"For the body, notice they don't have shoulder pads, which is something that everybody seem to love to put on soldiers in video games. I don't know why. I don't know if they think that soldiers will be tackling people."
Be it pads, armor, or epaulets, the Big Bad
and The Hero
have the biggest shoulder-wear.
This is most common in fantasy or science fiction: fantasy armor can easily have huge pieces of armor on the shoulders, and science fiction can easily create a future costume (or armor) with huge shoulders. They may also come with a ridiculously high collar
, or Spikes of Villainy
On occasion, the shoulder pads can actually serve a purpose, by having a cape attached to them.
The corollary is that if somebody in the cast has enormous shoulder pads, they're probably evil. Other cast members can have shoulder pads, of course, they're just smaller
. The exception, of course, is if they give everybody
humongous shoulder guards.
There are both artistic and function-related reasons that this trope existes: Artistically, the inverted triangle (ie one point pointing down) generally conveys a more sinister form, and shoulder pads help the torso form a triangular image. From a distance, you may also be fooled into thinking you're fighting some undead headless monster. And, as the picture of the Space Marine
shows... it looks quite intimidating. Also, large shoulder pads add additional mass to the upper torso and create a tapering body shape, which instinctively registers as a fit, muscular build. i.e. a do-not-mess-with-me-physique.
The functional reason is all about mobility. Because the human shoulder joint can pivot slightly over 180 degrees both horizontally and vertically, rigid shoulder armor cannot be fitted tightly to the shoulder. It must be either free-floating (fastened to the breast- and back-armor by straps or some other flexible material) or have enough room for the joint to pivot within it (a big, ball-like shape). They still don't need to be as big as most costume designers make them, however. Sometimes huge shoulders (especially on Powered Armor
) are handwaved
as actually being
storage, as well - most often for ammo
In video games, it's often used because the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder was very difficult to incorporate into a player model without causing clipping and an action-figure look. Modern games designers use the look because it is still very difficult to properly animate the shoulder joint- it involves four bones, several unusual muscle groups and an irritating degree of twistability. It can also be a pain to generate a texture to cover this smoothly - a shoulder pad allows artists to make one texture for the torso and a separate one for the arm without really caring how they join.
The overall psychology behind this is Truth in Television
. Broad shoulders are associated with power and strength, and are considered an attractive physical trait in men. During the 1980s
, shoulder pads worn beneath clothing was a popular fashion trend among women, as it was a time when they began becoming commonplace in formerly male-dominated roles and activities; the broad shoulders (along with shorter, yet not fully androgynous hair styles
) allowed them to blend in with the traditional image of professionalism and authority.
If they are round enough, they overlap
with Giant Poofy Sleeves
. See Shoulder Cannon
for when a Cool Gun
is mounted on them (for some literal "Doom"). If they're not so much shoulderpads as a pair of shoulder-mounted towers, then they're Vertical Mecha Fins
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Anime & Manga
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Simon Phoenix wears these in Demolition Man.
- Monster X in Godzilla Final Wars has two large skulls on his shoulders that later grow into two of Keizer Ghidorah's heads when going One-Winged Angel.
- Space Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, who's crystalline shoulder growths are so massive, they render him almost literally immobile.
- Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome. Not only her, but almost every bad guy in this movie. George Miller loves this trope.
- Worn by the hero in The Return of Captain Invincible, although he has previously been prosecuted for his dress sense.
- Even Star Wars isn't left out of this. While the various armors are not overdone, all the Star Destroyers feature two huge spheres on the bridges, serving this purpose. The most notable character in the movies to wear them is Darth Vader, of course. The purpose was likely a mix of intimidation factor and protection of the little organic flesh he still had.
- Subverted in A Brother's Price: Shoulder pads are the court fashion for men, because it makes them look more manly, and thus, more sensual and erotic. Doom doesn't factor into it at all.
- Played for laughs in The Dresden Files novel Changes, when the Leanansidhe is experimenting with costumes to strike fear into the hearts of Harry's enemies:
This is ridiculous. I look like the Games Workshop
version of a Jedi Knight.
- Gruesomely evoked in Jeff Long's The Descent, when a group of soldiers is spotted with very wide, jutting shoulders and chests. Subverted when the witnesses get closer, and discover that their shoulders only look wide because hadals have extracted all their viscera, leaving these propped-up corpses' emptied abdomens so narrow that their upper torsos look massive by comparison.
Live Action TV
- Space 1889 In 1889 many dress or parade uniforms from the Victorian era has epaulettes. For women the gigot sleeve or leg-of-mutton-sleeve was fashionable. The illustrations in the game reflect this.
