The mass relays with their spinning rings look uncannily similar to the FTL machine of Contact.
Likewise, the Crucible storyline in Mass Effect 3 also parallels Contact. Both involve humanity pooling its resources into a massive engineering project based on designs obtained from mysterious aliens, even though they have only a vague idea of its final purpose.
They also bear a strong resemblance to the logo for Comstar
Cerberus Daily News on 4/01/2185 (April Fool's Day) has an interesting article about the destruction of a planet named DC1938...with a single infant survivor, picked up by a starship named Kent. His native atmosphere is "65% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, and 15% krypton".
Another CDN shout-out: A news story references about an exclusionary zone around relays due to the difficulty of cleaning debris, including representative (Lisa) Tanabe referencing an incident where a single metal bolt breached the crew compartment of the starship Mihairokov, killing the passengers. Planetes is an anime about debris collection in space, including among the Debris Section's employees Ai Tanabe and Yuri Mihairokov. Yuri was one of a few survivors of an incident when a bolt struck and depressurized the passenger compartment of the suborbital liner he was traveling on.
Mass Effect's story is very similar in many ways to Welsh astronomer/author Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space, which details an archaeologist's study of a long-extinct alien species. Eventually it turns out that they were suddenly and completely wiped out by a race of sentient machines called the Inhibitors, who appear to destroy any species which has become sufficiently advanced. Which is in and of itself a Shout-Out to the late Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series.
There are a lot of similarities to Frederik Pohl's Heechee Saga. The parallels are numerous. In Mass Effect, the Protheans fill in for the Heechee as precursors who have mysteriously disappeared, and like the Heechee, the Protheans have also retreated to the Galactic Core, albeit under different circumstances, and the mass relays function essentially the same way as the Heechee ships. Similarly, the Assassins/Foe fill in for the Reapers as the hive minds that live outside the galaxy and from time to time eradicate all sentient organic life. Additionally, the hanar may be modeled in part after the Sailship People, who were also tentacled and sheltered drell-like refugees.
Commander Shepard's name is probably a Shout-Out to Alan Shepard, the first American in space, as well as Stargate Atlantis' main character, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. The similarities between mass relays and Stargates further cements the relationship.
Shepard's name is also a Bibical Shout-Out with a hint of foreshadowing. John 10:11-'I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.'
In fact, there's an entire cluster of such references - the Armstrong cluster which has stars named Gagarin and Tereshkova, amongst other things.
Both male and female Shepard's default names start with J, giving them the initials JS - the same as Jeffrey Sinclair and John Sheridan of Babylon 5. Sinclair even held the rank of Commander.
Lot of elements from the story are similar to the plot in Star Control 3.
A huge proportion of the game seems to pay tribute to the Star Control series, except no longer Played for Laughs. The Krogan and the Thraddash are both races of warriors who cite nuking themselves back into the stone age as a step towards improving their species. The Reapers, and especially Sovereign, mix the motivation of the Eternal Ones with the personality of the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah. The planet exploration and resource gathering of Mass Effect seems like an updated version of Star Control's planet exploration and resource gathering. And so on. If it weren't for both games being unapologetically Troperiffic in their homage to the Space Opera, and therefore embracing the same Sci Fi tropes that were around long before either of them, you could keep citing examples all day.
The Rachni (and their overall story) are a damn near perfect expy of the buggers from Ender’s Game.
The Rachni are also expies of the Arachnid alien species from Starship Troopers. The mission chain "UNC: Listening Post Alpha", "UNC: Listening Post Theta", and "UNC: Depot Sigma-23" are based off scenes from the movie, even including a character named Elena Flores as a shout out to Isabel 'Dizzy' Flores from the movie.
There is a possibility that whoever designed the turians read Salt by Adam Roberts, given that it featured a ship named the Senaar where "they live by the hierarchy" which had a past captain named "Tyrian, or Turian".
Krogan are large hunchbacked aliens with red eyes and aggressive tendencies. The Grendlers from Earth 2 are large hunchbacked aliens with red eyes and aggressive tendencies.
The Reaper lasers, particularly in 3, sound very similar to the alien tripods in 2005 The War of the Worlds film.
The Krogan story of them being used against the insect like Rachnai then efforts to limit them spreading, coupled with their toad like appearance, resembles the story of the cane toad introduced to Australia to control the cane beetle then efforts to stop them.
The First Contact War was an event triggered between humans and another intelligent spacefaring species (the Turians) when they encounter each other for the first time; a misunderstanding occurred that ended in violence and triggered an interstellar war that shaped the political landscape and left a lot of mutual distrust between Humans and Turians for decades to come. This is eerily similar to the Earth/Minbari war in Babylon 5 where humans encounter the Minbari for the first time and a misunderstanding ends in violence leading to an interstellar war that shaped the political landscape and caused a lot of mutual distrust between humans and Minbari for the next decade. The difference is that in Mass Effect, the humans managed to hold their own against the Turians and the war was called off before the Turians could bring the full brunt of their fleet, whereas the Minbari nearly exterminated the human race in Babylon 5.
The idea of advanced AIs giving the organics a nearly indestructible Portal Network, using these organics' brains' processing power, and serving some even more advanced AI seems to be ripped out of Hyperion Cantos.
If the Mako sequences aren't deliberately inspired by the classic PC game Moon Patrol, it's a tremendous coincidence how much of a Spiritual Successor the former is to the latter.
One of the "Blink and you'll miss it" variety. And if you don't have the right skills trained then you might still miss it. In the very first mission on Eden Prime you will find a locked shed with two scientists hiding inside. Upon confirming that you are human Dr. Warren will exclaim "You're human! Thank The Maker!". "The Maker" is the name of the God in the Dragon Age games, another Bioware series that was in production just after Mass Effect.
A double shout out, as "Thank the maker" is also used by C-3PO in Star Wars.
In a similar vein, a conversation between Shepard and Kaidan regarding the Reapers has this gem:
Shepard: The turians were old too. We gave them a boot in the ass.
Kaidan: I think we're going to need a bigger boot, Commander.
Also, the "We are going to need bigger guns" line is possibly a reference to the 1992 sci-fi film Split Second, when upon the heroes realize they may be facing something inhuman, one of the two leads starts ranting about how "We need bigger guns, bigger f—-ing guns!" Starting around 44 sec into here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQvMWD-_Nfo
There are several Kowloon class freighters, which is probably a reference to Snow Crash.
The optional sidequest for the Colonist background is one big shoutout to Aliens.
Animal Farm, of all things. Remember on X57? "Two eyes good, four eyes bad."
Also in a minor sidequest, from Lieutenant Durand: "Two legs good, four legs bad." (A direct reversal of the line from the original story.)
Then there's the rachni quest, which has very eerie similarities to Ender’s Game.
There's also a sidequest where you help a bunch of stranded marines against hordes of rachni inspired by the battle at Whiskey Outpost in Starship Troopers. Their commanding officer is Lt. Elena Flores, a shout out to Lt. Isabel 'Dizzy' Flores from the movie.
One of the last things you do on your way to defeating the Big Bad is take your vehicle through a "Trench Run". (Yes, that's what the map screen calls it.)
It gets better with other party members... Wrex looks a lot more Ackbar-like than Ashley could ever not hope to.
When talking to the V.I. in Exogeni's headquarters on Feros, you discover what the Thorian is and can learn about the experiments that were being conducted. If you pay attention, you'll find that this is Day 28 after the discovery and initial exposure of the Thorian's "infection," which can turn its victims into kinda sorta zombies. In other words, Shepard & crew arrived on Feros... 28 Days Later.
Liara's "embrace eternity" line might be borrowed from one in Planescape: Torment: "I would place myself in a thousand dangers, embrace eternity for you, my Love!"
In the Hydra Cluster, you're sent to apprehend a Major Kyle who went off the deep end and has styled himself Father Kyle for his commune of biotics. While there's neither smell of napalm in the morning nor a termination with extreme prejudice (at least not if you resolve the situation peacefully), the reference is clear.
