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Space Western
aka: Space Cowboy

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"In a matter of seconds, the plaza had gone from a ghostly quiet to a shoot out that would have been at home in a holodrama about the Old West."
The Backwards Mask (Traveller New Era Trilogy) by Matthew Carson

The Western IN SPACE!. Basically The Western Meets Wagon Train to the Stars.

The idea is that the vast distances of space have formed barriers and difficulties similar to those faced by American settlers as they crossed and developed the continent, forcing the people to become independent or even insular, with help from whatever central authority (if any) that laid claim to the land long in coming, and immediate protection once again becoming a personal matter. Technology will vary, usually being less and less high-tech the further out you go from the center of civilization. This causes a curious mix of seemingly anachronistic elements such as robots and horses being used at the same time (of course, robot horses are a common option too).

Essentially, this is nostalgia, allegory, or pragmatism meeting the fact that Space is the last unexplored territory, while ignoring that guns and anti-authoritarianism mix poorly with fragile life-support systems.


Many settings end the similarities there, in spirit, while others seem to have the people deliberately aping the style of The Wild West in response to the situation. Basically, the question is when the hero(es) comes riding/flying into town, how many of them are wearing cowboy hats.

Depending on how epic the story is, a Space Western can also be somewhat of a Space Opera. May involve Asteroid Miners.

Compare New Old West, Cattle Punk, Samurai Cowboy, Weird West.



    open/close all folders 

  • Cowboy Bebop, particularly the episode "Cowboy Funk" where the Bounty Hunter Cowboy Andy dress like a typical movie cowboy including a white Badass Longcoat and rides on a horse.
  • Galaxy Express 999, especially the second episode in the almost deserted town in Mars resembles Spaghetti Western.
  • GUN×SWORD, though more of a space Spaghetti Western, with Humongous Mecha.
  • Outlaw Star follows Gene and his ragtag crew as they brave the final frontier, navigating the stars in search of answers to the mysteries surrounding Melfina. Encountering dangerous bounty hunters, space pirates, Taoist mages, and even catgirls, there is sure to be an exhilarating adventure around every corner.
  • Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (originally Sei Juushi Bismarck). In the distant future, a team of four high tech Star Sheriffs defends frontier space colony Yuma from outlaws, as well as Outriders, an army of humanoid alien beings called Vapors, led by mysterious Nemesis, who need Yuma's resources.
  • Space Adventure Cobra: Cobra, a famous space pirate with a psycho-gun hidden in his left arm, supposed dead for two years, is back in action. He falls for bounty huntress Jane Flower, whom crime lord Necron wants dead, and tries to help her save her world.
  • Space Dandy: Already with some subtle or obvious cowboy characteristics, Dandy is a man traveling the galaxies in his ship, the "Aloha Oe" as a bounty hunter looking for rare or never before discovered alien species in exchange for Woolongs(money).
  • The first scene or so of Transformers Victory.
  • Trigun, although the "space" bit isn't as evident until later on in the series. On the other hand, the planet has Binary Suns and weird fauna.

    Comic Books 
  • Many of the 2000 AD strips set in the Cursed Earth play out like Spaghetti Westerns, including "Missionary Man" and "The Dead Man".
  • Book three of Cleopatra in Space, Secrets of the Time Tablets features this aesthetic: The planet Hykosis is complete with desert showdowns, bar fights, and cool hats.
  • Copperhead was described by one creator as "Deadwood in space". It takes place on planet Jasper, where the town is located next to an active copper mine in the middle of territory held by hostile Natives and subject to attack by bandits and its own corrupt bureaucracy.
  • Fear Agent hits this trope pretty square, with its big-buckle toting, hard-drinking, down-home wisdom spewing, alien exterminating protagonist.
  • Jack T. Chance, the Green Lantern of Garnet, was a gunslinger-turned-lawman, tasked with with cleaning up the Wretched Hive of Garnet, armed with his power ring and trusty six-shooter.
  • Traditional Western Anti-Hero Jonah Hex, for a brief time around the Crisis on Infinite Earths, was sent via Time Travel to an After the End future. The Genre Shift was not well received.
  • The batch of early Judge Dredd stories set on Luna 1 were modeled especially as a western set on Earth's moon.
  • Just a Pilgrim is explicitly based on Western tropes, though it takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth where the oceans have dried up rather than another planet.
  • The planet Pervious in Saga has a cowboy aesthetic. Weirdly, it's the only planet in the galaxy where people can get abortions.
  • The French comic Space Mounties features, well, Mounties IN SPACE!, although they very much want to get back to base and the joys of bureaucratic work instead of field missions.
  • Charlton Comics published six issues of a comic book actually titled Space Western. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, one issue even upped the ante with a story in which Space Cowboys fight Space NAZIS... in Space!
  • Star Wars: Crimson Empire follows the last surviving member of Palpatine’s royal guards as he hunts down corrupt imperial officials and traitors, in a plot ripped from a dozen spaghetti westerns. It also takes place in the lawless Outer Rim, features a protagonist inspired by The Man With No Name, and a great many barroom brawls.
  • The story "Shootout At Ice Flats" in the 1996 Supergirl Legends of the Dead Earth annual was about a Kara-lookalike sheriff on an ultra-primitive frontier world. Forget laser guns, the people of this world didn't even know what a gun looked like.
  • The Bronze Age Superman foe Terra-Man was a human kidnapped by aliens in the 19th century. He grew up as their slave, eventually escaped, and became a successful Space Pirate. He eventually returned to Earth only to find that he'd spent so much of his life traveling at relativistic speeds that 100 years had passed. Despite all his high tech equipment, culturally he was a literal space cowboy, and he dressed appropriately. He even acquired an alien steed named Nova that looked like a winged horse.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Shattered Stars, a RWBY AU fic, is very much inspired by space westerns, even if the Author refers to it as a Space Opera AU. Word of God mentions that the setting is very much inspired by a mixture of Firefly, one of the most Western of Space Westerns, and the old Star Wars Expanded Universe.
    • Similar Firefly, space is primarily divided into:
      • Free Space, Exactly What It Says on the Tin, where there is no actual central government and every planetary system and Space Station rules themselves. It is the primary setting of the story, with The Beacon being a Freespace ship, Vale being a space station in Freespace, etc.
      • The Zact Alliance, who took down the Trinion Empire, only to become almost as bad, keeping their frontier worlds under control by forcing the populace to send their children to Zact education spacestations for large chunks of the year, drugging the kids food, brainwashing them, and having open bounties on any who run away. They also refuse to recognize Freespace, enforcing their laws wherever they go. Most of the crew of the Beacon is actually from the Alliancenote 
      • The Ex-Laws, The Remnant of the Trinion Empire, not truly united, but made up of various warlords, similar to the various Imperial warlords in the old Star Wars EU.

