Powered Armor is a very fearsome tool and weapon, even capable of making the wielder a Lightning Bruiser with the Alpha Strike capability to One-Hit Kill most enemies. However, despite its potential for great versatility with built-in Swiss Army Weapons, it will always look and do the same things regardless of the driver.
This isn't the case with Adaptive Armor. Whether it's a benevolent symbiotic entity, a Bio-Armor, a mystical suit of armor, or armor so advanced it seems magical, this suit of armor will adapt itself to any wearer in order to enhance their greatest strengths and potentially minimize their weaknesses, even going so far as to give the driver a form of Personality Powers based on their desires or talents.
The adaptability doesn't stop there, either. The armor likely has a greater or lesser chance of giving the wearer a Swiss Army Arsenal, resistance via exposure to enemy attacks or environmental hazards, and a Healing Factor courtesy of Nanomachines, Power Crystals or biological symbiont. Sometimes these powers act like a Swiss-Army Superpower that become "set" as the wearer needs them until the armor stops being able to "adapt". The armor itself is likely to have a mind of its own, if not at least a personality that makes its moods known to the wearer. In these cases, the mind can usually activate the armor's Heroic Safe Mode to protect the user in case of accident, unconsciousness, or Mind Control. Mind the Tranquil Fury with no regard to friend and foe.
Also, in a pinch it can change appearance based on the wearer's alignment. If there's more than one suit of Adaptive Armor or the wearer ever loses the armor or has it forcibly separated, anyone else who wears it will have a similar but distinct look, or it will be incensed that it's been stolen and work against its new "master."
See also Clothes Make the Superman.
- The Guyver units are this. They all share similar capabilities, but each one looks vastly different. Humans, who were created by Precursors as Living Weapons, gain exponentially more power from the suit than the aliens themselves, as well as inexplicable immunity to their Mind Control abilities. It is implied that a Zoalord who equipped a Guyver unit would have power approaching that of a god. Also consider that said Precursors, who were probably not a single species, created them primarily as space suits: i.e. they were developed to supply the physiological requirements of pretty much any nitrogen/oxygen breather without drawing on anything from the immediate environment. To a greater extent, the Guyver Gigantic, which changes appearance to match the Guyver wearing it.
- Berserk: The Berserker Armor that Guts wears. Besides the fact that the helmet shape changes form according to the wearer's inner beast (in Guts' case, the dog-like beast), it increases the wearer's endurance and power, but at the cost of allowing the wearer to surpass their physical limit by making their subconscious unaware of physical injuries (though while wearing the armor, massive wounds can be temporarily healed - but this is done by the armor-piercing splinters through the skin). Oh, and it also causes temporary insanity by making the wearer go berserk and is insinuated that long-term use will cause mental deterioration. It is a cursed piece of armor, after all.
- Clothes in Saint Seiya have shades of this, if not all the elements. One size fits all? Check. Mind of its own (helping Seiya in a pinch more than once, screwing its rogue Gold Saint bearer)? Check. Some of them upgrade (in the Poseidon arc after being revived by Gold Saint blood, and in Hades arc turning into God Cloths) in response to Heroic Resolve? Check.
- Stainless Steel Armadillo has a famed suit of dragon-themed armor. It's very particular about who wears it, too, and will crush anyone who tries to take it for their own.
- The Goku Uniforms in Kill la Kill are all made using a special material called Life Fibers that grant the person wearing them enhanced strength, speed, and durability, but it's the Kamui (often translated as "God Robes" in fan dubs) that really stand out. The majority of uniforms are woven with only a certain amount of fibers (A One Star uniform is made up of 10% Life Fibers, a Two Star with 20%, and Three Stars are made with 30%), with more powerful uniforms having a higher percentage of fibers. Kamui are unique in that they are made entirely of Life Fibers (100%), and their powers are exponentially greater than the other uniforms. However, it comes with the cost of using the wearer's blood as fuel, and the wearer also has to have the willpower to maintain that power without overloading. One of the Kamui, Senketsu, is sentient and has a psychic link with the main protagonist. Kamui can transform all or parts of themselves into weapons, wings, claws, and even rockets to allow the wearer to fly. Give a Kamui too much blood, however, and the results are not pretty.
- World Trigger: Kuga's black trigger powers.
- The title armor system in Symphogear varies in appearance by a combination of the user and the fragment of Lost Technology used to make it and can evolve further with time (read: roughly once per season). Standard features include a Morph Weapon based on the relic's original form, the ability to grow weapons at will (a Power Fist, missile arrays, buzzsaw skirt, etc.), and the occasional super mode.
- The Jamie Reyes version of Blue Beetle has such an armor.
- During the Superior Iron Man run, Iron Man had a symbiote-based armour. After Secret Wars (2015), he switched to an armour that can morph but isn't, you know, kind of alive. And it can do pretty much everything all his old armours could do — even Victor Von Doom was impressed.
- The Beta Suit in Echo cushions against g-forces, can emit deadly electrical attacks, cures diseases, and can even re-write the DNA of its wearer. Unfortunately, as wonderful as it is, Julie just can not get the darn thing off. Also, the DNA rewriting thing? Not so great when the suit is convinced the person wearing it is someone else.
- The alien symbiotes (Venom, Carnage, etc.) of Spider-Man fame are examples of this.
- In Weapon Zero, everybody super is so because of an adaptive armor. And the armors show complete disrespect for the law of conservation of mass (at a whim shrinking away to nothing or growing very thick).
- Wetworks is another comic where the titular team's most distinctive trait is the liquid "gold" armor covering (and in some cases replacing) their bodies. While initially just making the wearers effectively invulnerable, "the gold" later turns out to have other powers as well.
- Commanda, an obscure villainess from Untold Tales of Spider-Man, wears a suit of armor that can generate a force field, fire electric shocks, and change its shape and appearance at her will.
- X-O Manowar, from the comic of the same name produced by Valiant. The original version is an alien-created series of power armor with the most powerful being the Man-O-War class of armor. So powerful almost none of the aliens even have the mental and physical abilities to use one and in the hands of a Visigoth slave responding to his powerful will the armor can adapt and grow to deal with virtually any situation, sustain its wearer almost indefinitely and heal nearly any injury (having his stomach slashed open simply had him trapped in the armor for 10 years while it repaired him). It was even capable of regenerating someone else's arm when ordered to do so (although again this took time).
- The Transformers: Dark Cybertron had Jhiaxus use one of these to mimic Starscream's new body, giving him all of the latter's abilities and a similar appearance. This was actually lampshading Jhiaxus having originally started as a recolored version of a Starscream toy. Unfortunately for Jhiaxus, he discovered that merely having the appearance and abilities of someone didn't automatically grant you their skills, and Jhiaxus had spent the last few million years hidden away performing twisted science experiments while Starscream had served as a front-line soldier in the Cybertronian Civil War. And when Jhiaxus deploys a fancy set of built-in wrist-blades, revealing to Starscream that his body came with an identical set...
- Using Jury Rigg and Upgrade's abilities, Dial develops Armor Gear, Powered Armor made out of catoms that can coordinate with X for assistance, can be compacted into clothing and can adapt to form weapons and other devices, like arm blades, tower shields or an agents' weapon of choice. And since these are standard issue, they are usable by everyone, from the baseline human agents to the Enhanced soldiers.
- Crusher Creel a.k.a. Alloy gains a bracer filled with useful materials that he can copy the properties from, such as lightweight aerogel, superdense osmium and indestructible vibranium, allowing him to adapt and respond to more situations.
- The symbiote that plays a large role in Spider-Man 3 has this effect, attaching first to Peter Parker's suit and providing him increased abilities, and also accentuating aspects of his personality. It later becomes detached from Parker and connects to his nemesis with similar effect.
- By Avengers: Infinity War Tony Stark's nano-armor has advanced to this point. As evidenced by the climax of Avengers: Endgame when he uses it to assemble a substitute Infinity Gauntlet on the fly.
- In Zack Snyder's Justice League, the New God Steppenwolf has a shiny chromed armor that covers him entirely outside of his face. It is collapsible for the upper part of his body in case he has to mark his respects to his lord Darkseid when kneeling to call him, and it is seen interlocking its multiple blades to shed arrows that got stuck in it during the battle on Themyscira.
- The boringly but appropriately named Suits in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space books are this, effectively turning their wearers into Flying Bricks and providing a pretty devastating range of weapons via a Hyperspace Arsenal. They're potentially smart, but not sentient or intelligent. Capable of operating independently as an Attack Drone. Used quite casually by the super-high-tech Ultras, but considered an exceptionally rare and valuable weapon of Game-Breaker status by the embattled citizens of Sky's Edge.
- The Culture also has suits, named in its usually literal way Suits, though as with most Culture technology they're controlled by an AI (usually of the lower end of the sentience scale) rather than being passive tools. Flying Brick capabilities come as standard, but offensive weaponry beyond the Effector would not be generally issued. Being sentient, they can also operate quite independently of a wearer if needs be and are not practically stealable.
