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Settling the Frontier

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"(It is) ..our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty"
John O'Sullivan, The Morning Post, 1845

Once the Bold Explorers have finished their job and found some exotic new lands or strange new worlds, it's time to take advantage and start a colony or settlement!

There are many reasons why people might choose to leave everything they know behind and set off to carve a new life out of an untamed wilderness. They might be seeking freedom, opportunity, or wealth. They might be fleeing an intolerable situation: discrimination, overcrowding, debt, poverty, bad governments, crime, ruined reputation, family conflict, or maybe the fallout of a terrible divorce; none of that matters in the frontier, in the frontier it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from or what happened to you, all that matters is what you can do and how can you contribute. On the other hand, it might be the case that the settlers simply had no choice in the matter — far off lands are such a convenient place to store your criminals, dissidents, and other unwanted population.


The dangers in settling new territory are great: hostile terrain, hostile wildlife, hostile natives, bad weather, lack of readily accessible resources, and much more. You may end up cut off from your homeland completely. Success is never guaranteed, and many settlements will fail, often with great loss of life. Nevertheless, the biological urge to expand and grow is strong, and new colonies will rarely lack for volunteers (or "volunteers"). Successful colonies can even end up matching or exceeding their homeland in power or resources, leading to plenty of opportunities for conflict.

And what about those natives, or small green creatures, who live where you've planned to plant new roots? I guess they'll just have to take their chances. Of course, if you are one of the natives (or small green creatures), living where someone has decided to settle, you may not be very pleased with the notion. If you can't talk them out of the idea, then it's possible that This Means War!


This trope tends to be a big part of American and Australian self-identity and mythos, though it is, of course, not limited to America or Australia.

See also: Cult Colony, Lost Colony, Penal Colony, Injun Country, Colonized Solar System. Related to The Migration. May serve as a mere setting for a work, or be an active element of the plot. Works in this setting often involve The Pioneer or the Determined Homesteader.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Toward the Terra: The refugees postpone their search for Terra and colonize a marginally inhabitable planet for a few years. Unfortunately, the humans eventually caught up with them.
  • Silver Spoon:
    • Mikage's grandmother likes telling stories about the time when the Japanese settled Hokkaido. Wild animals (bears) and natives (Ainu) appear.
    • Later there is a two-chapter side story about Hachiken's great-great-grandparents who were Japanese pioneers settling Hokkaido.
  • The second episode of 2001 Nights, "Symbiotic Planet", deals with two sets of colonists on the planet Beta Hydra V, from two different factions back on Earth, and the dangers they face from each other as well as from the new, untamed planet.
  • In Macross, following the conclusion of Space War I, which nearly annihilated all life on Earth and reduced the human population to mere millions, a massive space colonization program was started. The idea was to spread humanity out so that if Earth got blasted again, the whole human race wouldn't be at stake. Later series take place either on colony worlds or on large fleets looking for a colony world to settle.
  • Gundam:
    • The Spacenoids in the Universal Century Gundam works started out as this, whether as willing pioneers seeking a new life or forced off-world by The Federation. The simmering tensions and divides that emerge between them and "Earthnoids" eventually culminate in the One Year War and subsequent conflicts. By the time the events of F91 and Victory take place, the Side colonies have all but usurped the Earth Federation as the dominant force in the Earth Sphere. And by Gundam: Reconguista in G, are for all intents and purposes the ones calling the shots.
    • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam meanwhile deconstructs the trope further with the Jovian colonies. As end-points for the Jupitris-class cargo vessels carrying their precious Helium, Jupiter was promoted by the Federation as a bold opportunity for would-be settlers. But as the colonists and their descendants find out, life in the new frontier proves to be much harder, far more punishing and isolating than in the Earth Sphere. Which in turn fuels bitter resentment within the Jovian Empire.
  • Dragon Ball: In Granolah the Survivor Arc, the Sugarians who survived their planet's destruction settle in Cereal after buying the planet from the Hiita family. They feel pretty guilty when they meet the last Cerealian still living in the planet and find out his race was also nearly wiped out by Frieza's forces.