  • The American Astronaut is a Space Western musical! Now try to wrap your heads around that.
  • Cowboys & Aliens even though it takes place right here on Earth.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy as a whole is one. Extra points for having a character that literally kills people with Morricone-style whistling.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 expands on this, with a planet of sexual escorts that's essentially a space-age version of a seedy saloon, other factions of the Ravagers having different motifs and the above-mentioned whistling being expanded into a laser-arrow version of a wild west shootout in two key scenes.
  • Moon Zero Two (a movie mostly known these days by having been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000) was actually advertised as "the first Moon Western".
  • Peter David wrote a Space Western called Oblivion. With George Takei as an eccentric doctor who talked almost entirely in Star Trek references, and Julie Newmar as Miss Kitty.
  • Outland has often been described as High Noon in space, though it merely borrows some of its themes. However the basic concept of a gun-toting "Marshal" in a corrupt frontier mining town, fighting a lone battle for justice, is definitely drawn from the Western genre.
  • Petticoat Planet: A space traveller is stranded on Wild West planet inhabited only by women.
  • Prospect is about prospectors mining for mysterious "gems" on an inhospitable rain forest moon. In spite of its Cassette Futurism aesthetic, it's obviously a western in space, including a quick-drawing bandit as a main character and the threat of potentially hostile locals.
  • Serenity, a continuation of the TV show Firefly, is arguably an example of this. Though it contains more hi-tech elements than most of Firefly's episodes, it still has that Western vibe in places. Sadly, the country theme song is not played until the end of the credits, and then it's a very de-countrified version.
  • Ironically, Space Cowboys wasn't a western at all. Despite the presence of Clint Eastwood.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope dabbles in this. Han Solo, for example, is a sort of Old West gunslinger, and the cantina in Mos Eisley is a western bar, complete with random brawling. Boba Fett walks with a sound resembling the jingling of cowboy spurs, too. Tatooine is pretty much the Wild West of Star Wars. Mos Espa spaceport is like a typical old western town with little law enforcement, savage natives wanting their land, farms, shady saloons, smugglers, all set on an endlessly sprawling desert.
    • Solo: A Star Wars Story goes even further into this than usual for the galaxy far, far away. There's space outlaws pulling off one big heist to secure their futures, massive criminal syndicates taking the place of robber barons and huge corporations, a corrupt and surprisingly paper tiger-ish Empire, a band of sinister masked adversaries who ride in out of nowhere and turn out to be the real good guys, one of the archetypical space cowboys going from Young Gun to master gunslinger, and gambling.
  • Stingray Sam: A dangerous mission reunites STINGRAY SAM with his long lost accomplice, The Quasar Kid. Follow these two space convicts as their earn their freedom in exchange for the rescue of a young girl who is being held captive by the genetically designed figurehead of a very wealthy planet.


    Live Action TV 
  • The old Battlestar Galactica had many episodes that were take-offs to classic westerns.
    • If you consider the fleet's search for Earth analogous to the Mormon migration (in keeping with the whole Space Mormon theme that infused the entire show) then old BSG entirely fits the mold. Battlestar Galactica (2003) trades Mormon allusions with the more accessible Book of Exodus allusions.
  • Blake's 7. Chris Boucher was a fan of The Western, so he'd put Shout Outs and Western themes in his scripts.
  • Defiance takes place on earth after an apocalyptic alien invasion, but it has many Western tropes. Nolan is the sheriff in all but name with Irisa as his psychic Irathient cohort, you got land disputes with hostile tribes, highway banditry, and Arkhunters looking to find the big one.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Earth 2 is a pretty straight science fiction take on the Wagon Train, just one set on a different planet undergoing recon and early colonisation. One of the rarer planet-focused live-action space westerns.
  • Two single-episode examples in Farscape:
    • "Home on the Remains" has a community of Asteroid Miners who act just like Old West prospectors, which is run by a Corrupt Hick and even has a Western-style gambler.
    • "Different Destinations" is a remake of "Cavalry Westerns", with a small military group protecting a community of nuns, besieged by hostile aliens in an old fort.
  • Firefly: Probably the most obvious Space Western. After all, people say "ain't" and "I reckon", carry weapons that resemble six shooters, and live in small towns with wooden buildings and one street.
    • Not to mention The Western background music, the cowboy hats, and, in one of their bigger jobs, actually transporting cattle from one planet to another. Space cowboys and proud of it, gorram it...
    • Watch "Our Mrs Reynolds". You're several minutes in before you see anything outside of the 19th century.
    • Take a look at some of their guns. One is using a Le Mat revolver, and another is using a cut-down lever action. Word of God says it was the same prop used in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..
    • And then in Castle, Nathan wears his Mal Reynolds outfit from Firefly, for Halloween, only for the idea of a space cowboy to be seen as ridiculous. "Where are you going to find cows in space?"
    • In-universe, the Schizo Tech elements of this setting were explained as the result of more-or-less deliberate suppression of the backwaters by the (substantially less Western-themed) Alliance. You could tell whether a given planet was a Core (Alliance) planet or Rim (Independent) planet by whether it looked like a western where everyone happened to own spaceships, or a space opera where everyone happened to use cowboy slang.
  • The Mandalorian is a Lower-Deck Episode to Star Wars taking place in the Outer Rim, focusing on the various bounty hunters and criminals that roam the lawless fringes of the galaxy. The eponymous Mandalorian even uses a quick draw shot to kill a mook via Dilating Door.
  • The short-lived British SF series Outcasts didn't indulge in stetsons and mock-Western dialogue, but it was otherwise completely in the genre, with an isolated fortified human colony on an alien planet, philosophical disputes between adventurers and homesteaders, and enigmatic hostile aliens.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): "Rule of Law" takes place on a colony planet named Daedalus which has been colonized by Earth authorities. The human inhabitants have poor relations with and discriminate against the planet's indigenous population, the Medusans, who are based on Native Americans. The episode is essentially The Theme Park Version of The Wild West with aliens.
  • Red Dwarf episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse".
  • Referenced on an episode of Sesame Street when Ernie watches a TV show called Cowboys in Space.
  • Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek: The Original Series to the networks as a "Wagon Train to the Stars" (naming that trope.)
  • True Jackson has a Space Western in it's universe called Space Plantation.

  • Mocked on the back cover of the first issue of Galaxy (1950), which printed two paragraphs of a Western story ("Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came galloping down through the narrow pass at Eagle Gulch...") alongside the same thing Recycled In Space ("Jets blasting, Bat Durston came screeching down through the atmosphere of Bbllzznaj...").
    Sound alike? They should—one is merely a western transplanted to some alien and impossible planet. If this is your idea of science fiction, you're welcome to it! YOU'LL NEVER FIND IT IN GALAXY!


    New Media 



    Tabletop Games 
  • While not a huge part of the setting, BattleTech did feature a few planets that definitely had this vibe, right down to some fiction featuring cattle ranchers fighting off Comanche raiders.
    • This is the basic feel the novels and campaigns that involve the 17th Recon Regiment, AKA Camacho's Caballeros. They're a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits consisting troublemakers, roughnecks, rancher families, and cowboys, and yet are one of the most tightly-knit mercenary regiments in the game. They basically make situations into Space Westerns, even when they end up having to deal with Space Yakuza (and literal ancient secret society conspiracies). This is because the Regiment's home planets were colonized by people from Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. As they put it "We are Cowboys and Indians."
  • Lost Colony, the final setting produced for the Deadlands system.
  • The D20 game Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex is a space western on an alien planet with dinosaurs.
  • * The FATE setting "Frontier Spirit" merges this with Science Fantasy, because the frontier planet it's set on has a problem with an overactive spirit world and all player characters are assumed to be mediums.
  • New Horizon is generally a western ON A WHOLE NEW PLANET!, but nowhere is this more evident than Trapper Town.
  • Rifts features a number of Space Western themes in the "New West" setting, although they're more limited in scope (pretty much the same places as the old Wild West).
  • Rocket Age dabbles in this in places, with settlers on the outskirts of Earthling territories frequently dispensing their own justice, tousling with the natives and constantly having to battle off corporate interests looking to take out the little guy with hired guns. There are even Rocket Rangers who either act as The Cavalry. This is most common on Venus, Ganymede and in the Asteroid Belt, but can be found in other locales too.
  • Scum and Villainy's focus on a small band of drifters living on the (social and spatial) fringe of the galaxy places it much closer to The Western than to larger-than-life Space Opera. This is especially true for the Stardancer and Cerberus crews, which embody the pervasive Western archetypes of the Venturous Smuggler and the Bounty Hunter, respectively; playing a Firedrake crew does take the game closer to a Space Opera, but its Role-Playing Endgame rules make it clear that the crew isn't expected to achieve truly epic goals like actually toppling the Hegemony.
  • US/Mars in Transhuman Space can have this aesthetic, with the frontier mindset, and the Martian Rangers as the only law. One vignette features a grizzled old prospector with a robot mule.
  • Traveller: The default setting is The Spinward Marches, a semi-civilized place with constant low-key mayhem going on in between wars. Traveller has plenty of room for epic quests, gigantic Space Battle s and secrets that Man Was Not Meant To Know. But it also has low-key adventures for when the players are in a lighter mood.


    Video Games 
  • Awesomenauts has a very literal one in the form of Sheriff Lonestar. An Artificial Cowboy created by a band of cow-people in the image of their boogeyman, he was initialy intended as a tourist attraction, to show how cowboys live their life. But then he got out, and the cow-people got a hands-on demonstration of how a cowboy wrangles cattle. One wrangled planet later, he grabbed a space vessel, rode off into the sunset and joined the Awesomenauts to earn Solar and live like the Western stereotype he is.
  • Billy Frontier
  • Borderlands is (mostly) set on a lawless desert planet where everyone has a Texan accent, there are hostile environments full of angry animals, armies of bandits and hastily built towns.
    • And on a planet that's filled to the gills with alien tech, gyrojets, assault rifles that fire ridiculously fast, shotguns with stabilisers, submachine guns which have power packs in place of magazines and giant fuck-off rocket launchers, the best primary weapons are revolvers, natch.
    • Although Pandora in the sequel is now more of a 1984-style dystopia, due to the planet being constantly watched over by an extremely rich Big Brother-esque Corrupt Corporate Executive and his ever-watching space station, this trope is still in effect. Jakobs guns exemplify this trope, being anachronistically Western-themed guns that are also the favourite manufacturer of many players, due to their high damage and the ability to fire as fast as you can click. There's also the town of Lynchwood, an anachronistic town ruled over by the corrupt, affable, polite and ridiculously brutal Sheriff Nisha, and the Dust, which is basically a typical Western desert filled with bandits and a few cactii here and there.
    • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, while the game itself is more Cyberpunk than a Western and has a more classical science fiction setting, Nisha is playable and has a very western theme, with an Action Skill that lets her automatically lock onto enemies while the screen fades to sepia and western-style whistling plays as well as skills and class mods that deliberately favor Jakobs guns or their revolvers.
    • So far, Tales from the Borderlands seems to have the biggest Western vibe out of all others-almost everybody uses Jakobs firearms, Prosperity Junction is very much like a modern Wild West town, Old Haven is a classic ghost town, Rhys and Fiona's new outfits look like something out of the Wild West, with Rhys having a fancy waistcoat and all, and Fiona can even purchase a very, very Western-like and much fancier version of her present day outfit that's appropriately named "Steampunk Princess".
  • Destiny has shades of this, especially regarding the Gunslinger subclass for Hunters Even the Hunter's representative on the Vanguard, Cayde-6, is voiced (mostly) by Nathan Fillion, Malcolm Reynolds himself.
    • The Forsaken expansion for Destiny 2 plays up this aspect, with the player traveling to a lawless frontier region (made of lashed-together asteroids) and hunting down a gang of outlaw “barons” to avenge their killing of Cayde, above.
  • The Gunman Chronicles commercial total conversion for Half-Life had a Western theme, but with DINOSAURS!
  • Mass Effect dips its toe into the genre from the get-go; the very first place you go is a frontier planet filled with Determined Homesteader types, and humanity's search for more colonies is an ongoing theme of the series. Shepard is quickly made a Spectre, a galaxy-spanning Texas Ranger/James Bond type. There's also the Terminus Systems, a lawless reach of space which Shepard has to mosey through in the second game to solve a mystery.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda goes one further; the entire point of the game is to find new planets for the sapient species of the Milky Way in a whole new galaxy.
  • M.U.L.E., to some extent.
  • Planetside: The New Conglomerate, by dint of their highly libertarian ideology, their "hard rock meets country western meets electric violins" style of music, their very "American" visual motifs (lots of eagles and stars and decals saying things like "Give Me Liberty", etc), and their gritty and utilitarian but highly effective and powerful weapons technology. It contrasts a lot with the very Glorious Mother Russia-themed Terran Republic and the just downright alien Vanu Sovereignty.
  • Rebel Galaxy takes place in a lawless frontier region of space called the Rift, and has a soundtrack loaded with banjos.
  • Rimworld, whose lore owes rather a lot to Firefly, has a setting that's roughly equal parts this trope and ScavengerWorld: The game takes place on a rugged, mostly lawless frontier planet inhabited by a mixture of pre-industrial tribal societies, groups of off-worlders Settling the Frontier (not necessarily by choice) who have access to somewhat more advanced technology and the occasional vault full of Human Popsicles left over from an Unspecified Apocalypse that toppled an apparently quite technologically sophisticated civilisation that existed here in the distant past. Much of the transplanted Earth life brought by the original settlers is recognisably American (raccoons, beavers, coyotes) and the default clothing options for your settlers include dusters and stetsons. Even the soundtrack has some heavy bluegrass and Country & Western influences.
  • The old Mac-originated lightweight 4X game Spaceward Ho! is notable for its cutesy frontier aesthetic, including the distinctive be-Stetson'd planet pictured at the top of its page.
  • Speed Kills isn't one — but one of the race contestants, Craig, looks like he came out of one, combining a cowboy hat with obvious cybernetic implants. The planet you first meet him on is a wasteland (albeit a nuclear-induced one rather than a natural desert).
  • Starbound has a race of western-themed Celestial Body aliens called the Novakid, who make their clothing and technology like literal space cowboys, even carrying revolvers as weapons, and distilling nebulae to make moonshine. Oddly enough, this is more of an average than being stuck in an era, as they have both high intelligence and a very short memory and attention span, both as a race and individually, so they can swing from stone age to space age and back in the span of a couple centuries.
  • Blizzard's StarCraft franchise heavily favors this trope, especially with the Deep South-flavored Terran faction. Cut off from Earth, the Terrans of the sector have had to make do and forge an existence for themselves. Much of their technology is cobbled together and has a rough, industrial look to it, resulting in frontier saloons where soldiers in power armor go to drink.
  • Titanfall has humanity sending homesteaders and settlers to colonize an area of space called The Frontier, creating some very Western-esqe towns and settlements. These settlers and colonists have banded together along with assorted mercenaries,pirates,smugglers and ex-military members to throw the corrupt IMC out of the Frontier. The menu music also has a distinctly western feel to it, mixing Firefly with Pacific Rim, which pretty much sums up the entirety of the game itself.
  • Nearly all of the Wild ARMs RPG games are this, though the sci-fi elements all tend to be ancient technology found in bits and pieces by prospectors, not part of the player's experience until several hours in. The first two games even have Ennio Morricone "inspired" musical scores.
    • Particularly notable is the fifth game in which an advanced allegedly alien race have taken control of the planet with their far more futuristic technology.
  • Natsume's Wild Guns for the Super NES.
  • WildStar has this, Magitek, and an ongoing war between a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits Faction and The Empire.

