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Cranial Processing Unit

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"Losing my head doesn't stop me from kicking your ass, yes?"

"Just because you keep your brain in an exposed, bony protrusion doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to build a robot that way."
— Noted Mad Scientist Kevyn Andreyasn, Schlock Mercenary

In the human body, the entirety of the brain is conveniently located inside the head. In the world of fiction, this often applies to humanoid robots as well. On a certain level, this would seem to be logical; after all, it's been designed to resemble a human being, with all its corresponding external parts in the appropriate places. It's not a big leap to assume the same would be true for the corresponding internal parts.

From an engineering standpoint it isn't strictly necessary to do it that way, and it has its pros and cons. Generally speaking, it would be safer to put the processing units in a more protected spot, like in the heavily armored chest, some random spot in the abdomen, or even completely decentralized and spread throughout the body. Then again, Cranial Processing may become an Invoked Trope for that very reason; Real Life military units are taught to aim for center mass because it's easier to hit the largest part of a target, so putting the vital things in a smaller target/easily salvageable extremity might be intentional.

Other reasons why you might want to put important functions in the head (for much the same reason that so many terrestrial creatures evolved that way) include efficiency. Many of the parts related to sensory input, such as visual or auditory receptors, would logically be built into the head for the sake of having a higher vantage point; once you've placed those there, you need to place the core processors near them to ensure maximum-speed reaction times to visual and auditory stimuli. How important this is and how hard that constraint becomes, of course, depends on the exact technology used and how quickly you need your robot to be able to react. (Keep in mind that nerve signals travel slower then the speed of sound, but electric signals can travel almost at the speed of light.)

Regardless of whether or not it makes any sense, it's very common for everything that makes up the "brain" of an autonomous robot to be located entirely within its head. If its head is removed and placed on another body, its mind will remain intact. The head may even be able to function completely independent of the body, like a human Brain in a Jar. Damage to the rest of the body might be entirely irrelevant to their ability to survive, and the only way to "kill" them is through damage to their head.

Sometimes related to Losing Your Head, Easily Detachable Robot Parts, Computer Equals Monitor, Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain. May also be a Wetware CPU if Organic Technology is involved.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Averted by most incarnations of Astro Boy, whose CPU is body-centered, contained in a heart-shaped casing inside his chest, making him perfectly capable of functioning with his head knocked off. A little too well, in fact, as Tezuka never did explain how he's able to find his way around without eyes or ears. Maybe one of those wires that's always sticking out of his neck contains a fiberscope?
  • Android 16 in Dragon Ball Z had its head ripped from its body, but was still able to give Gohan the pep talk he needed to unleash the power required to stop Cell. It's unknown if the head could have kept going long term as Cell crushed it shortly after.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • Androids are intentionally designed to look, act, and function like humans as much as possible. The first episode starts off with Section 9 infiltrating a geisha resort to rescue hostages who've been physically restrained by malfunctioning android geishas. Motoko orders the team to aim for the head in order to disable them. One geisha has a guest restrained in a full nelson head lock. When Motoko shoots one bullet in its head, it malfunctions and starts to grip even harder. Motoko has no choice but to fully blow away the upper skull of the robot just to expose its circuitry and manually hack it to release the hostage.
    • Surgery and electronics have advanced to the point that someone's brain can be removed from their body and put in a different one or carried around in a suitcase as necessary. With many characters being Full Conversion Cyborgs blurring the line between human and robot.
  • Gundam can't always make up its mind on how functionally important its Humongous Mecha's heads are. For the vast majority of Mobile Suits, the cockpit is actually located in the torso (because it's much easier to heavily armor and protect), but the head usually contains the main sensor. A Mook or Red Shirt who's mecha is decapitated is usually at the very least treated like it's disabled, and will often explode afterward, but one piloted by a main character or Mauve Shirt is often only slightly inconvenienced.
    • The climax of Mobile Suit Gundam successively invokes and subverts this trope with the Gundam and the Zeong, respectively. Amuro shoots the Zeong square in the chest, only to realize he guessed the cockpit's location wrong when Char ditches the body to continue attacking using its head. Char then destroys the Gundam's head, which doesn't stop it, and Amuro's dismissal of this trope ("All you destroyed was the main camera!") has gone on to become one of his iconic quotes.
    • Zeta Gundam's Rick Dias and the Sazabi from Char's Counterattack both featured cockpits in the head unit. And like the Zeong above, Char piloted both models.
    • It's deliberately invoked in G Gundam, whose Mobile Fighters are intentionally designed to shut down when their head is destroyed. As Mobile Fighters are made for Combat by Champion instead of regular war, this design choice is apparently intended to discourage pilots from aiming for the cockpit of their opponent.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team conspicuously averts this in one episode, where Karen's Gundam is beheaded by the first blow of an ambush, but still manages to destroy its attacker. She did need someone else to tell her where to aim, but only because the cockpit displays had been smashed in addition to the head being knocked off. The Gundam model used in the show has other sensors besides the main ones in the head, and the sight of the mecha's hand-held rifle can even feed into the displays by itself if every other sensor is disabled (though it has a narrower field of view than the head cameras). The team then salvages a wrecked GM Ground-type to repair Karen's Gundam, turning it into a "GM-Head".
    • In both Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, a mobile suit was disabled if its head was destroyed. This is only relevant because only Kira Yamato aims for the head; he's a pacifist so he only aims to disable, not kill. When a suit shows up that does not have a head that Kira can detach, he simply just shoots out all the other limbs. Though he's usually thorough enough to also shoot the weapons carried by mobile suits, so that they have no means of even attempting to fight blind.
    • Deliberately invoked in the logic behind a mobile suit variation in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. The Neo-Head is an advanced prototype that is compromised solely of arms, legs and a torso, with all cameras, sensors, and processing units distributed throughout the body or within the centre of the torso. The reasons behind it was that in virtually all cases, a mobile suit having its head destroyed meant that it was combat inoperable, regardless of the rest of its operational status.
    • Gundam AGE has all of the mobile suits built by the Vagans having the cockpit in the head, making this trope true. The only exceptions to this rule being the Vagan Gear.
    • Similar to G Gundam, Asticassia mobile suit duels in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury end when a duelist's antenna is destroyed. As Guel shows in the first season finale, losing a head doesn't stop them in actual combat.
  • In the anime version of Trigun, Gray the Ninelives is a full-body cyborg whose brain is hidden in his stomach.

