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Colony Ship

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Artist's conception of the inside of an O'Neill Cylinder (NASA)

Your homeland is starting to feel like not such a great place to live. Maybe it's overpopulated. Maybe it's polluted. Maybe your religion or ethnic group is being oppressed, or maybe you just misinterpreted a key passage of The Bible. For whatever reason, you've decide to raise stakes and head out into the great unknown to found a new colony where you can live and prosper and marry your cousins, or not, as you see fit.

You've got plenty of supplies and a band of hardy and like-minded colonists at your back, and you're ready to go! Hold on, sparky. How are you going to get there? If your destination can be reached by land, you can just hoof it, but if there's an ocean or its Recycled In Space equivalent, the vast expanse between the stars, to cross, you're going to need a Colony Ship.

Unlike exploration or military vessels, a Colony Ship is intended for just one purpose: to carry everyone and everything needed to start a self-sufficient colony. That includes people, animals, food, tools, seeds, and in spacefaring settings, the machinery necessary to terraform an alien world and turn it into a pastoral paradise (or not). Particularly large expeditions may require a fleet of these ships; others will be entirely self-contained in one vessel.

Colony Ships are sometimes made from converted freighters, passenger vessels, or obsolete military ships. They tend to be large, slow-moving, and lightly armed and armored (if at all). If there are hostiles about, they often require a military escort to ensure they reach their destination safely. The spacefaring variation is part of the Standard Sci-Fi Fleet and, in settings lacking Faster Than Light technology, will likely be either a Generation Ship or a Sleeper Starship. Their maiden voyage is often intended to be a one-way journey, with the ship being scuttled upon arrival and salvaged for parts and raw materials for the new colony. Occasionally, a Colony Ship can be weaponized as a makeshift meteor drop by crashing it onto anything.

Sister Trope to The Ark, which is made to flee or shelter from a cataclysm. More heavily-armed variants occasionally overlap with The Mothership and/or The Battlestar. See also: Wagon Train to the Stars.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the backstory of Trigun, there was Project SEEDs, a series of Generation Ships with most of their occupants in cold sleep while they searched for another habitable planet.
  • In the Macross franchise, Macross 7 and Macross Frontier are mostly set on a couple of the many colonization fleets humans sent out after the events of Super Dimension Fortress Macross. The colony ships are basically cities in space with a clamshell lid that can be closed for protection, with trailing "islands" for agriculture and various artificial environments.

    Comic Books 
  • Crops up in XXXenophile. In "Family Reunion", salvalger Otis discovers the U.N.S.S. Rojong, the first colonization slowship from Old Terra, presumed lost in space. The bio-pods are intact and should contain all of the 'lost' animals: elephants, fireflies, anteaters, unicorns....
  • Nero: Nero builds one in the album "The Ark Of Nero", but it turns out it was It Was All A Dream.
  • After the events of Chaos Day in Judge Dredd Not!Richard Branson puts together a ship for a number of Mega City One's richest citizens to leave the city and head off into space. Unfortunately for those on board, the Dark Judges get on board and slaughter most of the people on board before they get anywhere near a new world to colonise.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Titan Project from Don Bluth's Titan A.E. created a huge, globular spacecraft capable of converting cosmic debris and ice crystals into a class M planet. The Titan craft also carries the complete genomes of all known species on Earth. The plan was to create and terraform Earthlike worlds throughout the galaxy, seed them with Terran flora and fauna, then colonize the new worlds. The first planet created by the Titan was dubbed Planet Bob by Cale Tucker, the Lovable Rogue son of the Titan's creator.
  • The last of humanity conduct a Battle for Terra when Earth's colony ship arrives at the inhabited planet. The Well-Intentioned Extremist General Hemmer resorts to Hostile Terraforming because the colony ship is becoming nonviable.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Passengers (2016) featured a ship called the Avalon that required 120 years to travel from Earth to its destination. This was not a Generation Ship, as the passengers were kept in stasis. The plot centered around a number of passengers waking 90 years before arrival.
  • Alien: Covenant: The titular Covenant is a colonization vessel. Due to the way Faster-Than-Light travel works in this franchise's universe, the crew and passengers are in stasis tubes, and the ship is run by an android. Covenant also carried human embryos in stasis.
  • Pandorum: The ship in the movie has been launched toward a planet believed to be habitable, when disaster has befallen Earth. It's a sleeper ship, like the Covenant and the Avalon from Passengers (2016).

