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Swarm of Rats

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"The rat," said O'Brien, still addressing his invisible audience, "although a rodent, is carnivorous. You are aware of that. You will have heard of the things that happen in the poor quarters of this town. In some streets a woman dare not leave her baby alone in the house, even for five minutes. The rats are certain to attack it. Within quite a small time they will strip it to the bones. They also attack sick or dying people. They show astonishing intelligence in knowing when a human being is helpless."

Rodents are widely reviled, but not very threatening; after all, anyone can set a mousetrap. So how do writers make them a legitimate threat? By having a very, very large swarm of them all at once! One rat isn't scary, but a huge wave of rats eating a victim alive, one bite at a time? Horrifying.

Rats and mice are perfect for the "huge swarm" treatment, since, as any exterminator will tell you, they tend to breed a lot. And really fast. Also, as omnivores, they can and will eat meat — sometimes even if said meat is still alive — and rats in particular have strong enough teeth to chew through metal. And they spread diseases, too. All that said, getting actual live rats to swarm in front of a camera in a truly scary way can be a challenge.

Sometimes used as a threat to prisoners in a dungeon.

See also Cruel and Unusual Death, Devoured by the Horde, and Rodents of Unusual Size. A subtrope of The Swarm and a sister trope of Spider Swarm. Compare with Animal Stampede, which the larger animals use similar (but different) approach. Contrast with Even The Rats Won't Touch It, and with Reduced to Ratburgers, an inversion. Usually overlaps with Eek, a Mouse!! and You Dirty Rat!, for added effect.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In AKIRA, after Akira causes the destruction of Tokyo upon reawakening, there's one scene where Chiyoko is waist deep in a pool of water underground and swarms of starving rats swim to her trying to eat her.
  • In the Yotsuya arc of Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, rats are a recurring motif. At least one character is killed by an application of this trope.
  • In one Crying Freeman story, Bugnug lies crippled in a sewer and a swarm of rats attacks her. She defends herself by killing the rats with her teeth.
  • The Elder Sister-like One: This is one of the many unpleasant results of someone in the past having dabbled in black magic in the storehouse behind Yuu's and Chiyo's home.
  • Inuyasha: Lesser youkai Zushinezumi carries around a zushi (a wooden container for buddhist scrolls) which spawns an endless horde of ravenous, one-eyes rats that devour everything in their path and multiplies if damaged. Hakudoshi unleashes them to wreak havoc in an entire valley in order to force Kikyo to come out.
  • Played for Laughs in the second Ranma ˝ movie (Nihao My Concubine). The antagonist unleashes a load of rats to scare all the girls; of course Ranma gets all superior about this, saying she isn't scared of little furry animals. The rats are then pursued by a herd of cats (which are Ranma's Absurd Phobia). Hilarity Ensues.
  • The horror manga Region has a plague of starving rats swarms across the entire nation of Japan.
  • In one episode of Sailor Moon, Zoisite follows Luna and a cat named Rhett Butler (Hercules in the DIC dub) into the sewer. Worn out by the chase, he places his hand on the wall... only to realize it's moving. What follows stirs up a literal wave of rats that is shown swallowing him up at one point.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Combined with Red Eyes, Take Warning, a huge horde of rats is what is shown chasing the Kaiba Brothers in episode 174 of the DOMA / Waking the Dragons Arc. You know things are bad when you have to flee a huge horde of possibly mind-controlled rats by car.

    Ballads and Poems 
  • In Robert Southey's ballad "God's Judgment on a Wicked Bishop", (1799, based on a 14th century legend) the evil Bishop Hatto is eaten alive by a giant army of rats.
    They have whetted their teeth against the stones,
    And now they pick the Bishop's bones:
    They gnaw'd the flesh from every limb,
    For they were sent to do judgment on him!
  • Evoked as an image by Heinrich Heine in "The Roving Rats" (1855), a satirical poem expressing Heine's view of the communist movement and the reactions to it. In it, a wandering horde of hungry rats (i.e. communists) swarms the countryside and threatens to overrun a walled town (the state, resp. the capitalist order), much to the terror of the burghers (the burgeoisie) and the clergy. The poem ends with an advice to the townsfolk to feast the rats with nice food, as good eating is what they really want.
  • In some variants of the Child Ballad "Sir Aldingar", the queen's hair is unkempt from the mice and rats gnawing on it while in prison.
  • In some variants of the Child Ballad "Young Beichan", the hero's hair is gnawed on by rats in prison.
    O whan she saw him, Young Bekie,
    Her heart was wondrous sair!
    For the mice but an the bold rottons
    Had eaten his yallow hair.

    Comic Books 
  • During the Batman: No Man's Land crossover event over in Robin Tim found himself dealing with swarms of rats directed by the Ratcatcher in Gotham's sewers while evading other villains like Freeze while looking for a rumored underground cache of foodstuffs. The rats manage to get in a few bites and Tim falls in the sewage which means he spends a while ill afterwards.
  • In Beasts of Burden, the sewer rats are usually encountered in swarms.
  • In Chlorophylle, the black rats invade Val Tranquille (the Quiet Vale) after they've been chased away from an old mill.
  • In Countdown to Final Crisis, Una is eaten alive by a swarm of mutated rats, and shows her Determinator street cred by continuing to fight them long enough to will her flight ring to another character, who escapes.
  • In Drowntown, Leo gets mobbed by rats, and since they're escaped genetic experiments with human-level intelligence, they're able to tie him up. They have something of a grudge against him, but he's able to talk them into letting it slide and doing some work for him. (Their king says that they're sparing him because he's the only creature lower than they are.)
  • The undead variety exists in The Final Plague. A homeless guy is eaten by a large swarm of undead rats in New York City.
  • Marvel Universe villain Vermin (originally a Captain America foe but probably most famous for his appearance in Kraven's Last Hunt) has the ability to control rats and stray dogs within a two-mile radius of his person and frequently uses this power to summon swarms of rat..
  • The Majestic Rat in The Pitiful Human Lizard has a ton of rats at his command.
  • This is how the Evil Sorcerer Mephisto bit the dust in Tex Willer, fulfilling a prophecy which stated that he wouldn't die by a man's hand.
  • The Shooting Star has Tintin hugging a lamppost to escape rats swarming through the streets.
  • In Superman storyline "This Is Not My Life", Linda Lang and her college friends are investigating the secret tunnels under Stanhope College when they are swarmed by packs of robotical rats built by Professor Amazo.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy villain Dr. Mordred is eaten by rats in the last storyline written by Dick Locher, having planned that fate for Tracy himself.
  • In one issue of The Phantom, set in Victorian London, this is the fate of the Jack the Ripper inspired villain Hack Jack, who gets trapped in the sewers while fleeing the current Phantom, and is devoured by a horde of rats. His remains aren't found until weeks later.

    Fan Works 
  • In Spirits of the Blitz, an occultist summons and binds the demon Crowley with a chalk circle, not noticing that Crowley brought a few friends with him. While Crowley and the occultist talk, the rats erode the circle, allowing Crowley to escape—just as the occultist decided that he's learned all he needs. A later chapter implies that he escaped by taking the form of another rat.
    von Schall, upon being foiled: Rats!
  • Thousand Shinji: A swarm of sick, diseased, ferocious old rats lives in Rei's apartment. They act as a very effective deterrent to trespassers.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Haunted World of El Superbeasto ends with thousands of rats coming out of a guy's arse (you read that right).
  • Ratatouille: Yeah, the rats are sympathetic characters here, but they still can invoke this imagery when needed. Notably when Rémy's father and a part of his clan swarm the car of the health inspector to stop him from raising the alarm too soon about the rat-infested restaurant. Played for Laughs, as they then come back with him gagged and tied.
  • Sherlock Gnomes: When their boat is stranded by the falling water level in the sewer, Sherlock and Watson start using ropes to haul the boat off the floor of the tunnel. Gnomeo and Juliet are confused as to why, but quickly learn it is to get the boat (and them) out of the way of the swarm of rats that is approaching.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later. The protagonists are having to change a tire on their vehicle in a darkened tunnel when a swarm of rats goes running up it—one man in particular is not happy as he's flat on his back under the cab at the time. Things go From Bad to Worse when they realise the rats are fleeing the Infected.
  • The mutant rats in Deadly Eyes move in one swarm around Toronto, attacking people after another. Once they make a move against a new subway tunnel, they receive a fiery death in a crowded space.
  • In From Russia with Love, after the explosion in the Russian embassy, Bond and Tatania's escape route in the underground reservoir is diverted by a swarm of rats.
  • Garfield comes across a huge swarm of these in an alley while trying to find Odie. They plan on eating him, and when Garfield says that they wouldn't like him because he's too fat, they say that fat's fine with them. He finally gets rid of them by promising his mouse friend (who had arrived on the scene) his favorite macadamia cookies, and the mouse shoos the rats away.
  • In Ghostbusters (2016), one of the hauntings shown plaguing the city is a swarm of ghost rats that come flying out of a subway entrance.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a whole catacombs full of them under the city of Venice.
  • Ladder 49 had this. It wasn't a swarm, though... more of a sea, really...
  • In the movie El Norte, the brother and sister sneaking over the Mexican border crawl through a sewer line at one point and are nearly eaten alive by a swarm of rats. They survive, but the sister contracts a disease from a rat bite and dies later.
  • The Pit and the Pendulum (1991): As in Poe's original story, a swarm of rats overrun Antonio as he strapped under the Pendulum of Death, and he is able to entice them into gnawing through his bonds.
  • Rat Disaster (a.k.a Junkrat Train) involves an outbreak of rabies amidst an entire swarm of rodents populating a train station, which predictably becomes savage, going around biting people and passing the disease. Online reviews called it a "zombie disaster movie with rats in place of zombies".
    • The Film is actually an almost point for point plot "remake" (or rip-off) of Train to Busan. It even copies the scene of an old woman opening the door to the train car and dooming all the passengers therein by exposing them to the disease carriers completely, with almost no changes.
  • The titular rodents in Rats: Night of Terror tend to attack in this manner, which makes things worse for everyone.
  • Ratcatcher 2's powers when she really applies herself in The Suicide Squad: she can summon an entire swarm of rats to do her bidding. First does it during a standoff against the rest of the Squad in the jungle, then in the climax she summons every rat on the island to chew down Starro after Harley Quinn impales its eye, allowing them to bypass Starro's thick skin/exoskeleton and eat him from the inside out.
  • In The Thirsty Dead, the cult keeps a pit full of Terrifying Pet Store Rats for disposing of their involuntary blood donors when they are no longer any use to them.
  • Titanic (1997) had a non-threatening example. Some of the Third Class passengers decided the best way to find their way abovedecks was to follow the swarm of fleeing rats.
    Tommy Ryan: If this is the direction the rats are going that's fine with me!
  • Wanted have James McAvoy's protagonist weaponizing this trope by luring in hundreds and hundreds of rats into a dump truck (using numerous cans of peanut butter) and releasing them into the Fraternity's headquarters. And with every mook in the area distracted by the rats, he then attacks the place Guns Akimbo.
  • In When Evil Calls, spotty boy Neville gets stuffed into a recycling bin, and a lump of concrete is placed on the lid to stop him getting out. Overnight, rats get into the bin and chew most of his face off.
  • In Wild Beasts, a horde of PCP-crazed rats ascend from the sewers and kill a couple making out in their car. They prove to be so bad that the officials have to deal with them with a flamethrower.
  • Willard, after the title character befriends the rats in his basement and trains them so he can exact revenge on his boss. In the 2003 movie, the swarm of rats even consume a live cat.


  • Legend of Zagor have a horde of jet-black, red-eyed, oversized rodents infesting the long-abandoned kitchen of Castle Argent, where as soon as you enter, you'll be swarmed by giant rats. Even if you escape, you risk catching the Bubonic Plague, a disease that drains your Stamina stat periodically.
  • Lone Wolf: In the book Castle Death, one of the many niceties welcoming Lone Wolf on the shores of the island of Kazan-Oud is an immense swarm of dog-sized rats.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Room 101 contains for Winston Smith anyway a caged-apparatus that immobilises the body while letting rats crawl over every inch of skin. This proves frighteningly effective at carrying out the room's ultimate purpose, especially because Winston is absolutely, utterly terrified of rats.
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: The clan like to pretend to be this as a scam in a spoof of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin". Then they come into contact with a real (mind-controlled) rat horde.
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood: In the last book, White Deer Park is colonized by rats. The initial settlers soon become a horde that threatens even the larger carnivores. Several characters are bitten to death by swarms of rats.
  • Animorphs: When David returns, it's just after rat swarms overtake Rachel and Cassie. David then claims that he's become a Rat King and can command them with his superior intelligence; but since this isn't a setting where rats have secret high intelligence, Rachel doesn't believe him and realizes the swarms were arranged and controlled by something else.
  • Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: The rodere, groups of giant wererats. As if that wasn't frightening enough, they can call regular rats to an extent to horde around them, and so can some vampires.
  • The Bone Collector: One of the victims is chained to a sewer pipe and left to be eaten by rats. Lincoln chews out his assistant for shooting one the rats off of the victim and thereby contaminating the crime scene.
  • "The Burial of the Rats" by Bram Stoker features a character recounting a tale where a bunch of hungry rats had cleaned a corpse clean from flesh, leaving only bones behind.
  • Deltora Quest’s City of the Rats is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a massive swarm of rats that have devoured every organic substance on the Hira plain before turning on each other and which are only contained by water (a bend in the massive River Broad on three sides and a canal dug by the locals to contain the rats on the fourth). The whole thing turns out to have been a deliberate plot by the city’s rat catchers, servants of the Big Bad, which had the dual result of providing a food source for the enormous snake Rheah and giving the rat catchers an excuse to turn the former citizens of Hira into a nice, isolated little cult.
  • Evolution: The narration notes that the packs of predator rats living thirty million years hence still run closely together in a way that evokes this more than a wolf pack.
  • Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: In "Ill Met in Lankhmar", the sorcerer Hristomilo's familiar can summon a swarm of rats.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, the Bestiar, who can command and talk with rats, is always surrounded by a moving swarm of them.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, section "John Carter and the Giant of Mars". John Carter fights a swarm of ulsios (six legged Martian rats) and is captured by them.
  • The rats in the Stephen King short story "Graveyard Shift" (from the Night Shift collection) are an example of this as well as Rodents of Unusual Size.
  • In The Jungle, Stanislovas is eaten by rats after being locked in the lard factory he works in at night.
  • Subverted in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. After Aslan is killed, mice descend on his body. But it turns out they're only chewing through his ropes.
  • In The Lotus War novel Stormdancer, the Royal Huntmaster calls up a swarm of rats in fight.
  • In the novel Metro 2033 Artyom's backstory includes him losing his mother at the age of five when the station they were living in was overrun by a horde of rats. Artyom only survived because his mother gave him to one of the three men who managed to escape after begging him to save him.
  • Vampire king Shafax conjures a horde of rats in Old Scores. They mob Anita, but the vampire Salem cuts them to shreds.
  • Subverted in "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe. The rats don't injure the hero (much, and anyway, what's a few rat bites when there's a heavy, razor-sharp pendulum about to cut you in two?), and in fact he uses them to escape his bonds.
  • Stephen Gilbert's Ratman's Notebooks involves a reclusive young man who trains an army of rats to do his bidding. Adapted into two different films, both called Willard.
  • Horror writer James Herbert made his name with debut novel The Rats, where London's rat population mutates into an intelligent hive-mind, grows to monstrous size, develops a taste for human flesh, and can transmit a terrible new plague into the bargain. London is soon taken over and the war of humans versus rats begins. The Rats spawned several sequels and plays on the oft-repeated assertion that in London you are never more than twenty feet away from a rat.
  • The Rats in the Walls: Happened in the backstory, about 150 years or so before the story takes place. A few months after Walter De La Poer massacred his degenerate family and fled to America, an enormous swarm of rats erupted from Exham Priory and devoured everything in it's path, including crops, livestock and humans, further establishing Exham as a cursed and evil place. With the De La Poers dead, the rats had fed off the human cattle they had kept in their secret Cannibal Larder beneath the priory and undergone a population explosion. Once their prey was depleted, they escaped the caverns and set upon the countryside.
  • In Valerie Martin's novel A Recent Martyr, the main character, Emma, is on an outing to a public park near the river when she sees an army of dying rats being cleaned up (i.e., hidden) by city workers. This is foreshadowing for the epidemic of bubonic plague that occurs later in the story.
  • Averted in Redwall: While outnumbering the enemy is the most common strategy among villains, it's hardly limited to rats, and no mammalian species seems to follow the Explosive Breeder route, having children one at a time instead.
  • In Revelation Space, the Lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity has janitor rats, bioengineered rodents that the ship uses for cleaning. After the ship gets taken over by Sun Stealer, he uses the ship's control over the rats to make a swarm that attacks the crew.
  • In The Runelords, at one point the One True Master of Evil unleashes a horde of plague rats against human villages.
  • In Straight Silver, Gaunt and a team of infiltrators are sneaking through an abandoned siege tunnel when an artillery bombardment starts. This sends a horde of rats straight through the team. While no one died, they still bemoaned their situation and all of them were bit multiple times.
  • Warrior Cats: Rats serve as antagonists numerous times throughout the books, always attacking in huge swarms.
    • Bluestar loses one of her lives to a horde of rats in the first book.
    • In the Super Editions Firestar's Quest and SkyClan's Destiny, a huge Hive Minded swarm of rats serves as a major antagonist. There are so many that when one character tells Firestar "you can't see the ground for all the rats", Firestar thinks he's exaggerating, but realizes when he goes to fight the rats himself that the cat was right.
    • In Crookedstar's Promise, a swarm of rats attacks a RiverClan patrol in a barn, killing Hailstar.
    • Yellowfang's Secret has ShadowClan facing off against swarms of rats (one of their primary food sources) twice. The second time, Foxheart is killed by two rats who jump on her as if they were trained.
  • A novel-only sequel to Warriors of Virtue had Tsun return to her home, an underground Lifespring facing a nasty rat infestation. Several times, she has to deal with the rodents being so thickly packed on the ground that there's hardly any place to step, and reacts to being bitten at least once.
  • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a swarm of friendly rats help get the Cowardly Lion away from a field of sleep-inducing poppies. This would have been too difficult to replicate in the 1939 film version of course.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die had a man killed by rats that had gnawed through his face and head into his brain.
  • An episode of Grimm featured a creature called a reinigen — essentially a rat-man — that could summon Swarm of Rats to do his bidding. He was nearly framed for the death of a music teacher.
  • Dollhouse. At the start of Season 2, a pissed-off Dr Saunders puts lab rats in Topher's cupboard, in a not-too-subtle message of what she thinks of him. His female assistant Ivy has to retrieve them while Topher climbs the nearest railing to get away.
  • A deleted scene for Good Omens (2019) elaborates on how Crowley shut down London's cell network: he somehow persuaded a swarm of rats to infest the BT Communications Tower so he could infiltrate the building disguised as an exterminator. The scene's CGI is unfinished, but contains the direction "All surfaces to be covered with rats."
  • In a rare friendly example of a Swarm of Rats, an episode of Hoarders featured a man who'd let his one male and two female pet rats escape from their cage, then didn't have the heart to stop feeding the resulting horde of offspring. By the time help arrived, he'd been forced out of his own house, which was completely overrun by more than 3000 drywall-gnawing, furniture-destroying rodents. Luckily, animal rescue shelters from all over the state were able to mobilize one of the biggest hoarding-recovery operations of all time, and all but a few severely-injured animals were shipped out to rat-lovers statewide.
  • Jeopardy!: Referred to in the very first clue on the current (1984) incarnation of the show. The $100 clue in the category "Animals," the contestant, Greg, correctly replied "What are rats?" for the answer, "These rodents first got to America by stowing away on ships."
  • Little House on the Prairie: The first season episode "Plague", where a swarm of rats has infected sacks of meal meant for human consumption, causing several of the townsfolk to fall seriously ill (some even die) with typhus.
  • In one episode of Survivorman, Les Stroud is stranded on a tropical island that is utterly overrun with hordes of ship rats, against which Stroud has to build a shelter. Of course, this being Survivorman, he also ends up eating several of the rats.
  • Survivors (1975). The Two-Part Episode "The Lights of London" had an After the End community struggling to survive in a rat-infested London.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? had one in a game of "News Flash." As usual, Colin Mochrie was spared from the visuals.
  • Afflicted rats turn up in season one of Zoo, devouring a handyman and operating as a Hive Mind.
  • Big Mouth (2022): After Changho gets confined in a mental alyssum and gets a truth serum injected into him he begins seeing loud, noisy rats everywhere even on top of him in the White Void Room he's trapped in. This is fitting since he's accused of being the notorious conman called "Big Mouse."


  • In the BBC's Dick Barton - Special Agent (a 1972 re-recording of the lost original serial "Dick Barton and the Secret Weapon"), the heroes are lured into a room by the villain, who traps them there with a pack of bloodthirsty rats.
  • One episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme features an interview with a couple whose house is swarming with rats ... because they run a Rat Sanctuary. The husband is completely taken aback when the interviewer asks if the world needs a Rat Sanctuary, because that wasn't a question he'd ever considered before. The wife points out she's been saying this all along.
  • In Stephen Gallagher's The Last Rose of Summer, a 1977 science fiction production for Manchester's Picadilly Radio, the protagonist is attacked by rats in the dark buried streets below a future city.
  • The 1937 short story "Three Skeleton Key", by George G. Toudouze, was adapted several times for the radio anthology series Escape and Suspense. Vincent Price starred in two of these adaptations. The story features three French lighthouse keepers who are trapped in their tower by a starving horde of rats.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dominion: The "Rats" card has the effect of trashing one of your other cards and replacing it with a Rats card. If you're not careful, they can clog your deck and reduce your chances of drawing something more useful.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has rules and stats for swarms of rats, including some exotic types such as skeletal rat swarms, corpse rat swarms, spectral swarms (incorporeal undead that typically result from careless fireball-flinging adventurers inflicting large amounts of collateral damage on the local rat population), cranium rat swarms (hive-minded psychic rats) that become more intelligent as more gather together, and moonrats (rats that become more or less intelligent depending on the phases of the moon). It is also part of the powers of a vampire to summon lower creatures, including swarm of rats. The Tamer of Beasts prestige class, from the book Masters of the Wild, has similar powers and is depicted in the artwork as controlling a massive army of rats.
  • This is a staple trope of Magic: The Gathering, which has cards like Relentless Rats, Sanity Gnawers, Ravenous Rats, Sewer Rats, Stronghold Rats, Swarm of Rats, Septic Rats, Plague of Vermin and even Hellhole Rats, which are on fire. They're associated with Black mana and festering disease, and tend to get bonuses for dealing damage or being in the presence of other rats. Relentless Rats is notable for being an exception to the normal "maximum four copies of a card in one deck" rule. You can have as many as like, and the more you have the stronger they get.
  • Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. One of the many threats the Troubleshooters will face in Sewerworld is swarms of hungry, mean, housecat-sized rats. They rush out of the darkness and attack the PCs.
  • A Touch of Evil: The Rat's Nest minion can be a really nasty challenge, as a conga line of rats grows every round. However, the reward for beating it is worthwhile.
  • Warhammer: Skaven Packmasters breed and command swarms of rats as well as packs of giant rats, and their Grey Seers even have spells that summon them.

    Theme Parks 

  • BIONICLE: the Stone Rat and Kinloka Rahi are notorious for being voracious eaters and gathering in swarms.

    Video Games 
  • The in-universe manual of Brütal Legend offers two explanations what a Ratgut is: either a humanoid with a swarm of rats inside his stomach or a rat hivemind controlling a dead human body.
  • Bullet have roving hordes of rodents in the Absurdly-Spacious Sewer stage, who appears alongside human-sized regular mooks. Oddly enough despite being feral, the rodents will ignore your enemies and target you instead.
  • Swarms of rats are a common enemy in Dishonored, also being the carriers of a terrible plague that's gripping the game's setting. The protagonist can weaponize rats as well, by magically summoning them to either attack the enemy or to make a quick escape by possessing one of them while the others deal with enemies. The number of rat swarms you encounter is directly proportional to how many people you kill in the game, since corpses attract rats. If you're trying not to kill people, you'll also have to hide them from the rats after knocking them out.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, rats are a common vermin that devour your food, bone and shell stockpiles, give dwarves unhappy thoughts, and spontaneously appear in large swarms.
  • One of the more gruesome deaths in Fear Effect. One GameFAQs writer had listed this above Resident Evil and Silent Hill as the worst fate to befall a video game character.
  • Grid Warrior takes place in cyberspace where one of the enemy types are programs called Computer Rats. They look like computer mice, appear in huge numbers, and initially ignore you... but as soon as you hurt one of them the entire swarm will close in and attack with weak electrical shocks that bypass Damage Reduction. Since there's a lot of them, the damage can add up fast.
  • The protagonist of Layers of Fear believes that his house is infested with rats. No one else can see them.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has invisible ghostly rat swarms in the Arbiter's Grounds. The only indication that they're on you is that you suddenly start moving slowly (and in wolf form, Midna gets all jittery). Use the wolf's senses and you'll suddenly see that you're covered in the things, though fortunately a good Spin Attack will clear them away.
  • One of these serves as a boss during a dungeon escape in Lunarosse. They're even more of a threat due to magic enhancement, but it leaves them Weakened by the Light.
  • Mario Party: Island Tour: In the minigame Rat-a-Tat Flat, the characters face an incoming group of Scaredy Rats which pop out of mouse holes located in the surrounding walls. The objective is to splat as many of them as possible; the white ones are worth one point, while the golden ones are worth three. After 30 seconds, the character who scored the most points wins.
  • Monster Eye have swarms and swarms of giant rats as recurring enemies, larger than Dobermans and trying to chew up the players while attacking in massive numbers.
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence, set during the The Hundred Years War around the period of The Black Death, takes the rat problem responsible for the plague and cranks it up to nightmarish proportions. Rats explode from the ground like geysers, whole battlefields turn into rounds of The Ground Is Lava as the protagonists move from safety area to safety area to avoid getting Stripped to the Bone, and the rats nests they have to explore are these disgusting caverns covered in bones and Meat Moss.
  • Planescape: Torment has cranium rats, which are rats that share a Hive Mind with other cranium rats in close proximity and get smarter in higher numbers. With enough of them, they are capable of human (or superhuman) intelligence and even spellcasting if enough of them gather in one place - several areas of the game feature a Zerg Rush of rats coming at the player character, tossing balls of lightning. There is even a huge collection of cranium rats that form a mysterious being known as Many-As-One, who acts as somewhat of a king of a rat kingdom.
  • Romancing SaGa 3 has the Rat Mischief boss. The Scatter-brained Professor created a hyper intelligent rat called Algernon as requested by a king of a unknown kingdom. The rat escaped at some point but the Professor wan't worried, claiming it would probably died in the wilderness. Quite the contrary, Algernon used its intelligence to control a giant swarm of rats and began to terrorize the nearby town of Kyrdlund. The Mayor of the place resorted to trick people into visiting the Offering Cave and then locked them in to serve as a a Human Sacrifice to the rats. The heroes end up fight the rodent mob and is kind of a Puzzle Boss: It consists of five targets and you can only deal real damage to the boss by attacking where Algernon is hiding. You are supposed to run away the first time and ask the Professor for help; She will give you the Eradicator. The rat poison will damage all targets except where Algernon is. Then you can actually fight like you're supposed to.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, one of Princess Kenny's abilities is Swarm of Rats, in which he summons a huge wave of rats to sic at his enemies (though it can backfire if he fails the prompt, causing them to devour him). Similarly, if he's defeated in combat, rats come by to rip his corpse apart, preventing him from being revived until two turns, after which he comes back by himself.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge: The main gimmick of Rat King's boss fight. At set amounts of HP, he summons waves of rats (with a few individual rats breaking off to fight as mooks). Failure to evade the swarm will cause a rat to grab the player character's hand for constant damage and must be shaken off, spawning another enemy.

  • While young ursipedes in Here There Be Monsters are not actually rats they're about the same size, and when Victor accidentally steps through the covering to a nest full of them their swarming out of it and up his leg invoke a swarm of rats quite well.
  • In a 2011 arc of Mindmistress, Forethought is trapped in the backfire of time manipulation device, leaving him moving at a sixtieth of normal speed. At one point, an agent sent to check on him finds rats about to feast upon his apparently no-longer moving body. Imagine a swarm of rats moving sixty times faster than in real life and coming at you...
  • The Order of the Stick: The Mechane airship happens to have a sizable rat population, since when a vampire uses his "Children of the Night" power inside, it summons a swarm of rodents big enough to overwhelm the Order's animal companions.
  • Tales of the Questor has a swarm of shadow rats made by a rat king and a magical device.
  • During the Crypts & Drakes session in chapter 6 of Twin Dragons, the party's first quest is to clear out a rat infestation in a person's basement. When they get there, they find that the floor of the basement is completely covered with rats.

    Web Original 
  • The Onion's "world history" book has "Corpse-eating rats become greatest power in Europe" during the World War I newspaper headlines.
  • There's an hypothetical question around the internet. "Pick two. They will defend you. The rest is coming to kill you.". Among your options are 50 eagles, 10 crocodiles, 3 bears, 7 bulls, 1 human with a rifle, 15 wolves, 5 gorillas, 4 lions... and 10000 rats. Naturally, the rats tend to be a top option because of this trope.

    Web Videos 
  • Dorkly Originals: In a video titled "Sonic, King of the Rats", Sonic and Tails open an animal pod containing thousands of rats that were to be exterminated by Eggman. Tails is immediately devoured, the rats overrun the nearby city, and Sonic gets bitten and dies of rat plague.
  • TierZoo episode "The Optimal Team Composition", which discusses the "Pick Two. They will defend you. The rest is coming to kill you." question. One of the choices is 10000 rats. Tier Zoo explains that they're pretty much the top choice to pick, since you will be overrun if they aren't picked, while if picked the entire Zerg Rush is very capable of taking down all the other animals on the list via Death of a Thousand Cuts with the possible exception of the flight-capable eagles not that it matters since the eagles are the other top choice. Of note, picking the rats and eagles means that you have 200+ rats against every other animal — which is considered overkill, even against a bear or crocodile.

    Western Animation 
  • Used horrifyingly in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Gorillas in Our Midst", in which The Spectre turns a supervillain into cheese but leaves him alive and conscious, and then releases a swarm of mutant rats to eat him alive.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Garbage Ballet", when Cole tries to stop Paige from killing the rat in the basement, Paige drops her flashlight and the light reveals a swarm of rats eating their food and Paige and Cole run out of the basement in terror. But at the time, both of them are sick and it turns out that they both hallucinated the rats as Owen tells them he and the exterminator didn't find anything in the basement.
  • Done to frightening effect in the Code Lyoko episode "Plagued". Think a swarm of rats is bad? Try a swarm of rats possessed by an evil computer program!
  • An episode of The Littles entitled "The Rats are Coming!" has such swarms of rats appearing throughout the town of Grand Valley on a dark and stormy night, looking for shelter from the rain and light flooding. This especially is a threat to the Littles, due to their small mouse-like size.
  • In Lucky and Zorba, the rats plan an uprising against the town's cats.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Also happens in "Homer's Enemy" after the derelict factory Bart bought for $1 collapses overnight, and Bart wonders where all the rats will go. Cue a massive horde of rats swarming out of the wreckage... and right into Moe's Tavern.
      Moe: Alright, everybody stuff your pants into your socks!
    • In "Blame It On Lisa", when the family visit Rio de Janeiro to find the orphan Lisa was sponsoring, they walk through a slum which has been painted different colors by the government to not offend the tourists, including the rats that cut across them.
    • In "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star", Groundkeeper Willie gets his revenge for being cast as the village idiot in the school's medieval festival by having rats swarm out of a giant pie when Lisa cuts it open.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Ludo has an army of rats that helped him invade Mewni, and they’re huge.
  • In the early seasons of South Park, Kenny's death of the week was often followed by rats swarming to the body to pick it clean.
  • Happens in the "Planet Radio" episode of Superjail!, where a rat eats the vocal chords of an inmate and starts to talk and rule over other rats.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987):
    • In one episode, Donatello accidentally creates an evil clone of himself who then joins forces with a mob boss and clones thousands of rats to take over New York City.
    • Any episode involving the Rat King also tended to involve this, since he kept hundreds of rats as pets in his sewer home.
  • Starfire's "demise" in Teen Titans (2003) episode "Fear Itself". Starfire is swarmed by the rat monsters and sinks into the floor. By the time Cyborg comes for her, she is completely submerged and the pile completely disappears with her along with it.

    Real Life 
  • The Australian mouse plague. Not only did the mice destroy the whole crop, the livestock were in danger of being eaten alive.
  • Also mass migrations of long-haired rats in 2011. Confirming Australian Wildlife's reputation as Real Life horror.
  • The BBC reported a similar plague of rats in India during 2007, details.
  • There have been increased reports of rats swarming elderly people at nursing homes who are too weak to fend them off.
  • Taft, California was invaded by millions of mice in late 1926.
  • The infamous bubonic plague or "black death" was believed to have been caused by the rat population in Europe. Since the rats carried fleas which in turn carried Yersinia pestis.
  • Rats frequently make their home near fast food restaurants in urban areas. They generally stay there because the restaurants either have poor pest control or the customers leave their litter around for rats to carry off.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Rat Horde, Death By Rats, Squeaking Carpet


"Aw Rats"

While walking through the Venice catacombs, Indy stops to say "Oh, rats" and we pan down to see swarms of rats.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SwarmOfRats

Media sources: