Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Gradius

Go To

There are characters in the Gradius series. However, few of them are enough information to be included in this page.

    open/close all folders 

Heroes and Fighters

This part of the page covers the central heroes and the fighters from planet Gradius or its ally planets.
     Fighters In General
  • Attack Drone: The Options are possibly the Ur-Example of this trope for video-games as a whole, although unlike future versions of this trope, the Options fire the exact same weapon loadout for their respective fighters and they follow the fighters' movements. Bonus points for the Vic-Viper itself, since the Options' snake-like movement are what gave the Vic-Viper its name.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Every time whenever a fighter gets destroyed, it respawns with no power-ups, although the Konami Code can remedy this by giving you all of your power-ups sans the Laser or Double. Thankfully, other games like Salamander or Gradius V let you pick up your Options right on the spot.
  • Collision Damage: Frustratingly like in any other Shoot 'em Up, all of the fighters are very vulnerable to walls, ceilings, and floors. Thankfully, Gradius Gaiden introduces the Guard Shield, a shield that nullifies this trope while protecting the fighter from above and below for two hits total.
  • Cool Starship/Space Fighter: All of them are kickass star-fighters that blast Bacterion scum to smithereens.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The manual for Gaiden states that each of the game's four ships have a maximum speed of five times the speed of light. Which may explain why they are able to outrun a black hole.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Each fighter has its own special laser, such as the Vic-Viper's Simple, yet Awesome thin piercing laser, the Lord-British's ripple and disruptor lasers, the Jade-Knight's round and pulse lasers, and the Falchion-Beta's gravity lasers.
  • Glass Cannon: The fighters can pack a punch (especially with the Energy Laser or Gravity Beam), and while they have great speed and mobility, the fighters are all equally squishy One Hit Point Wonders. The only form of defense are the various shields throughout the series, but they have their own flaws (the double shield has the highest durability out of the shields but it leaves the fighter exposed from the top, bottom, and rear, while the force field protects the fighter's entire body yet it lasts for three hits).
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Throughout the series, all fighters have the option to pick any shield as some form of defense, whether it's the Double Shield (highest defense but only protects the fighter's front), the Force Field (small hitbox and protects the whole fighter but lasts for three hits), the Guard Shield (nullifies Collision Damage but only protects the fighter from above and below for two hits total), and the Limit Shield (grants the fighter 3 seconds of invincibility).
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Every fighter has its own unique missile. Vic-Viper's missiles have a decent fire rate and slides through the ground until they either hit an enemy or an obstacle/wall; Lord-British's missiles fire both above and below but they don't slide on the floor/ceiling; Jade-Knight's missiles spread across the floor when detonated; Falchion-Beta's missiles tumble to the ground where they split up and shoot horizontally.
  • More Dakka: The Double power-up varies for all fighters, but they all allow them to fire multiple directions at the same time. The Vic-Viper's Double fires at a 45 degree angle, while the Falchion-Beta's Double fires smart bullets that automatically attack the enemy at every angle. Oddly for the other two fighters, the Lord-British's Double is oddly its aforementioned Ripple Laser, while the Jade-Knight's Double is its Round Laser.

     Vic Viper 

Vic Viper
The Vic-Viper in the cover of Gradius V.
The heroic snake-themed fighter of the series, piloted by James Burton and his descendants to battle the Bacterion forces for generations, keeping planet Gradius and the galaxy safe from their wrath. The Vic-Viper is armed to the fangs with missiles, double machine guns, lasers, options, and a shield.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal/Alliterative Name: Vic Viper.
  • Animal Motif: The snake of course (hence the name), considering the Vic Viper's Options follow the fighter like a snake's tail and the prongs on the fighter resemble a snake's fangs.
  • Attack Drone: A special case for this fighter; the Options' default snakelike tail movement emphasize the Vic-Viper's snake motif, making the fighter look like a Segmented Serpent. Along with the trailing snake tail formation, the Options can also form a horizontal V or an Orbiting Particle Shield.
  • Blue Is Heroic: The Vic-Viper is primarily white with blue accents, and it is the heroic fighter ship whose pilots fight for the peace of the galaxy.
    • Orange/Blue Contrast: In most installments of the series, the Vic-Viper's blue accents on its frame are contrasted by its orange Options, although other installments such as Gradius Gaiden change the orange Options to blue.
  • Charge Attack: In Gradius III and Gradius V, the Vic-Viper has the option (no Pun intended) to use the Energy Laser, a slow-firing yet very powerful laser beam that annihilates waves of enemies and even bosses within seconds, just like the R9A-Arrowhead's Wave Cannon.
  • Dub Name Change: Called the Warp Rattler in the overseas NES versions of the original Gradius.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Averted; the Vic-Viper is themed after a snake and yet it is nonetheless heroic.
  • Wave Motion Gun: In the cinematic intro of Gradius V, the Vic-Viper pulls off a huge one against the Big Core Rev 1.2, destroying the core without touching the barriers. Sadly, you can't pull this off in the actual game unless you count the aforementioned Energy Laser, which is unlocked after beating the game.