After rescuing Liara on Therum, you're stopped by one of Saren's krogan. The paragon exchange gives you this little gem:
Shepard: You know this place is falling apart?
Krogan: Exhilarating, isn't it?
Compare the opening of Top Gunnote On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art or aerial combat and to insure that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world. They succeeded. Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it... TOP GUN to the opening text of Mass Effectnote In the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilization. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time. They called it the greatest discovery in human history. The civilizations of the galaxy call it... MASS EFFECT
When you successfully re-activate the Mira Core for the Peak 15 facilities on Noveria, the Mira V.I.'s initial query is clearly modeled after the Microsoft Office Assistant "Clippy the Paper Clip". Sheperd's Renegade response even lampshades this:
Mira: It looks like you're trying to restore this facility. Would you like help?
Sovereign: Your words are as empty as your future.
In yet another Alien shout out, the planet Maji has an odd skull that bears more than a bit of resemblance to an alien queen. And if that's not enough of a shout out, Maji happens to be used as a big game preserve where vicious animals are brought to be hunted for sport, and the skull indeed shows signs of weapons fire.
Stargate shoutouts are a-plenty in this game. Most notably would have to be the Prothean artifact imprinting partial knowledge in Shepard's brain, and despite being the one unlikely human who was genetically capable of handling it, he still has to seek out the help of the advanced race who created the artifact to sort out his mind again. This same plot led to Shepard discovering the fate of the Protheans and saving the galaxy several times over and led O'Neill to discovering the Asgard and saving the galaxy several times over.
If Shepard brings Ashley and Kaiden down to the Citadel wards it's possible that, after one of them notes a ditincr anti-human sentiment, Shep will give a giant shout out to old sci-fi:
Shepard: Why not? We've got oceans, beautiful women, this emotion called love. According to the old vids, we have everything they want.
Which the opposite gendered character will have snarky remark about
Ashley: If you expect me to get into a tinfoil miniskirt and some thigh-high boots, I want dinner first. Sir.
Kaidan: When you put it that way, there's no reason they wouldn't like you. I mean us. Humans. Ma'am.
If the "mumble something" option is selected when trying to activate the Neutron Purge on Noveria, Shepard says "sic semper tyranis" before trailing off. "Thus always to Tyrants," this was the line shouted by John Wilkes Booth after assassinating Abraham Lincoln.
The manner in which s/he does so is another reference to Evil Dead where the main character, Ash, mumbles his way through the magic words of a spell.
Spacer Shepards can eventually get an assignment called "Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things". Assignment names tend to be straightforwards, but this unusually poetic one is actually a line from a William Wordsworth poem, The Solitary Reaper.
The spikes used to turn corpses into husks are called "dragon's teeth" by Alliance soldiers — an in-universe shout-out to Jason and the Argonauts.
In ''Bring Down the Sky" DLC it is possible to find an abandoned radio station on a hi-jacked asteroid. The computer log reveals that the station owners were recording slogans for their radio. One of them reads: When the world seems hollow, we will help you touch the sky. The whole plot of the DLC is basically a shout-out to the similarly-named TOS episode, in which a planet is threatened by a collision with an asteroid.
The PC version of Bring Down The Sky has an extra shout out in the form of a note. One of the radio project managers heard from another person about how extreme the stations music was and its effect on younger workers. This is a shout out and a Take That to the Cooper Lawrence-Fox News controversy where Lawrence made several false allegations against Mass Effect in regards to its approach to sex and relationships in a live interview. Lawrence even admitted in the interview that she had only heard of it from secondhand sources and never played the game itself. She later recanted her statements publicly after a friend had showed her the scenes.
Captain Bailey is likely a reference to Isaac Asimov's Plainclothesman Baley, who was a detective in his Robot series of novels.
Zaeed is a walking shout out to Jayne Cobb. Between his big goddamn heroes quote, the fact he named his old assault rifle, and the fact the merc gang he helped found is called the Blue Suns, he seems to exist for shoutouts.
If you stand by Joker at the bridge, in addition to saying a ton of funny lines, he'll at one point say:
"Some days I just feel like turning off the inertials and pulling a Crazy Ivan, y'know?"