    Comic Books 
  • As noted by Linkara in his review of Strange Adventures, the robot is capable of thinking without its head on, so it obviously has a brain in its body, but it stupidly lacks any sensory equipment (eyes, pressure detectors...).
  • Subverted in Stormwatch: Team Achilles with the thoroughly cybernetically modified villainess Ivana Baiul, who mocks the protagonist for shooting her in the head:
    Ivana: HAHAHAHA! You think I keep my brain inside my head? Come on, Khalid! You're an engineer! Think like one! It's inside the torso surrounded by eight inches of solid diamonsteel!
  • Averted with Herman von Klempt's cyborg body in Hellboy: Conqueror Worm. Von Klempt has been a head-in-a-jar in every appearance until now, during his battle with Hellboy it turns out that he still is a head-in-a-jar, housed inside an android replica of his original body and still capable of flying around after the body is disabled.
  • Defied in an issue of Spider-Man, in which Dr. Octopus has unleashed several giant robots on New York. Spidey tells the rest of the Avengers to just go for their legs, as their heads are just for show. Spidey's been fighting Doc Ock for decades and has a good idea how he designs his machines.
  • Death's Head (Marvel Comics): Death's Head can continue to control his body even after being decapitated. In Death's Head II: The Wild Hunt issue #1, he gets "assimilated" by being stabbed in the head.
  • Subverted in Judge Dredd with Call-Me-Kenneth, whose processors are in his chest. However, his sensory systems are in his head, so being decapitated forces him to flail blindly while fighting Dredd.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge:
    • Gigan has survived decapitation before because in the process of making him an increasingly robotic cyborg, the M Nebulans moved his brain into his chest. His head is just needed for most of his sensory input.
    • M.O.G.U.E.R.A. is piloted both by its pilots as well as a learning AI that follows their movements. Both of which are housed in the heavily armored chest and hips.
  • The Mega Man MUSH, unlike the games it's based on, generally averts this trope (except for old bots and, well, depends on the creator), as, for robots in general, their neural nets are, as a rule of thumb, in the chest. The head is just one big sensor node.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Zig-zagged in the Alien franchise. In the original movie, a bang on the head is what causes Ash to malfunction (suggesting that his electronic "brain" is inside his head), but he keeps on going after being decapitated, and his head needs to be wired back up to his body (or lungs) to allow him to talk. In Prometheus, on the other hand, this is played completely straight with David, whose head remains fully functional and capable of speech after being ripped off.
  • In Elysium, main character Max rips the head off a bodyguard droid, and said droid shuts down immediately.
  • The Black Hole Planet 3 Aliens clearly learned the downsides of putting Mechagodzilla's control unit in its head in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, so for the second time around they deliberately avoid this trope, placing the control unit in Mechagodzilla's neck instead in Terror of Mechagodzilla. Thus, when Godzilla tries ripping off Mechagodzilla's head as before, he gets quite the surprise when the machine reveals the device just below the joint MG's head would attach to, continuing the fight for just a while longer.
  • This is one of the few things the movie of I, Robot had in common with the book. Sonny had a second one, symbolic of a heart, in his chest, but it was implied to augment the one in his head, with no evidence that it could function on its own.
  • Kay-Em 14 is used this way after Jason knocks her head off in Jason X.
  • Most of the Jaegers shown in Pacific Rim have their cockpits mounted in this fashion. This proves fatal for the crew of Crimson Typhoon when Otachi rips it off and nonchalantly crushes it during battle, effectively killing the entire mech. Averted by Cherno Alpha, whose cockpit is chest-mounted. The giant cylindrical "head" is a giant fuel storage container for the incinerator turbines above its shoulders (and makes a handy decoy for any Kaiju trying to kill the Jaeger via decapitation). One justification for putting the cockpit in the head is to allow for an Escape Pod for the pilots. Cherno Alpha is the only one without that functionality, as Russians expect their Jaeger pilots to fight to the last.
  • Justified in Real Steel, as these robots are built to mimic human boxers. As such, the spectators expect being punched in the head to have an effect on the robot's ability to fight.
  • In the short film Robot Bastard, the Tin-Can Robot hero escapes the Big Bad by shoving his own head in the space station's waste disposal unit and pulling the lever, severing his head and sending it down a chute into outer space. The body then self-destructs, destroying the station. The film ends with his head floating through space, being contacted by his commander with another mission for him.
  • In the 1979 Disney comedy A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court, Sir Mordred has challenged NASA astronaut Tom Trimble to a joust. He sends out Hermes to joust in his place, leading to much upset when Mordred knocks Hermes' head off and he's still sitting on his horse for another go. Fortunately Tom is able to reassemble him later on.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Episode 2, Attack of the Clones, C-3PO's and a battle droid get their heads switched. They both remain quite functional. There may be some secondary processing going on in the body though, as C-3PO doesn't seem to be in control of the body's actions and even seems to temporarily take on aspects of a military droid — for instance, shooting at people while apologizing profusely, or screaming things like "Die, Jedi!" then wondering why he would say such a thing.
    • The prequel movies had legions of Battle Droids with brainy heads, although they can sometimes walk around a bit after their heads have been cut off, for comedic effect. MagnaGuards, however, are an example of a droid that can battle on without a head — something not common in the movies. It certainly surprises Obi-Wan when it first happens. They have backup processors and photoreceptors in their chest.
    • R2-D2's brain (an "Intellex IV computer", according to the Expanded Universe) is in his head, but his torso is so full of gadgets, gizmos, and dwarf actors that there's nowhere else for it to go.
  • Terminator, since the Terminators all keep their brains/chips in their head. Averted with the T-1000 series (and similar) Terminators, though, since, their "head" is no more (or less) important than any other same-mass portion of their "body", being all composed of exactly the same material, and seemingly equally capable of sensory input and distributed processing as any other equivalent mass of the same material. When the "head" is damaged, or simply when convenient, any other mass can be dynamically reconfigured to serve as the head; and even that is not strictly necessary for it to continue functioning (except for the fact that it is programmed to try to appear as human as possible at all times).
  • Zigzagged in The Wolverine. Wolverine cuts the head off the Silver Samurai robot, and it falls over. Then it gets back up again and then it's revealed that the Samurai isn't a robot, it's a suit of Powered Armor with a man inside. If Wolverine had just cut a little lower...

  • Transformers: As the main characters are giant alien robots, this has come up several times over the course of the franchise. It sometimes varies between the various universes, where in some being beheaded is a mild inconvenience while in others it's fatal.
    • The Transformers: Beheading didn't seem to affect Transformers very much in the series proper, with examples such as Powerglide's head falling clean off his shoulders in "Desertion Of The Dinobots" (he was able to catch his own head in his hands and complained about it), while Optimus Prime was once disassembled by the Decepticons (in the episode "City of Steel"). While comatose, when his head was reactivated he is able to communicate with his troops and even remotely control his separated body parts, most notably when he remotely commands his arm (which was holding his blaster) to fire on Devastator at a key point of the climax.
    • The Transformers (Marvel): Zigzagged. Some Transformers are killed when they were beheaded, the most famous example being Cyclonus in the UK-exclusive stories when his head was pulled off his shoulders by Megatron. The Autobot Pretender Cloudburst likewise lost his head when a jilted alien queen beheaded him with a swipe of her sword, but his comrade Landmine reattached it and Cloudburst recovered no worse for wear. When a fan wrote a letter asking about the discrepancy, Dreadwing (answering the letters page at the time) explained that virtually all Transformers could safely remove their heads, but this involved several mental commands to properly disconnect various functions otherwise the shock might kill them. He further clarified that even then decapitation might not be fatal provided the head was reattached quickly enough: while Cloudburst was lucky enough to have Landmine nearby to reattach his head, Cyclonus wasn't so fortunate.
    • Beast Wars
      • Waspinator, uniquely, has a Spark chamber located in his head for some reason. This is why he was able to survive being blown up so many times throughout the series since his head always remained intact.
      • Played with in the case of Ravage; the only recognisable part of him left from his original G1 form was his head. Surprisingly, after kissing his own nuke, all that was left of him was his head. It's either averted or played straight depending on which you consider canon; he was written as permanently dead in the animated series, but was repaired in the comics.
    • IDW Publishing: The IDW comics introduced a trinity of organs to which damage would be fatal: the brain module, the spark chamber and the transformation cog. It is implied that so long as the brain module remained intact, severe damage to the head wasn't necessarily fatal. One particularly noteworthy example comes from IDW's The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, where Autobot psychologist Rung has his accidentally head blown off by Swerve and survives, although his brain module is damaged enough that he is left in a catatonic state for several issues. Another example was in The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, where the Cyberjet Snare is shot in the head and half his head blown off, revealing his brain module. Impactor offers to take him to safety before the arrival of Overlord, but Snare instead requests a Mercy Kill that Impactor grants by crushing his brain module.
      • This trope is further Played With in IDW's Transformers comics in regards to Cybertronians with beast modes. Since a Transformer's brain module tends to be located in their robot mode head, a beast-former can survive the destruction of their beast mode's head if their robot head is located somewhere else. This is Lampshaded in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise when the Dinobot Sludge has his brontosaurus head destroyed, only for him to immediately transform into robot mode none the worse for wear. When Ironhide questions this, Sludge points out that his "real" head is located under his dino mode's head.
    • In the live-action Transformers Film Series, major damage to the head is consistently fatal. In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, for example, Demolishor and Grindor all perish due to fatal attacks to the head: Demolisher is executed with a shot between the eyes by Optimus Prime and Grindor has his head pulled in half by the Autobot leader. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon Ironhide, Sentinel Prime and Megatron are all killed by shots to the head while Starscream's head is blown up by a grenade and Soundwave's shot off by Bumblebee. It's actually a running gag among Transformers fans that Movie Optimus is a Memetic Psychopath because always goes for the head.
    • Special attention should be given to the Headmasters, a subgroup of Transformers whose heads transform into separate characters. In the Japanese continuity (e.g. Transformers: ★Headmasters, Transformers: Super-God Masterforce) the larger Transformer bodies are actually lifeless controlled by the heads meaning head wounds would actually be fatal, whereas on at least one occasion in The Transformers (Marvel) a Headmaster survives decapitation because both the Transformer and his head partner went comatose from the shock rather than outright perish. In one famous instance, in the Ladybird books the Headmasters Chromedome and Hardhead transform into robot mode while their partners Stylor and Duros are elsewhere, and are described in the narration as using their other sensors to look around while discussing the situation amongst themselves. The accompanying illustration shows them in robot mode sans heads.
    • Cybertronians clearly keep their sparks in their chests in Transformers: Animated however, where the heads are shown to contain the transformer's mind. This allows Megatron to survive decapication and the Headmaster unit to take over Transformers' bodies by cutting off and replacing their heads. After Megatron extinguished Starscream's Spark, a fragment of the Allspark lodged itself in Starscream's head and acted as a substitute for his absent Spark. Getting it pulled out in the finale killed him off for real.