- Games Workshop likes this trope, to the point that it's joked that you can measure a model's importance either by the quality of his hat or the size of his pauldrons. For example...
- Space Marine Power Armor is famous for its big honkin' shoulders◊, as seen above, though this is justified in the background - their armor was originally designed for close-quarters combat, and the shoulders plates are auto-responsive and shift when the wearer wants to look past them. Chaos Space Marines add Spikes of Villainy to theirs.
- It is worth noting that in the backstory the precursors to the Space Marines (the Thunder Warriors) actually did use tackling moves as part of their close combat abilities, and in some descriptions the Assualt Marines still do.
- In addition, those Pauldrons don't just cover the shoulder - they also cover the actuators that give a Power Armour clad Space Marine their incredible upper body strength.
- Tau combat armor sports one over-sized sode-style shoulder pad, the strategic positioning of which is part of their firing stance.
- Their commanders also typically sport massive shoulder pads◊ that rival even space marines, in addition to huge guns bolted to their arms
- Inquisitors' power armor usually has more subdued, but very intricate shoulder pieces clearly inspired by Roman lorica segmentata.
- In their most recent codex, the basic Necron Warrior had its armor value reduced, because those tiny scapula-shaped shoulderblades just wouldn't offer the same protection as Space Marines. The much more impressive Necron Immortals retain their high armor value, as do their Lords.◊
- Prince Vladimir Tzepesci of the Iron Kingdoms, a Khadoran warcaster based on Vlad Tepes, has very large shoulder pads on his armor; his more experienced Epic version takes this to ridiculous extremes. This has given him the Fan Nickname of "Captain No-Peripheral Vision".
- Every single infantry trooper from Mutant Chronicles is guilty. One of the hero units, Big Bob Watts even has a pair of BFGs strapped to his. Dark Legion commanders also have Shoulders of Doom, adorned with Spikes of Villainy for the quintessential Evil Look. Some models even have shoulder pads the size of European cars and no other armor to attach them to.
- Major Q9 in Hero Scape is a soulborg with pauldrons that are the size of his freaking body and tower over his head, almost like the forbidden love child between Shoulders of Doom and Vertical Mecha Fins. Deathwalker 9000 has some pretty wicked shoulders going on, too.
- Major Q9's shoulders actually restrict his vision in-game.
- Homebrewed especially for this trope in 3.X D&D we have the Pauldron Master.
- A fair few BattleTech 'Mechs feature outsized shoulders, with designs such as the Atlas featuring some of the traditionally largest shoulders thanks to the machine's 100-ton weight, while others, such as the Archer, are some of the doomiest due to the pair of enormous long-range missile launchers that make up its shoulders. Justified, in the Atlas' case, because it was deliberately designed to look as intimidating as possible. Some BattleArmor likewise features shoulders of doom, such as the prototype Elemental suit◊. Some suits (such as the standard Elemental, or the Longinus) get a similar inverted-triangle silhouette courtesy of a pair of shoulder-mounted missile launchers.
- Some of the aliens from LEGO Space's UFO and Insectoid lines wore giant shoulder pads.
- Millennia from Slizers in his "rider" form
- Many characters in BIONICLE, such as the Toa Nuva in their base-forms, Takanuva and the Toa Metru (at times exaggerated in the comics), Mantax (post-mutation), Karzahni (both pre- and post-mutation), the Maxilos robots, Malum, Strakk, all classes of Skrall, Mata Nui in his Glatorian body has crescent-like Vertical Mecha Fins, and Vastus wears snake-figurines on his shoulders. Keetongu has these in the movie, but not on his toy.
- In the Reboot, Gali, Onua, Kopaka, and Tahu all have them.
- Some Hero Factory designs have these, but the Hero Minifigures from the Invasion from Below line made it a uniform feature.
- The various armors worn by the protagonists and antagonists of Darksiders and Darksiders II
- Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. A notable mention goes to Cloud, who only has a (rather big) shoulder pad on his left shoulder. Crisis Core seems to show that shoulder pads are the only constant in the uniforms of 1st Class SOLDIERs. Sephiroth and Genesis both seem to have kept the pants underneath their Badass Longcoats.
- Final Fantasy VI: Two of the heroines, Terra and Celes, possess shoulder pads of admirable size. So does the knight Cyan, but shoulder pads are standard for his knight armor. As does Edgar, but he is a king and wears a cape as well.
- Halo - Some of the Spartans in Noble Team have some rather prominent shoulder pads.
