Since Space Is an Ocean, Space Marines are the troops carried by spaceships, their roles paralleling those of conventional marines: mobile deployment, boarding hostile ships, securing ports — including Space Stations — from Space Pirates.
These guys are the number one troops of choice for the humans in the Standard Sci Fi Setting.
Space Marines first turn up in the short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" by Bob Olsen in Amazing Stories Volume 7, Number 8, of November 1932, and a later followup, 1936's "The Space Marines and the Slavers." The trope, however, fully rose to prominence with the use of the term on the wildly popular Lensman Series beginning in 1934. In 1959, Starship Trooperscodified the trope, popularizing the emblematic Power Armor and the array of exotic weaponry they wield.
Warhammer 40,000 from Games Workshop is notable for taking these aspects to a peak and becoming one of the more recognizable instances of the trope, if certainly not the first. Despite this, as of early 2013, the company claims ownership of a registered trademark (in the UK at least) on the name "Space Marine" (on occasions claiming "Marine" itself), though not the trope itself. This trademark has been used to make actual legal threats on occasion, most notably against the author of Spots The Space Marine.
These elite soldiers have the cachet of conventional Marines. Add bulky Powered Armor and (sometimes) either Bio-Augmentation or cyber-augmentation (or both!) to get classic Super Soldiers.
In many settings they fight as a squad, sometimes with Awesome Personnel Carrier support, or launched by Drop Pod. A notable exception to this are the many First Person Shooters that use the Space Marine background as a useful excuse to get a highly trained soldier alone on a hostile planet. This tradition starts with the much-imitated Doom series — see A Space Marine Is You and One-Man Army.
This page shouldn't be to be confused with the video game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, though that game pretty much is about them.
It should be noted that the name "space marine" is actually a misnomer — there's no water in deep space. Works aiming for more realism or a more Ray Gun Gothic feel may prefer to call them "espatiers." But for those wanting more to invoke the Romantic Space Is an Ocean trope the name space marine works just fine. Sometimes, "space marine" is culturally translated into "space [insert Bad Ass military unit here]" - for instance in Russia space marines are often called "space landing forces" (kosmodesantniki) after the VDVnote Vozdushno-desantnye voyska, "air-landing forces". an airborne unit of the Russian military that has roughly the same reputation as the USMC and Royal Marines in American and British cultures.
Note: This trope is about the elite spaceborne soldiers themselves. Overly-generic Science Fiction military protagonists belong elsewhere, such as A Space Marine Is You for video games.
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn introduces ECOAS (acronym for "Earth Colony Asteroid", an idea similar to the real-life SEALs), a special operations unit of the EFSF. Tasked to hunt down Neo Zeon remnants, their speciality is covert infiltration with their tank/mecha/APC hybrids.
Films — Animated
In Titan A.E. Korso is a former Earth Space Marine.
The Colonial Marines of Aliens greatly helped popularise the trope. This classic version of the Space Marine is quite conservative — for example, no Power Armour and generally conventional weapons. Interestingly, the cast was required to read Starship Troopers before filming, a book which is also required reading for the Real Life USMC. In addition, figures from Aliens have to acknowledge Games Workshop's registered trademark of the name Space Marine, despite that Rogue Trader came out the year after Aliens.
Some of the marines in Avatar were actual marines, albeit now they're Private Military Contractors rather than military. James Cameron said he essentially invented the modern 'space marine' so if anyone should be allowed to use it it should be him.
Kainan, the protagonist of Outlander, was a space marine in the Back Story. In the movie itself, he quickly loses his space-armor and gun, and essentially gets adopted as a Viking.
A platoon of Marines equipped with laser weapons are dispatched into space to destroy Drax's satellite base at the climax of Moonraker.
Heinlein's earlier Space Cadet actually features Space Marines under that name. The protagonist, a member of the Space Patrol, considers transferring but is convinced to do otherwise by his mentor. As he explains, the branches of the Space Patrol tend to attract different men: the Marines attract those who seek glory and excitement, the Patrol attracting men of intellectualism and idealism, reflected in the Patrol's motto — Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?note Who will guard the guardians? The protagonist elects to remain in the Patrol.
