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"What if this thing can read our minds?" Commander Kotay was saying.
"Then we must use soldiers who do not have minds," replied his companion.
"Alright then, I'll send in the latest intake from West Point."
"No, you military moron! I meant robots!"

This trope is about any Robot that is built for the intent purpose of participating in a war as a combatant. These machines either supplement soldiers as a part of a battle force, or replace them entirely. They can be anywhere on the Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence, but generally stand between 1 and 3 on the scale. Obviously, these robots are not Three Laws-Compliant, since they must be able to violate the First Law on a regular basis. This does not necessarily mean they are psychotic mass murder machines, though depending on who built them and why, they easily could be.

The distinction between this trope and Mecha-Mooks is that Mecha-Mooks are, well, Mooks. By definition, Mooks are disposable, mass produced bad guys with few or no special attributes that only exist to be easily destroyed by The Hero. So while robot soldiers can be mooks, there's no law that says "all fighting robots are mooks". A robot soldier can easily be anything from a mook (even an Elite Mook or Giant Mook), to an implacable killing machine, to the hero of a story. You'll see them often in a Robot War setting.

Related are Starfish Robots, which these robots may take form of in more realistic settings; and Mechanical Abomination, which could be a soldier as much as the robot soldiers' mastermind.

A REMINDER: This trope is for soldiers that are also robots, not simply any machine that is able to fight. The robot must either be a part of a military unit, or be specifically made to serve as part of a military unit, or they are not this trope.


Related tropes:


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Castle in the Sky prominently features very powerful Robot soldiers, who act as the guardians of the titular castle.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Steel Troops have Doraemon and friends being thrown into a Robot War as machines from Mechatopia invades earth. Among the Mechatopian invasion force, their main robot soldiers who forms their invasion force's backbone seems to follow some military hierarchy (despite being treated as disposable Mecha-Mooks in the movie), with sergeants and platoon leaders wearing capes and identified by black markings.
  • Dragon Ball features Major Metallitron/Sergeant Metallic of the Red Ribbon Army; Android 8 was intended to be one as well, but wound up having a gentle heart. Though Android 8's creator would go on to create several more Androids bearing the Red Ribbon Army's logo, the army itself was destroyed long before then, excluding them from this trope.
  • Patlabor: The Movie: The Phantom is described as a military Labor, but appears to be unmanned, having an electronic warfare suite inside its torso instead of a cockpit.

    Comic Books 
  • ABC Warriors follows the exploits of an ever-changing group of robot soldiers, drawn from different regiments but initially built to fight in the Volgan War. They're seen as expendable (if expensive) cannon fodder by their human commanders. The robots themselves think differently, and several of them have made the humans pay for their callousness.
  • DC Comics' J.A.K.E., the G.I Robot.

    Fan Works 
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K:
    • As in canon, the Confederacy of Independent Systems relies on vast armies of robot soldiers, from the B-1 battle droids to elite killing machines like the droidekas. This, ironically, makes them even more hated by the Imperium of Man than the Galactic Republic, as Artificial Intelligence is literally considered Satanic in Imperial theology.
    • The Terriphont Entente were an Anti-Human Alliance from the Warhammer 40K universe that often carried out raids on the Xek-Tek Sector and used armies of Mechanical Monsters as their soldiers. A Space Marine viewpoint character in the story compares the Confederacy's battle droids to the Terriphont's mechanical monstrosities and finds the Confederacy's droids to be lacking.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The battle droids from Star Wars are robotic soldiers, and they comprise the vast majority of the Separatist military forces during the Clone Wars. Many of them even holds military rankings like sergeants, corporals, and commanders (identified by their yellow markings). They are also the current page image for Mecha-Mooks.
  • The titular robots from the Terminator franchise, which are soldiers, spies, and assassins used by Skynet to serve as it's infantry force, infiltrate human society, and eliminate certain targets. Also the Hunter-Killers from the same series, which serve as Syknet's armored and air forces fighting a war against the Human Resistance in the post-apocalyptic future.
  • Judge Dredd: Rico finds and reactivates an old ABC Warrior robot.
    ABC Warrior: Status?
    Rico: Bodyguard.
    ABC Warrior: Commander?
    Rico: Rico.
    ABC Warrior: Mission?
    ABC Warrior: (rising to its feet) War!
  • Future World (2018): Once humanity invented hard AI androids, they were used as soldiers, and this spiraled into a global war which completely destroyed civilization. Ash seems to be one, given her extensive combat skills (why she's made to appear like an attractive young woman is another question-possibly for infiltration however).
  • Solo (1996): Solo is one who's identical outwardly to a human, but far stronger and more durable. When his programming causes him to develop a conscience and abort a mission that would kill civilians, the US Army, which made him, orders his termination. The successor robot utterly lacks Solo's scruples.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inazuman Flash has Udespar, the Killer Robot general of the Despar Army. The Robot Fighters are this as well, though some seem to be cyborgs.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "I, Robot", the robot Adam was created by Dr. Charles Link as an experiment. When Dr. Link lost his funding, he was forced to find alternative sources of finance. To that end, he entered into business with a defense contractor who wanted him to create an army of robot soldiers. Adam was to be the prototype. When Dr. Link attempted to erase his memory files, a malfunction caused Adam to reactivate and he killed his creator.
  • Red Dwarf has the Simulants, a race of murderous robots that were built for a war that never took place.
  • War of the Worlds (2019): Technically cyborgs, they're sent by the aliens to kill all surviving humans after the EMP blast wipes out most.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a Magitek example with the warforged of Eberron. These Mechanical Lifeforms were created to fight The Last War, but unexpectedly developed sapience and free will even while following their makers' orders in that cataclysmic conflict. Now that the war's over, the warforged have been granted legal status as persons rather than military hardware, but are struggling to find a purpose during peacetime, since in most cases war is literally all they've known. It doesn't help that peacetime has also introduced the warforged to Fantastic Racism: not only are they large and intimidating in appearance, but their ability to work without rest leads many to see them as Job Stealing Robots. Some warforged thus become adventurers, while others form The Remnant with other warforged to continue their military lifestyle.
  • Rifts has Coalition forces with their various models of Skele-bot, plus the Northern Gun entity and Triax Industries producing various kinds of robots which can be programmed and armed for security, law enforcement support, and military use. The Mechanoid Invasion book also shows various kinds of combat robot deployed by the Mechanoids, including two different models of humaniform robot as frontline infantry — the SkeleBot 9000 "Thinmen" and the diminutive "Runts"; an ironic joke among the Mechanoids, which is lost on most humanoids.
  • Warhammer 40,000':
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus fields combat robots, though given the Lost Technology motif of the Imperium, these are presented as an extremely rare and difficult to produce part of their arsenal. Heavy Combat Servitors, which are lobotomized Hollywood Cyborgs armed with large amounts of weaponry and armor, largely have taken their place.
    • In a technical sense, the Necrons, being an entire species forcibly subjected to Brain Uploading into mechanical bodies. They also field purely robotic auxiliaries to their forces, such as the insectile scarabs and spyders.
    • The orks are what you get when you attempt to create robot soldiers with Organic Technology; based on genetically engineered fungus, they are literally built for war, emerging from their fungal bio-factories with all the knowledge they need pre-programmed into their brains and compelled to seek out battle, incapable of doing anything else. Their fungus-based replication process allows them to engage in Hostile Terraforming, for added measure.

    Video Games 
  • While most of the enemies in Beyond Sunset falls under Mecha-Mooks, being generic-looking robot units, the red drones however appears to be part of some mechanical armed forces, being clad in military gear and trained in using weaponry.
  • An important part of the backstory of Cave Story involves a war, in which an army (or several from various factions) was sent to conquer a powerful treasure on a remote island, native Mimiga creatures be damned. Though it's not immediately obvious, the player character is one such robot. Initially, he meets several NPC's who wonder if he's "a soldier from the surface". Then Professor Booster clarifies that he is a robot soldier. Shortly after, you meet Curly Brace, another robot and a veteran of the same war as him — but from a third-party faction with a slightly different objective.
  • In Distant Worlds, the "Robotic Troop Foundry" allows an empire to manufacture robot armies.
  • In the Earth 2150 franchise, the last game Earth 2160 finally introduces infantry to the earlier 3 factions. The UCS soldiers are Skelebot 9000 with an old fashioned gatling gun as an Arm Cannon.
  • Fallout has had three robot armies so far: the robot armies controlled by the Calculator in Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, Robert House's Securitron Army from Fallout: New Vegas, and the Synths controlled by the Institute in Fallout 4. The pre-war USA also had several models of robot soldiers supplementing their human army, many of which roam the wastes killing anything they encounter after two hundred years of decay. Of course, only their Morality Chip tends to be damaged, you can generally expect their movement systems, weapon systems, and Self-Destruct Mechanism to work like new.
  • The Fermi Paradox: When a civilization becomes technologically advanced enough they can construct whole robot armies, and several of the game's random events revolve around them.
  • LBX: Little Battlers eXperience: While the Innovators use LBX robots, the Black Intelligence Division and the Red Military Division train their soldiers to use LBX efficiently to the point where they can stage numerous terrorist attempts, siege an assault at the end of Artemis, and engage in a huge LBX war between them and the Seekers during the attempted siege on Tiny Orbit.
  • Mega Man X: Some Reploids of the verse end up betraying humanity and became destructive for one reason or another, called "going Maverick". In response to that, Doctor Cain formed the Maverick Hunters, an organization filled with robot soldiers to fight these Mavericks. They're put into distinct units such as "Marine Unit" or "Arctic Unit" to cover activities in different areas.
  • Overwatch takes place after a massive war between Humanity and their Omnic creations. One of the playable characters is a former frontline combatant for the omnic side.
  • Ratchet & Clank always features hordes of robot soldiers. While there are usually organic fighters in there as well, they will be vastly outnumbered by robots on both sides of the conflict. A notable case of this is the Galactic Rangers in the third game.
  • Rengoku: The Great Offscreen War has evolved into what's called the Machine War, with everyone fighting with remotely controlled machinery and later androids. The new ADAM units were so efficient, they've quickly put the war to an end.
  • In Stellaris, with enough research, robotic armies can be built for either planetary defense or invasion. They cost somewhat more than regular armies for the same offensive strength, but they have twice the health and donít take morale damage.
  • Team Fortress 2 has Mann Vs. Machine mode, which pits six players against hordes of their robotic counterparts. The robots are more or less the equals of the base players, but are disposable and expected to die in droves anyway because their AI is pretty bad and the human players have tons of purchasable powerups. There's also a slightly-too-literal example in the Robot Soldier, which, thanks to using the Soldier's existing voice lines, comes across as a giant Cloud Cuckoolander Robotic Psychopath.
  • Star Wars
  • Mutant Football League features BruiserBots, the remains of a US Army project built to combat a demonic invasion in the wake of the fourth world war. Being a Black Comedy, they took to playing football like homicidal, armored ducks to water and are content to simply prove the superiority of silicon over their organic counterparts. On the field they're as tough as the proverbial brick latrine and half as fast, making them natural choices for linemen and linebackers, but can also prove invaluable as hard to kill quarterbacks.
  • In 2019, a former designer revealed that in the Might and Magic games preceding HOMM V, this is what the Angels actually are. They are self-aware androids created by the Ancients who were sent out across the galaxy to hunt down the Kreegans wherever they appear.
  • Tactical Dolls from Girls' Frontline. Depending on the faction, they range from specialized combat models with barely any humanoid features to civilian A-Dolls equipped with fire control software and a firearm made anywhere between the 19th century and the late 2010s.
  • Red Alert 3: The tutorials inform you that all soldiers and vehicles destroyed are in fact extremely lifelike robots, so don't feel bad about butchering them. It turns out this is entirely true in the Imperial and Soviet campaigns where the American president/Emperor were robots all along.
  • Z is set in a war between two different robot empires,; MegaCom Corporation and TransGlobal Empires

    Webcomics 
  • In Hue Are You: Blue and Red both qualify as this with weapons of mass destruction and their general classification is called "Soldier Bot".
  • Questionable Content: These are rare because most AIs don't want to jeopardize their newly-won civil rights by stoking human fears of a Robot War. Bubbles the android defied her AI elders and enlisted out of patriotic duty; as the only survivor of her squad, she's a Shell-Shocked Veteran who needs a lot of time and encouragement to come out of her metaphorical (and literal) shell.

    Web Original 
  • The Terran in Chrysalis (Beaver Fur), being an uploaded human brain with the goal of exterminating the aliens who exterminated humanity, naturally had to build themself an arsenal of — among other things — remotely controlled robot soldiers. Their first design is a kind of dog-spider with an autocannon on its back. It's highly effective, but not put into prouction as per the limits the Terran imposes on themself to avoid Cybernetics Will Eat Your Soul. Instead, they choose a design resembling a shorter-than-average human with clawed, three-fingered hands and wearing a stylized cross between medieval armor and a spacesuit.
  • RWBY gives us the Atlasien Knights, used by the Atlas Army. Their official purpose is to defend people from Creatures of Grimm so humans won't have to risk their lives, but they prove to be utterly worthless. During the Fall of Beacon in Volume 3, Roman Torchwick uses a computer virus to turn all of the robots against the heroes. In Volume 7, the Knights are seen defending the city of Mantle, but their inability to keep even low-level Grimm out of the city shows that their placement is to demonstrate how little Atlas (More specifically, Ironwood) cares about Mantle.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: Military robots are widely used for combat and non-combat purposes. While aerial combat drones are likely the most well known example of this, Wikipedia has an entire list of them. Indeed, since risking one's life in a war is one of the most obvious unpleasant tasks that humans would be likely to hand off to a robot to do instead, Asimov's First Law isn't looking very likely at this point.
    • Some take it into Companion Cube territory, with a well-known example being an IED squad nicknaming their robot "Scooby-Doo". After it got blown up, the squad was informed that the replacement robot would arrive soon, only for a distraught soldier to say he didn't want a replacement, he wanted Scooby-Doo back.

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