I Found You Like This: In Mass Effect 1 Shepard collapses from an overwhelming amount of visions being given to him or her via a Prothean Artifact. He/she awakens in the Normandy's medical bay.
In Mass Effect 2 Shepard is thrown out into the vacuum of space with a punctured space suit and begins to fall into a nearby planet's atmosphere. Cerberus collects what remains of Shepard's body from Liara and use experimental technology to bring him/her back to life. Shepard awakens inside a Cerberus facility.
Better yet, Cerberus found the body after Shepard fell through the atmosphere, likely burning up, hitting the ground at terminal velocity, and to top it off, frozen (since the planet is completely covered in snow and ice with a surface temp of -22C). No wonder it took 2 years for Cerberus to rebuild Shepard.
And all the multiplayer expansion packs' names, except Earth, began with "Re-": Resurgence, Rebellion, Retaliation, Reckoning.
Idiot Ball: Mass Effect 3's Leviathan DLC reveals this to be the origin of the reapers.. The Leviathans attempted to solve their rebellious AI problem with an AI. Genius. This from the 'Apex species' ruling the galaxy at the time. Unsurprisingly their AI rebelled too. It drove them to the brink of extinction and converted them into the first Reaper. And then the AI inherited the Idiot Ball and decided that the best way to fulfill the goal of protecting organic life from synthetics was to build an army of synthetics and use them to slaughter organics.
Shepard could be considered TheIgnored Expert of the series. The Council doesn't believe Shepard's initial warnings of Saren being a traitor, the threat of the Reapers, and that they must get to Ilos to stop Saren. Shepard even lampshades how many more times they have to prove they are telling the truth before the Council will actually listen.
In some versions of the scene, when Udina betrays the Council and allows Cerberus to invade the Citadel, and Shepard exposes this to the Councillors and they are skeptical, the asari Councilor points out that every time they've disbelieved Shepard it's come back to bite them.
If you convinced Tali and Legion to put aside their differences in the second game, then Tali becomes this in the third game to the rest of the Migrant Fleet.
Garrus also becomes this to the Turians between 2 and 3, though they do give him some token resources to prepare.
Immortality Begins at Twenty: Averted by the asari. They leave childhood at the age of forty, and are considered mature at the age of eighty. That's forty years of puberty. Played straight by the krogan.
Immortal Procreation Clause: The asari are long-lived and enjoy sex as much as humans do, but thanks to Fantasy Contraception they can't get pregnant until they actually want to start a family, so asari population stays fairly consistent. Krogan, on the other hand, live longer than asari do, and krogan breed like rats. Granted, this is because their homeworld is so hostile only one out of a thousand survived to adulthood anyway, but once they moved off-planet, this became a wee bit of a problem.
The Crucible in the third game, along with several weapons noted to be of asari, turian, salarian, geth, and Prothean design.
Improbable Age: Completely averted. Most crew members are the age they should be to hold military jobs or achieve the accomplishments you're seeking them out for. And the ones who are pretty young are established to be rare cases of genius while still being at the very least twenty-one (or their race's equivalent).
Ashley Williams reached the rank of Gunnery Sergeant by the age of 25, although this age doesn't make her serving as a special forces soldier improbable. This is, however, made up in gameplay, where she is the combat specialist, dealing out direct damage only rivaled by Shepard.
Incest Subtext: There is a strong taboo against Asari mating with other Asari and a strong stigma associated with Ardat-Yakshi, Asari suffering from a genetic disease that is believed to be connected to being born as a "pureblood". However, there are still a number of pureblood Asari in the games, including Liara, Samara, and Samara's daughters.
Individuality Is Illegal: Rare heroic case with the geth. The conservative geth are the ones who want to stay a collective, resist the Reapers, and make peace with the galaxy. The individualistic geth are the ones who want to worship the Reapers and force the rest of the geth to do the same by means of using a "mind-control" virus on their own people.
until the 3rd game, where you get the option to grant individuality to all geth
Insectoid Aliens: The rachni, Keepers and Collectors. Considering that two of these races were genetically altered by the Reapers, I'd say that the Reapers sure like bugs.
The quarian, turian, salarian, and asari homeworlds (Rannoch, Palaven, Sur'Kesh, and Thessia, respectively) all appear in ME3.
Possibly justified in Earth's case, as the System Alliance operates out of the Arcturus Station. This is because the Arcturus Relay has several relays in the vicinity that allow for rapid fleet deployment, but conversely doubles as the only relay leading to Earth.
Judging from Liara's explanation in the first game, romantic relationships between asari aren't looked down upon by themselves — only procreation.
This would actually become an Inversion for humans in this instance, at least eventually. Consider that each race of humans evolved on Earth because of so many environmental factors including climate and ecosystem. Each new planet humans colonize will have their own nuances to force humans to adapt to and make them evolve their own racial attributes, though biodomes and other artificial habitats would place limits on how noticeable it would get. In the end there would be as many new races of human as there are colonized planets.
Inventory Management Puzzle: One of the biggest complaints about the first game, right after the elevators and the vehicle sections. Completely gone in the second game, leaving behind a stunned group of RPG fans mouthing how they wanted the feature fixed, not axed.
And there's a sidequest in the first game where you have to infiltrate a research base that's been taken over by biotic extremists who have drugged the researchers inside so that, instead of running away from the inevitable firefight like any sane person would do, just walk through like nothing's going on. Your task is to take out the extremists while keeping as many of the researchers alive as possible.
In Working Order: Partly played straight, partly averted. The mass relay system is still working perfectly after thousands of thousands of years of nobody knowing how the hell they work, but considering how the Reapers intend for no one to know, they probably built them to last. Maybe do some maintenance when they're done liquefying the other sentient species. Also, this seems to be the case on Ilos, but when you stop to look around, you realize that everything is barely functioning, on its last legs, and in fact shuts down soon after you leave the planet.
Irrelevant Sidequest: The games do a good job of getting you to take quests that Shepard would actually be interested in (profit, moral grounds, advancement of mission, etc.) but the inane quest slips in every now and then.
One of these, about a couple's child from the first game, is lampshaded in the second:
I don't know. Maybe we should ask random people on the street what they think.
Mass Effect 2 on the other hand has the upgrades applied once, party-wide.
Mass Effect 3 went back to slots for weaponry, although a lot more streamlined than in the first game.
Jerkass: Several throughout the series but the Turian Councilor really takes the cake. He also borders on Too Dumb to Live. Until he becomes the Only Sane Man in the council come Mass Effect 3.
Jossed: Fans had plenty of theories as to the true identity of the Shadow Broker. The Asari Consort? The Council? The geth? Nope. The truth is that he was a member of a seemingly Always Chaotic Evil species never before mentioned in the series, proving nearly all the fan theories about the Broker wrong.
Judge, Jury, and Executioner: No matter how ruthless or forgiving they may be, Spectres epitomize this trope. They can quite literally do whatever the hell they want, heedless of laws, as long as they do what the Council wants done. Asari Justicars also fit this.
Killed Off for Real: Any squadmate who dies in a cutscene. Lots of characters, some major and some minor, in the third game.
Specifically in Mass Effect 3, there are only two major deaths that can't be avoided no matter what you do: Legion is either dissolved to upgrade the geth or killed by Tali and Thane dies preventing Kai Leng from assassinating the Salarian Councilor if he didn't already die in Mass Effect 2. Everything else depends on previous actions you've taken: if their loyalty missions weren't completed in Mass Effect 2, Grunt, Miranda, Kasumi and Zaeed will be killed during the course of various missions. If you spared Morinth, she'll be waiting for you as a Banshee on Earth. If Wrex and Mordin are both alive when you visit Tuchanka, only one of them will make it out: Wrex attacks you if you kill Mordin to sabotage the cure, and Mordin dies if you let him finish the job (you can convince Mordin to sabotage the cure if Eve is dead and Wreav is in charge). Finally, if you can't convince Kaidan/Ashley of Udina's guilt, you'll have to gun them down too.
Killer App: The series is considered a mainstay of the 360 system...
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Weapons in the game aren't traditional Energy Weapons, rather, they are loaded with a block of metal, and when fired, a piece of the block, about the size of a grain of sand is loaded, and fired using a mass accelerator.
Personal energy weapons have an advantage simply because kinetic barriers can do nothing whatsoever to stop them; it's just that nobody aside from the Reapers and their slaves have figured out how to make them work on small-scale.
However, said people also have weapons that look like lasers but are not. Instead, they shoot molten metal at relativistic speeds.
Actually, the GARDIAN ship defense system is indeed a laser-based weapon. It actually exercises its ability to pierce shields as explained in the Codex entry.
Kleptomaniac Hero: You'll probably feel terrible if you loot the wall safes of abducted colonists, such as those on the worlds of Freedom's Progress and Horizon or of slum residents (not to mention their ATMs and gambling machines) in the second game. You don't get Renegade points for doing this, though. The same applies to some extent to the first game.
Double Subverted at on point in the third game. You're generally expected to strip any place you're visiting from any and all weapons or mods you find, but during a mission on Tuchanka, if you pick up a certain shotgun, a krogan warrior standing nearby will growl at you that the gun is his. He still lets you take it though, saying you'll have to return it after the mission, then he conveniently dies in the next cutscene.
In the "Citadel" DLC in the third game, you're also given a chance at one point to hack ATM Machines with a device you're supposed to use to disable security measures. Doing so will give you Renegade points.
Knight of Cerebus: Sovereign, full stop. The series is fairly serious from the beginning, but once Sovereign shows up in the first game, the apocalyptic mood of the rest of the series sets in.
In the second game, the Collectors immediately set the tone.
Large and in Charge: Played straight by the geth; the biggest models always seem to be leading the others when you encounter them. Justified when in the second game you discover that the bigger the geth, the more programs it houses. The more programs it houses, the smarter it is. So the biggest models are the smartest ones.
In the third installment, this seems to hold true for Reaper ground troops, as well. The bigger they are, the more damage they can deal and the more punishment they can take. How else do you explain that Banshees appear to be 8 feet tall?
Latex Space Suit: Underneath all the ceramic armor plates, all combat-grade hardsuits are this: they appear to work on Mechanical Counterpressure instead of bulky airtight suits. This results in all the suits being very sleek in form instead of baggy and bulky.
Law of Conservation of Detail : Played straight with moons in that if you see a moon, odds are there's a mission taking place there. Averted with many of the actual planets, some of which are there simply to add flavor.
This is actually a subversion, as Shepard orders Jenkins to take point, which is justified as Jenkins is a Soldier and specializes in direct combat, and the only other people available are Kaidan, who is a tech and biotic specialist, and Shepard him/herself, who is the commanding officer.
In the second game, there's Prazza on Freedom's Progress. Though he's not playable.
Leitmotif: In the second game, each squad member has their own distinctive leitmotif except for Zaeed and Morinth.
Revealed to have been a Reaper corpse in the third game.
The Reapers are revealed to be this near the end of the second game. While they're assumed to be purely synthetic constructs, it turns out that they are actually a hybrid of synthetic and Organic Technology.
Lizard Folk: The krogan and the drell, who play perfectly into the first and second types respectively. Oddly, the drell remind most people of fish, not lizards, despite the fact that they have an inevitably fatal lung condition caused by exposure to too much moisture.
Loads and Loads of Loading: The first game was infamous for its elevators, which were hidden loading screens. The second and third games replaced them with more traditional load screens.
Loads and Loads of Races: Humans, Turians, Asari, Salarians, Batarians, Quarians, Geth, Krogans, Hanar, Drell, Elcor, Volus, Vorcha, Rachni, Reapers, Protheans/Collectors, Yahg, Inusannon, Leviathans, good god it never stops!
Location Theme Naming: Of a sort. All Alliance ships are named after significant places, events, or people on Earth, each class of ship getting a specific kind of landmark to be named after. So, dreadnoughts are named after mountains (Kilimanjaro, Everest, Shasta), cruisers are named after cities (Cairo, Tokyo, Warsaw), carriers are named after people (Einstein), and frigates are named after battles (Agincourt, Iwo Jima, Normandy).
Long Game: The Reapers and their master play a very, very long game. One that depends on the development of galactic civilizations. And that they've been playing for a billion years at the very least.'
Longevity Treatment: Humans commonly live to 150 or so due to gene therapies and drugs. This puts us in the mid-range for lifespans in that universe.