     Lord British (Fighter) 

Lord British (Fighter)
The Lord British portrayed in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • Achilles' Heel: In Gaiden, it is especially vulnerable to enemies coming from behind, as none of its weapons provide rear coveragenote .
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: In Gaiden, its Disruptor beam can penetrate enemies that aren't One Hit Point Wonders and enemy armor, giving it a better shot at enemy cores, at the expense of damage per second.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: In the original Salamander, it's functionally identical to the Vic Viper. In the arcade Japanese version of Life Force, its powerup meter has a different order. In Gaiden, it boasts a significantly different set of weapons from the Vic Viper, much like the other two ships.
  • The Lancer: The Lord-British is usually paired with the Vic-Viper as a duo since their debut in Salamander. The Lord British is also the 2nd player in some installments of the series.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; the fighter shares its name with a character from the Salamander OVA.
  • Red Is Heroic: The Lord-British is clad in red or orange and it is the noble fighter that battles the Bacterion Forces.

     Jade Knight
The Jade Knight portrayed in Yugioh.
  • Emerald Power: The Jade-Knight is clad in green, hence its name. It's also the best fighter in terms of dealing spread damage to dish out enemies of all angles.

     Falchion Beta
The Falchion Beta portrayed in Yugioh.
  • Animal Motif: The falcon.
  • Gravity Is Purple: The Falchion-Beta's Laser is called the Gravity Beam, a slow-firing yet powerful laser that leaves purple destructive orbs that eat through enemies and bosses.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Falchion-Beta is clad in purple and it is the most offensive and devastating fighter out of the four.
  • Smart Gun: The Falchion-Beta's Double is a devastating weapon that automatically tracks the nearest enemy with great precision.

     James Burton 

James Burton
The hero of Gradius 1, Nemesis 2, Gradius Rebirth. He is a Wreekian, just like Dr. Venom. After defeating Venom in Nemesis 2, James becomes Emperor Lars 18th. He passes away in year 6718, but that doesn't stop Dr. Venom from going to the past and kidnapping a three-year old James. Thank goodness David Burton, a descendant of James, saved the boy from Venom.
  • Ace Pilot: He pilots the Vic Viper into at least three victories against the Bacterian armadas, Dr. Venom, and Bacterion.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dr. Venom is this for James in two of the games, sending him out on no less than three deployments while Venom's staging a coup in Gradius ReBirth, becoming the boss of Nemesis 2 that James has to confront, and then kidnapping a toddler James in Nemesis 3.
  • The Hero: James serves as the central hero in Gradius 1, Nemesis 2, and Gradius Rebirth to battle the Bacterions and Dr. Venom.
  • Human Alien: James looks like a human, but he is a Wreekian.
  • Recurring Character: Is the Vic Viper pilot in three of the Gradius games, including the Grand Premiere installment and the last major game to be made as of 2016.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: At the end of ReBirth's second loop, Dr. Venom gives him the "Bacterian Buster Program", which uses a Wii Remote for fighting Bacterians. James's response is to give him a straight and sincere thanks, as if using a video game controller to fight Bacterians is perfectly normal fare for him.

