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A Space Marine Is You

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Once you put that helmet on, YOU. ARE. DOOMGUY.

"Doom introduced the grizzled space marine to the gaming world 15 years ago, dreamed into existence by someone at id Software, probably just minutes after watching Aliens. The grizzled space marine character so captivated the imagination of first-person shooter fans that they decided to have him star in every single FPS game since."

A form of Cliché Storm for video games.

The prerequisites for this are:

  1. The game is a First or Third-Person Shooter.
  2. The game is Military Science Fiction themed.
  3. The protagonist is a member of the military.

If your game has the above, your plot will have a certain number of these cliches:

Much of the above comes from the tendency to take inspiration from Aliens and Doom, which were themselves heavily inspired by Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, along with sheer parallel evolution. Just remember that this isn't necessarily bad or good, though, and that the cliches can be excused if the various rules are applied, especially Sci-Fi Awesomeness and just Plain Old Fun. However, when worse comes to worst, there is also one of the ultimate rules: It's just a game.


    open/close all folders 

  • Advent Rising starts with the generic military elite Gideon's entire home planet destroyed by Scary Dogmatic Aliens, after which he proceeds to gain lots of superpowers, kick much ass, and save the day. The twist in this case is that for the finale, you get to fight the person whom you chose not to save at the beginning of the game. To his defense, Gideon often speaks and he is not bald.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • The Aliens vs. Predator (2010) Marine campaigns. Well, obviously.
  • The 2005 version of Area 51. Although the player is a 'mission specialist' rather than a new grunt, the difference is almost purely semantic and the rest of the trope fits like a glove, barring the fact that the protagonist is voiced (by David Duchovny, no less).
  • Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M.. Alien bugs have invaded Earth, and a team of high-tech Space Marines lead La Résistance.
  • Blake Stone: Blake Stone technically isn't an active proper member of the military (he's less a Space Marine than Space James Bond), but otherwise fits rather well as an agent sent to fight rogue soldiers, mutants and mutant soldiers on a space colony, and actually predated Doomnote .
  • The Colony is an Ur-Example. You are a Silent Protagonist Space Marshal responding to a distress call from a remote outpost. On approaching the planet your ship is damaged and you crash land. You don your Powered Armor and make your way to the entrance of the underground base, which you find has been overrun by aliens who appeared out of nowhere. You must penetrate to the depths of the base and out again to escape the planet alive.
  • Crysis, sort of. Nomad is an ordinary Earth Marine, but still fills a good number of the cliches. Surprisingly, he has both a voice and an officer rank.
    • Crysis 2 plays it even straighter, for thematic purposes.
    • Crysis 3, on the other hand, doesn't fit a large chunk of these characteristics. Prophet is no longer in the U.S. military, he has a lot of dialogue, undergoes Character Development throughout the game, spends only about half the game listening to a Voice with an Internet Connection before deciding he can get more things done if he acts on his own, and his primary weapon is a compound bow despite being the only person in the world who can use Ceph weaponry. Oh, and he's not wearing Powered Armor, he is the Powered Armor!
  • Doom:
    • The original games were the Trope Makers. You play as a silent Space Marine who was deployed with his squad to a space base over Mars which was attacked in orbit. Everyone else in said squad dies before the game even starts, which (according to the manual) you hear over your radio. And your enemies are demons who appeared out of nowhere in a space base. That's seven of the tropes right there. It also established the chainsaw, high-energy weapon, shotgun, and rocket launcher as standard Space Marine armaments. The similarities to Aliens are to be expected, because the game was originally supposed to be based on Aliens until id Software gave up on the idea because of 20th Century Fox's strict licensing demands, and the game was re-imagined as a mix between Aliens and Evil Dead. (That didn't stop experienced modders from doing Aliens-themed mods - Aliens T.C. was the most famous one, being rather impressive in its own right.)
    • Likewise, you play as a Space Marine in Doom³, albeit a different one from the last two games. He's only ever addressed as "Marine" by the NPCs, and he's just as silent as the rest. The player character in Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil is a different marine as well, except he's on engineering duty.
    • The Doom (2016) incarnation actually doesn't fit the trope that well. While the Doom Slayer used to be a part of an elite fighting group known as the 'Night Sentinels', that's all in the past and superseded by his current Seraphim-empowered hatred of all things demonic - he doesn't kill demons because they're invading, he kills demons because they're demons. He's never referred to as a Space Marine, isn't sent into a combat zone in the beginning (the combat zone comes to him), and while he is talked to through a radio, he's not so much given orders as he is suggestions. There's no midgame twist, no Load-Bearing Boss, no timed escape after killing the final boss, and he prefers the double-barrelled shotgun over a machinegun.
    • Doom Eternal reveals that the Slayer was an example of this trope — because he is the Space Marine from the original games.
  • Substitute "megacorporation" for "space station" and you pretty much have the first F.E.A.R. game, down to The Reveal: You're Alma's son. Well, one of them.
  • Gunman Chronicles flirts with this trope, but ultimately manages to have its own style by having all the characters dress like 19th century Civil War soldiers.
  • Half-Life:
    • The original game was a break from this trope. Instead of a soldier, Gordon Freeman is a scientist and an Action Survivor, albeit one who slowly grows into an Action Hero as he progresses. He is wearing Powered Armor, but his HEV suit was meant more as a high-tech hazmat suit than a combat uniform. He is silent, though. Meanwhile, the Marines who would normally fulfill this trope are the villains, as they are sent in to mop up the Black Mesa incident and kill any witnesses — including you. The expansions Blue Shift and Decay similarly avert it, the former having you play as the security guard Barney Calhoun who's more interested in getting out alive than in fighting off an Alien Invasion, and the latter once more having you play as scientists, Gina Cross and Colette Green.
    • In the Opposing Force expansion, the protagonist Adrien Shepherd is a normal Marine rather than the space kind, but otherwise plays by the rulebook.
    • Half-Life 2 re-embraced this trope by making Gordon into a dimensional mercenary/freedom fighter, albeit not exactly by choice.