  • Orson Scott Card's works:
    • Lovelock takes place aboard the Mayflower Ark, an enormous starship carrying the population of a small town to start a colony on a new planet. Despite the name, this is not The Ark, as there's no cataclysm on Earth; they seem to be doing it For Science! as much as any other reason.
    • In Ender's Game, the First Invasion of Earth by the buggers was just an exploratory fleet. The Second Invasion included a Colony Ship carrying a bugger queen, which Mazer Rackham destroyed, collapsing their Hive Mind. After the war, humanity sends out its own Colony Ships to colonize the empty bugger worlds. Ender and Valentine leave Earth on one such ship.
    • Jason Worthing of The Worthing Saga is the captain of the Sleeper Ship variant. Unfortunately, an encounter with Space Pirates damages the sleep chambers in such a way as to afflict the Human Popsicles with severe amnesia, so he winds up with a colony full of adult-sized toddlers.
  • Time Enough for Love. In the Backstory of the chapter "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter", Lazarus Long uses his ship to take several shiploads of colonists to the planet New Beginnings, along with all of the equipment and supplies they'll need to set up a new colony.
  • Zig-Zagged between this and The Ark in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Ford and Arthur visit a ship, one of three sent out from a doomed planet to colonize someplace else (which turns out to be Earth All Along), which would make it The Ark. This turns out to be a ruse to rid the original planet of the third of its population considered most useless (namely, middlemen), making it this trope. The narration then proceeds to mention that their homeworld shortly after was wiped out by a global pandemic that could have been prevented by said middlemen, making it (unintentionally) The Ark again.
  • Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 A.D: The Voyager is an interstellar colonization ship capable of carrying 1,200 passengers, their belongings and the equipment they will need to settle another planet. It resembles the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Virtually all the major star nations featured, with the exception of the Solarian League, are descended from colonies set up during a period of time known as the Diaspora of Man. The colony ship Prometheus is considered to be the first of this wave.
    • The Manticore Colony Ltd. dispatched the sleeper colony ship Jason to the Manticore system shortly after it was first surveyed. And they anticipated a Lightspeed Leapfrog situation so the colonists arranged to hire a fleet of FTL frigates to secure the system for them once the tech became widely available.
  • Sholan Alliance: Humans used one of these to get to Kiess. They've since partially dismantled it.
  • In the Man-Kzin Wars series, these get a great deal of page time as they are used as escape ships during the invasion of Wunderland.
  • Several works in the Star Trek Expanded Universe refer to the ancient fleet of colony ships aboard which a group of Vulcans left their homeworld rather than convert to the philosophies of Surak, an event known as the Sundering. They eventually landed on the planet the Federation calls Romulus and became the Romulans of the franchise's present day. In Diane Duane's The Romulan Way the ships traveled at relativistic speeds, and nine of the original fleet of eighteen were destroyed en route by a variety of threats.
  • In The History of the Galaxy books, the first interstellar ship built by humanity, the Alpha, is a humongous colony ship many kilometers long. Designed as a part-Sleeper Starship, it has two alternating crews, who sleep in cryostasis when it's not their shift. Equipped with three massive fusion drives, the ship is designed to accelerate to a sizable percentage of the speed of light in order to reach nearby stars within a reasonable time frame. The ship engages the drives... and appears to be sucked into a strange hole in space. The truth is kept secret from the majority of humanity (they were watching a pre-recorded video of the launch anyway), while the scientist try to figure out what the hell happened. As it turns out, the massive energy output of the engines (equal to at least the output of the Sun) punched a hole in space/time, opening a rip to a dimension that would later become known as hypersphere. After humans learned to enter and exit hypersphere in a controlled manner, there is a 50-year period known as the Blind Leap, characterized by the launch of thousands of hypersphere-capable colony ships, hoping