- Anvilicious: The series isn't subtle in its imagery, which unfortunately means that the messages that are subtle are easily overwhelmed.
- The message of extremism in any human endeavour is bad, represented with all of the major villains and settings. Critics argue that such tendencies to paint in extremes, or see the main focus on extremism itself, ultimately makes the concept cheap and not a true exploration of any idea. For instance, if the message of the first game is that Objectivism taken to the extreme is bad, does that mean that "moderate" Objectivism is good? Likewise, is Zachary Comstock an extreme of white nationalism and manifest destiny, does that mean moderate versions of that are good or tolerable? As noted by critics and historians the point about these ideas, or any other contentious ideas, is not about the most extreme version, but about the fact that ordinary people can buy into it, nor is it any real critique or exploration of concept (many critics for instance argue that any Objectivism is bad and academically it is not considered a valid idea at all).
- Likewise Drugs Are Bad: Rapture is full of addicts. ADAM isn't technically crack, but it sure is desirable. But of course the fact that the Player Character doesn't develop a habit or dependency ruins any point about that message, the same with the sequel, Bioshock Infinite where the Vigours don't create any addiction in Columbia or any real craze either.
- Complete Monster:
- Frank Fontaine (AKA Atlas) from the first game, gangster and supposedly deceased political rival to Andrew Ryan, had a public face of providing shelter and promotion of welfare towards orphans and the poor, in itself the antithesis of Ryan's ideology. However, he experimented with sea slugs that carry ADAM, and had no qualms of placing them in very young girls, some of them even forcibly taken from their parents for the "orphanages," to concentrate the ADAM. Also, it turned out that the poor under Fontaine's care were really no better off than they had been, and that he had in fact been manipulating them toward his own gain while getting them addicted to ADAM. He and the newly-christened Splicers initiated a civil war in order to get other inhabitants into ADAM and feigned his own death. It's also revealed he programmed Andrew Ryan's own son, Jack, the Player Character, from birth in order to force him to eventually kill his father so Fontaine could usurp Ryan's position, and then dispose of him once this was done. In the prequel DLC Burial at Sea, it's revealed that, in order to force Elizabeth to obtain the means to control his pawn, he tortured her by sticking a pick in her eye, tapping it with a hammer, and threatening to lobotomize her. When that didn't work, he threatened to do it to a little girl instead, and once he got what he wanted, Fontaine murdered Elizabeth by bludgeoning her to death.
- BioShock Infinite: Father Zachary Hale Comstock is the ruler and "Prophet" of Columbia. Born Booker DeWitt, as a young man, he took part in the Wounded Knee Massacre, personally scalping several victims and setting fire to tents with women and children inside as a response to taunting about his own Native American heritage. Although initially consumed by guilt, after accepting a baptism and taking the name Zachary Comstock, he saw his actions as righteous, playing up his involvement and dubbing himself "The Hero of Wounded Knee". Going on to construct Columbia, Comstock became a dictator, converting the upper-class populace into a Cult of Personality devoted to him, while oppressing any non-Americans or people of color. After being left sterile, Comstock conspired with the Luteces to steal the child of his Alternate Self who rejected the baptism, forcing him to sell his daughter, Anna, and preventing Booker from rescuing her. Renaming Anna "Elizabeth", Comstock murders his wife (framing Daisy Fitzroy in the process), and tries to kill the Luteces to conceal his crimes. He goes on to imprison Elizabeth in a tower designed to drain her powers for most of her life, using the monstrous Songbird to keep her from leaving. When Booker arrives in Columbia to rescue Elizabeth, Comstock has the local militia hunt for Booker, even having one of his followers immolate herself in an attempt to kill him. When Booker and Elizabeth reach Lady Comstock's tomb, Comstock uses a device to raise his wife from the dead, resulting in a monster that tries to kill them both. After Songbird retrieves Elizabeth, Comstock has her brutally tortured to try and force Elizabeth to become his successor and carry out his plan to destroy the world below in Comstock's vision of the final judgment. Taking racism, elitism, xenophobia, and self-righteousness to their worst extremes, Zachary Comstock is the worst that the world of BioShock Infinite has to offer, driven by the belief that he can do no wrong.
- Contested Sequel: Infinite is either the best or the worst game in the series. General consensus is, however, that Infinite is a worthy, if still gameplay-wise inferior, sequel to BioShock and is still superior to BioShock 2.
- BioShock 2 is near universally agreed to be a cash grab that is not as good as the original, but fans can't agree on whether it's a good game in its own right that had a story that did its own thing, or if it's a lazy piece of garbage that had a story that used too many retcons and diminished the original's story.
- Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game: Many critics had this reaction to every entry in the franchise, praising their respective stories and settings but criticizing for their relatively simple gameplay, particularly in comparison to their spiritual predecessor System Shock 2.
- Love to Hate: There are many despicable characters in the franchise, from Andrew Ryan to Sofia Lamb to Sander Cohen to Zachary Comstock to Jeremiah Fink — and that's not even mentioning the undisputed heavyweight champion of evil BioShock villains, Frank Fontaine. But damn if they don't tend to be great orators.
- Nightmare Fuel: Lots. Between claustrophobia, hydrophobia, Body Horror, deadly doctors, mad artists, deadly doctors who ''think'' they're artists, fear of surgical implements, fear of needles, fear of the dark, Mind Control, child cruelty, creepy children, Soundtrack Dissonance, animal cruelty, fear of being hunted through a decaying city by gene-spliced psychopaths, and seafood allergies, there's something in the series to terrify everybody. All three games have their own pages.
YMMV / BioShock
This page covers the franchise as a whole. If you're looking for the original BioShock game, see: YMMV.Bio Shock 1.