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Puppeteer Parasite

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[Zuul is defeated by God Mars]
Emperor Zuul: Mars! I can't die! I won't!
Emperor Zuul: My cells are all over the universe! Somewhere out there, I will be reborn!
Takeru: What?
Emperor Zuul: Bwahahahaha! Emperor Zuul of Gishin is only a shell occupied by one of my cells!

A form of Parasitic Horror common in alien invasion plots. Aliens, rather than invading in their own form, insert themselves into (usually unwilling or unaware) humans, whereupon they completely take over the host's body, suppress their will, and generally make them not themselves. They generally do this because their natural form is some kind of grub or other not-very-formidable state.

They may have limited or total access to the host's memory, but can generally fool casual observers. A possessed host typically gains increased strength, and sometimes additional wacky powers. They may also be able to affect a Voice of Evil or glowing eyes, to let the audience know what's up.

This will fool everyone until the critical moment, even though a possessed host usually starts exhibiting really strange symptoms such as a lack of emotion, a surplus of emotion, violent rampages, festering sores, a flue gill, or a penchant for ketchup.

Sometimes, the possession process actually kills the host, turning them into a Parasite Zombie with Marionette Motion. If the host is left alive then they may or may not remain aware while possessed. No matter what the case is, it generally takes a Deus ex Machina to remove the parasite without killing the host.

The method by which the parasite enters the host body varies; it might be injected, it may latch on to the host's skull or spine, or it may enter as some kind of Energy Being. Crawling in through the mouth or ears is also very popular. Often a Festering Fungus. This trope may also be used as a metaphor for venereal disease. A controlling alien that doesn't invade the body is a Hypnotic Creature.

Also, for some reason, possessed bodies often melt when killed.

Very popular in films during the Cold War era, as it made such a handy parallel for communism.

Sub-Trope of Body Snatcher. Can overlap with And I Must Scream.

Compare with Living Doll Collector. Contrast They Look Like Us Now, where the Masquerade is limited to posing as human without being able to replace/control specific individuals. Compare and contrast Marionette Master, someone who uses actual puppets, and People Puppets for less "autonomous" human puppetry. If multiple such beings reside in a single host body, then this may overlap with The Infested.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 7 Seeds:
    • Yanagi-san is injected with insect eggs and functions just fine, bringing the rest of the team to the insects' lair to become fodder.
    • The Acari X parasitoids from the Ryugu Shelter arc seem to function similarly, except they seem able to live for a good few months before any effect is really noticed.
  • After God: Vollof's gummy bears are sentient and take over Waka and Nyababa when digested.
  • In Azumanga Daioh, Osaka believes Chiyo's Girlish Pigtails are these.
  • In Claymore, this is what the yoma really are. They are parasites spawned from the flesh of a pair of captive dragon people. These parasites infest humans and drive them insane by horrifically mutating them. The only thing that can ease the pain of their affliction is human flesh. The whole story of yoma killing and replacing people is just a cover story. The parasites are merely jumping hosts. Miria has a bit of in-universe Fridge Horror when she realizes this means that the Claymores have been killing unfortunate human victims all along.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Baby from Dragon Ball GT is an alien cyborg... thing who takes control of several beings throughout the galaxy. While inside a being, he either a) plants mind control eggs, b) leeches off their life force and uses it to fuel himself, or c) makes it a permanent home for himself. The only person the latter happens to is Goku's pal Vegeta.
    • The concept of Baby is recycled verbatim with the twins Oren and Kamin in Super Dragon Ball Heroes, who parasitize every Saiyan in Universe 6 and find hosts in Caulifla, Kale, and Vegeta.
    • Dragon Ball Super has the Watagash parasite. Like Baby, it can attach onto people, greatly increasing their strength with The Power of Hate. This made the ordinary human Jerkass Barry Kahn actually catch Gohan off-guard (he quickly turned the tables though).
  • One of the latter theories presented in Higurashi: When They Cry is that Hinamizawa Syndrome is caused by parasites who live inside humans. Hifumi Takano said that the parasites will control a person's thoughts, leading them to become paranoid and developing a persecution complex. In Tsumihoroboshi, Rena's theory that she got later on in the arc from Miyo Takano's scrapbooks fits this trope to a T.
  • Many of the byouma in Hokenshitsu no Shinigami.
  • In Inuyasha, there are low youkai, which look like huge snakes and insects. They are much weaker than youkai, which can look like humans. However, they can unite with a person who offers them their soul. This creates a special kind of half-demon, which looks like a human being, but in its true form is a huge amalgation of demons. These youkai form a new consciousness, and the consciousness of the human is completely dominated by the youkai. Naraku was born in this way, and later the princess Sara Asano.
  • Jiya has the titular protagonist as well as the evil Steth, both of whom appear to be large robotic aliens but are in fact only about an inch tall and normally pilot robotic suits, but also can take control of living organisms.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • DIO's fleshbud is a rather savvy version of this trope. It hides itself either behind the host's hairbang or inside the brain, so it is hard to be located. It only invokes evil thoughts to the host, so the victim is controlled into attacking the protagonists as if he is naturally evil. It also has failsafe fuctions that will destroy the host's brain and will try to invade another person if the bud is being removed. Part 4 reveals that those who still had DIO's implant when he died were turned into hideous monsters by the out-of-control cells.
    • Foo Fighters from Part 6 is a much more benign version of this. It's an intelligent and sapient Stand-using colony of zooplankton that, in order to be able to do such things as "see" and "talk" to non-Stand users, takes over the body of a dead prisoner.
  • The Demon Frog from Kirby: Right Back at Ya! is a NME monster which possesses a host, granting Super-Strength but also making the host violent. The extent of the frog's influence appears to be based on the personality of the host — the nice and innocent Kirby merely turns into a wicked-looking, mean-spirited bully and vandal, but the already villainous King Dedede turns giant, monstrous and Ax-Crazy.
  • One of these shows up in The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.
  • The Yamanaka clan's Mind Control Jutsu in Naruto is this.
  • Bardiel, the 13th Angel in Neon Genesis Evangelion. It takes the form of a thundercloud and possesses Evangelion Unit 03, Body Horror-fashion.
  • Parasyte: The aliens typically crawl in through the ears or nose and kill the host while preserving the body. This only happens if they manage to reach their host's head. The protagonist manages to trap an alien in his right hand. Another character was "lucky" enough to avoid being taken over completely, but only because the alien was forced to abandon his attempt to hijack his brain to save both their lives, instead taking over his throat and lower jaw.
  • Radam in Tekkaman Blade are tiny arachnids that inhabit and subvert the will of human hosts, who have also been upgraded with the ability to manifest super-armor and summon giant beams and dual-headed spears — the eponymous Tekkamen. The title character in particular has been upgraded to a Tekkaman but escaped before being infected with a Radam parasite. Too bad the rest of his family and friends have been infected, a fact which powers the angst of the latter half of the show.
  • In Toriko, Bogie Woods has this ablity, although he achieves it by replacing his host's skeleton.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: The Intriguing Alien Guests, the Bacteria King tries to capture Bingbing Goat by taking over Wolffy's body and controlling it. Wolffy has purple-colored pupils instead of his usual black whenever he is under the Bacteria King's control.

    Comic Books 
  • The Vaylen in the Iron Empires graphic novels and Burning Empires RPG are worm-like creatures that take over the brains of sapient beings, including humans. They have a variety of methods for introducing the worm, all of which are as painful and Squicky as you'd expect. Some parasites have the decency to crawl in through a cranial orifice, but for a Vaylen to infest a human, a new one has to be made. That's right, an infected doctor will drill a hole in your skull to slip a worm into your brain. And as if that weren't bad enough, once you've been infected, you can never control your own body again. You're an immobile meat-puppet forever.
  • An old comic from the classic horror days had a parasite that masqueraded as the hand puppet of a popular entertainer. When the 'puppet' is voted in as president, due to people deciding to protest against the current choices, the truth is revealed. But, before it can be stopped, its brethren all come flooding out of the swamp they're shown to be hiding in. Now that one of their own has been made president, they graft themselves to everyone conquering the U.S., if not the world.
  • Annihilators: In a heroic example, Groot takes control of some of the Star-Thief's killer clown henchmen by germinating cuttings of himself in their wooden heads.
  • Black Science: One of the worlds is dominated by the zirites, a gaseous lifeform that infects flesh-and-blood hosts. There is no evidence that the hosts' minds survive.
  • Blue Beetle: The Scarab is supposed to act like this, turning its host into an agent of the Reach. Jaime Reyes avoided this fate because the Scarab that bonded to him was damaged when it crashed on Earth.
  • Druuna: In The Forgotten Planet, Druuna runs into a group of Octopoid Aliens who control human corpses to move around. They appear to save her from a bunch of malfunctioning killbots, but actually want to bring her to their Hive Queen so she can suffer a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong.
  • Green Lantern: In Blackest Night, though they pretend to be people brought back from the dead, Black Lanterns are actually closer to this. The black rings essentially animate and control corpses to provoke emotions from their victims in order to feed. The actual person is not brought back, which is proven when Deadman continues to exist as a ghost after his corpse becomes a Black Lantern.
  • Invincible: The comic has a variant in the Sequids. One or more Sequids attach to a host, which then comes under the control of the Sequid hive mind; however, the Sequids themselves have nothing other than the basic instinct to attach themselves to other creatures unless they have a host to boost their intelligence and unite the hive mind.
  • Justice League of America: Starro the Conqueror creates numerous miniature versions of himself, which attach themselves to people and make them Starro's army.
  • Locke & Key: The comic has creatures colloquially referred to as demons, from another dimension full of them, that need to possess humans to exist as anything other than lumps of metal that can be forged into enchanted objects, often keys. Notably, they explicitly possess the souls of their victims, and it persists even after death as they prevent them from joining in on a heavenly afterlife.
  • Shazam!: Mister Mind, an evil telepathic space-worm from the planet Venus.
  • She-Hulk: In Marvel Graphic Novel: The Sensational She-Hulk, sentient Cockroaches gets around by infesting human bodies.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Introduced in the Planet Of The Symbiotes crossover and further expanded upon in the "Planet Venom" arc of Guardians Of The Galaxy 2013, the symbiotes — or Klyntar — are split into two groups: the heroic Agents of the Cosmos, who bond to worthy hosts and protect the innocent; and an evil empire of planet-conquering parasites known as the Hive that completely dominate their host's will and ultimately burn their bodies out before eating them and finding a new host.
    • In Spider-Man's Tangled Web, a villain called the Thousand worked out that the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker was the source of Spidey's powers, and ate it. He became a conscious infestation of spiders that could take over other people's bodies, eventually devouring them from within.
  • Supergirl: In Red Daughter of Krypton, Worldkiller-1 is a parasitic lifeform which infests other aliens' bodies.
  • Superman: In Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Brainiac, his body destroyed, is forced to use Lex Luthor for this in order to work his will. Eventually, Luthor begs for death to be free of his control.
  • The Transformers (IDW): This is how Titan Masters work. Unlike the G1 Headmasters, which worked either as two partners or (in the Japanese Headmaster cartoons) robots that piloted larger, non-sentient bodies, Titan Masters take over the body of a larger Cybertronian who's head they've replaced.
  • Ultimate Marvel: The Watchers never show up themselves and speak by controlling someone. When their agent Rick Jones was in outer space, they did this to him to talk with him... which could seem as if he was discussing with himself, if the reader was not aware of the context.

    Fan Works 
  • In In Sotto Voce a poe, Wizzro to be exact, possesses the king. He ends up killing him by exploding him in front of his daughter Zelda.
  • Thrackerzod of My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series, appearing initially as The Ghost (although implied to be insectoid in appearance) before possessing Sweetie Belle and spending the rest of the series (through two timelines, no less) in her body.
  • In The Swarm of War, the new Overmind inroduces Spylings, who are capable of consuming a human brain and then taking over from inside the empty skull - with all of the target's memories, of course.

    Films — Animated 
  • The main villains of Doraemon: Nobita and the Galaxy Super-express, the Yadori aliens, are microscopic alien parasites which can infect and possess humans or humanoid victims. Once possessed the aliens will be in control of their bodies, but it seems like an individual alien can affect only one victim at a time — after possessed Suneo gets knocked out, the Yadori in him then pulls a Body Surf and infects Nobita instead.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head from Toy Story, oddly enough. Toy Story 3 shows that Potato Head's "consciousness" is actually in his body parts, rather than his actual body. In the film after his body is locked up by the bad guys, his parts escape and end up getting around by attaching onto a tortilla, and later a cucumber.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Xenomorph Xerox alien in Creature (1985), encountered on Saturn's moon Titan, can plant a beetle-like offspring in killed humans to control the corpse. The puppeted corpse of one of the creature's first victims is used to lure her boyfriend out of the habitat, the boyfriend is too shocked to see her seemingly still alive to give any thought to the fact she's running around Titan's surface with no spacesuit.
  • Alien Raiders (originally titled The Supermarket) is about humans hunting Puppeteer Parasites.
  • Being John Malkovich features a puppeteer who discovers a portal in an old building that leads into the mind of actor John Malkovich. At first it just allows him to see through Malkovich's eyes for a short period of time, but later in the film, he develops the ability to control the actor's behavior, and then extend the time he is inside of his mind. Eventually, he pretty much permanently moves in and completely takes over Malkovich, at least until some other stuff in the plot happens.
  • In the horror anthology film Body Bags, the second segment's eponymous "hair" are actually tiny aliens who need human brains as a food source to survive. They trick vain people into getting their "hair treatment" to acquire new hosts.
  • The Strangers in Dark City (1998) are squid-like aliens driving around human corpses. "You've seen what we are. We use your dead as vessels."
  • The Faculty is a postmodern take on this. The parasites themselves are slug-like aliens who reproduce in their hosts' bodies and can be spread to other hosts through the ear (or other opening).
  • The main antagonists of Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell are a bunch of alien invaders who possess bodies to drink blood.
  • The antagonist in The Hidden is an icky alien resembling a mosquito larva which forces its way down people's throats and follows the Body Surf routine. One of the two main characters is also one, but from another alien species that doesn't need to change body nearly that often.
  • Honeymoon: It's eventually revealed that Bea's strange behavior is the result of her being slowly taken over by a puppeteer parasite. She understands what's going on and realizes that there's no way to stop it, so she tries to hold onto herself as long as possible and hide the reality from her husband.
  • In The Invasion, an extraterrestrial fungus infects people, turning them into soulless drones, in contrast to every previous version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which have the aliens kill the originals and replace them with pod-grown doppelgangers.
  • Invisible Invaders: The aliens possess corpses and makes them attack the living.
  • His true body blown up in the first ten minutes, Jason does this in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. The host bodies die after Jason leaves them (oddly enough, not from the damage they take while he possesses them).
  • In The Kiss 1988, a worm-like voodoo parasite jumps from the body of a young girl's aunt into her via a kiss. Years later, the parasite strives to take over the body of its current host's niece. The possession allows the host body to grow up, but eventually causes it to rot rapidly, leaving behind a particularly gruesome shell after it leaves.
  • The creature in Proteus absorbs bodies throughout the movie and is able to assume their form from then on. The minds of the victims continue to exist within it and are able to surface when it naps after a meal.
  • The Puppet Masters, based on the Heinlein book, revolves around this. The creatures from Titan are small and weak and require a host to survive for any length of time outside their crash-landed spaceship. They can also utilize dogs and cats, but only temporarily. Titans also absorb memories and skills and can pass their knowledge to each other through their nerve tendrils.
  • The parasites in Shivers (1975) are a toned-down version of this. While they don't fully take over their hosts' free will, they greatly increase their sex drive, causing them to infect more and more people. It's not as hot as it sounds.
  • Done in two different forms in Slither. Grant Grant gets infected by a queen bee alien that retains his memories, and it's implied that the two of them are merging personalities, although the alien is clearly dominant. Although he is physically mutating, he is able to convince his wife that it is just a bee sting at first. The rest of the aliens infect people and retain their memories, but the people are completely under their control. They talk and move jerkily and don't even try being stealthy, so it's only natural they don't fool anyone for long.
  • In Spider-Man 3, the Venom symbiote undergoes Adaptational Villainy and acts more closely to its Evil Counterpart known as the Hive from the comics. In the novelization, which was based on an early script, the symbiote can only live off of regular people for a few hours and wants Spider-Man as its true host because he's a superhuman who can sustain it indefinitely. All of this is discovered when Peter forces the symbiote off of Eddie, who is revealed to be nothing but an emaciated corpse that the symbiote had made look healthy while moving it around and mimicking Eddie's voice.
  • The original Stargate film featured a race of aliens that visited Egyptian-era Earth and invaded a number of human hosts to become the Egyptian Gods. This is expanded upon in the subsequent TV show (see below)
  • The Bugs where able to do this in Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation. In the first one too, but offscreen.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has the Ceti eel, a non-sapient alien parasite that invades via the ear; as a side effect of the damage that it inflicts while slowly crushing the brain, the victim becomes highly susceptible to suggestion. This is not a pure example of the trope, as the eel itself does not control the host, but the victims display many of the same symptoms.
    • Star Trek (2009) has the Centaurian slugs in homage to the aforementioned Ceti eel, which are inserted via the mouth and emit a toxin into their host.
  • The Stuff looks like marshmallow cream, tastes good and compels the infectees to consume more and more of it, to the delight of the Corrupt Corporate Executives who discover it and start to market it. As the amount of The Stuff in the victim increases, it compels the victim to (forcibly) recommend The Stuff to others while it's slowly dissolving the victim from inside out. Eventually, the mass exits the victim, leaving behind little more than skin.
  • The Suicide Squad: Starro can release an entire swarm of spores that latch onto people's faces, horrifically killing them and enslaving their bodies as People Puppets.