     David Burton 

David Burton
The hero of Nemesis 3. A descendant of the late James Burton, David repels Bacterian forces and discovers the Bacterians going back in time to change history. David saves a three-year old James Burton from the Bacterians and frees the Bacterian controlled planets.
  • Ace Pilot: Just like his ancestor. He has to be in order to pilot the Vic Viper.
  • The Hero: For Nemesis 3.
  • Human Alien: Since James was a Wreekian, David has DNA of that race.

     Eddie Evans 

Eddie Evans

One of the protagonists of the Salamander OVA series. He gets manipulated by Paula, a Bacterian disguised as a human, into destroying the Bacterian repellent: the Moai Statue. Eddie redeems himself by sacrificing himself (by flying into the mouth dragon named Salamander) to save Gradius.



One of the Protagonists of the Salamander OVA series. In the second Salamander OVA, she had to destroy her own father (who was kidnapped and turned into a Cyber Brain by the Bacterians). In the third, she gets kidnapped by the Bacterians and almost got become a cyber brain just like her father, but gets saved in time by Dan and Lord British.

     Lord British (Character) 

Lord British (Character)

One of the Protagonists of the game Salamander and the Salamander OVA series. He is the ruler of planet Latis. His personality isn't very detailed in the games, but in the OVA series, he's a bit of a Jerkass.


Bacterians/Bacterions/The Bacterian/Bacterian Empire/Bacterion Empire/etc.

The main villains of Gradius who come from the Star cluster of Bacterion. This page is just going to cover the important ones.

"I was born from the greediness of mankind. While men exist, so will I!"


Bacterion, the god of destruction. The creator of the entire Bacterian Empire, Bacterion always tries to invade Gradius, home of the Vic Viper, the ship that always defeats him.

  • Big Bad: The master and creator of the entire Bacterian Empire, who are the threats that Gradius is forced to defend itself against.
  • Brain in a Jar: Sometimes.
  • Evolved into a Planet: In Gradius III. Or maybe he have always been this way.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Much like Gofer, a head with an exposed brain in a mess of laughing faces.
  • Evil Is Visceral: His exposed brain is shown pulsing, and he is in a sea of organic-looking material.
  • Final Boss: Bacterion is definitely the last enemy of Gradius III, but whether or not it was him as the brain in the original is up for debate.
  • God of Evil: Check his quote.
  • Hive Mind: Appears as this if the Vic Viper is able to reach him in Gradius 3; he controls all the Bacterian organisms.
  • Recurring Character: He's the primary Big Bad of the Gradius franchise.
  • The Emperor: The original Bacterian Emperor that rules an elite fleet of warships.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Bacterion or Bacterian?
  • The Virus: Bacterion's strategy of conquering planets; Bacterion multiplies, then Bacterion use psychic controlling beings called Cyber Brains (for example, Venom and Gofer), or Bacterion uses his psychic powers to control those the duplicate cells and make them into fighter ships and monsters, called Bacterians. Combined with the intelligence of the Cyber Brains (or Bacterion), the Bacterians conquer planets into transform into whatever they like. If the Cyber Brains or Bacterion get blown up, at least the pieces would grow into more Cyber Brains, making the Bacterion Empire stronger.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: He's notable for being one of the few final bosses (and the only main series one) to actually fire back! Unfortunately for him, his shots are slow and so easily avoided that he still qualifies as this (getting hit by one of these does send you to a sub-level that you have to fight your way through to get back to Bacterion on at least the arcade version of III).


"I am the strongest!"
The Big Bad of Gradius II and IV.
  • The Dragon: Lampshaded by Gofer himself: "I am just a small portion of the empire Bacterion!"
  • Dragon Ascendant: Replaces Bacterion as the Bacterian Emperor in II and IV and leads the charge against Gradius and the Vic Viper in his stead.
  • Eldritch Abomination: A skinless head in a mess of organic tissue.
  • Evil Is Visceral: His brain is exposed, and so are the muscles in his face.
  • Final Boss: Is this for II and IV.
  • Hive Mind: Gofer's one of the beings that can control the entire Bacterian Empire.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Gofer in Gradius IV states that he will be reborn in every single piece of Gofer's body. Fridge Horror would make his last words more of a warning than just mere words.
  • Recurring Character: The Final Boss of two of the Gradius games.
  • Was Once a Man: Until Bacterion turned Gofer into a giant skinless head.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: In all arcade versions of the mainline games, Gofer doesn't attack when the Vic Viper reaches him; all one has to do is shoot the tendrills holding his head to the ceiling. In the NES port of II, he does spit out ballistics, and Nemesis 3 does have him as a standard boss.