- Some Forerunners had floating shoulder armor. There's subtle hints that such seemingly-pointless additions are signs of age or growing influence/rank; the Didact lacks them in his younger years before the human-Forerunner war, and gains two later on in the war. In Halo 4 he sports a floating collar/shoulder-pad combo that is perhaps the most prominent piece of his Combat Skin.
- Final Fantasy IV - Golbez has the biggest, pointiest shoulder armour in the series, hands down. Although Exdeath of Final Fantasy V comes a close second.
- M. Bison/Vega/"Dictator" from Street Fighter has massive shoulder pads. They hold a cape, which is apparently tear-away.
- Zio from Phantasy Star IV, whose pads could each double as a chest plate. Shoulders are really important: lots of enemies have huge shoulder armor (or just shoulders), as do some of the PCs. The trope is played straight, though: the more evil someone is, the bigger their shoulders. The final form of the final boss? Two-thirds of its mass is stuff on its shoulders.
- This even applied to a limited extent in the Rockstar Games release Bully, although in this case it's American football pads worn by one of the cliques.
- Fallout, with Power Armor - and Advanced Power Armor, which actually has a smaller helmet and bigger shoulders. Not to mention most of the other armor's shoulder spikes (metal, tesla). And Frank Horrigan.
- Fallout 3 has this most prominently with the Enclave Tesla and Hellfire armors.
- Interestingly, in New Vegas, the strength of a power armor is apparently inversely proportional to the doominess of its Shoulders of Doom - the t-45d, with its ridiculous duck fin shoulderpads, is the weakest; the T-51b Power armor is the middle of the road, with oversized Knight Armor shoulderpads; the Enclave Remnants (Advanced) Power Armor and Gannon Family Tesla Armor are the strongest, and the shoulders themselves are fairly small. Though in the case of the Advanced and Tesla armors, it has traded the Shoulders of Doom for a massive hunchback.
- The non-powered combat armors also have rather bulky shoulders, with the Reinforced Mark II, NCR Ranger, and Riot Gear armors making both genders look like linebackers. Ditto the Reinforced Leather Armor.
- Heck, the primary purpose of most power armor seems to be giant shoulders.
- Caesar's Legion also have giant shoulder pauldrons, as their armor is made from football pads. The result, however, is more Narm than intimidating.
- StarCraft and its many flavors of CMC armor. The armor's strength and shoulder size are positively correlated.
- And in the sequel, contrary to the page quote Tychus does actually make two attempts at tackling people. One successful, one not as much.
- The more recent Command & Conquer games seem to be using this trope, too, much to the chagrin of old-time fans.
- The most obvious ones are the Zone Troopers in Tiberium Wars which ARE very kickass units and the Tesla Trooper in Red Alert 3 which are not so much.
- Just about every Juggernaut in Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 sports these.
- The Alt Eisen from Super Robot Wars Compact 2 brings new meaning to the "Doom" part, as they're actually Humongous Mecha-sized titanium ball bearing launchers, the same kind of ball bearings used in Claymore mines. Still, it averts the "evil" part, as it's the male protagonist's mecha.
- The costume editor in the MMORPG City of Villains has all the big shoulderpads you would ever want, many complete with Spikes of Villainy.
- The gods of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters all have highly ornamental shoulder pads that hover above their true shoulders. Out of the ones you meet, the only one who isn't directly evil is the one who's taken human form and therefore doesn't show them.
- The Fire Emblem series. Not villains per se, but the General class has shoulder armor larger than the helmet. And several baddies are Generals, as it is arguably one of the strongest classes in the game.
- In World of Warcraft, epaulets appropriate to a character's level get progressively bigger. Presumably, this is supposed to make more experienced characters look intimidating. However, the usual result is slim characters who look off-balance and bulkier characters who just look excessive◊.
- When a bug was introduced that reduced the size of the epaulets on the ( otherwise excessive ) Male Orc model to something more benign, there was a gigantic uproar of displeasure. When the bug was fixed, it was fixed to make them larger than the pre-bug state. The addition of more Spikes of Villainy and bigger shoulder pads is on the way to becoming an Enforced Trope in World Of Warcraft development. As seen from the picture, a number of people have requested installation of an option to hide the shoulderpads as they can their cloaks and helmets, but the Blizzard line is that it's important for PvP to enable players to identify class from a distance.
- The upcoming Shaman class cosmetic gear beats them all◊ in the shoulder department.
- Lord Nasher in Neverwinter Nights 2 has disproportionately big shoulderpads as part of his armor, which he wears throughout the entire game, even when sitting on his throne.
- Then again, considering how much crap Neverwinter is generally involved in: If you were the ruler of that city, would you leave your bedroom without your pauldrons? He was attacked in his own throne room last game. Now he's just Crazy-Prepared. And it comes in handy when he is again attacked in his own throne room.
- The fully armored X in Mega Man X.
- FlashMan.EXE from Mega Man Battle Network 3. He had an attack that was removing the orbs on his shoulders, raising them up, and releasing a blinding, paralyzing light from it. There's a reason Reynard named him Shoulder Man...Metal Man from the same also stored his giant Metal Wheel Boomerangs on his (already huge) shoulders.
- Special mention goes to Punk. In both his Battle Network appearances and his place in the older Mega Man (Classic) games his shoulder pads were shells that could enclose his entire body. A similar design is used by Shield Sheldon from Mega Man X6. In both cases the shoulders are used for protection and performing special attacks so they're not exactly superfluous.
- Mega Man Geo-Omega from Mega Man Star Force.
- In Mega Man 6 Rush can turn into a huge pair of shoulder pads that turn Mega Man into Power Mega Man.
- Some mid-game enemy Elite Mooks in Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain had truly epicly sized shoulderpads. Those actually served a purpose, making the wearers immune to instakill decapitation attacks. Incidentally, they were the only enemies to carry weapons capable of decapitation...
- Some of the armor sets in Fable fit the trope. Especially if the player character is evil.
- Luca Blight from Suikoden II has these.
- Soul Calibur's Nightmare has a mutated arm with bio-spikes, and sometimes even a mouth with big nasty teeth. It gets better: in Soul Calibur 4, Zasalamel's 2nd costume's shoulders aren't as big as Nightmare's, but they are freaking skulls. And then there's Siegfried, who has giant spikes made of ice, and even then, there's a character creator with several styles of giant shoulders.
- Dark Demon from Dynamite Headdy has what appear to be green statues sprouting from the shoulders of his costume.
- Most of the non-grunt enemy soldiers, as well as the player character, in the Crusader games have shoulder pads.
- Mortal Kombat villains Shao Kahn and Quan Chi have major Spikes of Villainy on their Shoulders of Doom.
- Completely inverted in Half-Life 2 - The Combine soldiers' armour is designed to look as purely functional and non-aesthetic as possible, to highlight the complete irrelevance of public opinion, because humans aren't worth intimidating.
- Metroid - Samus Aran's Power Suit. The giant shoulders appear starting with the Varia Suit which has increased shielding as well as the ability to function perfectly in more extreme temperatures causing many players to suggest that some of the components for these features are housed in the shoulders. So don't worry, the shoulders are actually just the heating and AC units for her suit.
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the shoulders are the housing for the Hazard Shield upgrade, visibly changing after that upgrade is acquired.
- Daos, of the Lufia games. The other male Sinistrals too, but Daos especially.
- Jak 3 - The Wastelanders' shoulder pads: so big they probably need Super Strength just to wear them. Several come with Spikes of Doom.
- The Big Bads of The Elder Scrolls series rarely have large shoulders, but the PC can wear the dremora's diabolical looking pauldrons. The Orcs wear the biggest shoulders of all, inverting Spikes of Villainy as their shoulders grew spikier while they developed from Always Chaotic Evil to Proud Warrior Race Guys.
- F-Zero - Deathborn posesses a large pair of pauldrons, to fit the Omnicidal Maniac title.
- BlazBlue - This is basically all that Mu-12 is wearing in battle...
- Guilty Gear - Justice has them. They transform into laser cannons during her Gamma Ray super.
- Subverted with Darkrai from Pokémon, who appears to be sinister-looking but only does its job if it is threatened. Played straight in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series games, however.
- The Arishok in Dragon Age II.
- And in Dragon Age: Origins, just about anyone wearing massive armor. One shoulder tends to be bigger than the other, but either way, those are some seriously massive shoulders.
- Heavy armor in Tribes: Ascend. Previous games had this to a lesser degree, but Ascend takes it to a whole new level◊. The shoulders are even bigger in-game.
- Gears of War
- COG armor has prominent shoulder pads, the biggest example being Tai Kaliso's armor in Gears 2, which has an inexplicably huge shoulder guard on the right side. Largely averted in Gears 3 because very few characters have any armor on their arms at all.
- Notably averted with Cole, who is actually the only character that would have serious tackling skills, being a former thrashball player. His arms are so beefy that apparently they don't need any armor.
- Many Locust soldiers, particularly the Theron/Palace Guards, feature some very large shoulder armor.
- Several champions in League of Legends have quite epic pauldrons, most notably Garen, Darius, Riven, Sion, Mordekaiser, Kayle, Xin Zhao, Jarvan IV and (rather oddly) Swain, who unlike the other listed champions is a mage rather than a fighter (although not a Squishy Wizard).
- The necromancer from Diablo II has a rather iconic pauldron in the shape of a horned demon skull on one shoulder. In D3 there are three necromancers who wear an updated version of the same costume, including the pauldron.
- The archangels Imperius and Tyrael both have this. Tyrael loses one when he becomes mortal. When he reforms the Horadrim, they all have a single, large shoulder pad each, most likely out of respect for Tyrael.
- Batman from the Batman: Arkham Asylum series has shoulders the size of his own (and everyone else's) head.
- Now possible in War Frame due to the introduction of armour customisation, with shoulder plates.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, one of the indicators of rank among the Sith appears to be the size, ornamentation, and unwieldiness of your shoulder pads.
- In PlanetSide 2, the Terran Republic and New Conglomerate get in on the doominess. TR Heavy Assault troopers have large circular shoulder guards, and both the TR MAX suit and NC MAX have doomy shoulders; the TR have huge circular guards, and the NC have armor plating which crosses into Vertical Mecha Fins
- MechWarrior carries over much of BattleTech's doomy shoulders; the Atlas assault mech has its white skull-shaped cockpit complimented by enormous shoulder plates.
- Gilgamesh Wulfenbach of Girl Genius gets some pretty bitchin' spiky shoulder pads here.
- Yeagar from Nodwick, though one of the 'good guys', shows us that occasionally shoulders of doom can have their uses.
- The Noob gives us this.
- Byron the Berserker from Guilded Age claims this guy's pauldrons, even though he normally has his axe handles sticking up over his shoulders.
- The Order of the Stick has the sixth member of Tarquin's old adventuring party. He's had next to no screen time (three flashback appearances with one line of dialogue) and the only thing known about him is that he wears plate armor with massive shoulderguards. Not knowing his name, fans call him "Shoulderpad(s) Guy."
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command's Evil Emperor Zurg has huge, pointy shoulder pads - and a cape for bonus points!
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender the Fire Nation uniforms feature shoulder pads, getting larger with rank. Fire Lord Ozai's are absolutely enormous. And when he declares himself Phoenix King he gets even bigger ones, though he takes it off in the fight. They used to be bigger.
- The stolen Fire Nation uniforms that the northern Water Tribe was planning on using had pretty large shoulder spikes, but are are quickly dismissed by Sokka as archaic and no longer used.
- Vilgax, a Big Bad from Ben 10, has these.
- Lockdown of Transformers Animated has these built into his body. With spikes. Somewhat appropriate, since he's a big, bad bounty hunter who lives for "upgrades". Bonus points might be awarded for his car mode, which has a huge spoiler to go with the look. Megatron and Blitzwing have, basically, towers for shoulders. So do Blurr and Bulkhead (the latter of which can turn his into a chair). Starscream's shoulders are pretty wide as well.
Animated Megs had some pretty doomy shoulders in his Cybertronian body, but his Earth-mode ones are arguably closer to Vertical Mecha Fins. Are Blitzwing's shoulders vertical enough to qualify for that?
- Armada featured several characters with giant shoulders - most notably Hot Shot, whose toy's demented grin and enormous shoulders provoked the "JaAm" and "WhY mY ShOuLdErS hUrT?" memes. Demolishor has missiles sticking out of his shoulders, and Megatron's extend into tank treads. Combined with his giant horns he looks ridiculous.
- Beast Wars Transmetal Megatron has massive shoulder-pads that double as a jetpack. Other Beast Wars characters that have them include Transmetal Rattrap, Rampage and Dinobot II. Transmetal Tarantulas has a variation, with huge round shoulders that double as missile launchers.
- Primus also sports massive shoulders in one of his designs◊. It's somewhat justified by the fact that his alternate mode is the planet Cybertron and his shoulders are just massive chunks of the planet.
- Almost every incarnation of Ultra Magnus has huge shoulder pads.
- At one point in Danny Phantom Skulker donned upgraded armor which comes equipped with the giant shoulder guards.
- Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic Sat AM cartoon has massive shoulder pads and a cape for obvious Evil Overlord effect.
- Baron Dark from Skeleton Warriors
- In Rocko's Modern Life Mr. Bighead is running for dog catcher against Rocko. The Chameleon brothers give him a cardboard-cutout a suit with huge shoulders to "wear" because it'll make him look more authoritative. It works, he wins, but the job isn't all it's cracked up to be.