"Just for my own edification, did you have to design the robots with such horrifying features? I'm not a design guy, or anything, but I can't see any either performance or aesthetic benefits in designing the robots with cold, skeleton heads, piercing red eyes and giant metal teeth."A visual trope in science fiction materials: humanoid robots that look skeletal in design. They all have relatively thin limbs that are reminiscent of bones, and they usually lack "filling" in places where humans have only soft organs, like the abdomen. Such robots can be very obvious, with sinister, grinning skull-faces, a la the T-800 from Terminator films. Others are more subtle, often with fairly realistic faces. Some, such as the T-800s, are designed to be covered with "something", so they literally are robot skeletons once you remove the coverings. Obvious SkeleBots are meant to scare characters. Often, these are the cold, inhuman soldiers of the Big Bad. On the other hand, subtle SkeleBots are often presented (at least at first) as perfectly innocuous consumer devices, but they're meant to subtly creep out the audience. This trope also makes quite a bit of sense from a pure engineering standpoint: the bipedal human skeleton is a rather efficient infrastructure. Placing processing power and sensors in a compact, heavily armored box at the top of the body minimizes lag and provides the best vantage point possible, the ribcage centralizes and protects important components, and a bipedal stance allows both great strength and dexterity in the upper limbs while also making us one of the few animals that can survive prolonged high-speed travel. note Eliminating excess weight by replacing muscle with systems of cables or servo motors and organs with compact power supplies would let you strip the body down to, well, the bare bones essentials. That said, while there might be no mechanical need for the extra padding or housing necessary to keep a robot built on the human frame from looking skeletal, "not looking creepy" is a general design goal for consumer products, especially those with recognizable faces. Subtle SkeleBots with "intact" faces often lean as much towards the "moving corpse" nadir of the Uncanny Valley as Dem Bones. Sometimes overlaps with Unnecessarily Creepy Robot for cases when it would probably be better if the robot didn't resemble a skeleton, but this doesn't seem to have occurred to the designer (or possibly that it did).
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Anime & Manga
- The Boomer androids from the original Bubblegum Crisis, as Terminator Expies, also have skull-like heads under their artificial skins (The rest of the body is much less skeletal).
- During the Red Ribbon Army arc of Dragon Ball, Goku and crew encounter what appears to be a skeleton with a Arm Cannon in an abandoned pirate's lair.
- As an iconic, long-running mecha franchise, Gundam sometimes brings in this design element:
- Despite its name, the Skull Gundam from Mobile Fighter G Gundam doesn't quite fit this trope. While its arms and legs are skeletal, its torso is a giant skull.
- The suits of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans frequently have parts of their inner frames exposed, especially the waists, giving them a bit of this aesthetic. It's a way to give them a low-tech, inhuman feel, befitting the especially gritty, down-to-earth atmosphere of the show.
- The Skullgunners from Blue Comet SPT Layzner are AI controlled Mecha-Mooks which communicate with each other through a Hive Mind for ruthless efficiency.
- The "anorexic Cybermen" from the Doctor Who Magazine comic story The Flood are another example of the subtle version, as seen here◊.
- The robot in "Spirou and the Robot Blueprints" (fr. orig. "Spirou et les plans du robot"), a Spirou et Fantasio comic from 1948, is at least vaguely skeletal.
- Most robots from the comic Magnus Robot Fighter: 4000 AD are somewhat subtly skeletal. They have flatly mechanical faces or faceless heads, thin limbs, and chests joined to hips by nothing more than a thick cable.
- DC Comics villain Metallo, at least in his Post-Crisis version, as a direct Shout-Out to the T-800.
- The mid-80's version of Brainiac in Superman.
- Some later versions of Warlock from New Mutants have played with this trope, by having him look very skeletal◊ when in low energy, and much more fuller and human-like when in full power.
- Terminator: The T-800 and T-X endoskeleton. While the endoskeleton is designed for a reasonable purpose - to be a framework on which to grow human flesh to better disguise the Terminators - the real reason is the horrific image (no pun intended, one of them really illustrates the trope page) of implacable metal skeletons coming after you. The fact they are also terrifying has another in-universe reason: they're built for warfare and the psychological effect on the enemy would be rather potent (the Cracked article, while amusing, relies on the premise that Cyberdyne created the Terminators before Judgement Day, which they did not). Not for nothing did James Cameron base them on an actual nightmare he had while filming Piranha Part Two: The Spawning.