    Comic Books 
  • Sons of Ares: Triton and most celestial bodies beyond the orbit of Saturn are considered the frontier of the solar system by their settlers.
  • FTL Yall: A recurring theme across several of the stories. Once space travel became possible, Earth governments set out to colonize everything they possibly could.
  • Superman:
    • In The Krypton Chronicles, Superman and Supergirl's ancestor Val-El sets sail to explore Krypton's unchartered seas. After a long and eventful voyage, Val and his crew find a large landmass -subsequently named Lurvan-, and decide to settle in that place and build their own city-state -Argo City- instead of returning home.
      Val-El's log: "The betrayal of my brother stings— but I sail on. At last we sight a wild continent— the one called Lurvan... But we do not take possession in the name of Erkol. We like the new land and decide to settle— to build our own city-state... We find outcroppings of stone slab, which we trim to build the first stone houses of Argo City..."
    • In Let My People Grow!, Superman finally finds a way to enlarge the Bottle City of Kandor, and its inhabitants choose to colonize a large, primitive world orbiting a red sun. Kal and Kara pick an area near water sources and surrounded by fertile land, and they enlarge the city.

    Fan Works 
  • A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fic "Gap Year Adventures" is a tale of two adventurers crossing Howondaland, the Discworld's Africa. They arrive in the white colony of, err, Smith-Rhodesia and note that the settlers, descendants of white Central Continent emigrants from Ankh-Morpork and Sto Kerrig, are greatly proud of the land they wrested from the natives and settled. A Cenotian visitor notes:
    One thing we see a lot on posters and even carved into the facades of buildings is
    "The mantle of the Pioneers has fallen on our shoulders to sustain civilisation in a primitive country."
    This quote is attributed to your ancestor Sir Cecil Smith-Rhodes. People believe it and quote it as if it were holy religious writ. As I understand it, the original pioneers were the Boortrekkers of several centuries ago: several hundred years later, Sir Cecil successfully revived the Boortrekkie spirit and led a new trek out of the Transvaal into a new country. And Smith-Rhodesia is all around us as we travel. Mariella is seeking to leave S-R behind us and cross the state line into the Transvaal. Where of course your family home is. This land is merely named after your family. note 
  • Kara of Rokyn: After moving to planet Rokyn, the last surviving Kryptonians rebuild their city -Kandor- and begin exploring their new world, expanding into new lands and starting new settlements.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The musical Paint Your Wagon features the colonization of a new town, No Name City, in the American West.
  • The 1923 silent short film Jamestown is a dramatic version of the founding of the first English colony in the Americas, starring Dolores Cassenelli as Pocahontas.
  • Pandorum takes place aboard a colony ship launched towards an inhabitable planet from a dying earth. Unfortunately things went wrong...
  • In Aliens the planet on which the Xenomorph was first discovered has been terraformed and colonized by the Wayland-Yutani corporation.
  • The Ron Howard film Far and Away, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, tells of Irish immigrants who end up participating in the great Oklahoma land run of 1889, where over 100,000 people competed to settle the newly opened territory.
  • Cimarron is another film about the Oklahoma land run. The Oklahoma land run came about because the United States, which had previously set aside Indian Territory for the Indians after stealing the rest of America from them, decided to steal that too.
  • The Last of the Mohicans is set against the backdrop of the settling of the American Frontier, and the settlers' interactions with the native peoples.
  • The New Land is about Swedish immigrants settling in the wilds of Minnesota.
  • The Big Trail is about a group of pioneers headed across the Oregon Trail to settle the territory. They have to brave the usual hazards, like Injun Country, the Thirsty Desert, and the snowy Sierra Mountains.
  • In Canyon Passage, Jacksonville is a small settlement on the very edge of the frontier. This means the residents have to be self-sufficient and are completely isolated when the Indian uprising occurs.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy covers the colonization and terraforming of Mars over the course of 200 years.
  • Robert A. Heinlein loved colonization. Being an Eagle Lander, he believed that colonization brings out the best in people and was responsible for American superiority. He dialed it up for his future societies. Specific examples include:
    • Starship Troopers: The Terran Federation and the Bugs are at war over real estate. It's taught in schools that any civilization that stops expanding is doomed to extinction at the hands of more aggressive competitors.
    • Methuselah's Children: The long-lived Howards hijack a Generation Ship seeking a new homeworld so they can escape persecution.
    • Time Enough for Love: Two thousand years after Methuselah's Children the Chairman of the homeworld the Howards eventually established asks the oldest human alive for assistance in establishing a new colony. Lazarus Long also recounts a time he was a settler in the old western American style on another planet.
    • Farmer in the Sky: The characters are settlers on the Jovian moon Ganymede.
    • Tunnel in the Sky: Gates are used to send people to establish fairly low-tech colonies on distant planets. A survival class on a jungle Death World gets stranded for years and has to build a colony from scratch.