Which is itself a reference to The Hunt for Red October. (More specifically, it could be from Firefly, which was referencing Red October, which was using an actual submarine tactic - take your pick.)
While Zaeed has several obvious shout outs to Firefly, his character is a subtle shout out to another series. A morally questionable mercenary who founded an organisation only to be betrayed by his partner(s)? Who is missing an eye (Zaeed's current eye is a cybernetic replacement)? I wonder what other series has a character like that, huh?
Speaking of Firefly, The Collectors totally attack (New) Canton.
The Collector Cruiser's Leitmotif is an homage to the Reaver ship theme as well.
On Pragia, there is a throwaway dialogue that says that they were planning on moving the facility to focus on kids in an Alliance program. Considering what River went through, this could be a much darker shoutout.
One of Male Shepard's default casual outfits is Canderous Ordo's default outfit.
When starting Grunt's loyalty quest, Wrex says, "Next thing you'll tell me is he's a quint and craps dark matter."
Side note: Krogan have four testicles, so when they someone's got a quad it is the human equivalent of saying someone's got a pair. A quint would be the rare krogan who has five.
One of the quarian Admirals is from a ship named Qwib-Qwib. This just happens to be the name of the lone anti-Berserker sentient machine in the Berserker universe. Bonus points in that the Berserkers are eerily similar to the Reapers in some ways.
Joker: All right... but if you start singing Daisy Bell, I'm done. (to himself) Great. See, this is where it starts, and when we're all just organic batteries, guess who they'll blame? "This is all Joker's fault. What a tool he was! I have to spend all day computing pi because he plugged in the Overlord!"
This is particularly genius, because it's also referencing the Executive Meddling that caused the machines' use for humans in The Matrix to be changed from using human brains for distributed computing to power sources.
The atmosphere of the gas giant Anjea (Amada system, Omega Nebula, available with the Normandy Crash Site DLC) has "large numbers of hollow, unpowered objects with dimensions 3.14 by 12.56 by 28.26 meters circulating in the equatorial cloud bands". In other words, pi by 4 times pi by 9 times pi, matching the 1:4:9 dimensions of the Monoliths.
There's a scene in a bar where you can get Shepard to start drinking. It's not exactly identified what it is Shep's drinking.
Another obscure one: when asked about the exact difference between the geth and the heretics, he explains it's a difference in the calculation of a specific floating point number. This is a reference to the Intel Pentium FDIV bug.
During his loyalty quest, if you choose to rewrite the geth heretics, he notes that it requires exactly 1.21 petawatts of electricity to do so.
In that same quest he uses 'sudo' to turn deactivated turrets over to your side.
Legion has many similarities to Kosh and the Vorlons, the eye, the ethereal speech, but most notably:
Shepard: What should I call you?
Shepard: No, I mean you, specifically.
Legion: We are all geth.
He also, at one point, answers an "A or B" question "yes", a trademark Kosh response.
If you convince the asari on Illium to date the krogan, you'll see them later on Tuchanka. After the asari claims that the planet is too dusty, the krogan notes that it "builds character."
The distress beacon for one of the side missions in "Mass Effect 2" is numbered 655321
The Tupari vending machine in the Citadel will occasionally say: "Tupari: it will bring your ancestors back from the grave." This is in reference to a marketing campaign Pepsi ran in China. See the Snopes.com entry for details.
The vending machine may be a reference to Talky Toaster of Red Dwarf: a machine obsessed with getting people to eat/drink their products.
In the Hahne-Kedar Facility sidequest, you shut down a factory of rebellious robots on the planet Capek.
To elaborate, since we do not have a page for that yet: Karel Čapek coined the term 'robot' in his work R.U.R.
It may also incorporate some elements of the assassin robes from Assassin's Creed; the resemblance becomes even stronger when she freeruns up a collection of pipes and towers to jump onto Hock's gunship. And those pipes are red, which should remind you of another EA title, Mirror's Edge.
More importantly, however, it's eerily similar to the thief model from the Infinity Engine.
For a slightly more subtle example, the logo on the back of Kasumi's default outfit bears a striking resemblance to the Maserati logo, possibly as a nod to her love of expensive things.
Among the valuable artifacts locked in Donovan Hock's vault is a statue of an Ogre from Dragon Age.
While on Horizon, the mechanic says that one of the colonists the Collectors kidnapped was named Sten.
There's also Captain Gavorn, who shares a name with one of the Dwarf clans from that series.
Speaking of which, fans of Dead or Alive should recognize the names Kasumi and Donovan.
Morinth is smuggled aboard the Demeter, the name of the ship that ferried Dracula to England.
An Ardat-Yakshi's power to seduce, entrance, and slowly drain the life out of their victims is further reference to Dracula and vampire legends.
The entire idea for the Ardat-Yakshi is a shout out of sorts to ancient world myths. A female demon named "Ardat-Lili" was a Succubus, that is, a female demon who kills her victims by having sex with them.
Also, Yakshi is a class of benevolent nature spirits in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology. However, in Southern India, Yakshi were typically depicted as vampiric enchantresses.
The star cluster in which you find the IFF is named Hawking Eta. It contains the star systems Chandrasekhar and Schwartzschild. That's right, an astrophysics Shout Out.
The star system "Skepsis" (Greek for 'to examine') has planets named after famous scientists: Crick (Francis Crick), Darwin (Charles Darwin), Watson (James Watson) and its moon Franklin (Rosalind Franklin), Keimowitz (most likely Alison Keimowitz), Pauling (Linus Pauling), and Wallace (Alfred Russel Wallace).
There is the M-3 Predator, a popular heavy pistol in the ME universe (and the first gun you get). Those who are familiar with Shadowrun probably know about their most popular heavy pistol...the Ares Predator.
The planet where the Overlord DLC mission is set has skies full of dragons.
Listening to Khalisah al-Jilani after punching her, she has a line quite similar to Bart Sibrel after Buzz Aldrin punched him for calling him a liar (and other things).
A numerical shoutout: Legion has 1,138 geth programs in its platform. Although most would call it a Star WarsShout-Out, but it's really more of a Shout-Out to George Lucas, who many attribute to the revival of the science fiction genre because of the popularity of the movies. The number comes from a film he made earlier called THX 1138, and has been hidden in all his movies since. It also pops up in various other places when the writer wants to shout out Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Lucas himself.
This isn't really a direct Shout-Out. The Legion has 1,183 geth programs. This maybe a numerical anagram. It's not clear.
On a related note, in one of the Collector missions, the Commander is trapped in a room with locked doors. EDI hacks one of the doors so you can proceed, mentioning "Firewall 3217" while doing so.
When the Collectors board the Normandy, many elements of the cinematic are extremely reminiscent of the opening sequence from "A New Hope", when the imperial stormtroopers board the ship. The image of the few defenders lining the walls of and looking nervously down a corridor through which they expect attackers to pour in particular is extremely similar.
A subtle one: at one point during Miranda's loyalty mission you're required to proceed to Dock 94; Docking Bay 94 being where the heroes board the Millennium Falcon.
The famous exchange on the Citadel involving Sir Isaac Newton is a vague Shout-Out to Aliens
Cpl. Hicks: I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine. This is an M41A pulse rifle. Ten millimeter with over-and-under thirty millimeter pump action grenade launcher. *hands the rifle to Ripley*Feel the weight.
The Krogan trucks on Tuchanka look a lot like the vehicle the finds the derelict space ship in Aliens.
At the end of the game, you can see what the Collectors did with the captured humans. Turn them into an orange liquid that is used to create a single giant lifeform. This is amazingly similar to the fate of humanity in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
There are also other hints throughout the games that would make Instrumentality one possible explanation for the creation of the first Reaper.
Easy to miss in the Lair of the Shadow Broker (literally): The Shadow Broker says: "You travel with fascinating companions, doctor."
In the updates preceding the release of the Arrival DLC, there is a break-in at 4:13 AM, two researchers tampering with the Lowas Relay and 612-billion credits lost in the galactic economy.