     Zelos Force 

Zelos Force

This Bacterian is a red gigantic eye created as a Living Weapon by the forces of Bacterion to transform planet Latis, a neighboring planet, into Bacterian territory.

  • Degraded Boss: Zelos Force went from final boss to boss to a regular Mook in following games such as Gradius V. Still, an Elite Mook.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The eye has a fiery glow around it and pulsing veins.
  • Evil Is Visceral: A giant eye with veins is what the Zelos Force creatures look like
  • Eye Scream: A big eye, and in his first game, you have to shoot said eye.
  • Final Boss: Of arcade Salamander.
  • Living Relic: In Gradius Neo and Gradius Neo Imperial, the Bacterian Empire doesn't exist anymore. All that's left is the Bacterians' technology, the Crystal Moai, and some wild Zelos Forces.
  • Living Weapon: An eyeball that is a Bacterian weapon.
  • Recurring Character: Appears as a Final Boss and then reappears in the first stage of Gradius V as an Elite Mook blocking the Vic Viper's path.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Zelos Force is a red eye.
  • The Virus: That's what Zelos Force is designed for.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Averted; this last boss requires some input to survive because it comes in behind you, plus the base will try to shut you in.



A female Bacterian who is the Big Bad of the Salamander OVA series.

     Life Force/Zelos 

Life Force/Zelos (Not to be confused with the other Zelos)
A Planet Eater that eats planets. Usually, you have to destroy him from the inside.
  • Big Bad: Of the game Life Force.
  • Covers Always Lie: ...maybe. One would assume Zelos, based on the description, to be the flaming dragon depicted on the cover of the game, whose mouth is the size of a few planets in front of it. However, the same cover first originated with the arcade Salamander, the plot of which did not involve a planet eater.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Doubles with Draconic Abomination, assuming Zelos is one.
  • Evil Is Visceral
  • Genius Loci: Or so it seems to be at the ending of NES Life Force.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: A possible interpretation of Zelos is that he's a galaxy-sized dragon that eats solar systems and allies with the Bacterians (if not, a Bacterian himself).
  • Planet Eater: Zelos is said to be a dragon so massive that its belly is full of solar systems, and he is coming to devour the Metalion solar system!

     Big Core Series 

Big Core Series
Big Core Mk.1 from Gradius I.
Big Core Mk.2 from Gradius II.
Big Core Mk.3 from Gradius III (Arcade).
Big Core Mk.4 from Gradius V.
Big Core Rev 1.2 from Gradius V.
A series of large Bacterian Warships that mostly serve as the bosses of the Gradius series. So far, there are Big Cores MK I, II, III, IV, and many variants.
  • Ace Custom: Big Core MK I has three notable Ace Custom variations.
    • Big Core Rev 1.2 in V, equipped with a ring of laser ring-spamming turrets AND planet-piercing laser cannons.
    • Big Core Custom in NEO Imperial has Area Napalm, a multidirectional detonator. The player controls this Big Core trying to escape Lars Empire. Unfortunately, it has been destroyed by Gradius Union's forces.
    • Neo Big Core in Gaiden has a drastically different design than the other MK I variants, and alongside with the usual "up-down 4 laser beam" attack pattern, the Neo Big Core fires a Wave Motion Gun and tons of thunder grenades. Later loops and higher difficulties allow the Neo Big Core to summon Attack Drones of its own. The fact that it has purple accents on its frame clearly shows how improved this battleship is.
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: The Trope Codifier in video-games, thanks to its simplistic yet iconic design and attack pattern.
  • Degraded Boss: Big Core MK I went from a boss to an Elite Mook.
    • Subverted, the heavily-modified version of Big Core MK I (which comes with more weaponry) appears as the first boss in Gradius V. At higher loops, the battleship's "loop" will be completed with another Big Core.
  • Four Is Death: Big Core MK IV (hence its name) has four cores and is also the biggest, most advanced, and deadliest addition to the Big Core family to date, complete with tentacle-like lasers and detachable arms.
  • Recurring Boss: At least one Big Core MK I of some sort will appear as a boss enemy in any game called Gradius. The first had nothing but Big Cores until the last two stages.
  • Shielded Core Boss: The Big Core series and other core battleships all have a vulnerable core that's protected by barriers and the Gradian fighters must destroy them before reaching said core.

     Dr. Venom 

Dr. Venom
"You will never escape the shadow of fear! My hatred for your kind is eternal!"
The Big Bad of Nemesis 2, 3, Gradius ReBirth and V. He constantly tries to destroy Gradius for using his people, who became an endangered species thanks to a future version of Venom and Gofer, only for their ESP powers.
  • Arch-Enemy: Venom is this to James Burton, the original Vic Viper pilot, since he sends Burton out on several runs against a rogue Bacterian sector while he attempts a coup. Burton realizes this and has Venom imprisoned, but he escapes and becomes one of the main minds of the Bacterians, going up against James in Nemesis 2 and then trying to kidnap him as a child in Nemesis 3.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The Latisian prophecy in Salamander MSX states that a devil with green skin and five eyes will cause two catastrophes. Guess who's the devil.
  • The Bus Came Back: After Nemesis 3, he disappeared from non-remake Gradius games for 16 years, before appearing as the Final Boss of Gradius V.
  • The Dragon
  • Eldritch Abomination: Venom was partly one in Nemesis 2 and 3 due to being transformed by the Bacterians, but he became a full Eldritch Abomination in Gradius V.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Is one of the latest minds to take control of the Bacterians and lead them as a brain in an attempt to lay waste to Gradius.
  • Evil Is Visceral: In Gradius V.
  • Eye Scream: When you see him in Gradius V, he's just a brain with stationary eyes, and you have to shoot his eyes out to destroy him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Once the Director General of the Space Science Agency and, at least according to the events of Gradius ReBirth, was the head creator of the Vic Viper. But after the events of the prequel ReBirth (where Vic Viper pilot James Burton and the Gradian Empire wised on to Venom planning a coup of the planet), he left the agency and joined the Bacterians to attack the planet Gradius.
  • Final Boss: In the mainline series, his brain is the last target of Gradius V. He's also the last boss in Nemesis II, but this one puts Venom behind the wheel of a Big Core machine.
  • Go for the Eye: When you meet his brain in V, the target you are shooting at are his eyes; destroying them destroys him.
  • Hive Mind: At some point, he becomes a Bacterian Emperor brain much like Bacterion and Gofer and attacks Gradius himself with the Bacterian Empire at his command in Gradius V.
  • Human Alien: Started off this way. After an accidental exposure to radiation, he gained a much more alien appearance. Even later after this, he defected to the Bacterions and his physiology was altered, giving him the three extra eyes mentioned in Salamander and a more muscular build. Even later after this, he became nothing but a giant Brain in a Jar.
  • Kill All Humans: His goal in V; his quote makes that very clear, since he is now a Bacterian Hive Mind.
  • Recurring Character: Appears as a major antagonist in a handful of the games.
  • Spikes of Villainy: His page image shows him in a dress with a major spike motif.
  • Was Once a Man: Venom became a cyborg in Nemesis II but was still a Wreek. Now all that left of him is a Bacterian Hive Mind. According to the Gradius II bible, he once appeared just as human as the Burtons, but his appearance was caused by accidental exposure to some form of radiation.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the true ending of ReBirth, he's about to invoke this on James, but James flips it on him by revealing that he's onto Venom's coup.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: As usual, once you're face to eye with his eyes, all you have to do is shoot them. This is not the case in Nemesis II, where he's piloting a Big Core ship and is attached to an actual boss fight.



"I'm going to scare you like you've NEVER been scared before!" .
"I'll scare you like you've never been scared before!"

The Big Bad of Salamander 2. He was the most recent leader of the Salamander force, an elite Bacterian army that was previously led by Zelos Force and Venom. He only appeared in Salamander 2.


O.V.U.M (Original Visions of Ultimate Monster)
"I hope you can entertain me."

O.V.U.M, the main villain of Gradius Gaiden. It transforms into several entities that are fought in Salamander; three Intruders, Zelos Force, and Brain Golem before exploding.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: