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Shoulders of Doom

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Anyone between ten and two o'clock is in serious trouble.

"For the body, notice they don't have shoulder pads, which is something that everybody seem to love to put on soldiers in video games. I don't know why. I don't know if they think that soldiers will be tackling people."
Ted Backman, Half-Life 2: Raising The Bar

Also known as pauldrons. Be it pads, armor, or epaulets, the Big Bad and The Hero have the biggest shoulder-wear.

This is most common in fantasy or science fiction: fantasy armor can easily have huge pieces of armor on the shoulders, and science fiction can easily create a future costume (or armor) with huge shoulders. They may also come with a ridiculously high collar, Spikes of Villainy, or an All-Encompassing Mantle for the aspiring Evil Overlord.

On occasion, the shoulder pads can actually serve a purpose, by having a cape attached to them.

The corollary is that if somebody in the cast has enormous shoulder pads, they're probably evil. Other cast members can have shoulder pads, of course, they're just smaller. The exception, of course, is if they give everybody humongous shoulder guards.

There are both artistic and function-related reasons that this trope existes: Artistically, the inverted triangle (i.e. one point pointing down) generally conveys a more sinister form, and shoulder pads help the torso form a triangular image. From a distance, you may also be fooled into thinking you're fighting some undead headless monster. And, as the picture of the Space Marine shows... it looks quite intimidating. Also, large shoulder pads add additional mass to the upper torso and create a tapering body shape, which instinctively registers as a fit, muscular build. i.e. a do-not-mess-with-me-physique.

The functional reason is all about mobility. Because the human shoulder joint can pivot slightly over 180 degrees both horizontally and vertically, rigid shoulder armor cannot be fitted tightly to the shoulder. It must be either free-floating (fastened to the breast- and back-armor by straps or some other flexible material) or have enough room for the joint to pivot within it (a big, ball-like shape). They still don't need to be as big as most costume designers make them, however. Sometimes huge shoulders (especially on Powered Armor) are handwaved as actually being storage, as well - most often for ammo.

In video games, it's often used because the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder was very difficult to incorporate into a player model without causing clipping and an action-figure look. Modern games designers use the look because it is still very difficult to properly animate the shoulder joint- it involves four bones, several unusual muscle groups and an irritating degree of twistability. It can also be a pain to generate a texture to cover this smoothly - a shoulder pad allows artists to make one texture for the torso and a separate one for the arm without really caring how they join.

The overall psychology behind this is Truth in Television. Broad shoulders suggest greater muscular strength in the arms and upper body, making a character look both sturdy and intimidating. Characters who are thicker around the middle may be just as strong or good at fighting, but they will more often play the Boisterous Bruiser because they lack the intimidating emotional effect on the audience.

If they are round enough, they overlap with Giant Poofy Sleeves. See Shoulder Cannon for when a Cool Gun is mounted on them (for some literal "Doom"). If they're not so much shoulderpads as a pair of shoulder-mounted towers, then they're Vertical Mecha Fins.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The armor of Don Krieg from One Piece has Shoulders of Doom, which conceal some of his huge assortment of built-in guns, and also are removed and used as components for the Mighty Battle Spear.
    • Post-time-skip Franky has ginormus robotic shoulders (and rectangular forearms).
    • Many high ranking marines also wear coats with rather broad shoulders as capes.
    • Taken to ridiculous levels with Pica, whose actual shoulders are in the shape of huge, spiked shoulder armor. Word of God is that his shoulders grew in to that shape due to wearing armored shoulder guards since puberty, similar to growing square watermelons.
  • Slayers:
    • The humanoid villains have huge shoulder pads. Also spoofed with Lina's rival, Naga:
      Lina: Don't tell me that you just pricked your cheeks with the spikes on your own shoulder pads.
    • To be fair, Lina's own shoulder pads aren't exactly tiny. They're also boobytrapped, as Martina discovers when she tries to swipe one of the jewels. Gourry the other PC is another example.
  • Il Palazzo from Excel♡Saga has absolutely huge shoulder pads, as a parody of an evil overlord.
  • Vegeta and the other Saiyans (and everyone else in Frieza's army) in Dragon Ball too, so much so that when Vegeta starts on the path towards his Heel–Face Turn, he gets a new outfit with no shoulder pads!
    • Piccolo's cape includes outrageous shoulder pads. This seems like a subversion until you remember Piccolo was originally a demon king. The shoulder pads are also weighted. Still, they seem rather superfluous after a certain point.
    • Notably, Gohan and Krillin once used sets of these armor, and Gohan noted that the shoulders don't get in the way because the material is flexible enough. Later on, Gohan get another set of these, alongside a Badass Cape, when he request a set of clothes designed just like Piccolo's.
    • Dragon Ball Z Abridged lampshaded this when Piccolo makes Gohan his new clothes, telling him he'll have trouble with crowds and doors might be a problem, and he recommends approaching them at a forty-five degree angle.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, the main villain Dietlinde Eckhart gets these when she turns into her One-Winged Angel form at the end of the movie. The shoulder pads are big enough to register as weapons of mass destruction.
  • At least two villains in Trigun. Legato adds mass to his shoulder with a human skull. Brilliant Dynamites Neon's shoulderpads are both nearly the size of his torso, and they glow.
    • In the manga and anime, BDN's shoulderpads contain large-bore machine guns for a suprise edge in fights.
  • Naraku in Inuyasha. After re-forming into a bigger Big Bad, he gets what could be called big Spikes of Villainy holders on shoulders.
  • Saint Seiya: When Shun is possessed by Hades, part of his black robes included gold shoulders of doom.
  • Gundam: Played every-which-way in almost every Alternate-Universe Gundam series. Almost every mobile suit with the name "Gundam" has large shoulder pads, but it is not exclusive.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Dynames, Virtue, Cherudim and Arios feature this with their own unique twists to it. The Dynames has the full shields on the shoulder which allows it to walk around and absorb gunfire like it's his birthday. The Virtue has the two pairs of GN cannons on its shoulder to unleash the beam spam with vents on it so that it can generate a GN field. The Cherudim has the shoulders as the docking points for his set of shield bits. Finally the Arios' shoulders are entirely built to hold both halves of the claw while it is not in MA form. The 00 Gundam from the second season has its powerful twin drive system on swivel mounts on its shoulders. The fact that the drives are conical only adds to the effect. The mobility issue is excused with the drives being on pivots and able to move around, for example pointing backwards for high-speed boosting.
    • The Neue Ziel. Who needs legs when you've got these babies?! (The thinking behind this being that, as long as it's a mobile armor anyway - that is, it doesn't have limbs to change its orientation in space through conservation of momentum - they might as well load it down with extra thrusters. What's strange is that the Neue Ziel has arms at all, really.)
    • The Graze Ein, being the largest Graze variant, naturally has the biggest shoulders of all the Grazes. The "doom" part is also literal, they're as big as they are so they can store a pair of gun-wielding sub-arms.
    • Other contenders for this trope include the Byarlant, the Byarlant Custom, the Qubeley, the Quin Mantha, the Gogg and the Hygogg. These are often referred to as 'Shoulder Binders', and contain maneuvering (or in some cases main) thrusters in space-use Mobile suits; surface-use Mobile Suits tend to include them more for streamlining purposes, and the surface/sub-surface Hygogg makes good use of them in this regard.
  • Tekkaman Blade
    • Tekkaman Blade carries Wave Motion Guns in his.
    • Balzac Asimov later gains 360-degree Fermion Cannons in the shoulders of his Soltekkaman Mk.I Powered Armor. They resemble nothing so much as upside-down laser sprinklers.
    • And in the OVA sequel, Tekkaman Sommer also has shoulder-pad-mounted Voltekkas. All of them avert the "evil" part (Balzac was an Anti-Hero at one point, but well before he got the Voltekka sprinklers).
  • Patlabor: The police-modified AV-98 Ingram Labors driven by the Tokyo Police Dept. Special Vehicles Units have giant shoulders, but no one's doom is involved — turns out that the shoulders on a Humongous Mecha make a great mounting point for a pair of emergency lights.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth - Zagato, the Big Bad of the first season has both these and Spikes of Villainy.
  • In Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix Future, the villain Rock usually wears a very business-like outfit consisting of black dresspants, a necktie and a white collared shirt... with apparently superfluous pointy shoulderpads which are nothing more than a vain attempt to look futuristic. Worse yet he actually complains about people who don't dress in ludicrously Zeerust-y clothes because he sees it as a sign that people have given up hope for humanity's future & have retreated into nostalgia. Note that this may actually be a subversion, as Rock & the society he represents are portrayed as being quite unbalanced.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann they're found on mech's used by both the good guys and the bad guys, though that's to be expected when most of the mech used by humans were stolen from Beastmen. Especially notable it the Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann which has two bigass drills for shoulders that actually come off and stack together to form one oddly-shaped drill. Of course the drill is still very effective at... drilling.
  • Full Metal Panic!: Let's just say that both the Arbalest and the Codarl has well-pronounced shoulders. May not count, but M9Es has two vertical armor plates mounted onto the upper arms.
  • In Violinist of Hameln several villains wear fairly massive shoulderpads or shoulder armor pieces, including Chestra and Hell King Bass. The first prize, though, goes to Sizer. Her example also confirms that evil gets bigger shoulderpads - her normal shoulder armor pieces are already humongous, but get even bigger when she is turned/turns into her "Dark" form.
  • Subverted in Record of Lodoss War, as Deedlit is the one with arguably the biggest shoulder-wear. (Of course, everyone in Lodoss has huge shoulder guards.)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba has these weird pointed-shoulder things for his cape. Here, take a look.
  • While Neon Genesis Evangelion was the trope namer for Vertical Mecha Fins, the original version of Zeruel does fits this trope.
  • Worn in Yaiba by almost every villain.
  • A given in Eyeshield 21, since all the major characters are football players. If anything, many of the antagonists appear to have smaller shoulder pads, because their bigger builds make the shoulder pads stand out less. As the extras best put it, "Shoulder pads make even our scrawny hero look like a man!"
  • Several Knightmare Frames in Code Geass have impressive shoulder plates, particularly the Lancelot or the Mordred.
    • The Gawain has large nacelles on its shoulders which house its Hadron Cannons.
  • Most, if not all, of the Zoalords in Guyver have these as part of their formal robes (with one notable costume having shoulders almost as wide as its wearer was tall). Many Zoanoids (and the Gigantic) have weapons or other functions built into large shoulder-pods.
  • Rave Master's Gale Glory wears a large set of decorated epaulets on his shoulders when he first appears. He discards them when Disc-One Final Boss King clips the right-hand epaulet with an ultimate attack that destroys matter in its entirety. Seeing a big chunk not just cracked or burned by the hit, but outright gone clearly indicates his armor is useless against his enemy.
  • At the end of the Trinity Blood anime, when Cain is rampaging through Londinium, his costume features some impressively spiky shoulder... thingies. And at the very end of the last episode, Abel apparently decides that the only way to properly combat his Evil Twin is by acquiring some Shoulders of Doom of his own.
  • In the manga Japan by Kentaro Miura, the main character (a gigantic Yakuza boss) is transported to a Scavenger World, and ends up wearing a tire as a shoulder pad. Does it make him look less badass? Nope.
  • Somewhere between this, Giant Poofy Sleeves, and Vertical Mecha Fins is Blade of the Immortal's Kuro Sabato, who has two giant humps on his shoulders as large as his head given they're the taxidermist heads of his wife and Rin's mother grafted onto his shoulders...
  • Many, many, many people in Fist of the North Star sport shoulder pads, most commonly in pairs but sometimes singly for Fashionable Asymmetry. Some are relatively modest: for instance, Shu's are very neutral and plain, and appear to be simply for protection. However, it dips into the ludicrous and Obviously Evil with people like Souther. The numerous thugs and brutes also wear shoulder pads, especially the tattooed biker gangs commonly seen in the early portion of the series.
  • Parodied in Gintama where one of Gintoki's ideas for improving a draft of a manga he's writing is to give every single character massive shoulder pads that are almost as long as they are tall, and he puts more effort into designing said shoulder pads then anything else in the manga. The draft after that makes them even huger and places still more emphasis on them, trying to have them depicted in their entirety as much as possible, even if it means having them stretch into adjacent panels or forcing the faces of the characters to be obscured.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 
  • In Judge Dredd, the titular character, being a fascist future lawman, sports bulky fetishistic shoulderpads that can go into massive sizes in certain artistic depictions.
  • Completely ignored in ElfQuest where pointy shoulders are just another fashion accessory.
  • Lampshaded in one issue of X-Force, when Warpath gets a post-Liefeld costume make over, he remarks "Hey, now I can turn my head without smacking into my shoulder pads!"
  • Batman - Batman had pretty epic shoulder pads in the nineties. They were spiky as all get out, presumably to make him look like a bit more of a badass. What they accomplished was making him look like he was shrugging all the time. Apparently they were indented to simulate the "thumb" on batwings. In a straight villain example, Jason Todd had the same thing on his "Batman" costume during "Battle for the Cowl".
  • Every male character drawn by Rob Liefeld ends up with huge shoulder pads at one time or another.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - The Shredder in all continuities, along with Spikes of Villainy.
    Michelangelo: Maybe all that hardware is for making coleslaw.
  • The Boys - The Homelander has a Judge Dredd-esque eagle-shaped pauldron.
  • Iron Man - When Iron Man first got his iconic red-and-gold armor, he only had rings around where the sleeves connect to the chestpiece. With the introduction of the Silver Centurion armor in 1985, though, he got big triangular Shoulders of Doom... which he even once used against a building (to provide a distraction for Ant Man to hack into the building's computers at Tony's behest). Shoulder armor has been incorporated into many subsequent designs, including War Machine.
    • Iron Monger had massive Shoulders of Doom. The '80s version of Crimson Dynamo and the Gremlin version of Titanium Man also had pretty doomy shoulder armor. Iron Man 2020 features a spiked version of the original red-and-gold's shoulder rings.
    • Actually, while the Silver Centurion armor is the most well-known version of Iron Man's Shoulders of Doom, it was back during the Secret Wars (1984) (when Jim Rhodes was subbing for Tony Stark) that first gave him his shoulder pads. His armor was damaged in a fight against the villains and Reed Richards had to rebuild it for him with the technology from their base. Richards decided that as long as he was fixing up the armor, why not give it moar powah?
  • Inversely and paradoxically, famous armored supervillain Doctor Doom does not actually have Shoulders of Doom (opting, instead, for the Badass Cape).
  • Superman's nemesis Doomsday, however, has possibly the most impressive Shoulders of Doom anywhere in comicdom, despite the fact he doesn't even wear armor - the ginormous, razorsharp crystalline spikes that sprout from his shoulders are part of his skeleton.
  • The minor Wolverine villain called Genesis was actually known in fan forums as "Shoulderpad Guy".
  • Wonder Woman vol 1 villain Queen Atomia has always worn curved decorative green shoulder pads over her dress, giving her incredibly tall pointed shoulders in silhouette.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 102 Dalmatians, Cruella de Ville turned evil... and in the same moment her costume sprang with shoulder pads.
  • Simon Phoenix wears these in Demolition Man.
  • Godzilla
  • The Heathers (and Veronica) in Heathers, as the most popular and ruthlessly powerful clique in an 80s high school, wear color-coded 80s power suits, complete with the shoulder pads.
  • Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Not only her, but almost every bad guy in this movie. George Miller loves this trope.
  • Worn by the hero in The Return of Captain Invincible, although he has previously been prosecuted for his dress sense.
  • Even Star Wars isn't left out of this. While the various armors are not overdone, all the Star Destroyers feature two huge spheres on the bridges, serving this purpose (though in-universe, they're shield generators that protect the bridge). The most notable character in the movies to wear them is Darth Vader, of course. The purpose was likely a mix of intimidation factor and protection of the little organic flesh he still had.

  • Subverted in A Brother's Price: Shoulder pads are the court fashion for men, because it makes them look more manly, and thus, more sensual and erotic. Doom doesn't factor into it at all.
  • Played for laughs in The Dresden Files novel Changes, when the Leanansidhe is experimenting with costumes to strike fear into the hearts of Harry's enemies:
    Harry: This is ridiculous. I look like the Games Workshop version of a Jedi Knight.
  • Gruesomely evoked in Jeff Long's The Descent, when a group of soldiers is spotted with very wide, jutting shoulders and chests. Subverted when the witnesses get closer, and discover that their shoulders only look wide because hadals have extracted all their viscera, leaving these propped-up corpses' emptied abdomens so narrow that their upper torsos look massive by comparison.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Romulans from Star Trek: The Next Generation wore truly fugly military tunics with massive shoulder padding, resembling a cross between a 1980's women's business suit and a quilted bedspread. Mercifully toned down on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and in Star Trek: Nemesis (although Jonathan Frakes would describe Shinzon's outfit as "a reject from Rollerball.")
  • The Tavleks from Farscape sport particularly outstanding examples of the trope.
  • Kamen Rider only started using these in the 80s with Black. Now they're part of the uniform.
    • Kamen Rider Den-O in his Gun Form has particularally large ones. However, they're fully functional in that they feed energy into his gun for his Finishing Move. Climax Form has theme as well, made up of the masks of Ax and Rod Forms, but likewise, they're functional for moving down the tracks to ether the arm or the leg for a finishing move.
  • Miss French from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Teacher's Pet":
    Buffy: Factoid 3: her fashion sense screams predator.
    Willow: It’s the shoulder pads.
  • Power Rangers
  • Lots of them in the original 1980s version of Dynasty.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Cersei wears a dress for her coronation that sports a set of armoured shoulders embossed with the Lion of her family sigil in the season six finale.
    • Gregor wears a pair of awesome pauldrons. Though he doesn't wear them in the second season, he puts them on again when he appears in the fourth.
  • Blake's 7. In "Death-Watch", the What The Hell, Costuming Department? has put huge shoulder pads on Avon's leather jacket. Fans named the look 'Tugboat Avon'.
  • In Babylon 5, the military factions of the Minbari and Drazi races both sport pauldrons.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal, a legendary tag team from AWA and NWA that split off from the Legion Of Doom, popularized large spiky shoulder entrance gear in pro wrestling, though their case was more the spikes being large than the pads themselves. Kensuke Sasaki joined them in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. And if you're into WWF/E pissing on badass history, you can't forget Droz or Heidenreich.
  • Místico had large shoulders has part of his entrance gear, each curving into a single point, making them look sort of like horns.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Much like in video games from the early 2000's onward, Pauldrons and other shoulder armor is used in many tabletop games as an easy-to-use cover for where the body and the arm on a model meet, not just to conceal a sometimes not so great gluing job, but also as a cover for a modeler who happens to be cutting up or adding epoxy resin to the arm to better strike the pose they're looking for, which only the very best of mini-painters could hope to cover otherwise without making it look weird.
  • Space 1889 In 1889 many dress or parade uniforms from the Victorian era has epaulettes. For women the gigot sleeve or leg-of-mutton-sleeve was fashionable. The illustrations in the game reflect this.
  • Warhammer 40,000 likes this trope, to the point that it's joked that you can measure a model's importance either by the quality of his hat or the size of his pauldrons. For example...
    • Space Marine Power Armor is famous for its enormous pauldrons which cover a Marine's arm from shoulder almost to elbow (the page pic is an extreme exaggeration). This is justified in the background, as their armor was originally designed for close-quarters combat (their precursors, the Thunder Warriors, actually used tackling moves in melee combat, and in some descriptions Assault Marines still do this). The pauldrons are auto-responsive and shift when the wearer wants to look past them, although in most modern depictions looking over them isn't an issue for a Marine. Their most obvious use is to display the Marine's chapter badge (on the left pauldron) and, in many cases, his squad type and number (on the right), although they also protect the actuators that give a Power Armour-clad Marine his incredible upper body strength.
      • The design of the pauldrons in Space Marine power armor is actually much more practical than it looks at first glance. The pauldrons will shift when the marine tries to look over them so they don't actually block his vision but otherwise, between the pauldrons on the sides and the large reactor at the back, the only way to get a clear shot at a marine's comparatively vulnerable helmet is to stand directly in front of him, which is the worst possible place to be for someone tackling a space marine.
    • Chaos Space Marines have the same large pauldrons as their loyalist counterparts but add Horns and Spikes of Villainy to theirs.
    • Tau combat armor sports one over-sized sode-style shoulder pad, the strategic positioning of which is part of their firing stance. Their commanders also typically sport massive shoulder pads that rival even Space Marines, in addition to huge guns bolted to their arms
    • Inquisitors' power armor usually has more subdued, but very intricate shoulder pieces clearly inspired by Roman lorica segmentata.
    • In their most recent codex, the basic Necron Warrior had its armor value reduced, because those tiny scapula-shaped shoulderblades just wouldn't offer the same protection as Space Marines. The much more impressive Necron Immortals retain their high armor value, as do their Lords.
    • Space marines also have another, heavier infantry suit, known as tactical dreadnought, or, more commonly, Terminiator, armour. This is also echoed in the ranks of the Chaos marines and, being heavier, has much larger pauldrons.
  • The Space Marine-inspired Stormcast Eternals of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, naturally, inherit something akin to the pauldrons. This becomes fairly silly in the case of the Judicators, one of whom cannot actually see where he is aiming because his enormous shoulder pad is in the way.
    • Warriors of Khorne often have such pads, characters such as the Slaughterpreist may actually have them stuck to the shoulder. As in, strapped on, and the buckles for the straps have been surgically implanted into the skin in the manner of body modification jewellery.
  • Prince Vladimir Tzepesci of the Iron Kingdoms, a Khadoran warcaster based on Vlad Tepes, has very large shoulder pads on his armor; his more experienced Epic version takes this to ridiculous extremes.
    • In the Retribution of Scryah, the Sentinels, Destors and Scyir of the Dawnguard sports some epic ones. Example
      • Come to think about it, a great chunk of the Retribution wears them. Vyros (justified as he's the leader of the Dawnguard), all their Warjacks, but is more noticeably in the heavy ones. The Artificer could have them, but it's more like an upper body's armor of doom. The biggest ones (in proportion, but in size also counts) are worn by their colossals, the Hyperion and Helios. Just look at them.
    • Cryx troops often have them, such as the Bane Knights and Thralls, and certain of the casters.
  • Every single infantry trooper from Mutant Chronicles is guilty. One of the hero units, Big Bob Watts even has a pair of BFGs strapped to his. Dark Legion commanders also have Shoulders of Doom, adorned with Spikes of Villainy for the quintessential Evil Look. Some models even have shoulder pads the size of European cars and no other armor to attach them to.
  • Major Q9 in Hero Scape is a soulborg with pauldrons that are the size of his freaking body and tower over his head, almost like the forbidden love child between Shoulders of Doom and Vertical Mecha Fins. Deathwalker 9000 has some pretty wicked shoulders going on, too.
    • Major Q9's shoulders actually restrict his vision in-game.
  • Homebrewed especially for this trope in 3.X D&D we have the Pauldron Master.
  • A fair few BattleTech 'Mechs feature outsized shoulders, with designs such as the Atlas featuring some of the traditionally largest shoulders thanks to the machine's 100-ton weight, while others, such as the Archer, are some of the doomiest due to the pair of enormous long-range missile launchers that make up its shoulders. Justified, in the Atlas' case, because it was deliberately designed to look as intimidating as possible. Some BattleArmor likewise features shoulders of doom, such as the prototype Elemental suit. Some suits (such as the standard Elemental, or the Longinus) get a similar inverted-triangle silhouette courtesy of a pair of shoulder-mounted missile launchers.

  • LEGO:
    • Some of the aliens from LEGO Space's UFO and Insectoid lines wore giant shoulder pads.
    • Millennia from Slizer in his "rider" form.
    • Many characters in BIONICLE, such as the Toa Nuva in their base-forms, Takanuva and the Toa Metru (at times exaggerated in the comics), Mantax (post-mutation), Karzahni (both pre- and post-mutation), the Maxilos robots, Malum, Strakk, all classes of Skrall, Mata Nui in his Glatorian body has crescent-like Vertical Mecha Fins, and Vastus wears snake-figurines on his shoulders. Keetongu has these in the movie, but not on his toy.
      • In the Reboot, Gali, Onua, Kopaka, and Tahu all have them.
    • Some Hero Factory designs have these, but the Hero Minifigures from the Invasion from Below line made it a uniform feature.

    Video Games 
  • The various armors worn by the protagonists and antagonists of Darksiders and Darksiders II
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy IV - Golbez has the biggest, pointiest shoulder armour in the series, hands down. Although Exdeath of Final Fantasy V comes a close second.
    • Final Fantasy VI: Two of the heroines, Terra and Celes, possess shoulder pads of admirable size. So does the knight Cyan, but shoulder pads are standard for his knight armor. As does Edgar, but he is a king and wears a cape as well.
    • Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. A notable mention goes to Cloud, who only has a (rather big) shoulder pad on his left shoulder. Crisis Core seems to show that shoulder pads are the only constant in the uniforms of 1st Class SOLDIERs. Sephiroth and Genesis both seem to have kept the pants underneath their Badass Longcoats.
    • Final Fantasy X-2: The Alchemist Job class has shoulderpads very reminiscent of the ones Samus has in her suit—Rikku especially looks like she's wearing the Varia suit, but with Too Many Belts on top of that.
  • Halo:
    • Halo: Reach: Some of the Spartans in Noble Team have some rather prominent shoulder pads.
    • Some Forerunners had floating shoulder armor. There's subtle hints that such seemingly-pointless additions are signs of age or growing influence/rank; the Didact lacks them in his younger years before the Human-Forerunner war, and gains two later on in the war. In Halo 4 he sports a floating collar/shoulder-pad combo that is perhaps the most prominent piece of his Combat Skin.
  • M. Bison/Vega/"Dictator" from Street Fighter has massive shoulder pads. They hold a cape, which is apparently tear-away.
  • Zio from Phantasy Star IV, whose pads could each double as a chest plate. Shoulders are really important: lots of enemies have huge shoulder armor (or just shoulders), as do some of the PCs. The trope is played straight, though: the more evil someone is, the bigger their shoulders. The final form of the final boss? Two-thirds of its mass is stuff on its shoulders.
  • This even applied to a limited extent in the Rockstar Games release Bully, although in this case it's American football pads worn by one of the cliques.
  • Fallout, with Power Armor - and Advanced Power Armor, which actually has a smaller helmet and bigger shoulders. Not to mention most of the other armor's shoulder spikes (metal, tesla). And Frank Horrigan.
    • Fallout 3 has this most prominently with the Enclave Tesla and Hellfire armors.
    • Interestingly, in Fallout: New Vegas, the strength of a power armor is apparently inversely proportional to the doominess of its Shoulders of Doom — the T-45d, with its ridiculous duck fin shoulderpads, is the weakest; the T-51b Power armor is the middle of the road, with oversized Knight Armor shoulderpads; the Enclave Remnants (Advanced) Power Armor and Gannon Family Tesla Armor are the strongest, and the shoulders themselves are fairly small. Though in the case of the Advanced and Tesla armors, it has traded the Shoulders of Doom for a massive hunchback.
      • The non-powered combat armors also have rather bulky shoulders, with the Reinforced Mark II, NCR Ranger, and Riot Gear armors making both genders look like linebackers. Ditto the Reinforced Leather Armor.
      • Some folks, dissatisfied with Obsidian's "skinny tin can" rendering of the Remnants Power armornote , have made a few mods that give it back the bulk, and put the doomy size back in the shoulders. Bethesda themselves brought back the doominess with Fallout 4's equivalent, the X-01.
    • Heck, the primary purpose of most power armor seems to be giant shoulders.
    • Caesar's Legion also have giant shoulder pauldrons, as their armor is made from football pads. The result, however, is more Narm than intimidating.
    • After power armor got an overhaul in Fallout 4, the shoulders are now bulkier than ever. Especially the T-60c.
  • StarCraft:
    • StarCraft, and its many flavors of CMC armor. The armor's strength and shoulder size are positively correlated.
    • In the sequel, contrary to the page quote, Tychus does actually make two attempts at tackling people. One successful, one not as much.
  • The more recent Command & Conquer games seem to be using this trope, too, much to the chagrin of old-time fans.
    • The most obvious ones are the Zone Troopers in Tiberium Wars which ARE very kickass units and the Tesla Trooper in Red Alert 3 which are not so much. (Both have roughly analogous stats, but the Zone Trooper moves faster than regular troops and has a Jetpack. The Tesla Trooper.....doesn't).