As mentioned by the introduction, the Lensman series probably ranks among the earliest examples. Galactic Patrol of 1937 featured the first appearance of the Space Marines [sic], whose powered armor might well have inspired Heinlein's later, more iconic version.
The warrior class in John Steakley's Armor, including the protagonist, obviously heavily inspired by Heinlein.
The CoDominium series feature the CD Space Navy and Marines and later, the Imperial Marines. The CD Line Marines are formed from the The French Foreign Legion, and thus keep a lot of their traditions alive. The CD Marines armament includes semi-automatic rifles, large-bore weapons loaded with armor-piercing and (sometimes) heavy tanks, with the CD providing orbital fire support up to and including nuclear weapons. The particular Line Marine unit most often featured in the novels is commanded by an officer politically on the outs with the most powerful man in the Grand Senate, and as such they repeatedly get denied proper resources. This can give a misleading impression of the CD Marines in general.
In C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union novels, Fleet warships have a complement of marines. As relatively hard sci-fi their armour is minutely described and plausible as technology. The marines are key to securing assets: getting into space is exorbitantly expensive enough, so an armed starship entering a system can own it by closing with other ships and stations to secure them with the marines. The marines are able and willing to blast and cut their way to control centers, even if it means exposing parts of the station to vacuum. Life for a marine is very boring 99% of the time, being excluded belowdecks from the ship's crew. When deployed, there is the terrifying prospect their ship might suddenly need to move, with no friendly ship in-system in a decade.
Though they aren't actual 'space' marines, the Seanchan Fists of Heaven in the Wheelof Time do fly around on what basically amount to living planes in a late medieval setting and execute hit and run raids from the air. Though the Bloodknives introduced in Gathering Storm probably fit this better; they are elite Fists equipped with items that repel magic and eliminate fear in the wearer who stay behind instead of being evacuated with the remainder of the Fists to kill as many enemy wizards as they possibly can before going down.
The UNEF Infantry in Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. Their power armor comes with built-in laser cannons and medical systems that can automatically amputate severely damaged limbs and cauterize the wound. Their power armor makes them unstoppable killing machines, but inside the armour the marines are just frightened conscripts who really don't want to be there.
The Royal Manticoran Marine Corps, the People's Marine Corps and their counterparts in various other star nations besides the Star Kingdom of Manticore and People's Republic of Haven in the Honor Harrington series. Grayson is an exception here: they lack a dedicated branch for Marines and use troops borrowed from the Army for the tasks (boarding actions against pirates and planetary assaults) other nations use Marines for. The Manticoran Space Marines use a mix of regular infantry and powered armor with customizable loadouts (for example, high speed long lasting scout configuration or bulkier, slower assault configuration). Troops in powered armor are considered the 'modern' equivalent of tanks.
We never actually see the Space Marines in Robert Zubrin's The Holy Land, but they must kick a lot of butt. A detachment was sent to Earth to rescue one alien woman from one group of theology students holed up in the basement of a cathedral, "turning much of northern Manhattan into a light-textured finely ground dust in the process."
Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs books feature the Vacuum Commandoes. Among other things, they engage in boarding actions on spacegoing craft. They are therefore literal Space Marines.
As Sergej Luk'yanenko's books Линия Грёз and Императоры Иллюзий are set in the first Master of Orion universe, there naturally are Space Marines.
The entire Space Opera Genre, being essentially War and Peace in Sci-Fi settings, features space-related tropes and space marines where the average history novel featured sailors and the original navy.
They get relatively brief mention in the games, but in the Wing Commander novels, the Terran Confederation Marine Corps serves this role. In the novel Fleet Action they probably have their Crowning Moment Of Awesome, when they board a fleet of super-powerful carriers against which the normal weapons (torpedoes delivered by fighters) were useless due to their extreme armor and shielding, for the purpose of detonating antimatter mines inside the carriers. Naturally, this is not survivable for the Space Marines in question, but when the alternative is The End of the World as We Know It...
The MacGuffin in Reed de Buch's Skymarine Jones, mainly a spoof on the whole genre of Space Marines and Ringworlds, complete with Voodoo possessed unstoppable sentient weapons - Marx Brothers meets Halo. Skymarines
The Allied Space Marines in John Ringo and Travis Taylor's "Vorpal Blade" Series. Their modular Wyvern armor doubles as space suits. It also incorporates a chameleon coating, and a full sensor suite, including particle sensors, which they are required to be able to understand.