they would find habitable worlds wherever they "surfaced". Since this is before the invention of mass-detectors, the only navigational implements that work in hypersphere, each ship was on a Blind Jump with not enough fuel for a second "submergence" into hypersphere. A surprisingly decent number of them actually do end up finding habitable (or semi-habitable) worlds to settle, although many more are never heard from again. These ships are designed to land on planets and initiate the wake-up of the crew, as well as the activation of the ship's supply of Hugo BD-12 androids. If the androids do not receive any commands for a standard month, they switch to autonomous mode and attempt to awaken the crew manually. The ship itself is expected to become the lower level (or socle) of the new planet's first city. The ship's computer is perfectly capable of running and maintaining the ship's systems on its own for a few centuries.
  • The Jacob's Ladder Trilogy is set aboard Jacob's Ladder, a massive sub-light starship sent to colonize another world. It carries both a living crew and frozen passengers in cold sleep.
  • In the Revelation Space Series, the lighthuggers - multi-kilometer long Sleeper Starships - are sometimes contracted to explore new systems while carrying tens to hundreds of thousands of colonists in cryosleep, along with Von Neumann machinery to set up a base of operations. It's not clear how the crews are paid for their services with the lack of a universal currency, but preferential trading rights with the new colony are implied. In Galactic North, the captain of a colonizing lighthugger has Neural Implanting to think of the colonists as her own children till her mission is complete, causing her to chase a Space Pirate past the end of space and time to recover them.
  • The fourth Ark Royal novel starts out with a British colony ship to a planet called Cromwell, getting attacked by pirates. In addition, the HMS Warspite's first mission is to escort a small fleet of freighters to a strategically important system and set up a colony there.
  • In Frederik Pohl's novel The World at the End of Time, two colony ships (the Ark and the New Mayflower), that use for propulsion both a Solar Sail and anti-matter engines, are sent to colonize a planet discovered as habitable. A third, the Argo, is on the way there too but to the horror of her crewmen, the solar system where they've to go begins to speed away until it's moving so fast there's no way to reach it.
  • Colony ships are described but not shown in Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise. They're stated as being one of only two or three types of ships that are normally built. Typically constructed by older, more prosperous worlds, they are designed to carry sleeping settlers to a habitable world on the Periphery to relieve some of the population pressure. This 'verse lacks Faster-Than-Light Travel, but there is a way for a ship to travel at extremely high relativistic speeds, resulting in Time Dilation. Despite this, the colonists are still kept in hibernation pods to conserve supplies, as it still takes many months of conventional travel to and from the edges of a system to minimize the chance of Critical Existence Failure. Additionally, if the destination world is far away, a ship is likely to make several shorter jumps instead of a single long one. After arriving, the colonists are woken up and shuttled to the surface. The ship itself is parked in orbit and gradually stripped for parts, down to the last bolt. The outer hull may or may not be stripped down, or it may be converted into a Space Station of some sort. In one case, the titular protagonist obtained a colony ship's outer hull and used it to expand his own ship, putting a lounge in the new section.
  • The titular starship in Outbound Flight appears to have this purpose. Spearheaded by Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, the project aims to go into the Unknown Regions with the hope of reaching another galaxy, making contact with extragalactic life, and establishing a Republic outpost there. Besides the normal crews, the massive vessel is home to 50,000 civilians, six Jedi Masters, and twelve Jedi Knights. Along the way, C'baoth plans to increase the number of Jedi by opening an academy aboard, although his methods (taking Force-sensitive children without their parents' consent) disagree with many others.
  • In Courtship Rite the colony ship that took the characters' ancestors to Geta is the size of a moon and believed by the inhabitants to be "God". It later turns out that there was a linguistic shift and the word for "ship" came to mean "God" while their seaborne ships are known by the old word for "boat".
  • In the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy humanity doesn't have FTL drive but they do have Mental Space Travel so the colony barges sent to other star systems carried no live passengers but had automated cloning and terraforming machines and the digitized minds of about a million colonists. Broken Angels, the second book, goes into some detail about the onboard A.I.s tailoring the planet's ecosystem and the colonists' biology to mesh together perfectly, and that the first Mars colonists had keeled over upon taking their first breaths of miscalibrated atmosphere.
  • The Expanse:
    • The Canterbury is mentioned to have originally been a colony transport that carried the first Outer System colonists decades ago, but by the time of Leviathan Wakes it's been refitted as an ice hauler. In Cibola Burn one of its sister ships, the Edward Israel, is converted back into a colony ship to carry colonists through the newly re-opened Ring network.
    • The Nauvoo was built by the Church of Latter-Day Saints as a Generation Ship, but the OPA commandeered it first in an attempt to ram Protomolecule-infested Eros into the sun, and later refitted it into a warship, and then again converted it into a space station in the Ring hub system.
  • The first novel of the First Colony series has a massive vessel about to be launched towards another star with 300,000 cryogenically frozen people aboard to settle humanity's first extrasolar colony. The Ark is not only large but also has production facilities aboard that can produce pretty much anything, provided there are raw materials available. Justified, since they have no idea what awaits them so far from home. The Space Navy even gave them a cruiser and two destroyers, which are stored in the ship's massive hangar, in case they encounter some trouble along the way. However, the colony leader is adamant about not including any military types among the colonists, wishing to leave Earth's warlike past behind. Unbeknownst to the settlers, their ship's name proves to be apt. Not long after its departure, some kind of virus/parasite from Earth's oceans started to infect higher-order animals, eventually jumping to humans and mutating them into a new, highly dangerous species. The losing humanity sent new orders to the Ark, redirecting the ship to another system farther away to try to preserve some humans from this new threat.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: The backstory involves these, which brought humans, livestock, crops, and dolphins to Pern. However, by the time of the books most people have forgotten this and the planet is in Medieval Stasis. Which is by design.
  • Robert A. Heinlein
    • Farmer in the Sky: The Mayflower is an interplanetary vessel, not a starship, and is neither a generation ship nor a sleeper ship. As was the case with Mayflower's historical namesake the colonists merely spend a moderately long time aboard (a couple of months, but not years, let alone decades or centuries) travelling to their destination on Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter, where they intend to build new homes and new lives for themselves.
    • Orphans of the Sky: The Starship Vanguard was built as an interstellar colony ship of the generation ship type. Unfortunately there was a mutiny aboard causing the ship's command structure and internal society to break down, after which the people on board regressed to barbarism to the point where they no longer even knew they were on a spaceship, thinking "the Ship" is simply the Universe, and the Universe is the Ship.
  • Time to Orbit: Unknown: The Courageous is fired off from Earth with the same goal as any other Javelin ship, to create a new colony on Hylara.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Defiance the Votan came to Earth in a fleet of STL sleeper Arks, taking about 5000 years to get here. Nearly thirty years after the war, pieces of the Arks still periodically fall to the planet. Later in the series, a single surviving Omec ship, a Harvester converted for long-distance travel, arrives into Earth's orbit. The Omec were originally supposed to come with the rest of the Votan races, but their ships were sabotaged just before the departure. Only the Tsuroz made it.
  • The Back Story of Firefly involves a fleet of these as the people of Earth That Was used them to leave and come to a new solar system. It's unclear whether any human life was left behind on Earth, which may have made these The Ark. Colony ships are still used from time to time, as Serenity encountered one that had the misfortune of encountering Reavers.
  • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy brings us Terra Venture, a cross between this and a Domed City — it has a large "City Dome" in the center, various smaller domes of different environments arranged in a ring around the City Dome, and a large central core containing the engines, crew quarters, and the spaceship bay underneath. It gets destroyed in the Grand Finale after Trakeena blows out the engines and destroys many of the smaller domes, causing the city dome to get sheared off on an airless moon. To buy time while the residents evacuate to the planet they were supposed to land on, the Centaurus and Stratoforce Megazords defend the dome from her bomb-equipped Stingwingers, which end up swarming the Megazords and destroy them. She ends up hijacking the vacant dome and sending it towards the planet below while fighting with Leo, in a last-ditch effort to kill the colonists who'd evacuated planet-side. Fortunately, the Galaxy Megazord shows up and is able to guide the dome safely away from the people.
  • Star Trek:
    • "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" from Star Trek: The Original Series has this, but the ship is disguised as an asteroid and the inhabitants don't know that it's a ship at all; they can't see out from it and think it's the whole world (and the controlling computer wants to keep it that way until they reach their destination planet).
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: One episode has the crew going to see what happened to a colony that had been set up on a remote planet. When no one is found at the colony, T'Pol speculates that they may have left the planet, but Archer points out that it would be pretty hard to do, since their colony ship was taken apart to be used as shelters.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Beast Below": After the Earth is rendered uninhabitable by solar flares, the people of Earth flee in great city-sized starships to find new planets to colonize. Great Britain and Northern Ireland (but not Scotland) conduct their search in the Generation Ship Starship UK which is powered by the last of the space whales.
    • In another episode, the Doctor encounters another ship from the same crisis. This ship has established a colony on an Earth-like world, but the robots have started killing those colonists, who experienced sadness, starting a chain reaction of death.
    • The Twelfth Doctor finds a gigantic colony ship from Mondas, stuck at the edge of a black hole. The size of the huge cylinder means that time flows much faster at the ass end of the ship than at the head. The crew members sent to the back to start the reverse thrusters end up evolving into an entire people aboard. Then they start dying off and decide to convert the population into Cybermen.
  • Ascension (Miniseries): The USS Ascension, apparently of the Generation Ship flavor.
  • The mission of the Deepwater Black from the 90s Sci-Fi Channel series Mission Genesis was to repopulate the Earth with clones developed from her on-board gene bank. There are multiple Deepwaters.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase: Many Scum barges are former intrasystem colony ships that were turned away by their overcrowded intended destinations after The Fall. Most interstellar colonization is done by the Pandora Gates but Titan has launched a Brain Uploading type Seed Ship to Epsilon Eridani.
    • The Backup faction of Firewall has the building of colony ships, as well as colonization through the Gates. They've already secretly launched several small, slow seedships.
  • Mindjammer has several types of colony ship for Settling the Frontier campaigns. And it's possible to randomly encounter 10,000-year old STL colony ships from before Plane Drive.
  • Exalted: While not the intended purpose, the Directional Titans have both the crew and equipment necessary to survive in the Wyld indefinitely, and eventually form a new Creation, should the original ever be rendered uninhabitable.
  • Starfinder:
    • The Idari was a pre-Drift Generation Ship intended to evacuate the kasathas from their original doomed homeworld to Akiton. When it turned out Akiton was already inhabited they decided to remain on the Idari while also joining the Pact Worlds.
    • The first module in the "Horizons of the Vast" Adventure Path has a stat writeup for a colony freighter designed to carry a few dozen settlers to a new planet and break apart in orbit to provide building materials for the settlement.

    Video Games 
  • The Mothership in the first Homeworld game was originally designed as a colony ship to reclaim the newly rediscovered Hiigaran homeworld, hence the onboard factories and cryo-trays. But after their current homeworld is destroyed by the Taiidan, the 100,000-600,000 colonists on board (depending on how many cryo-trays are salvaged in the third mission) represent the last of their people, and the factories are used to build warships.
  • Planet of Lana: The inhabitants of Novo are implied to be the descendants of a colony ship that never reached its intended destination, with the robots trying to bring them back.
  • In Galactic Civilizations each colony module on a ship carries up to 500 million population. When one first lands on an unclaimed planet the ship is disassembled to build the Initial Colony improvement. Later other colony ships (or military transports) can transfer populations between worlds and remain intact.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire is unique in that colony ships aren't expended when they colonize a planet. Though it's suggested they mostly carry administrators and marines to annex the planet's existing inhabitants. And each faction has a capital ship class that can colonize.
  • In the first Sword of the Stars game colonizers are used up whenever they're deployed on a planet with some infrastructure unbuilt. They increase population, infrastructure, and terraforming instantly. In the second game a fleet assigned to a colonize mission will ferry colonists from their base to the new world until it's self-sustaining, then become available for re-use.
  • Civilization:
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri has two examples, one in the background and one in game.
    • In the backstory the ship UNS Unity was a Sleeper Starship that transported the colonists to Alpha Centauri.
    • In the game itself you can build colony pods mounted onto a ship chassis, these are used to start new bases in the ocean.
  • Colonization begins with the player in control of one of these, in the setting that inspired pretty much every other example on this page: The colonisation of the Americas. Most of the first few dozen turns will entail sending this ship back and forth between your first colony and the old country to pick up more settlers (not all of whom are leaving by choice) and hopefully sending back cargo to sell.
  • The first game of the Marathon Trilogy is set on the eponymous Colony Ship, a slower-than-light craft created by converting one of the Mars' moons, Deimos, into a space vessel.
  • The Space Colony ARK from a handful of Sonic the Hedgehog titles is apparently a long-term habitable structure, but has remained inactive for the majority of the time we see it, staying in orbit over the planet.
  • Xenogears opens with a cinematic involving a Colony Ship being taken over by a hostile AI. This seems disconnected from the rest of the story until much later in the game.
  • In the Master of Orion series, colony ships are required to expand beyond your initial star system. They are generally slow and unarmed, but can go further from base than a warship. An inhabited world may also construct simpler colony pods to settle other planets within the same system.
  • The Halo Wars series has the ship Spirit of Fire which is an inversion: rather than being an ex-military ship converted to a colony ship, it is in fact a colony ship converted into a military ship. Everything that made it good at being a colony ship makes it ideal for being a ship to transport and support ground forces, especially ones that needed to establish ground presence quickly; its dropships are able to deploy entire field bases in only two pieces.
  • The namesake of Rodina is revealed to be the colony ship being sent from the Earth That Used to Be Better to the Zorica system.
  • The game Alien Legacy starts with the seed ship UNS Calypso arriving to the Beta Caeli system and the crew waking up from cryostasis. The journey is implied to have taken centuries if not millennia. Earth is likely long gone by that point, having been wiped out by the hostile Centaurians. Dozens of such ships were launched when it became clear humans had no chance of winning the war against an aggressive interstellar empire. Each captain was ordered to maintain radio silence and assume his or her ship was the last remains of humanity. When you wake up, you find out that another seed ship, the UNS Tantalus was sent to the same system 16 years after you but has arrived over 20 years earlier due to a slightly better drive. Except there's no trace of the other ship (the colonists took it apart for spare parts), and no colony either. In fact, your ship remains intact for the entire game. For the most part, it's treated as a Space Station, as well as a source of new colonists early on (as they're being slowly woken up from stasis). Closer to the end of the game, you will need to move it to another planet's orbit. It is turned into an FTL ship with the help of the Empiants and takes off for an unknown destination with a combined human/alien crew.
  • The intro to Freelancer shows five Alliance Sleeper Starships escaping the Solar System, which is about to be completely taken over by the Coalition. Their goal is to settle the Sirius sector, far from the Coalition. In the original uncut trailer, they also unwittingly become The Arks, as the Solar System is destroyed shortly after by a Nomad ship. The event is treated as of such great importance that the landing of the first ship, the Liberty, on a planet dubbed Manhattan marks the start of a new calendar. After landing, the ships were stripped down for spare parts, but were later refurbished to complement the skyline of each capital world. One of the five ships, the Hispania, never made it to a planet. It is suggested that the ship was sabotaged by Coalition agents and broke down in the Omicron Alpha system. Half of the colonists used escape pods and became Corsairs. The other half stayed with the drifting ship and, eventually, came close enough to the planet they would dub Malta, becoming Outcasts. The ship's remains can still be found in the system, centuries later.
  • The Mandate starts with Humanity hollowing out asteroids and filling them with Human Popsicles to serve as a slower than FTL means of colonizing the galaxy.
  • Subnautica has the Aurora, a huge crashed spaceship of which the player is the only surviving crew member. Colony ships are also mentioned by name in the opening monologue.
  • In Stellaris, colony ships are the most expensive starship you can build at the game's start, and the upkeep cost for just one of them will put a strain on an early-game economy. They take a year to put together, and it takes even longer for one to establish a colony once you reach a new world, but eventually your colonists will disassemble the vessel for use as the colony's basic capital, until it grows large enough to require a proper planetary administration. Later updates introduced two different variations on the standard colony ship:
    • MegaCorp empires with the "Private Prospectors" civic can build private colony ships which are built with a relatively cheaper amount of energy credits rather than needing a combination of alloys, minerals, and usually food and consumer goods but the species and ethics of the colonists are randomly selected rather than controlled by the player.
    • Lithoid empires with the "Calamitous Birth" civic can build Lithoid Meteorites, which only require minerals, have no upkeep, are built quickly, and basically chuck themselves at high speed into the surface of the planet to be colonized to give a whole new meaning to the term Colony Drop.
  • In the second Star Trek: Armada game, each faction (except Species 8472) has colony ships that can settle planets, which then produce crew for ships (since Species 8472 bioships are crewed by 1 being each, it doesn't make sense for them to colonize planets). Borg colonizers can either settle an unpopulated world or, if the planet is already populated, do what the Borg do best — assimilate.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 is centered around "Oracle", a vast colony fleet consisting of hundreds of such ships. The Player Character is a member of ARKS, the military organization of Oracle, whose official mission is to make first contact with newly discovered planets and assess their viability for colonization while defending themselves from any hostile native lifeforms. Their real job, however, is to combat the Falspawn.
  • In Birth of the Federation, every faction can build these to settle unpopulated systems. They mainly differ in appearance, but Romulan ones can cloak, and Klingon ones are armed. Why? Because a warrior is always armed! And a Romulan just feels exposed without a cloak.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The data points reveal that a project was in the works to establish a colony in the Sirius system, using a ship called the Odyssey. It was seemingly destroyed en route to the Sirius star system, along with its copy of the APOLLO subroutine. Come Horizon Forbidden West, it turns out it was not actually destroyed, but made it safely to Sirius. And now, the descendants of that voyage are coming back to try and take Earth for themselves.

    Visual Novels 
  • A derelict colony ship is the setting for Analogue: A Hate Story, with the main character piecing together what went wrong with the help of two A.I.s.

  • In an early arc of Freefall the crew salvage parts from one of the planet's old colony ships to repair their own ship. It's stated that more ships are incoming.
  • In Leaving the Cradle, the Dawn motherships are designed to roam space for decades without pit-stops and the population ranges from a few thousand to around ten thousand people.

    Web Original 
  • Several colony ships were built and launched after the Nanodisaster in Orion's Arm, many of them grown with cheap Nano. After the colonists to Epsilon Indi suffered Cryonics Failure and only six survived no further attempts at colonization would rely on a single giant ship. Now a fleet of relativistic seed ships is usually deployed first, followed by construction of a beamrider station to bring more colonists in, and finally a wormhole terminus is carried by subrelativistic ship.
  • Chakona Space: This is the direction that Neal Foster's Folly is headed along with dozens of allied interstellar cargo ships.

    Real Life 
  • The Mayflower is the most famous of many ships that carried European migrants to the New World.
  • The SpaceX Starship is being designed to serve as this for colonizing Mars.