things in Castlevania: Bloodlines — even Dracula gets in on it in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (with more Beam Spam for your buck in the American version than the Japanese... Nintendo Hard indeed) and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, and that's all before Soma gets his hands on the beam gun-type weapon in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. Wheeee!
    • Soma also gets Gergoth's Soul in Dawn of Sorrow, which allows him to fire a laserbeam as long as he has MP. It's Awesome but Impractical and surprisingly weak. The aforementioned Nova Skeletons re-appear in Order of Ecclesia, where Shanoa can absorb their Glyph "Nitesco." It is a borderline Game Breaker, and easily the best attacking glyph in the game due to it's good range and multi-hit capacity. And then Death does vertical laser beams in Aria of Sorrow too. There's a fair few examples.
    • Portrait of Ruin also features ancient Egyptian laser beams as pressure-activated traps.
  • Star Wars Battlefront, being a Star Wars game, has the slower-than-light "blaster bolts" we've come to expect. However, it at the same time subverts this trope: sniper rifles and some vehicle-mounted weapons utilize a beam that travels at the speed of light. In the case of the vehicles' beam cannons, it can even be swept across an enemy front For Massive Damage.
  • The Fallout games feature laser weaponry in the mid- to late game areas. In the first two games, they're not terribly effective since even plain metal armour reduces laser damage by 75%. On the other hand, the laser weapons family does include a Gatling Laser.
    • The Fallout games do partially avert this trope, although in a very subtle way involving the recoil: Although you can physically see them recoil back when shot, the energy weapons skill is based on your perception score, implying the recoil is so negligible that you only need to see your target to hit them. Contrast this with the small weapons skill using agility (your natural reflexes allowing you to better deal with the recoil) or heavy weapons using endurance (the recoil being so massive, you have to worry more about passing out from the shock).
      • It is less subtle in Fallout 2, the weapon is described as slicing people apart in dialog. The critical death animation from lasers in both games is someone being cut into pieces by a beam. And in the turn based context it doesn't really matter that it's presented as a moving sprite. Actually the engine might simply not support beam weaponry.
    • The third game goes further with the aversion, in having its laser weapons be true hitscan beams, while the two previous titles had them fire the more "traditional" slow-moving bolt of energy. Fallout: New Vegas also continues use of the proper beam lasers.
  • Most robots from the Future era in Chrono Trigger have energy weapons as part of their arsenal (Robo and his "Laser Spin" technique included).
    • Oddly, laser attacks in Chrono Trigger (at least the American port) deal dark-type damage; made all the more egregious by the fact that light-type attacks exist in the game too. Chalk it up to how the elements are interpreted here: Light is considered a combination of Holy and Lightning, neither of which lasers qualify for; while Shadow includes something akin to corruption - in Robo's case, technology being a lesser imitation of magic.
  • In the Final Fantasy series, Mecha-type enemies throughout the series often come armed with lasers, masers, and similar beam-emitting weapons such as Atomic Ray and Heat Ray.
    • One of Quistis's Limit Breaks is actually called Laser Eye.
    • The Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII incarnations of Alexander use a modest, instant-beam laser to carve a line into the ground, causing a tremendous explosion afterwards.
    • One boss in Final Fantasy XIII, Barthandelus, likes to spam his laser beams, particularly during your second fight with him. Yaag Rosch does it too when you fight him in his Proudclad mecha.
    • Cloud of Darkness in Dissidia: Final Fantasy constantly fires off laser beams and energy blasts of various types for her attacks, but they're called "Particle Beams", not lasers. In the same game Golbez both averts the trope and plays it straight — Gravity System, Float System and Sector Ray fire out continuous lasers that appear instantly, but Attack System fires out a barrage of small laser projectiles.
  • FEAR 2 has a laser gun that averts this trope. It is a constant beam with no recoil that hits instantly. Especially annoying since the enemies can still hit you even in Bullet Time.
  • The Falken and Morgan superjets from the Ace Combat series mount laser weaponry. However they act more like Laser Blades, as a beam is "pumped" continuously for a short period that can be swept around to cut enemies up. The Excalibur superweapon mounts a similar laser "blade", only Xbox hueg. The unenhanced Meson Cannon fires "pulse" lasers, whereas the MBSR-enhanced version creates what are best described as large laser tripwires.
  • Several different varieties of laser are staple weapons in Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri, and like all weapons, have various stats describing how they supposedly work (aside from their flat Attack Value), including Active Medium, Type, and Burn Rate for one meter of steel. The basic laser, the first new weapon you can research in the game with AV 2, is a fiber-coupled diode laser and burns through one meter of steel in 0.76 seconds. The Singularity Laser at the end of the game, with AV 24, is a singularity induction laser using a temporal boundary as its active medium. Burn rate? Relative.
    • There's also the Gatling Laser, Fusion Laser, and Quantum Laser amidst the other weapons.
  • There's an arcade shoot-em-up called Strikers 1945. As the title suggests, it ostensibly takes place during World War II. You have a choice of six or so planes to fly against the ostensible Axis powers. Ostensibly because these are WWII-era planes in 1945 shooting Frickin' Laser Beams at transforming Humongous Mecha.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy has at least one room which rapidly fills up with absolutely huge laser beams coming out of nowhere to reduce you to splatter.
    • It's also the attack Mecha Birdo pulls out after you destroy its antenna.
  • Defense Grid The Awakening partially averts this: Laser towers fire continuous beams that heat up the aliens and continue to do damage after they leave the laser's range. This heat damage is extra effective against the fast aliens, the Racer and the Rumbler. But the tower fires a laser the same color as it: green for level 1, amber for level 2 and red for level 3; in Real Life the green laser would be the strongest and the red would be the weakest.
  • Quick Man's stage says hi.
    • There are strangely few laser weapons in the Mega Man franchise. The only one from Classic is Gemini Man's Gemini Laser, representing both the 'slow moving projectile' and 'reflection' sub-tropes. Mega Man Legends has the Shining Laser, which creates a beam of damaging light instantaneously, unrealistically limited only by range, which is the game's Infinity+1 Sword. Mega Man X has the Aiming Laser from X4, which is also instantaneous in use, but limited by targeting range; X has to target enemies before he can use the laser, and the targeting reticule stays fairly close to himself.
    • The Mega Buster also qualifies, since it's stated to be a weapon that fires "bullets of highly compressed solar energy" which is in essence, a solar powered laser. The projectiles that the Buster fires are constantly ridiculed by fans for looking a lot like lemons.
  • The Ratchet & Clank series. There's just too many examples to list.
  • Robot Dinosaurs That Shoot Beams When They Roar. (Yes, a description seems superfluous.)
  • Its worth noting that in the game Scribblenauts you can create a Laser, as well as a Shark, and then put the laser on the sharks head, though it won't fire.
    • Ah, but it will fire if the shark is on land. The shark will disappear eventually, though.
  • In Evil Genius, the mission to steal the giant lab laser is actually called Fricken' Laser. It is a parody of the spy genre, after all...
  • Several games in the Nineteen Forty Two series have lasers. In World War II.
  • Ninja Gaiden. The Xbox remake plays this oddly with the apparent laser from the bone demon bird boss Paz Zuu: It traces a path, which then ignites.
  • Age of Mythology had light based weapons. Granted they're parabolic reflectors mounted on crocodiles (or in the Atlanteans' case, towers), that concentrate sunlight into beams. And, yes, they DO hit instantly.
    • Taken to extremes in the "O Canada" cheat which grants you a "Lazer Bear" dressed in a Canadian flag. It shoots lasers out of its eyes.
  • The upcoming Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft features a quest requiring you to kill a giant shark with a robotic shark of your own (not surprisingly, this is in the goblin starting area.) What is the robotic shark's primary attack? A frikken laser beam. Yes, they actually include the word frikken in the attack name.
  • Most bosses that aren't fire-based in Sonic the Hedgehog video games are laser-based.
    • In Sonic Colors, the Cyan Wisp can turn Sonic himself into a laser beam, able to shoot through enemies and bounce along electric coils and crystals.
  • The Naval Ops series has a number of lasers that can be mounted on warships. They fire in different patterns and colours. Sadly, Beam Spam is difficult to achieve because lasers cannot be fired in salvos like regular guns.
  • The "Beam" line of powers in Golden Sun. Available to Jenna's base class in The Lost Age and Eoleo's base class in Dark Dawn.
    • Also, certain weapon unleash techniques use a laser effect.