Examples by author:
  • Lampshaded in one of Stanisław Lem's stories. A first, a prototypical Ridiculously Human Robot has its brain put in the head — "We're the first to do it." The protagonist corrects them — well, Mother Nature did it first.
Examples by title:
  • At least most of the androids in Argo seem to have their processors in the head.
  • In Arm of the Law by Harry Harrison, an android cop averts this trope because he has a .75 recoilless cannon in his head, right between the eyes for good aiming.
  • In one of the Bill the Galactic Hero novels, Bill travels to a planet populated by two warring factions of Mechanical Lifeforms. One of them gets shot in the head by a Chinger guard. When the guard leaves, the robot stops playing possum and explains that his CPU is actually in his butt.
  • Averted in "C-Chute" when an alien's head-stalk is crushed, but this only blinds it, because its actual brain is located in its torso. The protagonist gets a nasty shock when the Not Quite Dead alien rises to its feet and starts stumbling after him.
  • Doctor Who New Adventures: Briefly mentioned in Original Sin. The Doctor decapitates a hostile robot, and then muses how fortunate it was that the robot's designer had put the brain in the head.
  • Zigzagged in The Murderbot Diaries. Murderbot points out the biological components in its head (and presumably all SecUnits) are vital; but pure (humanoid) bots have their central processing units located in their (much better shielded) abdomens. Murderbot references the trope several times in Rogue Protocol where Murderbot makes the tactical decision to shoot a combat bot in the head, knowing that its weapon isn't enough to pierce the bot's abdominal shielding but is enough to scramble all its head-mounted sensors for a crucial moment so Murderbot can Grenade Tag it. Later Wilken, caught in a Gun Struggle with Miki, tries to deploy her Arm Cannon to shoot Miki in the head which will effectively blind the robot. And in the final battle a combat bot effectively 'kills' Miki by crushing its midsection.
  • In the My Name Is Legion story "Home Is the Hangman", the protagonist targets an android's abdomen with an explosive in an attempt to subdue it, the abdomen being the location of the robot's "brain".
  • In Jack Chalker's Rings of the Master it is stated that, when fighting their robotic enemies, there is no point for the heroes to shoot their head — aiming for where the human has a navel is the proper way.
  • Robot Series: If the position of robots' positronic brains in their bodies is mentioned, it's usually in their heads. For example, in The Caves of Steel, R. Sammy is found with an alpha sprayer pressed against his head: the radiation from it fried his brain.
  • Safehold: Averted in Off Armageddon Reef when the protagonist is described as having his/her "brain" "located about where a flesh-and-blood human would have kept his liver".
  • Towards the beginning of a Spider-Man/Iron Man crossover novel (just go with it), Iron Man faces off against an incredibly tough attack robot, and with great effort manages to rip its head off. Then he realizes that its processors are actually in its chest, which is much more heavily armored.
  • Averted in The Stainless Steel Rat, which opens with Slippery Jim diGriz dropping a safe on a police robots' head. Its only reaction is to point out its brain and voice unit is in their midsection, surrounded by extra armour. (Jim knew that; the point of crushing its head was to disable its radio so it couldn't call for backup.)
  • One of the Tom Swift books has a malfunctioning or hacked Robot Buddy killed by being sliced in the stomach area. Tom tells the others that the 'brain' is actually inside the body; the head is where the sensory gear is located.
  • Averted in Robert Mason's Weapon (although not in the film adaptation Solo): the robot's brain is in its chest, and its head is filled with optics.
  • The Wild Cards series has the Ly'bahr, a race of brains in jars who can plug themselves into all manner of different cyborg bodies. When they wear humanoid bodies they carefully avert this trope, burying the fragile meaty brains inside the torso, behind the heaviest armor possible.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Blake's 7 episode "Headhunter" is about a killer android who keeps coming after our heroes even after a Robotic Reveal involving his head getting knocked off. Turns out the head was that of its creator, and the android's real head was a Restraining Bolt so it wouldn't Kill All Humans.
  • Averted with Adam in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While he clearly has eyes on his head and we don't know for certain where his memory and whatnot are located, at least his power core is located in his chest.
  • Dark Matter (2015): The crew of the Raza activate a Sexbot they find in storage, only to discover it's been programmed by an enemy to sabotage the Raza by locking the controls and flying them into a sun. Four manages to decapitate the android, then they take its head to the bridge and plug into it to find the password used to lock down the controls. A couple of other crewmembers go to throw the body out the airlock, only to have the head remotely activate it and attack them, using the ship's internal sensors to see where they are.
  • Doctor Who: The robots in "The Robots of Death" have their 'brains' in their heads, as one is 'killed' by having a laser probe plunged into brain through its head. This makes sense given what we know of the society that created them, with the robots having been made in human form for aesthetic reasons.
  • Played with in Fringe. The shapeshifters have two brains, one in their head and one in their abdomen — however, they will still die if shot in the head.
  • 790, the disembodied robotic head in Lexx.
  • Red Dwarf: Kryten even has spare heads which have their own personalities. One of the novels suggests that the circular display on Kryten's abdomen also houses his memory core. If Kryten routinely swaps heads (implied in the TV series to be "once a month") then it makes sense for his body to house a central memory so each head can keep track of what Kryten's current activities have been, even if each head maintains a subtly different personality and its own memory. This may also explain the changes to his personality when he was rebuilt between series two and three — he has the same central memory core but was otherwise extensively reworked.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "Disaster", Data uses his body to disrupt an electrical arc, damaging it in the process. Afterward, Riker removes his still functioning head and continues on.
    • Then averted in the Time Travel Episode "Time's Arrow", in which Data's head (which was left behind in 1893) isn't functional until re-united with his body. Though in this case it was an involuntary (and accidental) separation, and the head's reactivation was further impeded by a metal filing left inside interfering with some of the contacts, which itself was a clue that Picard in the past had left an important message in Data's head.
  • Unsurprisingly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles features this, although it's indicated that at least some models have a backup system somewhere. The headless body of one Terminator is able to keep functioning so it can search for its head. It even puts a motorcycle helmet on top to cover things up. The helmet in question also contains a severed head.
  • In Westworld, Hosts have their consciousness stored in a small "pearl" that is itself housed inside a reinforced casing where the brain would be in a normal human. This both serves to protect the pearl from damage by placing it in the toughest structure on the body while also allowing for easy access should the techs need to get to it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 'Mech cockpits in BattleTech are in the head 99% of the time. But seeing as most of the torso space is taken up by a large fusion reactor, there's not a lot of room to stick a cockpit in there.
    • This trope is played straight on the damage sheets, but averted quite frequently in the artwork and models. Many 'Mechs have torso mounted cockpits - They're just called 'heads' for simplicity.
    • A 'Mech can under suitably advanced rules be built with a literal torso-mounted cockpit — that is, one that's actually located inside its mechanical guts and unlike the "cosmetic" option above doesn't even have windows. This averts the trope, puts the pilot behind thicker armor than usual, and makes headshots somewhat less dangerous...but also makes the 'Mech more difficult to pilot and can become a death trap in its own right because this kind of cockpit does not allow the pilot to eject.
  • Averted in Cyborg Commando: the cyborg's brain is in the chest, while the head houses various sensors. (And a large amount of empty space, for some reason.)
  • Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. When the Funbot is shot in the head it loses control, running around and bumping into things.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Necron units are explained as being vulnerable to headshots because their brains are still in there (and sniper rounds are handwaved as being acid-filled to explain how they punched through living metal).
    • Imperial Titans often house their pilots within their head units, which means that most of the time the best way to destroy one is to aim for the head. Fortunately, it's just as well armored as the rest of the titan, including the layers of Void Shields.
    • Averted with Tau Battlesuits; their heads merely contain sensors such as cameras, the cockpit is the mech' torso.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in Aliens vs. Predator (2010), which is oddly enough in the same universe as the Alien example. The combat androids can have their heads completely shot off, and continue to not only function, but attack as well. Presumably, they have sensory devices that are also not on their head.
  • Played With in Armored Core. While Head units on the titular Armored Cores do contain the majority of the machine's processors and sensors, they aren't essential to operating the craft since the pilot is seated in the chest area and can keep fighting (albeit with greatly diminished or no radar) if the head is destroyed in combat. One AC in the intro to Armored Core 3 has its head blown clean off but continues to put up a fight regardless, and you can replicate that feat yourself in Armored Core 3: Last Raven, which has a Subsystem Damage mechanic.
  • Binary Domain features various kinds of robots, both humanoid and otherwise. With the humanoid mechs you can blow off any part of their body to some effect, including the head, but this does not render them unable to function, it simply blinds them and they start shooting their allies instead. The non-humanoid ones avert this trope to a varying degree. Some have no heads to speak of while others do have heads that serve as "weak" spots, but even those weak spots are heavily armored as opposed to the rest of their body which is simply invulnerable.
  • Strangely zig-zagged in BioShock Infinite with the Motorized Patriot, one of the few actually robotic enemies in the game. Shooting the Motorized Patriot in the head still does extra damage, a lot more than shooting it in the chest. But even if you destroy the head it continues, implying it has other sensors elsewhere, but none that you can see.
  • Borderlands 2 is pretty clever about this, as their robots don't usually have recognizable heads—they're basically all torso, legs, and weapons. They have a slight protrusion from the middle of their chests that appears to be where it keeps the CPU, but this portion is exceedingly well armored and takes the most damage to destroy. Only the EXP Loader has a recognizable 'head,' which pops up on the torso when it's right next to a target, but that isn't the CPU—it's an explosive reactor core, which naturally blows up like no one's business.
  • An example where this isn't beneficial can be found in Call of Duty: Black Ops III's Multiplayer mode, where Reaper, one of the selectable "Specialist" characters, is a battle robot who can be felled via headshot just as readily as any of the other characters.
  • Lavos from Chrono Trigger isn't a robot, but does subvert this trope in a way to trick the player. Lavos' final form consists of a large humanoid figure and two pods floating beside it. While you'd think the humanoid figure is the real Lavos (especially since the left pod heals it regularly,) the real Lavos is actually the right pod, which can't be defeated until the left pod and humanoid figure are defeated.
  • In Destiny, the Vex have big, prominent heads that you can shoot off. Doing so makes the Vex in question even more violent and aggressive, causing it to charge at you with guns blazing and try to beat you down in close quarters. Their actual weak points are the glowing white “juiceboxes” that make up their midsections, filled with the radiolarian fluid that lets them think.
  • Androids in Detroit: Become Human appear to keep their main processors in their heads. Certain androids, if Driven to Suicide during the game, do so by self-inflicted headshot, indicating that this is lethal to them. (This isn't the only vital "organ" for an android, however - they also have a centralized pump for thorium, their "blood", in their chest, which shuts them down if disabled.)
  • The Clockwork Soldiers of Dishonored 2 work similarly to the robots in Binary Domain: Destroying the head won't kill them, but it prevents them from seeing, meaning that they'll attack anything they hear including other robots and allied guards.
  • KAOS in Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!. You have to either jump on its head (first battle) or throw barrels at its head (second battle) to hurt/defeat it. It even changes the design of its head, with its first helmet becoming a flying laser-shooting thing and its final head shooting grenades.
  • The Automatons of Endless Space have their CPU inside their head. One of their best terraformers had his head bitten off by one of his carnivorous plants; luckily, he had a wireless receiver in his body. He now carries his head around in his hands as a sign of humility.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Star Resistance: The Shakun Star central computer is a massive robot with the muscles of a body builder. Despite its immense size and plates of armour all over its rock solid body, the head is what needs to be targeted and destroyed layer by layer to finally disable it.