- From the Star Wars prequels: The B-1 battle droids are skeletal, designed to be easily packed up and stored. According to Expanded Universe material, they are actually supposed to resemble the skeletons of Nemoidians (the people who designed them), which would be scary...if you're Nemoidian.
- The Phantom Menace concept art shows that the original plan was for the Nemoidians themselves to have elongated faces and skeletal limbs just like their battle droids. This was scrapped for the movie (perhaps because it would have required the Nemoidians to be fully animatronic or CGI, and they figured were already pushing it with Jar-Jar) and the EU explanation was retconned in. This concept carried over to the Geonosians in Attack of the Clones.
- Similarly, the Destroyer Droids look like skelebots of the (EU-only) Colicoids who designed them. Including the rolling ball form.
- The unfinished version of C-3PO, with his "parts showing," in The Phantom Menace.
- The Yuuzhan Vong Hunters from the Expanded Universe are meant to be an insulting sight rather than a scary one.
- General Grievous, though he is technically a Cyborg, invokes this trope with his appearance.
- The highly evolved robots at the end of A.I.
- The NS-5 and NS-4 robots in I, Robot.
Live Action TV
- The Ark of Truth: The replicators take over a human and the results is one of these after the flesh is burned off. This is a clear Shout-Out to Terminator, especially the similar music in that scene.
- Craig Ferguson's "robot skeleton" sidekick Geoff Peterson on The Late Late Show.
- The Cylon Centurions in Caprica, specifically referred to as "skeletons" more than once. Though in the finale ones with added armor plating are shown.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Necrons are the result of an ancient alien race, the Necrotyr, uploading their consciousness into skeletal robotic bodies. Thematically the Necrons are intended to be a science fiction version of the Undead.
- The Chaos Androids from the first two editions of the game (as well as the early Gaiden Game Space Crusade) were daemonically-possessed automatons that take the form of shining plasteel skeletons. These androids were removed from the game and background material, along with the Chaos Squats who created them, and their look used as one of the inspirations for the Necrons.
- In Rifts:
- The Coalition States actually call theirs Skelebots. Given that all their wargear (body armor, Powered Armor, Humongous Mecha, tanks and SpiderTanks, aircraft...) have a skull motif, this was pretty much the logical extension. It's also useful in their role as military terror weapons.
- The iconic full-conversion cyborgs seen on many covers and interior art (actually mass-produced German Triax models) also have distinct skull-like faceplates; unsurprising since many of the designs were lifted straight from Bubblegum Crisis's Boomers (including bulkier-than-usual-for-the-trope bodies).
- The Megaversal Legion from the South America 2 worldbook also have a full-conversion cyborg version of the trope; your mileage may vary on whether its blank faceplate makes it creepier-looking than other examples.
- In Magic: The Gathering, the Phyrexian faction has many bio-mechanical abominations with this aesthetic. Several of them used to be humans.
- BattleTech features the Atlas, a ten-story tall battlemech armed with 30+ tons of weapons and enough armor to shrug off almost any attack, and has a white skull shaped head for a cockpit. It was intentionally design to intimidate foes on first sight. There's a number of derivative designs such as the very rare Atlas II that adds Glowing Mechanical Eyes, the slightly lighter Akuma that has a sinister grinning head, and the ultra high-tech Atlas III.
- Dungeons & Dragons exploits this with the shadesteel golem: a floating construct of dead-black metal, crafted to look like a humanoid skeleton. It becomes faster and stronger if exposed to anti-undead Revive Kills Zombie effects, so its appearance is a dangerous misdirection.
- The Robot Master Skull Man from Mega Man 4.
- The Skeleton Joe from the same game.
- His counterpart from the Mega Man Battle Network series is even lankier, more skeletal, and downright creepier for a multitude of reasons, including his manic grin.
- After Dr. Lugae loses his first go-round with the heroes in Final Fantasy IV, he transforms himself into a skeleton robot for the second battle. The implication is that he just tears his skin off.
- The Human Reaper larva in Mass Effect 2, often called the Reapernator by fans. To make it even scarier, it's huge (just one eye is bigger around than an adult human) and it's incomplete; basically just a skull, a spine, a ribcage and two handless arms. Nonetheless, it's capable of moving, attacking, and obliterating potential threats with lasers.
- Snatcher features Terminator-like robots. In fact, they looked so much like the Terminator that the localized release had to change their glowing eyes to green to avoid copyright infringement.
- Time Splitters 2 has the Chassisbot, which has one of the smallest frames in the game, making it hard to hit. Fans speculate that is just the chassis of a sentrybot with some additional equipment, which might also explain its sub-par stats.
- The MMORPG Toontown Online has Skelecogs in-game which you will most often find in cog factories, during HQ raids, and in high level buildings (but sometimes, also during district invasions). Not only do they look creepier than their regular cogs counterpart (which already hangs around the border of Uncanny Valley), but they're almost always more powerful as well.
- Dr Nefarious from Ratchet & Clank.
- Mini-bosses Scurvo and Dreadfuse from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are Pirate SkeleBots.
- Phase 1 Dark Troopers in Dark Forces are essentially robot skeletons with a vibroblade in one arm and a blast shield in the other.
- The MechWarrior series (based on BattleTech) often features the Atlas, a 100 ton battlemech with a skull-shaped cockpit. Mech 4 in particular emphasizes the skeleton nature, by making the Atlas the tallest and giving it a bone-white head and fists. Multiplayer Battletech 3025 also gave it glowing red eyes
- Contra III The Alien Wars features a giant one named Big Fuzz (or "Robo-Corpse") as a bossfight. It breathes fire, fires homing eye beams and throws time bombs around the room. Eventually it will lose its grip on the doors it was holding open, cutting off its head. Big Fuzz reappears in Contra 4 with the same fire breath attack and this time, you must close the doors on its neck to kill it in similar fashion.
- Boss villain Yaridovich from Super Mario RPG is technically an anthropomorphic spear, but his spindly limbs give him a skeletal look.
- The hostile golems in Phoenotopia.
- The animatronic endoskeletons in Five Nights at Freddy's.
- Followed by an Actual Endoskeleton Character (Animatronic?) in Five Nights at Freddy's 2. He only appears in 2 rooms, doesn't attack the character, and is a complete mystery.
- The Broken Lords of Endless Legend, a society forced to bind their souls to Animated Armor to survive the Endless Winter, typically have simplistic mask-like heads/helmets, but Baron Joslyn Deyval and the Dust Bishops have a skull-shaped head (complete with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath) and an enormous gaping mouth glowing with their inner Dust light.
- In Fallout 4 the Generation 1 and Gen 2 synths used by The Institute are built with a skeletal frame. Gen 2s have synthetic rubbery skin, while Gen 1s are basically walking, talking, shooting metal skeletons. Since most synths have spend many years in the very unkind environment of the Commonwealth wasteland, the Gen 2s rubber skin is usually flaking off. Generation 3 synths are, for all intents and purposes, artificial humans - completely indistinguishable from your standard organically-grown person unless you cut them open.
- The Final Boss of the Arcade Game Bay Route is a Humongous Mecha resembling a skeletal head and limbless torso.
- The Skeletron Prime boss in Terraria is basically a giant floating robot skull with four skeletal limbs equipped with weapons.
- The Simon animatronic in POPGOES is a purple skeleton, presumably possessed by the Purple Guy of Five Nights at Freddy's.
- The Murderbots in Saints Row IV.
- An early boss in Galerians, Dr. Lem. He seems like a relatively mundane Mad Doctor type until an unexpected Robotic Reveal mid-boss fight where it turns out he has a Terminator-esque endoskeleton.
- Infiltration Unit Zeta in the DCAU.
- One episode of Justice League Unlimited had the league fighting off against a horde of skelebots who looked exactly like Zeta, only with different heads.
- The "ghost robot" Scared-Stiff in Filmation's Ghostbusters. However, he might be a subversion, as he's described in fan circles as "a wimpy C-3PO".
- Transmutate from Beast Wars.
- Krang in the 2012 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as opposed to his original version.
- Aku created a whole horde of things like this in the Samurai Jack episode "Samurai versus Samurai", but despite their ghastly appearance, they really weren't much better than the rest of his Mecha-Mooks. (After Jack destroyed them all, the pieces pulled themselves together into a giant junk-monster, but that was only slightly more formidable.)