    Web Comics 
  • In Far Out, robots are living out The Wild West. Some of them apparently come down from the sky.
  • In GunKitty, three intergalatic traveling outlaws are the main leads, also features many a gun fight.

    Web Original 
  • Northern Legend is a different take on the genre in an effort to avoid the usual cliches or take them from new angles.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Four elite Galaxy Rangers with unique abilities defend law & order among the space colonies and protect humanity from the evil Crown Empire.
  • Bounty Hamster has some elements of this, with bounty hunters in space and some of the settings. No to mention The Horse with No Name.
  • Bravestarr: A Native American marshal and his friends keep the peace on the frontier planet of New Texas.
  • The Futurama episode "Where the Buggalo Roam." Not to mention the cowboy hat-clad parallel universe.
  • Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors combined Space Western with Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, BattleBots, and demolition derby. Weird, but awesome.
  • An episode of the Superfriends from the 4th season — that's the season after Challenge of the SuperFriends — takes place on planet Texicana. It ends with Green Lantern drawing two green laser pistols while sporting a green cowboy hat.
  • Wild West COW Boys Of Moo Mesa features alien "cattle" men. The tie-in merchandise stated that the characters were the result of a weird radioactive meteor mutating Earth's animal life.
  • The song "Galaxy Gus" from 321 Penguins has this theme.

Alternative Title(s): Space Cowboy


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