  • The Halo series. While Master Chief speaks (occasionally) during cutscenes, is technically a Naval NCO (Master Chief Petty Officer, to be precise), and has short hair (according to the novels), the games hit most of the other aspects of this trope, with the most notable exceptions being the general lack of a Final Boss and the fact that most players prefer to discard their assault rifle and use the pistols and semiautomatic rifles as their primary weapons instead (despite what the cutscenes and advertising would have you believe).
    • Halo 2 steers a little away from the trope with the Arbiter, a disgraced Elite Supreme Commander who in the first game was the guy commanding the very same aliens attempting to kill you.
    • You play as five different characters in Halo 3: ODST, but they're relatively well-characterized (Bungie certainly wasn't going to waste the voice talents of Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, and Nolan North, after all), with only the Rookie remaining a blank slate, mostly due to the fact that he never takes off his helmet and has zero lines of dialogue. Also, unlike most examples of the genre, the entire squad survives.
    • Halo: Reach plays it mostly straight, but protagonist Noble Six is a Naval Lieutenant.
    • In Halo 4, much more emphasis has been put on the Chief's personality, with him speaking even during gameplay.
  • Haze was an attempt at a deconstruction of this trope, thwarted by Executive Meddling among others.
  • Bungie's previous game Marathon also fits the bill fairly well. (Technically, the player takes the role of a security officer rather than a marine, but he's often called "The Marine" by fans anyway.) The protagonist is a faceless soldier with a bunch of guns who fights off aliens from a spaceship at the command of a group of AIs. He is also almost certainly the missing 10th super soldier on board. However, the trope is played with: you are a cyborg machine who will fulfill orders given by the terminals, no matter who gives the orders or what they entail.
    • This trope is cited by name in the Game Mod Phoenix, in which it's the name of the first real level.
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy:
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes features a squad of Space Marines landing on the planet Aether who are quickly slaughtered by the local indigenous extradimensional bug monsters. Reading the dead troopers' logs reveal that they conformed as closely to the stereotype as they possibly could. Did we mention that Aliens was a huge influence on the Metroid series?
    • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption contains most of the clichés in the description. The Federation military comes into their own, troopers alternate between seriously kicking ass and dying horribly.
  • The Half-Life mod Natural Selection, later spun off into the standalone game Natural Selection 2, embraces this trope. One team plays space marines, the other an invading alien species.
  • Quake II and IV. Both games hit every single bullet point above with a straight face, bar a loaded boss for Quake IV.
  • Star Wars: Republic Commando is such a straight example that it might even be a purposeful lampshading, given that the player characters are literally clones. It does, however, avert many other criteria. The player character "Boss" is very talkative (voiced by none other than Temuera Morrison) even when he ends up on his own, he is addressed as "sir", and giving The Squad commands is what the game is all about.
  • TimeShift substitutes a military organization with a research organization owned by and infiltrated by the military, and the future setting with steampunk, but obeys the remainder of the recipe. Rather oddly for the trope, you end up preventing all of the cutscene and first act deaths. Oh, and the main character might be the female researcher who gets blown up in the opening cutscene.
  • TimeSplitters:
    • The first game was an aversion. The "plot" consisted of a number of mostly-unrelated missions to acquire various MacGuffins, and had you playing as different characters in different time periods (and the one bald character is a criminal from the year 2000).
    • TimeSplitters 2, zig-Zags this trope, as the game starts with the baldy space marine infiltrating a space station with a female partner and a Voice with an Internet Connection while fighting off alien monsters. But then he jumps into a time machine and spends the majority of the story possessing multiple characters during different time periods in a manner akin to Quantum Leap (standout player characters being a zombie-hunting female harlequin, a black cowboy, and a Fembot cosplaying as Red Riding Hood), and fighting a wide variety of enemies. He returns to the space station at the end of the game, whereupon the trope returns with a vengeance as his partner is killed and he must escape before the station self-destructs.
    • TimeSplitters: Future Perfect falls into this category quite neatly also. The protagonist is bald, an elite trooper, lands on a hot zone with a lot more people that either die or for whatever reason don't go on for the rest of the game... one by one, it fills all the conditions. The TimeSplitters series is largely a parody of other first person shooters and video games in general, so this was likely done on purpose. For further proof, the baldy space marine protagonist is a Large Ham with a corny catchphrase, other characters are frequently weirded out by him, and the first mission of the game after the stereotypical Aliens-esque tutorial involves him time-travelling to 1912 and going through what may as well be a level from a stereotypical World War II shooter (time period notwithstanding).
  • The 2008 reboot of Turok, to such a degree that Zero Punctuation spent the entire review ripping the game for it.
  • Unreal II: The Awakening was like this, which resulted in numerous complaints by fans of the original game who felt the developers had traded in the unique atmosphere of the first Unreal for a generic Space Marine storyline. Granted, Dalton and crew were given great characterisation that was a total aversion of the usual cliches, but the rest of the storyline and game design were pretty much 100% A Space Marine Is You.
    • Unreal Tournament 2003 also took some flak for for generic-looking Space Marine character designs.
    • Unreal Tournament III took everything from this trope and stuffed it right in. (With a handwave to explain why an eerily straight A Space Marine Is You game still plays like the earlier tournaments)
  • Warhammer 40,000 licensed games:
    • Warhammer 40000: Fire Warrior. The best way to sum it up is that "Fire Warrior" is how the Tau say "Space Marine". Make that tiny adjustment, and the trope fits like a glove from A to Z.
    • Amusingly, the game actually titled Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, where you play as one of the genetically-engineered super soldiers of the Adeptus Astartes, doesn't fit the trope. The Player Character is much too talkative, and the third-person gameplay has quite a few elements of Stylish Action hack-and-slash games.

    Platform Game 
  • Samus Aran of Metroid fame ticks many of the boxes. She is the lone survivor of a planet overrun by Space Pirates, taken in and given her ultra-modular battlesuit by the Chozo, and doesn't say much while on mission, leading her to have very little personality of her own, at least until Nintendo began to develop her more after her original trilogy of games. While she now operates as a bounty hunter, she used to be a member of the Galactic Federation military serving in its Army. A few games give her an AI partner in constant contact with her, the "shocking revelation" moment drops in several games, and timed escapes are so frequent on her missions (Metroid Prime: Hunters has no fewer than eight) that they're practically her version of an afternoon jog. The big twist on the formula, of course, is that she's also a woman.
  • The Mummy Demastered, a video game tie-in for the less-than-successful The Mummy (2017), has you play as a generic masked soldier of the task force Prodigium whose mission is to face such supernatural threats rather than any characters from the film (in part because Tom Cruise has always prohibited use of his likeness in video games). This allowed for the game's unique death mechanic, where death was permanent and you took control of a new soldier who had to hunt down and find the former, now zombified, soldier and kill it to recover the weapons and gear the player had amassed with the previous soldier.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • StarCraft has a strategy game take on the formula, with Jim Raynor (siding with the good aliens) and Sarah Kerrigan (forcibly mutated into an evil alien) fitting the bill close enough. Pretty much all the Terran units follow this trope, right down to the dropship pilots quoting Aliens when you click on them.
  • Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War has you take control of (though not always) the Blood Ravens Chapter as they embark on their newest campaign.

    Role-Playing Game 

    Shoot 'Em Up 

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Aliens: Fireteam Elite places you in the shoes of a Colonial Marine, with the assistance of either two other players. Other than that, it aggressively sticks to the checklist.
  • The Silencer from the Crusader series of games is a textbook example, right down to the zero personality. However, in the intro for the original Crusader: No Remorse, we see the two other members of The Silencer's original squad - right before they're gunned down by their Bad Boss - and they've definitely got personality, arguing loudly about the morality of their recent refusal to gun down unarmed civilians on orders. The Silencer, however, didn't participate in the argument, remaining voiceless even then, so his bland personality might well be a character trait.
  • Dead Space plays all elements of the trope but the key one — your character is not a soldier himself, just a simple civilian engineer who was assigned to a squad of proper space marines. Ironically, a group of Space Marines do show up late in the game but are almost immediately all utterly destroyed by the Necromorphs, possibly due to their "Rambo-ing out" mentality, or because the plot says so.
  • Earth Defense Force 5: The player characters are grunts and new recruits in the EDF caught in the middle of a hostile alien invasion that kicks off by directly attacking the EDF's bases and underground facilities. The players wind up almost singlehandedly defeating the hordes of alien enemies along the way.
  • Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain: The player character is a member of the EDF squad that fought the hiveship in the beginning of the game, and the Sole Survivor after the assault goes horrifically awry. When the game picks up again after your character spends seven years in a coma, you are placed back on the frontlines of the war against the invaders because your PA Gear is the only one still using a special energy core from the hiveship battle.
  • The entire point of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is becoming the Deconstructor Fleet for such games, the main character being a parody of shooter protagonists.
  • The first few opening bullets described Fracture almost perfectly. No actual space stuff is involved, but its a sci-fi game nonetheless.
  • Gears of War: The first three games cast you as veteran marine Marcus Fenix, a guy with little personality and no emotions. He wears trademark bulky armor, isn't afraid of anything, and most of his lines consist of less than five words, usually swears. He has some backstory (concerning his dad), but usually, he's just mowing down Locusts and not giving a damn. The prequel Gears of War: Judgment has you playing as Damon S. Baird instead, who also hits many of the same notes. Gears of War 4 has you playing as Marcus and Anya's son James Dominic "JD" Fenix, who's gone AWOL and is now living with the Outsiders, while the protagonist of Gears 5, Kait Diaz, is a female version of this trope.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine puts it right there in the title. Though the game does put its own spin on it. The player character is not a zero-initiative macho grunt soldier but a soft-spoken, Father to His Men, Asskicking Leads to Leadership Captain, all of your squadmates survive the initial landing, and the gameplay works hard to avoid Real Is Brown and Take Cover! (tagline: "Cover is for the weak."). On the other hand, the story itself has been deemed cliché even by the Warhammer 40,000 fanbase, revolving around a MacGuffin, a token "shocking revelation" about the protagonist, and a demonic invasion that was given away in the trailer.

Non-Video Game Examples


    Tabletop Games 
  • Alien:
    • Alien: The Roleplaying Game has the original Colonial Marines as a playable group in the core rules. An expansion, The Colonial Marines Operations Manual, adds further options for running a campaign using the marines, while Destroyer of Worlds is a high-lethality "Cinematic Module" that focuses on the Marines investigating a colony that has gone dark.
    • Aliens: Bug Hunt is a board game putting the players in the shoes of the cast of Aliens.
  • Deathwatch is a RPG that has you playing as the legendary Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000, part of the eponymous Deathwatch, an indepedent special forces group that is supposed to be the elite of the Space Marines tasked with defending humanity from alien horrors. The players can choose between many Space Marine specialities available, such as Devastator (heavy weapons), Assault (close-quarters-combat), Tactical (generalists), Librarian (Psychic Powers), Apothecary (Combat Medic), among many others, and to accompany your badass space marines, you also have a huge arsenal composed by various big and mean guns, such as bolters, plasma weapons, rocket launchers, Chainswords, Power Fist, various models of Power Armor, etc. The game is noted to be more combat-heavy and tactical compared to other games in the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay line like Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader.
  • Slipgate Chokepoint is a loving homage to Quake using a modified version of the Black Hack.


Video Example(s):


Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II

The campaign for Dawn of War II opens with the introduction of Sub-Sector Aurelia, where the Blood Ravens chapter of the Space Marines have been fighting relentlessly to defend their recruiting worlds against the invading xenos forces. Among these Space Marines is the player character, who has recently been promoted to Force Commander to lead the Blood Ravens to victory.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / OpeningMonologue

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