The Confederation of Valor series follows Staff Sergeant (later Gunnery Sergeant) Torin Kerr, a senior NCO in the Confederate Marine Corps. These marines' primary role is ground combat, not boarding actions. Also the series puts an interesting twist on it: Confederate Marine armor, while powered, is not very bulky at all since it needs to still be usable in case the Others hit them with EMP. Most of their tech is similarly intended to work just as well in its primary function with or without electricity.
Marines are present in the Star Risk, Ltd. series (two of the protagonists, M'chel Riss and Chas Goodnight, are a former and ex-Marine respectively), but usually ignored since the series focuses on a group of mercenaries unaffiliated with The Alliance.
Spots The Space Marine achieved a bit of internet fame in February 2013 after it was pulled from Amazon when Games Workshop claimed Trademark violation. The space marines in question are near-future marines equipped with Powered Armor provided by alien allies that has built-in Deflector Shields, and deployed on a distant planet to fight in a Bug War.
In the Hostile Takeover (Swann) series, all of the arms of the Confederacy seem to maintain these. We mostly see the Occisis Marines, who are devotedly Catholic and ethnically homogenous, like the planet of Occisis. A large division of the Marines are seconded to Klaus Dacham. Their commander, Captain Shane, plays a major role.
The Theirs Not To Reason Why series has the The Terran United Planets Space Force Marines, complete with power armor support. It's implied that the other spacegoing polities have their own Space Marines too, with the V'Dan Marines specifically mentioned.
Live Action Television
Andromeda had the "Lancers," which appear to serve the same functions as Marines traditionally do.
The episode "Gropos" featured the Earth Force Marine Corps, dirtside troops of the Earth Alliance (the episode title is short for "ground pounders"). Just about every stereotype of Space Marine behavior made it into this episode, including the obligatory bar fight. Towards the end of the episode, they depart for a battle that we briefly get to see, and the very end of the episode reveals every single named Gropo character, except for General Franklin and his senior NCO, had been killed off-screen in the battle, within feet of each other.
The Gropos make another appearance in the third season, when they come to the station to forcefully try to take it back from Captain Sheridan.
Battlestar Galactica has marines (Colonial Marine Corps) who are dressed and equipped similar to a Real Life Hostage Rescue Team. Originally created as throwaway Redshirts for action scenes, they end up playing an important role in events (e.g. power struggles) in the Rag Tag Fleet.
Sgt. Riley in Pixelface is a space marine from a video game called Sentient Force.
Red Dwarf makes a brief mention to their existence in the extended cut of Back In The Red. Also, in one of the books Rimmer's son was a space marine.
Talvikuningas, a concept album by the Finnish band CMX, gives us the Praetorian cyborgs. They're exactly what you'd think they would be. Bulky armor, heavy weapons, modified genes and, oh yes, they're cyborgs. (But don't just take our word for it, watch the music video)
And if these guys aren't scary enough, you also have the Chaos Space Marines, the belligerent mutated brethren of the Space Marines, who come in all different flavors (from Ax-Crazy to plague-zombies to metalhead drug-addicts to the spirits of deceased Marines bound to their armor long after their bodies had crumbled to dust). Add this to the fact that they serve a host of Eldritch Abominations and even the other Marines are afraid of them.
The actual Imperial Navy tends to use poorly-trained conscripts for both its boarding actions and its defence against the same. They are basically a vast mass of cannon fodder with shotguns designed to shred soldiers while leaving corridors relatively undamaged to fit with the rules about Imperial Navy commanders not being allowed to have anyone useful in ground actions under their direct command. The Space Marines themselves take part in boarding actions generally only when their own ships are involved (the Space Marines are a seperate organisation altogether, it's complicated but there is a reason) and as befitting such elite troops, this generally consists of small squads penetrating to the enemy ship's bridge or engines.
Battlefleet Gothic gives the Eldar the option to have Aspect Warrior boarding parties. Depending on which Aspect you consider as making up these parties, the options can turn downright scary.
The Tau eschew close combat in normal 40k as well as Battlefleet Gothic; whoever they use as marines are pretty bad at it. Except when his name is Shas'la Kais, in which case he's a Walking Death.
Elite Clan infantry in the BattleTech universe are, indeed, located somewhere inside armor the size of four brick shithouses. The subversion is that these Space Marine stand-ins are chosen to be infantry in a galaxy where Humongous Mecha are kings of the battlefield, so they're already seven feet tall plus and ripped to shit, and then they're put inside armor that allows them to survive in extreme heat, cold, the vacuum of space, underwater, and fly through the air...hence their name: Elementals.
With emphasis on Elite. Elementals are BattleTech universe's equivalent of Astartes: Genetically engineered giants equipped with powerful battle armor designed to tear the shreds out of all opposition, especially much larger Battlemechs. The Clans also have regular infantry but they're treated as little more than Cannon Fodder.
This is about the point where we should mention that the Inner Sphere on the other hand also has huge suits of powered armor in a wide variety of shapes and sizes (which the Clans are catching up to), but have to make due to regular men and women inside of them. They also make use of regular infantry, which can be on foot, riding in/on vehicles, or using jet packs.
A particular Inner Sphere example belongs to the mercenary outfit known as the Grey Death Legion. The Legion was the first to use power armor extensively, not only for infantry combat, but for getting close and blowing the legs off battlemechs. The GDL's anti-mech units are as close to Badass Normal as the Battletech Universe will allow.
Race for the Galaxy, a card based game designed by Thomas Lehmann, has a card entitled Space Marines which displays the most generic view of this trope. The card gives an obvious military bonus.
The Prime Directive/Starfleet Universe Strategy game and RPG actually give all the major space empires, like the Federation and the Klingons, Platoons of Space Marines for boarding actions or planetary drops.
In Traveller the Third Imperium is famous for the prowess of its marines. They usually wear battlesuits and are trained to "parachute" out of space. They also have esoteric customs like their cutlasses and bagpipes.
Starfleet Battles has (almost all) ships equipped with Boarding Parties, which can be used to board other ships or repel boarders, and the Marines optional module adds detailed ground combat (with tanks, heavy weapons squads and even air support and artillery as well) and highly detailed subdivisioning of (most) ships for more 'realistic' boarding actions. It also added many more 'commando' ships, which exist primarily to deliver marines to combat.
The cunningly titled Space Marines, published by Fan Tac in 1977.
In Tomorrow's War the USMC themselves have jurisdiction over all of the USA's extraterrestrial ground actions. By agreement with the Army who get Earth.
"The Space Marine" is the only name given the hero of the Doom series. Among fans, he's acquired the affectionate nickname of "Doomguy". On his guest appearance in Quake III: Arena, he's known simply as "Doom". In the books, his name is Flynn Taggart. A more generic army name there ain't. In the Doom movie, he was named John Grimm. Apparently id Software's sole insistance for the film was that his first name be 'John'. In Repercussions of Evil, he was named John Stalvern. In the recent Doom 3 novels by Matthew Costello, he was named John Kane. Curiously, this is the same surname as the protagonist of Quake IV. He doesn't have much charactersation as an actual space marine, but the phrase has gone on to become a shorthand for a certain type of FPS character — see A Space Marine Is You.
John-117 in the Halo series, better known by his rank "Master Chief", whose design been quite influential on post-2001 video games. He is one of the very few surviving Spartan-IIs, but unlike the basic trope, the Spartan-IIs were the absolute antithesis of the Red Shirt Army.
There are also the Spartan-IIIs, who are basically low-budget, expendable Spartans. They're still more badass than almost everything else in the galaxy.
It is technically inaccurate to label the Master Chief or any Spartan as a Space Marine; while they have powered armor and advanced training (plus loads of augmentations), they're all actually UNSC Naval officers, making them closer to Navy SEALs. The Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) better fit this trope, being actual elite Marines within the UNSC Marine Corps; they consider themselves the main rivals to the Spartans, despite being normal humans with unpowered armor.
The regular Marines themselves sort of count, being the UNSC's main rapid-deployment and expeditionary force.
Halo 4 introduced the Spartan-IVs, which, unlike their trained-from-childhood predecessors, are made from adult volunteers, with many of them being, ironically, former ODSTs. They're even more numerous than the IIIs were, with much better equipment to boot (though they're in general less skilled than their predecessors due to a more relaxed selection criteria). Also, the Spartans now have their own separate UNSC branch, meaning they're technically still not Marines.
The basic human unit in StarCraft, by far the most-played Real-Time Strategy game ever, is the Marine. The "lots of big guns" aspect sets it apart from the basic units of the other races, giving it range. Despite all the bulky armour and training and the fact that most of them are Badass convicts that have been brainwashed to risk the life for the force they serve, they happen to be one of the weakest units in the game individually. Goes to show how powerful everything else in the game is. Badass inflation strikes again.
It is, however, a testimony to the versatility of the Terran Marines that 'M&M' (Marine and Medic in SC1, Marine and Medivac in SC2) is considered a solid build for most situations and has consistently been a headache to balance against. They're the only cannon fodder in both games with anti-air capability (the Zerg Queen and Protoss Sentry being closer to vehicles and much less expendable).
The Red Faction series has armour-suited EDF Drones deployed from Earth to Mars, first landing to provide emergency aid the rebels, later as a tyrannical occupation force. Their design in Red Faction: Guerrilla bears similarities to Halo. They are unusual in being bad-guy Space Marines in a video game.
Although played straight at times in the sequel; Isaac can acquire quite a few suits of armor which qualify (although you can still equip the original one whenever you want). He can also acquire new weapons which can only be military grade.
Space Trooper is one of the 10 original ring sets available in "zOMG!". Its primary focus is on ranged attacks, and its skills include firing Cool Guns, altering its density, and summoning a Beehive Barrier.
One of the major complaints against the 2008 Continuity RebootTurok game is the conversion of the main character from a colorful Native American Warrior to a generic Space Marine straight outta Aliens.
Freespace had them as well, but since it was a space sim, they were relegated to cutscenes and briefing reports on the overall war. The GTA ones appeared to be the only competent ones though, since the versions for any other group seemed to be butchered in any encounter.
Commander Shepard, Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, and Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko in Mass Effect are all Space Marines - although Kaidan, as a combination biotic/tech guy/medic, notably doesn't fit the trope in most respects, and Shepard becomes more like a Space Secret Agent at the start of the game. Applies when you play as a Soldier, Vanguard, or Infiltrator.
Though your team in the second game is an even bigger Ragtag Bunch of Misfits than the first, you actually end up boarding more starships, making more rapid insertion operations, and generally behaving more like Space Marines than you do in the first game. The third game adds Lieutenant James Vega.
Star Trek: Elite Force practically lampshades the aforementioned ineffectiveness of Voyager's security, as its premise is that a group of the best combatants aboard form a special “hazard team” of space marines.
Star Trek: Enterprise's M.A.C.O.s return as one of the anti-Borg organizations alongside the Klingon Honor Guard and despite the ongoing war between both sides, they've teamed up to create an Anti-Borg Task Force called the Omega Force. There's also the Nukara Strikeforce who are another multi-faction task force who deal with Tholian threats and the new Dyson Joint Command, a joint task force led by the Romulan Republic to push back the Voth from the Solaneon Dyson Sphere. Joining these organizations are the majority of End-Game reputation systems (though the M.A.C.O./Honor Guard/Omega Force existed before the reputation mechanic was put in).
Commander K'Tek of the Klingon flagship IKS Bortasqu' is basically one of these. His job title is QaS DevwI', or "troop leader", and it entails leading the ship's embarked troops during boarding actions.
Star Control 2 features the Orz, whose ships can deploy combat-exosuit-wearing space marines who will board enemy ships to kill their crews.
The Half-Life mod Natural Selection features aliens vs. Space Marines, in a cross between first person shooter and real time strategy.
In the Wing Commander games some secondary characters are Space Marines.
In the add-on "Operation Thor's Hammer", for the original Wing Commander, they provide the force that assassinates the Kilrathi priestess conducting the Sivar Eshrad ceremony on Firekka.
In Wing Commander IV, Space Marines of both the Terran Confederation and the Union of Border Worlds play a part in the plot, mostly in regards to boarding ships and stations to (re)capture them for their respective governments.
Wing Commander Prophecy: Terran Confederation marines recapture several stations taken over by the Nephilim, and shut down most of the wormhole gate in the final mission, leaving the player to finish the job due to stiff resistance from the bugs preventing further marine penetration of the facility.
The Federation Troopers of the Metroid Prime series. Unfortunately, they most frequently serve as the franchise's requisite Redshirt Army. This is more a matter of the Worf Effect than any inherent weakness. In MP3: Corruption however, they have shown proficiency beyond this role.
Ships in Master of Orion 2 got marines on board as a Boarding Party or defenders from the same. Planets can be invaded by troops via Transports and build Barracks for defenders.
In Star Wars Battlefront II, not only do you get land battles, but you get space battles. Space battles have two classes: pilots who have little in the way of personal defense and marines who have better weapons than their land analogues. On the other hand, a pilot's starship auto-repairs.
Many shipsnote mainly capitals, but also corvettes and three of four freighter classes in the X-Universe series can carry around EVA-capable marines. Player-controlled personnel transports, corvettes, and missile frigates can use them to try and capture other ships - via spacewalking the marines to the other ship or firing them in a boarding pod - The target ship will sometimes be defended by their own marines, or internal turrets
Betty: A Marine is a simple creature. Feed it and tell it what to do, any manythings become possible.
Of note are the Republic Commandos featured in Star Wars: Republic Commando. While the standard white armored troopers act like standard infantry, Republic Commandos are equipped with better weapons, custom painted and detailed armor and recieve superior training, as well as distinct personalities, which was considered odd, as they're clones and should be carbon copies of each other. Fighting as a squad with mission support, they more closely fit the trope of classic space marines than the other generic clone troopers. But looking back, this became standard among clones in The Clone Wars television series, which (especially after the first season) has a lot of focus on the clones being this trope, and had The Cameo for Delta Squad.
Every race in Sword of the Stars has some form of power armored marines for boarding actions. Background material for SolForce states that the marines and the army are essentially the same thing, seeing as the game doesn't bother with groundcombat.
In all of his forms, Iron Manatee is one. A veteran of the Anglo-Chinese Opium Moon Wars, he fights in an armored space-suit, later upgraded to a full suit of Powered Armor with a primitive railgun and diamantine bladed chainsaw.
The KSS Marines in Nexus Gate serve as the game's space marines. They guard the Kovolis held space from space pirates and other criminals.
Commander Badass in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things is a Navy TiALS (Time, Air, Land, Sea) from a "generic space future" who was genetically engineered to be a tough-as-nails buff soldier type, in order to sell action figures because that's apparently how wars are fought in the future.
In Titan Maximum, Titan Force Five and the military they work for is never openly stated they are in the marines, but they are all given Navel Ranks. Billy's rank is even titled Space Seaman.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The clone troopers got treated as this more and more the further into the series you go; in much of the first season, especially before "Rookies", the clones were mostly grunts who didn't even use cover much like the Mecha-Mooks they fought. Many episodes revolve around this trope as well as The Squad, and they even fight out on the hulls of ships on at least one occasion. A lot of them go on commando style missions, and they hold up well compared to the Jedi, due to teamwork, especially the "ARC troopers" (who are more independent minded clones). Delta Squad, who are this trope first, and clones second, make a cameo, as well as another Republic Commando (who true to the game, is a One-Man Army) in the fifth season. Even more outstanding, is the fact that the lowliest grunt clones can and do get promoted to serve alongside superior types of clones, as happens with Domino Squad becoming ARC troopers.
23 US Marines have been astronauts, including Colonel John Glenn, the first American to make an orbital flight; as a result, Space Marines have been around, in a very literal sense, almost since the beginning of human spaceflight.
Of course, unlike the fictional version, these Marines aren't out to fight anyone(yet), but are used because a Marine is highly likely to be in prime physical condition, which is very necessary for working in space. In comparison, there have been over 80 astronauts from the Air Force (Air Force pilots being similarly held to high standards of fitness), but only 15 from the Army (with the Air Force having taken most of the pilot jobs when it split off back in 1947).
SUSTAIN is a project being undertaken by the United States military with the purpose of orbital Marine deployment. The closest analog to fiction is Halo's Helljumpers, but it's getting damn close to having Marines fight in space.