  • Robots in the Fallout series take more damage when they are shot in the head. Except for the military Sentry bot in Fallout 3, who actually takes more damage if shot in the chest. Head shots are still a good idea, though, because all the targeting systems are there and it's armed to the teeth. This only applies to robots that have recognizable separate heads, of course — the Mister Handy/Gutsy/Orderly series might have its processing unit in the 'head', but that's because there isn't a torso to put it in. This is implicitly averted by the Assaultron combat droids, whose heads have a nuclear powered laser and, similar to the Sentry bot, take less damage from headshots. One presumes the control unit resides in the chest, since the laser would comprise the vast majority of the head structure.
  • Contrast the source material (see above) Gundam Evolution simply has every mobile suit take the same amount of extra damage from shots to the head, varying solely dependent on the weapon.
  • Headlander is based on this trope entirely, to the extent he main character is a head, severed from the body but kept alive by a special rocket-equipped helmet. All robots in the game - including pets, mobile maps, stationary emplacements and chess pieces - have their main processor in their heads; once that is removed the rest of the body remains limply in place, free for commandeering by plopping one's head-in-a-helmet on top.
  • In Helldivers 2, most Automatons can be felled with a well-placed headshot: even a heavily-armored Hulk can be guaranteed to drop if blasted in the face with a Railgun.
  • Possibly the Mechawfuls from Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Those things definitely have whatever controls them inside their heads, to the point the head specifically has to be destroyed separately to stop it regenerating the body. Or just keep hammering them, figuratively and literally. Destroying them via Counter-Attack will also defeat the robot without the head detatching.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, this is the case with the giant boss Earthwake. Indeed, its head seemingly contains everything important for the thing's function, since it's what initially flies into the air and summons the rest of the body from the background. And everything's presumably held together by some sort of magnetism, Floating Limbs style. Which is why you end up defeating it by driving it into the water and repeatedly pummelling said head with a hammer.
  • The best way to take down the humaniform robots and the "robot dogs" in Mass Effect 2 is a headshot. The larger robots require a bit more effort, though.
    • In Mass Effect 2, most robots are humanoid. Headshots don't really affect geth, but they do severely damage FENRIR, LOKI and YMIR robots, causing an explosion if the robot was killed with it. If YMIR has his head blown off, he explodes like a Cain's shot.
    • At higher difficulties, YMIR mechs can take over a dozen headshots with a sniper rifle to take down. And that's still easier than shooting them anywhere else.
  • The MechWarrior continues BattleTech's tradition of mounting the cockpit on the top of humanoid BattleMechs. The Walking Tanks on the other hand, usually have the cockpit mounted ahead of the torso. The Cyclops in Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries's re-release is a notable exception to the rule, as it's a humanoid mech with a distinctive head - which is instead a mounting point for heavy laser weapons; the actual cockpit is in the torso and only identifiable through a tiny slit of a window.
  • The Mega Man series (Classic, X, Zero, ZX) loves this trope. If the enemy is immune to damage in the body and doesn't have a weak core, it's best you shoot them in the head in order to destroy them. X3 takes this to an extreme, where the absolutely massive final boss can only be damaged by hitting his extremely tiny head.
  • Metal Arms: Glitch in the System averts this somewhat with robots that can function with only legs remaining. However, they can't attack.
  • In the Metal Gear series, this usually justified by the fact that the robots are manned and have their cockpits on top. With the unmanned models (Gekko and the Arsenal RAYs), this is played straight. Gekko explicitly have their weak point mounted on the top of their hulls, whereas the RAYs' only real weak point (or at least, the only weak point which actually reduces their HP if attacked) is their face.
  • Humanoid Omnics in Overwatch keep all their vital systems in their heads. This isn't just a gameplay trope that allows headshots to work on playable Omnic Zenyatta; in the backstory, a major Omnic political figure was assassinated when Widowmaker shot it in the head.
  • Phantasy Star Zero both follows this trope and subverts it a bit: Casts play it straight in most every way, but they also have "sub-memory" which is in their bodies and not their heads. It doesn't seem to be enough to back up their personality, however, even though it can hold such high-priority data as an accent.
  • The Wood Golem in Popful Mail is similar to the above example in that destroying the body will merely cause the head to bounce around until the body regenerates; killing the head is the only way to end the fight. Averted in the case of Nuts Cracker, who is either a robot, an animate puppet or something in that vein: his favorite method of distracting his opponents is cutting off his own head while his body makes a getaway. (The head then taunts the unfortunate bounty hunter and then explodes.)
  • Zig-zagged in Portal with the personality cores, including GLaDOS. After all, they are nothing but spheres with an eye on them, but the body used by GLaDOS and later Wheatley clearly has some influence over them.
  • Most robots in the Ratchet & Clank series play this straight, but the soldier robots on Damosel in the second game can function with only legs.
  • Justified in Sly Cooper, as Clockwerk was originally organic, replacing his organs one at a time.
  • Team Fortress 2: Clearly, since Gray Mann based his squad of robot invaders on the mercenaries his idiot brothers hired for their endless feud, he also thoughtfully made the heads of said robots be vital processing centers so any opposing Sniper has a convenient target to hit. Amusingly, the robot sniper don't ever shoot humans in the head with standard sniper rifles, though they make up for this by coming in squads. Huntsman robots still get critical headshots.
  • In TimeSplitters you can headshot all robots except for Sentrybot, who has no head to speak of.
  • In Vanquish, headshots kill the robotic enemies much faster.
  • Warframe: A rather disturbing aversion in the Fortuna expansion. The Solaris are cyborgs who (among other things) have had their heads replaced with robotic upgrades. Destroying their robotic heads is little more than an annoyance, as their biological heads are still in control, stored in their armored cybernetic torsos.

    Web Animation 
  • gen:LOCK: Averted but discussed. The cyberbrain is the most vulnerable part of the Holon technology. There are no back-ups for a pilot's mind, so if the cyberbrain is damaged, the pilot is doomed. The brain unit is not stored in a Holon's head, but inside a module that's placed inside the heavily-armoured chest. The Union initially appears to believe that the head is where that brain is located, but it quickly becomes clear they know exactly where the chest module is located. The fact they have somehow obtained this knowledge concerns both Chase and Weller. When the Nemesis mech first makes its appearance, it goes straight for Cammie's head, ripping it from her shoulders. It then pins the body to the ground and goes straight for the chest module. If it hadn't wasted time blinding Cammie by beheading her before going for the chest module, Chase would never have arrived in time to save Cammie's life. As it is, Nemesis still manages to rip open the entry panel before Chase arrives.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Played straight and then lampshaded: Lopez the robot has his body blown up and spends season 4 onwards as a disembodied head. Later in season 4 Sarge wants to retrieve a secret message that was hidden in his databanks, and Grif asks if the data would actually be in his head and Sarge cites the logic behind this trope.
    • Church is kicked out of his robot body if he's shot in the head, which would sorta count as a kill, except he can hop back in just as quickly.

    Web Comics 
  • In Commander Kitty, an android's head can function independently if hooked up to a power source, as demonstrated with Nin Wah's android clone here. Taken a bit more literally later, where Fortiscue seems to be using Zenith's head as a backup computer in an effort to get the generators back online. Later, it's all that remains of her body, but she's perfectly able to continue functioning once she has it plugged into a larger system.
  • In Ctrl+Alt+Del a robot was saved due to his designer placing all vital parts in the head and then removing it.
    • Said robot was an X-Box system; the only vital components in the head were the hard drives containing saved games (and personality).
  • A non-robotic aversion occurs in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures with Mehlata who is undead. The only way for undead to die (again) is by destroying their brain, however Mehlata took the precaution of relocating her brain from her skull to her torso which saves her (un)life when Kira Soulstealer vaporizes her head.
  • Darths & Droids mentioned this with reference to how strange it is that C3PO still works when his head is grafted onto a battledroid.
  • Freefall: Averted with Helix (and possibly other robots). As seen in this strip and the next few following it, removing his head has no effect on his ability to thinknote  and communicate.
    • Taken to its logical extreme with Benny, who has a humanoid body and an airplane body, both controlled by a brain in a briefcase-shaped portable container.
  • Girl Genius:
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court this does the trick. At least, if you slam poor tin can hard enough to rip out whatever was connected to its head by cables.
  • Briefly discussed in MS Paint Masterpieces, with Mega Man wondering why robot designers always put the CPUs in the robot brains, concluding that if it were up to him, he'd put the CPU in the robot's butt.
    • In a subversion, it turns out Crash Man's CPU isn't in his head. Oh no, that's reserved for more explosives.
  • It mentioned in Never Mind the Gap that the head is the only suitable place for a humanoid robot to have their CPU. Most notably, they can't be put in the chest, because it's occupied by the power source and its radiation shielding.
  • Averted in Schlock Mercenary, where it's even commented on how it would be foolish after one robot's body is destroyed but the head remains intact, the engineer who built it says it would be stupid to put the brain in an exposed area and that particular robot had relocated their brain again, without the creator's knowledge.
    • Also, one organic alien survives a headshot, as his "head" is just a big eye and his brain is actually in his pelvis. He is promptly advised to play possum, lest the enemy sniper figure it out and go for another shot.
  • In S.S.D.D. Tin-Head's neural net is located in his head, which had to function independently when corporate security procedures necessitated his dismantling. Inlays on the other hand store their processing core in their heavily armored center of mass, the only key systems on the head are their heat sinks.

    Web Original 
  • The mecha in Ilivais X vary in regards to this. The Ilivais units play it more or less straight- the head holds both the sensory web and the cockpit, slightly justified as the pilots are meant to project their soul into the unit and operate it as they would their own bodies. The Avespias are more like the Gundam examples in this regard- cockpit in the chest, processors in the head. However, the Espadas drastically subvert this- the cockpit is in the shoulder, as they do not have a head at all.

    Western Animation 
  • A non-robot example would be Sarah G. Lato from The Amazing World of Gumball, who is an anthropomorphic ice cream cone. The ice cream part of her can be knocked off the cone and she retains consciousness and her body can move autonomously.
  • Bounty Hamster. In a Moby Schtick parody, the white Sand Worm is pursued by mad cyborg Captain Rehab. It not only bit off his leg but his head as well, which he demonstrates by removing it.
  • XR in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is only vaguely even humanoid, but still has this. Actually kind of justified: XR is specifically designed to be easy to reassemble if damaged, and his head is the part of him with the mouth to tell people he needs reassembling. His head also a fairly sturdy-looking cylinder with facial features that seems difficult to damage anyway.
  • Bender in Futurama is shown more than once to be able to completely remove his head and continue to function in any way his head normally would. His body is still able to move around without the head, it just can't see. He can also take considerable damage to his head without losing mental capacity. In one episode, he (literally) sells his body and replaces it with a toy car.
  • In Samurai Jack, robotic assassin Scaramouche is reduced to a head hopping ineffectually on the stump of his neck after fighting Jack.
  • Averted with the robotic Richard Simmons in The Simpsons.

    Real Life 
  • Subverted in many android robot projects, as well as medical training dummies that try to mimic human expressions and facial gestures: the actuators and hardware for opening, closing and moving the eyes and mouth take a lot of space, to the effect that some modern training dummies even had to switch gender to accommodate the extra hardware necessary to control them all (it would have looked weird on a female body). There would simply be no space for a motherboard or CPU in the head. Much better to move it into the stomach cavity, where relatively few things need to happen in order to make the robot believably humanoid.
  • Some robots do have a removable "head" with the computer and majority of sensors contained inside. This is to make programming and testing the robot's perception easier and safer, since it eliminates the need to move the whole robot and the possibility its body will turn on and damage itself. However, robots with this design feature are just as, if not more, likely to be Starfish Robots as humanoid.

Alternative Title(s): Robot Brains Are In The Head, Headshots Kill Robots