  • Just about every Juggernaut in Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 sports these.
  • The Alt Eisen from Super Robot Wars Compact 2 brings new meaning to the "Doom" part, as they're actually Humongous Mecha-sized titanium ball bearing launchers, the same kind of ball bearings used in Claymore mines. Still, it averts the "evil" part, as it's the male protagonist's mecha.
  • The costume editor in the MMORPG City of Villains has all the big shoulderpads you would ever want, many complete with Spikes of Villainy.
  • The gods of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters all have highly ornamental shoulder pads that hover above their true shoulders. Out of the ones you meet, the only one who isn't directly evil is the one who's taken human form and therefore doesn't show them.
  • The Fire Emblem series. Not villains per se, but the General class has shoulder armor larger than the helmet. Several baddies are Generals, since it's the most physically durable class and the lack of mobility doesn't matter when the enemy has to come to you.
  • In World of Warcraft, epaulets appropriate to a character's level get progressively bigger. Presumably, this is supposed to make more experienced characters look intimidating. However, the usual result is slim characters who look off-balance and bulkier characters who just look excessive.
    • When a bug was introduced that reduced the size of the epaulets on the ( otherwise excessive ) Male Orc model to something more benign, there was a gigantic uproar of displeasure. When the bug was fixed, it was fixed to make them larger than the pre-bug state. The addition of more Spikes of Villainy and bigger shoulder pads is on the way to becoming an Enforced Trope in World Of Warcraft development. As seen from the picture, a number of people requested the option to hide the shoulderpads as they can their cloaks and helmets.
    • As of the new Transmogrification system introduced in Legion, shoulder armor can now be hidden.
    • Shaman class cosmetic gear beats them all in the shoulder department.
    • There's also this.
  • Lord Nasher in Neverwinter Nights 2 has disproportionately big shoulderpads as part of his armor, which he wears throughout the entire game, even when sitting on his throne.
    • Then again, considering how much crap Neverwinter is generally involved in: If you were the ruler of that city, would you leave your bedroom without your pauldrons? He was attacked in his own throne room last game. Now he's just Crazy-Prepared. And it comes in handy when he is again attacked in his own throne room.
  • The fully armored X in Mega Man X.
  • FlashMan.EXE from Mega Man Battle Network 3. He had an attack that was removing the orbs on his shoulders, raising them up, and releasing a blinding, paralyzing light from it. Metal Man from the same also stored his giant Metal Wheel Boomerangs on his (already huge) shoulders.
    • Special mention goes to Punk. In both his Battle Network appearances and his place in the older Mega Man (Classic) games his shoulder pads were shells that could enclose his entire body. A similar design is used by Shield Sheldon from Mega Man X6. In both cases the shoulders are used for protection and performing special attacks so they're not exactly superfluous.
  • Mega Man Geo-Omega from Mega Man Star Force.
    • In Mega Man 6 Rush can turn into a huge pair of shoulder pads that turn Mega Man into Power Mega Man.
  • Some mid-game enemy Elite Mooks in Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain had truly epicly sized shoulderpads. Those actually served a purpose, making the wearers immune to instakill decapitation attacks. Incidentally, they were the only enemies to carry weapons capable of decapitation...
  • Some of the armor sets in Fable fit the trope. Especially if the player character is evil.
  • Luca Blight from Suikoden II has these.
  • Soulcalibur's Nightmare has a mutated arm with bio-spikes, and sometimes even a mouth with big nasty teeth. It gets better: in Soul Calibur 4, Zasalamel's 2nd costume's shoulders aren't as big as Nightmare's, but they are freaking skulls. And then there's Siegfried, who has giant spikes made of ice, and even then, there's a character creator with several styles of giant shoulders.
  • Dark Demon from Dynamite Headdy has what appear to be green statues sprouting from the shoulders of his costume.
  • Most of the non-grunt enemy soldiers, as well as the player character, in the Crusader games have shoulder pads.
  • Mortal Kombat villains Shao Kahn and Quan Chi have major Spikes of Villainy on their Shoulders of Doom.
  • Completely averted in Half-Life 2. The Combine Overwatch's transhuman soldiers wear very realistic body armor with protective inserts, along with somewhat more-advanced gasmask-helmets. They have no frills or un-necessary parts to their combat armor aside from armbands denoting their rank- after all, if the Overwatch are attacking something, they don't 'need' to intimidate it. It'll just be 'dead'. This is also carried by the sociopathic Metrocops; though in their case, their thuggish brutality, black uniforms, and State Sec-esque look is more than intimidating.
  • Metroid
    • Samus Aran's Power Suit. The giant shoulders appear starting with the Varia Suit in Super Metroid, which has increased shielding as well as the ability to function perfectly in more extreme temperatures, causing many players to suggest that some of the components for these features are housed in the shoulders. The giant shoulders came to be because in Metroid II: Return of Samus, the Game Boy didn't have color, so the developers drew the Varia Suit with big shoulder pads to show the player that they got a new suit.
    • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the shoulders are the housing for the Hazard Shield upgrade, visibly changing after that upgrade is acquired. They make her PED Suit's shoulders have a larger profile.
    • Metroid Dread plays with the trope, at least for the Dread Suit variations of this game's Power, Varia, and Gravity suits. Though the shoulders are somewhat large, they're not obtrusively so, letting Samus still have enough space to view whatever's on either side of her. It's most apparent with the Power Suit. The Gravity Suit's shoulders are noticeably larger, playing the trope straighter.
  • Daos, of the Lufia games. The other male Sinistrals too, but Daos especially.
  • Jak 3: Wastelander - The Wastelanders' shoulder pads: so big they probably need Super Strength just to wear them. Several come with Spikes of Doom.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • F-Zero - Deathborn posesses a large pair of pauldrons, to fit the Omnicidal Maniac title.
  • BlazBlue - This is basically all that Mu-12 is wearing in battle...
    • Susanoo in Central Fiction has huge fanged mouths for shoulders.
  • Guilty Gear - Justice has them. They transform into laser cannons during her Gamma Ray super.
  • Subverted with Darkrai from Pokémon, who appears to be sinister-looking but only does its job if it is threatened. Played straight in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series games, however.
  • The Arishok in Dragon Age II.
    • And in Dragon Age: Origins, just about anyone wearing massive armor. One shoulder tends to be bigger than the other, but either way, those are some seriously massive shoulders.
  • Heavy armor in Tribes: Ascend. Previous games had this to a lesser degree, but Ascend takes it to a whole new level. The shoulders are even bigger in-game.
  • Gears of War
    • COG armor has prominent shoulder pads, the biggest example being Tai Kaliso's armor in Gears 2, which has an inexplicably huge shoulder guard on the right side. Largely averted in Gears 3 because very few characters have any armor on their arms at all.
    • Notably averted with Cole, who is actually the only character that would have serious tackling skills, being a former thrashball player. His arms are so beefy that apparently they don't need any armor.
    • Many Locust soldiers, particularly the Theron/Palace Guards, feature some very large shoulder armor.
  • Several champions in League of Legends have quite epic pauldrons, most notably Garen, Darius, Riven, Sion, Mordekaiser, Kayle, Xin Zhao, Jarvan IV and (rather oddly) Swain, who unlike the other listed champions is a mage rather than a fighter (although not a Squishy Wizard).
  • Diablo
    • The necromancer from Diablo II has a rather iconic pauldron in the shape of a horned demon skull on one shoulder. In D3 there are three necromancers who wear an updated version of the same costume, including the pauldron.
    • The archangels Imperius and Tyrael both have this. Tyrael loses one when he becomes mortal. When he reforms the Horadrim, they all have a single, large shoulder pad each, most likely out of respect for Tyrael.
  • Batman from the Batman: Arkham Asylum series has shoulders the size of his own (and everyone else's) head.
  • Bloody Spell have one of the last armor upgrades you can equip yourselves with, golden spiked pauldrons.
  • Now possible in War Frame due to the introduction of armour customisation, with shoulder plates.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, one of the indicators of rank among the Sith appears to be the size, ornamentation, and unwieldiness of your shoulder pads.
  • In PlanetSide 2, the Terran Republic and New Conglomerate get in on the doominess. TR Heavy Assault troopers have large circular shoulder guards, and both the TR MAX suit and NC MAX have doomy shoulders; the TR have huge circular guards, and the NC have armor plating which crosses into Vertical Mecha Fins
  • MechWarrior carries over much of BattleTech's doomy shoulders; the Atlas assault mech has its white skull-shaped cockpit complimented by enormous shoulder plates.
  • Downplayed in Overwatch. Both Pharah and Reinhardt have Powered Armor with large shouderpads, but in each case the shoulder pads are still somewhat proportional to the rest of the armor; Pharah has jetwings attached to hers, and Reinhardt is a giant anyway.
  • Many of Ghaleon's designs in the Lunar series (and he gets rather a lot of costumes) have big shoulder guards. The Magic Emperor armor is an obvious example, but his final boss design in Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete takes it to a whole other level — it almost looks like some sort of architectural model sprouting off of him.
  • The second and third installments in the Patapon trilogy allow the Tondenga class to equip these. Fittingly, considering they're the patapon type with the largest physique.
  • Moonrider, the protagonist of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, wears a pair of large pauldrons with demonic faces engraved on them.