Slightly obscure one: apparently the planet Siano wandered to its current location from another system, and is home to an abandoned base on one side and a nuclear waste dump on the other. Looks like we found out where Moonbase Alpha finally ended up.
The nuclear munitions ship hijacked by Geth, who are planning to suicide bomb it into a colonized moon? MSV Broken Arrow. (Complete with title inaccuracy.)
Her name and bald-shaven nature are exactly similar to Jack, the girl who latches onto Riddick in the film series. Additionally, both are broken out of their equivalents of a mercenary-controlled supermax prison by a suitably badass figure who they come to trust.
The Blue Suns method of imprisoning her is more similar to Riddick himself, being transported on a ship by mercs who keep her in cryo-storage at all times.
2175 Aeia, the planet where Jacob's loyalty mission takes place, looks extremely similar to The Unknown Planet from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, complete with a large ship crashed into the ocean. BioWare made both games.
The enormous sub-boss level mechs are YMIR. For those that don't know their Norse mythology, Ymir was the father of the jötnar, the chaos-loving giants.
Avina on the Citadel remarks that asari futurists believe poverty will not be eliminated until the production of cornucopia technology that enables the user to create anything they desire. This is exactly like Gene Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek, where the availability of replicators has eliminated the need for currency and eliminated poverty on Earth, creating an idealistic future for humans.
The Achievement for completing Kasumi's mission, 'Broke, Blind and Bedlam' is from a quote from the new Ocean's Eleven.
After using the Omega 4 Relay, the Normandy comes out of its jump on a collision course with a debris field made of destroyed star ships bathed in an apocalyptic shade of gold. The sequence is almost identical to one in the 2009 Star Trek film, where the Enterprise comes out of warp and has to maneuver through a dense collection of wrecked star ships in a similarly golden sector of space.
The Collector General scurrying around the ship's control hub bears more than a passing resemblance to Pilot from Farscape.
As well, Morinth is an intensely sexual blue-skinned babe with a knack for 'herbs' and killing her lovers, making her remarkably similar to Farscape's Zhaan, as well. The shoutout feels complete each time an asari makes a remark to The Goddess.
Thane's loyalty mission is a big shout-out to Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in The Cradle" including the father, Thane, never being around for his son, Kolyat, and Kolyat following in his father's footsteps. To make the shout-out even more blatant, the achievement for completing the mission is called "Cat's in The Cradle."
The krogan call their huge, gun-laden trucks "Tomkahs". Probably a lawyer-friendly reference to Tonka toy trucks.
A soldier is killed when his ship is ambushed and destroyed by an enemy cruiser, and is brought back to life by a disavowed black ops organization as a hard-to-kill cyborg via a project named for Lazarus. Just like in the early Babylon 5 episode A Spider In The Web.
Samara's loyalty quest on Omega, with Nef. Including the little video diary, seems to be an almost direct shout out to Lost In Space, given the similarity to Penny.
Jacob's loyalty mission involves you investigating the wreckage of the ship the Hugo Gernsback. Hugo Gernsback was a magazine publisher widely regarded as the father of science fiction.
As well as the basic plot of his mission: Locate his father among the survivors. Only his father has appointed himself as their "king" of sorts since the edible plants on the planet cause their minds to degrade... A military officer appointing himself ruler of a small group of people in a remote region... Sounds familiar.
Kasumi's acrobatics as she attempts to disable the gunship's shields. Particularly when she leaps from a ledge, as pigeons take flight around her in a moment that looks a lot like Altair's "leap of faith" from Assassin's Creed.
When Shepard and Liara chase the Tala Vasir to a sleazy casino on Illium during the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, a large screen displays an asari stripper dancing in what is clearly the Black Lodge. Made all the more amusing by a volus taking the place of the Little Man From Another Place and a krogan statue (complete with assault rifle) in place of the Venus di Milo.
Project Overlord: a derelict science facility, a creepy-as-hell Contagious A.I., cybernetics-powered ghost images, and a mission that climaxes in an eerie quasi-virtual world that is beginning to superimpose itself on reality. Gosh, why does that sound so familiar?