  • In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series novel Darkover Landfall, a starship is forced to land on a planet and the passengers start a colony which eventually becomes the planetary civilization of the other books. Problems include hallucinatory pollen.
  • The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes: Human colonists on the planet Avalon have problems building their colony. The freezing process they underwent during the trip has damaged their brains, and the planet has deadly predators with Super Speed.
  • The Coyote series by Allen Steele is about the colonization of a new planet using slower-than-light technologies, which makes communication with the home world very slow, and frequently surprising.
  • C. J. Cherryh's Forty Thousand in Gehenna, part of her Alliance/Union series, features the Union's attempt to secretly colonize a newly discovered world with 40,000 cloned workers (from a wide variety of genetic lines).
  • Nancy Kress's novel Crossfire is about humanity's colonization of the planet Greentree—and the unexpected things they find there.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga starts on the newly discovered world of Sergyar, and its colonization is part of the backstory of the rest of the series—especially after Miles' father is appointed governor of the new colony.
  • John Scalzi's The Last Colony, and its companion novel, Zoe's Tale, both part of his Old Man's War series, describe the attempt to start a secret colony in order to protect against the possibility that mankind will be wiped out forever by hostile aliens.
  • In the Uplift series, Galactic civilization grants temporary colonization rights to clans for terms of thousands or millions of years, but the planets must be abandoned and allowed lie fallow periodically as well, in order that new species with the potential for Uplift can arise. The only planets exempt from this system are species' homeworlds, which they retain until they eventually "fade away". The second trilogy has members of six species, including humans, illegally colonizing the fallow and criminally abused planet of Jijo, seeking redemption through devolution (it's complicated).
  • The Undersea Trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson was one of the first in-depth (if you'll pardon the pun) explorations of the notion of colonizing the bottom of the sea.
  • The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg tells the story of several Swedish villagers who claim new land in Minnesota and explore the new country during the mid-19th century.
  • The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold is set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world where farmers are trying to reclaim and settle new land, some of it deemed unsafe by the Lakewalkers who guards against the dangers.
  • The Secret River focuses on the conflicts between Australian settlers and the native Australians, as seen through the eyes of a transported colonist.
  • The Long Earth at some point follows a bunch of settlers emigrating onto one of the parallel Earths to start over in a world without industrialisation.
  • David Weber:
    • Honor Harrington: A major part of the backstory is the Diaspora of humanity made possible by Faster-Than-Light Travel. By the time this series takes place, most of the settling has already been done, and many of the colonies have launched their own colonies.
    • Stephanie Harrington (a spin-off of the previous) is a more direct example, which takes place during the early years of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Stephanie's family have settled on the wild and untamed world of Sphinx, offering professional skills desperately needed on Sphinx after most of the original settlers died due to a native disease that was very deadly to humans.
    • In Fury Born has Alicia De Vries' family use "Colonization Credits" to fund their purchase of land and equipment in a frontier world. The dangers of this kick off the primary plot the final novel of the series.
  • In The Red Vixen Adventures House Darktail's plan to escape Countess Highglider's petty revenge was to save up enough to buy a fleet of colony ships for themselves and their loyal sworn commoners, which was why they couldn't afford to pay Rolas' ransom in "Captive". But after the Red Vixen helps expose the Countess's crimes they get her lands and the plan is sidelined. Up until Salli claims the planet Bloody Margo was using as a secret base in the "Shadow" books and they start a colony there.
  • In Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy books, the early history of interstellar exploration involve hundreds of Sleeper Starships being sent through the newly-discovered hypersphere, hoping to find habitable worlds. A sizable percentage were either destroyed or found no habitable worlds in the star systems where they "surfaced" (with no ability to re-enter hypersphere again). Since the nature of hypersphere was unknown in those early years, no navigational devices existed that would function in the anomaly until the eventual development of mass-detectors. The rest ended up creating Lost Colonies, as reliable Hypersphere Frequency (HF) communication was not yet possible. Even the very first extrasolar colony ship, the Alpha (also the largest ship ever built by humans), ended up forming a Lost Colony. Its powerful fusion drives tore the fabric of space/time upon activation, pulling the ship into hypersphere (it was years before scientists figured out what happened and replicated the event to develop FTL Travel) and depositing it somewhere in the Orion Nebula.
    • In later novels, most of the "settling" is done by automated robotic complexes sent by Mega Corps in search of new resources, although people show up later, eventually transforming outposts into colonies.
    • One later novel has the Confederation of Suns government sending dead people who have undergone Brain Uploading prior to expiring to explore and settle far-off worlds using the "vertical" lines of hypersphere that lead to every star in the galaxy. Why? Because the government is afraid to "resurrect" people (i.e. download them back into cloned bodies) and become like the Harammin Immortal Quota. Thus, the condition to "resurrection" is that the "dead" agree to be "resurrected" somewhere far away from human space.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, humanity has settled thousands of worlds and explored hundreds of thousands in the 20,000 or so years since the discovery of interstellar travel (which happened in the mid-21st century). The titular character has been around for all this time (thanks to relativistic travel and the CR treatment) and has participated in a number of ventures related to humanity's expansion. In fact, his first "participation" was the test flight of a ship equipped with the Ramsden relativistic drive, during which he explores the Alpha Centauri system and names a habitable planet there Penelope, after his daughter. Instead of returning home, he continues to explore a number of other nearby stars, discovering several more habitable worlds. By the time he returns to Earth, over a century has passed, and humanity begins to build colonization ships to settle the newly-discovered planets. Much later, French helps a group of settlers from San Brendan to terraform Brunnershabn, whose former settlers have destroyed themselves in a nuclear war, into a once-again livable planet now-called Transformed.
  • Philip K. Dick used this trope constantly, particularly in his '50s and '60s work. Often, the dream of the frontier is juxtaposed with an authoritarian government that has taken over Earth, and his everyman protagonists must choose between an unbearable life under fascism or the hardscrabble freedom of the outer planets. His novels which focus primarily on settling the frontier itself are Martian Time-Slip, The Unteleported Mannote  and A Maze of Death.
  • In The Starchild Trilogy, the people fleeing the tyranny of the Plan of Man on Earth have formed settlements in the mysterious reefs of space, between the stars, where exotic fusion-based life forms have created great, hidden, habitable masses far from any star.
  • Jack Campbell's The Genesis Fleet series (prequel to The Lost Fleet series) is set during the age of humanity's expansion into the galaxy. The jump drive has been invented only a few decades ago, and it has already changed the galactic landscape. Old Earth and the old colonies are no longer relevant, as travel times have been drastically reduced from years to weeks. Earth's once-mighty fleet is being decommissioned, and the old colonies are no longer capable of enforcing law across the ever-expanding sphere of human space. Naturally, piracy is rampant on the fringes, and militant colonies are seeking to bully their neighbors into submission. One of the protagonists is Robert Geary (the ancestor to John Geary, the hero of the main series), a retired fleet officer, suddenly once again thrust into combat, as his new home, a recently-settled world named Glenlyon, is being threatened by a hostile world called Scatha. This is the time when colonies realize they can't rely on help from Earth or the old colonies anymore and must band together in order to survive (i.e. the will eventually form The Alliance). The series also mentioned a number of colony ships sent out by corporations, heading out into the unknown regions, seeking to establish corporate utopias (presumably, they eventually become the Syndicate Worlds). The novels also make mention of another group of colonies in the opposite direction from Earth, who have cut ties with the homeworld. Those play a small part in the first spin-off series.
  • In Aleksis Kivi's Seven Brothers, although the brothers' new Impivaara home is situated on Jukola property and not too far from civilization, they effectively live separated from others. Toward the end of the story, they turn vast areas of forest into farmland around the house.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Martian Way": The Colonized Solar System is in its infancy, and each colony represents a drain on Earth's resources because they're still growing. This is extremely common in frontier societies because the growing colonies are usually not immediately self-sufficient. The distance and hardships of colonizing also cause the culture of colonies to shift away from the parent society. Martian colonists have a number of traits that distinguish them from their "Grounder" counterparts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) shows the colonization of New Caprica (though later abandoned) and Earth.
  • Earth 2: a group of rebellious humans attempt to colonize an alien planet after their spaceship crashes due to government sabotage.
  • The backstory of Firefly as well... "Earth That Was got all used up, so we found a new solar system. Dozens of planets, hundreds of moons." There is also a fair amount of on-going colonization seen during the story.
  • Terra Nova features a time-traveling colony in the late Cretaceous era established by a dying 22nd-century Earth.
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • "This Side of Paradise" has the Enterprise on a rescue mission to a Federation colony, supposedly endangered by deadly radiation.
    • In "The Way to Eden", the crew of the Enterprise meet a group of space hippies who hope to create a new colony on a planet they call Eden.
  • Outcasts chronicles the story of refugees from wars on Earth who settle on a new world called Carpathia.
  • Deadwood depicts the gradual advancement of the eponymous and illegal gold rush town — illegal because the land had already been ceded to the Lakota by treaty — as it wrestles with the dilemma of incorporation into the United States, the influx of new settlers, internal power struggles and the dangers of Lakota raiding.