  • Byron the Berserker from Guilded Age claims this guy's pauldrons, even though he normally has his axe handles sticking up over his shoulders.
  • The Order of the Stick has the sixth member of Tarquin's old adventuring party. He's had next to no screen time (three flashback appearances with one line of dialogue) and the only thing known about him is that he wears plate armor with massive shoulderguards. Not knowing his name, fans call him "Shoulderpad(s) Guy."

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command's Evil Emperor Zurg has huge, pointy shoulder pads - and a cape for bonus points!
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender the Fire Nation uniforms feature shoulder pads, getting larger with rank. Fire Lord Ozai's are absolutely enormous. And when he declares himself Phoenix King he gets even bigger ones, though he takes it off in the fight. They used to be bigger.
    • The stolen Fire Nation uniforms that the northern Water Tribe was planning on using had pretty large shoulder spikes, but are are quickly dismissed by Sokka as archaic and no longer used.
  • Vilgax, a Big Bad from Ben 10, has these.
  • Transformers
    • Lockdown of Transformers: Animated has these built into his body. With spikes. Somewhat appropriate, since he's a big, bad bounty hunter who lives for "upgrades". Bonus points might be awarded for his car mode, which has a huge spoiler to go with the look. Megatron and Blitzwing have, basically, towers for shoulders. So do Blurr and Bulkhead (the latter of which can turn his into a chair). Starscream's shoulders are pretty wide as well.
    • Animated Megs had some pretty doomy shoulders in his Cybertronian body, but his Earth-mode ones are arguably closer to Vertical Mecha Fins. Are Blitzwing's shoulders vertical enough to qualify for that?
    • Robots in Disguise Scourge has giant shoulders that actually make up the front of his truck mode, a design inherited from the Generation 2 Laser Optimus Prime toy he was based on. Also like said design, these also function as missile launchers.
    • Armada featured several characters with giant shoulders - most notably Hot Shot, whose toy's demented grin and enormous shoulders provoked the "JaAm" and "WhY mY ShOuLdErS hUrT?" memes. Demolishor has missiles sticking out of his shoulders, and Megatron's extend into tank treads. Combined with his giant horns he looks ridiculous. And Optimus Prime has really chunky shoulders, as similar to the Laser Optimus Prime example, they form the front of his truck mode, and he has really fat tires.
    • Beast Wars Transmetal Megatron has massive shoulder-pads that double as a jetpack. Other Beast Wars characters that have them include Transmetal Rattrap, Rampage and Dinobot II. Transmetal Tarantulas has a variation, with huge round shoulders that double as missile launchers.
    • Primus sports massive shoulders in one of his designs. It's somewhat justified by the fact that his alternate mode is the planet Cybertron and his shoulders are just massive chunks of the planet.
    • Almost every incarnation of Ultra Magnus has huge shoulder pads. Lampshaded in Prime.
      Wheeljack: Who put Shoulderpads in charge?
  • At one point in Danny Phantom Skulker donned upgraded armor which comes equipped with the giant shoulder guards.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Dr. Robotnik has massive shoulder pads and a cape for obvious Evil Overlord effect.
  • Skeleton Warriors: The Big Bad, Baron Dark.
  • In Rocko's Modern Life Mr. Bighead is running for dog catcher against Rocko. The Chameleon brothers give him a special suit with huge shoulders to "wear" because it'll make him look more authoritative. It works: he wins partly because of the suit, but the job isn't all it's cracked up to be.
  • The design of Carnage in Spider-Man Unlimited involved bony protrusions all over his body, including his shoulders.


Video Example(s):


Gocs' Shoulders

Open Betas' have a few Bugs to them. Some of which we wish to keep.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShouldersOfDoom

Media sources: