Lampshaded in an early MAD parody of Flash Gordon called "Flesh Garden", in which the evil alien emperor pits Flesh Garden against the great enemy of all - a man in boxing gloves.
Star Wars: Not only are humans one of the most common races (everywhere from Tatooine to Coruscant), they're also the one with the most widely known descendants (Zabrak, Miraluka etc). One of the fundamental tenets of The Empire was that Humans were best - everyone from Palpatine down was at least partially human unless they were a) extremely lucky or b) really really good at their jobs (see also, Grand Admiral Thrawn).
Whilst they aren't all force-sensitive like some species they do have a very high number of these compared to other species and have produced the strongest of force users the galaxy has ever witnessed.
May just be the law of averages at work, however, considering that the human population seems an order of magnitude higher than that of other races. More people -> more Force sensitives -> better chances of producing a Force prodigy.
Inverted in the EU novel Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, where it's revealed that the old Sith Empire, while didn't discriminate against humans (those who weren't slaves), had the True Sith holdings all the power (the Emperor and several members of the Dark Council are shown to be True Sith). The humans are still the majority even in the Empire, though. In fact, the True Sith discriminate against other True Sith who aren't Force-sensitive.
In Nick Pollotta and Phil Foglio's novel illegal aliens, though initially technologically inferior to the alien races they encounter, Humans catch up very VERY quickly (albeit with the help of an alien technician) and surpass the weaponry, medical, and general technologial abilities of the aliens they got most of the technology from in the first place, by sheer inventiveness, for example, they regenerate members of an extinct alien race, create a type of unobtanium ship armor an alien earlier on in the story was lying about to make them think alien ships were tougher than they really were, created ORIGINAL weapons based on an "atomic vortex" that started with a pistol that was ridiculously powerful and escalated to a cannon that could wipe out massive fleets of automated attack satelites, and generally overcame any and all opposition by races whose technology they hadn't even known about mere months before.
In the novel Pandora's Planet, Humans are, on average, smarter than the aliens who invade Earth, only being beaten because half the time the Humans were fighting each other.
Humans in The Damned Trilogy by Alan Dean Foster are faster, stronger, tougher, and fiercer than every other sentient species, bar none. They're also the only species with the ability to resist the Psychic Powers of the Amplitur, who have brainwashed entire species into being happy slaves. So, the discovery of humanity by the Weave of free species at the beginning of the first book marks a critical turning point in their war to remain free. Unfortunately, humans are feared by the other sympathetic alien species precisely for those qualities and the uncomfortable question comes up that if they win the war, what will happen to human/alien relations then?
Technically there are faster, stronger and tougher races than humans but Humans are a "jack of all trades" species, faster than the strongest species, stronger than the fastest but fiercer than all. Ironically all three books deal with Humans who try to be more than just warriors.
The Empire of Humans in Yulia Latynina's "Inhuman" is very much evil, bloated and corrupt; at the time of its founding it was less corrupt and more evil, with constant executions, mind control and biological warfare. However, almost all of that is revealed to have been Necessarily Evil: The Empire's founder only came to power and introduced those measures after the democratic government, along with the Earth's entire ecosphere and 98% of the human population, was eaten by the Ttakas, a race of truly extreme omnivores who ate other species as an alternative to eating each other (though they did that too whenever possible) that also happened to breed very rapidly and be incredibly inventive. And those measures worked: humanity survived and built an empire, while the Ttakas were killed off by use of a very nasty, advanced human-engineered virus, along with other things whenever that proved impractical. Later wars and oppression really were mostly for the evil, though. Admittedly, it still is not so much a case of humans alone being bastards; more like almost all the sapient species encountered, in one way or another.
John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series has humans as one of only two (out of six) races physiologically capable of killing. Naturally, we're better at it than the other one.
In Fred Saberhagen's Berserker novels, the technically pacifistic Carmpan race (they are literally pained by even indirect performance of a violent act against any species, but have no trouble giving humans militarily useful intel) found in humanity the potential "badassness" to be effective Berserker-killers, and so trained and equipped us to be just that.
They were certainly deeply indebted to humanity for suffering the scourge of war through its history until the point where nothing less would serve. But where did the Carmpans train and equip Humanity? What follows suggests that the humans had all the goods:
When they came, you were dug in and ready on a hundred worlds. Because you were, some of you and some of us are now alive.
At least until you start to get a wider view of the 'verse in The Last Colony. Turns out that, despite humanity's quick expansion immediately after venturing out into the universe, in the last century or two humans have settled into the same Status Quo Is God back-and-forth as the rest of the local races. The necessity of allowing the viewpoint characters to survive gives a very distorted view, one encouraged by the government.
Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe series depict the humanity as THE superior power in the galaxy, with only a few of other races capable of spaceflight. The humans are so advanced that they are helping other civilizations into space age using covert agents known as Progressors.
Subverted in that many alien species are humans in anything but name, and are only written as aliens as an excuse to write dystopian settings (dystopian Earth humans would not be accepted by Soviet censorship).
Turtledove's Worldwar and Colonisation series both play this straight and divert it. When the aliens come they overrun most of the world using superior (presumed modern) technology, but are unable to full conquer Europe, America and some of Asia due to a combination of lack of numbers and human tenacity, and the fact that the aliens were expecting Crusades level technology. Humanity is also far more variable than the aliens (their homeworld has been civilised for ~50,000 years), and so manage to make up most of the difference in about 50-60 years, and by 100 years after the initial invasion are way ahead, including some sort of faster-than-light drive (as seen in Homeward Bound).
It's not just the Race either. Apparently, the Race has already conquered two other races, who were exactly like them (Lizard Folk with a set mating season and a slow, measurable approach to innovation).
Another one by Turtledove, short story "The road not taken". Due to some weird twists of fate, humanity suddenly finds out the universe is full of spacefaring alien races. It also finds out everyone else has a technological level several hundred years behind its own, with very rudimentary knowledge of space travel and warfare. The result is a (implied) curb-stomping of intergalactic proportions.
The sequel inverts this. After humanity starts conquering the galaxy, its own progress pretty much stops. Then they encounter a race who also doesn't have the FTL technology but are way more advanced than humans in other areas. Guess what's implied here.
Dirdir Elite: "Sub-men are not subject to arbitration."
Adam Reith:""I am no sub-man. I am a man and quarry to no one. If a wild beast attacks me I will kill it."
Eric Flint's novel Mother of Demons both plays this trope straight and subverts it, at the same time. On the planet Ishtar, humans encounter a species of mollusk-like sophonts called gukuy. Humans are far speedier than gukuy (in fact, the gukuy are not even able to properly see the running motion of humans until they become used to it because it's so much different than they expect), and are capable of using spears, which gukuy cannot use and which can exploit a weak point on the gukuy (namely, it can hit an area unprotected by the hard mantle which results in impaling a gukuy's brain). In fact, gukuy widely consider humans to be demons because of those two factors. Yet, gukuy bodily fluids are so poisonous to humans that they will die within minutes from a bite wound, and humans are only capable of digesting regurgitated "childfood" (partially digested vegetation) produced by the maia (a larger, less-evolved sophont than the gukuy).
In Discworld, while the Elves are prettier, more graceful, and have stronger magic than humans, they lack wisdom, intuition, and the ability to create new things— areas in which humans will always be superior, giving them the upper hand over Elves every time.
Properly speaking, Elves aren't prettier and more graceful than humans, they just make you think they are using their stronger magic. When Magrat Garlick got literally right in the face of the Queen she may have momentarily seen her true face due to iron-induced Glamor Failure, which matches the description of The Greys.
In Babylon 5, the human power (Earth Alliance) likes to give off the impression of punching well above the weight of such a young power with their militaristic bluster and gigantic ships), but considering their humiliatingly poor performance against the Minbari, Babylon 5 being taking nearly as much damage from a Centauri cruiser's warning shots in "Acts of Sacrifice" as it took from a massive Earthforce assault in "Severed Dreams", Sheridan describing Centauri fighters and pilots as decisively superior to Earthforce's own in the same episode, and the Bad Future in Babylon Five The Lost Tales where Galen shows Sheridan a possible timeline where the Centauri easily stomp the Earth Alliance and bomb Earth's cities to dust, they're nowhere near the top of the Younger Races, let alone the Middle Children such as the Minbari and Streib or the First Ones. J. Michael Straczynski himself describes the Earth Alliance as being in the "lower third" of the Babylon 5 food chain, and they helped win the Dilgar War by tipping the balance in an alliance with several other races, not because they were as powerful as the Dilgar. Also note that the Narns are near or at parity with the EA despite being around a century newer to the galactic scene. The Earth Alliance is a subversion—a race that on first impression seems exceptionally powerful, but is militarily a paper tiger that uses bold impressions, clever diplomacy, and extensive trade networks to build clout rather than force of arms.
Let Me Get This Straight: Humanity is a lower tier power that regularly has a seat at the table with the most powerful races in known space. In fact, they usually provide the table, too. While the Earth Alliance may not be superior in a strictly military sense, it's a little harder to make the broader point about humanity.
Delenn pretty much says that providing the table is humanity's hat. As a result, they tend to have friends, which can be very helpful as long as you don't do something truly stupid (like, say, starting a war with the second most powerful civilization in the known universe).
France provided the table for the Paris Peace Treaties despite having just gotten stomped all over by Nazis. Switzerland has a long history of diplomacy despite never being considered a world-class superpower.
Despite this, by Crusade, humans have warships that can match Minbari Sharlin-class war cruisers one-on-one. However, it's mentioned they only have about 50 of those (Warlock-class destroyers), while Minbari probably have hundreds, if not thousands. So, technologically, they can probably match the other powers, but they don't have enough to fully protect themselves.
The Excalibur has the same amount of firepower as a Vorlon Heavy Cruiser but has to wait for a minute before firing again. Humans might not yet be able to protect themselves from the Minbari but the Minbari have zero interest in fighting humans again. The Excalibur was a human-Minbari collaberation.
The Intergalactic War cost the Federation 80% of the navy. In "Aftermath" two officers state the the Federation's 'historic' victory was bought at a terrible price. Later in the series, the Federation suffers multiple revolts and is forced to use a mind control drug since they lack military power.
Farscape has the Sebacean Peacekeepers as a ruthless space 'human' empire with hardcore soldiers. But the quote is from John Crichton, the only true, Terran human in this part of the universe. The instance quoted though was a subversion - the alien was attacking them through their eyes, and Crichton was the only one with dull enough eyesight to fight it.
Sebaceans are eventually revealed to be an engineered offshoot of early humanity (with generally enhanced lifespans, physiology, and healing) that were used as a peace-keeping force in an ancient interstellar U.N.. The do have one major flaw; they don't sweat efficiently and at high temperatures they shut down. Essentially anything near body heat temperatures causes them to fall into a coma- giving Crichton a serious advantage when Moya is invaded by a team of Peacekeeper commandos.
Which just goes to show that there's Always a Bigger Fish, but then keep in mind that aforesaid Bigger Fish also has problems of their own. While Scarrans are biologically hardy by nature, all of their cunning and ingenuity is largely due to a plant that they must regularly consume in order to keep up their intelligence. Said plant dictates how they expand, since they cannot go too far away from planets that can grow the stuff.
Let's review: in 1996 the Tau'ri used the stargate to go to Abydos; on this trip, they confronted the Supreme System Lord Ra and killed him. Three years later Apophis paid a visit to us using the Stargate and pissed off a few people. We just declared war to an interstellar empire while only having limited resources due to keeping the Stargate a secret. Twelve years later the Goa'uld are gone, the Ori are gone, the replicators are gone, the Wraith are in the middle of a civil war and the Tau'ri are a major intergalactic superpower while no one on Earth has any clue about what's going on out there. In a span of ten years, we progressed from petty civil wars on our planet to bearing the legacy of two of the greatest races which have ever lived with ourselves becoming the Fifth Race(actually, the sixth if we count the Ori). All in secrecy and with limited resources. If we would have the whole planet's support, we could crush the Wraith and thus surpass the Ancients themselves.
Of course, considering that all of the alternate universes seen in the show are in some degree worse off than the main universe, it is implied that we're seeing the best possible outcome, where everything goes right for Earth.
You know, all of this could be due to Tau'ri being far more careful using the Stargates and using them effectively. Other races just use them for travelling and the best they care do to at guarding them is just to place a few guards around them or leaving them without any attention at all. Tau'ri put their Stargates deep inside military bases, guarding it with enough firepower to annihiliate a small army and in addition installing a some sort of shield to the gate that can be closed to prevent any kind of enemy forces coming through. And unlike most other races of galaxy, they also use scientists to study gates, aliens and alien technology in an attempt to reverse engineer something new out of them.
The reverse engineering of alien technology is a little strange, given that they couldn't reverse engineer technology designed by humans from another world. The Tollan have a few hundred years on humans due to not having the equivalent of the Dark Ages (which really wasn't as bad as people think it was) to slow down scientific progress and being generally peaceful in nature. It's mentioned that their technology doesn't have any moving parts, circuits, or wires, which makes reverge engineering nearly impossible. Then they turn around and start reverse engineering Goa'uld, Asgard, and Ancient technology, which is mostly crystal-based (i.e. no moving parts, circuits, or wires). Hmm. Granted, the Tollan had some neat toys none of the other races appear to possess (only one Ancient managed to come up with a wall-phasing device and didn't tell anyone about it). Granted, they've had help with some of it, like the naquadah reactor, but not the rest.
"Reverse-engineering" might actually be a misnomer in this case, as we repeatedly see that in the engine core of Earth starships are crystals and in battle it's often mentioned that they are "switching" to another set of weapons. This implies that Earth ships are really made from a mash-up of technology from various races, with certain systems remaining unchanged from their baseline models and the SGC simply rigged up some kind of universal interface to link them together.
Of course, this only happened because they started being nice.
After having pissed off a large number of races inclined to hold a grudge. The sudden total transformation of the Terran Empire is something that no-one in their right mind would have trusted in - not after a couple of centuries of utter brutality.
The "In the Mirror, Darkly" episode of Star Trek: Enterprise shows that the Empire was almost lost when several subjugated races rebelled if not for Mirror!Archer obtaining the Prime!Defiant and using its advanced tech to kick their collective asses.
In the Doctor Who episode "Utopia", it's revealed that baseline humanity (as in, non-Transhuman, look-in-the-mirror humans) is one of three species that makes it through to the dying days of the Universe, 100 trillion years into the future (well, the Doctor actually explains they went transhuman and back a few dozen times, including periods as pure data, but they always eventually revert to the default "hairless monkey" model). Let that sink in for a while, and also consider that of the other two species, one is theSycorax.
Not only that, but humanity is also a very successful species throughout its history, building at least four "Great And Bountiful Human Empires" (the third of which spanned three galaxies). Even in the 21st century, UNIT forces take it to the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet, cleaning their clocks in ground warfare, and by the 41st century they are going toe-to-toe with the resurrected Dalek Empire.
And wiping the floor with the Cybermen in the Cyberwars.
Generally, humans are the dominant race in Dungeons & Dragons. Guess that bonus feat really does help.
It's NOT as prevalent as it was in 1st Edition though. Races like dwarves and elves were flat out barred from all but a handful of classes, and even then could never level up as high as humans. Most humanoids(orcs, goblins, ogres, etc.) in the Monster Manual got it even worse, being little more than savage brutes that deserved to be exterminated to the last man whose only spellcasters were "shamans" and "witch doctors". Gary Gygax flat out stated that the game was meant to favor Human Player Characters in the DMG.
Bonus feat, bonus skill point per level, no attribute penalty (often more problematic than the bonus), no permanent crippling of level competence and spellcasting ability (in a game where spellcasting progression is essentially quadratic to a nonspellcaster's linear progression)... Dungeons & Dragons has been designed to exemplify this trope, barring system breaking exploits. Even in 4th Edition, they retain large advantages in anything they want to follow, and are the baseline no other race shall surpass.
Tell that to a human with a high enough Charisma + Intelligence! (Or a big enough Fighter.)
While the fluff treats elves as awesome, mechanically they are a horrible race for any kind of optimizing.
4th edition improved elves a great deal, but at the same time half-elves were Rescued from the Scrappy Heap and are now better than elves in many respects. We're just that good. (Oh, and humans are still better.)
In the Fading Suns RPG setting, humans have been expanding onto other planets and conquering alien races for thousands of years with little trouble- until they meet the Vau. Not so much expanding now: the Vau aren't as expansive or aggressive as the humans, but they could be called ultra-defensive.
Warhammer 40K brings us the Imperium of Man, a massive galactic empire whose domain encompasses millions of worlds and countless citizens. Its armies number in the trillions, with thousands upon thousands of war machines at their disposal (including Humongous Mecha the size of mountains) and include many of the deadliest warriors in the galaxy. While human technology is not the most advanced of the setting, the Imperium is nevertheless capable of achievements that often match (and in some cases exceed) those of other races. Given the grim morality of the setting, it's no surprise that the position of humanity as the dominant galactic power is reflected in their attitude towards alien civilizations.
"It is our destiny to rule the universe, just as it is the destiny of the Xeno to pave our way."
In spite of its clearly dominant position, the Imperium of Man is dying. For the past ten thousand years or so, it has experienced virtually no social or technological progress and has been in a perpetual state of conflict with everyone, including itself. To make matters worse, there are indications that the God Emperor of Mankind is dying as well; his death would result in the collapse of the Imperium's faster-than-light navigation network and could potentially cause a Negative Space Wedgie that would consume the entire galaxy. Be that as it may, humanity is certainly not going to give up without a fight.
Web and Starship is a 2–3 player board game where the players compete to form the largest empire. One species travels faster than light by using the Web, which allows near instantaneous travel between planets that are part of the Web, but to get to a new planet takes years. The second uses Starships, which get to new planets much quicker, but results in slower internal communication. In a three player game, the third species is humanity, who starts off with no means of traveling faster than light. But each of the first two races will be negotiating with the humans to get an advantage over the other race, and humans are capable of developing both Web and Starship, which makes it pretty easy for the humans to win if they do.
Humans are the biggest and the baddest in the Traveller universe.
It's shown in Halo's fluff that the Covenant tend not to be very inventive or innovative when it comes to their own superior technology, as the vast majority of it had been scavenged from the remains of the Forerunner civilization. Humans, on the other hand, had to pretty much build everything on their own, and was predicted that had the war gone on longer, the humans would have eventually managed to surpass the technology barrier.
The Covenant never improved on their technology because it was scavenged from Forerunner ruins. To improve upon it, or even suggest the idea is heresy. And the UNSC was already ahead in AI and computer technology, again because of the Covenant religion. In Halo: Reach it's revealed that the human AIs have actually been secretly guiding humanity for centuries, making sure they develop in the right way. None of this is malevolent; they see it as necessary, both to their survival and as service to their "Creators".
Lampshaded in the Halo Graphic Novel, which had two Elites talking about the humans. One talks about how brave and persistent the humans are (wondering why they hadn't asked the Humans to join the Covenant yet) while the other just claims they're puny (and that the "Demon" is really just a bunch of people made to look like only one).
Played with in Mass Effect: humanity's sudden rise to power has been unprecedented, as they're new to the galactic stage (having only discovered the technology everyone uses 30 years ago) yet have become more powerful economically, militarily, and population-wise than several pre-established powers like the batarians and hanar. They've also introduced several technological advances of their own to the galactic community, like space aircraft carriers and medigel. However, humanity is still MUCH weaker than the most powerful races in the galaxy: the turians, asari, and salarians.
There are also a number of human organizations who use this as their core belief. Of note are Terra Firma, a political organization that constantly lobbies the Systems Alliance government, and Cerberus, a secret black ops group with many government connections and wealthy financial backers whose goal is to ensure human superiority in the galaxy. These two are closely linked, with Terra Firma serving as Cerberus' political mouthpiece.
The Black Lance organization, in Wing Commander IV, was part of a far-ranging plot to upgrade the human race after the war with the Terran Confederation's war with the Kilrathi out of the belief by Tolwyn that humanity wasn't superior without genetic modification of humans and their society.
Pokémon Red and Blue: Alakazam has an IQ in the thousands. Macargo is hotter than the surface of the sun. Ponyta's hooves are harder than diamond. There are several more Pokémon with similar godlike abilities (or who are simply gods), yet humans are the ones in charge.
Humans invented pokeballs, giving them a bit of an advantage. On the other hand, however, as anyone who's played the games can tell you, those things only work two, maybe four times out of ten once you get to that level of play.
Game: [insert Pokémon name here] was only pretending to be caught!
Runescape: Theoretically, humans are the weakest race of all, except maybe goblins. All of the major countries, however, are human dominated, except for Morytania (vampyre) and the Elven forest which is in the middle of a civil war. This vast human power is attributed to runestone magic: thanks to rune stones produced via the recently discovered Runecrafting skill, any Muggle can become a mage with the proper training.
Nex, a terrifying creature feared by the gods, and a dreaded servant of the ambiguously dark god Zaros, prefers humans in her army instead of the undead or demons. Despite her terrifying appearance, Nex is apparently a Good Boss. Torva, Pernix, and Virtus, her three best human soldiers in history, were noted to have died as mortals of old age, not in battle, and Nex honored their memory.
In the titular series of games, the organization goes from a clandestine U.N.-backed organization (UFO Defense) to a self-sufficient paramilitary entity dedicated to preserving Earth's interests in space (Interceptor and Apocalypse) thanks to a tenacious penchant for reverse-engineering alien technology. Organizations outside X-COM, however, exhibit some Humans Are the Real Monsters with their wanton discrimination against androids and alien-human hybrids.
The Firaxis remake reveals that the Ethereals want to turn humans into Super Soldiers to face an even greater enemy. All the enemies you fight are their previous, failed, attempts at marrying physical strength, cybernetics, intelligence, and the Gift. Unfortunately for them, their plan works too well, provided you complete the game and destroy The Mothership.
XCOM's Spiritual Successor series UFO After Blank has humanity recovering from being almost completely wiped out to successfully scaring the beejesus out of a superior alien species (in the first game), successfully destroying not one, but two alien invasion forces (in the second game), and successfully terraforming Mars, despite the attempted intervention of four separate alien species (in the third game). Humanity Is Superior almost taken to the extreme, if you exclude the fact that more of the principal characters are driven by desperation rather than heroics.
The extremely racist Lord Garithos of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne holds this belief. He's a Jerk Ass toward his dwarven and elven allies, and is pretty much the reason that the Blood Elves break away from the Alliance.
The rest of the universe definitely disagrees with him since the humans needed their alliance with the high elves and dwarves to beat back the Horde. It's very clear that currently, no singular race would ever be able to rule over the rest of Azeroth.
King David from Dominic Deegan takes this view, almost never corrupting humans in his plans, but freely affecting other species. He also serves as a deconstruction of this trope, showing just how far someone with this mindset would be willing to go and what they would do in order to achieve and maintain this.
Even the robots in the comic are generally inferior to humans. Economics has made it so mostnote aside from the ones built as heavy machinery are built from relatively flimsy materials, making them physically inferior to humans, and their neural nets are only rated for up to 80 years, while humans at the time are expected to live at least 160 years.
The Salvation War: Armageddon: in response to Satan declaring dominion over humanity and "God" (or rather, Yahweh) closing the pearly gates... humanity fights back, and eventually, the U.S. military kills Satan with a pair of anti-ship missiles. As a defecting general turned newly-installed-by-the-U.S.-government ruler of Hell puts it:
"Satan is dead. Humans killed him with their weapons. With their weapons, not with magic, for magic and superstition is powerless in the face of human science. We are powerless in the face of human engineering. They have won this war and nothing we say or do can change that. Hell is changed forever and nothing we can do will change that either. The humans have told me they wish me to be the new leader in Hell, answerable only to them. I have agreed. If you do not like the idea of me as your leader, don't tell me." Abigor gestured at the Marines and their vehicles. "TELL THEM!"
The story of Glarion: The Glorious Conquerer from Orion's Arm is a deliberate contrast to the rest of the setting where humanity is anything but superior. Terragen civilization on a whole is superior in many ways to all xenosophonts it has contacted though, but there have been still more advanced civilizations discovered elsewhere - just not contacted yet because of the distance.