  • The first 3-D Ultra Pinball is based on building a deep space colony and launching a starship.

  • The Twilight Histories episode “Hannibal One” takes place in a world where Carthage won the Punic Wars and crushed Rome. 1000 years later, they’re establishing their first colony on Mars.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eclipse Phase: before the Fall almost every rocky planet and large moon in the solar system was colonized by the old earth nations and the hypercorps. After the Fall the Pandora gates were discovered, and the major factions controlling the solar system started using them to expand into other systems. The Gatecrashers module includes info for running campaigns where the players are exosolar colonists.
  • Puerto Rico is a Euro Game where you send colonists to Puerto Rico. They work your plantations.
  • San Juan is a Euro card game closely related to Puerto Rico, but you colonize a different island.
  • Age of Empires III (this game has nothing to do with the video game): Send your colonists to the new world. Defeat the natives. Get goods.
  • In the default campaign setting of Tomorrow's War the various nations and corporations of earth have colonized several planets. Most scenarios are colonial insurrections or wars between independent colonies.
  • In Traveller all the major races (those who have developed Jump drive, meaning Aslan, Droyne, K'kree, Hivers, Vargr, and three human races) rule interstellar empires of hundreds of colonies, and they're settling new ones all the time. The Aslan in particular have a thing for expansion due to the males' drive for land ownership. Aslan have a bad reputation for aggressiveness but they will just as often settle on empty or near-empty planets or trade mercenary service to the local government for land.
  • Rocket Age's Venus is becoming covered in settlements. These are a mixture of corporate and national, mostly being Earthling controlled, but the one exception is Tamatha, a Martian City-State made up of refugees from the Ebb Revolutions.
  • In Ironsworn, Ironlanders are humans who have fled The Old World and are now settling the edge of the world—the Ironlands—in hopes of making the peninsula their new home. As the rest of the setting suggests, this settling is perilous.

    Video Games 
  • Most 4X games involve creating new colonies of some sort, and often they have frontiers. A typical game starts with a land grab as all sides push onto a virgin world/galaxy/wolaxy. Frontiers move outward throughout the early game, stopping and being consolidated once they meet other sides'. Smaller colonization booms can start with advances like the compass, or Terraforming.
    • Master of Orion and its sequels all involve trying to colonize planets in nearby star systems. New colonies are fragile and have to be protected, but a race that doesn't create enough colonies will find itself helpless in the face of bigger, more powerful enemies.
    • The Civilization series features expansion of your Earthly empire through colonization or conquest.
    • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a spiritual successor to Civilization where you colonize a new planet in the Alpha Centauri system.
    • Civilization: Beyond Earth, the Spiritual Successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, is where you also colonize a new planet with the added bonus that you are the first faction to arrive on the planet and it's just you versus the environment for a while. Eventually, though, the other colony expeditions from Earth will land and it becomes more of a traditional Civ land grab fest. Additionally, it's heavily implied that expeditions are also sent to other habitable worlds. This is confirmed in Sid Meier's Starships (which is not an example of the trope, as the game doesn't involve settling anything), which states in the intro that multiple worlds had been settled by humans thousands of years ago.
    • Galactic Civilizations features alien races competing to colonize new worlds. The game's backstory even explains why all races start this at the same time. Until recently, aliens only used gates to travel between stars. Any other travel was by sublight and took millennia. Arceans planned to trick humans into building a gate with no "off" switch so that they could invade. However, humans had fusion technology and used it to miniaturize the gates into portable hyperdrives. Then some well-intentioned idiot sent the plans to all other races...
      • Occasionally when settling a new world, the player will find that it is inhabited by a (comparatively) primitive race. The player is then presented with an option to leave the natives in peace and settle where they aren't, move the natives together to free up more land for yourself, or just enslave them and take the whole planet.
    • Space Empires also uses colonization of new planets as a strategy to expand your empire.
    • Sword of the Stars allows you to explore and colonize planets as one of several different races. Bonus points for each race having different requirements for what they consider an "ideal" world. For example, a hellhole for a human may be perfect for a Hiver.
    • Ascendancy fits the typical pattern. The main difference is the utter absence of humans. All aliens are of the starfish kind, except for the Minions who are machines and Balifids who look like Intelligent Gerbils. Additionally, some worlds have no habitable "squares" at all, meaning that, while it's possible to land an initial colony hub there and, thus, call it a colony, it's impossible to develop it until terraforming is researched. The exceptions are the Orfa, who thrive in hostile environments.
    • Paradox Interactive games tend to feature this, most prominently in Europa Universalis and Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun, which take place from 1400-1920, when most of the world's colonial empires were formed in Real Life; Stellaris adds SPACE colonization.
  • Haegemonia: Legions of Iron: humans discover wormholes and start settling other systems. They don't stop even when hostile aliens show up.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire combines 4X style expansion with Real-Time Strategy, as three species race to colonize available planets.
  • Colonization, a Turn-Based Strategy game from Sid Meier, which involves colonizing the New World as one of four European nations.
  • In Outpost, you have a starship of limited that you must decide what items to bring before you shoot it out towards one of several possible planets. You then choose your landing site and start building up buildings and facilities like many a sim-game.
    • Outpost 2 is a more typical RTS game and while there is some building going on, ultimately everything you do will be destroyed by the apocalypse (possibly a reference to the first game's Unintentionally Unwinnable bugs). Though if you finish the campaign by outrunning the threat, the survivors steal a rocket ship and depart to somewhere more hospitable.
  • The Outer Worlds: Settling a new planet was the reason that the Unknown Variable signed on for. Unfortunately for them, a malfunction in the ship's FTL drive resulted in it taking decades longer to reach the Halcyon system than expected, and by the time they arrive it's already been settled and taken over by a conglomeration of mega corps.
  • The 1993 remake of The Seven Cities of Gold from Electronic Arts added the creation of colonies in the New World to the original's missions and forts, though the focus of the game remained on exploration and gathering gold from friendly or hostile natives.
  • Age of Empires III has the players who chose one of the European powers establishing settlements in the Americas or Asia (with some supplies from their home cities).
  • While this is not your goal in XCOM: Interceptor, as various corporations are the ones who set up mining bases in the Frontier, your task is protecting them from alien attacks.
  • In Alien Legacy, you are the captain of one of many colony ships sent from Earth about to be destroyed by a hostile alien race. Your goal is to settle the Beta Caeli system and discover what happened with another colony ship sent to the same system. You build colonies, explore planets, moons, and asteroids, research new technology, and search for traces of your sister ship and the colonies it created 20 years ago.
  • Space Colony involves you trying to create colonies on planets so you can exploit them for their minerals, or turning them into tourist destinations. This would be easier if it weren't for the fact that everyone you control is an idiot, insane, or both.
  • Star Control 3 tries to get the player to do this by allowing you to transport members of various allied races to habitable worlds in order to establish colonies that will then start to generate resources. One of the reasons why the fans of the second game hated this one.
  • An interesting case in Planetary Quarantine. All planets are settled by STL Sleeper Starships. A few days before waking up the crew and the passengers, a team of carefully-chosen and anonymous experts is woken up to go through the minds and belongings of everyone else for contraband. The idea is that the powers-that-be don't want any of Earth's "baggage" from ending up in its off-world colonies. This includes such ideas as religion, class differences, racism, etc. Any inappropriate property is incinerated, and any unwanted ideas (which somehow got through screening back on Earth) are "corrected" with appropriate tech. Communications with Earth are carefully screened in order to prevent the public back on Earth from knowing the truth. However, the point of the game is that, as you find out, it may be already too late, as contraband items and ideas have already made their way to the new worlds. It's up to you how you want to react to that.
  • The intro to Freelancer starts with five Sleeper Starships making a blockade run during the final battle of the 100-year war started in Starlancer and jumping into the unexplored Sirius sector. The game then picks up 800 years later, when the Sirius sector has been settled and split up between four Houses, the descendants of four of the colony ships (the fifth one suffered a breakdown and disappeared): Liberty, Bretonia, Rheinland, and Kusari. In between the region of space claimed by each House, there are unclaimed Border Worlds, where the feeble rule of law is barely kept in order by the Zoners, a 100% neutral faction that is the de-facto owner of these worlds and only cares about running strictly neutral anarcho-capitalist commerce hubs called Freeports; the rest of these worlds is variably split between House-run colonies and detachments, criminal bases and private corporate operations.
  • In Surviving Mars, the entire point of the game is to create colonies on Mars and try to make them self-sufficient as possible.
  • In WildStar the Dominion and the Exiles are both trying to colonize Nexus, the newly rediscovered Precursor homeworld. The Dominion because they see it and the artifacts that can be found there as their heritage, while the Exiles are Fighting for a Homeland.
  • This trope is the basis of the entire plot of Our Personal Space, taking place on a newly founded extraterrestrial colony.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: after Earth's destruction by a pair of warring alien fleets, one of the few surviving colony ships crash-lands on a new world they name "Mira", and the game is mostly about the colonists' attempts to establish a permanent colony there. Things get complicated when they learn that (some of) the aliens that destroyed Earth have also crash-landed on Mira.
  • This is a big part of Evolve's lore. The game takes place on a colony world, several of the hunters previously held jobs protecting colonists from deadly alien fauna on their new worlds, and the constant expansion caused the monster invasion by spreading the blight of Patterson tech.
  • This is part of the plot of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Besides exploring the Andromeda galaxy, you must carve out a home for yourself and the Milky Way colonists.
  • Two of the three default starting scenarios in Rimworld have this as their basic premise. "Crashlanded" follows three survivors smashing down on the planetary surface in escape pods and forced to survive in the wilderness by gradually building and protecting a settlement until they along with whoever else they may have recruited up to that point can jury-rig together a ship to leave. "The Rich Explorer" leaves you with an eccentric Richard Branson-esque millionaire adventurer who one way or another got fed up with the glitterworld life and set off into the unknown; though this one character is better equipped than the three crash survivors, he is still (at least initially) alone, so it is considered the much more challenging start.
  • Destiny invokes this with suggestions that the people of the Last City will one day spread out and retake the ruined remains of their homeworld, though it isn't followed up on because the entire system outside of the Last City is incredibly hostile to human life. In Destiny 2, after much of humanity was forced out of the City by the Red Legion invasion, the leaders of humanity have started pushing for more expansion, after both realizing that by concentrating in the City they were leaving humanity vulnerable to another attack, and because the Guardians have realized that just because ordinary humans don't have the Traveler's blessings, they can still fight and hold their own against the monsters beyond the walls.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: To the New California Republic, the Mojave is a frontier territory they plan to annex once the Second Battle of Hoover Dam is won, and Courier can meet sharecroppers sent settle the land. The local opinion of this varies.
    • The latter half of the mod Russell takes place in an NCR pioneer settlement called Silverwood, where The Courier and the titular bounty hunter arrive to find a wanted scalp hunter called Glanton. Silverwood is constantly getting harassed by a tribe called Sand Wolves and the town's sleazy mayor has hired Glanton to take care of the threat after the natives slaughter an entire family in the outskirts of the town. Courier has the choice to either help the town after it gets attacked by Caesar's Legion or help Glanton commit genocide. Either way, Glanton will wipe out the Sand Wolves, whose survivors swear vengeance on both him and Courier. If saved, Silverwood will eventually turn into a prosperous mining town and its future inhabitants will forget the horrors committed by Glanton.
  • In Planet Explorers's campaign, the player is one of a thousand colonists sent to settle on the Earth-like planet Maria. Things get a bit hectic when their starship crashes and the native wildlife start taking an interest.
  • In The Riftbreaker your main goal is to explore the alien world of Galatea 37, pacify the local wildlife and build up the necessary infrastructure so humanity can start colonizing the planet in earnest.

    Web Comics 
  • Freefall takes place on a newly colonized planet in the final stages of terraforming.

    Web Original 
  • Chakona Space: Chakats were designed for exploration and settlement of alien worlds. The more recent Stellar Foxtaurs come in seven breeds specialized for settling different environments with minimal technology.
  • There is no GATE; we did not fight there: Rhavenfell constantly calls for and attracts migrants to settle and reclaim more and more land after clearing away outside threats.

    Western Animation 
  • The Schoolhouse Rock! episode "Elbow Room" is about the expansion of the US from the original 13 states to its current size (not counting Alaska & Hawaii, the "freak states".) It also suggests that if we need to expand more we'll settle the moon.
  • Bravestarr: A Sci-Fi Western which focuses on the settlement of New Texas, a planet created to resemble the American Frontier.