- The Droods in Secret Histories are best known for their "strange matter" armor, given to them by a friendly Eldritch Abomination named Ethel. The armor is effectively indestructible (although it has notably never been tested against an actual atomic bomb), has a Glamour field that makes its owner Invisible to Normals if they want to be, and is capable of changing its style and shape based on the owner's will. It is implied that its only real limitation is its owner's imagination, and later books have the armor using new tricks like gliding, hacking computers, and growing machine guns that fire powerful strange matter bullets.
- Downplayed in The Stormlight Archive. Shardplate will change shape to fit any wearer perfectly, but other than that it grants everyone the same powers and advantages.
- In Champions this would be done with a Variable Power Pool using the Focus (power suit) and No Conscious Control limitations.
- In the Exalted supplement Shards of the Exalted Dream we are introduced to "Modern Alchemicals" which has the modularity and adaptability of the Alchemical Exalted and removes their utter dependence on infrastructure. In a way, all Exaltations qualify for this, save that they are less "armour" and more "omnitool".
- Coincidentally (as it came before the trope was definednote ), BIONICLE had the Toa Nuva acquire gear called Adaptive Armor just before they went to Karda Nui. True to the trope, said armor can adapt to terrain and enemies; it gave them flight capabilities (propellors, wings, jetpacks) for Karda Nui's sky-high setting and light energy weapons for use against the shadowy Makuta.
- Command & Conquer:
- The Allies in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 field the Multigunner IFV, an adaptive jeep that would power up any infantry put inside (including the other factions). There was also a base defense version. Hilariously enough, a Multigunner Turret seen through the fog of war would appear to have all its possible add-ons, including several guns, a missile rack, a lightning gun, a freeze ray, a plasma beam, an energy bow, a ninja star launcher, and some kind of automatic repair arm.
- This trend started with the earlier, bog-standard IFV of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. While lacking anything quite as awesome-sauce as a freeze ray, placing President Dugan in one certainly caused a fantastic light show...
- Crysis has the Nanosuit. It's a semi-sentient suit that when put on, literally becomes a part of its wearer on the cellular level. It's more or less an artificial wearable symbiotic organism capable of modifying its user's body to a limited degree, and even then it's only limited because of actual Power Limiters installed in the suit. Forcible removal is shown to be a painful and sometimes fatal process due to the suit resisting removal.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising downplays this during the final chapter, but it's still there. The Great Sacred Treasure's stats are influenced by the weapon you equip to the battle, so picking a good weapon is still necessary.
- The DEMONICA armor in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey makes you a series of questions when you first don it to adapt to your personal tastes by programming stat growth along certain lines. It slowly adapts to the Schwartzwelt's hostile environment - when gaining levels, it's the armor that levels up, adding new parts to itself and continually modifying its structure to improve the wearer's performance.
- Goblins has the Axe of Prissan, which was intended to be wielded by multiple wielders and designed to account for this by reshaping itself to suit their needs, and provides its wielder with a suit of armor with similar shape-shifting properties. Most of its wielders through its history have been paladins who wielded it as a two-handed greataxe and wore the armor as platemail, but there have been a few exceptions; when it was wielded by a Golem the axe replaced one of its limbs as a Blade Below the Shoulder and the armor fused to its body, while a wizard found that the axe took on a form similar to a quarterstaff and the armor took a form that wouldn't interfere with his spellcasting.
- In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, the Sapphire Star assassin had a suit of bio-armor (actually a Gestaltian female) that among other things gave her extreme speed and strength, deployable wings, an (extra) venomous sting, and very powerful lux abilities. Unfortunately, it wasn't properly tuned for her, so it also gave her a nearly fatal allergic reaction.
- Crash Nebula, protagonist of the Show Within a Show of the same name from The Fairly OddParents!, has this kind of armor.
- In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Captain Mar-Vell's armor-suit can morph into various weapons.
- In ThunderCats, series Sorcerous Overlord Lich Mumm-Ra uses Power Crystals as Amplifier Artifacts to transform a gauntlet into a custom set of skeletal armor. When young Catfolk hero Leo acquires a duplicate of the gauntlet and steals one of the crystals, his gauntlet transforms into golden lion armor. When his successor Lion-O acquires a crystal, it turns his claw gauntlet into full armor covering his entire left arm.
- The Danger Mouse episode "Where There's a Well, There's a Way" has a suit of armour inside a wooden case that precipitates a knock-knock joke when DM knocks on it.
DM: Who's there?
Armour: Sir Gawain.
DM: Sir Gawain who?
Armour: Sir Gawain to give you a surprise! (Suit of armour emerges, poised to attack)
- The Apex Armor in Transformers: Prime resizes and reshapes itself to fit its wearer, first fitting Starscream before eventually being taken by Miko.