During Samara's Loyalty Mission, Shepard can protect an Asari dancer by beating up the turian sleaze trying to get a night out of her. Upon kicking his ass, Shepard can declare "The good times are over".
On Jacob's loyalty mission, his father mentions an officer named Anders, who 'found his conscience a little late to step back', which ends up sounding a lot like epic Foreshadowing for the end of Dragon Age II, at least on his rivalry path.
That said, given his hairstyle, voice and domino mask, he also appears to be an Asian version of Nightwing.
With his bionic limbs, implanted eye lenses and black/gold color scheme, he also looks a bit like a certain cyborg corporate security agent (though given the relatively close span of time between the releases of these two games, this one might have been unintentional).
Between the flame throwers, the need for flashlights to navigate dark corridors and the creepy eggs that unleash insectoid horrors on anyone who gets too close, the mission on Utukku is one big tribute to Alien. (If you kill them both times, Joker even starts to comment that maybe they should nuke the planet, because it's the only way to be sure.)
If you've romanced Liara all the way through, her last kiss with Shepard ends with them silhouetted in each other's arms as a bright light on the horizon envelops them, looking a lot like one of the dream sequences from Watchmen.
There's a lost civilization on planet Carcosa in a twin-sun system. One of the few remaining ruins is a throne room overlooking a lake. Additionally, one of the stars is named Hali, after said lake.
As anyone familiar with Logan's Run will know, there is no sanctuary.
When you invite Traynor up to your cabin for chess and she challenges you, the Paragon response on the conversation wheel is, "I have a bad feeling..." The line Shepard actually says is, " This is a trap, isn't it?"
On the mission on Arrae to rescue defecting defecting Cerberus scientists there is a scene as they're evacuating the base of anti-air batteries firing away as a shuttle flies off. Inside the base the announcement "Shuttle One is away!" is made as everyone cheers.
The Turian leader is called Primarch, as you all know.
The slow building romance between Joker and EDI is a shout out to Lester del Rey's short story "Helen O'Loy", a story about a human and a robot that had achieved true sentience falling in love which received a more direct shout-out in the second game during the Firewalker missions.
During the mission to rescue the ex-Cerberus scientists led by Dr. Brynn Cole, the evacuation scenes resemble the opening of the Battle of Hoth, where surface-to-air guns clear a path for transports. Some of the lines are exactly the same, too.
Also, Dr. Cole is voiced by Jo Wyatt, which would probably just be a coincidence if there wasn't also a scientist voiced by Nicholas Boulton hanging around on the station. Why is this significant? Because they're the voices for Female and Male Hawke, respectively.
Some of the music that plays during the quarian-geth arc sounds remarkably similar to some of the music from Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined). Given how similar the quarian-geth conflict already is to that series, this can't be just coincidence.
The same music also plays when Tricia Helfer's character inhabits Eva's robot body.
Spoken of in the geth memories, is a "Mistress Hala'Dama", which is also referencing 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The flamethrower is designated M-451, a reference to Fahrenheit451.
The achievement for completing the Leviathan DLC is called "UnderPressure".
The Reapers creator's known as 'The Leviathans' are very similar to the Slaver species from Larry Niven's Known Space Universe. Both are massively xenophobic and have the natural ability of mind controlling other species which they use to form and control their space empires.
The Turian home system is called Trebia, most likely after the Battle of the River Trebia, in which Hannibal kicked Roman arse.
Only instead of the choices being gameplay and involving conversations with your allies and enemies, they're basically just three buttons and the person arguing is a character that had never been seen or even implied to exist up to that point.
As part of a cross-promotion between Mass Effect 3 and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, ME players got access to bonus armor and weapons after completing the Amalur demo. The Reckoner-Knight armor was sent by Alliance soldiers stationed in Rhode Island, while the Chakram Launcher assault rifle was built by Ama-Lur Equipment.
A subtle one from the "Leviathan" DLC. The Leviathan artifact in Bryson's office is labeled "Artifact P3X118" in one of the data files. In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Foothold", P3X-118 was the planet from whence the Stragoth gated into the SGC and took it over.
"Rannoch: Geth Fighter Squadrons" has a very TRON-like Computer World that Shepard gets uploaded into.
One of the war assets found by scanning planets is Special Ops Team Zeta, aka the Bridge Burners, a group of engineers specializing in sabotage and legendary for their tenacity and skill. This is most likely a reference to the Bridgeburners from The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, a legendary unit of sappers and warriors.
One of the datapads in the Leviathan DLC has a throwaway mention of a transport called the MSV Kirkwall.
If Traynor is romanced, the conversation about her Robosexual inclination is extended. Joker gets a comment about whether the Commander's spine lights up.
When in the Citadel Archives, one of the displays is said to be an religious artifact from Earth, but it is malfunctioning and can't be viewed. However, if you look at it from a distance, you can get a brief glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant.
It seems Bioware throws another Easter egg during Shepard's party: in the quiet type, if you suggest mixing drinks, Grunt, Kaidan/Ashley and Samantha will mention the names and recipes of these drinks which are made by fans of the game.
Shattered Eezo is Rock Em Sock Em Robots with LOKI Mechs. The name itself is a reference to Shattered Steel, the first video game Bioware ever produced.
Traynor and T'Suzsa staring at each other looks like it was taken straight from a Tarantino movie.
The scene where Shepard plays wingman for Garrus is quite like the scene in Dragon Age: Origins where the Warden plays wingman for Oghren.
One that's very easy to miss. When you go through a cold storage during the sushi bar attack, you see a salarian smoking there. If you stand near him long enough, he says "Look, I only do eyes."
After Javik gets hung over, one of the things he says is "Is it time to rule the galaxy now? Kneel Before Javik!"
The Paragon option at the end of Citadel is similar to the ending of The Mummy Returns. It's exactly the same as the novelization.
If Ashley is still around when you do the DLC she will reply to Shepard saying things are a little dicey with, "Must be Tuesday." This was a popular line from the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Traynor's asari chess rival's first name is Polgara- that is, she was named after an immortal woman who was extremely skilled at manipulating people for a long-term goal. Perfect name for a an asari chess specialist, really.
Polgara T'Suzsa may also be named for the chess grandmaster Susan Polgar (whose name is written "Polgár Zsuzsanna" in her native Hungarian).
The game plays out almost exactly like a similar game shown in the 'James Bond film Never Say Never Again, complete with holographic display and the fact players receive an electric shock as punishment for sacrificing pieces on the board.
Talk to Cortez enough and he'll get some of his old fighter pilot buddies to fight for you. They're called "Rogue Fighter Pilots" in the terminal, but they left the Alliance on good terms, so how did they go rogue-ohhhhhhhh...
The premise of the Crucible storyline closely mirrors the plot of Contact. Both involve humanity pooling its resources into a massive engineering project based on designs obtained from mysterious aliens, even though they have only a vague idea of its final purpose.
Admiral Hackett comes within inches of quoting The Art of War when he describes his strategy as "avoid the Reapers where they're strong, hit them where they're not" - advice that's repeated several times throughout that book.
The face name of one Hanar is Zymandis, and the soul name is Regards the Works of the Enkindlers in Despair, referencing the poem 'Ozymandias' by Percy Shelly.
Garret Bryson of the Leviathan DLC as a whole seems to be a direct shout-out to Agent Mulder of The X-Files fame. Not only does he try to find evidence for things the galaxy doesn't believe in, but he's in it "for the truth". His daughter Ann even quotes the series Arc Words: "the truth is out there".
The DLC pack that gave players the option to play as N7 operatives during multiplayer includes a shot in its trailer where each of the N7 classes stand in a circle and ready themselves to fight surrounding enemies in a very clear shout out to Marvel's The Avengers.
A news report reveals that the last name of Aresh (a minor antagonist you encounter during Jack's loyalty mission on Pragia) is Aghdashloo, likely in reference in Shohreh Aghdashloo, who voices Admiral Raan.