  • Dynasty Warriors - Previous to the sixth game, Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi's special moves involved them shooting ancient Chinese lasers chi beams from their hands.
    • Zuo Ci can also shoot chi beams from his magic paper tassels.
  • Samurai Warriors - Kanetsugu Naoe eventually gains the ability to shoot chi beams from his Onmyodo cards.
  • The Kha'ak in the X series use this as their only weapons. It makes it suicidal to attack the with a smaller ship or missiles. Apart from the Kha'ak, most weapons are plasma-casters of one form or another that shoot discrete bolts.
  • Averted in Raptor: Call of the Shadows. Yes, there are three laser weapons in the game (Laser turret, Death Ray and Twin Laser). However, they are all instant-hit weapons, similar to real lasers. Your best bet was to not be in front of it when it fired: whether from you or foe, there was no real lag between fire and impact.
  • Heather Beam
  • Vega Strike among all weapons mountable on a small ships has lasers doing the most shield-piercing damage at the longest range, which makes them attractive even despite total damage being less than by other weapons for the same mounts. It also has a Shout-Out with a weak plasma weapon shooting slow red bolts named "Laser" which according to its own in-game description is "not a laser by any stretch of the imagination".
  • Portal 2 features the "Thermal Discouragement Beam". It behaves exactly like a real laser save for being highly visible, passes through glass, and can be redirected with "Discouragement Redirection Cubes". It's also one of only two ways (in the player's control) to actually destroy a turret, but it's surprisingly non-fatal when the player touches it — it won't kill you but it hurts enough that you can't simply walk through it.
  • LittleBigPlanet 2 has the creatinator power-up which can fire different kinds of elemental lasers among other things.
  • The July 20, 2011 patch for Team Fortress 2 gave the Soldier two.
    • Actually, they are not. The Soldier gains something more reminiscent of plasma weaponry; one, those are clearly not light-based weapons, and two, they do not reach their target instantly.
  • Night Trap downplays this. Sure, there are laser guns introduced at first, but only a couple characters have them, and they are still unable to win against the Augers. Also, SCAT comes into the scene with real guns, which are able to take down Augers...but not full-fledged vampires.
  • STAG from Saints Row: The Third use laser weaponry for both their infantry and their vehicles.
  • In Stealth Bastard, laser beams are one of the main obstacles. They're also fired by enemies.
  • Shatterhand has a bot that shoots lasers.
  • Sword of the Stars has both the Hollywood bolt lasers and Beamers that are continuous beams.
    • Interestingly, the sequel has revamped the damage system, and the pulsed lasers are no longer as weak as before. Each armor section has a pattern. That pattern is damaged differently by different weapon types. For example, mass drivers provide more damage overall but don't provide much penetration. Lasers specifically do a lot of damage to the armor in one spot. If they manage to hit that spot with a laser multiple times, then the armor at that spot will be gone, and subsequent precise shots will do internal damage.
  • Kaos' Undead Spell in Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure summons harmless targeting beams that quickly turn dangerous if you stay in their path. Some of the Skylanders themselves also use laser beams, being either earth-types with a Power Crystal theme or tech-types.
  • Warzone 2100 has two kinds of lasers - laser turrets and the Laser Kill Sat, both depicted as rather slow moving - the turret lasers are depicted as projectiles (despite there being a rail gun in the game that is depicted as somewhat beam-like) and move slightly faster than machine gun bullets, but they are homing projectiles, with an 80% chance to hit, while the Laser Kill Sat is depicted as a cone of fire descending on it's target area.
  • Star Ruler has lasers as a weapon choice. They use continuous beams, are instant-hit and do not need ammo, unlike kinetics. It gets ridiculous when you research them to where their range is measurable in AU (~8 light-minutes/~500 light-seconds) and STILL hit instantly!
  • One of the allied units and several enemy units in Alien Hallway have guns that fire laser bullets.
  • Aqua Rhapsody, despite taking place entirely underwater.
  • Each of the three sides in Earth 2150 has a unique Energy Weapon (with the Lunar Corporation having an extra one). The Eurasian Dynasty has lasers, which fire bright red beams that hit instantly. However, unlike a typical laser, it doesn't do any damage. Instead, it rapidly heats the target until the target's power plant or ammo stores explode. If the beam is interrupted, the target quickly cools down with no damage. Building are almost impossible to destroy with lasers, as stone has a higher melting point than metal.
    • Earth 2160 has ED use the bolt version of the laser that does damage on impact.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire has at least three kinds of lasers. A number of TEC and Advent frigates have pulsed lasers, a typical example of a slower-than-light bolt. The TEC Kol-class battleships are also armed with heavy dark red laser beams. Pretty much all Advent capital ships Beam Spam bright blue laser beams. The Radiance-class battleships can turn it Up to Eleven with an incredibly powerful (and bright) laser beam the size of the battleship that pulverizes almost any target. Even Advent bombers are armed with hitscan lasers. Naturally, there are Game Mods that make the pulse lasers appear as thin pulsing beams for more realism (still visible, though).
  • In Conquest Frontier Wars, the Terrans use pulsed lasers, while the Celarions use both the pulsed and continuous beam versions. Interestingly, the beam version doesn't stay in one spot but keeps moving across the target, slicing it.
  • Nexus: The Jupiter Incident has a few kinds of lasers. Most often, they are used for Subsystem Damage, lacking the firepower necessary to damage shields or the hull. Later on, lasers become more powerful and do inflict small amounts of damage. The flak system uses thick criss-crossing laser beams pulsing (not a "pulse laser" but a laser beam pulsing) and completely automated, targetting missiles, torpedoes, and fighters. Fighters are also initially armed with lasers and can't do much beyond Subsystem Damage. Battleships are equipped with Siege Lasers, which can One-Hit Kill most ships... if they stay in one spot for about 30 seconds necessary to charge and fire the weapon. Also, while charging and firing, the battleship and three other ships are unable to move or fire weapons, diverting most of their power into the Siege Laser, which is the only weapon capable of taking down a Fortress Shield.
  • Silent Hill had a few, each obtainable by getting the UFO Ending:
    • The first game had the Hyper Blaster which could also be obtained by plugging a Konami Justifier into controller port 2. It came in three flavors, and each one was essentially a handgun, shotgun, and rifle with unlimited ammo.
    • Silent Hill Origins, which was a Lethal Joke Weapon with overwhelming power and unlimited ammo, but a ridiculously poor range.
    • Silent Hill: Homecoming had the laser pistol which broke the game wide open and could kill bosses so fast it could cause glitches.
  • Star Fox: All over the place, starting with the Arwing's main weapon.
  • Sunrider: Every single mecha and ship seems to have some form of laser-based attack.
  • Borderlands features Eridian weaponry—most of these fire slower-than-light energy pulses of some kind (amusingly enough, averted by the sniper rifle equivalent, which is a Lightning Gun), but are never explicitly stated to be lasers. Borderlands 2 brings us E-Tech weapons, however, which are described as things like lasers, particularly the Blaster range of E-Tech rifles. As expected of the trope, however, they are all fire blob-shaped energy pulses with obvious travel time, sometimes ending up even slower than standard bullets. The reason they still use up ammo (at twice the going rate even) is due to the guns somehow turning standard cartridges into energy projectiles. The saving graces of increased damage, elemental properties, and pure Rule of Cool keep them from being just novelties.
  • Beam weapons in Space Pirates and Zombies fire what look like variously-colored lightning bolts with limited range that hit instantly, which contrasts with the (also energy-based) cannon weapons, which fire spherical projectiles. Non-energy based cannons fire various other things.
  • Starbase Orion has two types of lasers and one laser-like weapon. The standard laser turret is usually the first weapon to be researched. It's fairly weak but has a long range, although damage drops with distance. The beam is instantaneous (and Hit Scan) and visible, appearing for about a second. The point-defense laser system automatically shoots down enemy missiles and torpedoes in range with thin instant beams. Ion pulse cannons are not lasers but their animation certainly looks like one. They appear as thick white beams that are also instantaneous and Hit Scan. After the recent update, the IPC also bonus structural damage if it hits a shield.

    Web Comics 

     Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Justice League, a villain gloats that his Energy Weapon allows him to attack the Flash because it (obviously) moves at light speed. Flash counters by noting that his advantage is being able to also react much faster than most people.
    • Also, Superman in "Kid's Stuff":
    Kid: What are you gonna do? You're just a kid.
    Superboy:(zaps the ground by their feet with his heat vision) I'm the kid with laser beams comin' outta his eyes. (the kids flee in terror)
  • In every episode of Code Lyoko, the monsters that XANA sends normally shoot laser beams from various parts of their bodies. Some have other type of attack, though, like Bloks (which in addition to lasers also can shoot ice beams and rings of fire).
    • The only exceptions to this rule are the Scyphozoa (which use memory-draining or mind-controlling tentacles), Sharks (which shoot torpedoes in the Digital Sea), the Kalamar (which uses a drill) and the Kolossus (which can sufficiently destroy anything just by walking over it or slashing with its arm-blade).
    • Also, the materialized monsters that XANA attempted on two separate occasions in Season 2 (Kankrelats and later Krabes, though the latter destroyed the Scanners upon materialization due to sheer size) were able to shoot lasers. Unlike in Lyoko, these lasers are actually very dangerous, and almost killed a few people. Fortunately, the attack was stopped and Return to the Past'd Just in Time.
  • Somewhat standard equipment in Kim Possible, especially in A Sitch in Time (in a Bad Future). Due to Non-Lethal Warfare, it never hits anyone human. Drones, on the other hand...
  • In Monster Buster Club the kids have Frickin' Laser Beams as well, but they don't work like conventional lasers. Instead, when hit, the enemy would then be sucked up into the gun, into a little cartridge thing the kids could remove and place in something that looks like cold storage until the authorities come to take them away.
  • Parodied in Aqua Teen Hunger Force when the Mooninites fire laser beams at ATHF. The beams move very, very slowly.
    • Frylock's Eye Beams, on the other hand, don't.
    • Also parodied with the Plutonians attempted to trap Shake in a laser cage. They turned out to be harmless disco lasers.
  • The Big Bad in the Jonny Quest TOS episode "Mystery of the Lizard Men'' had one that could blow up a sailing ship.
    • It was also visible, moving at a VERY slow speed— so slow that the ship's captain could see and report it coming, and likewise Dr. Quest could order his crew to move a mirror to intercept it in order to reflect it back and destroy the Big Bad ship.
  • Invader Zim:
    Tallest Purple: Why is everything lasers with you?
  • Metalocalypse - Dethklok had acquired a Soviet planetarium laser light-show machine for a concert - unfortunately their adopted ward Fat Kid played with it, and it ended up cutting a philharmonic orchestra in pieces.
  • Ecto-beams in Danny Phantom are Hollywood laser or plasma weapons.
  • Surprisingly, laser beams did travel instantaneously in Street Fighter.
  • In the Superfriends 1973/74 episode "The Shamon U", one of Dr. Shamon's devices is a giant laser that he uses to fuse space gold dust into gold meteors.
  • The Herculoids. Used by Zok (from his eyes and tail), by one of the title characters in the episode "The Gladiators of Kyanite" (in the form of a laser spear), and by the title opponents in "Laser Lancers".
  • The New Adventures of Superman
    • "Luthor's Lethal Laser". Lex Luthor uses a laser gun based on the moon to threaten to melt Earth's polar icecaps unless all of the countries on the planet surrender to him.
    • ''Luminians on the Loose". Lex Luthor uses a laser telescope to bring the title creatures to Earth (and later to send them back).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Very powerful unicorns, as well as Changelings, are capable of firing these from their horns. The next stage is a continuous beam moving at light-speed.
  • Skysurfer Strike Force has a lot of lasers to go around but Bioborg Lazerette is the greatest offender.
  • Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends: The Alliance has a lot of these, thanks to all the alien technology they use.


Eye BeamsRanged Energy Attack TropesHand Blast
Freeze RayFuturistic Tech IndexFuture Spandex
Fantastic Light SourceThis Index GlowsGlowing Eyelights of Undeath
Fluffy Fashion FeathersGarnishing the StoryFunny Spoon
Freaky Is CoolRule of CoolGun Fu
Freeze RayArtistic License - PhysicsGravity Is a Harsh Mistress
Fluorescent FootprintsRule of PerceptionHalf-Identical Twins
Converging Stream WeaponWeapons and Wielding TropesLaser Blade
Faceless GoonsImageSource/Star WarsGood Colors, Evil Colors
Freak Lab AccidentSpeculative Fiction TropesFrom a Single Cell

alternative title(s): Fricking Laser Beams; Frickin Laser Beam
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