Examples by creator:
  • Stephen King:
    • The entity Tak in Desperation does this, but the process of riding along changes the body and causes it to decay if the host's mind isn't strong enough.
    • In the short story "Gray Matter" from Night Shift, a man contracts a fungus from a tainted can of beer that eventually transforms his entire body into a huge fungoid blob monster and makes him crave beer (and flesh).
    • In The Tommyknockers (later made into a television movie), the effect appears to be from radiation at first, and at first it also appears to be beneficial, at least physically. However, since the aliens aren't actually in control, the humans just start to think like, act like, and eventually become aliens themselves.
Examples by work:
  • All Tomorrows: One of the post-human species engineered by the Qu are tiny bug-sized humans known simply as "Parasites". They eventually evolve into the "Symbiotes", tiny creatures that can take over and puppet other life-forms. As they develop into a technologically advanced civilization, they engineer other creatures on their planet into braindead "Hosts" that they pilot around, and it's suggested that individual Symbiotes may own multiple Hosts that they casually swap out like a human would change clothes.
  • Dean Ing's novel Anasazi concerns parasitic aliens who have been living in the American Southwest for centuries.
  • Animorphs:
    • The dreaded Yeerks are giant brain-controlling slugs. They don't kill the host, have full access to the host's memories, and usually do a pretty good job of pretending to be the host, but they have to leave the host every three days to feed (the temporarily-free hosts are generally locked up in the meantime, but more than once the heroes take advantage of this — if the Yeerk does not feed within those three days, it automatically leaves the host and then dies). They're also a bit more sympathetic, due to not being evolved on a Planet of Hats — as it turns out, most of them simply don't know any better. They are also stuck in a blind slug-type body unless they take over the body of another (both described by a friendly Yeerk and experienced by Cassie when she morphs into one).
    • Also subverted in that another species, the Iskoort, discovered to be a symbiotic (consisting of vaguely birdlike Isk and the suspiciously Yeerk-like Yoort) are stated to have been engineered so that neither survives without the other (this is implied to be why they've become of such interest to the Ellimist and Crayak).
  • Area 51: The Swarm, an ancient enemy of the Airlia whose sole objective is infecting and living in all other life as their hosts.
  • What the high spirits do to unsuspecting people in Astral Dawn's second entry could be considered an example of this trope. They possess people without permission and use them for their own purposes for a temporary period.
  • The Brain Eaters involves genetically engineered worms which get inside of people's heads, partially consume their brains, and then control what's left of their minds, turning them into homicidal maniacs.
  • Vord Takers from Codex Alera are a particularly nasty form of this — once they've taken over, the original personality is gone beyond recall, and the process is compared to a living death. Whether it is living death or just plain death actually seems to vary; some Taken are essentially zombies, described as being rotten and decrepit, but when Doroga describes the process, he only refers to death of the mind, rather than of the body. Since Takers can control corpses, presumably the Vord just don't look after their Taken's health, leading them to die naturally of thirst or starvation anyway. In any case, the Takers (like all non-Queen Vord) are mercifully dumb as posts, and while they can force their stolen bodies to reproduce learned skills, they cannot access memories or impersonate the original person with any accuracy.
  • The Sad-Eyes in A Confusion of Princes combine this and Mind Rape. They are unpleasant bore-grub type things that drill into a host's head and take control of them, using their psychic powers (Psitek) to control dozens of other hosts. They're named for their lack of control over their hosts' tear ducts, which makes them appear to be crying. This has led to a lot of people with flu being mistaken for Sad-Eye hosts and shot at spaceports.
  • Laird Barron's recurring villains, the Children of Old Leech, who prominently appear in The Croning, as well as the short stories "The Boardsword", "Mysterium Tremendum", and "The Men from Porlock", are a form of intergalactic parasite that have been infiltrating humankind for centuries, using human bodies to disguise their true forms. They overlap somewhat with Symbiotic Possession, as the infected human retrain their sense of indvidual identity and most of their personality, even if the parasite will graudually bend their mindset towards the rather sadistic and hedonistic nature inherent to all of the the Children. While their motives remain somewhat mysterious, they're clearly not here to make friends, and characters unlucky enough to discover their existence usually wish they hadn't.
  • In Dinner at Deviant's Palace, the villain is actually the host of an alien puppeteer parasite which travels from world to world, feasting on the life forces of their inhabitants. Its true form is a small but nearly indestructible crystal.
  • Fragment: In the sequel, Pandemonium, the subterranean species called the "ghost octopus" drops from cave ceilings onto larger organisms, wraps its tentacles around each of the victim's limbs, then bites through the top of the spinal cord to paralyze them, allowing the octopus to "drive" the helpless victim around by manipulating their limbs' joints. They're not as good at "driving" humans as the crustaceans they normally prey upon, so an octopus-ridden human moves jerkily or on all fours.
  • The entity called Swarm in Galaxy of Fear is actually a carefully designed plant who, in its natural state, is a small dormant pod. It infects people, turning them into elements of a Hive Mind, and uses them to spread the infection by shooting vinelike tentacles out of their mouths and eyes. They don't have to stay close together to be under its control, it can and does pretend a host isn't infected so it can get close enough to infect others, and it can control thousands, maybe millions of people. When it was created it took a hundred years and a lot of Jedi Knights to subdue it. Its Greed in taking new minds and pursuing escapees is its downfall when it escapes.
  • A more benevolent, and yet sad, example occurs in the short story "Gastarbeiter" ("guest worker") by Leonid Kaganov. There people get contacted by incorporeal entities who have no senses to speak of in their natural state but can possess people and experience the world through them. Any real sensation, even the most tedious or unpleasant, is a blessing to them, so they offer people to supplant their minds for such occasions. At first the agreements seem mutually beneficial: the symbionts get their fix, and the hosts kind of sleep through the whole process, retaining only vague memories afterwards. There're no obvious catches either: the symbionts never possess people forcefully, they take good care of their hosts' bodies, act naturally and postpone any crucial decisions until the host "returns". The sad part is that people get addicted to skipping ever larger parts of their lives, some even "committing suicide" by forfeiting their bodies to symbionts permanently.
  • Goosebumps:
    • Despite the book's title, the "Unloved" from The Haunted Mask are actually synthetic organisms that resemble Halloween masks. They gradually fuse to their wearer and transform them into the creature they resemble. Each is different, but we only get to know two: a rampaging goblin in the first book, and a bitter "old man" in the sequel.
    • The Body Squeezers from Invasion of the Body Squeezers are a more traditional example. These crustacean-like aliens take over their hosts by hugging them. Seems silly? Wait until you see what that entails.
  • In The Gordian Event, the Gordian parasite infects the host through the airways or open wounds, leading to insanity, self-mutilation and extreme aggression. It progressively gains more control over its host as it grows. On maturing, the parasite mimics the real Gordian worm and drives its host to water to spawn.
  • "Greyback in Blue": It's revealed that the various telepathic animals aren't mutants, but a race of Pilgrims that have taken possession of various Earth animals.
  • Lord Voldemort does this to Quirinus Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. This would just be your garden-variety Demonic Possession, if not for the visceral manner by which the parasite attaches to the host: Voldemort's face grows out of the back of Professor Quirrell's head!
  • Hivers in A Hat Full of Sky are strange beings akin to bodiless minds incapable of thought. They target powerful beings whose minds it can take over, slowly filling up every space until there is none of the original left.
  • The Heritage of Shannara has the Shadowen, smoky wraiths who feed off of magic and steal the bodies of other living beings for their own. They tend to take on the personality and characteristics of the things they have possessed as well, so a Shadowen possessing an animal will act like said animal, while a Shadowen possessing a child will behave like an Enfante Terrible.
  • The Honor Harrington series has a scientific version of this with specially designed nanotech that, when activated, can be used to force people to commit simple actions. These actions have included pulling a weapon on the main character, making someone drive their own air car over a cliff, and or even causing someone to eat his gun. Worse, as we learn thanks to Honor and treecats, the victims are aware of what's happening but powerless to stop it.
  • The Souls in The Host (2008) are a mostly kind, benevolent race of silvery centipedes who thoroughly believe that Humans Are the Real Monsters. They infest through the neck and take over the host's mind and body, rendering the host unaware of its surroundings in most cases. On the bright side they cure cancer and keep on making potato chips. Besides their overpowering niceness, the lack of crime and the downfall of good TV acting, the only thing giving the Souls away is a faint neck wound and silver reflective eyes, only visible when bright light is shone at the host's face. The invading Souls are also a pseudo-religion, as their impetus to overrun other planets isn't genetic, but rather seen as 'the right thing to do.'
  • Into the Looking Glass has the Dreen. Sentient members of other species can be taken over by them, made part Dreen and forced to control their lower castes for them. The 'sentient controllers' get to keep the use of their minds, eyes and voices, since the Dreen don't really care about any of that, since the controllers really have no choice about serving them.
  • In "The Invader" by Alfred Coppel, the eponymous alien comes to Earth and takes over one of the primitive biped mammals there to scout out the planet for an Alien Invasion. Unfortunately, it only attracts attention everywhere it goes, and the police eventually shoot the host, killing the alien as well. Turns out the host it chose was a gorilla from a zoo.
  • Jack Blank features the Rüstov, a group of Mechanical Lifeforms who wage an infinite war, conquering planets one by one and consuming every inhabitant on it before moving onto the next. Without their hosts, they resemble mechanical scorpions the size of small dogs. When inside a host, the Rüstov feeds off its Life Energy and the host decays as circuits rise above the skin, bodily fluids turn to oil and rust forms and flakes off. The first thing that appears when a host claims a body is the Rüstov eye: a dark ring around the right eye and a line going down the right cheek.
  • One candidate for the Trope Maker is the fifth book of the John Carter of Mars saga, The Chessmen of Mars. It features the kaldanes, grotesque things that look like a cross between a human head and a spider, and keep headless host bodies — which they call 'rykors' — as livestock. Like most later versions of this trope, they are obsessed with logic and see all sentiment as beneath them. In a rarity for this trope, however, one of the kaldanes — an individual named Ghek — turns good.
  • Journey to Chaos: Enforcers are smoke creatures that slip into a mortal's body and commander it by suppressing the host soul. Being creatures of Law, they cannot feel emotion and so their hosts will not express emotion, but they have unrestricted access to the host's memories so it's only a minor thing.
  • The A Land Fit for Heroes novel The Steel Remains explains zombies this way — a parasite attaches itself to a corpse and reanimates it.
  • The Last Hunter: The Tarden race is a symbiotic species that bonds with less intelligent mammals in order to bestow upon them higher brain functions in exchange for mobility as well as the ability to use tools. Humans are justifiably horrified at the possibility that they might try to take them over due to centuries of sci-fi showing the possibility. The Tardens, themselves, are horrified when some of their military plan to do just that.
  • The Laundry Files: In The Apocalypse Codex, the villains are an evangelical Christian megachurch who use parasites to forcibly convert people, as part of a plan to bring about the second coming of something they call Christ. Specifically, they use tongue-replacing isopods in the same vein as Cymothoa exigua, with an extra dash of psychic mind control.
  • The League of Peoples 'Verse: In Radiant, the lead character Youn Suu is inhabited by a non-communicative, red, moss-like alien called the Balrog, and is given evidence on both angles to whether it is malevolent or benign.
  • Lie Huo Jiao Chou: The Illusory Butterfly controls dead bodies with enough accuracy that even the victim's family doesn't always notice anything wrong.
  • In Line of Delirium, this turns out to be the true nature of the Darloks (in the original game, they're just shapeshifters). They're small snakes about a foot and a half in length, who burrow into a person between the shoulderblades and merge with that person. The Darlok's mind takes over the host's, destroying the personality, leaving only echoes. It's possible for a Darlok parasite to change hosts, although it requires a controlled environment. When Darlok spies are discovered, they typically commit suicide while shouting "Darlok!" After death, the symbiote decays in a matter of hours, and the host's brain decays with it, making autopsy useless. For centuries, they have managed to keep their true nature a secret. After the Empire finally discovers the truth, human security forces start scanning the upper back of anyone passing through a checkpoint for the presence of alien tissue.
  • In Necroscope, the vampires are really nothing more than parasites which look like leeches and occupy human bodies. When they control a human, they give powers that are typical of vampires, but the humans controlled by the parasites are almost always corrupted to evil.
  • Perdido Street Station: The handlingers are creatures resembling crawling hands with long tails, who can attach themselves to hosts to kill them, gain their memory and personality, and puppet their bodies around. They are given host bodies of convicted criminals by the government of New Crobuzon in return for doing their dirty work.
  • Perry Rhodan: A race of alien beings, the "Element of War", features in a story arc during the mid-1980s. The aliens, who look like silvery crabs, telepathically control people while sitting on their shoulders (although they can technically cling anywhere to the person's body). They are infamous for increasing the host's aggressions and xenophobia and brainwashing it with their constant telepathic whispers until it shares their warlike Social Darwinist ideology. Interestingly, the Element of War is itself an artificially created slave race that serves an ascended cosmic entity called the Master of the Elements as part of his army, the Decalog of Elements. It multiplies by fission.
  • This is The Reveal in Planet of the Damned by Harry Harrison. The ruling magters of a primitive Death World have gotten hold a Doomsday Device and are threatening to destroy a peaceful neighbouring planet. No-one can understand why until the protagonist dissects a magter and finds his brain sharing space with a symbiote that has replaced the pre-frontal lobes. This causes a lack of emotion and renders them incapable of abstract thinking; a useful survival trait on a harsh Death World but leaving them unable to cope with the issues raised by First Contact with other worlds. This is a rare example where the parasite itself is not manipulating the host (an internal parasite has little need of intelligence). When the neighboring planet (who were on the verge of nuking the Death World) receive the news, they realise they're just dealing with an infection and act accordingly.
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture: This happens to a a human whose nervous system is being directly stimulated and controlled by an army of termites to turn him into a mindless Weapon of Mass Destruction against the invading army of ants.
  • The Puppet Masters is a good candidate for being the Trope Namer. The physically weak "true form" of the aliens is descrined as "Grayish, faintly translucent, and shot through with darker structure, shapeless — (reminiscent) of a giant clot of frogs' eggs." By the time it was made into a movie, it was considered a rehash of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In a case of Executive Meddling, the story was compressed and simplified, and they were given a trendier "reptilian" form. (Ironically, Heinlein's novel was published four years prior to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, so if anything was a rip-off, it was the latter, now more famous work.)
  • In The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School and The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, one of the students is in a coma while a parasitic maggot in her brain drives her body around.
  • The Rhumians in the Sector General novel Code Blue: Emergency are another benevolent version of this, who usually exist symbiotically with a non-sentient species from the same planet and only bond to sentient beings temporarily and in emergencies. However, even the radically accepting culture of Sector General initially find them creepy and assume that they must be evil.
  • A non-malevolent version in Star Surgeon by Alan Nourse. A three-man medical team make First Contact with a world suffering from a plague that appears to destroy intelligence. They successfully develop a cure, only to find that all their test subjects have also lost their intelligence. The protagonist then has a "Eureka!" Moment, realizing the virus they're trying to destroy is sentient — the 'plague' is actually the immune system of the non-intelligent host rejecting them. Fortunately, the protagonist has a symbiotic Bond Creature who offers itself as an alternate host.
  • In Stuck on Earth, Ketchvar III, a slug/snail-like alien, shoves himself up Tom Filber's nose and takes control of his brain.
  • Yggdrasil in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle can implant its seeds (known as Ratatoskr, for the squirrel that climbs Yggdrasil in Norse Mythology) into living beings. These seeds enhance their hosts' strength and regeneration while allowing Yggdrasil to give them orders. A host will suffer severe consequences to their health if they try to disobey these orders, and attacking another host will cause them to soon die.
  • "The Vaults of Yoh Vombis", by Clark Ashton Smith, house a long-dormant alien organism that resembles a black cranium-enfolding turban, and is similar in habit to the headcrabs from the Half-Life example below.
  • In "Wise as Serpents" by Stephen Dedman, a key plot point is the existence of snake-like alien puppeteer parasites whose host bodies can't be restored, so the only thing to do when you come across them is to kill them before they do any damage. Which is fine as long as you don't panic and start killing people who aren't actually host bodies...
  • Wild Cards has Ti Malice, a parasitic Joker named after a Voudun Loa. His whole body is like an atrophied, withered fetus and he latches on to a host, leech-like, to feed on their bodily fluids and emotions. Not only does he control his hosts while he's attached, but they also become addicted to a chemical he secretes, so that even after he releases them, they long for his return.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400: In "The Marked", NTAC learns of the existence of the Marked, ten agents of the future faction who want to prevent any alteration of the timeline. Their consciousnesses were sent back in time via a form of Mental Time Travel and placed in the bodies of ten prominent people. They are able to completely control their hosts and have full access to their memories. Each of them possesses a mole behind their left ear by which they can be identified, a consequence of the consciousness implantation process. Matthew Ross was one of the Marked, but he was killed by Isabelle in "Graduation Day", causing a delay in their plan to destroy the 4400. The remaining nine members were able to preserve their co-conspirator's consciousness until it was placed in the body of Tom Baldwin. In "One of Us", it gained full control over its latest host. In the following episode "Ghost in the Machine", Diana and Meghan realized what had happened.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • The Stinger for the mid-season finale for season 3 was that the mysterious 'It' was actually an Inhuman who consists of a massive colony of microbes that possess dead hosts, the most recent of which is Ward. It's later revealed it can implant its microbes into the brains of other Inhumans to take full control of their minds.
    • Shrikes show up in season 6, being small bat-like creatures that dive down the mouth of a host and burrow into their chest cavity, killing them and taking full control of their corpse. If enough of them claim hosts and congregate in one spot, they can trigger an apocalyptic event that reduces the entire planet to an uninhabitable ashen wasteland.
  • Alien Worlds (2020): The prey species featured in "Eden" are the first-stage host of a fungus-like species based on behavior-altering parasites such as Toxoplasma and nematodes, which make their hosts unafraid of predators in order to spread. After infecting the prey species with its spores, the fungus turns them into Fearless Fools that are sitting ducks for their predators. The predators which eat the infected prey are themselves infected and killed by the fungus, which then grows from their bodies.
  • Angel: "Lonely Hearts" features a burrower demon, who possesses human bodies and took over their mind, but it has to go from body to body on a regular basis, because once it's been in a body for too long the body started to deteriorate... sensibly enough, as the initial immolation action would logically kill the victim, with the possessed body then being little more than a still-warm corpse. The third season also has the "sluks", transparent crustacean-like demons who enter their hosts through their mouths, the downside being that these creatures require lots of water to survive, causing their hosts to dry up and die.
  • Babylon 5 has two examples.
    • The Drakh Keepers, spawned by the Drakh to control other creatures. A somewhat unusual example in that they do not actually take over the host's consciousness: rather, the host remains conscious and more or less free to act normally, but if they take a wrong step, the Keeper can either impose painful punishment or simply take over the victim's body. Keepers have only had two weaknesses: alcohol (which puts them to sleep) and the death of the Drakh who spawned the Keeper.
    • The Vindrizi symbiotes from "Exogenesis" subvert the trope. They're assumed to be evil until it's revealed that they're actually benevolent "recorders" who use their willing hosts to witness history, hoping to prevent that knowledge from being lost in "the next dark age" they anticipate.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Bad Eggs" featured the Bezoar, a prehistoric parasite whose offspring attached themselves to other creatures and controlled their motor functions.
  • Set in the 60's, Dark Skies has as its main villains a race of aliens referred to as "Ganglions", who are basically fist-sized insects with lots and lots of tentacles, that nest in the brain and control the host. They took over the Greys and are currently in the process of infiltrating American society.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Doctor Who frequently has the "possession kills" version; even if you're sure you can see some of your friend/spouse/etc. in there under the evil alien whatever, if the Doctor says "s/he's already dead", not believing him will relegate you to Redshirt status. (Perhaps this is why The Virus was used in the Everybody Lives story: The Virus is never reversible... except just this once.)
    • In "Planet of the Spiders". The giant intelligent spiders have this ability, controlling the people they are possessing with mental torture. However Lupton quickly works out how to return the favour, so his spider forms a more collaborative relationship as they are both seeking power on their respective planets.
    • "The Invisible Enemy" has small clones of the Doctor and Leela created to go inside his body and fight one of these.
    • The Master becomes a goo snake that does this in the movie.
    • "Resolution": Archaeologist Lin finds herself controlled by a Super Prototype Dalek recon scout, which wraps itself around her torso and inserts tentacles into her back. It uses her to steal alien technology so it can build itself a new casing.
  • The Farscape episode "A Bug's Life" features an "intellant virus"—a highly infectious virus that takes over the mind and body of the infected.
  • Occasional MO of the Gua in First Wave (though they more frequently used artificial hosts).
  • Kingdom (2019): The zombies are created by worms living in the resurrection plant, making the infected a type of Parasite Zombie.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) did two vaguely similar alien parasite episodes.
    • In "Corpus Earthling", a race of sentient alien rocks are quietly taking over humans — until they're accidentally discovered by the main character, who has a metal plate in his head that allows him to overhear their telepathic conversations. (Yes, the creatures apparently think in English.) Things get interesting when the aliens respond by possessing the hero's wife and best friend...
    • "The Invisibles" combines this premise with Spy Fiction. An agent of the "General Intelligence Agency" (a Fictional Counterpart of the CIA) investigates alien parasites who have infiltrated humanity by joining with willing, power-hungry humans at both extremes of society: some of the Invisibles are homeless misfits, while others are political leaders, industrialists and military brass.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • "Dead Man's Switch" has a very brief scene of literal Puppet Masters. The protagonist is down in a secure bunker, where he must push a button every hour to prevent Earth's last-ditch Doomsday Device from going off. The protagonist's commanding officer is talking to him via video from Washington, D.C., assuring him that the alien genocide it was meant to avenge is over and they'll relieve him soon, he just has to keep pushing the button until his bunker can be reached. In the episode's final shot, it's seen that the General is a corpse amidst the burning ruins of DC, and spindly sea-spider-like aliens have their limbs stuck into him through a gash in his back, working him like a ventriloquist's dummy.
    • "The Second Soul" features a benevolent, mostly benign version. The aliens are refugees, energy beings who need a body, and asks humanity to give them their dead. There is strain on both sides, with the aliens dying because they can't get a host in time, and some humans being Driven to Suicide by the stress of knowing that their loved ones are dead, yet also seemingly alive when inhabited by an alien. The end of the episode reveals that the children of the aliens possessing human bodies are 100% human, which makes sense, considering they don't alter the bodies' DNA. Additionally, one of the humans thinks that the aliens are up to something, when they purchase a large building and start stockpiling deadly gas. He assumes they might try terraforming Earth. However, the aliens are only interested in building a museum to preserve their culture, as they know that they will die out within a generation and that all their children will be human.
    • "Caught in the Act" has an alien parasite possess young women and seduce men in order to absorb them for food/energy. This has happened at least several times throughout history. The parasite can only be defeated with the Power of Love.
    • "From Within" has prehistoric worms take over a mining town but are defeated by a mentally disabled teenager who figures out that they like salt and hate sunlight. They also cause the host to lose all inhibitions.
    • In "Ripper", the Energy Being responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders takes control of the bodies of its hosts as soon as it enters them. Vacating them results in their deaths.
    • In "Something About Harry", the reptilian parasites who have taken over the bodies of numerous people in Hunterville and elsewhere have access to their hosts' memories, making it easy for them to impersonate the relevant humans.
  • Season 1 of Peacemaker (2022) sees Task Force X going up against small, insect-like aliens with wings aptly named Butterflies. They invade the body via the mouth and the host mentally dies from the symbiosis, with the body now in control of the butterfly. The butterfly’s host body is given enhanced strength, durability and speed, a prehensile suctioning tongue they use to eat, and their hosts’ memories and thoughts.
  • Primeval has an episode featuring dodos which are infected by some parasite. It spreads to some dude, whose personality changes a lot. He also knows that he's infected.
  • In Quatermass II, aliens from a nearby asteroid reach Earth via hollow meteorites and start infiltrating the upper echelons of society.
  • An episode of Sliders has Maggie infected by a bug-like creature that has her acting increasingly erratic, constantly being cold and seeking warmth and then seeking to reproduce by seducing men. When a government official on another world finds out, she is excited at the possibilities, as the "bug" appears to be able to mimic human organs. Since being an organ donor is mandatory for anyone between 18 and 30 in this world, this creature could end the need for young people to die needlessly just because someone else needs a new heart. A noble goal, but she goes about it in a completely wrong way and ends up becoming host to the creature herself, possibly dooming her entire world.
  • A Smallville episode has several characters infected by parasitic worms that caused their hosts to lose all inhibition and fear. The first victim takes a nosedive off a tower. Since Clark can't be infected (it's kinda hard to burrow under unbreakable skin), his infected friends use Red Kryptonite to simulate the same effect in him.
  • Perpetual MO of the Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1.
    • They're a bit unusual in that they generally operate overtly and love to impersonate gods. They use human hosts for infiltration on occasion, but mostly just to make up for being tiny helpless snake-fish thingies.
      • They switch to more typical puppeteer parasite tactics beginning in Season 8, when they take over the Trust and use their money and influence to covertly gain power on Earth, after it becomes clear that the Tau'ri can't be defeated using conventional Goa'uld methods.
    • Also unusually, there's a faction of them (the Tok'Ra) which takes only willing hosts (they naturally give their host a powerful Healing Factor and extend the host's lifetime by at least a century or two, so there is an incentive) and time-share instead of taking over entirely.
    • Inverted in "Cure", where the citizens of a planet harvest the Goa'uld for their health-boosting abilities. Unfortunately, they weren't Goa'uld, but Tok'Ra. And not just any Tok'ra, but the original Tok'ra Queen Egeria—which, given the eusociality of the Goa'uld species, makes the Tok'ra a more or less doomed race. Because oddly, it never occurred to anybody (except the fans) to clone Egeria, despite the technology to make a perfect clone of a Goa'uld/Tok'ra being already established in the episode Nightwalkers.
    • In Season 8, Anubis is reduced to a cloud of black energy following his defeat from the previous season. He has the ability to posses anyone, but after inhabiting a body for a few days it gets sick and fails.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. The Xindi Reptilians infect Hoshi Sato with brain-bugs to make her decrypt the weapons codes of the Xindi superweapon, though she is able to resist for a time.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Conspiracy" also has the Federation nearly conquered by Goa'uld-like creatures who possess the top Starfleet brass. For that matter, there are a lot of possessing aliens in the Trek Verse.
    • And, if we want to get down to the molecular level, Borg nanoprobes are a form of this.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series used this trope twice. In "Operation: Annihilate!", parasitic creatures that resemble flying pancakes attack planetary colonists, and eventually Spock. In "Wolf in the Fold", the Enterprise crew encounter "Redjac", a noncorporeal parasite responsible for numerous serial killings throughout the centuries. One of the humans it possessed was Jack the Ripper.
    • In later incarnations of the Trek Verse, the Trill might be an intentional subversion, as they only join with consenting hosts, with the goal of merging their respective consciousnesses.
      • In fact, there seems to be competition among the humanoid population of the Trill planet to become hosts; Ezri Tigan (later Ezri Dax) is considered slightly odd for not wanting to be joined.
      • However, the Trill in TNGunlike those seen later in Deep Space Nine — do take over their hosts entirely instead of there being a merging... despite this, it's still portrayed as a desirable thing.
      • Perhaps they are better called puppeteer symbiosis rather than puppeteer parasites.
      • In the book Fallen Heroes, a group of seemingly invincible, ruthlessly efficient aliens invades the station and begins systematically killing everyone. One of them shoots Jadzia and kills her, but the Dax symbiont is still alive. It manages, before it dies too, to animate Jadzia enough to throw an overloading phaser at the alien, killing it.
  • In the sixth season of Supernatural, the "Mother of All" uses a parasitic worm (vomited into the ear, no less!) to control her victims.
  • Ultra Series:
    • Darii from Ultraseven is an extraterrestrial parasite that feeds on blood, which it does by taking over people's bodies and turning them into vampire-like beings that sleep in the daytime and wake up at night in a trance to search for blood to drink.
    • Ultraman Taro had an alien named Kaan, whose species are parasites of kaiju and send their hosts on mindlessly violent rampages. He takes parasitizes the body of a friendly monster named Orphy, forcing Taro to fight it and find a way to get Kaan out of Orphy's body.
    • Magnia from Ultraman Tiga is a swarm of parasitic creatures spawned from an organic meteorite. The parasites find food for the meteorite by attacking prey and latching on, turning the victims into zombies that march themselves towards the meteorite, which then consumes their life force.
    • Cyclometra from Ultraman Dyna is a parasite of kaiju that invades their bodies and turns them into mindless zombies as its young incubate inside them. After a while, the kaiju explodes with enough power to destroy everything in a 4-kilometer radius, killing the parasite but sending the young flying through space where they land on another planet and start the cycle anew.
    • Cerebro, the Big Bad of Ultraman Z, is a space parasite who took over the body of Shinya, a young STORAGE researcher, and discreetly use his host's body as means to operate on Earth. He spends the latter half of the series bodysurfing across multiple hosts whenever he sees fit.
  • The X-Files:
    • The arctic worms in "Ice" make people aggressive and murderous.
    • "Firewalker" involves a silicon-based Cordyceps fungus; the fungus seems to influence the host to seek out other humans before they erupt into spores, to facilitate its spread. Much like the worms example, this seems to be based on real life examples of the trope, as the parasite isn't so much controlling the host's body as it is altering their behavior via changes in brain chemistry.
    • The Black Oil takes complete control over one's mind and body and is an important part of the Myth Arc.

  • Bob Drake's "The Persecuting Engine" deals with a protagonist that falls victim to "The Thing" which uses the aforementioned Engine "which, from afar / can influence your actions as we wish, distort your perceptions into indecipherable alien ones, [and] replace your will with ours" on him.
  • A noteworthy example of this is Creature Feature's song "Look to the Skies" which is about aliens that have come to Earth for some sinister reason. The refrain?
    We Better Face The Facts,
    The Plan's Been Hatched,
    Duplicate The Perfect Match,
    Then Body Snatch
  • Discussed in Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird's "Parasite", which documents the increasingly convoluted and improbable lengths parasites in Real Life go to control their hosts; which, as the song goes on, becomes an less and less subtle metaphor for the "parasites" of capitalism— you included.
    Now, you are living as a parasite,
    Ain't it easy living as a parasite?
    You can make a living off another's life
    When you are living as a parasite!

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the Arathim are a race of spider-like cretures that form a hive mind. They come in two sizes, giant spider and tiny vermin. The latter is capable of latching onto a person and taking control of their body. They turn out to be quite friendly when they themselves are not being brainwashed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • d20 Modern: Roach Thralls from the Urban Arcana supplement reproduce by laying eggs inside a living human body, and their larval forms consume said human's brain and internal organs while leaving a sufficiently human-looking carcass to disguise their (somewhat compressed) cockroach form. After 6 months to 2 years, the creature still looks human but can produce and implant eggs of their own into human hosts. The Roach Thrall can shed their human skin if necessary, but this one-way process also renders them unable to reproduce, even with other unmasked Roach Thralls. In the wrong game master's hands, this creature could scare players off of sex for life.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The supplement Lords of Madness details a race called the tsochari, aka "the wearers of flesh," a tentacled alien that replaces its victim's brain and masquerades in its corpse. Or, if they want to, they can also just ride in a living host, tell him what to do, and hurt him if he doesn't do it.
    • The third edition Fiend Folio introduced rules for symbiotic monsters that bond with another creature and give them several benefits but can attempt to take over the host if they have conflicting goals, although the chance of taking over a host varies depending on the symbiont. Out of the seven different symbionts the book includes, the one that is the best example of this is the Mind Leach, a very small parasite that can burrow into a host's body without them noticing and wraps around their brainstem and is very likely to take the host over if they have a disagreement.
    • Hellwasp swarms can inhabit dead bodies or possess living but helpless (such as from its own poison) creatures, although in the latter case it kills its victim in a few hours.
    • Bog hags in the Oriental Adventures supplement steal the skin of their victims and use it and their limited shapeshifting abilities to impersonate mortals.
    • Puppeteers from the Expanded Psionics Handbook take over the body of anyone that they are in contact with.
    • Mind flayers reproduce in this fashion. A mind flayer tadpole is inserted into the ear of an unwilling (usually) host, and through the process of ceremorphosis, the host eventually turns into another mind flayer. The mind flayers of Thoon (who are freakish and twisted even by mind flayer standards due to contact with... something from the Far Realm) have two specialized parasites to take over humanoid slaves for their masters' purposes: Thoon infiltrators (Exactly What It Says on the Tin; the transformation effectively kills the original as the parasite remakes the whole inside of the body) and Thoon thralls (cannon fodder Action Bombs who aren't so lucky as to be "killed" by their infestation).
    • Chuuls have this as part of their biology. Chuuls are born with a serpent in their brain that controls their every actions, skirting the line of this trope and Bizarre Alien Biology. Interestingly, ceremorphosis does not work on Chuuls, since they already have a parasite in their brain. Attempting ceremorphosis on a chuul kills the tadpole, but turns the chuul into a hideously mutated creature known as an uchuulon.
    • When olive slime touches a creature, it spreads over the victim's body and its secretions affect the victim's brain. Over a period of seven to twelve days, the victim will turn into a vegetable creature controlled by the slime.
    • Intellect devourers, which actually look like really big brains on four legs, can somehow cram themselves in a victim's cranium, devouring their brain in the process, and can animate the body as a puppet for a while afterwards. Bonus points for its particularly messy way of exiting its host body after it's done with it.
    • The yellow musk creeper's main mechanical claim to fame is its ability to plant seedlings into the heads of other creatures, which turns the victim into a yellow musk zombie that thereafter lives only to protect the creeper. After a few months of this thralldom, the zombies leave their creeper, wandering randomly for a few days before dropping dead and allowing their seedling to take root and grow into a new yellow musk creeper.
    • Ravenloft: Sea spawn adults ("masters") use their larvae ("minions") to procure victims from coastal villages. The larvae burrow into human hosts' spines and usurp control of their nervous systems. Each host spends a few days luring or forcing innocent victims into the surf, where the hungry sea spawn master awaits, then feeds itself to the master once it's too ravaged by the minion's brain-nibbling to last much longer.
  • Eon: The Vrakylaks are a species of semi-sentient, crawling organs that embed themselves in the neck of their victims, manipulating them ether through promises of release or threat of violence (they're attached to their nervous system after all) to kidnap more people and bring them to a nest. When the time is right, all the little Vrakylak's newly hatched spawn crawl up to the secured victims, and the cycle begins anew. Oh, and victims progressively go blind from the symbiosis.
  • Exalted:
    • Chakra orchids are a species of parasitic flowers that propagate by inserting their seeds within the throats of large animals — archetypically human beings, although any sufficiently sized creature outside of birds or water animals can be infected in this manner. The seeds root themselves in the victim's spine, wiping their personality and turning them into one of several types of subservient workers that serve the central orchid growth.
    • Heart wasp swarms infest humans en masse, forcing their way in through their orifices or by biting open wounds, and taking control of their host's Essence flows to puppeteer their body as a mobile hive.
  • GURPS Black Ops has the Brainsuckers. As the name suggests, they don't just control the host, they also eat his brain to feed their offspring.
  • In Nomine: The Kyriotates are a benevolent version of this. They're angels who can control bodies (multiple bodies at once no less!) but they usually only borrow the bodies of willing hosts or non-sapient ones, and do so in the name of good, taking care not to leave the host's body in an injured condition or do things with the borrowed bodies that would cause the host problems. Their evil counterparts, the Shedim, also posses their hosts, but are limited to a single body at a time and are driven to make their hosts commit increasingly evil acts. The insidious part is that the host's consciousness is still there and thinks it's still in the driver's seat. Once the host reaches the Moral Event Horizon, the Shedite leaves and the host is left teetering on the brink.
  • The Ministry is a setting for Fate where agents of the British Ministry of Rocketry in an alternate 1958 fight a secret war against several alien races. So far, all of them have been some kind of energy or physical parasites trying to infiltrate human society.
  • Nobilis: the player characters, Nobles, can do this. Those who are ghosts, or titles, or articles of clothing, or other weird stuff, may have no other choice if they want to move physical objects.
  • Rocket Age: Dr Ludwig Ritterbach, a Nazi scientist on Mercury, is under the control of a modified Venusian slug which is planning to use his body to breed more of its kind.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Necrons have these in the form of Mindshackle Scarabs, which are occasionally used to subvert and conquer worlds.
    • Medusae are creatures native to the Webway that resemble a cluster of ethereal brains and spinal cords, and can take control of physical creatures and pilot their bodies of their own volition. Dark Eldar Archons often deliberately infest slaves with Medusae, as they enjoy making use of the creatures' ability to record and store emotions for later experiencing.
    • Enslavers are Chaos beings that can mind control organic entities. They are typically compared to a plague more than a species.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Old World of Darkness: The sourcebook Blood-Dimmed Tides introduces malevolent octopus things that wrap invisibly around the victim and drill a tentacle into the base of their neck. Three guesses what happens next.
    • New World of Darkness:
      • Hunter: The Vigil: Witch Finders describes a swarm of mechanical ants created by ancient Pharaoh that can burrow into living bodies, consume their victims' souls, and control the now-empty vessel. Nowadays, millennia after their master's death, the surviving ants lack much purpose beyond instinctively seeking out fresh hosts to infect, but the ant-host gestalts have an innate drive to cause chaos and destruction.
      • Vampire: The Requiem: The strix are a variant of this. Normally disembodied spirits that take the form of owls, they can possess humans (usually killing the host) or vampires who are torpored or currently out of their body. They don't gain any access to the host's memories, though, and their motivations typically run from "wreck vampires for the lulz" to "experience everything I can, now that I have these strange things called nerve endings."
      • Werewolf: The Forsaken: The Hosts sometimes get around the mortal world in this manner.
      • The Wicked Dead sourcebook describes other examples, such as Cymothoa sanguinaria, which takes over a human body, overriding the consciousness and eventually replacing the tongue in its search for blood, and the Ragged Man, a parasitic virus that only activates in vampiric blood, drawing Vitae from them until it matures, at which point the vampire in question pukes it up into a source of water and continues the transmission.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Judging from Verz Heliolope, more than just being a virus born from the bodies of fallen Inverz monsters (Infestation Infection), it can be said that it is an infection that carries the soul and will of the Inverz, thus any monster infected by it, became a slave to their will. For example in Trial and Tribulation, we see Gishki Noellia mourning who seems to be Gishki Natalia before becoming a spirit, all these while the Verz Infection lurks around her, with none other than Inverz Grez in the background, later the infection grows (Creeping Darkness) and she becomes half Evigishki half Verz (Evigishki Psychelone). Another example is Constellar Meteor where we see Constellar Castor charging against Evigishki Psychelone while the same Verz Infection (from Trial and Tribulation) seems to approach him. So, more than just being a self-defense mechanism in case of extermination, the Verz Virus is actually an amalgamate of the Inverz souls searching for new bodies in order to fulfill their objectives.


  • LEGO:
    • The Krana in BIONICLE are a rare external, visible example, combining this trope with Face Hugger.
    • The 2015 Bionicle reboot has a Spiritual Successor to the Krana with the Skull Spiders. The Lord of Skull Spiders was at one point going to be called the Skull Krata as a Shout-Out to the earlier series.
    • The LEGO Alien Conquest line features "clinger" accessories which attach to a mini-figure's head. Because modern mini-figures have two facial expressions (the unusued one is hidden by a hairpiece or hat), the face can be turned around to show terror... or bland submission. They're also a visual Shout-Out to the brain slugs from Futurama.
    • The 2013 Hero Factory line focuses on the heroes fighting what are described as evil brains that latch onto beings and turn them into monsters.

    Video Games 
  • In Baldur's Gate III, just like in D&D, the Mind Flayers act like stereotypical alien invaders, abducting humanoids on their interplanar warships and infecting them with tadpole-like brain parasites, making their victims more susceptible to their mind control and slowly turning them into Mind Flayers themselves. The plot revolves around the player(s) trying to find out how to remove them.
  • One new enemy introduced in Bayonetta 3 is a small flying parasite who latches onto a human and surrenders control of their body to the Big Bad. The biggest problem with this parasite is that they appear in droves.
  • Beautiful Desolation features the Fley, parasitic worms that burrow into human hosts and take control. In at least one case the host is able to exert enough will to resist, but the worm is able to suppress even that much with alcohol. They have limits, though: they can only take children as hosts and the physiological changes that they cause prevent proper reproduction.
  • The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble: The Beast, who controls the Bigwig.
  • Bugsnax has the titular creatures the game is built around. After someone with an emptiness inside of them eats one, the Bugsnax compel them to keep eating more and more until they themselves become Bugsnax.
  • The Monster in Carrion eventually develops the ability to grow one of its tendrils into a human brain, allowing the beast to take control of their body and killing them. Useful for puzzle solving or when you need to drive one of their Mini-Mecha for those times when being an amorphous gob of Body Horror doesn't cut it.
  • One of the many infected creatures from Chaos Heat are parasitic blobs, which attached themselves to corpses of researchers and guards killed by the various creatures during the mutation strain leak animating their corpses (who moves like a zombie) into attacking the player. In the And Then John Was a Zombie ending, your player was revealed, in the last minute, to be unexpectedly infected by one of these blobs, prior to the credits. Your subsequent fate is unknown.
  • Crying Suns has a mechanical example in the Parasite Drone, which can burrow into and take control of an enemy squadron. To do so, it must attack that squadron for several seconds without getting attacked.
  • According to Cultist Simulator, humanity lost the "Second Worm War" because the worms learned to work people from inside.
  • A rare heroic example in Dead Cells. The hero is a Slime fused to the neck of a decapitated corpse and driving it around.
  • The Necromorphs in Dead Space are a subversion of this. The Marker causes those nearby to go crazy and start killing people, and then takes over the dead bodies. A rather disturbing death animation for a certain necromorph also qualifies — after taking enough damage, the necromorph will fall to pieces, which will still attack Isaac. If the piece that was the monster's head kills Isaac, it will decapitate him, root itself on his neck, and take over his body.
  • In DeathSpank , the Mind Barnacles that he helps spread are clearly examples of this trope but the main character helps them spread due to them offering him a quest. Plus they would bring World Peace by infecting all living things with Mind Barnacles!
  • Deep Rock Galactic introduced a "lithophage" colloquially known as the Rockpox in its third season, some extraterrestrial Meat Moss that is spreading across Hoxxes. While the dwarf miners seem immune to its worst effects, the Rockpox has infested some of the local Glyphids into lurching horrors covered in glowing blisters, compelling them to defend the worst-infected areas. Mission Control mentions that DRG's scientists have determined that the Rockpox attacks infected Glyhpids' cognitive functions and pain receptors, so that they're obedient but in a constant state of agony. It's enough that your Dwarfs might express sympathy when putting down infected aliens.
    Dwarf: Even the Glyphids don't deserve this!
  • In Destroy All Humans!, body-snatching becomes Crypto's primary way to disguise himself amongst humans by the second game.
  • In Devil May Cry 4, Scarecrows and Mega Scarecrows are burlap sacks re-animated and controlled by demonic beetles called Trypoxylus.
  • The third game in the Don't Escape series has the crystal itself, which grows inside the player's body and, while they sleep, makes them kill all their crew members.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: One of the dungeons in the Dragonborn DLC, Whiteridge Sanctum, is filled with bandits who have been taken over by magically-infused, mind-controlling spiders. After dealing with the mad mage who created the spiders, the player can use her imbuing device to create mind control spiders of their own, which they can chuck at enemies to turn them into temporary allies.
  • The bonethieves from Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem are a particularly nasty example. First they burrow into their victims' chest, then guide them around like puppets. Then, when the host body takes enough damage, the bonethief burst through in a shower of gore, which isn't exactly healthy to your sanity, and tries to burrow into your chest.
  • The Nomads/Slomon K'Haara in Freelancer are this, with aspects of The Virus: it is strongly implied that Nomad-infested humans can infest other humans as well.
  • Gene Troopers has the Parasite enemies, one which infects the protagonist's daughter, that he must kill to save her. In this case however, the parasites are gigantic monsters, who can shrink themselves when infecting a host.
  • In both Half-Life games, the iconic headcrabs kill people by jumping at them and then latching onto their heads to turn them into much stronger zombies. In the second game, the villains even use missiles filled with headcrabs as weapons. Which when you think about it might not be always be a smart idea when you consider the headcrabs aren't actually on their side either; places like Ravenholm ended up literally crawling with zombies as a result of excessive headcrab-bombing. It's worth mentioning that players discovered a particularly horrifying fact about headcrab zombies: Playing the audio of their voices in reverse reveals that their human hosts are actually still conscious and screaming bloody murder from under their fleshy puppetmaster of a hat. This can be seen when you forcibly remove a headcrab from a person's head: the host's face is contorted in bitter agony, although it is missing most of its skin and eyes.
  • The Flood in Halo. They use fleshy pods to evolve into small, bulbous creatures full of tentacles. Once they find a suitable host, the Infection Forms attach and paralyze the victim before ripping open the chest cavity and nestling inside, taking over the host's nervous system and beginning rapid mutation, culminating in a real ugly abomination known as a Combat Form. Though the host is technically dead, the controller retains enough of the host's experience that Combat Forms are decent marksmen (!). In some cases however, a Combat Form victim is still alive and conscious, occasionally able to regain partial control for a while. The Infection Form is still visible from the outside, but destroying it will kill the host too. Infection Forms can voluntarily abandon the host if it sustains heavy damage, and if the Infection Form itself is killed or removed forcibly, other Infection Forms can take its place and reanimate the Combat Form. Simply dismembering the CF's arms won't stop it. Large concentrations of Flood biomass releases spores that can also cause an infection; because of this, the only sure-fire way to eliminate a nest is to burn it with highly advanced energy weapons or destroy the biomass via activating the Halo rings.
  • The description for Gust's hat in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 says that the hat might actually be Gust and that it's controlling a little girl.
  • For a three-part Story Arc in Kid Icarus: Uprising, a parasite called the Chaos Kin becomes the villain and takes over Palutena and her army while feeding off her soul.
  • The Jockeys from Left 4 Dead 2 take a more physical approach to this trope: They simply grab on to the survivor and push them in the desired direction until someone else comes up and knocks him off their head.
  • Limbo: Glowworms, which shoot down from the ceiling and burrow into your head as you run underneath and force you to run continuously in one direction until you hit a source of light which turns them around. They're unavoidable and merely have to be dealt with until you can get to another creature which rips them off your head.
  • In Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter, the Watchers are a race of non-corporeal parasites that inhabit the bodies of flesh and blood organisms in order to control them.
  • In Mass Effect, a colony is taken over by the Thorian; a giant plant controls unsuspecting victims with spores and forces them to do as they wish or suffer extreme pain. This gives the Thorian so much power over its subjects that they will fight to the death rather than disobey — except for the colony's leader, Fai Dan, who resists its order to kill Shepard long enough to commit suicide. Nice work.
  • Mega Man X2 has the Pararoid S-38 which infests and controls large destroyed machines and serves as a stage miniboss, and the Pararoid V-1 which hops onto X's back and forces him to repeatedly shoot, jump, or dash until he shakes it off.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain:
    • Whenever the aptly named SKULLs Parasite Unit shows up, any regular soldiers in the area (except Snake, for some reason) are infected by the parasites and turned into shambling zombies. These soldiers can still be sent to Mother Base to join Diamond Dogs if you knock them out and extract them, so apparently the infection isn't permanent.
    • An even darker example occurs during the mission Shining Lights, Even In Death, where everyone on Mother Base's quarantine platform becomes infected with a new strain of the fatal vocal cord parasites. The infected soldiers are compelled to go outside and emit pheromones that smell like fruit, which would attract birds to feed on them, ingesting the parasites and spreading them to the rest of the world. These parasites are directly compared to the Real Life parasites Leucochloridium paradoxum, which does something similar to snails.
      Diamond Dogs Soldier: I win... I'm no snail.
  • The Invaders in Metal Slug 6 have flying parasites which possess Chinese soldiers to attack players in the third mission. There is also the purple Elite Mook variant in the final mission, who possesses your teammate and turns him or her into a Mirror Boss. It's notable that unlike other examples of this trope, here the parasites can be destroyed without killing the victims; shooting the host only eliminates the parasite while the host remains unharmed.
  • Planet Aether in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was split in two dimensions, the default light world and a sinister dark world. The Dark Aether denizens, the Ing, have the ability to possess other creatures/machines, gaining increased strength from the symbiosis. In fact, they require a host to survive on Aether for any extended period of time.
  • The Morphoids in Nicktoons: Globs of Doom can pull this; while they can fight on their own, the bosses (except for Big Bad Globulous Maximus and two of the bosses in the DS game) are all infected characters with a head full of Morphoid goo.
  • The Oktigi of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath are a race of Octopi-like creatures that function like the Brainsuckers above. It is revealed that Sekto is of this species, who after defeat leaves the body of the Olden Steef and escapes into the river.
  • Pikmin:
    • Pikmin (2001): There are mushroom enemies that can take control of your Pikmin by turning them into purple, mushroom-like versions of themselves with blank white eyes, which will attack you and your swarm.
    • Pikmin 2: There's a species of Pikmin that is parasitic and infects Bulborbs. After killing the leader of a group of these, you can whistle at the babies and control them like any other Pikmin. They're immune to all obstacles and have average speed and strength making them very useful. If you can ignore the Fridge Horror of exactly what that cute little Pikmin did to that adorable Bulborb baby.
    • Pikmin 4 expands on this, noting that Rock and Ice Pikmin are technically parasitic in the same manner as Bulbmin, they just puppet nonliving rock and ice as their bodies rather than living things.
    • Pikmin 4 also expands on the Puffshroom family of mushroom-like creatures, showing that the fungus can puppet other creatures besides Pikmin, and even reanimate certain creatures' corpses!
  • Plague Inc.:
    • The "Neurax Worm" is a special type of plague. Unlike the other types of plagues, it can win via total domination (i.e., infection) of all humanity, no need to kill them. As such, it's only necessary to infect everyone and then develop a symptom that causes them to worship the worm like a god. The image of the plague also changes from a Petri dish to a worm sitting on a brain with tendrils extending inside it. The worm seems almost intelligent in its symptoms, such as causing people to fly to a specific country in order to infect it, even if that country has closed off its airports (or has no airports). Another symptom involves violent attacks against anyone who isn't infected (yes, turning the game into a Zombie Apocalypse before an actual one was added to the game) and active attempts to stop cure research. Like all other plague types, it's also capable of infecting animals but seems to have only limited control over them. The starting blurb mentions that the worm has been dormant for millennia only to be uncovered by excavation. Additional news mention people worshiping the worm and governments legalizing Neurax communities.
    • A special Christmas scenario has you control the Neurax Worm in order to return Christmas by infecting humanity with happiness after the world goverment has banned anything fun. It does things like making people less resistant to cold so they'll feel compelled to stay home in front of the chimney and drink hot drinks or laying eggs in the snow so they spread when people decide to start snow fights. Basically, you're saving the world by infecting everyone with parasites that cause holiday cheer.
  • Pokémon:
    • Paras is a simple bug being slowly eaten alive by the mushrooms on its back, the bug making the best of its situation by using them for self-defense. Parasect is this same bug, virtually dead and covered with the mushroom, which has overridden the insect's nervous system.
    • There's also Necrozma. After fusing with either Solgaleo or Lunala, it takes over their minds and bodies (further reflected in that Solgaleo and Lunala taken over by Necrozma are listed as alternate Necrozma forms), continuously draining them of their light to become Ultra Necrozma.
    • Like Parasect, Galarian Slowking is a Slowpoke that's being controlled by the Shellder on its head.
  • Resident Evil:
    • According to various files, the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a Tyrant with a puppeteer parasite controlling it.
    • Resident Evil 4 introduces Las Plagas, prehistoric parasites which turn their infectees into brainwashed slaves for control plagas. Ganados from 4 and Majini from 5 are infected with Plagas. There are some research notes left behind by Luis which talk about some real life parasites that do this to small insects and the like.
    • A variant of said parasite, known as the "NE-β Type", appears in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, which latches onto hosts (zombies and, in one case, a Tyrant) in the game to control them.
    • Parasitic nematodes (in other words, flatworms) called the Cadou are responsible for most of the monsters and mutations of the Four Lords in Resident Evil Village. However, this trope is played with in that the Cadou are never said to actually target or control the minds of their hosts, and those infected who lose their human intelligence such as the lycans appear to be driven by feral madness rather than any sort of mind control. In any case, the Cadou are implanted not in the brain or nervous system, but in the stomach.
  • In Risk of Rain 2, an enemy type called Void Infestor can infect enemies, granting them an elemental buff called Voidtouched. They can even affect player summons (most notably Squid Polyps), causing them to turn against the player.
  • The Mollusk Launcher in Saints Row: The Third launches mind controlling octopi that cause their host to start attacking everything in sight as they eat their brain.
  • The protopolyps in the Serious Sam series are swarms of cybernetic parasites that can control both organic and inorganic material, which is first demonstrated by them puppeteering attack helicopters in Serious Sam 3: BFE. The Octanian forces introduced in Serious Sam 4 make extensive use of them in their invasion of Earth, converting regular humans en-masse into the Processed. These protopolyps can even converge into a massive Eldritch Abomination called the "Megalopolyp" if enough of them are in one place.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Inverted. The planet hosts mindworms who can do nasty things to humans (they are the equivalent to barbarian units in CIV games), but can be captured and utilized as military units under the right circumstances. Rather ironic to have a huge mass of alien worms being controlled by a human colonist.
  • From Silent Hill, we have the slug-like parasites controlling the puppet nurses and doctors. The Book of Forgotten Memories indicates said monsters are not product of Alessa's tortured mind but the actual Alchemilla staff turned into mindless drones by her hatred of hospitals. Later, one such parasite takes control of Cybil — cue boss fight. Whether Harry saves her or not depends on the player finding the Aglaophotis earlier in the hospital.
  • Skies of Arcadia has a fairly horrifying example: the giant roaches living under the Valuan empire occasionally hijack unfortunates who wander into their territory, from what you can see in game this involves climbing onto the victim's back, jamming limbs into each of the victim's limbs, and then puppeteering them around while using them as a mobile snack. Whether the victims are killed before they get used as meat puppets is not made clear.
  • StarCraft:
    • The Zerg do this, according to the background. In the game, they can still "infest" people, though the victim's appearance changes drastically.
    • In StarCraft II, the infester takes this role with the "neural parasite" ability. This one isn't very subtle either, as the unit under its control still has a 20-foot tentacle jutting from the back of their head, creating a direct link to the infester and its host. Furthermore, the control is only temporary. That's not to say it isn't useful, as more advanced players can take control of a worker of their enemy and construct a base that's the same type as the enemy you're fighting, effectively giving you control of both the Zerg and whatever race you're fighting. The neural parasite is not limited to biological units either. Battlecruisers, Carriers, Colossi, and all other manner of mechanical units are fair game.
  • Stellaris:
    • There is one Fungoid race that is explicitly a mammalian creature infested by fungal growths; the fungus is the sentient species, the mammal is just a platform.
    • The "Organic Singularity" random event occurs when a pre-FTL society you're spying on discovers a species of hyperintelligent mollusks that threaten to turn them into a Hive Mind. If you do nothing or promote their proliferation, they take over the planet and ruthlessly hunt down the handful of uninfected.
  • The Many in System Shock 2 take over nearly the entire crews of the Von Braun and Rickenbocker. They start out as strange eggs on an alien planet that exhibit a number of psychic powers which make humans want to care for and nurture the worms, show them the benefits of being part of a Hive Mind, and transform them into parasitized hybrids who still have enough awareness to apologize and beg to be killed before they attack (although you read the diaries of several crewmembers who embraced their change), before taking on even more bizarre forms. Throughout the game, they seek to telepathically convince the protagonist to join them against the evil artificial intelligence that created them.
  • Team Fortress 2 gives a Shout-Out to the brain slugs of Futurama by having one as a wearable hat for the Pyro. It's a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, so it looks a little different. According to the description, it doesn't control Pyro so much as agree with him wholeheartedly that everything should burn.
  • The Sarcomas from Vampire Night can possess villagers into attacking players. The players will need to gun down the sarcoma within a certain time limit — the sarcoma dies in one hit, releasing the victim in the process which will reward the player, but if players took too long to eliminate a carcoma or accidentally hit a sarcoma's host, the host instantly turns into a vampire and the players will be forced to kill them.
  • Warframe:
    • The Infestation as a whole is this, being an Expy of the Flood. It is a bioweapon created by the Orokin that turns organics and machines alike into horrid monstrosities, linking them up to a Hive Mind that seeks to infect the entire Origin System in its twisted idea of true unity. It can even get remarkably devious at times, as demonstrated with it exploiting people's attraction to miracles in Nightwave: Series 2, disguising the early stages of its infection as a cure for all illnesses.
    • The Archons are Sentients resembling animal heads with an energy crystal jammed into them, which can puppeteer a corpse by replacing its head. Three of them — Nira, Boreal and Amar — have taken control of Warframe bodies and are appropriately powerful, acting as enforcers for the new Narmer empire after the Sentients take over the Origin System. Even their creator Erra becomes a victim of this, with the Archon Pazuul taking over his body after his Heroic Sacrifice at the end of The New War.
  • The Squirg of WildStar are adorable octopus-like critters... who latch onto critter's heads and takeover their brain waves.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The Throne of the Tides dungeon in the "Cataclysm" expansion features a boss, Erunak Stonespeaker, who is being mind-controlled by a creature that attached itself to his head. It will also mind control random players during the encounter.
    • The Merciless One species is also encountered earlier in Vashj'ir. Ozumat appears to be a very big version.
  • X-COM:
    • This is the overlying threat you're trying to defend against in X-COM: Apocalypse, as the aliens use aptly named creatures called Brainsuckers to give people a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong and put them under alien control. If a Brainsucker converts one of your soldiers in this manner, they're dead as far as the game is concerned.
    • Late in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, it's revealed that Carter has been under the control of an Ethereal all this time, explaining the third-person perspective (he's actually floating behind and above Carter with energy tentacles controlling him). After Carter finds out, he forces the Ethereal out, resulting in the being bonding with one of three other characters, which will affect the ending. This is also Origin's... well, Superhero Origin. He had another Ethereal controlling him until he figured out how to enslave it.

  • Downplayed in Ayuri, where Fenna's species use non-sapient hosts.
  • Baskets of Guts: Word of God mentioned that myconids can control those who are infected with their spores, and they're well aware of this fact.
  • El Goonish Shive has Sirleck (this thing), a former human who achieved immortality by jumping from host to host.
  • In General Protection Fault, it is revealed that Fred and other slime molds have the ability to control people's movements and speech. It is heavily implied that the enemy aliens from the Nega-Verse are also slime Molds, since they controlled Nega-Dwayne and Nega-Butch to weaken the humans through infighting.
    • And now they're invading in the main universe, having taken over Agent #18 and - it appears - Nega-Nick...
  • In Girl Genius, the slaver wasps are themselves tools of a malevolent Spark known as the Other. Also notable in that no Deus ex Machina has surfaced; death is still the only cure for the slaver-infected.
    • It was initially believed that those infected by slaver wasps became shambling zombie-like "revenants", but its since been discovered that they leave most hosts normal people who can be commanded by the right voice at any time. Klaus Wulfenbach is actually able to plot agains the Other when she's not near him. Shambling zombies ended up as a mere distraction from the far more insidious threat.
    • One possibly fictional in-universe story suggested that the Heterodyne boys made a device that could extract slaver wasps. No-one really believes that it could have worked though.
    • More recently, Tarvek has developed a formula which he thinks will render the imbiber immune to being wasped. Whether this actually works remains to be seen, and it won't do much good for those already infected.
    • After the Time Skip, it is said Gilgamesh (to whom Tarvek gave his notes) has inoculated all of the Wulfenbach soldiers and agents against slaver wasps.
    • One page also features a Vorkopian Dictator Spider that possesses people by burrowing in their ear; unlike the wasps, they have minds of their own, and you can just pull them back out without lasting harm.
  • Prior to the start of Intragalactic, Piper's brain was eaten by a Brainworm. However, the worm inherited her memories and personalities and has essentially continued her life for her, making her corpse walk and talk for it. In fact the only apparent changes death has brought about in Piper are a deathly pallor and a guilt complex (from killing the original Piper).
  • The slugs in Jump Leads. They are killable by contact with silks. A real irony for working class soldier that join the army to not wear silk clothes, which is a best mean of defense.
  • The Fixits in The Mansion of E are hat-shaped critters who are able to control their "wearer".
  • The Hat, an ugly parasitic hat from Stickman and Cube. It eats people's heads, too.
  • In Tower of God, Yeon Ehwa gets taken over by a green parasite and attacks Prince. It isn't made any less disgusting when the parasite is as big as a torso, entering orally and the entire affair looks rather suggestive.
  • Trevor (2020): To get into the safe room where the surviving members of the medical team are, Trevor hijacks Terry's body.

    Web Original 
  • John Dies at the End; more apparent in the sequel.
  • The Wormbrains from Mortasheen are an entire class of creature that does this, with the parasitic worms serving as the creature's mind. They come in many "lovely" forms like this, this, this, and this.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-378 ("Brainworm"). After SCP-378 enters a victim's skull it gains control of the brain and controls the body. The victim acts normally while under control, indicating that SCP-378 can read the victim's memories and personality.
    • SCP-632 ("Intrusive Arachnid Thoughts") is a species of parasitic spiders made of human brain matter that embed themselves into the host's brain, brainwashing the host into becoming obsessed with spiders, causing them to excrete webbing from their skin, and giving them constant headaches that can only be alleviated through blunt force. As they slowly consume the host's brain to reproduce, the headaches get worse and worse compelling them to inevitably cave their skull in, allowing the newborn spiders to escape and infect more people.
    • SCP-783 ("Baba Yaga's Cottage"). In Interview Log 783-1 an animal mutated by SCP-783 grows tentacles that it inserts into a human being's skull in order to take over his brain.
    • SCP-940 ("Araneae Marionettes") is another species of parasitic spiders that embed themselves into human hosts and compel them to spread the infection, before reanimating their hosts as Parasite Zombies.
    • SCP-1092 ("A Species of Fish"). After growing to full size inside the victim's body, in some cases SCP-1092 will travel up the carotid artery to the victim's brain and take over their minds. They will use this control to make the victim head for the nearest large body of water so they can exit the body and enter the water.
    • SCP-2119 ("Transmitting Parasite") is a species of Cyborg crickets created by a group of Mad Scientists for unknown purposes that have the ability to induce sleep in humans, before proceeding to crawl into their heads and attach themselves to their brains. Under normal circumstances they cause no ill effects in the host, but instantly kill them if removed, can be used by their creators to remotely hijack the hosts, and constantly emit a signal that spontaneously generates more inside the heads of uninfected people nearby.
    • SCP-2611 ("Large and In Charge") is a mass of sentient adipose tissue that possesses its host, using their bodies to consume large amounts of junk food and trashy soap operas. The hosts are conscious for only a few hours a day at most, and there's potentially hundreds more out there with the Western obesity epidemic complicating matters further.
    • SCP-3003 ("The End of History") is an alien amoeba Hive Mind that infects beetles which in turn parasitize humans, turning the entire planet of Transplanted Humans it hails from into a World of Silence and actively plotting to do the same to Earth.
  • Episode 30 of the Skibidi Toilet Series introduced parasitic toilets created by the Scientist Toilet, which could latch onto a cameraman's neck to control them. Soon afterwards, one manages to latch onto Titan Speakerman this way, leaving The Alliance at a disadvantage for more than 20 episodes.
  • In the Transolar Galactica episode "The Invasion", the crew of the Transolar attempts to wipe out the human colonists on Lazariz because they've been taken over by "mind slugs". Unfortunately, it turns out that Samson made them up to "look cool in front of the captain".
  • The Creepypasta "Psychosis" follows a man who starts going crazy and thinking that everybody but him has been abducted/killed and replaced by an Eldritch Abomination impersonating them. He's totally wrong of course. Everybody but him has actually been taken over by Puppeteer Parasites, put into an And I Must Scream situation where they want to help the protagonist but can't.
  • In another Creepypasta, "The Crawling House on Black Pond Road", it's heavily implied that the narrator's friend is consciously being controlled by the giant wasp larva that were implanted inside him, which ultimately drives him to take his own life.
  • Inverted in the completed Questden adventure The Book of Worms, where the supernaturalnote  leeches shoved in people's brains protect from the Big Bad's mind control: they eat the Ominous Obsidian Ooze his power manifests as.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Little Dude", Finn's hat comes to life and becomes this, with the ability to increase the strength of its current host.
  • In the Beast Wars episode “Master Blaster”, the Predacons are able to attach a device to Optimal Optimus that allows Quickstrike to remotely control Optimus’s body using a harness designed to match Optimus. This device allows the Predacons to take out most of the Maximals (save for Depth Charge, who was elsewhere at the time), before Blackarachnia manages to trick Quickstrike into manoeuvring Optimus into a position where he will destroy Quickstrike’s suit and free himself.
  • The Xenocytes from Ben 10: Alien Force were a species of alien parasite engineered by the Highbreed. They latch onto a host and slowly overwrite their DNA, turning them into monstrous slaves of the Highbreed called DNAliens.
  • Camp Lakebottom: When a huge, evil leech attaches itself to Squirt's skull in "Mindsuckers From the Depths", he turns into a super-genius bent on world domination.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog has Mastafa al Bacterius in his first appearance, where he was a worm with a spacesuit and jetpack who takes control of Muriel's body before personally trying to take Courage out.
  • The Brainteasers from Darkwing Duck qualify, and since they look like hats, they go undetected for quite some time.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In "Gooey Aliens That Control Your Mind", Dexter wishes on a shooting star for some alien life-forms to study. He gets his wish when a meteor containing the eponymous gooey aliens lands nearby, but the aliens escape his lab and infect his mother, father and big sister Dee Dee, turning their skin green, their eyes red, and distorting their voices. Dexter is forced to equip his Powered Armor to beat up his family (who, under the aliens' control, are all sitting on each other's shoulders so that the three of them can all attack him together as a group) until the parasites abandon ship, after which Dexter immediately stomps the aliens flat, killing them. Afterwards, his parents and Dee Dee don't recall any of what happened, though they don't feel particularly well after the beating they received as they all lie in bed together.
    Dad: This flu stuff hits you hard...
  • Parodied on Futurama, wherein the efforts of the "brain slugs" to acquire new hosts are always blatantly transparent, as in one episode where a controlled Hermes Conrad informs the crew that their next delivery is to the Brain Slug Homeworld, where their orders are to "just stand around not wearing a helmet". The Brain Slugs themselves are pretty obvious too, being weirdly cute green blobs with big eyes attached to the head of the controlled individual.
  • Infinity Train: In "The Parasite Car", Alan Dracula ends up with a creature called Perry in his mouth who abuses his Voluntary Shapeshifting ability to the point where it makes him uncomfortable and he tries to fight back. It takes MT and Jesse getting him to sneeze Perry out to put a stop to it.
  • Invader Zim: One of the ideas for episodes that were floated around before the series' cancellation involved Zim allying with a race of creatures that look like organic pants, which take control of anyone who wears them. This plot was eventually used years later in Issue 8 of the continuation comics.
  • In Invincible (2021), Episode 4's Villain of the Week is the Sequids. Per the comic, they’re a squid-like Hive Mind race of alien parasites with the potential to destroy planets, but only after attaching themselves to a host and using its brainpower to coordinate the whole collective — without a host, they’re just little squids that leap at the nearest face. The Martians had the ability to resist them through shapeshifting, but try to kill the human astronauts exploring the planet so they don't allow them the chance to destroy Mars (and subsequently, Earth). Near the end, it's shown that Mark's "heroics" gave them the opportunity to do exactly that.
  • The Racing Bugs from Jimmy Two-Shoes replace their hosts Ghost in the Machine and use the vessels to race. They're mainly harmless, and actually give their hosts super speed. The only reason they're frowned upon is that they're fleas inside your head.
  • An episode of Men in Black: The Series has a parasitic alien plant doing this after successfully passing the controls in the Men In Black's customs checkpoint, taking control of most of the MIB except for Kay, Jay and Elle.
  • In The Midnight Gospel, Clancy visits a simulated planet in which clown-spider parasites have taken over the bodies of humans, and who are using Meat City to render the local wildlife into meat.
  • The zomboids from Mighty Max are green parasites that latch on to the victim's skull and control them, making them behave like zombies.
  • Episode "Ghostworld" of The Real Ghostbusters has a similar premise mix with Demonic Possession. A group of ghosts take control of the Ghostbusters one by one after they go to a ghost-themed amusement park. At first only Ray and Slimmer want to go (as they are the more child-like) but after the ghosts take control of them they trick the other ghostbusters in going.
  • Played for laughs in Rick and Morty, where the sinister alien Hive Mind controlling people's wills through green slime is revealed a couple minutes into the episode to be Rick's ex, Unity. Summer initially wants to free the planet it's controlling and is horrified that Rick just gets back together with it, until she discovers what the people it's controlling are like otherwise. She still thinks they shouldn't be together, but because Rick is a bad influence on it (and by extension, everyone on the planet).
  • Rip's shorts become this in The Ripping Friends after enduring the most ridiculous origin imaginable. It can control a host by riding up on them and ultimately takes over Pooper Man.
  • The Vodun from Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends are puppeteer parasites that can only control corpses. They have been trying to upgrade to living bodies for years. When they do find technology that allows them to inhabit living hosts they find that this leads to a Battle in the Center of the Mind between parasite and host that usually leaves both parties permanently brain-dead.
  • A Season 2 episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has mind-controlling worms from Geonosis.

    Real Life 
  • This is not uncommon in real life, with most parasites in question making their hosts Too Dumb to Live in order to advance to the next stage of their lifecycle.
  • Toxoplasmosis is a very real parasitic infection (caused by the protozoan toxoplasma gondii) that infects rodents. The alterations it makes are actually necessary to reproduce: it can only infect rats and mice, but it needs cats innards to breed, so it changes the brain chemistry around so that its host is attracted to the scent of cat, rather than repelled as normal. Then it gets eaten and the whole process starts again when the cat defecates.
    • While toxoplasmosis can infect humans and there are theories that it can alter the hosts behavior in milder ways, it's not fully proven if this is the case. Even then, we're not the intended host for the parasite because we're the "dead end" and it can't reproduce through us. Even if you do get infected, you'll most likely experience flu-like symptoms for a few weeks and it can go away with or without treatment.
  • Horsehair Worms infect grasshoppers and praying mantises while young, then influence their host to go to the water when they are ready to rip through its chest and begin their free-living existence. This is a cricket, but same difference. Watch at your own peril.
  • Leucochloridium is a genus of fluke that infects snails, then extends its eggsack into the antenna of the host, then causes the snail to position itself so that its antenna where a bird can easily see it. The bird then eats the infested antenna (swollen to look like a worm) and becomes infected. See it here! (Again, not for the faint of heart)
  • One species of parasite causes ants to crawl up to the top of a plant, bite the edge of a leaf, and just sit there. This greatly increases the chance they will be eaten, allowing the parasite to spread.
  • There are 400 documented species of fungus within the genus Cordyceps — each specific to one species of insect — which infest the hosts and then force them to chill out somewhere where they can catch the breeze and never move again for the rest of their lives, so that the fungus can grow out of their heads and spread more spores to start all over again. Another one infects flies and makes them grip a blade of grass and flap their wings until they die of exhaustion, taking a slightly more active role in spore-spreading.
    • Cordyceps unilateralis targets ants, forcing its ant host to climb to a position that overlooks their own nest, so that the entire nest will be infected when the ant dies and starts scattering spores. However, the ants themselves have evolved a mechanism in response to this, so that any time an ant starts showing symptoms of infection the rest of the ants will carry it a long way away so it can die without threatening the nest. This must be the plot for at least five sci-fi horror movies and definitely one video game.
    • The mushroom involved in the example of Parasect of Pokémon above was explicitly named to be Ophiocordyceps sinensis, which is indeed treasured as a medical mushroom in east Asia.
    • Perhaps most horrifyingly of all, cordyceps doesn't affect the brain at all, but directly affects the muscles, leaving some infectees visibly struggling for control of their own bodies.
  • Fungi residing in the human digestive tract can make their hosts feel very uncomfortable unless they eat enough sweets to satisfy the fungi. And you can get infected by simply eating infested bread...
  • There's a species of barnacle of the genus Sacculina that infects female crabs and grows tentacles into its brain. It then lays eggs in the crab's egg sac, which swells up with baby zombie-making barnacles to infect other crabs with. And if it gets into a male crab, it turns him into a female crab.
  • Xenos vesparum is a parasite that lives in wasps. It enters a young wasp as a larvae and grows while the wasp stays small and becomes infertile. When Xenos mating season comes, it forces its host to fly to a special place, where the Xenos in this area meet. Now the males kill and leave their hosts and mate with the females. The female now forces its host into hibernation and in the spring flies it to a wasp colony where the parasite larvae can find their own hosts. Then the female kills its host. And nobody knows how they do it.
  • The phorid fly infects fire ants by laying its eggs into their thorax. During development, the larva moves to the ant's head and directs the ant to move a safe distance away from its colony while simultaneously devouring its brain. Using digestive enzymes to separate the head from the body, the larva continues to pupate within the ant's decapitated noggin until its ready to emerge from its grisly cradle and continue the cycle anew.
  • A certain species of wasps, Glyptapanteles, uses caterpillars as living nurseries. However, one of the eggs contains a larvae that never reaches maturity. Instead, it turns the caterpillar into a zombie, and when its siblings pupate, the wasp larvae uses the caterpillar as an undead guardian which violently lashes out at predators.
  • The pram bug, Phronima spp. The females of these deep-sea crustaceans lay their eggs inside of something (usually a type of sea squirt known as a salp), and pushes the salp around like a baby carriage. They were once thought to be the inspiration for the Aliens in the Alien franchise, although Word of God states that that's not true.
  • The Crypt-Keeper Wasp takes this to the next level by the virtue of being a hyperparasite i.e a parasite whose host is another parasite. Specifically, the Crypt-Keeper Wasp attacks the Gall Wasp, a type of wasp that targets trees and forces them to create hollow chambers rich in nutrients where the insect deposits its larvae. After infecting a host, the Crypt Keeper larva makes its victim drill a hole that's too small for its own escape and once the large wasp is trapped inside the wedge, the insidious Crypt Keeper eats its host from the inside out and burst out of the gall wasp's forehead into the world.
  • Some kinds of wasp sting and lay an egg on a web-building spider but the paralysis is only temporary. When the spider recovers, it goes about its business until the egg hatches and the larva starts to feed on it. The spider ignores this. When the larva is about to become a pupa, it makes the spider build a special X-shaped web to protect it before killing the spider.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Brain Slug


The Strangers

As it turns out, the trench-coated "Strangers" running the city from behind the scenes are actually a race of parasitic aliens using human corpses as vessels.

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Example of:

Main / PuppeteerParasite

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